Healing

Wednesday’s Word: Forgiveness

People everywhere will come to you on account of their sins. Our faults defeat us, but you forgive them. Psalm 65: 3-4

 

We don’t have to be perfect before we turn to God. We don’t even have to pretend to be perfect. Not that we should willfully choose to do wrong, of course.

 

Sometimes, when we try too hard to prove we’re not at fault we end up blaming others. Ironically, this can lead to more hurt and sin as we puff ourselves up with pride and self-justification. We damage relationships. When we judge or criticize others, love goes right out the window.

 

On the other hand, sometimes we are all too aware of our wrongdoings. Perfectionism can get us stuck in self-condemnation.

 

Either way, our focus is on our own egos. That blocks our ability to truly love God, others, and even ourselves. Conversely, when we admit and accept our brokenness and our inability to achieve perfection, we are free to turn to God in healthy humility. We have hope because God can bring good out of anything-even our wrongdoing.

 

Our faults may defeat us, but they do not defeat our all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving Creator. God forgives us and loves us as we are, while ever inviting us to grow closer to Him and to each other. Imperfection is one quality we all share. Having experienced forgiveness ourselves, we are in a much better position to extend that forgiveness to others.

 

Prayer:  Lord, thank You for forgiving me. Help me accept Your love.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What keeps you from admitting your wrongs to God?

 

Wednesdays Words: Liberation from Ourselves

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Some were living in gloom and darkness, prisoners suffering in chains because they had rebelled against the commands of Almighty God and had rejected his instructions.

They were worn out from hard work; they would fall down, and no one would help.

Then in their trouble they called to the Lord, and he saved them from their distress.

He brought them out of their gloom and darkness and broke their changes in pieces.     Psalm 107: 10-14

 

 

God’s not out to get us. Darkness and pitfalls are just the natural consequences of not following his loving guidance. We want an easier way. We want a more pleasurable way. We want our way. The problem is—if God is who he says he is—if he really is all wise and all loving, he has our best interests at heart. There is no easier, more pleasurable, or better way than following his plan for us. In a way, sin is thinking we know better than God. When we don’t do what’s in our best interests, the results lead to problems.

 

No one starts out deciding they want to be an addict. They just want to relax or feel “good.” But the booze, drugs, candy, or shopping spree doesn’t provide lasting satisfaction. The process has to be repeated over and over. When physical, mental, or emotional dependence takes hold we become bound by our own pleasures—even when they stop being pleasurable.

 

Maybe we work hard to earn the approval of others because we’re afraid of rejection. We resent it when we don’t get praise and puff ourselves up when we do. That type of validation doesn’t last either. Trying to grab the limelight, instead of giving us the reassurance we hope for, alienates people instead. We end up lonely and defeated.

 

Maybe we put all our effort into trying to make things turn out the way we think they should. We try to control others through flattery, manipulation, or intimidation. Why do we do it? We think forcing things to go our way will make us happy. Instead we create friction in our relationships and set ourselves up for disappointment.

 

Fear, pride, and self-will keep us trapped in the burden of going it alone. We’re afraid to surrender and trust God.

 

When we’re in enough pain, when we’re worn out enough, when we’re tired of going nowhere fast, we can call to the Lord. When we do, we’ll find him waiting with open arms, to guide us and to do for us what we finally realize we can’t do on our own.

 

Prayer: Lord, save me from myself.

 

Reflection: What self-defeating attitude or behavior is wearing you out? Are you ready to ask for God’s help?

Wednesday’s Words: Acceptance and Growth

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Submit to God and accept the word that he plants in your hearts, which is able to save you. James 1: 21b

 

When I was a little girl, my dad had a huge vegetable garden with carrots, radishes, cucumbers and more. I remember him showing me how to plant the seeds. First he had to churn up the hard-packed earth and loosen it. Then he dug holes or furrows. We’d put the seeds in and cover them lightly with soil. All the earth had to do was accept whatever seeds we planted. That sounds easy enough, but first the earth had to put up with being agitated, raked over, and having holes poked into it.

 

Sometimes it’s like that for us, too, when God plants his word into our hearts. It might take some upheaval to soften our hardened hearts, but they might not be receptive otherwise. The space created to make room for God’s word might first feel like a gaping hole, but we might not have room for God’s word if we’re filled with other things like pride, resentment, or self-indulgence.

 

When our lives turn upside down, that might be the shake-up needed to loosen our stubbornness in clinging to our comfort zone, and getting us receptive to new growth. When we feel empty or discouraged, that just might prepare our hearts to receive what God wants to fill them with. We don’t have to manufacture new growth on our own, we just have to accept what God plants and allow it to grow in our hearts.

 

Prayer: Lord, open my heart to your word.

 

Reflection: How can you yield to what God wants to plant in your heart today?

 

Wednesday’s Words: Change of Heart

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…Submit to God and accept the word that he plants in your hearts, which is able to save you. James 1: 21b

 

God plants his word—not in our heads, not in our hands, but in our hearts.

 

Accepting the word of God isn’t an intellectual exercise. Jesus praised his Father for showing the unlearned what he hid from the learned. (Luke 10: 21)

 

It isn’t just about what we do, either. Jesus warned against praying, fasting, or helping the needy to gain approval or admiration. (Matthew 6: 1-17)

 

That could be why Jesus said the most important commandments were to love God with all our being and love our neighbors and ourselves. Living our faith goes much deeper than our heads and our hands, it goes to our hearts. We’re not equipped to go deep enough to change the kernel of our hearts on our own. Only God can get in there and do the deep surgery needed to bring about a change of heart.

 

What we can do is be open to the word God wants to plant in our hearts and nurture it. We can take actions that encourage spiritual growth. Honest prayer opens our hearts to God, He can heal what needs to be healed in us when we stop covering it up. Connecting with other people who are growing spiritually inspires us to desire a genuine change of heart. Serving others can soften our hearts to the needs of those around us and allow God an easier entrance.

 

We can come to God just as we are, warts and all, and accept his unconditional love for us. We can welcome the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us to save us from our self-defeating faults. We can give our hearts back to Him.

 

Prayer: Lord, I open my heart to your healing love.

 

Reflection: What word of love is God planting in your heart today?

 

Wednesday’s Word: Reflection

iStock_000003550839XSmallHe made the bronze basin and its bronze base out of the mirrors belonging to the women who served at the entrance of the Tent of the Lord’s presence. Exodus 38: 8

 

The priests had to cleanse themselves before they approached God’s altar.  The basin they used was made up of mirrors. Preparing to enter into God’s presence involves reflection.

 

An honest look at ourselves reveals what’s really within us instead of what we wish was there. Only by seeing ourselves as we really are can we know ourselves as God already knows us. Once we see what blocks us from moving closer to God, we can cooperate with the cleansing process.

 

We don’t have to be afraid to look within. God already sees our truth and loves us as we are—warts and all. As we are refreshed and cleansed by the living water God provides, we’re empowered to enter more fully into God’s presence. Chances are the more we reflect on his image, the more our lives will come to mirror his. The women mentioned in the above passage originally used the mirrors to see their own reflection. Eventually they served at the entrance of the Tent and helped others prepare to draw closer to God. May we do the same.

 

Prayer: Lord help me see myself clearly.

 

Reflection: What do you see when you look within? Can you allow God to shine the light of his love on your imperfections?

Wednesday’s Word: Denial

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The road of the wicked, however, is dark as night. They fall, but cannot see what they have stumbled over. Proverbs 4: 19

 

The story goes that a man went to the doctor and said, “Doc, when I touch my forehead, I have pain. When I touch my elbow, I have pain. When I touch my knee, I have pain.” The doctor said, “I know what the problem is. You have a broken finger.”

 

It’s not always easy to see the source of our pain. Sometimes we look for causes outside ourselves when the source of our problem is within us. We’d rather blame someone else, rotten luck, or our surroundings instead of taking responsibility ourselves. Yes, there are circumstances beyond our control and other people’s actions can be detrimental, but we often play a part in the difficulties.

 

If we spend all our time looking to prove the problem has nothing to do with us, we may sentence ourselves to a lifetime of complaining–because we can’t see what we keep stumbling over. No one can see well in the darkness of denial. The good news is, when we’re willing to look within ourselves there’s hope. Once we identify what, in us, is tripping us up, there’s hope of correcting it. We may be powerless over other people and over many situations, but we do have power over our own choices. Although we might not be able to singlehandedly make ourselves the way we’d like to be, we can find the help we need.

 

It can be scary to have the light shine on things we’d prefer to keep hidden, but the light doesn’t create the problem, it just reveals what’s already there. The Light of the world will shine not only his light, but his love, on the secret places in our hearts, if we’ll let him. Can the God of love, who commanded us to love both our neighbor and ourselves do any less? It is safe to let him lovingly show us the truth about ourselves. It’s a lot safer to walk in light than in darkness.

 

Prayer: Lord, shine the light of your truth on what I need to see today.

 

Reflection: What stumbling block might be tripping you up today? What would it take to entrust yourself to God’s light and love?

Wednesday’s Word: Supplication

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We have courage in God’s presence, because we are sure that he hears us if we ask him for anything that is according to his will. 1 John 5: 14

 

We pray for lots of things. It’s right to bring our needs and desires to God. After all, he knows what’s in our minds and hearts before we ask, so we may as well be honest. But asking for things in accordance with his will is trickier.

 

When my mother was seriously ill I prayed for her healing because that’s what I hoped for. As I prayed, I questioned whether she’d be healed. James warned that if we doubt and are tossed about like a wave blown by the wind when we pray we shouldn’t think that we’ll receive anything from the Lord. (James 1:6-8) Praying for Mom’s healing wasn’t a prayer I could make without doubting. I began praying that God’s will be done and that he hold her close to him. I was certain that was God’s will. I felt consoled as I pictured the Good Shepherd tenderly leading Mom home. Shortly before her passing she smiled and said to me, “Oh, Barbara, it’s all One and it’s beautiful.” I don’t know what she saw, but I know my prayers were heard and answered.

 

Honest prayer about what we want and for God’s will to be done can coexist. After all, if we can’t be honest with God, who can we be honest with? Sometimes my honest prayers look like this: “God, I don’t know if this is your will or not. I pray your will be done, but I know that you know what I really want is for this situation to turn out in this certain way. I recognize your power of veto. Help me accept your will.”

 

I never doubt that God is hearing and answering when I remember C.S. Lewis said God answers prayer in four ways:

  • No, I love you too much.
  • No, not yet.
  • Yes, and here’s more.
  • I thought you’d never ask

 

I think this matter of removing all doubt is clearest when I pray for God to change me. Usually, the first petitions that come to mind are for God to make a situation go a certain way, have a certain person brought through a challenge, a conflict resolved, etc. But I’m never sure if that is God’s will. But every time I have asked God to change me in whatever way I need changing and for openness to act on those changes, I have truly believed I have been heard. Those prayers have been answered. I started praying for patience, and was told patience can be acquired by letting go of self-will. When I started praying for God to help me let go of self-will, I could almost hear God saying, “I thought you’d never ask.”

 

Prayer: Lord, your will be done today.

 

Reflection: How confident are you of God’s response to your requests?

 

Saturday Spotlight: Psalm 5

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Listen to my words, O Lord, and hear my sighs. Listen to my cry for help, my God and king!

I pray to you, O Lord…at sunrise I offer my prayer and wait for your answer.

You are not a God who is pleased with wrongdoing; you allow no evil in your presence.

You cannot stand the sight of the proud…you destroy all liars…

But because of your great love I can come into your house; I can worship in your holy temple.

Lord, I have so many enemies! Lead me to do your will; make your way plain for me to follow.

What my enemies say can never be trusted; they only want to destroy. Their words are flattering and      smooth, but full of deadly deceit.

But all who find safety in you will rejoice; they can always sing for joy. Psalm 5: 2-5; 7-9; 11

 

Listen to my words, O Lord, and hear my sighs.  The psalmist longs for God to hear his sighs as well as his words. When we cry for help, words just can’t carry the whole story. They leave out so much of what are hearts burn with. It comforting to know that God does hear our sighs, and that when words are inadequate or won’t come at all, the Holy Spirit helps and “pleads with God for us in groans that words can’t express.” (Romans 8:26-27)

 

…at sunrise I offer my prayer and wait for your answer I’m an early riser, so I do offer my prayers to God at sunrise but must admit I don’t always wait for his answer…especially when I’m running late. Other times, his answer is hard to accept—especially when God speaks to my heart saying, “Don’t always look for answers; just be still with Me.”

 

You are not a God who is pleased with wrongdoing; you allow no evil in your presence. You cannot stand the sight of the proud…you destroy all liars…But because of your great love I can come into your house…Although God is not pleased with wrongdoing, and allows no evil in his presence, we can come into God’s presence, not because we are perfect, but “because of his great love.” When we bring ourselves to God, we don’t have to cover up our flaws or put on a false front of perfection. After all, God can’t stand the sight of the proud. When we’re honest with him about our failings, we are not being proud. We are humbly aware of who we are and that our relationship with God depends on his love and goodness, not our own merit. When we tell the truth—even about our shortcomings—we are close to God, who is Truth. Maybe that, in part, is how he destroys our lies, by making it safe for us to be honest with him and with ourselves.

 

Lord, I have so many enemies…what they say can never be trusted…their words are flattering and smooth, but full of deadly deceit. Many of my enemies are within me: my impatience, my self-will, my tendency to want to cover up my weaknesses. Sometimes they gang up on me and make it difficult to discern what God is calling me to do, let alone actually do it…but what these enemies tell me can’t be trusted. Smooth, ego-feeding propositions make it sound like I’ll be happy if I listen to them. I’ll get my way, on my time table, and look impressive. It’s not true. My impatience doesn’t get me where I need to be any sooner; it often slows me down. Trying to force my agenda puts me in conflict with others, and destroys my serenity. If things do happen to go my way, it means, coincidentally, that’s the way God wanted them to go at that point in time. Otherwise, my contentment will be short-lived because my goals are often short-sighted.

 

Lead me to do your will; make your way plain for me to follow. I need God to make his way plain for me and enable me to actually follow it—and he does, when I am open to it. I put a saying on my refrigerator where I’m reminded to ask, on a daily basis, “God, what does success look like to you in this situation?” Sometimes God’s idea of success is keeping my mouth shut when I’d like to have the last word instead of getting my way.

 

But all who find safety in you will rejoice…When I am able, by God’s grace, to surrender to his will instead of my own, I do find security, safety, and joy. God is in control, even when it doesn’t look that way. When my goal is for his will to be done, I can trust that that will happen. There is safety in trusting that and joy in the reassurance it brings…when I have the eyes to see it.

 

How about you?

  • Have you prayed without using words? What was that like?
  • What prayer time works best for you? Morning? Bedtime? Throughout the day? Does this time allow you to tell God all that you need to and give you time to listen for his answer?
  • How does being honest with God about what’s really going on inside of you help to melt your pride and overcome the lies—even the little white ones—you tell yourself about motives, feelings, and the like?
  • What is it like to enter God’s presence knowing you are loved, warts and all?
  • What enemies are you facing today? Are you able to see how God is guiding you in facing these enemies today? Can you trust God enough to follow his directions?
  • What lies are your enemies telling you? How does flattery make it easy to be misled?
  • How has God provided you with shelter/safety? What joy can you find in that? Where else can you find joy today?

 

I invite you to read through the entire Psalm, and reflect on whatever phrases speak to your heart today.

Wednesday’s Words: Known and Loved

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You know me well [Lord], and yet you honor me, your servant. 1 Chronicles 17:18b

 

King David was a man “after God’s own heart” even though David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed. It’s not an error-free existence that makes us attractive to God, it’s a sincere heart. David acknowledged his mistakes. That truthful, trusting relationship made him a man after God’s own heart.

 

We are people after God’s own heart, too, every time we find the courage and willingness to be honest with Him about who we are. That’s where He meets us. God doesn’t love us because we’re perfect. He loves us because He is Love. He knows us through and through—better than we know ourselves. Most of us have parts of ourselves we deny, conveniently forget, or avoid looking at. We may put on our “Sunday best” attitudes when we pray to God, thinking He deserves the best…and He does.

 

It’s safe to be honest with God. He loves us anyway—even though He knows all our secrets. When we share our secrets with him we bring them to the light of his love. That’s when healing can occur. Like David, we can be honored by God for our sincerity, for our humility, for our trust in His love.

 

David felt honored by God as he counted his blessings. How many good things do you have in your life right now? Take some time to think about them. Write a list. Can you see how God is honoring you—even though He knows you well?

 

Prayer: You know me well, Lord, and yet you honor me, your servant.

 

Reflection: What does God know about you? How has he honored you? How would you like to thank him today?

Wednesday’s Words: Fruitful Pain

iStock_000003550839XSmall “The Lord says] “I will abandon my people until they have suffered enough for their sins and come looking for me. Perhaps in their suffering they will try to find me.” Hosea 5:15

 

“God whispers to us in our pleasures…but shouts to us in our pain,” as C.S. Lewis said. I don’t believe God wants us to suffer but our choices have consequences. Like a good parent, sometimes God allows us to experience the consequences of our actions so that we can learn and grow.   I don’t have the answer for all the apparent needless suffering in the world but I have seen God bring good out of painful situations. He is always at work, even in our suffering. I’ve experienced it in my own life.

 

After a tractor trailer hit my car, I was bed-ridden for months and left with chronic pain. The following year, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t think God zapped me with the accident or M.S. to punish me. Instead, I believe He used the opportunities to teach my heart things it couldn’t seem to learn in any other way.   I had always prided myself on being a hard worker and how much I accomplished. I was always doing things for others—whether they wanted me to or not. After the accident and the MS, I could not physically do all that I used to do. That terrified me. My misplaced self-worth disappeared. I was scared that if I couldn’t do things for my family they wouldn’t want me around. That turned out not to be the case, but if it hadn’t been for the accident and the MS, I would never have known that.

 

While I would never have chosen either challenge, I can honestly say I am grateful for the experiences. As a result, my relationships have deepened. My self-esteem is no longer tied to how much I accomplish. I’m also growing in healthy humility that allows me to accept my limitations and ask for and receive help. I have a better understanding of others facing challenges. My sense of security no longer rests exclusively on my frail shoulders.   Because of pain, I’ve been led in new directions of growth. It’s a fascinating journey. I now believe there are two types of pain. There is wasted pain; when I choose to wallow in it I can. There is also pain that bears fruit, like labor pains that lead to new life. When I look to find God in the midst of pain, it always leads to growth…whether I see it at the time, or not. If God can bring good out of the crucifixion, He can bring good out of anything.

 

Prayer: Lord, help us find you in our pain.

 

Reflection: When has God brought good out of a painful circumstance in your life?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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