Posted on Leave a comment

Learning to Trust Myself Again

These last several years of my life have been about relearning, revisiting, rewriting and starting over. I spent well over a decade prior to this phase letting go of people, hopes, dreams and ideas. All of life is a process and I’ve generally stopped fighting against my cycles years ago.

The New Gig

The day after Labor Day, I began subbing as a tenth grade English teacher in a working-class suburban neighborhood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I shared feedback from that interview in The Best Interview Feedback I’ve Ever Received. The other day, while driving to a job for which my excitement had evaporated by day three, I wondered why I keep getting into situations that sound like they’re a godsend but function as a nightmare.

Note here: My wondering is almost always a conversation with my Creator. Whether thinking or vocalizing, the answers always come.

So, I was driving and asking God how I got roped in with a crock of lies by people who apparently think they have unlimited access to my labor despite not following through on any letter of their word. Assuming the job itself was the blessing, I questioned if I would show a lack of faith by quitting. Is this a trial I’m intended to persevere through? Am I obligated to suffer through incalculable daily indignities to get to the blessing on the other side of yet another toxic environment that is everything I hate and more about capitalist assumptions and indoctrination in the workplace?

Season of “No Struggle Blessings”

Season of “No Struggle Blessings”

What came to me last weekend in a blink of understanding was that nothing God has for me is conditioned on my suffering or my performance. Work always has to be done, of course. However, the work we do to bring our purpose about and the work that moves us forward in life is usually counted as joy and certainly adds up to gratitude for unexpected opportunities. My writing is my work. Everything else is what I do to pay the bills.

I’ve reached a point in life that I seek to impress and satisfy only myself. I am in competition with no one. There is no leverage or power anyone has over me to stop me from existing how I want in this world. Suffering is not the route to blessings for me at this stage of life. The certainty of that knowledge radiated within me when it came to me last weekend. Shared in this clip titled “Season of “No Struggle Blessings“” from Know Your WHY & Be True To It.

Later in the week, while driving to this job, my primary question was, “What lesson am I supposed to take from a series of jobs that could have been catalysts for full-life transitions but became horribly acrimonious instead? In my spirit, I heard this (paraphrased), “It’s not about Me. It’s about you. When are you going to trust yourself again?”

Blocking My Own Progress

I don’t doubt God. There is nothing in me that fears My Creator’s provision for me will ever dry up. I have no concerns about food, shelter, or money. I am sustained in a very healthy way (**pats belly**). Yet in my young adulthood, I put so much of my trust in the connections I thought I had with people that I weighed my worthiness and the understanding of my faith by their response to me. Their lack of response and general absence of reciprocal care made me think I had misunderstood a lot – instructions, guidance, teachings, messages – even up to the foundation of my faith. My recovery from the dreadful lapse of trusting my intuition, my hearing, my heart, my eyes and my hopes was to push it all into the shadows and trust only what I could confirm as God’s guidance. This is what we call an over-correction.

As I write, I can see clearly that the loss of so many imbalanced relationships – with people I held dear as friends and family or would have gladly called lover – paved the way to my withdrawal and isolation. For the last few years, I have actively resisted making new friends and aggressively shooed away men. What I’m understanding now is, I stopped trusting my sight. Not only did I have visions, but I also saw what people could be and accepted their representation of themselves.

I had eyes filled with hope and love. This is the filter that covers a multitude of sins.

Now, all I see is what people are in a world I don’t want to be a part of.

This is what the Spirit called me to remembrance of this week, “When are you going to trust yourself again?”

I questioned back, “Can I trust myself to love again? Do I even want to love again? What good has love in the world done for me? In my mind, love has only made me a sucker, a mark, and a target. Loving others has not brought love into my life.”

But the Spirit hadn’t questioned my ability. The Spirit questioned my will and my timing, “When?”

Old Scars

Two other jobs I had really been excited about since 2020 came to mind. I realized I would have suffered indefinitely had they not forced me out. I would have continued showing up to those places filled with rancor and petty-mindedness because I had committed to the roles. I was determined to transition my career fully and thereby pave a way for a new life outside of New York City. At the time, I was certainly confident in my ability to make whatever I needed work out. My self-confidence may waver in moments, but those moments are barely blips on the arc of time.

At the time, those two former acrimonious jobs were seen as answered prayers and steppingstones to a future I was trying to create for myself. They each lasted about two months and my termination was seen as a frustration and a blessing. “Frustration” because I believed I needed employment to fully transition in life. “A blessing” because I wanted to quit, but I’m not a good quitter. Presently, with the sub role, quitting is not an issue, and I know the job itself is not the blessing.

That was the lesson. That was the realization and the manifestation.

The Cycle and The Lesson

It took three cycles for me to separate the perception of the satisfaction of my needs from anything in this world. Environments are acrimonious to me because I’m not meant to stay in them. They’re test stations. Spaces where my understanding and faith are sifted and refined. It was my life-long practice of holding on to things that aren’t for me that made the lesson necessary.

The Conversation continued (paraphrasing). “You know what’s good for you. You don’t need to ask Me if you can do what you need to do to protect your Peace. You can trust yourself.

Ahhhhh. *Light bulb.*

I can see people and things as they are and not conform to the darkness enshrouding them, even if I’m attempting to counsel them through it. This includes seeing myself as I am, in all my flawed fragile humanity. The filter of love and hope that I had once viewed others with was also how I viewed myself. Perhaps the understanding that’s forming is that in my inability to see myself and others through the filter of love and hope, I should trust that it’s still necessary to practice doing so. I need to trust that my deficiencies are not limitations if I remain open and willing to allow God to work and love through me.

When will I trust myself again? Trust myself to open up, despite the inevitability of disappointment, without sliding further into isolation? Trust myself to see with refreshed eyes of grace instead of through the prism of all the false relationships in my life? Trust myself enough to protect myself in any environment without concern about retaliation?

I already do. That work has already been done.

The Result

As I continued driving that morning, my response was “Yes and Amen.” I knew within the first week of interactions at the high school that as soon as I got another offer, I was gone. None of the terms agreed to by phone were written into an offer or adhered to. I had dealt with the principal, and we had come to an agreement. In exchange for an emergency license and conversion to full-time teacher with full benefits after three months subbing, I committed to teach for the full school year. When the HR manager finally spoke to me on day three, she said she couldn’t make any guarantees regarding the principal’s verbal offerings. She reduced my day rate to the lowest level and claimed I would have to pay out of pocket, at this reduced pay, for the courses leading to a license. I told her I couldn’t make any guarantees either, and there was no way I was coming out of pocket in order to work for anyone. Not when I have three degrees and thirty years work experience. In that moment, I knew I was done.

In all my working years, no one has ever not honored terms of a verbal job offer. The shadiness of it is not loss on me.

The beauty of being able to see people as they are, is that the little power they have in subterfuge is taken away. I can be as open and honest as I want and be fine with the consequences. When truth is spoken into a deceitful person’s face, they have no idea how to respond. They usually double-down or back down. Either way, they know they are exposed. Truth takes away the go-along-to-get-along cushion where they think they can dangle a carrot to control performance. No. That’s not an option. Not with me.

I’ve come through the testing stations with a layer of grit I never asked for. I wanted to be soft, caring, trusting and full of grace, but the people of the world keep trying to break me down and chew me up. So, My Provider began training me in courses that have incrementally toughened me. [Perhaps, broken teeth will be a symbol of my legacy. 🤔] Knowing I am equipped to stand in victory makes trusting myself much easier.

Related posts

Posted on Leave a comment

ACAD – Faith & Pleasing God: Hebrews 11

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable[e] sacrifice than Cain’s. Through this he received approval as righteous, God himself giving approval to his gifts; he died, but through his faith he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken so that he did not experience death, and “he was not found, because God had taken him.” For it was attested before he was taken away that “he had pleased God.” And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would approach God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, warned by God about events as yet unseen, respected the warning and built an ark to save his household; by this he condemned the world and became an heir to the righteousness that is in accordance with faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance, and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. By faith, with Sarah’s involvement, he received power of procreation, even though he was too old, because he considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one person, and this one as good as dead, descendants were born, “as many as the stars of heaven and as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.”

All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better homeland, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.

By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac. He who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, of whom he had been told, “It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named for you.” He considered the fact that God is able even to raise someone from the dead—and, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked blessings for the future on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, “bowing in worship over the top of his staff.” By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave instructions about his burial.

By faith Moses was hidden by his parents for three months after his birth, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger, for he persevered as though[k] he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had received the spies in peace.

And what more should I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death; they were sawn in two; they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, persecuted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains and in caves and holes in the ground.

Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better so that they would not, apart from us, be made perfect.

Reference: New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

11.1 Or reality
11.1 Or evidence
11.2 Gk by this
11.3 Or was not made out of visible things
11.4 Gk greater
11.4 Gk through it
11.11 Other ancient authorities read By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered
11.22 Gk his bones
11.23 Other ancient authorities add By faith Moses, when he was grown up, killed the Egyptian, because he observed the humiliation of his brothers and sisters
11.26 Or the Messiah
11.27 Or because
11.28 Gk would not touch them
11.31 Or unbelieving
11.37 Other ancient authorities add they were tempted

Posted on Leave a comment

Sermon: IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH – A Lesson in the Nature of Worship by Nik Godshall

by Nik Godshall

Excellent message! Listen to the sermon: In Spirit and in Truth.

June 14, 2015 @ Times Square Church, NYC – This is a teaching of the nature of worship. Worship is an ever increasing surrender of our affections to Jesus Christ inspired by the wonder of His love. True worshipers feel safe to be vulnerable and dwell in an ever increasing honesty before God. Worship is not about emotional escape it’s about spiritual transformation.

The most important lesson I have learned and am still learning. – Nik Godshall

Reference Verses & Notes

Jesus and a Samaritan Woman

13 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life.”

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so I will never be thirsty again and will not have to come back here to get more water.”

16 Jesus told her, “Go get your husband and come back here.”

17 The woman answered, “I have no husband.”

Jesus said to her, “You are right to say you have no husband. 18 Really you have had five husbands, and the man you live with now is not your husband. You told the truth.”

19 The woman said, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that Jerusalem is the place where people must worship.”

21 Jesus said, “Believe me, woman. The time is coming when neither in Jerusalem nor on this mountain will you actually worship the Father. 22 You Samaritans worship something you don’t understand. We understand what we worship, because salvation comes from the Jews. 23 The time is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, and that time is here already. You see, the Father too is actively seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

25 The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming.” (Messiah is the One called Christ.) “When the Messiah comes, he will explain everything to us.”

26 Then Jesus said, “I am he—I, the one talking to you.”  ~ John 4:13-26, NCV

A Living Sacrifice (Give Your Lives to God)

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. ~ Romans 12:1-2, NCV

Worship is a response…. When you understand the WAY that God loves you, worship becomes a natural response – you can not help but to love Him. Worship is a lifestyle. 24/7 thing… all day everyday.

Worship is  a process. There are some things that you have to learn to surrender. Coming to Jesus is the most freeing, wonderful privilege we get to enjoy as Christians. This type of worship takes honestly. Honesty is the birthplace of genuine worship.

The natural reaction to vulnerability is put up walls and wear a mask. He longs for unwalled worship. Surrendering brings healing. Sometimes we use our pain as an excuse to stay closed down.

Jesus will never betray you with what He knows about you. He will never use the truth about you to shame you. He will only use it to heal you. Only. If healing involves pain, He will not apologize for that. If He must cause you pain, shame is not the objective; healing is. Jesus will never betray you with what He knows about you. 

What is boils down to is trust. The safest place in the world is an honest relationship with Jesus Christ. – Nik Godshall

In Spirit and In Truth = New Life and Honesty

God Knows Everything

23 God, examine me and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any bad thing in me.
    Lead me on the road to everlasting life.  ~ Psalm 139:23-24

A Song of Victory

You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great. ~ Psalm 18:35, ESV

Posted on Leave a comment

Singing to a Barren Womb

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.  ~ Colossians 3:16

I believe I’ve been fighting depression for many years. I believe Satan has been attacking me continually with very little respite since childhood, if not from birth. And I believe he is now attempting to destroy my hope in my future by attacking my womb. I must admit, there have been many times over the past few months where I’ve wanted to give up on my future and let him win.

The thought of Satan counting me as a victory galls me. But not more than the thought of me giving up on God…and His faithfulness. He has promised to provide those who love Him the desires of their heart.

I never imagined facing such a difficulty in both my physical and spiritual life. For my body to come to a point of such finite impossibility and me knowing in my spirit that my God can do anything – teetering on this point of convergence is a test of balance and faith. I thank God regularly for the measure of faith He has given me, for it’s the only thing keeping me from giving myself over to the encroaching darkness intent on consuming me.

I have come face to face with the dragon pursuing me so ardently. I know his intent to steal every seed of hope, joy, love, and faith from me. I know he is committed to destroying anything in me that can be used as a testimony for the glory of God. I understand that he has asked for me and has been granted permission to come against me.

I also know that my life is not his unless I choose to give it to him. And superseding all of that is the knowledge that my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has prayed for me. He has prayed that I return to my brothers and sisters in Him stronger than I was before this trial began. And He continues to intercede on my behalf at the right hand of our Father. It is only through faith that I can believe this. It is only because of the measure of faith I’ve been graced with that I have even the slightest sliver of hope of overcoming the darkness in my life. It is my faith that bolsters my spirit and allows my spirit to encourage me by singing songs to my womb.

“Whose report will you believe? / I will believe the report of the LORD!”

Hannah’s Song

She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”  ~ 1 Samuel 1:10-11

When doctors first explained that the likelihood of me becoming pregnant was a near impossibility, I couldn’t think beyond the fact that they were saying “no” to something I’ve long believed God had green-lighted for me. When they explained different surgical procedures that could either help or continue to hinder my body’s procreative capabilities, my hands immediately went to my belly with a silent guttural cry, “YOU CAN’T HAVE MY WOMB!”

What turmoil I’ve been in since that dark dreadful Friday. I went from blaming myself for all the men I said no to in my possibly fruitful twenties to scolding myself for being a near recluse in my thirties. And of course the thought crossed my mind to go out and find a man to help me prove the diagnosis of barrenness wrong. But in between each gust of wind that takes me to the edge of my reason, my spirit whispers, “Whose report will you believe?” And my mouth sings back, “I will believe the report of the Lord.”

I don’t remember that Saturday, but I remember on Sunday, during our time of worship, one hand stayed on my belly and I kept the other raised in praise as I lifted my womb up to my Creator and Healer. Later that day I researched “when God shuts up the womb.” Now that I think on it, the remainder of Friday and Saturday were spent researching my diagnosis and the possible procedures and their possible results….

There are several mentions of God shutting up wombs in the Bible. And each instance is either preceded or followed by a recipe for God to open the wombs He closed. Remembering these instances keeps my mind off of Satan and his intent to destroy my life so completely that I bear no fruit at all – physically or spiritually. Remembering that God is in control even of the situations He has allowed Satan to interfere in and granted me the free will to choose my actions, brings peace. I have to remind myself that if I have truly surrendered all that I am and all that I’m becoming to Christ Jesus, then that includes surrendering my life and my womb to Him as well. It includes letting go of the worries and concerns of not having the future I’ve envisioned for years. It includes accepting that where I am is where I’m supposed to be and how I am is how I’m supposed to be. I can’t second guess my past or re-write my future. I must trust God and know that His purpose for me is greater than what I see in the darkness of this moment.

That’s what my spirit is telling me. My emotions are another matter. Emotions are irrefutable proof that the Holy Spirit isn’t about quelling our human nature as much as His presence guides and soothes our transition from each height and depth of joy and sorrow.

The description of Hannah’s depressed state in 1 Samuel 1:10 is just as much a description of my own current depression. Her cry and prayer to God is no less heartfelt than my own weeping prayers offered to my Heavenly Father. The recipe that is shown when God is called upon to open a womb He has shut is a lifelong promise of devotion and a covenant to dedicate the first fruit of the previously barren womb to the service of God for the life of the child.

“My heart exults in the Lord;
my horn is exalted in the Lord.
My mouth derides my enemies,
because I rejoice in your salvation.

“There is none holy like the Lord:
for there is none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.

Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the Lord is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed.

The bows of the mighty are broken,
but the feeble bind on strength.

Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread,
but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger.
The barren has borne seven,
but she who has many children is forlorn.
The Lord kills and brings to life;
he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The Lord makes poor and makes rich;
he brings low and he exalts.
He raises up the poor from the dust;
he lifts the needy from the ash heap
to make them sit with princes
and inherit a seat of honor.
For the pillars of the earth are the Lord’s,
and on them he has set the world.

“He will guard the feet of his faithful ones,
but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness,
for not by might shall a man prevail.

The adversaries of the Lord shall be broken to pieces;
against them he will thunder in heaven.
The Lord will judge the ends of the earth;
he will give strength to his king
and exalt the horn of his anointed.” 
~ 1 Samuel 2:1-10

Look at Sarah’s story. Read about Samson’s mother. Remember Mary – I add the Virgin Mother in this category as well because she was untouched by man, but made pregnant by the Spirit of God. And Mary sang a song too. Then of course there’s Elizabeth, who like Sarah, conceived long after she could have naturally done so outside of God’s plan for her.

Mary’s Song

And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”  ~ Luke 1:45

Mary didn’t have an extended period of depression or concern about her future. She was given a word by the angel Gabriel and replied simply, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38) Mary knew who she was and was willing to be used however the Lord chose to use her. Songs of thanksgiving and praise. Songs acknowledging the greatness of God and denouncing the pride of man. The Lord God kills and brings to life. He brings us down and raises us up. He is merciful to those who fear him and he guards those who are faithful to Him. God is good. And my desire is to serve Him all the days of my life.

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.”  
~ Luke 1:46-50

My Song

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will hear you. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me with all your heart.  ~ Jeremiah 29:1213

My song is very simple. Very short. The referenced verses loop through my mind daily.

Satan has asked for me,
but Jesus has prayed for me.
I’m under vicious attack. Yet I stand.
My faith allows me to stand.
For my Lord has plans for me.
Plans for good, not evil,
to give me a future and a hope.
There is hope for my future.

God knows. His word is the first and the last in all things. I’m expected to cry and pray to my Father during turbulent times. He’s expecting me to seek Him wholeheartedly at all times. I am where I’m supposed to be. I am how I’m supposed to be as well. By faith, I will continue to praise Him and trust that my life will be everything He wants it to be – and my joy will be complete because my desires will line up with His.

Reference verses: 1 Samuel 1:10-11, 1 Samuel 2:1-10, Jeremiah 29:11-13, Luke 1:45-50, Luke 22:31, Job 1:6-12,  Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 6:10-20

Related posts: “It was all worth it.”, Pleasing God While in the World, For The Sake of His Praise

Posted on 1 Comment

Are you trustworthy?

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.  ~ Psalms 19:7

What does trust mean to you and how do you value it?
How do you treat the other person in the relationship?
Do you view your word with integrity?
Are your actions committed with integrity?
Are you giving into the relationship, or just in it for what you can get from it?
Can you be trusted with everything the other person has to offer or only the things you value?
Do you trust the other person with all you have to offer?
Do you trust yourself?
Without trust, does a relationship actually exist?

This summer has seen several formerly close friends approach me and ask “to be friends” again. Some asked the question outright; others skirted around the words but were suddenly offering invitations again.

I’ve been cautious with all of them, because they violated the trust I had in them and our relationships. By “trust” don’t mean that they shared confidences outside of our space, I mean that the friend I believed them to be, they proved not to be by their words and actions. I no longer trusted them with my friendship or any part of me I had to contribute to the relationship. Why? Because they had misused what was freely given. The primary issue between us was trust.

Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord. ~ Psalms 4:5

The first person to ask didn’t acknowledge her ill treatment of me at all. Our relationship broke four years ago. Throughout this time, we have interacted in social settings without a word being said about the breach in our relationship. Finally, this summer she said she understood that I reacted from my perspective and that was okay, she just wanted to be friends again. As I attempted to explain that it wasn’t just “perspective” it was my experience with her that taught me a hard lesson: I valued her and our friendship more than she did, as proven by her treatment.

From her point of view, she valued me more than I valued her. That was interesting for me to hear. I told her, “I’ve seen what you do for the friends you value. You’ve never done anything for me. Even when I told you I was in a fragile emotional state and needed help, you offered me nothing, but you continued to take.”

She tried to change the subject. She still didn’t want to talk about what led to the breach; she just wanted the breach to mend.

That’s not possible.

God tells us to confess our sins. Confession is a form of conversation. When we confess our sins (offenses) to God and to people, we have to talk about what we did, how our actions affected the relationship, and what we’re willing to do to heal that breach and move forward in the relationship. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus instructs us on how to point out a brother/sister’s offense against us. We are to tell them what they did and how it affected us. Jesus continues, “If they listen to you, you’ve gained a brother/sister.” The alternative is, if they don’t listen, we’ve lost them. If someone truly hears you and values you, their behavior will change in respect to your relationship.

If a person is not willing to discuss the affect their wrong-doing had on someone, but they are more than willing to offer excuses for their behavior, then they are not accepting responsibility for their speech and/or actions. They are not truly apologetic. They won’t really change their ways, because they don’t really think their ways are wrong. They think you’re wrong for being so “sensitive” to their behavior towards you.

I asked this first person what friendship meant to her because we were obviously operating from different definitions.

She said it means “fun” to her. “A friend is someone to hang out with and do fun stuff with!”

A friend is much more than that to me. A friend is love, support, availability and comfort… for starters. God is my friend. You have to be more than “fun” to be put in a category that describes my God.

Declare me innocent, O Lord, for I have acted with integrity; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Put me on trial, Lord, and cross-examine me. Test my motives and my heart. For I am always aware of your unfailing love, and I have lived according to your truth. I do not spend time with liars or go along with hypocrites. I hate the gatherings of those who do evil, and I refuse to join in with the wicked. I wash my hands to declare my innocence. I come to your altar, O Lord, singing a song of thanksgiving and telling of all your wonders. I love your sanctuary, Lord, the place where your glorious presence dwells. ~ Psalms 26:1-8

The second person called after only a few months of silence and the occasional stilted conversation. She asked for forgiveness for and offense that had already been forgiven. Because there had been no resolution through conversation, she thought I was holding something against her. I wasn’t. I had released the offense and the relationship with my forgiveness – meaning neither had any hold on my thoughts or emotions any more.

She asked me, “I just wanted to know if you wanted to be friends still, because relationships take work. This has been like breaking up with a boyfriend – do I want to try again or not…. I don’t want to put in any work if you’re not even interested in the friendship. You don’t have to say anything now; I just wanted to get that off my chest.” Mmmmm… perhaps, that wasn’t quite a question….

I tried to reply that I didn’t have anything to offer other than what I had already offered in friendship – my sincerity as a person – and if that had been rejected and tossed aside, I didn’t know what she was asking for.

She said she loved me and would always have fond thoughts of me, but if her treatment of me was the only hardship I’ve experienced I was far more blessed than she. Mmmmmm….

I corrected her. She was by far not the only person to take relationship with me for granted. “Many have claimed to love me and proceeded to treat me in ways that didn’t represent love at all. So I have learned to hear peoples’ words as I look to match them to their actions. You’re talking about putting work in, what have you done for this friendship?”

“Well, nothing… yet…. I just wanted to know if I should bother trying.”

“That’s not for me to tell you.”

The conversation with the third person actually took place last fall. This was her second time apologizing for a grievous offense against me, so it wasn’t a long drawn out conversation to get her to stop making excuses for her behavior and stop looking for sympathy for all the sad things in her life. She owned up to her words and her actions and acknowledged the fact that her actions not matching up with her words led to a breach of trust in the relationship. She offered to make amends in order to mend the breach. Almost a year later, I’m still waiting on her to make amends.

I believe amends are necessary when forgiveness has been granted. Making amends is a way of showing your love. It doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture. It can be as simple as following through on your word the next time you give it. Each action you take to improve a relationship builds trust. When you make amends you are expressing your desire to remain in relationship with the other party.

I want all the breaches of trust to heal in my relationships, I do, but I can only do my part. I can only live up to my word. I can’t live up to the other party’s word, silent expectations, or defend myself against their unfair judgments. Rebuilding trust is a process that begins with a word and is followed by action – doing what you said you would do.

Think about it… that must be why God is so popular! He has performed His Word time and time and time again. We can trust in the Lord because He does what He says he will do. God is the ultimate example for everything we need to know in life, for every behavior we need to learn. When you get stuck on one Biblical principle, you aren’t exploring the totality of God or allowing for all the opportunities for Him to show up in your life. For example, if you’re focused on receiving forgiveness and what that feels/looks like to you, then you’re missing what you should be giving into the relationship once you’ve received the forgiveness you wanted. I’m looking for people to act on what they already have.

The long and the short of it is that the history of the relationships, not just one offense, has led to my no-confidence vote. I do not trust that these people will treat me well. Their brand of “love” is very selfish, very self-seeking. They do not have the love, respect, consideration
and compassion for me that the Bible teaches. I know they’re aware of it, because that’s what they want from me – Godly unselfish love.

The relationship may be stagnant, but I am moving forward. I do my best to live what I believe, so when I am rejected, the light within me is being rejected as well. Jesus taught that when we are not welcome or listened to in a space we are to “shake the dust” of that place off our heels as we leave it. (Matt 10:14, Mark 6:11, Luke 9:5). My role is not to convince people that I am worthy of their effort or time to mend the damage they did to
a relationship. My role is to offer the best of me every time I offer any of me.

Think of it this way, we all received forgiveness when Jesus died on the cross – that was the beginning of our work in the Kingdom, not the end. If we just take Jesus on the cross and keep Him there, we miss the whole point and benefit of the saving grace God provided through His sacrificial act and we miss out on all the promises God has made to His chosen. Forgiveness is the beginning of new, improved relationship. It’s not a way back to the former relationship. We have to take our forgiveness and walk forward in faith to give the best of ourselves in the relationships God has blessed us with. We are to give the first and best to God first. From what we offer to Him, He multiplies for us to offer to others.

But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me. ~Psalms 13:5-6

Anytime is a good time to ask yourself these questions for any relationship you’re laboring in:

What does trust mean to you and how do you value it?
How do you treat the other person in the relationship?
Do you view your word with integrity?
Are your actions committed with integrity?
Are you giving into the relationship, or just in it for what you can get from it?
Can you be trusted with everything the other person has to offer or only the things you value?
Do you trust the other person with all you have to offer?
Do you trust yourself?
Without trust, does a relationship actually exist?
Posted on 1 Comment

Life on the Rapids

Years ago I took a road trip with a friend. Up to that point we would have said that we knew each other very well.  We had planned to drive across the southwest on a tour that was to last a week or so. We were sick of each other inside of 24 hours. Within 3 days we were seeking separation – she went her way, I went mine, we met up for a major celebration then went home.

She was a different person on the road – out of her comfort zone, coming against road blocks and unexpected detours. As well as I thought I knew her, I really didn’t know her at all. And vice versa. There’s a softness about me that people comment on all the time. A sweetness. An easy-going spirit. It usually leads people to think they can take advantage of me, manipulate me, control me. You know, generally be the wolf to my Little Red Riding Hood and try to devour me. They soon find, after some expended energy and headaches, that sweet softness surrounds an iron core. I’m not easily shaken. Nor am I easily led astray. I’m focused. I’m committed and I’m loyal. Above all that I’m an honest, faithful person of integrity. Dealing with me any other way reflects poorly upon you.

That road trip was a life lesson. I immediately decided that should I ever get to the point of marriage my groom-to-be and I would take a pre-wedding road trip. The purpose: to see how different he would be towards me when life just came at him. No time for rehearsals, no hiding, no do-overs. Just committing to a course and doing what you know. Being true to yourself and acting on faith. How and where would his faith lead him? And how eagerly and willingly would I follow?

Some time ago, my pastor said during a teaching on marriage, “Marriage isn’t about the person, it’s about the commitment.” Periodically, I meditate on that. I didn’t get it at first. Why wouldn’t it be about the person you marry? Why would the commitment be more important? Well, the commitment is key. When two people are committed to a course of action, nothing can really stop them. And if God is there between them, they’re guaranteed success.

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  ~ Matthew 18:19-20 

I went whitewater rafting for the first time a few weeks ago. We were in the water for about four hours, and traveled 12 miles down river. They did a brief orientation. We had to pick our raft team, appoint someone captain, put someone in charge of our two buckets, and generally be ready to work together. I went with someone I’ve had limited social interaction with and we met up with two couples there that weren’t part of a group. The six of us became a team. We discussed our history with the activity (two of us had never rafted, the others ranged from limited to experienced.), we discussed our objectives – stay in raft and enjoy ourselves. From the first stroke we operated in unison.

Within ten minutes we watched a raft go in circles for quite a while. They were literally rowing in a circle in one spot on the water. The only way to do that is when the left is rowing in the opposite direction from the right. After the second or third circle you would’ve thought they would’ve stopped to discuss strategy or something.

On another raft, a guy jumped or fell into the water. His friends rowed on and made him chase the raft for while.

On yet another raft I heard a wife snapping hard on her husband (assuming they were married, girlfriends are somewhat milder in their word choice). I don’t remember her words, but she took an exception to him needing more help from her to steer the raft clear of the rocks.

Many, if not all, of the rafts rode up on large rocks at some point. We rode up on several. In orientation, we were told that for every minute we stayed on a rock (stagnant, not moving forward), we would fall ten to fifteen minutes behind the group.  We didn’t stay on any rock for a minute.  As soon as we crashed onto one, we all went into action. And it wasn’t the experienced rafters directing the “rock dismounts”, it was the other newbie. From a distance we could see other rafts landing on rocks like they were Plymouth, the rafters showed very little interest or enthusiasm in getting off of them.  One person worked to get the raft off while the others sat and looked at them.

We saw one raft almost sink after spending five to ten minutes partially on a rock. I just wondered how they managing to nearly destroy a raft. Luckily, the submerged portion of the raft came back above water after some more maneuvering.

All this to say, many people, some of whom apparently knew each other very well didn’t do to well together in this high stress, high energy activity.

Life to me is like those rapids, it comes at you fast, you don’t know what’s ahead, you know you’re going to hit some hard spots but you don’t know how you’re going to get through them until you get to them. You’re afraid of falling or getting in over your head, but when you do exactly that, you realize it’s not too deep to stand, you’re more resilient than you thought and helping hands are all around you. You have your quiet sun-dappled spots of peace and tranquility and your roaring, fast-paced movement when you can only react from knowledge and instinct. You come as an individual and you join up with others to maximize your experience and your enjoyment. That’s life – you never know what you’re going to get until you open yourself to receive. Sometimes that means letting go of what you already know. .. What you’re used to… Stepping out of your comfort zone.

In 2005, on September 2nd to be exact, I arrived in New York City. I had a little less than one months’ worth of rent in my bank account after I paid my move-in fees. I had been unemployed for about a year prior to the move, had no savings, no job lined up and no family or friends to fall back on.

Why New York? Because I had always wanted to live here. But I kept putting it off. Milwaukee was safe. It was comfortable. It was what I knew. But I was miserable there. Any opportunity to leave was eagerly accepted. In 1997 I left for Phoenix. It didn’t work out; I went back to Milwaukee. In 1999 I studied in Paris for a semester. Had to go back to Milwaukee afterwards. In 2000 I worked on the road for year. Job ended, went back to Milwaukee. In 2001 I moved to Los Angeles with a friend. Couldn’t find lucrative work on a deadline, bussed back to Milwaukee. Milwaukee became the place I couldn’t escape no matter what.

One day in June 2005 the bulb went off: I was willing try everything else, but kept passing up trying what I really wanted. I had dreamed of New York City most of my life, yet I kept allowing myself to get waylaid and distracted. I allowed fear to control me – the fear of not being able to get back to Milwaukee if needed; the fear of not being able to afford life elsewhere; the fear of failing yet again. That one June day, I realized I wasn’t happy where I was because I wasn’t where I wanted to be. I asked myself: Where do I want to be more than anything? New York City was the hands-down-no-contest answer. I resolved in that moment that that’s where I was going to move as soon as I could scrape together the funds to go. No other criteria was needed because perfect situations had never come my way.

Within a month I was visiting a college friend in Manhattan to scout out opportunities and possibilities. I interviewed for a couple of jobs and found an apartment in the Bronx. The landlord held that apartment for me for over a month. He and his wife committed to working with me through my transition. (And they did.) With that assurance I went back to Milwaukee and announced my imminent move, I held a yard sale and a massive give-away. I was committing to my course and the best way for me to show commitment for my move to New York City was by eliminating a need to return to Milwaukee (other than to visit).

The first six months in New York City was one of the hardest periods in my life to date. It was such a dark period of self-doubt and doubting God. I was questioning that voice inside me that insisted I take such a leap of faith. I castigated myself for my foolishness and shortsightedness. I was wondering how God was going to show Himself and provide for me. I had gotten to such a low by late February 2006 that while sitting in Central Park one day I started observing the homeless people to see how they were coping with the cold. How many layers of clothing, what types of blankets? How big were their bags and carts? And I started mentally cataloging my belongings and deciding what I would take to the streets with me. People laugh when I talk about this, but that was my thought process. I actually laughed at myself when the one thing I decided would have to come with me was my blue velvet comforter with scrolled lavender cutouts. I thought I would for sure get into a couple of fights trying to keep that on the street! Anyway, even at that low point, I wasn’t thinking of giving up. I was thinking of a way to cope with impending homelessness – how would I wash and clean myself to go on interviews, how would I avoid freezing to death…. I truly believed that what was meant for my next stage in life was in New York City. And I was willing to go through whatever I had to go through in order to get the prize – whatever that turned out to be.

I went back to my apartment that evening (after sitting in the park) despondent because I didn’t have any money towards my March rent and no way of getting it. The next day I got a call for a job interview – long-term temp position at one of the top three banks in the country. Within two days I was being finger-printed and drug-tested. The next week I started work – it’s been an upward climb ever since. I profusely apologized to God for questioning His interest in and ability to provide for me!

There is no math that can work out how I survived the first six months in New York City. But I actively did what I knew to do –  odds and ends around the city to get to the next day, the next point, the next level.

Living life fully requires a sense of adventure, not the reckless-dare-devil-machismo foolishness, but fearless, exploratory eagerness to experience whatever comes your way.

If you’re unhappy with your life, ask yourself: What would make me happy? Rather it’s a job change, a cross-country move, or something much simpler, work to make it happen. There’s no promise that everything will go smoothly but at least you’re working towards something you’re passionate about. That passion fuels your commitment. The commitment reinforces your energy to continue in your purpose. Living in your purpose has a ripple effect on more people than you can imagine. You become an authentic conduit of light that beckons people to you and accentuates the best of our humanity.

If you can’t get to what makes you happy with the direct questions, go around the bush and ask yourself: What am I afraid of? What is so scary about the course of action I would prefer to take that has me running, hiding and building forts for protection?

How comfortable is life when you’re consistently weighed down with protective gear? Helmet, blinders, heart-guard, elbow pads, knee pads, you name it! You can let all that go and simply trust in God. Trust that He will not lead you astray. Trust that nothing will harm you as long as He’s holding you. That’s what I did. I can’t describe the peace of mind that I have now. The level of satisfaction I have with my life. No matter who or what crosses my path on any given day, I’m at ease. Life is good, God is great!

But I had to go through my tests (read: deep valleys) to get to this point. My prize – a peaceful existence. No part of me is warring with another part. I was completely stripped. Wrote a book about it, then got flayed for the effort. Since then, I’ve been healed. And now I’m being covered in raiment more dazzling than anything I ever imagined. And life is only getting better the more aware I become and the more I grow. I don’t have words to explain how my life has prospered in ways I couldn’t even envision five years ago – emotionally, physically, and spiritually. All over.  Nothing I’m doing now was part of the life plan then.

A couple of weeks ago a life coach pitched her business to me – quite honestly, I have the universes’ best coach already, as do you! Towards the end of our conversation, after I had expressed no interest in coaching or being coached on life, she asked me if I was happy with my job. I said yes. She sounded surprised by my response. Then she asked me where I saw myself in five years. I told her, “I have stopped trying to limit God. I will be wherever He wants me to be.”