September 21, 2017

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 8 – Why Does God Allow Pain? (pp 242-247)

 It was only 2 years and 2 months ago…I was sitting curled up in a ball crying on the floor of my bedroom asking God this question: WHY GOD? Why did I have to go through such heartache and misery? Why did some people treat me horrible as a child? Why did nothing ever help me feel better? Why did You not heal me and save me from all the shock treatments, hospitalizations, abandonment, and rape? Why did You let me suffer for so long with major depression and horrendous anxiety and not help me?

I’m sure every one of you has asked this question before about some hard event in your life. Why? This three letter word is so powerful and can paralyze us and get us stuck if we let it. Today we are going to talk about why God allows pain and suffering if He is such a good God. Baker breaks this question into 4 different parts

1. God has given us a free will
2. God uses our pain to get our attention
3. God uses pain to teach us to depend on Him
4. God allows pain to give us a ministry to others

From the beginning, when God created man He gave us free will. He allows us to make choices—good or bad, and, right or wrong. Although our Creator, He gives free will and wants us to choose whether we accept Him or reject Him. He does this because He wants us to love Him freely by choice, not by demand. He does not force us to love Him.  John Baker describes this very well by saying: God didn’t want a bunch of puppets.

FreeWill_LHC_Ch8

This free will God gives us is both a blessing and a burden. Unfortunately, bad choices cause painful consequences which can really hurt us and others. My choosing to drink not only hurt me but also my family. I chose to be sexually promiscuous, and it resulted in me getting myself into dangerous relationships and caused a lot of hurt. Free will is given to every one, which means that all the other people in this world get it too. Wrong choices that other people make cause pain not just to them, but to others also. An example of this (which has always been something hard for me to understand) is an innocent family who was hit and killed by a drunk driver. What about the child who was raped, or the teenager who brought the gun to school and shot classmates? In these kinds of situations I always asked how could God let that happen? It happened because God gives us all free will, even that drunk driver, child molester, and murderer. God could have prevented that hurt by taking away that person’s free will. But if He had done that, in order to be fair, He would have had to take away your free will, too. Unfortunately, pain is part of the “free will package.” (Baker)

God uses pain to get our attention. Pain is God’s wake-up call: “Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.” (Baker) Today, without a doubt, painfully hitting rock bottom and running out of options was exactly what I needed to get my life straightened out. I could not hide my physical shakes from alcoholism any longer. I could not go up any higher on my Xanax legally. I was told that if I continued to drink that I would have to leave. Not just losing all the people that mattered most to me scared me enough, but also the physical and mental torment of drinking and mixing Xanax caused withdrawals and horrific hallucinations. All I could see in my future were visions of myself walking the cold sterile hallways of the mental hospital behind locked doors (this time permanently); and losing my family for good finally shook some sense into my hard, thick head! It had to be that drastic and that painful in order for me to finally look up and pay attention.

God uses pain to teach us to depend on Him.  Although God did not give us the pain (we caused that to happen), we can learn to trust and rely on His power more holy as a result of our being made “more aware” of our weaknesses. Apostle Paul, out of his pain and experience tells, We were really crushed and overwhelmed…[and] saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us.” 2 Corinthians 1:9 LB  It’s in our deepest pain, we can finally see that we need help. That we are powerless and we need God who is the only one that can save us.

Lastly, God allows pain to give us a ministry to others. Pain in our lives makes us humble, understanding and sympathetic to others preparing us to serve. This is what’s called recycling pain (Choice 8). When we turn to God for healing, He comforts and gives us what we need. He uses our pain so when others are troubled we can encourage them, be sympathetic, and comfort them like God has done for us. Who better to talk with as an alcoholic or drug addict, than to a former addict who has been delivered and restored? What a difference it is to have someone who understands what struggles we have been through and will listen without judging. What a beautiful blessing it is for us to help others and spread the good news of God. Our pain can give hope to others, and heal us also.

I remember the first time I shared my testimony was on my Facebook timeline. I have friends all the way back from when I was a little girl. All those years when they knew me, I had been very good at pretending I was happy; I put on a very convincing show to everyone. I can imagine how shocking it was for many to read. Yes, some people thought it was a foolish move to tell my personal business, while others were inspired. God used me in a great way to reach out to many who had addictions and mental illness that day. I had, and still have many friends and their friends who have come to me and shared with me their hurts and struggles because they felt safe and understood. From then I have been able to give my testimony at my home church, and also shared it on this ministry. Each time it heals me even more and I get to add to the healing! What joy it brings our Father in heaven to see our pain turn into something good. It is so important to SHARE your story! What a wonderful way to praise Him for helping you to overcome your hurts, hang ups, and habits!

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Let’s Pray:

Thank You, God, for comfort, love, free will, and healing. Oh Father, what a wonderful blessing it is for us to be able to share our story and experiences, journey, weaknesses, and how You got us where we are today. Lord, please use us and recycle our pain we have had to help and encourage others who may be going through the same thing with gentleness and respect. Today, Lord, may we witness to others and speak to them the Good News of Your mighty love and kindness. Father, we love You so much!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

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If you would like to send a private email to Leslie in regards to this blog, please email her at:
Leslie@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 7 – Maintaining the Momentum (pp 220-239)

Choice7_LHC


PRAY
John Baker provides so much amazing information in this week’s Make the Choice section. He begins by giving examples on how we can pray using Scriptures, and how a prayer familiar to most of us (The Lord’s Prayer) relates to the choices we’ve been learning. I will be using portions of Baker’s examples for you today.

Scripture: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name…
Choice 1: Realize I am not God
Choice 2: Earnestly believe that God exists

Scripture: Your Kingdom come…
Choice 8: Yield myself to God to be used

Scripture: Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
Choice 5: Voluntarily submit to God’s changes

Scripture: Give us our daily bread…
Choice 3: Consciously choose to commit…to Christ’s care

Scripture: Forgive us our debts…
Choice 4: Openly examine and confess my faults

Scripture: As we have also forgiven our debtors…
Choice 6: Evaluate all my relationships

Scripture: And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…
Choice 7: Reserve a daily time with God

WRITE –
Through the week’s study we have looked at ways to prevent relapse of our bad habits by creating a new habit of evaluation. This week’s “Write” choice is about evaluating four areas: physical, emotional, relational and spiritual.

Physical: What is your body telling you?

Emotional: What are you feeling? Use HEART to help you express what you are feeling.

H – am I hurting?
E – am I exhausted?
A – am I angry?
R – do I resent anyone?
T – am I tense?

Relational: Am I at peace with everyone?

Spiritual: Am I relying on God?

SHARE –
Share what you’ve written with your accountability partner. Work to develop a plan to recognize and resolve problems more quickly, to be aware of them sooner and take appropriate action.

Over the years, I’ve become more aware of how I tend to react emotionally, based on the feelings that a situation brings rather than the facts before me. Instead of looking rationally at a situation, I have the knee-jerk reaction and most often spout out something I later regret. And, when I’m tired, it’s even worse. On good days, I can recognize this before I open my mouth and I pause to consider the other person and what might be prompting them to act as they are. I try to remember that those around me are not “out to get me” and may just be having a bad day. It’s the basic lesson—it’s not about me!
But on my bad days , I am feeling unappreciated or taken for granted in an area of my life, and anything someone says that may bump against my views for the day will result in a conflict. How dare they say that to me…act that way towards me…assume that about me, and so on. In a flash, I resort to the negative thoughts, the relational strongholds that I’ve been working to rid myself of. And, it’s during those moments that turning to a trusted friend helps keep me grounded in the here and now. When you have the right person alongside you, they will point you back to God through Scriptural reminders and truths. They will help you focus on your identity as a child of God. They will call you out when you’re stuck in negativity and hold you to a higher standard. Sure, it can be uncomfortable because we want to feel what we feel just because we want to! But life has so much more to offer us. God wants so much more for us than to be ruled by our emotions.

Take time to reflect on the pattern of relapse with your partner: complacency, confusion, compromise, and catastrophe. Where do you get trapped most often?

For me, it is complacency; and Baker couldn’t have explained it any better, “We get comfortable. We’ve confessed our problem, we’ve started dealing with it, and we’ve made some progress. Then we get comfortable, and one day we stop praying about it and then we stop working at it” (page 207).

When the immediate need to fix something has been addressed, the urgency to continue working on it dissipates. It’s no longer urgent, and slowly the comfort settles in. But Jesus reminded us, “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give into temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38 NLT).

Even Paul tells us, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT). So it’s not a situation that wasn’t expected to happen, but it is a situation that can be prevented.


Let’s Pray
Lord, we thank You for loving us so much that You gave the greatest example of forgiveness through Your Son, Jesus. As we focus on creating dedicated time alone with You, let us remember to be still and know You. Timothy tells us that Your Word is “useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” Allow us to keep this focus and to develop a desire to know You even more. This journey to recovery from our habits, hang-ups, and hurts has not been easy, but we feel Your grace, love, and gentleness more each day. Amen.

Power Verses for Chapter 7:
1 Corinthians 10:12
Matthew 22:37-40
James 1:22
Colossians 3:16
Psalm 46:10
Psalm 107:15
2 Timothy 3:16
Hebrews 12:1



If you would like to send Amy a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Amy@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Choice 6 – How do you forgive others and (self)? (pp 171-175)

If someone had told me two years ago that, in order for me to become well and be healed, I would have to forgive someone that I felt helped get me there in the first place, I would have laughed, and shaken my head ‘no.’  That is exactly what I did, too. Yeah right, I need to forgive someone who hurt me so badly? They are the ones who had broken my heart in so many ways and did not care at all about it, why should I forgive them?  …Because the Bible says you can’t receive what you are unwilling to give: I need to forgive because God has forgiven me.

So how on earth can we do this—forgiving others? Baker gives us the three R’s to show us how.

1. Reveal Your Hurt
2. Release the Offender
3. Replace Your Hurt with God’s Peace

I learned something very important a few years ago when I attempted to write my first resentment list. Turns out about 90% of the people on that list were loved ones. So how on earth can I love someone so much towards who I feel a great deal of anger, bitterness, hurt, and resentment? Baker states, “Perhaps it’s because we have a misconception that you can’t love somebody and be angry at them the same time. The truth is, you can.”

You can’t get over hurt until you admit the pain. Have you been able to do this? I have for years been able to tell my therapist, husband, and some family about people in my life who have hurt me. I have “on the surface,” talked about being angry, disappointed, and hurt by them. Truth is, I never really let myself be real and admit that deep pain inside completely to myself. I did not want to explore those feelings that I HAVE tried to cover up by instead replacing with negative feelings. I had become consumed with resentment over the unfairness of my life.

When I joined this ministry, the first thing I shared was my testimony. I have given my testimony at church about my hurts, hang ups, and habits. In my testimony, I spoke of relationships that hurt me deeply, scars and addictions that stayed with me and held me with chains. They affected me in the way I acted, the way I interacted with others, and the way I identified with who I am. But it was different in this testimony. I actually admitted to myself the truth—the hurt. It was wrong, and it hurt me.

In the beginning, it was not easy revealing my hurts. I felt so vulnerable for a while. It was not easy being honest and revealing the pain I have felt in some situations for over 30 years. I had tried to suppress my emotions for so long.  Doing so only made those hurts in me worse and I therefore became very angry inside. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” Ephesians 4:31, 32.

After revealing those hurts, it was time to release the offender. How on earth was that going to be possible? I had so much anger toward them that my heart was so hardened. I now understand that I can’t forgive them myself…I needed God’s help. With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. Mark 10:27 ESV.  Not only does God want us to forgive, but He wants us to love our enemy who wronged us and hurt us. Whether the person asks for forgiveness or not, you do it for your own sake. I repeat, you release the offender for your own sake. The truth is there will be a time that you and I will need forgiveness in the future.

Let’s look at some things the Lord and His Word say about forgiveness and love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44, 45a). Yet Jesus tells us to love as he did.  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34 ESV).

John13_34

I would like to share with you how I was able to release my offender: I prayed for them. I had much difficulty doing so, but I prayed asking God to help me to even want to forgive them because honestly I did not want to. I did this for a while, and also added in my prayer that I hoped they would have a good day. I started small, but that was enough. God started chipping away at that anger and bitterness I held in my heart toward them. The more I prayed to be able to want to forgive them, the more I could pray to forgive them. Then honestly one morning I woke up to the most unusual feeling inside (that I now understand is peace). My heart for that person was softened and God replaced the bitterness with love. God gave me peace and allowed me to forgive. He released me from that hurt. It’s just one of the amazing miracles He does for us. When we listen and obey, He helps us to love and heal inside. By blessing those who curse us, doing well to those who hate us, and praying for them He also helps us to forgive and love them. I finally started to have compassion for this particular person because I was able to see that he, too, had been hurt in his life (hurting people hurt each other).

That peace I received on the inside had changed me in so many ways. I felt better, I was so proud of myself after finally admitting to myself the truth of how I felt. And through God, I finally loved instead of hated. That’s what God wants for us all. He wants us to love and forgive;  He will help us to do that no matter what the circumstance may be. We may not ever forget what happened, but we will finally be rid of  that misery of resentment that hurt us so badly and had also hurt God. God is love; it’s not easy for us to fully show Him our love, if we don’t show others that love as well. Let’s show Him the love that He deserves. Let’s ask Him today to help us forgive that offender and replace that hurt with the peace He offers us.

Let’s Pray:
Father God, thank You for forgiveness. Thank You for the forgiveness You give to us and for helping us to forgive others who have hurt us. No one is perfect except You, Father. Each one of us needs forgiveness and we need to forgive each other. Thank You, Lord, for this help today as we do this. You bring peace and love; You heal our broken hearts. You are a God of miracles and we are so grateful and praise You for all You do. We love You!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Your Assignment:
On a piece of paper, write down the 3 R’s. Start with that one person who has hurt you the most. Be honest and admit what you feel. Afterward, spend time in prayer asking God to help you release that person.

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If you would like to send a private email to Leslie in regards to this blog, please email her at: Leslie@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 5 – The Transformation (Reading Assignment)

Choice 5: Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects.

“God blesses those people who want to obey Him more than to eat or drink.  They will be given what they want!” (Matthew 5:6 CEV)

The hardest part for those of us who like to be in control of our circumstances (and lives) is surrendering ALL to His authority, and being willing to submit to EVERY change He brings to us.  John Baker starts Chapter 5 by describing how it’s against our nature to change our behaviors.  It’s so much easier to keep doing what we’ve been doing.  It’s been said that changing a habit takes around 30 days of consistent behavior to make it stick.  How many of us actually try for that long?  Here we are in February, how many of you are holding firm to the New Year’s resolutions you made?

The scars we bear from our life experiences did not happen overnight, and we cannot expect change to be rapid.  Over the past four weeks, we’ve been preparing our hearts and minds for the changes God wants to do in our lives.  He’s been working in us through this time, but it’s also been a time of preparation.  Romans 12:1, 2 says that we are to “be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable…let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

Do you take the time to read a passage in different translations?  Sometimes you can get more insight, clarification, and direction by what the various translations offer.  From The Message, we read the same passage in Romans, “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your every day, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

How awesome is that?  God is helping us.  God wants the best for us.  He will change us inside and out.  Another promise of The Father we can hold on to when we don’t think we can keep on this journey.

Chapter 5 will discuss where our character defects come from, why it takes so long to get rid of them, and how we cooperate with God during this transformation process.  A key point for me in this process is to remember my identity in Christ, who He says I am.  Baker says, “Notice their identity is in their belief in Christ…they do not allow character defects to become their identity” (pp 133, 134).

Almost 17 years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia.  It’s a chronic pain syndrome that many don’t fully understand.  Even with almost 11 years together, my husband still doesn’t “get it” on many days, though he has learned to be more patient and tolerant of my episodes.  Pain, muscle tenderness, weakness and tingling are common place for me.  On a daily basis something hurts, usually my back, hips and shoulders.  But I also get tingling and swelling in my feet and hands; and fatigue…oh boy, do I get tired!  Some days I feel like I over-exerted myself the day before.  Other days, I feel like I’m battling the worst flu virus ever.  And, the only thing I can do is manage symptoms; there is no cure.  I have medications to take.  I give in to the afternoon nap.  I opt to sit as an observer than push my body in an activity I know I’ll regret later.  I get massages (much too infrequently) from a therapist who knows how to treat my body.  And, I try to enjoy walking as an easy, low-stress exercise for my body.  Keeping it moving helps keep it from tightening up even more.

Now, I know there are people with fibromyalgia who are truly affected more severely than I am, so this is not meant to disregard the severity of their situations.  Many are unable to work, enjoy activities, or function on a normal level.  I’ve never been affected so badly that I cannot “do life.”  I may not want to do something, but it’s a mental attitude not a physical limitation.  But what if I gave in to my pain and let it determine who I am?  If I focused on what I have, rather than who I am, how much different would my life be?  I might refuse to leave my bed.  I might quit my job because it’s just too much effort.  I might refuse to care for my family; instead asking them to tend to my needs.

But I am a person with fibromyalgia.  It does not have me.  Just like I am a child of Christ with sin, sin does not have me.  I have freedom in Christ.  And, it’s His freedom that also provides comfort during my fibro-flares (periods when it is worse).  It is His strength that pushes me through.  It is His wisdom that guides my doctors for management.  And, oddly, it’s a blessing in my life at times because the flares cause me to rest, and be thankful that my infliction truly isn’t that bad in the scheme of things.

So what defines you?  Do you believe you cannot change because it’s “just the way you are?”  Do you see yourself as the addict or victim?  Or do you see yourself as God sees you.

James 4:10 

Humble yourselves before the Lord,

and he will lift you up in honor. (NLT)

Reading Assignment for Week 4: Chapter 4 of Life’s Healing Choices

Monday: Laurie will discuss Principle 5: The Transformation Choice
Tuesday: Leslie will discuss Why Does It Take So Long?
Wednesday: Kim will discuss How Do We Cooperate With God?
Thursday: Amy will discuss Make The Choice
Friday: Laurie will bring it all back home with a recap of our week

Let’s Pray:

Lord, so many times we view our scars and afflictions as bad things in our lives.  Help us to see these as tools used by Your Hand to change and transform us into the daughters You want us to be.  You desire only the best for us.  You gave Your very best to us in Your Son, Jesus.  Show us the defects within that keep us from freedom and peace.  Allow us to humbly bow to You wisdom and correction in this process.  Amen.

 

Power Verses for Chapter 5:

Psalm 37:5

Matthew 5:6

Romans 12:1, 2

Philippians 1:6

James 4:10

1 Peter 1:13, 14

1 John 1:9

2 Thessalonians 3:3

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If you are interested in joining us for the amazing online Bible study, and would like to join our private Facebook Discussion Group, click HERE to sign up.  Once we receive your registration, we will email you further details.

If you would like to send Amy a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Amy@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 4 – The Housecleaning Choice

I do not like you Chapter 4.
I do not wish to read you anymore.

No taking notes, or digging deep
My hurts and pains I wish to keep.

Keep hidden, that is and never known.
Just the thought of them makes me groan!

I do not like this anymore,
Maybe if I stop reading, my head won’t be so sore.

Ah but I know this is not to be.
Moving forward is what He asks of me.

 

Ok, so I am not a poet. Please forgive me! LOL

Sitting down to write the introduction for chapter 4, I was hit by many thoughts and reasons why I wasn’t going to write about it. Quite honestly, the mere thought of what’s ahead for us brings up anxiety and a strong desire to flee as if my hair were on fire. I’ve argued with myself all morning … do I really have to write about this? What if I let it slide for one day? Who will really miss THIS lesson?

The Housekeeping Choice: Coming Clean. Just the title is enough to make me squirm! How about you?

This week we will look at Choice 4: Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust.

Ugh … really? Haven’t I already done enough to address my hurts, habits & hang-ups? You really expect me to go THERE? I’m supposed to think about the father who walked out on my mom & me when I was 4, only to return via phone call 6 years later. Hmm, not much fun there. I’m supposed to think about the ex-husband who caused more hurt & pain to me & his family and how it affected me. Uh, yeah, that’s another good one. Oh wait, I’m supposed to look at myself and how I had an affair during my first marriage. It just gets better and better, doesn’t it?

But wait! Matthew 5:8 NLT tells us “God blesses those whose hearts are pure.” What comes to mind when you hear “pure heart”? I like the way The Message puts it GCH_Matt5_8

On page 102, Baker writes “If we are ever to recover from the hurts, hang-ups, and habits in our lives and know the joy of a pure heart, we’ll have to learn how to let go of our guilt and shame, and how to gain a clear conscience.” Are you ready to put your heart & mind right so that you can see God in the outside world?

So no matter how much I don’t want to do chapter 4 (did you expect a study leader to ever say something like that?), I see this chapter as being a critical part of our recovery. Before I can fully understand my behavior patterns and triggers of today, I need to understand some about my yesterdays. I need to forgive myself for the choices I’ve made, just as I need to forgive those who brought me pain.

Psalm 32:12 The Message:

Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be— you get a fresh start, your slate’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky— God holds nothing against you and you’re holding nothing back from him.

 

And, the same passage from The New Living:
“Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”

Don’t you just love the hope we’re giving in this passage? A clean slate, nothing held against us, complete honesty. Oh, how I want this for my life … and yours!

We’ll see this week what guilt does to us, and how to move past it. There’s so much packed in to this chapter, I’m thinking maybe we should have given two weeks to it! Baker tells us (page 105), “Choice 4 is the one that brings our painful past out in the open so we can deal with it, be cleansed of it, and then move on to health and happiness.” It is this hope that gives me the strength to face chapter 4. Hope in the health & happiness that I’ll find on the other side.

So as you all prepare for the coming week, please know that any apprehensions and fears you may have are shared. We’re getting in to the meat of the process, and it’s not all going to be pretty. But in the midst of the muck, just remember the glory & hope that awaits us all.

1 Peter 5:10 NCV: “And after you suffer for a short time, God, who gives all grace, will make everything right. He will make you strong and support you and keep you from falling. He called you to share in his glory in Christ, a glory that will continue forever. “

Let’s go, my friends, side by side we’ll travel through chapter 4. Spring cleaning will start early this year, but what joys await when we’re finished!

Reading Assignment for Week 4:

Chapter 4: “The Housecleaning Choice”
Monday: Laurie will discuss Principle 4: The Housecleaning Choice
Tuesday: Leslie will discuss Moving Past (Part 1 – steps 1, 2 & 3)
Wednesday: Kim will discuss Moving Past (Part 1 – steps 4 & 5)
Thursday: Amy will discuss Make The Choice & Moral Inventory
Friday: Laurie will bring it all back home with a recap of our week

Let’s Pray:
Lord, I admit that the information from chapter 4 brings apprehension and an element of self-protection & pride. I feel myself becoming anxious and defensive at the mere thought of going through this process. But I know You love me and want only the best for my life. I trust in Your word that You will make me strong, support me, and keep me from falling. This is a promise given to all who know You and call You, Lord. Bless the hearts of the ladies in this study. Keep them focused on the tasks ahead. Do not allow them to be discouraged but to always hold firm to You. Amen.

Power Verses for Chapter 3:
Matthew 5:8
Psalm 32:1-2
Lamentations 3:40
1 Peter 5:10

 

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If you are interested in joining us for this amazing Online Bible Study, click HERE to sign up.  Once we receive your registration, we will email you further details.

If you would like to send a private email to Amy in regards to this blog, please email her at:

Amy@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Chapter 3 — Make the Choice

MAKE THE CHOICE

Choice 3: Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control.

Over the past two weeks we’ve been reading and sharing a lot about the issue of control.  It seems to be a common thread in our lives – control the world around us in our way and hope it all works out as we planned.  But as we’ve seen we don’t have the power to control our lives, despite what we may think.  It is only through surrendering to His control that we truly find life.

As I went back through my book for today’s blog, I was struck again by John Baker’s personal story on page 81.  I  felt as if I was reading my own story.  I was saved at 14, and did all that I thought I was supposed to do – Sunday School, youth groups, retreats, even Christian college.  But something was still missing.  In my youth, I surrendered all I thought I should surrender, but it wasn’t truly ALL of my life.  From college I made wrong choices with relationships, hurt people closest to me, and kept running from the one person who could truly set me free from my fears and worries.  God.  And, just like John Baker, no matter how bad my choices were, God was still waiting for me with outstretched arms.  I can think back to times He was trying to get my attention and pull me back, but I brushed it off and kept going “my way.”

When I ended an engagement at a young age, I heard God questioning my decision.  But He just didn’t understand.  When my husband said we were moving out of state, against my wishes, I heard God telling me to speak up.  But He just didn’t understand.  When I battled infertility, I cried out to God begging to know what I did wrong to deserve this trial.  I didn’t hear Him respond.  When I was starting an affair, God was calling me out.  But He just didn’t understand.  When my marriage fell apart and I was moving the next guy in, God tried to get my attention again.  But He just didn’t understand.  Do you see a pattern here?  Me, a little speck on this earth, telling the God of the Universe that He doesn’t understand!  Wow, talk about pride!

On May 11, 2001 the world came crashing down around me in ways that no one could have ever seen coming.  People I thought were friends left me.  Family no longer supported me because it was too difficult a reminder of what my ex had become.  There was no greater example in my life of how little control I really have over anything than at this time of my life.  But, I also heard God very clearly that night, “Do I have your attention THIS time?”  He wasn’t judging me, or giving me any “I told you so” type lectures.  He greeted me with open arms and the patient love only the Father can give.

God reminded me that He had been with me all the way, through every poor decision, every time I pushed Him aside because He didn’t understand my plans and way of doing life.  He also reminded me of one precious gift He had given to me, a little ray of sunshine I called my daughter.  She was the inspiration I needed to get out of bed and keep moving until I could think clearly during these rough days.  She had no one but me, so I had to keep going.  I realized that while He didn’t bring the chaos and pain to my life, He allowed it to happen for my good.    We are reminded of this in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (NLT)

Two years later, I heard a song on the radio that brought instant tears to my eyes … another God-message for me.  Martina McBride released a song called “In My Daughter’s Eyes” and sings, “She was sent to rescue me”.  (http://youtu.be/eLS0Y40WwlA)   I truly believe that God sent my daughter to rescue me, and to return me to His fold.  You see, by medical standards she should not be here.  Doctors cannot explain how I was able to get pregnant and managed to carry a child to term with the health issues I experienced.  Seven years of infertility and suddenly, this miracle.  The last time my doctor said this to me was after my hysterectomy in 2010.  We were discussing the pathology report and his surgical findings, and he said, “I just don’t know how your daughter is here.”  I just smiled and said, “That’s because you didn’t create her.”  I knew she was fully and entirely God’s plan for my life.   But through her life, God gave me the wake-up call I needed to throw up my hands in surrender, and return to His open arms.

PRAY –

This week, we focused on committing ALL of our lives to Christ, not just the areas we think He should have, but ALL areas.  As I read Chapter 3, I was reminded of a song from my early church days, “I Surrender All.”  This clip is one of my favorite versions by Jaden Lavik.

http://youtu.be/uaTXNxUXcn4

Now is the time to ask Christ in to your heart if you have not already done so.  Admit you are powerless without Him, acknowledge His death on the cross for your sins, and the power of His resurrection for your eternal salvation.  Are you ready to make this decision for Christ?

If you are part of this study and do know Christ, use this time to rededicate your whole life to Him, asking Him to take full care and control over the areas of your life you’ve previously guarded.  As the song says, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give.”  He won’t bully His way in and take over.  It’s a choice you must make to freely turn over your life.

WRITE –

1 Corinthians 5:17 tells us “this means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

What does this verse mean to you?

Go back to your notes from Chapter 1, how do you feel today compared to when you first made those notes?

What are you having a difficult time surrendering to God?

What are some things you will ask God to do in your “new life”?

 

SHARE –

 If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Making a decision to commit your life to Christ is the most important decision you will make in your life.  Yes, more important than your choice of spouse, career, or home.  This decision remains with you for eternity, and what an awesome promise that is for us!

Take time this week to let others know about the reason for the changes in your life.  Share with them about the freedom, joy and hope you are learning to experience.  Encourage them to surrender to His care and control and allow Him to change their lives, too.

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Power Verses:

Ephesians 1:13 NIV

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.

Acts 16:31 NLT

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.

2 Timothy 3:16 NLT

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

 Phil 4:13 CEV

Christ gives me the strength to face anything.

 

Lord, what a precious gift You have offered to each of us!  You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord our God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.  We admit that our choices haven’t followed Your plans for us, but we seek to follow You more closely.  We surrender our lives to You, placing ourselves fully in Your care and control.  We know that You desire the best for us, and we need to learn to trust this truth on a daily basis.  Thank You for Your awesome gift and the blessings You have given to each of us.  Amen.

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If you would like to send a private email to Amy in regards to this blog, please email her at:

Amy@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Week 3 “The Commitment Choice” – What’s Holding You Back?

I have a question for you this morning: What is holding you back from surrendering your problems and your life to the care of God?

Today we are going to talk about five things that keep us from making this choice: Pride, Fear, Guilt, Worry, and Doubt.  

This has been, and to this day still is, a battle for me in a few areas in my life. I found it painfully hard to fully acknowledge to myself those painful feelings of guilt that I tried to push down deep inside that would continue to pop up and hurt. Satan loves to try and ruin our day by bringing up past scars. He loves to see us reliving that pain and being pushed bit by bit away from God. His desire is that the pain will always be there and we will not ever be able to heal.

Everyone has feelings of pride, fear, guilt, worry, and doubt from time to time. But God wants us to stop, let go, and give Him these feelings and hurts that cause destruction in our lives and to those we love. He simply wants to take care of our hurts; all we have to do is hand them over to Him today. For many, this is not easy. In fact, this was so very hard for me to do. I would like to share a situation in which I had a very hard time giving up control and putting my love and trust in God.

Due to the lack of male figures as a child growing up, I had trust issues and I yearned for male attention. I had my heart broken many times as a young child and I truly felt very sorry for myself and very angry toward men, but on the other hand, I wanted their love so badly. When I was 14 years old, I was raped by my boyfriend. He pressured me to be with him because he “loved” me. Although I wanted that love so bad, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to give myself to him.  At the last minute, I decided not to go through with it, but he chose to continue…without my consent.  Afterwards, he threatened that if I ever told anyone what he did, or tried to break up with him, he would let everyone know what I had done with him; that I was no longer innocent and pure.

As time went on, anger, hurt, love, and trust turned into major resentment toward every man I came in contact with. I was not about to trust a man with my heart. I would be the one in control, and I would not have to fear rejection. I started using my body as a way to control that overwhelming need for love. I used sex lying to myself calling it “love.” I would now become the rejecter. Although, reality was that sex became disgusting to me because it was filth and not love that I always yearned for. That was when I decided I would be the one who would cause one to feel sad, hurt, and unloved. I wanted men to “want” me, because this is what I thought love was. I learned great ways to manipulate them with my eyes, the way I moved my body, the way I did things to cause them to feel jealousy so they would stay with me. This was (in my mind) justifiable behavior. I had been treated that way, so why shouldn’t I treat men that way. Isn’t that how love works?

After this, I turned very selfish and could not offer real intimacy and pure love to anyone, even with my devoted husband who truly loved me. I just never believed that love was real. I had never received it in any other male relationships before, so I thought how would my marriage be any different. That boyfriend I had, said he loved me, but look how that turned out. I believe this is my reason for having a hard time putting my trust, not only in my husband, but mostly with the Lord. How on earth could my Heavenly Father really love me that way?

Finally I woke up and decided to quit playing the victim. I chose to give this hurt to the Lord along with the control, pride, guilt, fear, worry, and doubt. In the beginning, I did not think He could change me, but God did. He was going to set me free!

“I have swept away your sins like a cloud.  I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.  Oh return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”  — Isaiah 44:22

Today, love is changing between me and my husband. I am “learning to trust” him and even more, trusting God in all things. God is calling out to all of us “This is the Lord, trust me, let go, and I will catch you.” (Baker)

How about you? Are you willing to lay down your pride and surrender? Are you ready to stop being tormented by your hurts that have controlled you for so long? Are you having doubts right now even though you want to believe? Ask God right now to help you with your unbelief. As John Baker says, “Jesus said, that’s good enough.” All you need is faith as small as a mustard seed. If you put that faith in our Big God then you will get results. (Baker)

Jesus replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

So what are you waiting for? Let go and give Christ control! He wants a loving relationship with you more than anything!

 

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Let’s Pray:

Lord, Thank You for Your love for us. You tell us, Lord, to come to You with all things and You will give us rest. Lord, we want to do this and surrender our problems and care over to You; but it’s not easy. The pride, guilt, fear, worry, and doubt get in the way. Lord, we ask You to help us right now to let go and surrender our problems and lives to the care and control of You. Lord,we need help. We need You in our lives. All this we pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Your Assignment: 

Write down and explain which of these things God is showing to you about yourself such as: pride, guilt, fear, worry, and doubt that is holding you back from making a decision to surrender and give Christ control of your life. Remember, comments made here are public. You do have the option of signing in anonymously.

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If you are interested in joining us for the amazing online Bible study, and would like to join our private Facebook Discussion Group, click HERE to sign up. Once we receive your registration, we will email you further details.

If you would like to send Leslie a private email in regards to this blog, please email her at: Leslie@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

Life’s Healing Choices: Week 2 – Plugging In To God’s Power

 

“Believe it or not, things work better when they’re plugged in.”

–John Baker, Life’s Healing Choices

 

A couple of months ago, I had a sink that would not drain—a sink full of yucky smelling water. I flipped the switch up and down on the disposal…and nothing. Being the fixer that I am, I bought three Rubbermaid containers and filled them up with this stinky sink water so that I could wash dishes.

I have a big family.  Four kids and a husband equals many, many dishes and utensils. To add to the inconvenience of this, we live on the 18th floor of a high-rise condominium.  In order to dump these containers took a dolly and manpower. After going to all this trouble, I finally called Maintenance up.  He took one look under my sink and said, “The disposal works better plugged in!” Are you kidding me? It was that simple? Imagine the trouble I could have saved myself if I had just known to plug it in.

It’s like that in our spiritual life, as well. Can you imagine the pain and heartache we could have saved ourselves from, if only we had just stayed plugged in to Him. His power is ours if we just stay connected to Him.  Believing in Him is not enough to get rid of our hurts, habits and hang-ups.

For me it wasn’t enough to keep me from taking that bottle of painkillers or taking that drink or running headfirst into an eating disorder.  I was saved, but I wasn’t satisfied; and salvation without satisfaction is a stronghold just waiting to happen. To be satisfied with God, we must really get to know Him, to read His word, and stay connected to Him. He gives us all we need to live this life that He has given us. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” Again, we have to come to the end of ourselves and allow Him to do the very thing we cannot do alone. Truly that means anything. I love John Baker’s statement about how when we stop trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, that we’ll find Christ will stand us up on our feet!

Now that we believe, we must receive! Believe He is who He says He is, and then cry out to Him for help. Tell Him what He already knows. He just wants to hear you say it. A simple yet extremely difficult four letter word—HELP!!! He will come to your rescue, but you must be ready for change.

Ever heard the saying that God loves you just for you, but too much to leave you that way? It’s so true. Change is hard; change is scary; but change is good when we serve a good God. We must pray for the willingness to change and His answer will always be “Yes, child! Here is the willingness you asked for and the need for my power!  Here’s the plug…just use it.” Philippians 2:13 says, “It is God Who is at work within you, giving you the will and the power to achieve His purpose”. The first choice we talked about was admitting we needed Him.  The second choice—the Hope choice—is getting the help we need. What freedom we will find from our pain! We can breathe again, right?

Remember His promise? Oh how I do love this verse! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2). Whatever you are dealing with today, please know that He wants to take it from you. He is able, and more than willing, to help you change whatever needs changing. His power is readily available to you. You just have to say the words, “Help me, Jesus!  I cannot do this on my own!”


Let’s Pray:

Dear God,  we praise You today for the loving God that You are. Your patience with us and Your love for us is beyond our comprehension and so undeserved. Please help those today who need to lay some things down at Your feet to have the willingness to ask and the power to change. And for those that aren’t quite ready, again I ask for Your loving arms to protect them and keep them safe until they are. Thank You for this freedom from addiction and our own human nature. Keep us connected to You so that we may be Your hands and feet to others. We love You, and thank You for giving us Your Spirit. For it’s in Your Son’s Precious Name I pray, Amen.

Your Assignment:

In what area of your life could you use God’s triple power surge and how? Remember, comments made here are public. You do have the option of signing in anonymously.



If you are interested in joining us for the online Bible study, click HERE.
Once we receive your registration, we will email you further details.

If you would like to send a private message to Kim in regards to this blog, please email her at kim@girlfriendscoffeehour.com

Introducing Laurie Ellis: Victorious Healing Ministry Leader

 

I grew up in a middle class family, the youngest of four children. I had to try to ‘measure up’ to my siblings (2 sisters and 1 brother).  My dad was military so I spent many days trying to meet his expectations. To this day I cannot remember a time I met those expectations. My mom was a stay at home mom due to responsibilities of my brother – who has developmental challenges. She was the peacemaker in our family. We grew up in church; however I did not really know God.  James 2:19 states, ‘ you believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that and shudder.’ You see, I did believe in Him, but had not received Him as my Lord and Savior.

When I was 12- (a very impressionable age for girls), I was very active in sports at school. As I spent more time at school, my PE teacher began paying more attention to me – this was my first encounter attaching to a female.  I remember wanting to be around this teacher, yet knowing it was not right for her to be interested.  So, for the next 6 years, I tried everything to ‘fit in’ with my friends.  If they wanted to go out drinking, I would – if they were hanging around guys – I would. At home though I would keep my grades up – you see I was playing both worlds.

At the age of 19 I became actively involved in the gay lifestyle. It was at this time my family found out of my ‘hidden life.’ My dad told me to leave and I was no longer his daughter – that I had ruined the family name. For the next 3 years we did not speak – avoiding each other every time we saw each other in town. My family searched for help at this time – they joined a Full Gospel Church in town and began talking with me. I knew God was tugging on me, but I was not buying into it completely. I would go to church and feel great, trying to follow what I thought God wanted – then I would go home and would fall.  One night I went to church with my mom and decided I would try this ‘Jesus thing.’ I actually felt good about it, but again it was surface, as I continued living the lifestyle. Six years later, my mom passed away suddenly.

At this time I was sincerely trying to get out of the gay lifestyle. I met a ‘charming’ man at my mom’s funeral – married him 6 weeks later with my family’s blessings. Everyone thought this would ‘fix’ me. My marriage became a battleground – I left after a short time, seeking love I had not received and fell back into a lesbian relationship. What next? I found out I was pregnant.  My son, now 21, is the blessing God had planned for me through this marriage. Things were going well at this time – or so I thought. My ex-husband obtained custody of my son. You would think all of this would make me think – but this just made me more set on doing my ‘own thing.’

My life now became survival of the fittest and I was going to conquer the world. I completed my Masters Degree, got a good job, nice house, friends, and was involved in a long relationship. I had won right? Wrong – I still had no communication with my family, my dad had passed away, I had no relationship with God, lost custody of my son and was alienating myself from my friends due to the shame of the relationships I was in. As if life wasn’t enough, a friend of mine asked if I would adopt her grandson. Sure, why not? How could adding one more thing change anything?

My son is now 11 years old and the 2ndbiggest blessing of my life. It was about this time I started going to church – for my boys. Every Sunday the message was for me – ever been there? The more I went to church, the more miserable my life became at home – ever been there? At that time, I began going to a cell group at church – we were studying John Baker’s Life’s Healing Choices.

During my times of reading, God took me to Romans 1:26-28, ‘God gave the women over to shameful lusts. They exchanged the natural for the unnatural.’ Vs. 28 states furthermore ‘since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a debased mind.’  Then Luke 11:23 – He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.  Romans 2:8-9 to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish on every soul… God was telling me I could no longer ride the fence. I had to trust Him with ALL my heart. I knew at that moment I could no longer live the gay lifestyle.

I continued studying His word. The more committed I became – He started taking me to many passages on His love and grace. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 speaks first of those who are unrighteous not inheriting the kingdom of God. But the grace comes in vs. 11 “and such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” Psalm 103:11-13 states “for as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Then, Romans 5:8 says “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

How awesome is our God that even when we were causing His heart to hurt, He sent His only son to die for us? I stand amazed daily at how He has transformed my life from confusion to peace – from sin to salvation – from knowing of God to truly knowing God. Exactly two weeks after total surrender to God, I received a call from my doctor. I was diagnosed with stage 3 cervical and uterine cancer and needed immediate surgery.  Prior to surgery, my doctor informed me I would need to follow up with chemo and radiation.  I came through the surgery well and received another call from my surgeon two weeks later – all tests came back negative.  I would not need follow-up chemo or radiation – God had healed my cancer. Praise God!!

Two years ago, after moving myself away from the environment and friends of my ‘old self’ – I came upon Celebrate Recovery. This is a Christian 12 step program based on the 8 Beatitudes and Jesus’ most famous sermon – Sermon on the Mount. Through these 12 steps and God’s grace, He has taken me full circle and placed me exactly where I needed to receive full Victory from the gay lifestyle.  Initially I felt heavy doses of shame and guilt. Immediately God took me to Isaiah 61:7 – Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion.” Through Celebrate Recovery and ‘pressing on’ I have discovered I have no shame because of the grace of God, He has turned that into joy through my total surrender to Him.  I became involved in an ex-gay ministry and also lead women’s groups through Celebrate Recovery (doesn’t God have a sense of humor?).

God has taken me on an amazing journey. He is giving me freedom that can only come through His grace. When I now talk with people about coming out of homosexuality, the responses vary “I didn’t know you could get out of that,” or “Weren’t you born that way?” My response is always with God ALL things are possible. Do I still have trials or temptations, yes – Jesus said we would.  But John 16:33 “in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

You see, my identity is not in my past. My identity is now I am loved, valuable, precious, talented, gifted, capable, powerful, wise, redeemed and a child of the most High God. How do I know that? My Father, the Father of all creation told me so. Many people go around looking for miracles – take a look around, we are each a miracle.

God has taken me in my most sinful nature and by grace transformed me into a child of God.

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LaurieEllis

Laurie Ellis was raised in Southern Illinois. She is the youngest of four children.

Currently, she is a single mom of two sons, Elijah (21) and Dalton (11). They are the joys of her life. Along with her boys, her brother Roger lives with them.

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Following her divorce, she returned to college, obtaining her Bachelors in Social Work (1998) and then her Masters in Healthcare Administration in 2005.  She has spent over 25 years working in the healthcare field with youth, developmentally disabled and most recently in the geriatric population.
For the past two years, Laurie has spent time in Celebrate Recovery on the ministry T.E.A.M and Exchange (an ex-gay ministry) – leading several women’s groups.  She is grateful to be used by God to minister to women searching for recovery from various issues.

 

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If you are interested in learning more about this ministry, please email Laurie@GirlfriendsCoffeeHour.com.