Are You Angry at God?


pexels-photo-247314.jpegMaybe you’ve never really thought about that question. Or maybe you shake your fist at him daily. Perhaps you’ve had a loss or tragedy occur in your life, and you can’t reconcile the idea that a loving, all powerful God could allow something so horrific.

You’re not alone.

I’ve never met anyone who didn’t at one time or in a lifetime question where God was when ________ happened. I certainly have.

As a matter of fact, for six years I was angry at God and didn’t even realize it. You see, I loved Jesus and believed God was good so I never considered that I could be harboring anger towards him. I believed he was in control in a good (well, mostly good) way and had brought me into a better place than I’d previously been in.

And he had.

But when God had spoken through someone that “turn around time” was coming for my life, I believed God meant that my failing marriage and business, my soon to be foreclosed on home and my hurting children would all suddenly turn around and come out rosy – you know, butterflies and unicorns stuff.

But it didn’t.

We lost our business and home, were forced to file for bankruptcy and ended up divorced with kids that had suffered far more than I ever thought possible.

What the heck?

So, six years later, to the exact day, when that someone who had spoken those promise-filled words showed up at my now different church (in a different state) speaking promises to people, I found myself perturbed. Conflicted. Angry.

I knew our pastor to be full of integrity and completely trustworthy so I wrestled with what I felt had been lies spoken to me years earlier. Later, after a strategically orchestrated meeting (only God made that happen, but that’s a different story), I drove away, parked my car in a remote location and let God have it.

Screaming, crying and recognizing my anger at him for the first time.

Until he whispered in my heart, “Didn’t your life turn around?”

Well…uh…yes. I guess it did. Because up until that point, I had accepted behaviors in my marriage that never should have been allowed. All that tragedy caused me to decide that I wanted a different life. As a result, I made new choices, and my life completely changed.

What I believed God meant and what he said were two different things. My perspective was shallow and off. We both wanted better for me, but he saw big picture and I saw immediate. He had change in my heart while I looked for change in circumstances. He set my course on a new, amazing life that would never have come if I had gotten what I asked for.

I realized I had to forgive God.

Forgive the one who forgives? Yep. That’s right. And thankfully, his grace and love for us it so great that he doesn’t hold our anger at him against us. He took care of me and my kids and blessed us incredibly during those six years that I was angry at him and didn’t know it. He knew it and waited for exactly the right time and orchestrated my circumstances perfectly to gently speak to me.

I cried, told him I was so, so sorry and our relationship grew deeper that night. I’ll never forget that night. Sometimes I share that story and it helps other people too.

As a matter of fact, I wrote a book, Rachel’s Son, about a young woman who felt that same anger when her only son was murdered. It took her many years and a path of destruction in her life until she could face her hurt and anger and finally forgive the Forgiver.

You can get the kindle version FREE on Amazon right now through tomorrow, March 3. And, the print version is more than half off. This is what one woman said:

“…I just finished reading Rachel’s son and it has changed my life. It was a gripping book. Couldn’t put it down but the most amazing thing has happened. When u got to the end…I sobbed.” (omitted words to avoid spoiler!)

It might be something that helps you handle anger with God, even if you don’t know you have any. I pray it will bless you.

Where Is Your Thinking Taking You?


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“If you change your thoughts, you will change your existence.”

I’m not sure who said this, but I saw this quote recently and it made me think.

The Bible says that “as a man thinketh, so is he.” I’ve never fully embraced that idea. I guess I didn’t really understand the meaning behind it. Or maybe I grasped the concept with a “Yeah, I get that” but didn’t actually internalize it. Then. But now?

What I think is what I become.

So what am I becoming? Where are my thoughts taking me?

When it’s been a season of great challenge in mental toughness, how do we handle life? I understand this from the viewpoint of an athlete. I was one once. But how do we apply this to everyday life? When bills pile up, the car breaks down, illness sets in and our relationship seems stuck or the business or job isn’t panning out the way we expected?

And then we get that call…you know the one that sucks the air out of you with it’s unexpected, tragic message.

How do I think about all that? Where do my thoughts take me?

Down a path of fear, regret, doubt or anger? Do I allow self-pity, bitterness or resentment to set in? Are conversations or situations replaying in my mind in the middle of the night keeping me awake in anxiety?

What are my thoughts doing to my existence?

There’s a reason God says we need to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. God knows how easily our thoughts can lead us astray into an existence of hopelessness, despair, depression or even destruction.

But how do we take a thought captive?

  1. Recognize that we have a choice about what to think. Often, we feel as if our thoughts happen to us, when the truth is that we can choose them.
  2. Feelings – our emotions are God given, but we don’t have to let them control our thoughts. How I feel in a given moment, may not accurately reflect the truth of a situation. I may experience anger, but I can choose how to think and act about it.
  3. When I have a thought, ask if it is bringing me into a positive, life-giving place or leading me into a small, negative space. There is always another perspective.
  4. What does God say in his word about me, my life, his plans for me? Are my thoughts lining up with that?
  5. Speak the truth instead of the doubts.
  6. Remember that God loves me and wants good for me. He says I lack nothing because he’s my shepherd. If my life shows a lack, but God says I lack nothing, what is another way I can think about my situation according to God’s truth?

It isn’t easy, but with practice, I’m learning to change my thinking. God says that he transforms us by the renewing of our minds. Changing our thoughts, changes our existence.

I believe this is only truly possible with allowing Jesus to take our thoughts captive and making them line up with his thinking. Maybe our very first step would be choosing a relationship with him. He’s always waiting for us with open arms to come to him and receive what he did for us on the cross.

Do you like the existence you currently have? Where are your thoughts taking you?

Love Dispels Fear


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“Perfect love casts out all fear.”

I know the Bible tells me this, but there are times when I’m still afraid.

Maybe fear comes from a job loss, a diagnosis of illness or an approaching storm. We can feel afraid when the power goes out, a car swerves into our lane or our child isn’t home on time.

And while some fear is a God given way of keeping us safe, living in a state of fear is not what God intended.

He wants for us to be so intimately acquainted with him that we trust he’s got our back no matter what.

Knowing God loves us causes us to feel safe. In his love, we become who he created us to be. He loves us no matter what we’ve done or neglected to do. His acceptance of us, as his wonderfully made sons and daughters, drives away fear.

Remembering what he says in his word and holding fast to those promises of faithful love will banish fear in those situations which threaten us.

I must keep choosing to stand on his word because it is true. All else is a lie.

And in that place, in his presence, fear evaporates. Peace comes. I can rest.

Contentment or Settling?


I’ve always struggled with settling.

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But I believe God is teaching me that being content doesn’t mean settling.

God is the God of more.

He takes us from glory to glory and tells us Jesus came to give us an abundant life.He says he wants to prosper us and provide for us according to all the riches in Christ Jesus.

 
 
Not just in our finances, although his word makes it clear that he desires that for us, but in every area of life he wants us to be rich.
 
In relationship, creativity, passion, love, kindness, goodness, peace and joy – all of the fullness of who he is, he wants to bestow on us.
 
And yet, we settle.
 
We think that good enough is good. That mediocre will suffice. There couldn’t possibly more, could there? Isn’t that what it means to be content?
 
I don’t think so.
 
In the Bible, Paul tells us he learned to be content in all circumstances. He wrote that from a prison cell after being beaten. But he had also been rich in his day as well. He said he knew both and could settle into each one with contentment knowing that in each situation, God had more.
 
As I consider the meaning of contentment, I think of God creating the world and saying “it is good” at the end of each day even when he wasn’t finished yet. He was still building something, but was able to lay it down each day with a sense of rest and peace knowing more was to come.
 
Can I do that? I believe that describes contentment.
 
Lord help me to live in a place of contentment today. And each day.

Impossible?


Photograph Laura Bennet - artist unknownEvery day we are faced with situations that seem impossible.

Whether it is an illness, the ruin of a relationship, a sudden traumatic event or even goals and dreams that seem out of our reach, impossibilities surround us.

But God says that nothing is impossible with him.

I’ve had a number of impossibilities in my life this past year. Relational, financial, career, family issues have at times left me discouraged at best and downright despairing on a couple of occasions.

But God reminds me that NOTHING is impossible for him.

I’m learning to stand more firmly on the word of God. His word says:

  • He is faithful.
  • He does not change.
  • He gives good gifts.
  • He redeems us and restores all that has been lost.
  • He sees us, hears us and answers us with a great plan far beyond what we can hope for or imagine.
  • What he says, he means.
  • He never forsakes us or leaves us or condemns us when we fail.
  • He waits with open arms when we’ve run off and pursues us with relentless passion.
  • He loves us and wants our good which also brings him glory.

As I continue to remind myself of truth, I see impossibilities turn to promise, hope and outcomes that blow my mind. But then, isn’t God that big? When I keep my eyes on the greatness of God, he eclipses the situations I think can never work out. And just because I can’t see what he is doing about them in his supernatural world, doesn’t mean he isn’t.

Persevere without gazing at the impossibilities…only at Jesus – the overcomer of impossible.

Dream Big


IMG_3840Big dreams start with small steps.

I believe big things are coming in this new year. God has already done miracles in my marriage, family and business, and I believe he’s calling us to trust him for even more than we can hope for or imagine. (Eph. 3:20)

We have to think bigger.

Recently, in reading the passage in the Bible about Joshua and Caleb being sent with ten other men to scope out the promised land (Numbers 13), I was struck by a few things:

  1. God made a big promise – his plans were far greater than his people imagined.
  2. The land God was giving them was flowing with good things – abundance is God’s plan and promise for us.
  3. There were giants, obstacles and adversaries within the land God promised – it wouldn’t be easy, and they would have to fight for it.
  4. Only 2 of the 12 came back believing God’s promise, the other 10 chose fear instead and spread fear among their people
  5. The people had to step forward to move into the land. Just one step started the movement.

What does that have to do with me?

God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. (Hebrews 13:8) God’s promises may look different, but he is the same God able to speak what is relevant to us and make them come to fruition.

So, today, what is God whispering to your heart that he wants to do for you? Something bigger than what you think is possible?

Restoring a relationship? Starting a new business? Writing a book? Adopting a child? Overcoming an addiction?

Let’s ask God what his big dreams are for us. Let’s believe what he says – he’s the God of abundance and greatness. Let’s be willing to fight for what God promises – he will equip us and lead us to fight. Let’s speak  truth and hold onto God rather than giving way to fear. We may feel fear, but we don’t have to live in it and let it control us. Let’s be careful not to spread fear. We CAN dream big and see God deliver.

What are your big dreams? What is your first step towards it?

This is a message I received this past week from a reader. When I started writing books, it was a big dream that has taken years, tears and fighting to attain the promise, but God is faithful!
“Hi Laura,
I wanted to reach out and tell you that I just finished your book Dangerous Ground. I LOVED it so much. I read it in 3 days and never wanted to put it down. I especially loved all of the faith, and trust in God aspects you so wonderfully incorporated. It really helped me see many ways of looking for Christ in every situation. Such an amazing read. The trafficking awareness there is so important and I admire all that you did with this. I look forward to more of your books!” A.H.

The Uncertainty of Life


20171018_074229Hundreds of posts this week have regaled thanksgiving blessings mixed with multiple cyber sales, and many venture solidly into a coming Christmas season. It’s enough to make my overloaded inbox cry.

I don’t want to be that article.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m beyond grateful for God’s amazing blessings. As a matter of fact, I don’t go through a day without thanking him numerous times, many including heart-filled tears. And I’m a girl who appreciates a good sale.

And while I’m never ready to embrace Christmas decorating or festivities until after Thanksgiving, unlike one dear California friend I’m thinking of (you know who you are JG), I love Jesus and his birthday and all the joy, peace and goodwill towards men it brings.

But let’s be real.

Friends have lost loved ones and are stumbling through the holidays. Couples are separated or worse, divorced, and wondering how they will bear another party alone. Illness or a diagnosis just wiped the joy off the face of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and someone is missing a child who seemed to die too early, was never conceived or who is walking along the edge of death with their life.

Life holds great uncertainty.

And pain, disappointment, fear, anger along with many, many questions. No black Friday or Monday cyber sale can make a real, solid dent in that. Maybe for a moment, until the regret and shame and credit card bill comes.

While fires rage, destroying homes and earthquakes, war and poverty wrack third-world countries, when rebuilding progresses at a crawl after a hurricane, tornado or a  flood, how do we hold on?

How do we go on?

What holds us during those moments, days, months or years? Where is our hope that life will right itself again so we can draw another shaky breath and see a new day without fear?

I am the Lord. I will sustain you. I will hold you with my right hand and comfort you in your darkest night. Cling to me. Come to me all who are heavily burdened with pain, sorrow, expectations and fears. Let me take those on me and make your burden lighter. Wait on me, and you will be able to breathe and keep walking when you are so weary you want to curl up in bed and never wake up. Don’t try to figure it all out. It’s too big for you to comprehend. The sin of the world knocks at your door all day and night, and you can’t grasp the full significance of a spiritual enemy that wants you to blame me and end the life I created in you. You can’t assimilate all I’ve created and brought life to: creatures, people, dreams, visions, greatness beyond your imagination. So don’t try. Just be still and know that I’m God so I’m bigger than your biggest disappointment, fear, tragedy, crisis or pain. I see you. I’m here to comfort you and lead you through it. I’m here. I’m here. Lean on me. Let me into your heart and life. I’m here to love and comfort and sustain you. I gave my life so you could live yours, and no matter what destruction the world throws at you, I have a way to make it turn out for something good. Better than you hoped, though probably not what you expected. I love you. Let me love you.

I believe that is a word from God for someone. Maybe a few or dozen someones.

Those are God’s words typed from him to you through cyber-space just as he spoke them to me. Those are words from his word, the Bible, so I know they are true. And you don’t have to believe me, you can go there and find them for yourself.

I didn’t wake up this morning expecting to write this. I didn’t have a plan or map out what I should write. I know our world is hurting, and I know what hurting is. But more importantly, God knows.

I don’t know what your circumstances look like. Trusting in and leaning on God doesn’t necessarily change the circumstance, though sometimes it might. What it changes is how we live in the tragedy or loss or fear. The presence of God and the name and power of Jesus changes things. Usually, our heart or our view.

He’ll heal past hurts and show us where the fears come from. He’ll comfort us and open our eyes to his love and care. He can “turn the heart of a king” like a stream or river, bending it the way he wants it to go. Maybe that’s our heart.

I’m thankful. Oh yes, so very, very thankful for the love of my God, my Lord and Savior, Jesus. I couldn’t live or breathe without him.

And I’m thankful for you. Each one who reads my blogs posts. May God bless you in every way. Today.

 

 

Doing vs Being


DSC_0141It’s easier to do something than it is to be honest.

Think on that for a second.

God puts it this way:

“For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there. Very well then…God will speak to this people, to whom he has said, ‘This is the resting place; let the weary rest,’ and ‘This is the place of repose,’ but they would not listen. So then, the word of the Lord to them will become Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.” Isaiah 28:10- 13

Sometimes we just want to have something to do. To have a rule to follow. A formula for getting us were we want to go. A quick fix.

That’s what religion is, isn’t it?

Give us a list of rules. Let’s get caught up in the rituals. Then we don’t really have to face the truth about ourselves or the fact that God is speaking to us. Calling us into a relationship with him.

Because relationships require honesty. Vulnerability. Uncovering ourselves and baring our hearts with their scared, broken places and fears. With our weaknesses and selfish motives and pride. With our two-year-old “I want this” attitudes.

It’s easier to simply eek out an hour every other Sunday. Or throw a five dollar bill in the offering bucket. Displaying a Bible on the coffee table or bookshelf proves we’re religious, right? We certainly will celebrate Christmas and Easter–the important holidays about Jesus.

The crazy thing is, maintaining religion is exhausting. But God calls us to rest.

God never planned for us to get caught up in a religious facade. Proving ourselves better than our neighbor because of the fish sticker on our car or the way we vote. He didn’t give us a list of rules and rituals to keep in order to earn a place in heaven someday.

Maybe. If we’re “good” enough.

God loves and longs for us. The children he created. And he simple asks us to be with him in his presence, resting there, listening to him, enjoying him and who he made us to be. He asks us to be.

And he wants us free.

When we get stuck in doing and living by rules or formulas, we “fall backward” in life. We become captured and ensnared. Doing the same thing, in the same ways. The way we think is best. But it doesn’t ever pan out.

Ever feel like that? Like life just isn’t working?

I’ve been there before. Striving to figure out what to do next but never really getting ahead or feeling free. Exhausted, striving, empty.

“…for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.”  (vs 15)

Sometimes we think we’re doing all the right things, but we’ve believed a lie. We’ve embraced a falsehood because it’s easier than being honest. It’s easier than letting go of our own understanding or pride. But the very place we’re hiding has become an exhausting trap.

God’s answer is simple.

He tells us to come to him in our weariness. He wants to exchange our way of thinking for his. His was is easy, light and comes with humility. He tells us to stop leaning on our way of thinking, but instead, acknowledge him–that he is God and knows best.

That is where we find a place of repose.

Peace. Rest. Freedom. Surrendering ourselves to Jesus. To simple be with him and be ourselves. Flaws, scars, weakness and broken places. He loves us no matter what and doesn’t require do and do, do and do.

Just an acceptance what he’s already done for us.

Handling Grief


pexels-photo-247314.jpegIt’s been a grieving week.

I miss the presence of someone who belongs in my life very much and it grieves my heart daily that things between us are so stuck. I continue to pray and cry and praise God in the midst of the challenged relationship, but sometimes the sorrow floods over me.

And a few days ago, a dear friend went home to Jesus.

While I’m so glad for her to be in God’s presence, and so is her family, my heart breaks for them. She was a wonderful woman who befriended me, listened well and spoke volumes of wisdom in few words. Even though I moved away, she still held a special place in my heart. She will be missed greatly by all who knew her.

I’m so thankful for a God who understands our sorrows.

The Bible says that Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” (Isaiah 53:3) Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35) and for the lost people in Jerusalem (Luke 13). When it came time for him to be taken and crucified, he prayed in anguish.

God says those who mourn will be comforted.

Jesus came to bind up the broken-hearted. God saves our tears. There’s an entire book in the Bible called Lamentations. Wailing and tearing their clothes was an outward show of inward grief for the Jewish people.

So why do we believe grieving is a sign of weakness?

I’ve felt foolish when I’ve needed to grieve in the past. As if tears and sorrow over a loss or trauma was not acceptable. Okay, maybe a tear shed and then, move on. But I’m learning that true grieving can look as different as each of us is unique.

Maybe we need time alone. Perhaps we grieve best with a friend simply sitting with us. Some people need to be held. Jesus went off by himself to pray to his father when John the Baptist was killed.

God’s presence is the best place to grieve.

God knows what each of us needs. Whether it’s a hummingbird or ocean waves, a mountain climb or glassy lake, he knows what comforts us. He may send a breeze, a friend with a hug, or a verse on a card. And he knows how long we need to process our grief.

Let’s not rush it.

I love that Jesus prayed for us before he died. He warned his disciples that they would weep and mourn when Jesus left them. But I love that he also said their grief would turn to joy.

Grief can’t turn into something else unless it’s grief first.

The only way for us to find joy again is to grieve first. When we grieve, we’ll be comforted. God will heal our hearts. And finally, our grief can turn into joy. God says that sorrow lasts for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

There is a time to grieve. And a time to rejoice. Sometime we can do both at the same time. My friend is with Jesus so I rejoice for her, but I can also grieve the loss of her here. My heart breaks over my relationship that isn’t reconciled, but my God brings me joy every day.

I’m learning that grieving is good.

Right.

Fitting.

Thank you, Lord, for understanding our sorrows.

 

The Effects of Addiction Trauma


IMG_3527I’m not a trained or licensed counselor.

That’s my disclaimer. But I have read dozens of books, spent hundreds of hours in counseling and led groups dealing with addictions. Most importantly, I’ve experienced addiction in some way for the majority of my life. Either being addicted or living with one.

Here’s the simple truth.

Whether we live in addiction or live with an addict (usually it’s both), the trauma of that lifestyle imprints our being with carved patterns of unhealthy thinking and behavior. It warps our perspective so that our reality is skewed.

We cannot tell what is true.

Lest we think that by addiction I mean alcohol or drugs only, let’s be clear about the addiction to which I refer. We can become chemically addicted to drugs or alcohol, yes. And while those substances garner most attention, we can also be addicted to sex, gambling, shopping, food, control, cleanliness, fears, social media, television, reading, new ideas, extreme sports…basically anything that has mastery over us.

Whatever triggers the pleasure center of our brain and causes a rush of adrenaline or dopamine can become an addiction. In themselves, those hormones and chemicals are beneficial and help us in life, but when we’re hurting, either physically or emotionally, we can seek the release to ease our pain.

Too much of a good thing, as they say.

The downside is trauma induced by the repetition of addictive behavior. Without the hours of training or a state generated license, here’s part 1 of what this layperson has learned about the effects of addiction trauma.

*We don’t know what loving someone really means – Life becomes a struggle to keep others happy while trying to make them love us. This is not what love is all about. We shouldn’t have to make anyone love us. Covering for their indiscretions or making excuses for them (or them for us), taking the responsibility for their actions, carrying the weight of the relationship is not loving, it is enabling. Not meeting their all their needs, demands (or desires), does not make us unloving or cold. Love never demands, it gives. God loves us unconditionally. He loved us first. Healthy people can give and receive love without conditions.

*Lack of trust – Relying on people feels like a dangerous proposition usually because our experience with unhealthy people says they think about what pleases them at the moment, not what is wisest for them or others. Their choices that show lack of consideration for others are hurtful and sometimes cruel. Whether we are the addict or we live with one, constant betrayal leads to suspicion. It becomes difficult to trust, not only those we live with, but anyone.

*Desire for vs. fear of intimacy – Being intimate requires vulnerability. We long to be known and close to others, but we fear them knowing us. Since it’s impossible to be intimate with someone we don’t trust or be vulnerable when we fear disclosure, we can run in and out of relationships. In a healthy relationship, we accept and are accepted without conditions, but addicts hide to alleviate feelings of shame. We leave people guessing about who we really are. Or, we wonder why we can’t seem to get close to the other person. We may try to detach ourselves emotionally from others to feel safe, but that isn’t healthy. Or we may need to detach from someone who is cruel or abusive. Unfortunately, they may then accuse us of being cold or distant. Either way, intimacy eludes or strangles us.

*Seeking fulfillment in other areas – When one area of addiction isn’t enough anymore to keep us numb, our children may become our emotional stability or our work, hobbies, friends, food, shopping; we may even turn to alcohol, drugs, or adulterous relationships to feel better about ourselves and our lives. Unfortunately, the feeling of fulfillment is temporary and we end up setting or continuing patterns that will eventually destroy us and others we love.

When addiction of any type becomes consistent, it grooves patterns in our soul and in our brain. But addiction is only a symptom of a deeper issue. Once we take time to heal the hurts of our life, and make a conscious effort to create new patterns, we find we no longer need the thing we were addicted to. However, depending on each individual situation, some addictions can take days, months or years to overcome.

There is no quick fix for an unhealthy lifestyle and it’s damage.

But there is hope. The Bible said that it’s for our freedom that Jesus Christ came. God loves us and longs for our lives to be abundant and prospering (I’m not talking just about money here). He hurts when we hurt and wants to heal our pain. When we let him REVEAL what’s underneath the issues, and we choose to DEAL with the problems, he can HEAL us so we won’t need something else.

It’s a journey. Join me?