The scripture says to encourage one another, but how?

Be strong and never give up

                                                                                        Encouragement

I Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as also you are doing. ” (https://biblehub.com/blb/1_thessalonians/5.htm) The context for that is teaching Paul is giving about “the day of the Lord”, the day the Lord Jesus returns. The fact of Jesus’ return to get His people, His children, His church is very encouraging. 

On K-love for the month of September, there is a contest to win a prize for encouraging the people we come in contact with. There is also a list of suggestions of practical things each of us could do to pass that encouragement along. Here is a link to request that list: https://ww2.klove.com/ministry/30-Days-of-Encouragement 

My ministry focus is senior citizens, so I want to do something to encourage them today. I will start by telling any seniors that may be reading this article one very simple fact – Jesus loves you, no matter how young or old you are. That means if you are slow in moving, thinking, talking, or responding to others, Jesus loves you as much a newborn infant. That’s because He doesn’t look at the outward appearance, but He looks at the heart. He knows your potential and knows what you have done for others. He knows He is not done with you and He knows what needs to change within you. He is able to make those changes. 

Finally, I would encourage you to go directly to Jesus Christ and ask Him to encourage you. He said in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you that are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Friends, if you have given your life to Jesus, He will certainly give you the encouragement you need in your life and  He will help you pass it on to others.”

I am encouraged that someone may read these words and be blessed.

Community- Connect and Belong

I’ve been thinking a lot about the need for community and belonging.  Community is easy to talk about, sounds like a good idea, gets programs developed around it, but often breaks down in application.  God is community (trinity), and we, therefore, have a need to connect and be in community (the church, the body).  I personally crave close community and intimate connection, but have noticed it’s often difficult to navigate to get those needs met.  So I find myself wondering, “What gets in the way?”  I think there are multiple facets to consider, for example “busyness,” but I’ve been reflecting specifically on belonging, connection, intimacy and vulnerability.

I believe we confuse fitting in with belonging.  If I’m fitting in, trying to be like you, I’m not being authentic and I don’t trust that you really want me around or like me.  I feel tolerated and that is a cheap substitute for relationship.  I also begin to feel like I’m being managed instead of accepted.  And I know the difference.  Turns out that the need for deep relationship is also a fairly accurate radar for detecting substitutes, because substitutes simply won’t meet my needs.  I won’t be vulnerable if I don’t feel safe being authentic.   I may “get along,” but I won’t “get real.” 

If I belong, I am with people I want to be with and who want to be with me.  Differences can be admired instead of feared.  I may hesitate to be vulnerable, but I can get there.  I can grow to trust those people in my life, because I feel genuinely appreciated for who I am.  I don’t have to hide or protect.  I can take risk in those relationships and, as a result, feel more confident about taking risk in my life.  I can be fully seen and fully accepted, which is true intimacy.  

I also think attention and connection are misunderstood.  It’s not about needing attending to as much as I need connection with others that is genuine.  In connection, I know am not alone.   It’s incredible to see the impact on a person’s mental and emotional well-being when they finally realize they do not struggle alone, that others are dealing with the same issues.  It’s the power of group, of community.  Struggle in this life is not optional; the key is to struggle well.  And we do that better when we can rely on one another.  

What happens when life gets bigger than one of us?  How do we cope when circumstances become overwhelming?  How do we know we’re not alone?  I often hear people say, “God won’t give you more that you can handle.”  Well, here’s the thing.  We know we will be burdened, and are, in fact, instructed to help one another bear each other’s burdens.  That’s community.  That also tells me I will be given burdens too big to carry alone.  So, if I’m connected and belong, when more than I can handle comes into my world, I can struggle well.  I have a community that will wrap its arms around me and my burden, and love me and support me.  I have people who see me, really see me, and don’t try to fix me or my pain.  They love me through it and help me get back up again. 

God is our healer, but he gave us one another to be His hands.  We don’t have to do this alone, and we weren’t meant to struggle on our own.  Every scripture I can find encourages us to let God save, comfort, take care of, strengthen, and carry us and to bear one another’s burdens in the body of Christ.  I pray we learn to celebrate and support one another through genuine connection and love that fosters the vulnerability and intimacy we need to move through life together and be ministers of the Gospel and be light in a dark world.  I pray for genuine community.  

Galatians 3:28-29 ESV

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Galatians 6:2 ESV

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV 

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

Depending on God

I am exhausted.  It’s been one of those weeks where there is more to do than usual, and most of it’s not going smoothly.  I’ve lost my balance and it’s showing.  I’m grumpy about things I wouldn’t normally care about.  I’ve let my focus be caught up in controlling things that really don’t matter.  I think that if I can just get certain things done and projects complete, somehow I will be fulfilled.  Life will be somehow easier or happier.  It’s the slippery slope of replacing acceptance with control, peace with temporal desires, trust with self-reliance, and vulnerability with didactic decisions.  

I can blame the circumstances.  But the truth is that the circumstances are always changing and not to blame.  I am not in control, and life is going to unfold before me with no respect for my needs, fears or preferences.  That is the issue that leaves me in discomfit.  In my sin, I want to be self-reliant and powerful and clever.  In real life, I am none of these things.  In God’s love, I don’t have to be.  

It’s never been about what I can do or others should.  We fail, we hurt each other.  Some have conscience about the damage they do and some don’t.  There are a lot of variables we face in life and relationship every singe moment of every single day.  So where does that leave me?  Where do I seek peace, joy, love and stability?  It can’t be in things that are always changing.  

I spent many years of my life demanding from others, chasing expectations and trying to control things around me to feel good.  The short version of this story is that none of them worked.  No person or situation could anticipate and meet my every need.  No person wanted to.  And I could no more do so for someone else.  

So I choose to acknowledge I am grasping for things that aren’t mine, for the acceptance of others, for security and love.  I choose to surrender all of my needs to the One who is both capable and desirous of meeting them, whose nature is unchanging.  I rest in His love and trust Him with the circumstances and to give me the desires of my heart as He promises.  I will accept the struggle and pain of not always knowing how my current concerns will be resolved and how my future needs will be met.  I will yield my impatience, my worry, my loneliness, and my insecurity as many times as necessary to find peace.  I will remember all the times He has met my needs and demonstrated His unchanging love.  I will depend on who God is and the promises He makes. 

Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Psalm 34:3-4 (NIV)

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

An open letter to God for all those who are unresolved

Dear Lord,

I am coming to you right now on behalf of all who are in the middle of uncertainty, loss, hurt, painful memories, grief, and are just plain in the middle. They are unresolved in heart, in mind, in body, in their circumstances, in their finances, in their relationships, or in some other area of their lives. They are hurting. They are confused. They are lonely. They are scared. They are tired. They need you, Lord.

As I’m writing this, I am trying to picture them in their needs for body, mind, soul, and/or circumstances. I am feeling some of their hurt, but really, Lord, I believe that is Your compassion for them. Lord of all creation, You certainly know how they feel and exactly what they need. Jesus, You prayed for them in the garden, and if they are Your children, you are praying for them right now, interceding for them to the Father. 

Lord, what I would ask is that You show them Your love, Your compassion, Your power to work in their hearts, their minds, and their bodies. Lord, they need You. I pray that they realize it and that they come to You exactly as they are, ready to be met by You in their time of need. Lord, touch their lives with Your peace, a peace that passes all understanding. 

Father God, You care about all of our needs. You even sent Jesus to die for us, intercede for us, and come again to take us home. Lord, you are gracious and compassionate. Please touch our entire being with Your peace, love, and compassion. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Thank you for hearing our prayers, for hearing our hearts, and for your answers, which are always best for us in the end.

Sincerely,
Pastor John

DANGEROUS HOPE

I have loved a man with my whole heart, and he is gone.  There is a gaping wound where he used to be.  He saw me, truly saw me, and loved me still.  I see now all that I gave, and where I was stingy or short-sighted.  I see now where he gave what he could, but couldn’t move past his losses.  But he loved me.  Unquestionable, whole-hearted, soft and fierce love.  I’m supposed to let go of him, and I don’t know how.  He is part of the sinew in my heart, the marrow in my bones.  He is part of my DNA, but he is no longer mine.   

Grief cuts like a million knives.  It lies to you and tells you there is no hope.  It’s a tsunami washing over you so many times, you don’t care if you get back up.  You are drowning but can not die.  You are surrounded by many, the helpful and the curious, yet never so alone.  You want to scream, but there is no sound.  You know you must go on, and are furious about that.  Some take, some give, but few listen or truly understand.  You find yourself comforting others while standing in your own hell.  You feel empty, heavy but hollow, dried up and waiting to blow away, disappear.  A drowning victim that does not want to be saved.  Fighting to live and wanting to die.  Imagining ways you could just let go and be gone.  

When it first happened, I wanted to die.  I wanted to drive off the side of the mountain and go home; I couldn’t see a life without him.  But for obedience to God, I would have.  But for trust in Him, trust for a hope and a future I could no longer see or imagine or believe.  There is no respite in grief, no relief from the pain.  The hurt is emotional and physical; it punishes you until you yield.  It washes over you when it is ready, not when you’re expecting it. 

I came alive a few months ago while singing in church.  I felt again.  My nerves tingled and my heart opened.  I felt hope and it felt dangerous.  I felt joy.  I felt alive.  And I was afraid.  I wanted to shut down, bow out, hide again.  

The thing I want most, to truly connect my heart to others, feels so raw.  I am both angry about what I’ve lost and sure I never deserved it to begin with.  A life that has disappeared in the mist, a dream that never was.  I need to find a way to let water flow from my heart again, beyond helping others.  Helping is easy, receiving love, feeling worthy to receive love, exposes the shield I have held in front of me. 

So, I will face the pain and trust Jesus in the midst of all of it.  I will resist the urge to sink into the comfort of fear and shutting this all down.  I will embrace the pain of coming alive and feeling hope again.  I will believe He is preparing me for what is next, and that what is next will be beautiful.  I will claim Jeremiah 29:11.   I will dare to hope and thrive, not depend on circumstances or temporary feelings.  I will fiercely choose joy in all circumstances and cling to the hope that is in Christ Jesus.  

I was just looking back over a previous interview conducted on the unresolved life podcast, and as I was revisiting that person’s story, so many things struck me.

I was honestly struck anew at how God delivered this person through so many crazy things in their life. I also realized that this interview set up other topics that we need to touch on in future episodes of the podcast, and I will be making an effort to make that happen.

Second, this interview also reminded me of how God meets us when we most need to hear him, and encounter him.

Third, I was reminded again how much we must be aware of the war we fight.

In case you are wondering, the interview was the first part of a two-part interview with Sanda Allyson.

I would encourage you to go back and if you haven’t given it a listen, and if you have before, listen a second time Her story is truly a God thing.

As a note, it’s kind of cool to look back and see what God has done.

I see what he has created out of this ministry, and how I have grown through it, and I am truly in awe.

I would encourage you to take some time, and look back and see where God stepped into your life.

Revisit those places you for sure saw his hand move, and thank him for it.

God bless,
Teresa Blaes

P.S.  here is the link to the two episodes

https://unresolved.life/39-interview-with-sanda-allyson/

https://unresolved.life/40-interview-with-sanda-allyson-of-myrtle-ministries-part-2/

A Biblical approach to dealing with pain

pain

                                                pain

 

As of the time of this writing, I am dealing with some minor pain. I know I am not alone in this. Many people go through pain, much worse than I have even thought about having. My pain is minor compared to others.

But how do we deal with pain? What is its purpose? I have read or heard that pain is an indicator that something is wrong.  That pain can be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. 

While there are a number of reasons and solutions for physical pain, what do we do with the rest? What if the pain is emotional or spiritual? For that, we need a spiritual solution. We need a solution for the soul. With that in mind, I want to give you three scriptures that deal with this issue.  These are copied from Bible Study Tools.

Jeremiah 29:11 – “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.”

Ps. 34:18 – “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Ps. 147:3 – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” 

There are nine more scriptures at this link:

https://www.biblestudytools.com/topical-verses/bible-verses-about-pain/

I think the greatest encouragement is in the fact that pain is only temporary, that Jesus understands our pain, and that one day all tears shall be wiped away. (Rev. 21:4)

The Spin of Shame

“I am broken.  I am lost.  I am afraid.  I worry about money.  I wonder if I can ever truly find my joy again.  I feel unloveable, undesired.  I don’t have answers.  I am not enough.  My sons don’t need me, and I don’t have what they need.  I am a failure.  I don’t deserve success.  My past will always haunt me.  If I share these thoughts honestly, others will despise me.”

These are the lies that spin in my mind when I yield to shame and let anxiety take hold.  Then I remain trapped, because it’s embarrassing to admit.  I know that God set me free, but insecurity sends me straight back to that old familiar swamp.  It happened this morning when I thought about writing my next blog.  It asked me, “Who do you think you are?”  It reminded my what a hypocrite I am.  It was the thief breaking into my spiritual home, steal my joy.   

This was a good morning in that I could see it, call it out, and go directly to the Father with it.  It did not get a grip on me for very long.  This is not always the case.  There are times it is a much more clever thief and creeps insidiously under the shadow of my conviction that I’ve got my act together and think I’m in control.  Then it spins out of control, and I am overwhelmed.   My jaw aches, my heart feels depleted, and sleep eludes me.  

When I’m exhausted and have nowhere else to go, I finally yield.  I dread having to get to this point to let go, but what a sweet release, a death to self and all that is not working.  It’s a letting go of all the things that aren’t true and truly don’t matter.  It’s a wonder that I have to hit the wall this long and hard to get it, that I have to be this exhausted to let go of control.  When all my reasoning, blaming, deflecting, avoiding, and explaining away don’t cut it anymore and I have to stop pretending, I look to my Father and crawl into his arms and breathe out the shame.

God is my shepherd, guiding me through a storm like I have never known, the storm of grief and widowhood, and all the baggage that comes with it.  I am learning to let go and trust Him.  He died to free me from guilt and shame, but freedom will come only when I confess my shame.  Shame rears it’s ugly head and I swat it down, afraid others will see it and know it.  So it binds me and weaves itself into everything I do and every relationship I have.  Let this be my confession.  In the quiet hours, just me and God and my laptop, my soul will be naked.  May this bind the evil that shame is and set me free to heal and move on.  

The Amazing Exchange of Grace for Sin

picture of a cross with a background of a peaceful sunset

                                                                    We need Jesus. We need the cross.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

There is a lot of irony in the words above. Think about it. At one point I was lost, but not any more. Now I am found, like a lost sheep that the shepherd has rescued from the attack of the enemy. Even more ironic is to go from being blind to now being able to see. This is a total transformation. 

But what caused this transformation? Was it our abilities? No. We didn’t make ourselves be found. We didn’t come looking for us. We didn’t just suddenly figure out, “Hey, I can see if I just make up my mind to do so. After all, its all about me and my abilities. Maybe I could even say “You know, I never was blind in the first place.” Well, we could say that, but that wouldn’t make any sense. 

No, dear reader, the transformation was made at God’s initiative when He sent Jesus to die for our sins, in our place, as our substitute. It is all about grace. It is all about God. It is all about Jesus. 

May God help us all to realize the incredible gift of grace and of eternal life, brought to you by the blood of God’s son, Jesus Christ. Thank you, Jesus, for grace.

Eph. 2:8-9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourself. It is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Eph. 2:8-9

Alone, Not Alone

In my grief it is easy to get lost in what others think, say and do.  I can imagine things they haven’t said, amplify and distort the words spoken, and my instinct is always to retreat.  Some things said are inappropriate, not just my imagination.  Again, my instinct is to retreat.  But then I feel alone, very alone.  And in those thoughts I begin to imagine the worst, the most damaging things, and in those thoughts I alienate others, whether that is my intention or not.  

I have a responsibility to take care of self and to communicate my boundaries when necessary, but that is not the same as hiding because I feel rejected.  Setting boundaries and staying connected when I feel hurt is the hardest thing to do, the most challenging to balance in my life, and shame tends to be the circus master.  And it does become a circus in my head.  I want to control and blame, hoping then I won’t feel afraid to continue to be vulnerable, to need others and to feel the hurt of being let down.  And others will let me down.  And I will let them down.  

So this is the dilemma, to depend on God and need community, and to know the difference.  I can yield to shame and desperation, or I can be a tree planted by the water, nourished by God.  The tree with deep roots, unbroken by this world and the damage of sin.  I think it’s intriguing that “sin” in Spanish is the word for without.  Scripture teaches that sin is anything that comes between God and self, that leaves me without Him in that moment or connection of relationship.  It leaves me without the ability to depend on Him, to be loved and nourished by him, to remain sheltered and protected.  To sin leaves me without everything I need, and those needs are directly met by Him, and Him alone.

Christ was willing to be alone, without anyone but the Father, in his time of greatest need.  He pled for there to be another way, and I find myself pleading for the same.  I am not afraid to die, but I am afraid of being alone, and at times deeply hurt when I look to other sinners to fill that need instead of the Father.  Christ was alienated or denied in His greatest hour of need by every follower who claimed love and fealty, so why am I hurt or even surprised?  That is my sin in that moment, expecting from others what only God can give, letting loneliness take over and questioning God instead of leaning on the One who will never fail me.  And then I put unfair pressure on those around me, on people I love and care for, and I pull away to protect.  

I push away when I really want to rest, relax, and enjoy them.  Everything becomes about performance, for them and me.  When I lean and depend on God, everything is about connection and joy, acceptance and hope.  I don’t need to know the future, and when I demand to know it, I quickly trade joy for anxiety.  I pray to rest in the joy of now, of speaking out and sharing struggle, exposing the shame that binds, and celebrating a love that knows no limit or bounds.  I pray that love can flow through me, undeterred and surrendered.  We will let each other down.  We will fail.  But in that worst moment, He is there.  We are never abandoned or alone, and knowing this lets us live in genuine community.  May we walk through today wrapped in the mantle of His love with peace and joy in our hearts and sharing that love with one another.