Archive for the ‘Maturity’ Category

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB).

I’ve been reading a lot lately about growing in God and getting to know His Word more. In the course of that reading and studying, I’ve found numerous references to being firmly rooted in the Word of God. It’s easy to say to be firmly rooted, but what exactly does that look like? I have heard so many different ideas about how to be firmly rooted, but I’m not just wondering about HOW to be firmly rooted. I want to know what that looks like to be firmly rooted.

This morning, I was reading Colossians 2:6&7, and I think I now have a better understanding of what being firmly rooted looks like. I may not have a full picture, but I do have a bigger glimpse of what that looks like. I believe there are three characteristics that someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will have based on these two verses.

1) Someone who is firmly rooted in God’s word will be walking in Christ. What does that mean? Well, that means this person is so in tune with the Lord and His Word that He lives out and copies the way Christ lived. That means, he doesn’t judge someone by past or present sins. This person accepts others as they are and cares about them regardless of their lifestyle, habits or character. Our Pastor actually spoke about this last night in our Wednesday evening service. One thing he said, really struck home to me. I’ve heard it before, but last night it sank in a little more. He said, “Acceptance is not approval.” I can accept someone without approving of his/her lifestyle. I don’t have to like everything about someone or agree with everything someone says to accept that person for who he/she is.

Being rooted in God’s Word also means that this person is more likely to be aware of and to actively seek to avoid compromising situations. It doesn’t mean this person hides in a hole and does nothing. No, instead, it means that this person is cognizant of the things that tempt him/her and then does what is necessary to avoid those situations whenever possible. What walking in Christ doesn’t mean is that this person is perfect. Unfortunately, nobody will be perfect in this imperfect earth.

2) Someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will be built up in Christ and established in his/her faith. This means that this person knows what he/she believes and continues to live in accordance with that. I can’t know what I believe if I don’t spend time in God’s Word and really take the time to study and understand what God is saying. If I do that, then I will grow in my faith, and I will know what I stand for.

3) Finally, someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will be overflowing with gratitude. That means, no matter what happens in life, this person is grateful for the good things he/she has, even when things aren’t going exactly as well as he/she would like. It means this person chooses to be grateful in spite of the bad things that happen. This is the part I have the most difficulty with because it’s really hard to be thankful when I feel like nothing is going right. But no matter my situation, I have a choice. I can choose to be grateful. Or I can choose to complain. Either way, I am the one who has to live with myself. Do I want to be joyful or miserable? It’s my choice. I want to choose gratefulness.

I’m so glad that I was able to read these two verses this morning because they encouraged me to dwell on what God has to say to me in His Word, and as a result, I am encouraged to stop looking at the past and worrying about the future. Instead, I want to focus on what God has for me today. I want to grow and learn. Most of all, I want to be firmly rooted in God’s Word.

Your turn! What characteristics you think someone rooted in God’s Word would have besides these? What other things can we keep in mind about growing in God? I hope to hear from you!!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

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Photo Credit: Photos by Mavis via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Photos by Mavis via Compfight cc

In this life there are always going to be problems. After all, as I have been reminded of time and time again, we live in a broken world full of broken people. And broken people hurt each other – sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. The bottom line is, everyone gets hurt at some point. And I’d venture to guess if someone insists they have never been hurt, they were probably either the ones inflicting the pain, or they are lying to themselves. I suppose there could be the rare case that it’s actually true, but if it is, then it truly is a rare case indeed. It would be nice to be able to say that the cause of all my problems rests squarely on the shoulders of others, but unfortunately for me, often I am the cause of my own problems.

So, if I am the problem, what can I do to fix it? And shouldn’t that make things easier to fix? I mean, the only person I can really do anything about is myself, right? Alas, it’s not that simple. It’s actually easier to see the problems in someone else’s life because I’m not part of that life, and it has no bearing on me. I’m a neutral party. But the reality is, it’s not my job to see everyone else’s problems. It’s my job to work on me. So, how what does that mean for me?

First things first. Before I can begin to fix a problem in me, I have to actually know that there is a problem. My experience has been that I don’t really see my own problems. I’m too close to the issue. That’s where friends come in and help. I am blessed to have at least 2-3 good friends who are willing to point out to me when I have a flaw in my thinking or if I am overstepping my bounds. I trust these friends with pretty much every aspect of my life – which is saying something because I don’t really trust people easily. But because I trust these friends, I know that if they are taking the time to tell me I have an issue, I listen. I don’t like it. But I listen. I might get angry at first. But I listen. I listen because I don’t want to be one of those people who refuses to see the issues in my life and stay in the same unhealthy patterns. But what do I do once I have seen or someone has pointed out to me that there is a problem?

I think there are three things I need to do in this situation. After all, God gave me a brain, and He gives me the tools necessary to learn and grow.

1) I need to review what has been pointed out to me or what I suspect, to determine the truth in the situation. Sometimes a perceived problem, isn’t truly a problem. But often it is. So, first, I need to examine the facts. Who is telling me I have an issue? Is it someone I trust or someone I just happen to know? Is it someone who tends to find problems in everyone or someone who usually thinks well of people? Am I just feeling insecure, or do I have facts that back up my suspicions? This could mean that I need to ask for honest feedback. It definitely means I need to get into God’s Word to see what He says. The main point here is that I need to be willing to take an honest look at what has either been pointed out to me, or I have a suspicion about.

2) Once I have determined that there is actually an issue, I need to be willing to admit that there is a problem. Admitting the problem means that I recognize the issue, and now I want to do something about it. I don’t want to be one of those people who says “Oh yes, I have a problem, but that’s just who I am.” That’s not a healthy outlook. If I have a true issue, then it is something that can be remedied and worked on. Yes, I have a personality, and that personality makes me who I am, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But if I allow myself to be ruled by my personality, then I am not looking out for the best interests of others. And as a child of God, I am called to care about other people. Philippians 2:1-4 says:

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (NASB).

I don’t have the luxury of thinking only of myself. I have a responsibility to look out for the interests of others. So, if I have an issue, I need to admit to the issue. It doesn’t mean an overnight change necessarily, but it does mean I need to admit there is a problem.

3) Finally, I need to address the issue. I need to take steps to improve in that area. Sometimes that’s difficult to do because perhaps the action or thought has been so deeply ingrained that it takes a long time to make the change. Making the change quickly isn’t required. Committing to making the change and then acting on that commitment is. Some things I can do to help me with that is to ask someone to help hold me accountable. Knowing someone is going to be asking me about my progress means I am more likely to take action. Another thing I can do is get into God’s Word and see what He says about that issue, and also memorize Scriptures that can help me stick to my commitment. I can also keep a journal to track my progress.

I do need to remember, though, that making progress isn’t necessarily overnight. I am going to have times when I fail. At those times, I need to remember that this is a process, and instead of giving up, I need to get up and keep moving forward. My experience has been, when I have actually done this, I have walked away feeling better about myself and have been better able to help others in the process. And really, isn’t that what I’m here for – to help others?

What about you? Do you have other ideas for how to make changes in your life? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: Flооd via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Flооd via Compfight cc

Church should be a place where you can feel safe from harm. It should be a place where people don’t cast stones and where love, healing, and growth takes place. The problem with that is that those who gather for church are human. And when you get more than one human together in one place, the chances are, someone is going to get hurt. So, how in the world are we to handle it when it comes? If it’s inevitable, how do we protect ourselves?

I will admit, it’s difficult, and it’s something I struggle with because I have been hurt more than once by a church or someone who was a part of the church. It is so difficult when those who should be leading you, instead of resolving issues, turn to cutting you down and tearing your dreams to shreds. I very recently went through a very hurtful situation, where I felt attacked. I wish I could say that I handled it in the best possible way, but I must admit, I probably could have done better. I wanted so badly to see issues resolved, that when it became obvious that wasn’t the intent of the other person/people involved, I lost all interest in trying to show respect. That isn’t to say that I did lose respect, but I probably didn’t speak as kindly or listen as carefully as I would have normally. I spent the rest of that day fuming and hurting and crying over the way things went down. I was so hurt. And I was so mad at God. How could He allow this to happen? How could He allow me to go through all these crazy drama things I have going on lately? How could He not do something?

But then a new day came. I can’t say I’ve completely gotten over being mad at God. I haven’t. But I’m closer. I am finding comfort in His Word, and through the counsel of my friends, readings, devotionals, and yes, even Facebook statuses that have come my way. And interestingly enough, I’ve begun to look at this differently. See, I want to be a leader. I don’t necessarily want the title of leader – I want to have the actions of a leader. A leader leads whether they have a title or not. That means, even when I am hurting, even when others respond badly, even when I feel like throwing in the towel, I set an example of what love looks like. I set the example of treating others with kindness instead of casting stones. And that’s hard. So, how do I do that?

1) I need to forgive. Forgiveness starts with me. It doesn’t start with receiving an apology. It doesn’t start with someone else realizing they were wrong. It doesn’t start because I feel like forgiving. It starts because I choose to forgive.  One of the statuses I read on Facebook last night said,

“Recently, I received a text message that caused me to stare at my phone in complete disbelief. Why couldn’t this person see how hurtful they were being? How could they be so insensitive?

Hurtful situations tend to make me want to fight back and be mean too. Maybe you feel the same way.

But Colossians 3: 12-14 reminds me, “…as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

My job isn’t to fix this person or make them see my side of things. My job is to obey God by offering an extension of the forgiveness I’ve been given.” (Lysa Terkeurst)

My job isn’t to fix the person/people who hurt me. Do you know how much of a relief that is? Again, my job isn’t to fix the person/people who hurt me. My job isn’t even to make my side heard. My job is to forgive. I am commanded to forgive. And forgiveness is a choice – sometimes one that has to be made over and over again.

2) I need to stand strong and persevere. James 1:12 says, “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” (NIV).  Maybe this is a test or trial I need to go through so that I can grow. If I look at it as a punishment or a bad thing, then I do myself a disservice. However, if I look at this as an opportunity to grow and learn, then I find a purpose for the trial. I now have a reason to move forward because now I have an opportunity to learn. Hebrews 12:11 states, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (NASB).

It’s not going to be fun to go through the painful situation, but in the end, if I allow myself to be trainable, I will grow from it, and yield “the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” That’s something to look forward to!

3) Finally, I need to keep serving God. If I allow myself to be hurt to the point where I feel I can’t serve, then I am being disobedient to God. We are called to serve, right where we are at. OK, so my ability to serve in the capacity I was in has been taken away at least for the time being. That doesn’t change the fact that I have other ways to serve. I have talents and gifts that God has given me. I will continue to use them to serve Him. Nobody can take that ability away from me, except God Himself.

So, while I am still hurting, and I am still upset, I know God has a good plan for me. He will use me in other capacities if I allow myself to be open to it. I can’t wait to see what He has in store for me!

Your turn. Have you ever been in a hurtful situation where you felt like someone was casting stones at you? How did you handle it? What do you do to remind yourself that you still have a purpose? How do you handle hurtful situations? I’d love to hear from you!!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit:  By Martin Wessely  (Unsplash.com)

Photo Credit: By Martin Wessely (Unsplash.com)

I am not one to try a lot of new things. I prefer to stick with the things I know and like, rather than try something that I might not like. However, lately, it’s been getting to the point where I am tired of the same old thing. I feel like I am trapped in a room, looking out at the world and seeing everything I wish I had the guts to do pass me by. A lot of that has to do with the fear of trying something new and not liking it or maybe even failing at it. I think for me, failure is the biggest fear I have. I think somehow, deep inside, I think it means that somehow I am lacking – that somehow I’m not good enough.

Much of my fear has to do with the fact that I have done so many stupid things in my past. I have a litany of events in my life that would illustrate the extent of how stupid I can really be. And for the past few years, I think I’ve done all I can to distance myself from that failure and make myself out to be this person who seldom messes up. It’s all about the image because if anyone saw who I really had been, they would perhaps not like me quite so much. Forget the fact that my past has taught me so many things. To let others see me as I really am might mean rejection. And I have faced enough of that in my life – at least that’s what I tell myself.

The reality is, my past is my past. I can’t change it, but I can look back on it and see how far I have come. Or rather, I can look back and see how far God has brought me. He took a scared, stupid, insecure little girl and He has grown me into someone who, while still scared, and still able to do stupid things, and often insecure, is also learning to be courageous and strong and to depend on Him. As a result, recently I have started to do things I never really expected I’d be able to do. For example, I went back to New York, where my roots are a few weeks ago. To say that was a step out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I was terrified. But I did it. That’s just one example, but I have others that I can point to. Except, that’s not the point today.

When I refuse to step out and take a risk – whether it be failure, rejection or something else unpleasant – I do myself a disservice. I put myself in a cage. I lock myself up into a tiny little box and instead of growing, I shrink. I go deep into myself and I lock everyone else out. And that’s a lonely life.

Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it (perfection) yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NASB). Paul had a lot to be ashamed of in his past. After all, he persecuted, imprisoned and caused the death of many followers of Christ before he went through is own conversion experience. He could have chosen to hate himself, belittle himself, or lock himself away from other believers. Instead, he chose to do the opposite and as a result started many different churches, not to mention the prevalence of his letters being included in the New Testament.

Paul went on to say in verses 15-16, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (or mature), have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (NASB). In other words, live up to who you are. I am a child of God. As a result that means I am sanctified, redeemed, and can rest in God. I don’t have to keep looking back in shame at my past. I can use it as a learning experience, but my life isn’t in the past. I am to be embracing what God has for me in the future, and that is that I am going to get to be with Him someday. And if that’s the case, then what do I have to be afraid of here? What am I avoiding?

With that in mind, I have a few “bucket list” items I am planning on this year, such as kayaking, driving to New York with my kids this summer, taking a chance and entering a couple of writing contests this year, and so much more. And I can do those things because I am free. Yes, I might fail. Yes, things can go wrong. Yes, I can get hurt and it’s going to be a risk. But, in the end, I am going to grow and learn, and most of all, I am going to escape from that cage I have locked myself into.

What about you? Have you locked yourself in a cage too? Are you avoiding certain things out of fear of failure or rejection? What do you do to get past those feelings and live the life God has called you to?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: celebdu via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: celebdu via Compfight cc

Sometimes God hands me the unexpected. I don’t generally like the unexpected because it’s, well, unexpected. Those who know me, know I like to plan things and when I plan, I try to control pretty much any aspect I can control. So, when the unexpected happens, there goes my plan, and there goes my equilibrium. I’ve been known to fall apart at the unexpected. But I’m getting better at learning to embrace the unexpected.

Just before my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, I was approached by my daughter. She asked me if I could help her get in touch with her biological father. To say this was unexpected would be lying. To say it was unexpected at that moment in time, is not lying. I knew she was going to come sooner or later, but I had kind of hoped it would be later. But, it wasn’t, and she asked. As difficult as it was for me to say, and as much as I hated that it came at an unexpected time, I told her that I would help her, but that she needed to give me until I came back to do so, in order for me to have time to think about it, pray about it and basically prepare myself for the task. Without going into any detail because 16 years is too long to hold a grudge, suffice it to say, the situation with the father of my children was not a good one. There was a lot of grief and hurt and pain for me in that relationship, and to set that aside for the sake of my daughter was not an easy task.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when I finally got up the courage to reach out. It was not easy for me. It was extremely difficult. I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to reopen old wounds. I was terrified of what the response would be. I was worried that my daughter would be hurt in the process. So, imagine my surprise when the unexpected happened yet again. The first message was hard, but the kind response I received in return has made it that much easier. There was no judgment or unkind words. There was no accusation or denial. There was, however, acceptance and joy that after all these years, my daughter wanted to know her father. I don’t really know exactly what I expected, but I do know it wasn’t that.

I would love to say that it’s all “peaches and cream,” and that things are going to go well. It’s a little too early to know that at the moment. But, what I can say is that I am encouraged by the response I received. I am hopeful that things will continue to go well. But, one thing I’m starting to learn about the unexpected – bad or good – there is always a learning opportunity. There is always a chance to take the lessons and apply them. There is always room to grow – and without the unexpected, those opportunities might not exist.

Your turn. Have you been handed the unexpected? Do you embrace it or try to avoid it? What do you do when the unexpected comes your way?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: Elisabetta Foco

Photo Credit: Elisabetta Foco

I don’t know why, but it always surprises me when people let me down. You’d think that after a while, it would be “old hat,” but the reality is, it always catches me off guard. It’s like I get into this illusion that certain people will never let me down, so when they do, it almost devastates me. I get frustrated with myself over this because the reality is, there is never going to be a person, not one single human person, who is going to never let me down. I’m sure I’ve let my share of people down. In fact, I know I have. You just have to ask my children, and I’m sure they will be happy to spell out the times I’ve let them down.

Yesterday, a friend of mine said something to me that hurt. The biggest reason it hurt was because the statement wasn’t entirely truthful. I don’t think my friend said it to be hurtful, nor do I believe my friend was trying to be malicious. It had been a frustrating day, and I hadn’t made it any easier with my insecurities and worries. So, I feel kind of bad that I am still hurting, and yes, even a little angry over the statement that was made. If there is one thing that hurts me most it’s feeling like I’m getting the blame for something I have no control over or for the actions of others. And that’s how I felt about what was said. But in all honesty, I can’t say that the entire statement wasn’t truthful – just part of it wasn’t.

See, I have these insecurities inside of me that I have been trying so hard to get past. Sometimes I feel like I’ve made great strides in doing so, and then other times, they come back full force and haunt me until I do or say something that I never intended to do or say. It’s like I sabotage all my closest relationships because to let anyone too close is to allow them to hurt me. But I can’t live life like that. I can no longer live in a vacuum of friends because I am too afraid of getting hurt.

I was thinking about that this morning, and I realized something. Not all hurt is a bad thing. “What?” you might ask. That’s right, not all hurt is a bad thing. Here’s why I say that. Yes, what my friend said to me hurt my feelings. I could sit here and dwell on the part that wasn’t true and stew, mutter, and grumble about it. But what does that do for me? Absolutely nothing except to feed my insecurities. My other option is to consider the part of the statement that was truthful – the part I can actually do something about. That does serve a purpose. It can be a catalyst for change.

If I look at all hurt as bad, then I never learn to grow. I stay stuck in my harmful and discouraging behavior – I stay alone. But, if I look at hurt as a change-inducer, then I give myself an opportunity to grow, learn and mature. That seems way more productive to me. I don’t want to stay stuck in the past and dwell on the things that tear me down. I want to dwell on those things that will build me up. In turn, I want to use those things to allow me to help build others up. I want to learn from my past, so I can have a better future. And then, I want to use those things to help bring change to others.

So, even though I am still hurting over what was said, I do see a purpose for it. I do see how it helps me to grow. I do see where it can help me make a change in my own life. And maybe just maybe that will help me let go of the past and move toward my future.

Your turn! Are there things you’re holding onto – insecurities, hurts, anger, etc? Are they building you up or tearing you down? What things do you need to let go of in order to move forward?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Question MarkSo, here I am in Bath, NY, sitting in my hotel room after a morning of worship at my friend’s church. I expected to like it. I mean, what’s not to like about church? Personally, I generally love church. It’s probably the reason I spend so much time at mine. But what I didn’t expect was to hear the Lord speak to me through the words of another woman sharing her story. I expected to hear God’s Word today, and I got that. I expected to get something from the sermon, and I did get a little from that. The real wisdom, however, came from the words of this woman’s story.

I knew walking into the room, that I was going to hear a testimony today. I thought I was prepared to hear it – and to some extent I was. I didn’t expect to be in tears throughout it. I didn’t expect to learn anything profound from it. I didn’t expect to relate. I mean, my life is so totally different from the lives of these women – and yet, it is so surprisingly similar. This woman, this beautiful, kind, friendly woman, shared about the love of our Lord and what He has done in her life. She shared her good, but she shared her sorrow over the death of her beautiful baby boy as well. And she said, “If I were given the choice to have him back, but my husband and I to not be where we are at with God today, I’d say no.” She shared that God had used the sorrow to bring them closer together and make them stronger in the Lord and with each other. And so, as difficult as that was (and I’m sure still is), she calls it all good because of of how God has used it to help her grow.

I’ve never really looked at how the bad in my life has been used for good. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have, but I’ve never been able to reconcile myself to the fact that I had to go through it to get to where I am at today with God. But, looking back, I have to say, God has used every “bad” event in my life to bring me closer to Him. There are things that I have railed at God for and begged Him to take away. Things I have said, “Why me? Why do I have to go through this?” Or “Why now, God? Why does this have to happen now?” And I don’t think it’s wrong to ask why. But that brings me to the part of her story that made me think. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t heard it before because I have. It was more that it hit me differently today. She said, “We won’t always know why something happens the way it does or why we have to go through something. But God uses those things”(or something to that effect – since I didn’t write it all down, you’ll have to accept my inadequate paraphrase).

The fact of the matter is, I don’t need to know why God allows things to happen. I just need to know that He can use them for good. And by now, you’d think I’d have learned that because I have had so many opportunities to do so. But sometimes I still feel like maybe this will be the time it doesn’t work out for good.

I’m glad that I went to my friend’s church today. I’m glad I got to hear this woman’s story. It affected me far more than she will probably ever know. I hope that I don’t forget the lessons I learned from her.

What about you? Are there things you’re asking God, “Why me?” or Why now?” What do you do remind yourself that these things can be used to grow you and teach you?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature