The Breakup

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I’m ready to break up.  Maybe a trial separation. A divorce might be too final for the relationship we have. After all, we’ve been together for most of my life. One of my best memories of my silent partner is when I went to a restaurant called Farrell’s in the mall.  It was my birthday, and I was probably eight or nine.  My grandfather bought me the biggest jawbreaker I had ever seen.  I nursed the thing multi-colored ball, licking to see what color was next for months, savoring the sugary rock in a Ziploc bag.  Now, it seems pretty gross, but back then, I was in love.

Whether it was gathering up my change in college (when I should’ve been using it for laundry) and using it to buy pink Snowballs or cherry pies or hijacking cookies from the cafeteria, I’ve always been the one to eat dessert first. Life is short, right? To this day, I gravitate to the back of every menu first, at least scanning the desserts before I order my salad.

The thing is though, I’ve now grown tired of the stranger in my bed.  In fact, the stranger goes everywhere I go.  Whether it’s a public place or private sanctuary, the stranger won’t leave me alone.  When I walk, try on a new dress, or laugh, I feel the foreign shake of my new belly jiggle.  I try to suck it in like I always have—only now it rebels. It almost feels like it’s laughing at me for trying to suck it in.  With a belly that refuses to comply, I now have to get to the root of the problem. I must kick out my fake friend sugar even though it has comforted me through so many valleys. Admittedly, the comfort only lasts seconds to minutes, but it has felt good while it lasted.

This morning, I began the breakup (or redefinition of our relationship) by leaving sugar out of my morning coffee.  It’s a tiny step to most, but huge for me. Sure, I’ve done it tons of times before, but like an unhealthy relationship, I’ve always run back with open arms to the wickedly tasty treat hidden in far too many things to admit.  Now, it’s different.  The stranger in my middle is screaming for change.

I searched for scriptures to comfort me.  I can do all things through Christ.  Your body is a temple and not your own.  The race isn’t given to the swift or the strong, but to those who endure to the end. These are just some of the helpful scriptures that help, but one that has always helped me to push through difficulties has been Romans12:2, which says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  Before defeating any battle, we have to mentally prepare. One strategy that has been effective for me is to focus on the end goal.  I see myself without the extra weight.  It is possible. I remember seeing my book in print before it even happened. Now, I see books on the shelves, and it keeps me going.  It sounds simple, but it is powerful.  “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18).

When I have the vision, I acknowledge and accept the difficulties that will come along with setting the goal. I can’t see a life without sugar, but I can see a life without a sugar addiction.  I envision a healthy relationship with food. It will help me to avoid getting taken off track by distractions and temptations. When I do eat sugar, I won’t have a feeling of failure and defeat because I have set a realistic goal and anticipated at least some of the obstacles.

Maybe your thing isn’t a sugar addiction. Maybe it’s more complicated. It might be a chemical dependency, a relationship, or other bad habit. Today is a good day to decide to break up with anything or anyone who is holding you back from being the best you that you can be.  As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true.  There is only one you.  You are special.  We can’t give our best when we are in bondage of any kind.  Christ gives us freedom, and addiction of any kind is bondage.  I might feel free the moment the sugar touches my tongue, but the effects are damaging to my mind, body and soul.  It’s this way with most of the things that can cause us to be in bondage. I dare you to test yourself. Don’t allow yourself to make excuses for your behavior.  (For example, my excuses have been things like, I’m getting older, and my metabolism has slowed down. I’ve had three kids. I’m under stress. I’m big boned. Etc., etc.)  Think past the moment and focus of the enduring effects of your decisions.  You just might just decide, like me, that it’s time for a break up.

 

Who’s Listening?

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I’m convinced that some of the most unpleasant people to be around are those who don’t listen.  Interestingly enough, those who don’t listen are mostly oblivious to the fact that the listeners may be doing a silent scream of agony. After all, it’s no fun hearing the same viewpoints and repeated stories over and over again.  People who truly listen are a rare breed.  In fact, I’ll bet that you can name the people on one hand who really listen to you.  I’m not just referring to the person who’s silent when you’re speaking to him or her. We all know that just because a person is silent and allowing you to speak doesn’t mean that they’re listening. Being a good listener requires practice, discipline, strength, sacrifice and a loving heart, but so much is gained through listening.  A good listener gains insight, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Admittedly, I am not a great listener, but I’d like to think that I’m a good one.  On my journey to become a better listener, I’ve paid close attention to some of the things that people do who are great listeners because they tend to have very similar characteristics.

First, they are fully engaged, and their body language often says so.  They aren’t texting or scrolling through their phones while another person is speaking to them.  They give good eye contact and nod, smile, or give a look of concern at appropriate times.  They are in the moment.  Good listeners often say things like, “I understand,” or “Really?” or some other verbal response to let the person know that they are listening.  People who are good listeners have an uncanny ability to block out annoying little distractions and focus on the conversation.

Good listeners also genuinely care.  They aren’t self-absorbed and don’t feel the need to compete for air time.  Conversations don’t need to be centered around them.  They listen to get information and to let the person know that they care about the issue.  Good listeners are empathetic and compassionate people.  They often have the ability to put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

Good, godly listeners don’t listen to respond.  They listen prayerfully, knowing that they aren’t necessarily listening to provide a solution if there is a problem.  Once they get an understanding, they prayerfully consider what their conversation moving forward should be.  They don’t tend to give knee-jerk responses.

Good listeners often ask questions to get a full understanding.  They’re not quick to respond until they get the full picture.  In fact, one of the great listeners that I have in my life has helped me so many times by just asking me questions.  When I answer her questions, I find that I get clarity or a better understanding how I need to proceed.

As believers, we really don’t have a shortage of people who get the mic. In other words, everyone has something important to say.  My question is, Who is listening?

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak.  James 1:19a

Control!

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When Janet Jackson’s song, “Control,” released in 1984, it was a huge hit.  Of course, I’m aging myself, but it became an anthem for me and so many other young people.  I remember the lines, “Got my own mind. / I want to make my own decisions. / When it has to do with my life, my life / I want to be the one in control.”  Even if you don’t know the song, you get the gist.  Being in control is glamourized and applauded all most all of the time.  However, it’s important to think about who or what’s controlling our thoughts because our thoughts determine how we behave.

There’s a spiritual battle taking place, whether we realize it or not.  The battle is one for control over our minds.  Will we do and say whatever we want and feel or will we consider and act on what God’s Word says?  This war between our flesh and the spirit can be deadly. So many don’t even acknowledge that the war exists, which makes it even more dangerous.  We have to have spiritual insight to accept and acknowledge that this war exists.  When we are led by what we desire or what we think and feel, we are being controlled by the flesh.  Basing decisions on our intellect, feelings, and wants lead us into a path of destruction.

On the other hand, to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.  When we allow God’s Spirit to control our thoughts, we become vessels for Him.  As a result of our thoughts being under subjection to the Word, we will discover that our actions will follow accordingly, making us fruitful and productive.  The struggle exists between the flesh and the spirit, but we have victory over it through Christ.

Galatians 5:17 explains, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”  Often, the things that feel good in the moment aren’t things that are good for us in the long run.  For example, I love sugary desserts.  When I decide that I’m going to choose to be led by my flesh and indulge in whatever I want, I might feel great in the moment.  However, there are negative consequences to my health that I can’t control as a result of me allowing my flesh to govern my thoughts.  Remembering that my body is a temple where the Holy Spirit resides helps me to make healthier decisions.

If we don’t know, meditate and study the Word of God, we are operating at a disadvantage.  When we don’t submit our will to His, we are hurting ourselves, even if it initially appears to feel good.  That’s the deception.  Sin can feel pleasurable in the moment but the consequences devastating.  When we live in sin, we may feel that we’re in control, and we are in command of our outcome.  Nothing could be further from the truth.   Sinful thoughts lead to sinful behavior.  Sinful behavior is an indication that the enemy has taken control, no matter how it masks itself.

We live in a society that uplifts independent thinking and actions, but we must beware.  Our thinking must be in alignment with God’s Word, no exceptions.  Galatians 5:19 lists acts of the sinful nature, including: “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like.   . . . those that live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”  We have to arm ourselves with the knowledge of the Word so that we can obey it.

Galations 5:22 continues, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  These are by-products of a life that is controlled by the Holy Spirit.

When we are controlled by His Spirit, we will help restore others and help bear one another’s burdens. As Galatians 6:7 says, “God is not mocked.  A man will reap what he sows.”  If we approach each other, mindful of our own temptations and need for forgiveness, grace, and mercy, we will act in God’s love and wisdom.

How do we respond when life gets crazy?  Usually, we tighten our grip and try to control things even more, which leads to frustration and chaos.  Trying to be in absolute control of our own lives is too heavy a burden for us to carry.  Psalm 55:22a says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you.”  Or, we may just give up and let the chips fall where they may.   This is a disaster also.  Feeling sorry for ourselves doesn’t ever move us forward.

There is a verse that I meditate on often in Psalm 46:10, which says quite simply, “Be still and know that I am God.”  This comforts me and gives me direction.  Sometimes we need to declutter our minds and fill them with God’s Word.  Instead of devising our own plans, we need to hear from Him by seeking Him daily.  When we set aside this time, we are making Him a priority.  We are showing that we value His direction and His Word.

An interesting things happens when we fully surrender to Him.  Instead of feeling weak, out of control, burdened down, stressed, worried, and anxious, we are empowered.  His Spirit lifts us up and lets us know that we can do all things through Christ!  He confirms in us that we are more than conquerors!

Blessings and love,

MaRita