“So then, since Christ suffered physical pain, you must arm yourselves with the same attitude he had, and be ready to suffer, too. For if you have suffered physically for Christ, you have finished with sin. You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.” 1 Peter 4:1-2 (NLT)

I admit it.

I’m a wimp when it comes to pain.

If there is a way to go around it, then I’m all about finding that way! But when I read this passage in 1st Peter the other day, I was convicted about my approach to life.

My Current Approach…

  • When my husband hurts my feelings, I’d rather set him straight than swallow my pride and forgive his misstep.
  • When I encounter someone who is antagonistic toward Christ, I’m dodging the subject and the discomfort it brings to share my faith.
  • When my kids need correction, I don’t always correct them with patience and thoughtfulness. Instead, I’ll unload my frustrations on them as a way to stop their bad behavior and feel relieved all in one!
  • When someone gets the very things I’ve wanted but have not received, I find it easier to fall into the arms of envy or even bitterness than to trust God’s goodness and justice.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. I do these kinds of sick tricks every day—dodging the pain and suffering of being a fully devoted follower of Christ.

But did you notice what Peter says in verse one? He says that in order to be “finished with sin,” we must suffer! I don’t think I’ve ever thought about this concept fully until today. I’ve known that pain and suffering are the tools God often uses to refine and develop us. But I’ve never thought about it being the way to close the door on sin.

Now, I realize that as long as I’m alive and breathing, I will sin. But perhaps I will sin less if I surrender to the pain in my life—and dare I say it—even embrace pain?

Please hear me! I’m not saying that we should all go out and look for or conjure up pain. But perhaps we should welcome it when it comes. Perhaps pain is a blessing in disguise. And if I realized just how much God is using pain in my life to help me sin less, then wouldn’t my entire attitude change when trouble comes my way? I think so!

I don’t know if I’m there yet—ready to embrace or welcome pain—but I’m willing to think differently when pain comes my way next time.

How about you?

Do you think this would make a difference in your life?

How would it make a difference?

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Fill ‘er up!

Meditation is a cultural buzz word these days. I hear it everywhere from Dr. Oz to Julia Roberts. It seems as if this word is thrown around like a Frisbee to anyone who wants to play! And I know that I’m stepping into controversial waters with some, but I just have to say . . .

I don’t believe that Christian meditation and eastern meditation (or perhaps more appropriately, “popular meditation”) are the same thing.

Eastern mediation involves emptying your mind. Your only focus—if any—should be on your breathing. The goal is to reach the state of No Mind,” which is praised in Zen literature.

In contrast, Christian meditation is about filling your mind with God’s truth, His Word and listening for His still small voice. Instead of pursuing “No Mind,” it is taking on the Mind of Christ.”

First of All

I think many are being duped into thinking that one is as good as the other. In my opinion, there is no comparison. One may bring calmness, but the other brings truth and life. I also believe that although eastern meditation may bring a sense of calmness, it’s a dangerous practice that leaves you open and vulnerable to spiritual influences. Remember, you are to . . .

“Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.”  Proverbs 4:23 (CEV)

And

“Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:11 (NLT)

Second of All

Even though “meditation” has become popular in our culture, for Christians, it is an often neglected yet important spiritual practice. Just as our gas tanks run empty, so do our spiritual tanks. We need to “fill ‘er up” so to speak and here are some ways to do so with meditation . . .

Ways to Meditate

  1. Memorize a Bible verse and meditate on it when you’re facing a stressful, tempting or painful moment.
  2. Pray a Bible verse, using your name or personal pronouns where appropriate.
  3. Read over a special verse, stopping and focusing on the first word to really absorb its meaning. Then reread the verse focusing on the second word this time. Repeat until each word has been given special focus. Consider if the verse has taken on a new meaning to you.
  4. Envision a Bible passage, such as the 23rd Psalm. Imagine a scene with Christ, as your Shepherd, leading you beside still waters, etc. What does it feel like? Look like? Smell like?

These are just a sampling of ways. It certainly is not an exhaustive list.

Do you have some ways that you meditate on God and His Word? If so, share your ideas with us!

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”Romans 12:2 (NLT)

Looking for Completeness

Today’s post is part of the Heart’s at Home Blog Hop for the month of June.

And this month’s blog hop is to answer the question, If I could go back in time and tell my teenage self one thing, what would it be?

My parents didn’t have a great marriage. So I remember thinking in my teen years that I would make it my mission to find a great guy, and not only escape my difficult family of origin, but also show my parents how to have a great marriage.

Ahhh, ignorance is bliss!

I took my idealistic and naïve notions with me into my dating relationships, often driving some of my boyfriends crazy! And, honestly, running a few boyfriends off!

When I finally met the guy that would become my husband, we ended up repeating a lot of the patterns that my parents had in their marriage—surprise, surprise!

But if I could’ve whispered into my teenage ear before any of that occurred, I would say . . .

Quit running after an ordinary man to be who the extraordinary Christ should be in your life—the first true love of your life!

Thankfully, all along the way, God was the One whispering this truth in my ear. And at some point, I actually listened and realized that He was right. Imagine that?!

I want to clarify at this point that I am not in any way saying I regret marrying my husband. I am so, so happy to be married to my husband, Gary. But I do know that I’ve put him, our kids and myself through so much more drama because I believed that Gary could and should complete me.

Looking back, I know that God used (and continues to use) all of the people in my life and especially my husband to act as “iron sharpening iron,” so His will was not thwarted by my unrealistic expectations. But I also realize that my compulsion to be in a relationship and eventually marriage, made my spiritual and emotional maturation process much more complicated, difficult and slow.

So, even though I can’t really speak to my teenager self, I hope that this will be a resounding statement to any of you (of any age) who are rushing into a relationship . . .

Don’t pursue a soul-mate or spouse until you can say that Christ is and will continue to be your first love.

If you are part of the blog hop, click on Mr Linky below

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I come from a long line of control freaks. My mother was a control freak with anger issues. My grandmother was a control freak who used sugary sweet manipulation to entangle her victims. And my grandfather was nothing short of a force to be reckoned with. They say the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and that has never been more evident than in my life.

At first, I thought that I was simply a people-pleaser who was being controlled by more than my share of control freaks. That might have been true at times.

But like Clark Kent, I could easily transform—without the help of a phone booth—into a super control freak if put in the right situation.

So the thought that I could be a control freak seemed unimaginable. I even hated the sound of the words. I wanted to say that I’m just conscientious, hard-working, and meticulous—but never a control freak!

“I” opening moment

It took years for God to finally open my heart to the fact that “I” was the worst control freak in my life. And then it was just a matter of time before the horrible truth about control freaks came spilling out . . .

The truth that control freaks lack faith in God.

They question if God is really as good as He says He is and worry that He might not rescue them from their troubles.

So all good control freaks must keep their cape tucked neatly in their backpacks for just such an occasion—the time when God wouldn’t come through for them and save the day!

Once I finally accepted the ugly truth, I felt afraid that people would find out and reject me and my control freaky ways. However, at some point, I realized that I couldn’t “control” that.

So here’s I a couple of ways I use to curb my control-freaky ways . . . (yes, it’s a work in progress)

 1. Make myself accountable

I share my weaknesses with certain people I trust in my life and give them permission to speak truth into my life. I don’t always like what I hear—especially at first. But I’ve come to realize that God uses these people to chisel away the rough spots in my life—one of which is my need for control.

2. Surrender my illusion of control to God

This is a daily, even moment by moment battle. But when my anxiety is on the rise, I take notice and immediately turn my problem over to Jesus before my control freaky ways kick into high gear.

If you can relate, then take the humble first step of admitting the fact that you are a control freak . . . at least once in a while.

If I hadn’t come clean with God and others, I would’ve continued to wall people out, offend some, destroy God-given opportunities, and make royal messes in my life and relationships (check out messymarriage.com for a few chronicled examples).

I’ve put away “my cape” and changed from management to God-agement! After all . . .

 God truly is the only One who can save the day!

Miscellany Monday @ lowercase letters
On In Around button

You want to talk about f-f-f-feelings?

GASP!

Yes, I live in a household full of males, and that’s often the refrain I hear when I want to have a “deeper conversation.” But the truth is, even women don’t often know how to talk about feelings—or more specifically, how to validate them.

So today I want to talk about one of the best ways to encourage someone—through the validation of feelings.

I have to say that validation is a fine art that should be practiced often and with great precision, because it is like a warm embrace to a frozen heart. But first, we must understand the steps to take in our efforts to meet this important human need.

Step One: Understand the magnitude of someone’s spoken feelings

When people disclose personal feelings, realize there are invisible questions that every person thinks:

  • Are my feelings okay?
  • Do you understand them?
  • Do you care about them?
  • Do you accept them?  (And remember, accepting someone’s feelings is not the same as agreeing with them)

So, be sure to communicate a welcoming attitude to your friend from the outset.

Step Two: Acknowledge their feelings

This can be done by simply reflecting back what you’ve just heard the person say. For example: “It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you.”

Third Step: Seek Clarification

Most of the time, we don’t understand all the emotions that are brimming under the surface for our friends. It’s easy to skim over this and try to shift the focus back to ourselves, where we feel more comfortable. Resist this tendency and ask for more details about how the person feels. So the next step connects the words in step two with step three . . .

“It sounds like this is a very frustrating (hurtful, confusing, fearful, etc.) experience for you. Is that what you’re feeling right now?”

Remember, don’t rush this part or move on until you’ve gained an assurance that you’ve clearly heard and understood the other person’s feelings.

Fourth Step: Show Empathy

Hopefully, once you’ve fully explored all that your friend is feeling, you will catch a glimpse into the pain or confusion that is your friend’s feeling(s). So at that point, communicate how your friend’s feeling(s) has emotionally moved you.

For example: “It breaks my heart to see you in this pain. Please know that I want to be a safe place for you as you go through this time.”

If you practice this simple method of validation, I can guarantee that you’ll have given your friend an invaluable gift. Emotional validation is the soft and comforting embrace we all want and need when life gets hard. Try it today!

“Like free radicals, feelings wander around the conversation looking for some acknowledgement to hook onto.  They won’t be happy until they get it, and nothing else will do.” –Henry Cloud and John Townsend

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Growing Pains

The subject of growth and change has come up in many of my conversations and thoughts lately. Sadly, it isn’t always in the context of anticipation or excitement. But there’s a story that I’ve heard from don’t-know-where that has come to my mind as I think about this elusive pursuit . . .

There once was a little boy who told his mother,

“Mommy, I want to marry you.”

So the mother explained to her little boy that she was flattered, but she was already married to his daddy. And that one day he would grow up and want to marry someone that he loved too.

The little boy said, “Well, okay, but then my wife and I will live with you and daddy forever!”

The mother, once again, had to explain that someday he would not want to live with her or his father, but would want to buy a house of his own to live in with his wife.

By this time the boy was becoming frustrated. He didn’t like the sound of all of this. It meant changing from the cozy, loving home he had always known to some far away place with a stranger.

Little did he realize that as he grew older, he would want these changes. He would grow into them.

I think this story illustrates how we all feel when it comes to growth and change. We like our comfort zone. We like things the way they are. And even if we don’t, we’re afraid of where growth and change might take us—to the unknown. And who knows whether the “unknown” is better than what we already know and are accustomed to?

However, when we compare our resistance to that of the little boy who could not fathom life as an adult, perhaps we can catch a glimpse of the amazing journey that God wants to take us on . . . if we will let Him.

Is there an area in your life where you’re afraid to grow or change?

Are you resisting God or godly friends because they want to challenge you to go to the next level?

Remember that there’s so much more you can and could be experiencing, if you will only surrender to God’s refining power in your life. He loves you and doesn’t want to leave you where you are, because there are so many bigger and better things to do and to be in this life. So don’t let discouragement, insecurity or unbelief keep you from being the man or woman God knows you can be with His help!

‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)


As many of you know, I am a (HAH) Hearts at Home Blogger. Each month we join together for a “blog hop” on the third Thursday about a specific topic or challenge. This month’s challenge is to share a favorite recipe.

I thought long and hard about this, because some of my recipes are a family secret, you know! But I came across one that is not only a family favorite, super yummy, but also one that I don’t mind sharing the secret with all of you! So get in touch with your inner Cajun cook and try out my version of . . .

Jambalaya

Ingredients

1 lb. cooked chicken*

2 cups water

1 ½ tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/2 lb. ground sausage**

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Dash garlic

1 cup uncooked rice

1 med. onion diced

1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies

In a dutch oven, brown sausage, breaking it up into bite sized chunks. Reserve 1 tablespoon of oil in bottom of dutch oven. Remove sausage to a paper towel to absorb excess oil. In same dutch oven, place chicken, onion, salt, pepper in two cups of water, bringing to a boil and then simmering. Return sausage to dutch oven. Add rice, tomatoes, and the rest of spices. Cook until rice is tender. Enjoy!

I hope you try this out. Then come on back and tell me what you and your family thinks!

*Shrimp can be substituted for chicken

**sliced sausage links can be substituted for ground sausage

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