Love your enemies quote

I love this quote from Martin Luther King Jr about loving your enemies. Take a moment to reflect on the meaning and where you can apply this to your life today.

“I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.”

Still another quote…

“Let us move now from the practical how to the theoretical why: Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence and toughness multiples toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.”

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

We Wish You a “Mary” Christmas

It’s that time of the year again when the list of things to be done grows by the minute, plans are changed again and again until the last-minute, and stress over finances, family, and friends is at an all time high.  There is too much to do, too much to see, too many places to be, and far too many expectations to be met.  The demands of work, family, friends, and even church push us to a panic frenzy to meet and exceed those demands but at what expense?

When did this season, the season of joy, the season of celebration, the season of giving and the season of bonding become the season of anxiety over unmet expectations and financial pressure, the season of depression over the loss of loved ones, and the season of trampling over others to make a purchase?  “Merry Christmas” is not so merry anymore.  Rather than trying to put the “Merry” back into Christmas, I would propose a different type of “Mary”.  Jesus refers to Mary in Luke 10:38-42 when he informs Martha that she is worried and upset over the details of preparing a meal while her sister Mary sits a listens to Him talk.  She has chosen the better path, one of quiet listening instead of hurrying around.

 Has anyone seen my calendar?  Take a moment to glance over your calendar right now and see just how full it is with events, parties, and special gatherings.  If it is like mine, it is frightening and double booked for several nights and events.  With all of this running around there is not much time to sit and reflect on the true purpose of Christmas and even less time devoted to spending with just your immediate family.  But you can choose the Mary way instead of the Martha way by adjusting your calendar to spend more time with the most important people in your life.

Can you ever have enough Christmas decorations?  Yes Christmas decorations are fun and do help to put you in the mood for Christmas but when you find yourself angry at your spouse for not helping with the outside lights, frustrated at the kids for breaking a favorite ornament, or annoyed at the cat for destroying the bottom of yet another tree, they are adding to your stress level.  Decorations are meant to be fun but if they are not, then don’t add them.  Martha would be decorating and redecorating, Mary would not.

Of course we are doing another family picture with Santa!  Family pictures are frequently exchanged this time of year and they are always full of smiles and happy faces but life is rarely full of smiles and happy faces.  In fact, I have yet to know of a family who does not go through some struggle in any given year yet we pretend that everything is fine.  This is most hurtful to those who have lost a loved one in the last year and are still struggling with grief.  Martha tried to live up to everyone else’s expectations by preparing a great meal, but Mary chose to focus on the one person that mattered most, Jesus.

This year, take some time to evaluate your traditions and expectations.  Read the section in Luke about Mary and Martha and ask yourself, are you more like Mary or Martha?  Then make the better choice.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Waiting on God’s Timing

You have believed, you have prayed, you have gotten wise counsel, you have checked that your prayer is consistent with Scripture and you have peace about the final outcome, yet nothing is happening.  There are no small or large changes, everything seems to be still (almost to a stop) and then you wonder is this really the right thing?  Is this thing that you have been praying for really going to happen or is it just another prayer on the long list of prayers that did not get answered or worse got answered in a manner opposite from how you prayed.

So to distract yourself from the agonizing question, you become immersed in a project, in work, in church, or in a relationship.  While the distraction works for a while, the underlying question looms and pops up in weird places like while driving, taking a shower, or sleeping.  So you pray again but still no answer.  You remind yourself of all of the blessings God has given you and give thanks but still no answer.  You pray for others and take care of those He has entrusted into your care but still no answer.   You go to the altar and pour your heart out to God for an answer but still no answer.  You read Scripture and fast but still no answer.  So now what?

He leads you beside still waters.  Sometimes the reason for the wait to a prayer is because whatever is about to happen will require all of your strength, so by not having an answer right away, your strength is being stored up for whatever is to come.  A common mistake is thinking that having an answer right away reduces your stress, but what if it really will not, what if this time of stillness is really God’s way of preparing you for an even greater stress.  Psalms 23:2 says that He directs our paths to stillness; your objective is to recognize the stillness and be thankful for it instead of wishing it away.

Be still and know that He is God.  Psalms 46:10 is a good reminder of the importance of remaining still and recognizing that His is God and He will be honored everywhere.  During your period of stillness, spend time just worshiping His awesomeness, remember this maybe God’s way of restoring your strength.  But if you spend this time worrying instead of worshiping, your strength will not be as great and may in fact be lessened.  Trust that His timing is perfect and enjoy being still.

Be still and wait patiently for Him to act.  Have you ever prayed for patience?  Have you ever wanted to be a more patience person?  Well, patience comes with practice.  How many times have you wanted others to demonstrate patience with you or asked others to have patience?  Here is your big chance to model patience for those around you or more importantly to model patience for yourself.  If you are not willing to model patience, how can you ask others to do the same?  Be still and wait patiently Psalms 37:7 commands.

In the meantime, keep believing, keep praying, keep seeking counsel, and keep studying the Scripture and God’s peace will be with you even during periods of stillness.  Come to love the stillness instead of the hectic, the quiet instead of the noisy and the peace instead of fighting and you will be blessed.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Out of Troubles Comes Wisdom in Trusting God

He was only eight days old when he stopped breathing.  All at the same time, it was the beginning of the day and yet it was the end of the day because in one moment, everything changed.  He received a clean bill of health during those eight days from three separate doctors yet I knew there was something wrong.  When he fell limp in my arms, his face had turned completely blue and all signs of life had vanished.  So many emotions converged all at once:  fear that he was dead, desperation that he and I needed help, scared that I had done something wrong, and relief in knowing that my instincts were in fact right.  My first response was to cry for help to which my husband immediately responded but weirdly enough all of the phones in our house were dead so he ran next door to get help.  In the meantime, while I stared at my breathless first-born child only three words came to mind, “God help me”.

In a split second I heard a voice that I can only explain as God’s in my head telling me exactly what to do.  I had never performed CPR nor seen it done nor knew there was a difference between adult CPR and infant CPR; yet I performed it perfectly with the help of God.  The voice was clear, firm, encouraging, and like a good teacher, guided me step by step gently warning me of dangers such as puncturing a lung or fracturing a rib, concepts that I had not even imagined possible.  By the time my husband returned with our neighbor after calling for an ambulance, the color on our son’s face returned and he was breathing again.  Two hospitals and a week later after a battery of tests, tubes, doctors, nurses, diagnosis, and advice, our son was released stronger than ever.

It was a miracle even by several doctor’s admission that he lived.  God had performed the miracle of giving us our son not just once but twice.  Out of that troubling moment, wisdom about God emerged.  Psalms 40:3 states, “He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”  He is trustworthy, He is in charge of life and death, and He does answer prayers during the greatest need.  Admittedly there have been times in my life when I have wondered if God was listening but then the memory of our son emerges and I am reminded all over again that even if that was the only prayer God answered, it is enough.

Trusting in God is about remembering all of the times in the past that He did answer your prayers.  It is not about putting blind faith in someone who has not demonstrated a presence; rather it is about remembering your past, remembering the Scriptures, and remembering the stories of others who have experienced His faithfulness.  If God had wanted us to have blind faith, He would not have given us countless stories in the Bible of His faithfulness.  Those stories are testimonies of real people who experienced God’s amazing unfailing love in a time of great need.  Search your life for evidence of God’s faithfulness and write it down.  Then keep it in your heart and teach it to your children so they will be blessed as you have been blessed.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Out of Troubles Comes Wisdom in Handling Money

Bankruptcy Filings...

Bankruptcy Filings… (Photo credit: MyEyeSees)

He was the responsible one, the one everyone depended on because they knew he would come through.  He was determined, focused, ambitious, reliable, detail-oriented and motivated yet here he sits having to make one of the hardest decisions in his life, one that would forever tarnish his reputation.  It is the decision to file for bankruptcy.  There is a part of him that intellectually knows it must be done as the numbers don’t allow for any other alternative yet there is another part of him that is not willing to admit failure.  And that is exactly how he sees it, as failure and a blemish to his name which will never be forgotten.

No amount of mutual bankruptcy filers including various famous or successful people seem to calm his anxiety or set him further at ease.  No amount of verbal encouragement from a variety of friends and family seem to lift his spirits.  And no amount of logical detailed analysis seems to ease the perfectionist standard that will be forever lost when the paperwork is complete.  There is virtually nothing that can be said or done to reduce the intense emotions of the moment; depression, discouragement, and disheartenment have made a home where the bankruptcy left a wound.

This is precisely why God allowed the Israelites the ability to be free from their debts every seven years because He knew the burden of debt unable to be repaid.  In Deuteronomy 15:1, it states, “At the end of every seventh year you must cancel the debts of everyone who owes you money.”  He explains the reason for the cancellation of debt as a desire not to have any of the Israelites classified as poor.  And having excessive debt does result in a poor economic class of people within Israel.  He further states that if the debt is forgiven, the person forgiving the debt will receive a blessing as a result.  The same lesson is then applied to slaves, asking the Hebrew people to release their slaves every six years as a reminder of God freeing the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians.

Debt binds you to the debtor.  If the debtor decides to call the loan, which they can, and you are unable to pay the consequences could be devastating.  Habakkuk 2:7 states, “Suddenly, your debtors will take action.  They will turn on you and take all you have, while you stand trembling and helpless.”  This fear lives deep in the heart of everyone who takes on debt whether or not they acknowledge it is an entirely different story.  This is why God does not want His people to be bound to debt.  He has given us freedom from sin through Jesus Christ and wants us to remain in His freedom, not intentionally binding ourselves up to a new master even if it is the “American dream”.  The wisdom that comes from bankruptcy is the wisdom of the true meaning of freedom.  Once you have tasted it, you are not likely to be satisfied with anything else.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Out of Troubles Comes Wisdom through Moving Yet Again

Heaven

Heaven (Photo credit: adyyflickr)

Yet another box to unpack and more stuff to decide where it belongs.  The never-ending stream of things both necessary and unnecessary seems to procreate overnight and grow into this insurmountable pile of stuff.  Moving is physically exhausting as things never seem to land where they belong and more things are misplaced or displaced then organized.  No matter the house size whether bigger or smaller than before, nothing seems to work out just as planned.  Then of course there is the list of things that need to be done such as checking on the AC unit before the heat of the summer sets in or the heater before the cold becomes unbearable.  It really does not matter if the place you are moving into is old or new (trust me, new things break as easily as old), in good shape or poor shape, or near or far from where you came.  The process is tiring nonetheless and exhaustion quickly turns into an overwhelming feeling of “What have I done?”

But logic prevails and the reasons for the move slowly begin to overshadow the journey itself lifting your spirits ever so slightly.  There is the old picture you found of your kids when they were younger, a copy of a musical program that you and your spouse went to when dating, a box given to you by your deceased grandfather, or a book that has been passed down for several generations.  So many memories come from these things; memories that you had forgotten or rather just had not intentionally remembered until finding a new place for the object forced it to come forward.  Looking back on the moving experience is painful but just like childbirth, something good emerges from the pain.

We are not meant to become attached to stuff in fact the Bible strictly warns against it.  1 John 2:15 begins a warning, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you”.  While a move may highlight the importance of some of your possessions; it should also highlight that the very things you treasure will not leave this world but you eventually will.  The Egyptians held onto a belief for many centuries that a person’s possession can travel with them when they die.  The fact that these things remain here on earth is evidence enough that you can’t take your stuff with you.

This is good news.  For you are made to have a home in Heaven, your home is not here on earth but with God in Heaven.  Just like your recent move, you will one day move on to meet your Creator.  The question is, “What have you done to prepare for that move?”  On this earth, you box valuable things up with such care as to protect them during the move but what have you done to prepare your heart and mind for the last and final move of your life?  It is never too late to make a decision to move in the right direction.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

A Different Look at the Book of James

Writers, who write best, write from their perspective on life.  If you have experienced something traumatic such as the death of a child, been involved in a war or survived a natural disaster and you write about it, then chances are your writing will reflect the deeper and often mixed feelings of the event.  You readers are then more drawn into your writing because you wrote from what you knew.  Equally significant is taking some time to understand the background of an author before you read their work so the intended meaning becomes clearer.

One such author is the James, the writer of the Book of James in the New Testament.  So before you sit down to read this very practical and short Book on Christian living, consider the following information.

  1. James (James 1:1) identifies himself as a slave of both God and Jesus Christ acknowledging both belief and devotion to Jesus.
  2. James along with his other brothers Joseph, Judas and Simon are identified as Jesus half brothers (Mark 6:3 and Gal. 1:19).  Jude (Judas) verifies that his is both the brother of James and the half-brother of Jesus in his Book of Jude (Jude 1:1).
  3. The townspeople of Nazareth further verify the relationship between Jesus and his half brothers when they minimize and question His wisdom and power (Matt. 13:53-57).  Jesus replies that a prophet has no respect in his hometown or family (Matt. 13:57) indicating that his brothers were not yet believers.
  4. James the half-brother of Jesus is not the same person as James the brother of John, sons of Zebedee (Matt. 26:37) who was one of the twelve disciples (Matt. 10:2) , nicknamed by Jesus as “Sons of Thunder”  (Mark 3:17),  and later martyred for his faith (Acts 12:2).  Nor is he the other disciple named James, son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:3) for whom nothing more is recorded.
  5. Jesus knew the Jewish leaders were plotting to kill him so he avoided Judea where His brothers urged him to go (John 7:1-4).  Then John comments that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him and their motive may not have been in Jesus’ best interest anyway (John 7:5-9).
  6. At the cross, Jesus tells John, one of his disciples, to care for his mother Mary and tells Mary that John is now responsible for her (John 19:25-27).  Normally, the responsibility for a widowed mother would rest on the eldest son first and then if he is deceased the second eldest.  Jesus instead departed from this tradition asking John to care for her possibly because his half brothers did not believe yet and would not have empathy for what their mother was experiencing.
  7. Paul recalls that Jesus appeared to James (1 Cor. 15:7) after He was resurrected.  Paul mentions prior that Jesus appeared to the disciples first which would have included the disciple also named James but then lists James’ name later and by itself before mentioning the apostles and finally Paul, himself.  While the details of this encounter are not recorded, given James’ past lack of belief and his later belief and leadership in the Jerusalem church, this moment could have been when he finally believed that Jesus was his Messiah.
  8. After the ascension of Jesus, the apostles when to Jerusalem to an upstairs room and were in prayer along with Mary (mother of Jesus) and Jesus’ brothers (Acts 1:12-14).  At this point, James is not mentioned by name indicating that he had not yet developed any leadership amongst the group.  In fact, his name was not even discussed as a possible disciple replacement for Judas (Acts 1:23) most likely because he had just become a believer.
  9. Paul after becoming a believer, met with Peter first and then James (Gal. 1:18-19) before meeting with the elders of the Jerusalem church (Acts 21:15-18).  This implies that James now had an important role and likely was already the leader of the Jerusalem church.
  10. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church and as such demonstrated authority in directing the church (Acts 15:13-21).  Peter and the others listen to his words and then follow his instruction again signifying the important role James is now playing in the church.
  11. Paul recounts a dispute between him and Peter (Gal. 1:11-12) in which he confronts Peter’s fear of James’ friend’s opinion further indicating James’ prominence in the early church.  Paul goes on to say that James, Peter and John were known as pillars of the early church (Gal. 2:9).
  12. Peter after being rescued by an angel from prison requests at Mary’s (mother of John Mark) house for others to go and tell James of his escape from Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:6-18).
  13. Paul visits with James and the elders of the church when he arrives in Jerusalem giving them a report on his ministry with the Gentiles (Acts 21:17-19).
  14. This is the last mention of James in the New Testament.  The Book of James was one of the first New Testament books written sometime around 49 A.D. just a year before the Jerusalem council occurred (Acts 15:13-21) (see number 10).

So after reading the summary, the bottom line is that James grew up with Jesus but did not believe Jesus was his Savior until after He was resurrected from the dead.  James’ ministry began at the same time as the early church and he eventually became the respected leader of the Jerusalem church.  James wrote the Book of James as a believer but was doing it with the perspective that he had at one time rejected his half-brother Jesus.  Can you imagine the things he said in his youth that he later regretted as a Christian leader?

The Book of James tells a much richer story of how a person can be so physically near to Christ in his youth and yet so far from the reality of who Jesus was.  Greater yet, it tells a story of how a person can go from spiritual death to life though faith strengthened by works in Jesus Christ.  Now, read the Book of James remembering the story of the author and allowing it to speak to you at a deeper and practical level.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.