Start with you…

October 15, 2021

Most people do not wish to be unhappy all of the time, yet there are some who never seem to be happy or content. Perhaps it is not that they are angry or sad, just that they don’t seem to be happy and that unhappiness sometimes manifests itself in their interactions with others – they are just not pleasant people to be around. Maybe you ae one of those people. It usually starts with not loving or being comfortable with yourself.

“Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.” – Lucille Ball

I’ve posted here a few times on this topic, but when I saw that Lucille Ball quote recently it inspired me to write about it again. Insecurity about yourself or perhaps self-loathing puts one into a defensive frame of mind that discourages reaching out to others. There is a downward spital that starts with the belief that nobody likes me and progresses through the thought – I don’t even like me. It is a destructive, self-imposed loneliness which can lead to depression and worse.

The advice that Lucille Ball gave in her quote is a key step to break out of that mental state of self-hate, but there is a precursor to that step – accepting God’s love for you. Take a moment to think about and accept God’s unconditional love for you. It’s a love so strong that he gave his only son to die on the cross to save you. You cannot hide from God’s love. You cannot refuse God’s love. You don’t have to do anything to earn God’s love. You just need to accept it.

Once you accept that God loves you unconditionally, you can move on to the thought that, “If God can love me, I can love myself and who I am.” Then, as Lucille Ball said, “everything else falls into line.”

There is a sign in front of a church in Milford that reads, “Make God Smile, Accept his Forgiveness.” The sign could have said “accept his love” and made the same sense. God’s love for us was shown in his forgiving our sins through Christ on the cross and promising us everlasting life. So maybe the title for this post should have been “Start with God…” and then you can take of you. Everything else will fall in line.

How can any good come of this?

January 8, 2021

You might be tempted to think or even say that in the midst of life’s calamities or misfortunes. Pastor Freed used this quote today to explain how that might work – “The soul is purified by misfortune and sorrow, as gold by fire.”  (Bozena Nemcova)

But, how, you may ask, does misfortune and sorrow work to purify my soul and make me a better person? How is living through what we’ve experienced over the last 10 months work to purify my soul? How can losing a loved one make me a better person? How can any of this adversity work in my favor?

We see or read inspirational quotes from time to time that tell us that adversity tests our character, our will and resolve to move forward. Overcoming adversity is the stock in trade of motivational speakers and athletic coaches; however, those motivational presentations and pep talks tend to focus upon building or strengthening your belief in yourself. I think the purification of the soul that Nemcova was referring to involves strengthening our belief in God and God’s love for us.

How does that work? Think of it this way. Imagine God is standing across the room from you. Imagine that you can see Him clearly and you feel the love for you that radiates from Him. Now imagine that someone places a large balloon between you and God, slightly off your line of sight, so you can still see Him, just not as clearly as before and perhaps you can’t feel the love quite as much.

Now imagine a bunch of balloons of all sizes floating between you and God, filling in your line of sight and blocking your view of God. You know that He is still back there, but you can’t feel the love and you can’t see Him. The balloon of your job, the balloon of your family, the balloon of your possessions are all in the way. Life has gotten in the way and cut you off from your direct contact with God.

Your love of family and friends has taken precedence over your love of God. Your love of possessions has gotten in the way of the love of God. Your ego and your will has gotten in the way of the love of God. After a while, your memory of what God looks like fades and perhaps your thoughts of Him become less frequent. Maybe you become so wrapped up in the events and people of your life that forget about Him altogether.

Then adversity hits! It could be that you lose your job. Maybe a loved one dies. Maybe you fall ill. Perhaps some event or someone has taken away a few of your possessions. Whatever it is, the initial reaction for most might be to try to handle it yourself, to buck-up and tough it out like the motivational coach always said. For some, the reaction might be to sink into despair and maybe even depression.

For Christians the best response to adversity is to get on your knees. It turns out that you can get back a good view of God from that humble vantage point. Earnest prayer will allow you to see that all of those things that were floating in front of you, obstructing your relationship with God are as lightweight and meaningless as one of those balloons. You can pop them or push then aside and once again bask in the love of God.

So, how can anything good come out of adversity? It comes from using that adversity to reconnect with God. It comes from getting your priorities straight, starting with you relationship with God. In the end, there will be nothing else left and nothing standing between you and Him. Don’t wait for misfortune or until the end. Reconnect with God today through prayer. Maybe what will come to your mind as it did to mine is the Johnny Nash song – I can see clearly now.

Start your day with love and the rest will take care of itself.

February 18, 2019

Think about how much better your days will go if you take the time each morning to refresh your feeling of God’s love for you and your love for yourself. Start by remembering that God loves you unconditionally and is always with you. Then take the time to reinforce your love for yourself, who you are, what you are where you are and where you are going. You must first love yourself, before you can love others.

One of the better self-help books ever written is the 1967 book I’m OK You’re OK by Thomas Harris. Harris wrote the book as a practical guide to transactional analysis as a method for solving problems in life – how to get along with others. The key to the advice in Harris’ Book may be found in the first two words of title – I’m OK. That part is saying, “I love myself”. Only then can you move on to the “You’re OK” part. The book, and the courses that are taught from it, teach how to accept and interact with others in or day-to-day world, by recognizing and accepting where you and they are coming from in any interaction.

So, it is important, before you go out in the world and start encountering others and situations that you must deal with, that you establish in your own mind that you are OK; that you love yourself for who you are and are therefore able to love others for who they are. It is much easier to love yourself, if you are not carrying around a big load of guilt – guilt that you feel for something that you did or left undone. That is why acknowledging all of your sins, transgressions, omissions or whatever and asking for God’s forgiveness will give you the foundation upon which you can then build your love of self and face the new day with confidence and a positive attitude.

There is, in that moment of prayer, a point at which you feel the load of your sins being lifted from you and you feel the sense of self-loathing being replaced by self-loving.  That is your “I’m OK” moment. Keep that feeling with you throughout the day and the rest of the day will be OK, too. It all starts with love – love of God and God’s love back to you.

Try it. You will be OK.

Which demons live within?

February 3, 2018

Recently I heard a sermon in church about one of the many episodes in the Bible in which Jesus encountered people who were possessed by demons. Jesus cast out the demons and freed the people who were possessed from their afflictions. One can write these stories off as quaint folklore tales or maybe as representing a simplistic way to characterize the nature of sin and the way to deal with sins. They may be trivialized asdemon grabbinbg child being just the way that people understood or tried to explain things at the time. After all, they didn’t have Google back then; so, there was no way to look up what might be causing a behavior or an ailment or illness. Declaring that the person must be possessed by a demon was as good of an explanation as any and was widely accepted.

We tend to think of ourselves as much more sophisticated and knowledgeable about the world around us these days, so demonic possession has fallen largely out of favor. The Catholic Church still has an active practice of exorcism for demonic possession, so perhaps they have not really gone away, but rather just fallen out of the vernacular. When you think about it, demonic possession is as good an explanation as any for the evil behavior that we so often hear about on the nightly news. It makes as much sense to explain the shootings, lawlessness and cruel behavior towards children and others to attribute it to the perpetrators being possessed by demons, as it is to try to figure out other reasons. Many crimes are attributed to drug addiction and the need to “feed the drug habit”. Perhaps it could be described as the need to feed the drug habit demon that is within that person. Once “cured” of that habit the ex-drug addict is said to be “clean”. Remember that people whom Jesus had cast out demons from were also said to be clean.

What of our own demons? Perhaps what we call sins are really the demons that live within us. According to Christian tradition the seven deadly sins are: envy, gluttony, greed or avarice, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. There is not any place in the bible where such a list exists, but each is identified somewhere in the Bible. You can Goggle “the seven deadly sins” and get references to where they appear. It is probable that all seven depression3demons live within us to some extent. It is only through our faith that we control these demons or cast them out. Sometimes incidents in our daily lives let one of more of these demons out and they temporarily control us. News stories of “road rage” provide an example of a personal demon that took temporary control of that person.

As we struggle to understand what could have possessed someone to commit a heinous crime – shooting innocent people or molesting innocent children – we are struggling both to understand their demons and to control those demons within us that want us to hate or fear them. I have been amazed and humbled by every news story of a group that was targeted for an attack by a demon-possessed person who find it in their hearts to forgive their attacker. We don’t see those stories enough on the news. When they do appear you almost always hear that they have prayed about it and that God told them to forgive their attacker. They have cast out thejesus-as-light demons that were within them that wanted them to hate that person and found a way to express God’s love to them.

The impact on the victims of being able to forgive is profound and in many cases, the impact on the perpetrator is equally profound.  The demons of hate and prejudice and fear that were driving that person to that heinous act have been driven out by the love of God expressed through their victims. For the victims, there is no closure to the incident more powerful or more healing than the act of forgiveness. That simple act casts out that demons that were introduced by the actions of the perpetrator and allows them to go on with life “clean” and free of those demons.

So, which demons live within you? Do you harbor demons of hate or envy against someone? Perhaps you have let the demon of drug dependency or alcoholism creep into your life and that demon has opened the door for other demons to control your actions. alcohol abuseMaybe the demon of depression has seized control of your life and cast you into a dungeon of darkness. Perhaps that little demon of self-doubt has grown into a monster inside of you and now you seek to hide from the world. Maybe you have let the demon of complacency or the distractions of the world lead you away from church and your faith.

Whichever demons may be in temporary control of your life, you need acknowledge them and then take a stand and cast them out. Taking a stand requires that you have solid footing upon which to base your life. Jesus told parables about the wise builder whowoman-praying built his house on rock and not on soil or sand, which might wash away in the storms of life. Your faith is the rock upon which you must stand to cast out your own personal demons and build your future. Once you have taken that stand and cast out your demons, you can live a “clean” life, free of the demons that sought to drag you down or hold you back.

So, I ask you; which demons live within you? Pray today that God help you cast them out, so that you can be clean.