Monthly Archives: June 2017

More Than Chills and Signs: How To Experience God’s Presence

Here’s the good news for those of you who have gotten frustrated in your walk with God because you don’t feel you are disciplined enough: growing in your faith is not just about discipline.

I’ve spent over 40 years pursuing a relationship with God that certainly involved what some call the main “spiritual disciplines” of prayer, Bible study, accountability and fellowship. There’s no doubt that these are crucial for a healthy walk with the Lord. But as I look back on some key turning points in my spiritual walk, there were definitely times when I was just spiritually needy and emotionally desperate – and I experienced God’s life-changing powerful presence.

More than giving us chills and supernatural signs, God wants to meet our deepest emotional needs in an encounter with Him. While you can’t build your faith on feelings alone, they nonetheless are part of experiencing God’s presence. Emotional hunger and honest expression of your feelings can ignite a wave of spiritual renewal.

Be Hungry For God

Be open to God “showing up” in times when you desperately need Him.

I remember one pivotal moment in my life when this occurred. I was coming home from my junior year of study abroad in Spain. It had been a long year, exciting but also lonely, and I had battled anxiety and anorexia. I was feeling very vulnerable as I sat in the airport in Madrid, hungrily reading a devotional my mother had sent me.

The airport speakers were broadcasting all these songs in Spanish and I was reading my devotional in English when all of a sudden something amazing occurred: just as I was reading the words about how God is like a bridge over troubled waters, the American song “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” breaks through the loudspeakers.

I raised my eyes to the speakers, incredulous that God was speaking to me in literally my own language! I heard the message loud and clear that God was saying: “Lauren, I am with you, everywhere, and always.” Tears streamed down, and joy and hope welled up in me. I can remember and actually “feel” that experience, even to this day.

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(Continue reading this article at Christian Mingle Believe)

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Good Grief: Mourning a Past Relationship

There’s nothing as heartbreaking as experiencing the loss of someone you love. Many people struggle with the delicate balance of moving on from their loss and the need to fully grieve this painful and complicated experience. Grief is a natural and necessary human response to loss that includes a range of feelings and reactions, from denial to anger to depression.

Our loved ones may understand our need to grieve when we experience the death of a loved one, though they might never know the depths of what we’re feeling. But the loss of a relationship due to breakup can also be hard to work through if people don’t “see” the impact the loss is having on you. Well-meaning friends might tell you to “move on” or “chin up” and your sense of grief can intensify under this type of subtle criticism. But it’s good for us to work through our grief and fully express our pain while still embracing hope for our future.

Love And Loss

One of the hardest things about loving someone is that we can often love someone who we know we shouldn’t marry. Whether it’s not having the same spiritual convictions, or whether there is some type of toxicity they bring to the relationship that you know will put you under, you can very much yearn and for someone that at the same time you know you must give up.

On the other hand, you may have been “released” from a relationship in a cruel way, blinded by the quick cut-off. Regardless of how the loss occurred, you may be in the throws of grief and wondering if there is a way out of the dark sad feelings you’re experiencing.

The following four steps can help you process your grief and come out on the other side of healing.

Feel It Fully

Allow yourself to feel and fully process what happened. This is an area most of us are not good at. To feel the pain of a loss is not something we want to soak in for long. But not only do we need to acknowledge these painful feelings, we have to also process them and work through them. We have to try to take the emotional reaction out for a moment, and critically look at what happened and evaluate all the facets of the loss and how it occurred. This takes time.

This is when grief can become a slowly realized truth.

Recognize God’s Love

Grieving and feeling sad over a loss does not mean you are not trusting God. Grieving is a healthy part of loving and of living, and God is the author of life. He does not expect us to act like robots, minimize pain, deny its reality in our life, or over-spiritualize and try to move quickly to the “victory.”

Grief is dealing with the truth of loss and hurt in the light of God’s love.

Take Time

Work through the resulting painful effects of loss in your life today. It’s not helpful to fill our hearts with replacements for what we find painful to deal with. Avoid making big, life-impacting decisions that might just be symptoms of your grief crying out and not reflections of your true self.

Be patient with yourself; acting impetuously out of grief will often bring you more hurt and loss.

Seek Joy

Allow yourself to feel joy when it rises. For many, it seems impossible to grieve over the loss of someone and still be happy at the simple blessings of life. Grief ebbs and flows; it may lessen for a season and return when it gets triggered by a memory. Feeling grief and joy is a complicated but natural experience.

Even in your Grief, allow for moments of joy.

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Read more at https://www.christianmingle.com/believe/mourning-your-past

Is Your Relationship Worth Rescuing??- Take the Test!

Every relationship reaches stressful turning points that could seemingly threaten the end of the relationship. You may be in a relationship right now and wondering if your current problem is the one that will make him call it quits. Or you may be wondering if she is starting to give up on the two of you, due to the recent disagreements you’ve been experiencing.

Your relationship is continually being tested, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When we hear the word “test,” we think of the performance anxiety we feel at the thought of failing a challenging test we weren’t prepared for. But testing can also be a positive thing because it helps to prove what’s authentic and valuable.

Every relationship goes through a type of testing that is ultimately clarifying. The test results indicate the direction you should take – either breaking up or breaking through to a stronger commitment.

It’s Real

My daughter and I love to go to antique shows and flea markets. At one flea market, we were looking at some old silver rings that were a bit tarnished. We couldn’t see the microscopic markings and were wondering if the rings were sterling silver, but we had no way of verifying that. The antique dealer at the booth showed us how to test for sterling silver by using a magnet: sterling silver is non-ferrous, and won’t cling to a magnet.

In the same way, we have to let our relationships be tested to see what they’re made of: is there a foundation of forgiveness and an expectation that ongoing grace is necessary? Is there an attitude of respect for each other? Is God at the center of your relationship, with the two of you leaning on His direction to guide you through the challenging times?

Your relationship doesn’t have to derail when you hit a problem. It may not be time to break up; instead, you can break through to a new level of understanding and a higher level of love.

Take the Test

Not sure if your current relationships is ready to go the distance? Here are four questions that can help you evaluate the strength of your relationship:

  1. Can we talk about it? Healthy relationships excel in communication. Verbally expressing your intentions and using words of affirmation are important, but so is communicating through eye contact and through action. One of the best ways to truly communicate well in your relationship is to learn how to pray with each other and let God in on the problems you face and the desires of your hearts. Can you both open up and honestly talk about stressful situations and difficult subject matters?
  2. Do we harbor resentment? Built up resentment can lead to an explosive turning point in your relationship that is hard to recover from. And forgiveness is not a one-time deal. You shouldn’t ignore serious problems, but as you speak the truth in love to each other, you’ll also need to express and walk in continual forgiveness. Are you both committed to a lifestyle of  forgiveness and showing ongoing grace to each other?
  3. Are we repeating patterns of dysfunction from our pasts? Everyone brings some “baggage” into their current relationship, but not everyone is willing to work through their past problems and pain. Some people walk in denial of their problems, and relationships can suffer under the weight of repeated blowups born out of unhealthy patterns of coping. Are you both ready to be truly vulnerable and open up about your past pain and resulting coping patterns?
  4. Do we both have the same outcome in mind for our relationship? If one person is looking forward to marriage and building a family, but the other partner is not really commitment-focused, this could be the turning point in your relationship where you realize your hopes for your futures just don’t line up. Are you both committed to the goal of long term commitment for your relationship?…..

(Read the rest of this article at BELIEVE by Christian Mingle)

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Not In Our House: How To Break Generational Patterns

When I got married to my husband of 32 years now, I was a “package deal”:  I brought into our marriage all that I witnessed as a child in my home, and all that I am as an affected, vulnerable human being. But you can’t keep patterns of coping with pain hidden for long. So as I grew not only “in love” with my husband, but “in trust” with him as well, I learned to open up and let him into my past. We prayerfully did this so that the patterns of living and loving we would develop in our future family would be patterns that we deliberately initated, and not dysfunctional generational patterns we fell back into.

Generational patterns of behavior are unknowingly learned – usually in the childhood years – and are unwittingly repeated in our lives as we enter into relationships. The dysfunction gets multiplied and passed on to the next generation, not as a direct curse but more so as a pattern that was instinctively learned and unknowingly repeated. We usually live out in our current family life what was modeled and lived out in our home as a child. But we don’t have to repeat our past. It’s time to walk in freedom and grace.

Doing Life

It’s important to understand that our current patterns of “doing life” are often tied to our knee-jerk reactions from having lived with any unhealthy issues or addictions. We learn coping mechanisms as we grow up, based on our need for surviving painful experiences. So if there was trauma, chaos or crisis in our childhood home, we not only had to deal with these critical issues, but we also inevitably adapted to those problems.

Later, when we enter relationships and get married, while we may no longer have these same stressors, we still have the pattern of coping that we learned as a child. For example, if, as a child, you learned that lying was a way to avoid getting abused, then lying can become your fallback reaction when you now encounter any stressful situation where your sense of safety even remotely feels threatened.

Whether it was alcoholism, abuse, intense health crises or other serious stresses you had to deal with growing up, you nonetheless were a witness of pain, dysfunction and even of despair. You can’t ignore how these experiences affected you as a child. But God doesn’t expect us to deny the reality of our past.

Break Every Chain

In the Bible, we see this played out in Joseph’s life. Joseph grew up in a dysfunctional family with brothers who strongly disliked him – and that’s putting it mildly. Joseph had these special dreams, but his brothers had vindictive desires for his destruction. They competed for their father’s affection, and found ways to demean Joseph at every juncture. It doesn’t appear that Joseph’s father did much to stem the tide of their mounting rage and jealousy. In fact, giving Joseph the coat of many colors only made things worse for him.

Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him, but relented and sold him as a slave. From there, he later wound up being imprisoned for years, until a miraculous release occurred. Later, he faced his brothers in an ironic turn of events where he was now a famous leader in the land and they were in severe need during the famine.

But Joseph had a perspective of God’s ultimate victory in his life, and was set free from the generational patterns of competition, strife and abuse that he grew up with. Instead of responding to his brothers with a vindictive spirit of revenge, he chose to speak kindly to them, assuring them that he would use his prominent place of authority to see to it that they and their families were well cared for. Joseph broke the generational pattern of competition and abuse.

(…Continue reading my article at Believe)