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.

Why Some People Become More Self-Absorbed After A Mid-Life Crisis

You can almost mark the date because everything changed.  The person you thought you knew became entirely different and not for the better.  It is almost cliché that with a mid-life crisis comes the impractical sports car, the extramarital affair, late nights at bars, new friends who are twenty years younger, hipper clothes or a dramatic career change.  While you never thought it would happen to you or your spouse, you find yourself in exactly that place.  How did you ever get here?

Erik Erikson defines his seventh psychosocial stage as Generativity vs. Stagnation which occurs in the late thirties until the mid-sixties.  This time period in an adult life encompasses the mid-life crisis years which can begin and end anytime in between.  So what is a mid-life crisis?  It is when an adult evaluates where they are in life compared to the dreams and goals they once had for themselves, to the status of others they desire to be more like, and to their potential to leave their mark on the world around them.

The Psychology.  If you see how your contribution to your home, work, church or community adds value to the lives around you, then you will develop generativity.  Generativity is expressed in concern for guiding the next generation, in a desire to leave a positive mark on the world around you, in making a difference in the life of another, in creatively using your gifts and talents for the benefit of others, and in feeling successful regardless of financial status.  If you don’t see how your contribution adds value, then you become stagnate or stuck.

Mid-Life Crisis and Generativity.  Not all mid-life crisis’ need to end in disaster, some are actually for the better and can motivate you to live up to your full potential.  For instance perhaps you are in a profession for which you “fell into” mostly by accident but find yourself dreaming about another profession.  This may just be the time to go back to school and get the degree you have always wanted to be able to work in a profession you are truly gifted to do.  By now as opposed to twenty years ago, you have a better understanding of your capabilities, talents, gifts and purpose in life along with responsibilities, time constraints, and natural limitations.  This combination enables you to be more focused on reasonable goals that are not selfish in nature but add value to the lives around you instead of unrealistic dreams which are totally self-directed.

Mid-Life Crisis and Stagnation.  On the flip side of a mid-life crisis is the potential to become even more self-involved and to alienate others around you.  This mid-life crisis is very different from the one mentioned above however it begins the exact same way.  An evaluation of your life leads to an even greater desire to satisfy all the needs, wants, and desires that you have been putting off.  To justify the behavior, you may find yourself saying, “I deserve it” or “I have given so much to others, it’s time to give to myself”, or “I’m tired of sacrificing for others”.  This is a heart issue more than anything because if you really give out of a desire to show love to someone else, then no strings would be attached including any anticipation of thanks, appreciation, or returning the favor.  In essence, you would expect nothing in return.  If however you give out of a desire for some type of reward be it verbal (a thank-you), physical (touch, hug or sex), emotional (happy feelings or feelings of obligation), or mental (think nice things about you or need to return the favor), then the gift is selfish and manipulative.  This is the seed from which a negative mid-life crisis grows.

The Cure.  Since at the base of a mid-life crisis is the condition of your heart, there is no other cure other than a complete change of heart.  The best and most long-lasting change of a heart is one that is wholly devoted and committed to Jesus Christ.  He turned a murderer of Christians (Saul) into one of the greatest evangelists who ever lived (Paul who wrote thirteen books in the Bible).  He turned a common fisherman (Peter who wrote two books in the Bible) into the rock of the Christian church.  And He turned his half-brother (James who wrote one book in the Bible) who was not a believer until after Jesus’ resurrection into the leader of the Jerusalem church.

All of these changes have one thing in common; they were all adults who were set in their way of life who through a change of heart with an encounter with Jesus completely changed the direction of their lives.  Their lives then became a symbol of service to thousands of people during while alive and millions of people after their death.  Talk about generativity!

Watch this video for more information. 

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.

Two Becoming One in Marriage

There are many definitions of marriage today with different states and churches adding their own definitions to the mix.  You, like I, are each free to follow our own definition of marriage within the laws of our state.  But as for me, I choose to follow the Biblical model of marriage which is a man and a woman united together in a covenant from God (Genesis 2:24).  This unity is the beginning of a family unit to which children may be added in the future but it is also a departure from your family of origin.  It is in its’ very nature a formation of a new relationship, a new bond, and a new unit.  To better understand a Biblical marriage, some ground work needs to be laid.

In His Image.  Ever wonder why God created man and woman in His image (Genesis 1:27)?  Could it be that He created man and woman in His image because we are to model Him here on earth?  Several times Jesus tells us that we are “a light” to the world (Matthew 5:14).  Our light does not come from us, rather it comes from reflecting God’s light which is never extinguished.  We were created in His image to reflect His light.  Why you ask?  So that even in our relationships, in our most important relationship such as marriage, His image and His light can be seen.

Intentionally Created.  Looking back over Genesis 2, we see that man was created out of dust and woman was created out of the rib of man.  Men and woman are literally created differently.  God could have created them the same way but He did not.  This is not just a physical difference, but a difference in purpose and design as well.  Why you ask?  Each of us has a different role in life.  When we look at the trinity of God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each part of the trinity has a different role to play.  One of the many roles is the Father as the Creator, the Son Jesus as the sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit as a guide.  You do not see the Holy Spirit called the sacrifice because the Holy Spirit knows the role it plays in the trinity.  A husband and a wife are intentionally created with different roles yet they are part of one unit.

Separation from family.  In order for two to truly be united as one, they need to leave behind their family of origin.  Just as there are no additional roles in the trinity, there are no additional roles in the new family unit.  The new family unit consists of a husband and a wife (Genesis 2:24).  Leaving parents can be a difficult task but it is an essential element for the formation of a new bond.  Why you ask?  As long as a parent is there to cling to in times of need, a spouse will never learn to cling to one another and the bond will not be properly formed.

Two into one.  This is a great mystery which is difficult to understand until you experience it.  Once we accept that our purpose in life is to reflect God’s image, that we are intentionally created for a reason, that we are to leave our family of origin, then we can begin the process of becoming one with one another.  Why you ask?  The new bond properly reflects the relationship between God the Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to one another.  When the marriage unit adds children, it is a perfect reflection of the trinity.

The bond of two becoming one is tightly woven and is not easily broken if formed correctly.  Many of the marriage problems are centered on an improper unity of a marriage and often going back to the basics of what a marriage is can elevate some of the most difficult challenges.

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.

Did You Keep Your Last Year’s New Year’s Resolution?

I did.  Not to brag, but I can truly say that not only did I keep it but it has benefited me beyond my expectations.  My last year’s resolution was daily so it involved me being active in remembering it which in turn produced daily benefits to not only my life but the lives around me.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I will be doing it again this year however with slight differences to keep it fresh and new.  What was it you ask?  It was to read the Bible, both the New and Old Testament, cover to cover in chronological order.

This is not the first time I have had this resolution, however, it was the first time that I read the Bible in chronological order which is enormously helpful to those of us who think in terms of storylines.  Many years ago, I was impressed not by a Pastor, sadly enough, but by Oprah to read the Bible cover to cover.  Her valid point was that as a Christian I should know for myself what the Bible says and be able to speak with confidence about my understanding not because someone else told me about it but because I had studied it for myself.  After all, is this not what higher education is all about?  We major in a field of study and read volumes of books coupled with lectures from those more knowledgeable than ourselves.  Yet the very book that defines Christianity and embodies the whole nature of Jesus Christ, many have never read to completion.

How sad.  I equate it to marrying only part of a person and not the whole person.  Wedding vows often include the lines, “for richer and poorer, in sickness and in health” but what if the vow only said “for richer and in health” and left out the other parts?  How is that commitment?  Anyone can be committed to the good in a marriage but it takes a person of character and conviction to be married during the “poorer and sickness”.  The same is true for studying the Bible, if we only read the parts that are easy, fun, satisfying for the moment, or applicable to our lives right now, then we miss part of who Christ is.

So, many years ago, I read the Bible cover to cover for the first time and it has rewarded me beyond my initial expectation and now I continue to read and reread it while gaining deeper understanding and wisdom well beyond my natural abilities and talents.  There are many websites to assist you with this endeavor, you can even download an APP for free “YouVersion” Bible which has many reading plans to select from.  Or here is a favorite website:  http://www.ewordtoday.com/year/.

However you choose to read the Bible, just read it.  Come with an open heart and mind to what God is saying in His word about Himself and about your life and you will be blessed.  Embrace the whole nature of Christ through the reading of His word and your relationship with Him will deepen to levels beyond your understanding.  Just as the difficult moments in your marriage fostered a deeper commitment and understanding of your spouse, so reading the difficult parts of the Bible will strengthen your faith and love of Jesus.

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.