Where Are We Leading?

"And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." Ezra 9:2

Let’s face it, we are all a leader of someone.

Because each of us knows more or less than someone else, we will always be following and learning–or leading. Think about it. Ar you a parent? An older sibling? A friend helping a friend? Maybe you are the boss or supervisor at work, or the guy who’s been there a month and is showing a newer one the ropes.

We may not think of ourself as a leader, but we are. By default.

Someone will always be watching our life. Our decisions, words, and actions impact lives around us every day. Whether we like it or not, we are leading.

So, if that’s the case? Where are we leading?

There were some specific guidelines that God gave his people back in the day. The rules were intended to help and protect the people. Like speed limits or stop lights (ignored by many where I live) are meant to help the flow of traffic and keep drivers safe. But the problem was that the leaders in those days were leading the way into doing the very things that were hurting the people.

Hmm…sounds like our world today. Some things never change. The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun. So true.

We’ve witnessed leaders and officials living and promoting harmful practices. Sexual misconduct, abortion, lawless violence are only a few of the hurtful activities we’ve watched leaders participate in or promote. It might be easy to point our finger at them, and they should be called to account. But what about us? Where are we leading?

Whether it’s engaging in illegal practices or taking something from work, we are setting an example. Regardless if no one sees us, our behavior will eventually come out in how it affects our attitude and words. Even our tone of voice can impact those around us. Ever notice how when we’re feeling off, we can speak sharply to our spouse, children or co-worker and create a bad situation where none was there previously?

I love how the Bible shows us the answer to this dilemma.

In Ezra 10:1, it says that Ezra was praying, confessing, weeping, and laying on the ground before God because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The cool thing is that the people who saw this followed his lead. The men, women and children gathered around him and “wept bitterly too.” Ezra was a spiritual leader in his time, and people followed his example of repentance.

We are leaders.

Are we leading into unfaithfulness or repentance? And who are we leading there?

Let’s also remember to pray for those in authority. The people leading us need help and the wisdom of God. They need clear direction so they can lead into good, helpful, positive places that will not bring harm. They must consider their ways carefully because people are watching and following.

We all need to humbly consider who’s watching us. Are we leading into life? Or a path to destruction and death?

Where are we leading?

“Why Are You Angry”

DSC_0011God asked Cain.

Cain was the eldest son of Adam and Eve. You probably have heard of them even if you don’t read the Bible or believe in God. I think it’s common knowledge that he committed the first act of murder in history.

But the interesting thing is that God tried to help him before the situation ever got that far. We don’t have all the details of the story, but when God asked Cain why he was angry, Cain clearly had already been in a bad place mentally.

Because God asked BEFORE Cain killed his brother.

A little history: Cain and Abel both brought “sacrifices” to God. From what I can tell from scripture, this was not something God required, but something initiated by the boys. They both brought some of the fruit of their labor to God. Abel brought some of his flock to offer to God. The Bible says God looked on Abel with favor.

Cain also brought some of the grain he had grown, but God wasn’t pleased and Cain was upset. Okay, so what’s the deal? It may seem that God was showing favoritism, but that is contrary to God’s character (throughout the rest of the Bible) so we can deduce that it was something about the offer or the motive of the one offering.

It seems God was pleased with Abel’s attitude not just his action, but something was off with Cain.

Our reasoning is further substantiated by God’s comments to Cain:

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it.”       Genesis 4:6-7

Seems pretty simple and forthright to me.

God saw something in Cain’s heart that wasn’t right, and he warned him to be careful because if he continued in his thoughts and/or actions, it would potentially lead him to do something worse.

So it seems that God was saying to Cain (and we can take a lesson here too) that if we come to him with sincerity of heart and do the right things, life will go well for us. But if we allow Satan, who is waiting to pounce on us, to grab us with wrong motives, thoughts or actions we will become slaves to him.

The good news God gives us is that we CAN master sin and not become trapped in it.

Reading further in the chapter, I discovered some things that can alert us when we’ve given in to sin and have not owned it…

  1. We hide. Adam and Eve did. Cain did. We’re all prone to avoiding, denying or lying to “hide” in our sin.
  2. We become defensive. Cain asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when God asked what happened to Abel. Cain knew the truth so he became defensive in his response.
  3. We complain about the consequences. Cain griped to God that his consequences weren’t fair. They were too hard. Really? He killed his brother! But he was far more concerned about how tough life would be now for him than the fact that he destroyed the life of a family member and hurt God.
  4. We wallow in self-pity. Cain basically said “poor me” to God when he told God “…the punishment is more than I can bear.”
  5. We yield ourselves to divination. Divination is a spirit that tries to tell us what our future will be and it’s usually bad. Cain started proclaiming lies about what would happen to him – he would be hidden from God (his choice when he killed his brother but a choice God would have forgiven if he’d repented), he’d have no purpose in life, and everyone would be out to get/kill him. God refuted Cain’s “prophecies” and marked him for protection.
  6. We open the door to other sin. Cain never had a change of heart. It says he left God’s presence. So basically he destroyed his relationship with God as a result of his choices. And later, his son was the first man to take two wives (at a time), thus beginning a new culture of sin when God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman.

At any point, Cain could have humbled himself, confessed and restored his relationship.

And it’s the same with us. At any point, if we humble ourselves and confess our sinful actions, God forgives us and restores life to us.

But even if we don’t, God is still faithful to us.

I love that God still blessed Cain’s family. Even in spite of Cain’s sin, God didn’t allow him to be killed off, and in his lineage were all who played stringed instruments and those who forged tools of bronze and iron.

But I imagine Cain had a hard life.

God was pretty clear that he didn’t take Abel’s murder lightly. He said that Abel’s blood cried out to him from the dirt so he made Cain live under a curse that caused him to work overly hard without much to show for it. That was the consequences of his attitude and actions.

I’m so glad that God alerts us to sin in our lives, that he offers us warnings to help turn us around, and that he is always loving and forgiving if we do confess and repent. The Bible says that even when we are not faithful, God is always faithful.

All of that is some good news, right?

Getting Well Part 5 – How to Turn it Around

Time to make a U-Turn.Summer '12 271

We’ve agreed we want to get well. Even though it seems scary and is uncomfortable, we see our need for healing. The reasons we fall into depression make a little more sense. We’re examining our choices, and are learning to ask others for help.  Much of our unhealthiness of heart may be a result of wrongs done to us by others, but in our learning to cope and our follow up decisions, we’ve also been part of the problem. So how do we turn things around?

Healing often requires confession of sin.

I know. We hate to think of ourselves as sinners. The word holds a connotation of Bible wielding fanatics screaming in judgment,

Repent or die in hell, sinner!

We simply have to re-evaluate how we consider sin.

The Bible says that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us (John 3:17; I John 1:9) God wants to make a way for us to be with him in relationship because he loves us. Let that sink in. Now consider that when we break off relationship with God by deciding that we are better at figuring out our lives than he (the one who created the universe and us) is, that is sin. Simply put, God is God and we are not. He knows everything and we do not. He wants our good, but we, like stubborn two year olds, often think we know better and we want our way. Now.

The concept of sin is that simple.

So when God talks about repentance, he’s asking us to reconsider. To turn toward him instead of away from him so that he can take care of us and bless us in every situation. Even the bad ones. It’s really as easy as making a U-Turn. Okay, so some U-Turns require patience and a little bit of a tight turn, but you get the picture.

How does this apply to getting well?

If we are serious about wanting to get well, we have to be willing to see things in our life that are sin; simply, anything that is not the way God intended for it to be. Then we must tell God we are sorry for doing or allowing something that is sinful—that’s repenting. We may also need to repent and apologize to others who have been hurt by our sin.

At first, repenting can feel so hard to do.

I remember a situation that occurred when I first began to understand this concept of repentance. I shared some information about a friend with another friend that I had no business passing on. It wasn’t gossip, I reasoned, since I wasn’t being mean or sharing something bad, but I had this awful feeling in my heart, a conviction that what I had done simply wasn’t right. It didn’t add anything to either of my friends’ lives, nor to mine other than making me feel important for having “news” to share. Apologizing was in order, but I struggled with my fear of being wrong (pride), and that I’d be rejected by my friends.

Finally, I gave in to the Lord’s gentle leading and repented—first to Him and then to my friends. I’d like to say the situation turned out beautifully and wasn’t awkward at all, but the truth is that the friend I gave the information to didn’t understand why I was making such a big deal over it and was a little miffed at me. The friend whose story I told acknowledged and agreed with my feeling convicted by my sin, and graciously forgave me with love and affection.  While the situation was painful, God brought such good out of it. I realized a lack in one friendship, and I grew closer to the other friend. And I walked away feeling a freedom I had not experienced in the past.

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp God’s grace and desire to love us without condemnation.

If we can be honest with ourselves about our sin, make a U-Turn in our thinking, and reach out for God’s grace in faith, we will be positioned for better things in life. Getting well is a process, but each step of repentance releases new freedom and healing.  Let’s turn this thing around!

What has your concept of sin and repentance been? Do you have an experience of healing as a result of confessing your sin?

Christmas Proposal

I can’t believe that I am celebrating my fourth Christmas with Brendan; well, I’m counting that first one when we booked a quick flight on December 9th for me to fly out the twelfth and be with him in Australia until two days before Christmas because I couldn’t bear to be away from my kids on Christmas. We shared the actual day via Skype; his Christmas day was my Christmas Eve and I watched them open their gifts around the artificial Christmas tree that I had helped the kids decorate. I remember it as if it were yesterday and yet we’ve had two others here–almost three now, each in a different house. Oh, life has certainly been an adventure.

After we confirmed my flight to Australia, and I pinched myself to see if I was actually going to see Brendan again, I began to think about him proposing to me. He had come to America five weeks after my first visit to Australia, and we made a quick tour of California and Nevada so that Brendan could ask my parents for my hand in marriage and meet my three other children as well as my close friends. That trip whirlwinded us from Los Angeles to Pismo Beach, San Francisco and Reno and back home again where Brendan tore himself away from me to return home to his kids the day before our Thanksgiving. The purpose of that trip was for him and my kids to get to know each other. Still, as our love for each other and confidence that God’s plan included marriage grew, I became impatient for the next step, which in my mind was the actual proposal.

However, I also wanted to wait for God’s and Brendan’s timing, so as I boarded the plane I prayed that God would be in control and let me just enjoy another couple of weeks with Brendan in person without focusing on when, where and whether he would pop the question. Here’s a good place for a confession. Carol (who had become engaged while I was on my first trip to Australia) and I had frequented a few jewelers for just a slight preview of what we might like in the way of engagement/wedding rings when the time finally arrived. On one such occasion, I fell in love with a ring and visions of my finger graced with it in proud proclamation that I belonged to Brendan nearly tormented me, but I fought off the longings and determined simply to relish the time with my sweetheart.

Confession number two: I thought about a proposal a lot. I know. I know. Silly girl, dreamer of dreams, oh romantic that I am…

Brendan was glad to have me there, not only because he missed me, but because his late wife had always planned and shopped for Christmas far ahead of time and he felt a bit lost. The year she passed, most of their Christmas things were already done so Brendan didn’t have very much to think about, but this time he didn’t even know where to start. I gladly helped him figure out what gifts to buy, and off we went shopping each day. We even looked at a few rings, but alas, no proposal.

Finally, on our last night, we enjoyed a wonderful evening together, dining and walking around eating gelato afterwards; and I thought surely, any moment he would ask me. Still, I pushed those pestering thoughts away and tried not to anticipate or expect anything. I truly wanted to trust Brendan’s timing in the situation. The night passed and we went home. Confession three: I was a little disappointed. I couldn’t believe that I was leaving the next morning, again feeling the dread of not knowing where we were headed with our relationship. Plus, the sorrow at having to leave him again really overwhelmed me.

We cuddled on his bed for the last time, kissing with tears in our eyes.

“I can’t believe that I’m going home tomorrow and I don’t know when I’ll see you again.”

Brendan kissed me again, and then looked in my eyes. “I can’t let you go without asking you to marry me. Will you marry me?”

Of course!!! “Yes, of course I will.”

Brendan had an elaborate plan that he hadn’t had time to concoct and carry out, and no ring yet to offer so instead he ended up asking me on the spur of the moment completely differently than he had thought he would. But all I cared about was that I was going to marry him someday soon. That was good enough for me! And somehow it seemed a little easier to go home excitedly exclaiming my engagement.

You’ll have to read the book to find out about the ring…



Where the Confessions Begin

Confessions of an Online Dater 

Enjoying Australia
Enjoying Australia

Aha” moments occur with regularity in my life. Perhaps you find yourself in that same place. You know, when sudden realization occurs. When a significant revelation bursts into your mind and/or heart with the brilliant light of dawning and immediate, deep understanding is available where you once felt blind. I confess to feeling compelled to share these insights both for the benefit of solidifying them in myself and also to offer something insightful that others will find helpful, and hopefully a bit humorous as well. I guess that is my first confession.

I have numerous and various confessions to make, but I will begin with an area that people ask me about all the time. The conversation usually goes something like this:

“So, how did you meet your husband?,” says someone I have just met.

Online, actually.” I say this as matter-of-factually as possible, but I think I feel the mischievous twinkle in my eye because their response is usually, “Oh my gosh. No way! Really??” I confess that I love the shock value. And that it opens a way for me to tell my story – which, by the way, is amazing.

But before we get into my fairy tale telling, I have more confessions.

First, let me start with this: online dating may not be for everyone. Yes, it is the wave of the future. Yes, it can have an immensely positive outcome (I’ve been deliriously happily married for just over two years), and yes, it is a great learning experience. However, it does require patience, an open mind and some guidelines for caution.

That said, perhaps my journey can help you decide if online dating is for you. Or simply sit back and enjoy my confessions of an online dater…