Empowered or Victim?

One of my husband’s and my favorite tools as marriage mentors is called “Creating A Wishlist.”  It asks each person to express three things he or she wants in the relationship. You are not to suggest things you want your spouse to do/stop doing. Instead of writing ideas in the negative “I don’t want to have debt,” someone would write “I want to pay off our car, credit card bills, and student loans.”

 The tool attempts to reframe our thinking from what is wrong to what is possible. When you stop believing you have choices and that nothing will ever change, you become a victim. Victims may be able to verbalize why something can’t happen, who caused the problem, what is wrong, or what they want to avoid. However, it is a struggle to articulate their own wants and desires, and the victim may feel immobilized to take steps toward a pathway of change.

 Way back in 1988 as I was working to obtain my Bachelor of Social Work, I learned the theory of Learned Helplessness. In the experiments, dogs who continually met with resistance and pain learned there was nothing that could be done about the situation and gave up. Likewise, researchers found that when people are continually exposed to adverse circumstances, many lose hope and even the motivation to try to change their situation.


Interestingly, the factor which made the difference was how the individual explained the difficulty to himself or herself. Those who dwelt on the problem as being their fault and permanent became depressed. Others, who were able to view the unfavorable circumstance as temporary and changeable, did not become stuck in the cycle of powerlessness and despondency.

 Once again, it all comes back to our thoughts and self-talk. Am I telling myself that nothing will ever change or am I being transformed by the renewing of my mind acknowledging that all things are possible with God?  As believers, the Holy Spirit empowers us to declare that in all things we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us!

 Begin with the small, possible step.


Modern Day Idols

Little Children, guard yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

 These are the concluding words from the letter the Apostle John wrote to the beloved church. Perhaps, like me, you are tempted to gloss over that verse thinking, I know better than to worship idols. While it is understandable the early church needed to be warned and be watchful of the influence idols can have on one’s life, what about us?


 Although a huge statue made of stone (Artemis of Ephesus is pictured here) is unlikely to sway our devotion away from God, how about pursing the job of our dreams, an advanced degree, a bigger bank account, followers on social media, a certain weight, or the desire to avoid pain?  

Maybe we think, if it isn’t what God wants for me, He will stop me. Maybe but perhaps not. The psalmist wrote, “And he (God) gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” Psalm 106:15. What a high cost if obtaining our desires means we will spiritually wither.

Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord spoke saying, “My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

 Yes, we are so much more sophisticated than those ancients who put their trust in stone gods, but we are guilty of carving out our own sources of provision and fulfillment apart from God. If there is anything other than Jesus we believe will bring satisfaction and contentment to our lives, we are falling under the influence of idols by accepting a substitute for His living waters.


The book shelves were getting overcrowded. I looked them over pondering what could I give away or throw away. Until now I had held onto every Bible study workbook I had completed, but today I decided to put some (which I had not opened in 8-12 years) into the recycling.

 I have no regrets about removing them from my shelves and home; however, I was saddened as I discarded them. Why? I wondered if I had merely accumulated knowledge over the days, weeks, months and years completing one study after another, or has my life been radically transformed by the words of our living God?

Like little children standing against the wall, waiting to be measured, who want to get big and grow taller, I can’t perceive myself growing. Nevertheless, as I discarded those pages, I prayed that I have grown more into the likeness of Jesus and that the truths I learned were written on my heart and not just words filling in the blanks.


To Go or Not to Go?

Project Hope Kids

We have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9

For me, it is a continual challenge to discern God’s will. How can I be sure I am doing God’s will and not just following my own desires? Sometimes, it is clear what God would have me do, but as I contemplate two trips I desire to take, I wonder if these are hopes God placed in my heart or are they merely something I want. First, I have wanted to visit the children we sponsor in Ethiopia. Secondly, I have longed to return to Israel since my first visit in 2010.

Although these desires are specific to my life, there are relevant questions to consider as any of us make decisions to pursue goals.

If it is God’s will, when is God’s timing? Psalm 27:14 tells us, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.” Abraham, Moses, and David each waited years and years for God to bring His word to pass.

Am I going to wait until I hear a YES from God or proceed because I have not heard a NO? Some people may experience stronger emotional responses feeling sure about a decision. For me, if the Lord doesn’t seem to be closing doors, I think it is okay to proceed with some uncertainty trusting, as I take each step, He will shine more light on my path.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9

What is the difference between waiting on the Lord and passivity? Considering this question frequently confuses me. I know the Lord orchestrates every detail, but is there a step I am supposed to take? For now, I have a current passport and I occasionally put aside a little money.

Since I am a wife and mother, “we” and “our” supersedes “me” and “my.” During this season of my life, with many competing priorities, my desires may be eclipsed by what my husband and I want for our children. Again, I trust if it is God’s will, He will eventually bring the dream to fruition.

The more I ponder “What is God’s will?” the more I realize God does not desire to tell me what to do in every circumstance as much as He desires for me to seek Him continually.

  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13

When we seek to understand God’s will, God may not give us a specific answer, but He will always draw us to Himself.  In the meantime,  I will continue to spend time in God’s presence, ask others to pray with me to discern God’s direction, and keep waiting.