On Using Your Heart

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red heart

So I haven’t made an entry for weeks, this is due to my assignment week being hectic as usual. I have a few days to breathe before the next set of reports and papers and statistics labs are due.

The one thing I want to share with the world today is this topic of using your heart. Now, I am not an actively ’emotional’ person. By that I mean to say-emotions seem to happen to me-rather than me being intentionally emotional, if that makes any more sense. I have long been aware of this even before studying psychology and getting to put theory behind my awareness.

I am naturally cognitively reactive; in any event, the first thing that I will react with is my brain. Usually the last thing I react with is my emotions-if at all. A few years ago I read something that said we are more likely to be aware of what we either have too much-or too little of; and I have certainly been aware of my below average emotional IQ.

There are two things in my life that have always featured in my prayers, the first is that God should help me make-and keep good relationships, the second is for God to help me to feel. This might sound strange to a relatively normal person, if you rarely put value on you ability to feel or lack thereof. To someone like me, there is huge value in being able to know the language of your heart.

Let me give you some background that would explain this; I (like most of the human race) have had a rough childhood. Most of that childhood involved high levels of instability and anxiety, (around divorce, violence, abuse, lack of one permanent home). Now imagine a child who grows up in this kind of situation, naturally the body is self-regulating, and will always find a way to create a sense of normalcy in an unstable situation; call it a coping mechanism if you may. For me, this probably came about by blocking out the emotional roller-coaster that I could not handle back then-through developing a highly cognitive, analytic and brain based way of dealing with the world. Since my rough experiences lasted several years, I guess this became the norm for me.

However, as an adult I began to see this as abnormal. Don’t ask me why or how; I just suddenly saw myself being highly deficient in this one regard and thus it became my prayer that I could become ‘normal’ and be able to access-or even begin to understand what appropriate emotion looks like-(sigh!) there I go again!-let me rephrase that: What appropriate emotion feels like.

So, these two prayer requests feature regularly, God has been hearing them for years and years. I do pray about them earnestly, as you would do when you want something you think everyone else has and you are missing out on. Only recently, have I began to notice a change in my circumstances. It started with relationships.

Now I am one of those people who seem to be quite popular-have loads of acquaintances-and no real friendships, and we all know how important real friendship is even if its only one person that you can truly count on. I am happy to say that this is no longer the case; I now have two besties that I can honestly say are part of my life.

The reason though, for this long babbling post is really to share on my second prayer request. I am beginning to see that God has already answered this one. I remember praying this about a month ago-asking God to ‘unplug’ whatever blockages that are there in my heart so that I can experience different emotions and actually know it. Well, be careful what you wish for. At first I thought it was PMS, getting weepy at the silliest things, being angry, laughing hysterically, the usual monthly mess that I seldom have (because I often rationalize and explain away every ‘feeling’ turning it instantly into a thought process) but have heard about. But no, this has gone on for some time now.

I cry a lot, at so many random things. I see a group of kids singing-burst into tears. Seeing an image of Oscar Pistorius heading for the cells-burst into tears, I happened to stop on a movie channel yesterday while looking for the news, 2 minutes of Schindler’s List and I had to actually go outside to bawl in private (something I would never have done-Ever!).

On the flip side, I laugh a lot more easily too. Its like the laughter is there just below my diaphragm and the slightest  prompt triggers an outpouring of real-deep laughter; not the shallow stuff of before. There’s other emotions too, I can feel anger like a vibration through my whole being (lately its been anger at so many injustices around the world, anger mixed with grief for the many dying in wars and crime), I feel anxiety-down into my stomach, I feel hurt as if it were a physical sensation, I feel excitement like it were bubbles starting from my toes working their way up into my head, I feel chilled out like a kite-riding the currents of the sky. I think you get the picture-I can feel!

Yes, I was probably able to feel before-but have never had a conscious awareness of any emotions-not in the way I do now. Its such a new experience for me, at 29! As I write this I actually want to weep in excitement, I feel like a completely new wing has been opened in a part of my being that I never thought I would gain access to. Now starts the work of learning how and when-and what; and allowing myself to live with these emotions. As a counsellor, you tell your client to accept their emotions-rather than nullify them-or gag them, I have been saying this out of theoretical knowledge, now I get to speak from experience.

I praise God for this gift, one that I have been asking for for many years. I hope that someone out there who can relate can be encouraged. Maybe you’re the opposite; maybe you can only use your heart-and don’t understand the language of your head. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that there is a right or wrong way to be other than what you are; and clearly-not being able to hear my heart was not something natural for me otherwise I would not have prayed about it so much. It was a part of me I instinctively knew was missing. If that is not you then praise be…,but if somewhere within you there is a sense of a gap, a part of you that is not being fully accessed-then please pray about it. Go to God and ask Him for it, simply, in a non-complicated way, lets see what happens.

NB: There is a song I had been playing on repeat constantly throughout last month, perhaps the words worked their way into my heart too. Heart by Toya Delazy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCaNfQry8GU)

22nd October, 2014

Julie

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On That Dreaded ‘C’ Word

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heard Alicia Keyes answer a question on a talk show the other day. The presenter asked a group of women she was interviewing what they would say to their 14 year old selves.

Alicia’s response was, ‘I would say, reel it in, reel it in all the way. You think you’re ready to get ‘there,’ but you don’t have to be in a hurry. Because once your ‘there’ you’ll be like damn, damn; now I have to be over ‘here,’ I can’t be ‘over there’ anymore.’

She spoke with such emotion; and had a sheen of tears in her eyes. It took me few seconds to figure out what she was talking about when she said ‘there’. I have heard similar sentiments from so many people, many women I have met. I never thought I would hear it from a top celebrity like this one, one that I admire for her talent, hard work and success.

She was – as you might have guessed – talking about her first sexual experience. Now I am no active advocate for the celibate life; neither do I preach it or judge those who do not practice it. In fact, my choice to follow celibacy as a lifestyle (outside of marriage of course) came about when I was 9yrs old in primary school. Nobody told me about it, no one coerced me into staying away for sexual relationships; it was a choice I made alone; (although I strongly believe God had a big hand in this). Throughout my life this choice has gone through many phases, from being re-enforced by the ‘high moral standards’ set in place throughout my Catholic boarding school years-to being condemned by the more avant-garde social norms that existed in the real world of teenage rebellion in post high school life. In my late teens to early 20’s I was considered old fashioned within my social circle because of my celibate lifestyle, one guy even called me ‘frigid’ very loudly-after I turned down his very invasive advances while on a bus in England, (with me carrying a Bible on my way to an evening prayer service at Church nogal). I was mortified and embarrassed and often questioned whether my decision was relevant for this day and age.

I started seeing myself as abnormal, believing there must be something wrong with me for choosing to prescribe to values that were so unpopular in the world I lived in. Moving on to my mid and late 20’s (currently), I find that most of the women that I spoke with on this subject had this common theme, ‘don’t rush it,’ to which I usually laughed and remind them how old I was. But the fact remains, every woman I have had this conversation with said the same thing, if they could go back and undo their first sexual encounter, they would choose to wait until the ultimate commitment-marriage. However, I still get the slightest odd feeling of doubt in my choice of values now and then; especially when my friends are comparing birth control methods and sharing their ‘boyfriend’ experiences. I feel almost like an imposter in those conversation, usually only making comments based on information I learnt through my mom (a midwife), my brother (a gynaecologist), as well as Dr Google – yet unable to relate to them in any personal experience kind of way

Most of the women that I have talked with regarding celibacy were not Christians or even remotely religious, yet they always told me not to change; not to give in to social pressure, not to compare myself to others and second guess my lifestyle. I am now at the stage where I am learning to respect my choices and do my utmost to avoid creating future regrets.

There were times when I was afraid of succumbing to pressure. Sometimes the proposals were very appealing, and I seriously questioned my sanity for declining. I asked myself if it was worth it, if it’s such a big deal really. I have not yet discovered the answers to these questions and many more that develop the older I become. Yet I am encouraged by those that shared and continue to share their experiences and are honest about them.

As I said, I am not an advocate for celibacy; and I believe people can chose their own path as long as they can live with the consequences.  However, I do believe wholeheartedly in celibacy as a lifestyle, and I personally believe God gives you all the grace you need when you choose to live in a way that honours Him.

Nothing is worse than regret; no matter what people think about you or whatever names you get called because of the values you choose to live by; clearly from just this one example of Ms Keyes comment-no amount of success, money, talent, and fame a person can have can make up for a bad choice. Is it really worth living with the regret?

Written on 12th September, 2014

Julie

How to Chase After God’s Heart

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child reaching

You can start by listening to Him, listen for His voice and pay attention to the whispers in your heart. ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.’
Wait for instruction. Like a child, you are free to do anything you like to please your father. However, sometimes you have to wait for him to give you a task, as he does with his other children. ‘Be still and know that He is God.’
Do not sit on the couch of idleness. Yes, you have made up your mind not to chase after anyone else, but is that all you are doing? Are you actively chasing after God’s heart, or are you sitting idly on the side lines of life? ‘I have set before you life and death; chose life.’
What is your motive? Why do you want to chase after God anyway? What’s in it for you? Do you stand to gain your own glory, prestige, some lofty position in the Church, or monetary ‘blessings’ of some worth? ‘If any man come after me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross and follow me’
Be grateful. Not many people feel the strong passionate call to chase after God; many do not find reason to. So be glad to have received such grace on your life. ‘For many are called, but few are chosen’
Do not keep it to yourself. Although this desire for more of your Father is deeply personal, let others see it and share the story with all who care to listen. ‘As the Father sent me, I am sending you.’
Know the truth. Although your plan is to chase after Him; realize that He is never running away from you. Your Father is not the leaving type; He will always be there for whatever you need. You can never do anything to change His mind about you, so only do the chasing from a heart that yearns for Him just because He is who He is. ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul; and with all your mind.’
Delight in Him. In the same way that a child delights in a loving father. Listen to the words the He sings over you, and uses to describe you-the apple of his eye; you are His son, His daughter. He never sleeps or slumbers but watches over you, He sends His angels to keep watch over you and fight the enemies that come against you. All this so that you are left with all the time in your heart to delight yourself in Him; so do not distrust, debate, despair, depress, deject yourself in Him; but delight, take joy and be light in spirit. ‘…my soul, delight in my God, for He has wrapped me in garments of salvation.’
Let nothing dissuade you. Once you have made up your mind to chase after God; let nothing stand in your way. Do not over think the process; don’t have a strategy or ‘plan’ mapped out. Simply and naturally follow the leading of the strong love that you have in your heart for your Father. ‘If you love me, you will keep my commands.’
Thank Jesus all the way. Without the sacrifice of Jesus, you wouldn’t have a Father to speak of; which would be especially dark for those in the world. So thank God for His Son’s faithfulness that has made room for you and I at His table; for us to be called His sons and daughters. ‘I will be a Father to you…’

Written on the 8th of September

J.Sokol copyrights reserved

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God is a Matchmaker

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water

One of the best books I have read in the last five years, and one that has undoubtedly been influential in my current attitude to life is the book God is a Matchmaker (Prince & Prince, 1986).

I came across it while attending the Methodist church down my street; their library was ancient and yet I found the most amazingly relevant books in that collection. Reading this book was like taking an ibuprofen to soothe raging muscle pain – the muscle could or could not have been my heart, I cannot recall. All I remember is that it was a relief, it took away the burden that society and family had been steadily increasing on my shoulders on the subject of marriage.

I’m sure most of you have heard one version or another of what a single man or woman must do in order to cross onto the seemingly greener pastures of marriage. I have heard many different versions myself; ie. God will guide you to find the right partner-but you need to get out there and actually do the looking, another one said God brought Eve to Adam and presented her as his wife, therefore a man must wait passively for God to bring his wife to him while the woman waits to be presented (both not dating around), others say there is only one rib (woman) for each man and if he doesn’t find her he will remain in failing relationships because he is with someone that belongs to someone else, some say there is no such thing as soul mates or ‘the one’ and that one must simply find someone that they get along with and make it work. I was given a book by a relative called Waiting for Roses or something like that, about a woman who was waiting for God to bring her a husband, she felt that God had told her to wait on Him for the specific person, she got married at 45. I did not read the book after hearing her story; I am not keen on waiting that long.

So what can we make of this? I am relating to the many men and women in their late 20’s and 30’s both Christian and otherwise, because we have all been socialized in one way or another to follow a particular method of dating-courting-whatever you wish to call it. I don’t know about you, but I got so confused with all the well-meaning ‘advice’ from all these sources that I stopped listening altogether. That is until I came across this book, and my mind was firmly made up. Please bear in mind that this is a purely Biblical view and instructs the person that is completely sold to the Bible as fact. However if that is not you, there may be something that you can pick out that you could relate to.

Basically, this book is based on an instruction Paul gave to the Romans in the New Testament;

‘Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of you mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.’ Romans 12vs2

What is God’s perfect will for you (or perfect plan)? Well according to this verse the one way to find that out is by choosing to go against the pattern of this world and allow your mind to be renewed by Him. In simple terms, this could be your choice to not sleep with anyone outside marriage, or choosing not to date based on the latest Hollywood guidelines and stick only to the guidelines that the Bible gives. They suggest that if marriage is a part of God’s plan (His will) for you then you can trust Him to work out every detail around it, both for you and the future partner that He has in mind for you; God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him.

They give four simple guidelines that a single-unmarried person can follow; these are attitudes that will help guide the choices you make – right actions flow from right attitudes

  1. Your attitude towards marriage

Marriage is something that God came up with; no one was there to give Him the idea so it was His plan that marriage should exists in the first place. This was a hard fact to face for me, coming from a broken home like so many out there; I had come to view marriage as a mistake, something that should not be attempted if you plan on living a happy-heartache free life. This book points out that the human marriage is an earthly counterpart of the relationship between Christ and His church, based on Ephesians 5vs25-32 that speaks of husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church. We need to look at marriage with reverence and humility, acknowledging that it is not man’s invention – but Gods’ and therefore He knows why He came up with it and what purpose it serves His in His plans.

Here, you need to make a decision (as I had to do eventually) to make your mind up on marriage; is it a simple thoughtless part of life where you can choose a random person that ticks all your boxes – and as soon as the proverbial ‘spark’ is gone you get divorced – or move onto the next person. Is marriage about making yourself happy and ‘being in love’ or is it the self-sacrifice that would lead one to a cross? Are people dispensable or is it about accepting someone with all their faults as well as good qualities, even to the point of taking the blame for their mistakes and paying for it with your own life? There are some serious questions I had to ask myself here, and I had to draw a line in the sand to say I will never again look at marriage the way secular society looks at it, or the way I looked at it through my own negative experiences while growing up. Now I continuously chose to perceive it only through God’s eyes, the originator of marriage Himself.

  1. Your attitude towards self

The idea here is to have a healthy sense of self-worth; something I know many people battle with in our generation. This would mean choosing to let go of past hurts and failures, and accepting yourself as a new creation, someone that has been given a second chance and whose past has been wiped clean. It means cultivating an ever expanding realization of what we have become in the family of God; by hearing and reading the Word of God and being transformed into the likeness of Christ. When you establish a proper attitude toward yourself based on your relationship to God as your Father, your sense of self-worth is bound to change. Again, major challenge here for a lot of people, father-less generation and daddy issues make a lot of people’s attitude towards fatherhood more negative than positive. Yes, it is an ongoing process for me to see God as the ultimate Father, constantly reminding myself that He is not human, therefore cannot be like any fallible human father out there. And again there is a choice to make here that is to trust that God’s fatherhood is not like any you’ve ever seen or known, and to trust that the plans He makes for you are coming from His love for you. You can choose to see God as daddy, and therefore listen to His instruction (more than Hollywood or your society’s norms?)

  1. Your attitude towards others

Another tough choice in our generation; choosing to follow that ‘troublesome’ verse in the New Testament;

‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourself.’ Philippians 2vs3

Most of the world lives in a hedonistic western culture that encourages self-importance and self-satisfaction above all, preaching the exact opposite of this verse which is ‘do whatever makes you happy’ or ‘if it makes you happy then its right’ and ‘if it doesn’t make you happy then it’s not right for you.’

Consideration, sensitivity, grace shown through appreciation and thankfulness that need constant cultivation; and the appraisal of the other instead of the self is what is required in order to truly love someone, not forgetting humility, self-sacrifice and long-suffering (perseverance) which are some of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Again, we can refer to Christ, clearly going to the cross was not something that made Him happy, He didn’t skip happily to Golgotha to suffer a horrifying death – actually Matthew 26 from 36 to 45 show that He was ‘sorrowful and troubled’ the night He was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane; He was so troubled that He prayed three times if there was no other way for mankind to be saved (‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken away from me…’). However, Jesus did not have His own interest as His ultimate goal, that is why He ended all those prayers with ‘yet not as I will, but as you will.’ He chose not to feed His own ego despite being the Son of God who could have chosen to wipe out all his enemies with a single word. That is the attitude being spoken of here, realising that life is bigger than us, and that other people feature in God’s plans therefore the way we treat them really matters. So no matter the situation – we should really be able to put the other first with their needs and well being before our own especially if we dare to call them our spouse. That was and is the heart of Jesus, if He could do it with a human heart, surely we can as well.

  1. Your attitude towards parents

This last attitude should be straightforward, but rarely is it heeded. (Parents, in this case refers to whomever raised you.)

Ephesians 6vs 1-3 says that if you want life to go well with you – honour your parents. A proper attitude towards parents is essential for God’s blessings on any person’s life. Yet, as already mentioned our current father-less generation that is in many circumstances raised by stressed and under-supported mothers, or families where drugs and alcohol assisted in the childrearing process, children that were abandoned, just some of many examples as to why ‘honouring your parents’ is not always an attractive concept.

Yet again, there is a serious choice to make. The issue here is not simply about honouring the people responsible for you existence, it’s about submission. While obedience is an act, submission is an attitude of heart; it says – I have my own will (plans), but I consciously put it aside in order to follow yours. Wow, what a challenge! Yet it is in the very act of submission to your parent/s regardless of what they are or have done/not done to you, that paves the way for God to intervene. I’m not referring to submission in the sense of doing whatever they tell you to, or blind obedience; rather it is accepting the authority that this person has in your life, accepting and even acknowledging openly that authority regardless of whether they use it or not. In my own case, I read this book at a time where I was trying to find answers for my father’s absence from my life; trying to understand why he was not around, was it me? Something I did-or me personally? It was painful and bitter, and I struggled to forgive him, and certainly did not accept that he had any authority in my life – he wasn’t even in it. After some time (years I think) I was able to say, ‘yes I have a father, he’s not perfect, but he’s the only father I have. I will honour him, respect him, and forgive every hurt I have had because of him.’ I released him from the prison in my heart not because I’m a wise self-actualized person, but because God asks it of me.

I don’t know what your parents were like, just know that you are not called to judge them, God has that covered, you are called to honour them for your own sake – so that all things will go well with you and that you live long in the land. How many people live long happy lives while carrying bitterness and hatred in their hearts? How many people learn from the mistakes of their parents when they hate and disregard them? We just have to look around at society today to see that that is never the case, instead we repeat the same mistakes our parents did, out of spite or some form of revenge maybe, but you have to admit it whatever culture or religion you come from, honouring one’s parents will affect the quality of your own life.

So, taking on the challenge of choosing God’s way above your way is a daunting task. However, it is not the only thing you have to do.  The book concludes with this thought, it is important for every unmarried Christian to face the issue of whether celibacy may be God’s Will (plan) for them. A person whose mind is taken up continually with thoughts of marriage may miss God’s leading in some other area, and even take the wrong course in life. However, a person who has settled this issue to their own satisfaction has an inner peace of mind that makes it easier to discern God’s will in other matters too. Give yourself wholeheartedly to serving God in your present condition, and leave the future in His hands.

Your attitude of quiet trust will keep you open to any direction the Lord may intend to give you further down the road.

If you would like to read this book or reviews of it, it is available on google books as well as other internet sources (ie. Amazon). I have only taken out from it what spoke the loudest to me; it may speak differently to you.

 

Prince, D. & Prince, R. (1986) God is a Matchmaker. New Jersey: Flemming H. Revell Company

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Simple Acceptance?

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Hello again!

I have had to take some weeks off to focus on school assignments and work; and the fact that I have had too much going on in the brain to write something logical.

It has been an emotionally draining time these last few weeks. Not just here in South Africa but globally. Watching the news is like getting your daily dose of misery and yet it is impossible to ignore. You all have heard about the Ebola crisis I’m sure; although I wonder if you are aware that Ebola makes an appearance every year about this time somewhere on this continent yet never has it had so much airplay as it has had this year (God knows why), the people that died of it last year and the year before where not given as much attention. And yes I’m sure you are aware that while the world has been frantic about this ‘new’ disease; malaria, cholera, malnutrition and AIDS related illness have continued to kill thousands around the world regardless of whether they get featured for an hour on CNN or not. Ebola will be back next year, and the year after that just like it always has.

Also in these past few weeks we have watched and have had endless debates about Israel and Palestine. Who’s right and who’s wrong, watched many bloodied people and corpses on TV and online, rockets firing like carnival fireworks, death having a party! In Iraq we have heard reports of the persecution of Christian and Yazidi people; ethnic cleansing and plenty of bloodshed. Heard stories of children being cut in half, be-headings and crucifixions of those refusing to renounce their faith. Again, none of these are new or strange events, they have been around for decades and will probably continue to do so.

I think the most gruesome for me has been the killing of babies in South Africa. For awhile it seemed every week there was a murder; stray bullet, botched hijacking, body parts burnt beyond recognition, every time you turn on the news there is a little angelic face and weeping parents, angry communities and helpless policemen with even more helpless politicians standing around looking as gloomy as they can. Again, sadly, this is nothing new in our country (or in the world); murder, rape, mutilation even of the young and innocent is not the latest craze, nor will it ever not be.

Lots more has happened in this time, falling planes, horrific accidents, hurricanes and earthquakes, the tragic and sense-less loss of a great legend (Robin Williams). This is why I found myself unable to think, unable to process all these things. I have found that this is a common reaction, as if we are so exposed to death and senseless violence that we almost walk around shell-shocked; numb and silent. Whatever the reaction, I have been very discouraged by all this. And no, I haven’t got any bright cheery verses or words of wisdom to make it any better. I really wish I did.

On Monday, as I was getting ready for bed (not that I have been able to sleep very well lately), it occurred to me that I have been carrying all this pain around; thanks to my daily dosage of misery – even if I try my best to avoid watching the news.  The words that came to mind were ” its as if disappointment has become my middle name!” No matter how difficult, we have to try and find a way to live in our world instead of simply accepting what is going on, right?

Take the example of nature; if you go down to a sewage dump today or a graveyard, you will always find something growing. Out of the polluted, dirty, death-filled soil – life grows and thrives. There must be a reason for this right? So maybe, in all the rotten things that are going on in the world we live in, we can look for life? For growth? For what is persevering? Otherwise we will lose the will to live. Maybe one day at a time – one life at a time – we can find hope?

I surely pray so, not just for us but for the coming generation that will doubtless have to deal with a little more than the pain and suffering we have today for surely these things have been around long before now and seem to have taken root.

How will they cope? Maybe that is the life and growth that we can look for and help to thrive.

Blessings Always.

desert flower

10 Men Christian Women Should Never Marry!

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Artical by J.Lee Grady (cited from the JOY Magazine, July 2014 publication)

“My wife and I raised four daughters – without shotguns in the house! -and three of them have already married. We love our sons-in-law, and its obvious God handpicked each of them to match our daughter’s temperaments. I have always believed God is in the matchmaking business. I meet many single women who would very much like to find the right guy. Some tell me the pickings are slim at their church, so they have ventured into the world of online dating. Others have tthrown up their hands in despair, wondering if there are any decent Christian guys left anywhere. They’ve began to wonder if they should lower their standards … Don’t settle for less than God’s best! Too many believers have ended up with an Ishmael because impatience pushed them into an unhappy marriage.

Take my fatherly advice: you are much better off single than with the wrong guys!

1. The Unbeliever: Write 2 Corinthians 6vs14 on a post-it note and stick it on your computer at work. It says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers: for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” This is not an outdated religious rule. It is the Word of God for you today.

Don’t allow a man’s charm, looks or finacial success (or his willingness to go to church with you) push you to compromise what you know is right. “Missionary dating” is never a wise strategy. If the guy is not a born-again Christian, scratch him off your list. He’s not right for you. I’ve yet to meet a Christian woman who didn’t regret marrying an unbeliever.

2. The Liar: If you discover that the man you are dating has lied to you about his past or that he is always covering his tracks to hide his secrets from you, run for the nearest exit. Marriage must be built on a foundation of trust. If he can’t be truthful, break up now before he bamboozles you with an even bigger deception.

3: The Playboy: I wish I could say that if you meet a nice guy at church, you can assume he’s living in sexual purity. But that’s not the case today. I’ve heard horror stories about single guys who serve on the worship team on Sunday but act like Casanovas during the week. If you marry a guy who was sleeping around before your wedding day, you can be sure he will be sleeping around after your wedding.

4. The Addict: Churchgoing men who have adddictions to alcohol or drugs often learn to hide their problems – but you don’t want to wait until your honeymoon to find out that he’s a boozer. Never marry a man that refuses to get help for his addiction. And don’t gt into a co-dependent relationship in which he claims he needs you in order to stay sober.

5: The Deadbeat: There are many solid Christian men who went through marital failures years ago. Second marriages can be very happy, but if you find out that the man you are dating hasn’t been caring for his children from a previous marriage or relationship, you have just exposed a fatal flaw. Any man that will not pay for his past mistakes or support children from a previous marriage is not going to treat you responsibly.

6: The Narcissist: I sincerely hope you find a guy who is attractive. But be careful: If your boyfriend spends six hours a day at the gym and regularly posts close ups of his selfies and/or biceps on Facebook, you have a problem. Do not fall for a self-absorbed guy. He might be cute, but a man who is infatuated with his appearance and his own needs will never be able to love you sacrificially, like Christ loves the church (Eph. 5vs25). The man who is always looking at himself in the mirror will never notice you.

7: The Bum: I have a female friend who realised after she married her boyfriend that he had no plans to find steady work. He had devised a great strategy; he stayed at home and played video games while his professional wife worked and paid all the bills. The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians, “If anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat either,” 2 Thess 3vs10. The same applies here; if a man is not willing to work, he doesn’t deserve to marry you.

8. The Abuser: Men with abusive traits can’t control their anger when it boils over. If the guy you are dating has a tendancy to fly off the handle either at you or others, don’t be tempted to rationalise his behaviour. He has a problem, and if you marry him, you will have to navigate his minefield every day to avoid triggering another outburst. Angry men hurt women -verbally and sometimes physically. Find a man who is gentle.

9: The Man-Child: Call me old fashioned, but I’m suspicious of a guy who still lives with his parents at age 35. If his mother is still doing his cooking, cleaning and ironing at that age, you can be sure he’s stuck in an emotional time warp. You are asking for trouble if you think you can be a wife to a guy who hasn’t grown up.

10. The Control Freak: Some Christian guys believe marriage is about male superiority. They may quote scripture, but behind the facade of husbandly authority is deep insecurity and pride that can morph into spiritual abuse. 1 Peter 3vs7 commands husbands to treat their wives as equals; if the man you are dating makes demeaning comments about women or squelches your spiritual gifts, back away. As a woman of God, don’t sell your spiritual birthright by marrying a guy who doesn’t deserve you. Wait for a man who is sold out to Jesus.

(J.Lee Grady is an author, journalist, minsiter and ex-editor of Charisma Magazine.)

Who Can I Become?

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Who Can I Become?

At the ripe old age of 29, this seems like a silly question to ask myself. However, I came across it while going through a social psychology paper and thought-why not? So here goes.

Who can I become?

I can become a missionary, living in Madagascar-Botswana-or in the Karoo. I can become that woman that leaves everything behind, all the luxuries of modern city life, all the comforts and ease that I enjoy. I can live in a mud hut, a grass hut, or whatever kind of hut is on offer. I can live without electricity and running water, cooking meals on an open hearth. I want to be the one that shows up with a back pack of clothes, no make-up, a pair of sneakers and Bata slippers (the red ones). I want to be around different people, different from myself, different languages and culture. I want to be the silent student amongst them, to watch and learn how life is lived.

I can become a wife, a treasured companion of some quiet man. A gentle man, that doesn’t mind going off with me into the desert to learn about life. A wife that loves to cook and spoil her children, one who would go to great lengths to make her brood happy; and keep a big smile on her husband’s face.

I can become a foster mother, with arms wide open, working with children and babies all over the land. I can be the tireless worker that cooks giant pots of porridge, that changes hundreds of nappies, that carries warm wiggly bundles on my back and in my lap. I can get lost in the plight of street kids in Antananarivo (Madagascar), or the Aids orphans of Mamuno (Bostwana) or Nacala (Mozambique). I can even invest several years caring for the infants and toddlers in Beaufort West (South Africa).

I can go on that dream voyage to the Antarctic, see the ice and feel the freeze; maybe even stay over there for some months. I can become that girl on the Mercy Ships; travelling ports in the name of Jesus and bringing healing to many lands.

I can become fearless, strong and carefree. I can become a proud mother of three. I can become the missionary I’ve always wanted to be. Maybe I can do it, let’s wait and let’s see; I can become anything with Christ walking beside me!

I wonder what you can come up with in response to this question. Be Blessed!

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More Thoughts on Acceptance

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Wow, what a great week it has been since my last entry.

As I was studying for my Personality Theories paper, I came across a lady called Karen Horney (pronounced Horn-ey). She is the one who came up with a theory of neurotics-among others; but I felt that her version was so incredible-I had to share.

So, this ongoing journey to self acceptance for me actually started earlier this year. It came about as the first thought in my head one morning. “Reality!” That was all I got, thereafter I began to think about what that meant, am I not living in reality? Yes, I do tend to daydream quite alot but no more than the average person I guess. So why reality?

Several days later, after much thinking and asking for elaboration from God, I came to a realization-revelation. I, as a person was not functioning in reality; in other words, my version of reality is not actually reality. How many people out there can say amen to that! But on a serious note, that revelation ties in so brilliantly with what Karen Horney wrote that I finally understand what God wanted me to learn.

Here’s a summary of her theory in my own words. There are two basic types of people: healthy or neurotic. The neurotic person is not someone with alot of qerks or weird habits, rather they have a real personality problem. A child/young person that has not received adequate love and attention from one or both parents, and/or has been negatively impacted by their immediate society will develop deep anxiety and a sense of inferiority; in order to manage their anxiety and still engage with their society they need to form some sort of ‘front’ that will do that for them.

And so, the person develops an image of a better, stronger, smarter, richer, etc version of themselves (depending on what made them feel anxious and inferior). They then begin to live their lives according to this image (which is seldom realistic in the standards it holds-leaning towards perfection), for example, someone who has grown up in poverty seeing themselves as being very high class and having a high social standing will start to behave as if they have been like this all their lives and will never want to be perceived as otherwise.

However, she emphasized the fact that this way of living is not sustainable; one can only pretend for so long, therefore the neurotic (what a person who has formed this idealized self is called) has to develop certain strategies-defense mechanisms- in order to maintain their idealized self. Such things as having ‘blind spots’ that people around them can see but they cannot (the example above where the person with an image of high class and social standing will in reality behave contrarily and not be popular at all), they can rationalize (a form of self deception) they compartmentalize (separate contradicting beliefs and actions into categories so they don’t clash with each other), have excessive self-control, arbitrary rightness (they are always right regardless of the situation)elusiveness (can never be pinned down to anything-lest it gives away their real image), and cynicism. All this is done on an unconscious level, so the person is not actively constructing an ideal self-no, that would be psychosis.

Sadly, the result of this alienation from self (rejection of the real self) and idealization is either self hatred- or aggression and hatred of others. One can turn hatred on themselves once they discover that they cannot live upto their own expectations-standards, often because those standards are unrealistic and not authentic to the real/actual person inside them-often resulting in depression. Or they turn that hatred outwards (externalization), and blame those around them as well as outward circumstances for them not being able to be what their ideal image is. And since all this is unconscious, most people go around and around in a cycle of depression, disillusionment, isolation and anger problems without knowing the root cause. These people are ‘driven’ by the need to live up to their ideal image, and this drive is ultimately their own poison.

This is both a liberating and challenging revelation for me. I read Horney’s article to my mom and she said ‘hmm that sounds familiar, like someone I know actually.’ Yes, I admit this sounds alot like me, especially the defenses part; I can see why I got a sense of that word ‘reality’. One thing I have often felt is the questions “who’s standards am I living upto? who’s rules am I following?’ I mean, how can we really live a fulfilled and wholesome life when we are not even being our real selves? And how can we accept our flawed, imperfect personalities when we refuse to look at them and reject them for a pretend version?

I need to think about this some more, I don’t find it easy to work out. As I read more I will post about how Karen’s theory looks at deconstructing the idealized self. I hope this resonates with someone out there.

God bless.

The Narrow Path continued…

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The concept of the narrow path is an ongoing thing in my life, often comes in revelation form-like a picture slowly forming in my mind. This was a revelation I received on the 30th of July 2013.

The path that God has chosen for me to walk and that I have willingly committed myself to is not an easy one.

Its not one where I will get everything I want, and everything I expect. Its not an instant-no delay-by my terms-thing either.

I signed in to walk the path of His Will-His time-His leading

Therefore, whatever He brings to the table is what I will consume

The implications of this fact are so huge-that I cannot take it all in at once…

Does it mean that my destiny is not my own-my life is not in my own hands- that I am not free to chose my direction anymore?

God has not coerced me into this, nor has He demanded my Will to be signed over.

But it belongs to Him now, completely.

Question arise that make me wonder, is this really what God requires of me? Or am I seeking the easy way out-avoiding responsibility over my life

His Word is plain and simple to understand, “he that wants to save his life must lose it…”

“Its no longer I that lives, but Christ alive in me.”

Another issue that rise again and again is this, ‘look at the person next to me Lord, why do they get to live in any way they want to-make any choice they want to -answer to no one but themselves? Why can’t I do that and get away with it?’

The answer again and again is clear, ‘You do not walk on the same paths that they do, they too have a choice to make-God’s way or their way. They can choose to let me lead them-or be the master of their own fate. So keep your eyes on Jesus-and know that this is the road you must walk on, the narrow path you decided to sign up for,’ is the response I get.

It seems like the older I get, the harder the road, the lonelier and quieter it gets as people drop of-speed up-or fall behind on this journey.

I find I often lose focus, start to look around me at other people on different paths and compare my progress with theirs-I stumble of course, and get discouraged, so tired, sometimes even stop and sit down in defeat

Jesus never called it the narrow path for nothing, it is hard, bumpy, winding, steep, filled with rocks and crevices, potholes and over gown edges, that’s why few people travel on it-why should they when there are other more comfortable alternatives?

But for me, there is no alternatives, no matter how many times I fall and struggle on this path-this is what I have chosen. There is no other way to get to where I am going

I have made my choice, I have sealed my fate, I belong to Jesus completely, therefore on this road I will journey I will plod along till the end

Until my dying day, may God direct each of my footsteps, His Word as the lamp to my feet and a light to guide my path. This path that He has mapped out for me.

And from Him I get the courage and faith, the strength and the comfort, the wisdom and revelation to help me along the way-I will not rely on myself, or my own understanding.

He is the Lord of my life, both now and in the eternity to come.

Relevant verses:

Matthew 7vs 13-14 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads  to life, and only a few find it.”

 Psalms 119  vs33 “Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees,that I may follow it to the end”

                         vs105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”

 Luke 9vs24-26  For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save  it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

 Galatians 2vs20   “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Psalms 23vs1-4  “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Making a choice to follow Christ is no easy thing, it takes huge amounts of…FAITH! I pray that you may come to know what that is-Christ is the author-giver-originator-producer of faith, and when he gives it to you, he is the perfecter-establisher-refiner-increaser-and maintainer of that faith.

 God Bless

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