Category Archives: Christian Living

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)

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)

The Holy “No”: Setting Yourself Free From the Fear of Saying No!

It’s natural that we look forward to the big “yes” moments in our lives, like saying yes to a wedding proposal or a great job offer. The day we say yes to God and allow Him to be the Lord of our lives is a significant turning point.

On the other hand, we generally don’t enjoy having to say no to people.

We often struggle in declining an invitation to an event or denying someone’s request for help because we don’t want to appear harsh or unloving.

We obviously can’t say yes to every request that comes our way without overextending ourselves. But learning to say no to people doesn’t have to be a negative, stressful experience.

Open Doors

Every one of us is a steward of our time; the question is, how good of a steward are we? Stewardship involves the ability to manage our time, and that involves learning to saying no. This is especially important when we are working long hours, busy at home with children, newly married and trying to get time with our spouse, or dating and talking to people online. In these and other situations, saying no can be quite challenging.

But saying no to something doesn’t necessarily mean we are closing a door; it may just mean that we are indirectly saying a resounding yes to something else, like yes to time with our family or periods of much needed rest. It also means you’re saying yes to allowing others to come into the picture who may more adequately help the person in need.

Learning How To Say No

If you struggle to turn down all those invitations or requests for help, it’s time to practice saying no. Here’s how:

  1. Begin graciously. You can still show empathy for someone’s needs while declining to be involved. Your tone of voice can reveal kindness even when you have to deny someone what they are asking for. “I’m so sorry that you’re experiencing that, but I won’t be able to assist you at this time.”
  2. …..                                                                                                                                            (Read the rest of my article at Believe )

Daily Devotions or Despair?

God desires to speak into our hearts and radically change our lives, our dysfunctional patterns and our mindsets.

Daily time spent in God’s Word brings refreshment and perspective. Scripture tells us that “The revelation of Your words brings light and gives understanding to the inexperienced.” (Psalm 119:130) When it comes to  improving our relationships, we greatly need this understanding and discernment found in studying God’s Word.

Boxes Of Journals

I know in my case that trying to have a daily quiet time with God has been quite the journey. I’ve tried many approaches. I have boxes of journals that I’ve written in, pouring out my hurts, my concerns, my questions for God. I’ve tried disciplined reading plans and systematic study, as well as a free flow approach: open the Bible and point to a verse!

Throughout all the attempts to study the Bible, deep down I knew that I should do it, no matter how daunting a task it seemed at times. But in failing to get to a disciplined daily plan, I experienced guilt and often dreaded having a daily devotion.

Many of us often struggle with guilt if we have not been consistent in reading our Bible or we lack the desire to even start a disciplined plan of reading and devotions.

But discipline, in and of itself, is not the goal when it comes to having daily devotions; it’s all about the connection with God.

God desires to speak into our hearts and radically change our lives, our dysfunctional patterns and our mindsets.

Longing For God’s Word

I believe it’s God’s desire that we learn to approach our time in His Word with anticipation, not anxiety. So how do we do that?

Here are three tips to help you look forward to your daily devotion…

(Finish reading this post at Believe )

Breaking the Stronghold of Fear

See these women here? They’re about to change their world for good.

Because the way to bring positive change to the world at large is to first bring change  and healing to our personal world, our troubled souls, our deep hidden chambers of the heart. It’s the toughest work we’ll ever do, dealing with our past, our fears, our hurts and pain.

But nothing says  “Womens Liberation” better than to be freed up from the things that hold us back.

So at this Retreat, we first started with my workshop on Breaking the Stronghold of Fear. We talked about our First Fear– our first memory of trauma or loss, and the  resulting broken trust. Broken Trust causes a knee jerk reaction in us and in our subsequent relationships.

Many of us are still frozen back in that painful experience of trauma, and all other fears we later experience are layered over that initial experience where trust was broken and Fear entered in.

These layers of fear over fear can occur overtime until we are bound up by compulsions and unhealthy ways of coping–all resulting from the first fear that’s swallowing us up.

And then there’s the convoluted convictions we develop, that affect our relationships. These are the skewed negative “beliefs” that we have become convinced of, due to the trauma, that now dictate how we approach relationships and handle the ups and downs of learning to love and appropriately trust key people in our lives.

But we don’t do too well in these horizontal realtionships if we are reacting out of our past and having a hard time trusting the most Trustworthy person of all to help us–and that’s God.

Don’t believe the lies that God is out to get you, is angry at you, or is ready to catch you…when you’re doing something the least bit wrong. No, that’s not the God I know. Understanding God’s motive, his heart, and His plan for you will change everything.

It will change your world. It’ll change you. And then you will go out and change the world… for good.

It’s a journey. It involves the uncomfortable work of looking at your past and acknowledging the truth of any past trauma.  But the terror of your greatest nightmare, your worst fear, can not compare to the magnitude of God’s great, healing Love for you. So get ready.

It’s time to Break the Stronghold of Fear.

Revolutionize Your Dating Life With This One Word!

Everyone wants to put their best foot forward when it comes to first dates and new relationships. Most people anticipate their first date by shopping for a new outfit, trying out a new cologne, and getting the car washed. Some call and ask for advice from friends on how to approach the date, or where to take their date for the evening. Some even picture all the romantic moments to come and hope that they will soon feel the first stirrings of love.

But as we enter the dating scene, we encounter a world of challenges and we’re stretched beyond our early thoughts of how we thought it would be.  And while these preparations are helpful, there’s one word that can ultimately revolutionize your dating life: humility.

On The Way To Love

It takes genuine humility to participate in the process of meeting, connecting and falling in love because it takes an admission of our hopes and of who we are at the very core. Humility is not a word normally equated with having a healthy social life, mainly because it is often improperly defined and misapplied to our lives.

Humility isn’t about being down on yourself. It’s really about freedom – freedom from pride and conceit, freedom from performance anxiety, and freedom from the fear of being known. It’s about being realistic and appropriately vulnerable in our social connections. Christ is our role model when it comes to seeing how humility is fleshed out. Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart…” (Matthew 11:29)

This freedom from arrogance can beautify your budding relationships. Dating with a humble attitude can actually revolutionize your dating life and bring you closer to the kind of healthy relationship that God can bless.

Here’s how:

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(Read the rest of my article at Believe

“Dating. Marriage. Relationships the Christian Way.”

What Do You Have To Give Up For Love??

Before I met my husband, I had an active dating life. Going out on dates was exciting and fun … until it wasn’t anymore! I found out there was an aspect of my personality that my dates couldn’t seem to deal with. Inevitably, as the guy would be driving me home at the end of the first or second date, he would turn to me and say, “You know, you think too much!”

When that would happen, I knew the relationship was over before it had begun. How my mind worked, my creative, overly analytical self, wasn’t something I could change. But I often wondered if I should in order to make that relationship work.

We all know we have to make compromises in a healthy relationship. There’s no such thing as instant and complete compatibility. But there’s a difference between healthy compromises that are necessary, and having to change fundamental aspects of your personality just to make a relationship work! So, what exactly do you have to give up for love??

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Compromise is about reaching an agreement by each person making a type of concession or adjustment. In other words, we don’t get to have our own way all the time – and that’s actually good for us and for our growth as Christians. Ephesians 4:2 reminds us: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” That’s good relationship advice.

The areas where we generally should compromise on are usually in the area of our need for always being in control or always being right. In learning to compromise in our dating relationships, we learn how to get out of our comfort zone and grow up. As the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

When It Doesn’t Work

But sometimes, compromise is not the right approach to take. There may come a point in your relationship where you both hit a wall of differences too great to overcome. Beyond differences even, it may have to do with who you are, at your very core.

Here are some important areas you should not compromise on:…

(…Read the rest of my article at Believe !!)