Unless you breathe out of your butt, you can’t live in your shell….

I knew I was in real trouble yesterday when I got off the phone with my friend. I’d called to get an update on a work situation I’d helped her with the day before and was glad to see that it had all worked out.

“See, I told you not to take it personally,” I’d said. “Sometimes it helps to get a perspective from someone who isn’t as close to the situation.”

If I’d have stopped there, there would’ve been no problem. But I continued. “Me, I don’t care what anyone thinks. They can get mad and get glad. I’m over caring what anyone thinks of me.”

Me thinks the lady doth protest too much should’ve been the dialogue in my head. But I was still buried so deep in my shell I actually believed it was true.

The next morning I climbed into a steaming hot bathtub filled with bubbles and settled in to drink my mug of ice cold Coke and finish the novel I’d been reading. After just a couple of pages, the character faced a loss that brought all my pent-up tears and fears to the surface.

I set the book down and just cried until I couldn’t tell where my tears stopped and the bathwater began. I knew at once that the plot was merely the catalyst for a cleansing the Lord knew I needed.

99% of anger people feel stems from a hurt or a fear. It’s merely a coping mechanism for grief. And grief doesn’t alway require a casket. You can grieve many things from wasted years to failed relationships. You build up these tough exteriors so that they don’t hurt as much but when you get deep down inside, the pain is still there.

That’s why we have to continually turn these things over to the Lord. If we don’t, they form roots in our souls, rotted vines that grow and ensnare the goodness within us.

But sometimes that feels impossible. you think, to let go means you don’t care. Or you can’t stop thinking, even obsessing, over it. After a loss, are you expected to just stand up, wash your hands, and move on as if nothing had happened?

Of course not.

But that’s what letting go and letting God feels like.

Some losses are permanent. Death brings a finality of grief.

Some losses may be temporary. This is the one I’m struggling with right now. A familial relationship that I’m not sure will ever be reconciled. Sometimes the open-ended grief is even harder. Is there hope? Should I accept it’s over? I tried honesty. I tried space. I tried heartfelt. I tried humor.

Then I tried to bury myself in a shell and pretend I didn’t care. I have friends who WANT a relationship with me. I have a good life, with or without her. It’s HER loss. But the truth is, it was MY loss. All of the pretending it didn’t matter was slapping a Flash Gordon band-aid over a massive gaping wound.

We can’t stop caring, or wanting things to be right, or even wishing our loved ones were still on earth with us. We can’t stop the sorrow, or the fears, or the regrets in life. All we can do is grab each situation or each thought as it comes by and ask the Lord to help us through it.

We aren’t turtles. We can’t bury our heads inside ourselves and we don’t breathe through our rear ends. We don’t need shells to protect us; we just need Jesus.

Are you helping….or harming?

We all have them. Those people in our lives whose own lives are in a mess. They are our children, our grandchildren, our neighbors, our friends.

We are commanded to love them, to help them, to restore them to the faith….

But how much is too much? Where is the line between helping and enabling?

My husband preaches often on the Prodigal Son and how today he would never have come back home because some little old ladies would’ve been bringing him sandwiches while he was in the miry muck. Everyone laughs but it’s true. Sometimes we need to allow people to reach a place where they have no choice but to reach for God’s Hand.

When someone is in a deep hole and we extend our own hand, we can only pull them so far. Or worse, they pull us down as well. But God has the ability to not only pull them out of the hole, but to send them soaring in the sky.

I know because He did it with me.

It’s hard to know when to help and when to let go. A quick little guide: if you are helping out of guilt, manipulation, or because you just can’t stand to watch them suffer- it’s probably time to take a step back. If there’s a peace and an inward knowing of exactly what to do, it’s usually the Lord. Only by prayer (or even better, prayer and fasting) will you know for sure.

I once made a serious error in judgment that could’ve had a much worse outcome. It is a perfect illustration of what it’s like to love someone and try to protect them to the point of near death.

My husband and I were headed out of town for the night. We had two puppies still at home and the older dogs had been pretty aggressive with them. We didn’t want them to get hurt while we were gone so we put them inside a play fence in our den with their own food and water bowls.

When we got home the first thing I noticed was that the puppies were panting, looking like they were dying. It was then that I noticed their water bowl tipped on its side. I’m certain that within the first few minutes of our departure, these hyper puppies had knocked over that water bowl and were trapped, unable to get to the main water bowl, the refillable one that would’ve sustained them.

Would they have been in danger from the other dogs? Maybe. They wouldn’t have been killed but maybe chased a little. Run under the couch. Maybe run off from the food dish. But they would’ve have access to the water.

They wouldn’t have been in as much danger as they were from me trying to protect them. I almost killed them just because I was scared to let them take care of themselves.

We do this with our loved ones sometimes. We try so hard to protect them ourselves that we cut them off from their main water source- Jesus. He is the Living Water. Don’t let someone die of thirst because you’re giving them droplets from a shut-off water hose when they can have fountains of everlasting water.

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. John 4:14

How to Be a Good Minister of Christ….

Do you ever wish that you could minister to others the way your pastor does? Or your neighbor? Or your best friend?

2 Corinthians 3:6 tells us that we are ALL able ministers. Here is a quick little guide to help you become the light that leads others.

First, and most important, Jesus tells us is LOVE. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. John 13:34

You can’t pick and choose who you love, who you give grace to….you must love the neighbor who brought you the casserole when you got into a car accident as much as the drunk driver who hit you.

1 Timothy gives us even more direction as ministers of Christ. Let’s break down Chapter 4, verses 1-6:

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

It is sad to me to have personally seen two men of God who were instrumental in my early walk with Christ to turn their backs and God and profess Buddhism or atheism now. I don’t know what happened in their lives, but I can only pray that they see the error of their ways and come back to Christ.

What infuriates me, though, is seeing “evangelists” preach the gospel and then tell viewers they can have the same blessings if they are obedient to God and send money right away. I’m not talking about 9.99 for a book or video. I get publishing costs. I’m talking about the ones who tell you not to worry about going in debt by sending $100 or $1000 because God will wipe your credit card debt away because you were faithful. SCAM ALERT! Salvation is free. God’s blessings are free!

Minister to those freely. Give freely. Don’t be swayed by those who don’t speak the truth and don’t speak anything but truth when you talk.

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

“Do as I say and not as I do.” Yeah, right. What kid ever obeyed that? It is the same with us as ministers. We can’t act one way in church and another outside of church and expect anyone to see Christ in us.

I did business with a man for five years. He asked how the church was, asked us to put people on our prayer list, talked about God every time we placed an order. When the quarantine came and we were unable to order anything from him, his language changed considerably. The sarcasm and profanity-laden conversation completely changed my view of him. I’d always felt like I was talking to a fellow Christian. One conversation and his torch was snuffed. Now, the truth is, I don’t know if this guy was just really struggling as so many of us did during the shutdown or if the quarantine conditions caused his true colors to come out. But it didn’t matter. We found a new distributor because of it. The same will happen with you. You cannot minister to others and pop off with a bad attitude one day and expect people not to notice.

Do you have to be perfect? No. But you do have to remember there are consequences when you do not guard your words and actions around others.

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Let’s be frank here. We are bigger than ever. The additives, the preservatives, the supersized meals…there are more fat people in America than ever. I struggle with my weight too and it’s frustrating. It’s obvious that a plant-based diet is good for the body. There’s no doubt that an Old Testament diet is good for you as well. But this is NOT a point of salvation. God gave us meat to eat. It’s not wrong to eat it; it’s not wrong to abstain from it. It’s only wrong when you make it biblical issue. Basically, you can dine with The Beverly Hillbillies’ Granny as long as you receive your roadkill with thanksgiving in your heart.

(To address the forbidding to marry part: Timothy is referring to priests who said it is better to remain alone and devoted to God than to marry. His response is that it is not biblical to forbid marriage in the priesthood.)

If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

There you have it! In a nutshell, to be a good minister of Jesus Christ, you should speak the truth, let your light shine before men (even when darkness is rumbling in your mind), and don’t get caught up in religious rules that don’t affect salvation.