How many of you have ever been given the title, “The Biggest Loser”? Well, unfortunately I hadn’t either until I played Bunco this weekend with a group of ladies. A few days leading up to Bunco night had been filled with grief and trauma symptoms. So, when I received a text from a friend inviting me to go to Bunco night, since they were in need of an additional two ladies, I hopped on board.
My eyes honed in on the words”filled with laughter” in the text. After listening to the pitter patter of the rain, and having an emotional Saturday, I knew that Bunco was calling my name. I got a chance to play with ten other women, who, like myself, were needing a break. As God would have it, I knew one of them.
The game got pretty intense, and surprisingly, I couldn’t seem to leave the Losers’ Table. Finally, after eight losses, I moved to the Winners’ Table, and I stayed there the rest of the evening. Although I made it to the Winners’ Table, it wasn’t soon enough. Before you knew it, the game was over, and I was given the title “The Biggest Loser”.
At first, I was a little sad that it was my worst ever Bunco score. That was short-lived because I soon found out that the “Biggest Loser” was actually the “Biggest Winner” in my book. The “Biggest Loser” was celebrated just as much, if not even more than the winner in my opinion. I received a sandalwood and amber candle, shea butter hand cream, and foaming hand soap. I smiled to myself, and I told God that he had a sense of humor.
In Luke 15, the Pharisees and teachers of the law were fussing and complaining because Jesus welcomed the tax collectors and sinners who came to hear him speak. This is the parable that Jesus told them, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shouldersand goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Luke 15: 4-7)
That night, I was the little sheep. The ladies had joyfully placed me on their shoulders and celebrated my loss.
I have been reading Brene Brown’s new book, Dare to Lead for a couple of weeks now. If I was just reading that one book, I would be done by now. However, I am reading about six books at the same time. What I love is that the Holy Spirit has intertwined several themes across the board with all of these books: vulnerability, shame, joy, gratitude, dealing with the unexpected, hustling for self-worth, and filling our thirst.
There are several things that stuck out with me so far in this book. I would like to quote three of them:
“Embodying and practicing gratitude changes everything. It is not a personal construct, it’s a human construct-a unifying part of our existence-and it’s the antidote to foreboding joy, plain and simple. It’s allowing yourself the pleasure of accomplishment, or love, or joy-of really feeling it, of basking in it-by conjuring up gratitude for the moment and for the opportunity”. (Dare to Lead, Brene Brown, pg. 83)
This reminds of last night. I got together with a group of friends. I allowed myself to not dismiss the reality that my life has been filled with lots of drama and trauma within the last six months. However, my heart was full. It was so, so full. I thanked God for my friends, the food, the fellowship, time to decompress, and the laughs from the movie. I thanked him for all his goodness in spite of what my real life problems were.
“Something as simple as starting or ending meetings with a gratitude check, when everyone shares one thing they’re grateful for, can build trust and connection, serve as container-building, and give your group permission to lean into joy.” (Dare to Lead, Brene Brown, pg. 83)
The second quote was a Holy Spirit moment because just a week ago, I had an accident. I allowed myself to sink in anger about all the inconveniences, but then quickly gave myself a gratitude check. That post can be found here. The funny thing about it is that I titled the post “Gratitude Check” prior to reading page 83 of Dare to Lead. God knows how to bring all things together.
The last quote is from page 97, which was another Holy Spirit moment. It reminded me of my IT job from years ago, where I sought to prove that I could sit at the table with others who made a certain salary, instead of being discriminated against. I didn’t realize that the only table that I needed to have recognition at is the table of Christ. The “Heavenly Places” blog post can be found here.
“When people don’t understand where they’re strong and where they deliver value for the organization or even for a single effort, they hustle. The kind that’s hard to be around because we are jumping in everywhere, including where we’re not strong or not needed, to prove that we deserve a seat at the table.” (Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown, page 97)
A few days ago, I decided to try my hands at a simple spaghetti recipe. There were very few ingredients. It turned out pretty good. The only problem was that I put too many red pepper flakes. I would take a bite to eat, then feel flames at the back of my throat. This cycle repeated itself until the bowl was empty. Enjoy!
Here is the recipe:
Activity: Making Simple Spaghetti
Total cooking and Prepping Time: 40 minutes
Servings: about 12
2 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of onion powder
2 tablespoons of garlic powder
2 tablespoons of basil
1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes
1 box of spaghetti
1 jar of pasta sauce
1 small can of tomato soup (low-sodium)
basil or spinach leaves (for garnish and eating)
Boil six cups of water with olive oil or butter so that the spaghetti won’t stick.
Add the spaghetti to the boiling water.
Drain the spaghetti.
Dump the pasta sauce and tomato soup into the pot.
Episode 6: Waiting on God For the Impossible Healing Our Brokenness Podcast Seri...
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Introduction to “Waiting on God For the Impossible”
Last week, the featured podcast was Episode 5: Woe is Me! It can be found here. This particular podcast dealt with the sin of self-pity. It broke down the definition, signs and symptoms, the different areas self-pity can be involved in, and the tools to grow and move forward from self-pity.
This week’s podcast is entitled, ” Waiting on God For the Impossible”. I have found that waiting on God for an answer is one of the most difficult things to have to do. If we were on the game show called “Family Feud”, it would come in as number two on the survey for what issues Christians find hardest to deal with. Why?
It is God’s timetable not ours.
Our emergency is not God’s emergency.
The unknown can be scary.
Dissection of How Sarah and Abraham Dealt with Waiting
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to himand said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless.2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”
3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him,4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations.5 No longer will you be called Abram[b]; your name will be Abraham,[c] for I have made you a father of many nations.6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.
7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.8 The whole land of Canaan,where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant,you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised.11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.
12 For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring.13 Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant.14 Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”
15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.
21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.
23 On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him.24 Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised,
25 and his son Ishmael was thirteen;26 Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day.27 And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him.
Mark 9: 14-27
Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit
14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them.15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.
16 “What are you arguing with them about?” he asked.
17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”
19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.
21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”
“From childhood,” he answered.22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”
26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.”27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.
The last six months have been filled with trials, unexpected trauma, and a whole lot of gratitude. This gratitude involves the realization that I have life, strength, and decent health. It makes me think of all the things that God made possible that I thought that I may never do again. It is also gratefulness for a new calling in life. I realize that nothing can be taken for granted.
Background on Gratitude Check
After just coming out of a trial on Wednesday of last week, I was looking forward to taking it easy on the weekend. So I thought. I had just attended a meeting at church for the Sunday School volunteers. My daughter and I were headed home.
We made a complete stop at the intersection around the corner from our house, waiting for eastbound traffic to clear so that we could make a left turn. While we were sitting there, I had the words “crash and rental car” to come into my mind. I tried pushing those thoughts out of my head. I began to make a plan for what I would do when I got home: rake the leaves, go for a walk, write out my podcast speech, etc. The next thing that I knew, we were hit. It kind of happened in slow motion.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes of pictures and paperwork, we were able to go home. To be honest, I had to stop and ask God “Why?” I had just recovered from last week’s drama, only to end up with more trauma from the accident. As I sat there, at my kitchen table, I acknowledged that I was mad. There was no point in pretending. Stuffing leads to more trauma, so I wasn’t going down that aisle. I acknowledged that I didn’t feel like making the calls to the insurance company. Then, I had to acknowledge the trauma from the accident that was starting to kick in.
It took me two more hours before I could call and report the accident. What was my gratitude check for Saturday?
God is good.
The car was still drive-able.
We didn’t suffer any major injuries.(My daughter is sore from the accident).
God had a praise song in my head while we waited for all the pictures and paperwork to be done.
The car wasn’t going any faster than it was.
We found out that we were missing some major coverage on our car insurance.
The other driver had insurance.
This accident reminded me of God’s answer to our thoughts and our plans:
8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Years ago, when my kids were little, I worked in the financial corporate world of the IT department. I absolutely loved my job as a computer technician. As a matter of fact, there were several things that I liked about my job in general: flexibility in your schedule, the ability to talk to people as you worked on repairing their issues, whether it be computer, networking, or printer. Last, but not least, I liked the whole idea of getting to listen to the problems that the end users were having, and then the challenge of recreating the problem in order to come up with a solution.
While working at this financial institution, I decided that I would get my Masters Degree in Information Technology. The degree was a 14-month intensive online program. Although I had two small children, I was up for the challenge. I also had the idea in the back of my mind that this degree would increase my value and my salary.
After obtaining the degree, I spoke to my supervisor, who in turn stated that she had to talk to her boss. I was told that the raise wouldn’t happen, and that they were on a hiring and salary freeze for the entire company. What made matters worse, is that I found out that what was said was not the entire truth. They were giving raising. Specifically, significant salary increasing to non-minority employees without degrees. I was disheartened and discouraged because I felt that I had done all of this hard work for nothing.
What I didn’t realize then, but do now, is that I felt that I had no worth there because of this incident. In their eyes, I didn’t qualify to sit at the same time with other individuals with my qualifications.
One thing that I now see is that when it comes to God, even in all our brokenness, because of Jesus’ death on the cross, we will always receive the “exempt” stamp of condemnation. There is always room at God’s table of executives.
Ephesians 2:4-7New King James Version (NKJV)
4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
I am blessed to be airing Episode 4: Unhealed Brokenness & Toxic Relationships. Last week I aired Episode 3: Broken People Judging Broken People, and it can be found here. I am not a mental health professional. I am speaking on this topic based upon my relationships with individuals in the last twenty years where toxicity existed.
I pray that if you are dealing with any of the signs/symptoms in a relationship, that are mentioned in this podcast, that you seek professional help in navigating this dynamic, and that you remove yourself from the toxic dance before it’s too late.
7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.[a])
10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
11 “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”
16 He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”
17 “I have no husband,” she replied.
Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.18 The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
26 Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak,28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.”29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth.34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
You can always tell what things are important to Jesus. That is why his last three words on the cross summed up everything: “It is finished.” He already knows the things that keep a high level of stronghold on us. Shame and rejection are just two of them. Shame is when we are perceiving ourselves as bad. This perception can be due to issues playing out in any of the following areas: financial, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, physical, and mental. Because we are all broken, we dump shame on ourselves, and then unfortunately we dump shame on others. Last week, we discussed the shame aspect of trauma here. When we wallow in shame, then we see ourselves as unworthy. We become deficient in self-worth. What did the scripture say about our actions in regards to shame? “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of [our] faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2
Rejection: It is Finished
Rejection hits the same brain wires as when we experience physical pain. When rejection plays out, we receive the hidden message, “You are not good enough”. You need to prove yourself. The next natural response to not being “good enough”, is trying to figure out what we need to do in order to qualify. Unfortunately, depending on our background, this could turn into a dangerous ground for Satan to get a foothold. Jesus was despised and rejected as he planned to take his place on the cross. He didn’t need to prove himself, or figure out how to get someone to like him because God, his Father, was all the approval that he needed, and Jesus is all the approval that we need. His life in exchange for our freedom: He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Isaiah 53: 3
We can finally release all of the shame and rejection on the cross by remembering the last three words that Jesus said, ” It is finished”.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
As Christians, we know that the best example we have for living is Christ. We love because he first loved us. We forgive because he has forgiven us. We give grace because we have been given grace. But, the question is, when is grace no longer grace? This is the question that I have had to revisit several times in the last few years.
Grace is no longer grace when we have gotten to the point of disrespecting ourselves. How do we know that we our disrespecting ourselves? It is usually when our needs, thoughts, well-being, and boundaries are ignored. Boundaries exist emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
One of the ways to know if we are disrespecting ourselves is to pay attention to our “gut reaction”. A lot of times our bodies know that something is wrong before our emotional, mental, and spiritual knows that something is wrong. When I first met a neighbor at my last residence, she seemed nice. Although she seemed nice, there was still something that didn’t allow me to feel 100% safe. During the course of talking to her, she almost fell. She grabbed on to me to recover her balance, and my whole body locked up. If you live with PTSD/trauma on a daily basis, then you are very familiar with the stiffness of the body as a reaction to trauma/stress. Because of trauma victims having a negative charge, we are even more sensitive to detecting something wrong. We are magnets to certain types of energy. Had I acted on this warning, I could have avoided a lot of heartache. When you have a gut reaction about something, it is your body’s warning that your boundaries are being crossed, or that something said isn’t right.
We all have bad days. We are all broken, and because of our brokenness we are going to sin on a daily basis. However, it is important to pay attention to how often we are giving excuses for behavior.
We are not to keep score, however, it is important to know that there is give and take in any relationship. If we are on the giving 90% of the time side, this is a sign that grace is no longer grace. This will manifest itself through feeling drained emotionally during or at the commencement of the relationship. This isn’t a normal reaction in a give and take dynamic.
You are working to prove your value and worth all the time. Jesus’ death cut out all the legalism of work. If we are striving for approval or value from others, or we are given the hidden meaning to keep hustling for someone, grace is no longer grace. I love this verse in Romans that makes this so clear: And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. Romans 11:6
Grace is no longer grace when we allow ourselves to to be controlled. Control can be subtle or obvious. When you find yourself in a toxic dance, your gut feeling is not right, and you are going around in circles, this is a sign you are being controlled. It can also be a matter of having the things that you say or do be used against you. For example: Person A says : Do this. Person B: Does this. Person A says: Why did you do this? And then this repeats over and over again. The only way to come out of the dance is to eliminate your action as person B.
One of the best ways to determine whether grace is no longer grace is to look for patterns. These patterns will give a clue into whether or not there was a misunderstanding on our part, or if there is a pattern of sin on the other person’s part. If it is hard to detect, then one of the best things that we can do is to pray. Prayer for wisdom and discernment will allow us to receive what God wants us to know. As much as we hate conflict, it is something that we can’t avoid. The podcast on handling conflict can be found here. We are told in scripture how to handle the conflict of sin:
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17
What I have come to figure out myself is that if the scripture verses above were put into effect in all of my situations, then the draining/toxic effect could have been avoided or lessened. We cannot save or fix others. It is Satan’s job to make us believe that we can, to the point of disrespecting ourselves, where grace is no longer grace.
Episode 3: Broken People Judging Broken People Healing Our Brokenness Podcast Seri...
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Last week, our podcast was focused on “Conflict Among Broken People”. You can find the podcast here. This week’s topic is “Broken People Judging Broken People”.
What is brokenness?
What is judging?
What does Jesus say about judging?
Judging Others Matthew 7: 1-5
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women.Now what do you say?”6 They were using this question as a trap,in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stoneat her.”8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,”Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”