"Making Wise Choices ...the most important life skill to master"

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Choice to be Joyful and Grateful

   Many folks are simply not living with joy in their lives. I often wonder what is holding them back? Why is there no light in their faces, no excitement in their voices? I think there might be a few reasons why this is becoming an epidemic of sorts.

One thing that I have observed is, people are surrounded by a bunch of whiners, gripers and complainers every day, and in all aspects of their lives. This type of behavior can come from people at work, church, home, social groups and more. Sometimes, we are surrounded with these people by choice, other times, not so much.

When we are constantly encircled by negative spirits that inject toxic thoughts and opinions, it can’t help but infiltrate our minds. This kind of influence will eventually turn us into whiners, gripers, and complainers too.

Another thing that I have observed is that folks feel that their happiness is dependent upon external factors. “Someone or something will make me happy!” They keep waiting for the compliments to come, keep waiting for people to come to them, they have a continuous “want” for acceptance from anyone, and they grasp at every opportunity to try and fill that gaping hole that they have.

And others that I have observed, have that do more, be more, have more, obtain more stuff syndrome, that I call, I-want-itis.

The picture-perfect life is always within grasp and it is always in the future. Living in the “someday” proves not to be obtainable and it is accompanied with statements like “I will be happy when…”

I-want-itis people are blinded to the fact that a $30 purse will hold just as much junk as a $300 purse! That a $15 pair of shoes, serves the same purpose as the $150 pair. We know this stuff, about stuff, but we find ourselves in a cycle of abusing and bruising ourselves with all of these wants that are impossible to obtain in most cases.

Regardless of what category we fall into, one or all, we miss the opportunities to be thankful for what we have been blessed with!

There are many benefits to living a grateful life. People who practice this daily take better care of themselves and seem to be protected from negative emotions in times of extreme losses. Health benefits can include better immune systems, sleeping better, and it benefits the heart and mental health.

People who live with joy in their lives have better social lives. They make better friends to others, focusing their attentions outwardly to those in their lives and showing a genuine concern for them.

Let’s move on and look at two words, Contentment and Complacency.

Contentment comes from within and it is a state of mind and it is a choice. It is a state of happiness and satisfaction. It’s not what you have, but how you feel about what you have that makes the difference.

Complacency is a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better. Complacent people are easily satisfied, quick to make excuses, and oftentimes are referred to as slugs.

There is a difference between contentment and complacency. We are never to stop growing and learning. A complacent person becomes prideful and unteachable. They stop dreaming and stop pushing, they just stop and eventually lose their joy.

C.S. Lewis states that the great problem with human beings is that we are far too easily pleased. We don’t seek pleasure with nearly the resolve and passion that we should. So, we settle for less.

I often wonder, from my observations, if Christians sometime don’t fully believe Jesus when he says there is more blessedness, more joy, more full and lasting pleasure in a life devoted to helping others than there is in a life devoted to our material comfort? Matthew 6:19,20

We are not called to be complacent. We are called to keep our eyes on the goal, keep the goal, work towards that goal, and run towards the goal. While doing so, we are to be content with what we have, be grateful for what we have already been given, while we are achieving new heights.

Colossians 3:15-17 Paul writes:

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in work or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

1.     Be content – let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts

2.     Be thankful – remember the good things God has done in your life

3.     Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly – Begin everyday with the word.  He will give us a humble attitude that helps us to appreciate what he has done.

4.     Sing to God with Gratitude in your hearts – be grateful for the one who has given you a hope and a future

5.     Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus – It will keep you thankful during the most daunting times!

6.     Give thanks to God the Father through him (Jesus) – Jesus died for us!

Look up! Giving praise to God and being thankful to God, will help us to recognize and appreciate the littlest of things, and the simplest of tasks. It’s not always about the big stuff! When you begin to recognize and are thankful for the small stuff, wow! When the big stuff happens, you’re going to appreciate it even more!

By looking up to heaven and staying focused, you will also begin to measure your successes differently. Remember that be more, do more, have more syndrome? This will change and fade away!

You might struggle in the beginning of this journey by not being able to recognize what you need to be thankful for, so ask Him to open your eyes! He will do that for you!

Once He has been revealed these things to you, it will change your life! Be thankful, serve Him with a grateful heart, then make sure you take care of what He has given you!

After looking up, we need to move horizontally outward to others.

Remember that you are blessed by what God has given you, be content, reach for heavenly goals, and share your riches, God’s gold, with others! A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles to take place within you and outside of you, so give away the good stuff!

1.     Associate with the right people – don’t give your pearls to swine -cut down on the amount of time you spend with the “negative nellies” in your life. Let them observe that you will not stand for gossip, or malice or any negative thoughts, once you quit partaking in that foolishness, they will weed you out! Negative people don’t hang with positive folks. They don’t want their party to get rained on.

2.     Say thank you as often and as much as you can. – in person, send thank you notes, a simple email, or phone call or text.

3.     Appreciate everything that people do for you and show it. – even for the small things, that may all they have to give.

4.     Be thankful for the people God has put in your life. – even the EGR’s! They are in your life for a reason, so learn from the experiences!

a.     Are you being taught patience or a new skill level with how to handle people, are you learning about boundaries?

b.     Are you being blessed by knowing someone? Have they changed your life for the better?

5.     Serve others with a grateful heart. – Grateful Heart, please! And do all work and service work to honor God.

6.     Set a goal of improving at least one person’s life a day! – help someone in need, who can you smile at, greet warmly, listen to, encourage, pray for.

7.     Simply put, Treat People Well - Content, happy people are not jealous or envious people! They do not have a critical spirit that runs people down, they treat and serve others with joy and delight and are very uplifting souls! They want people to be successful and even more successful than themselves!

Joy in doing good and to others is final joy in God, because the ultimate good that we are always aiming for is to 1) display the glory of God and 2) to expand our own joy in God to others.

I Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

And in the middle of the storm James 1:2-4 tells us to consider it pure joy, because the testing of your faith produces perseverance, which will make you mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The more that you have matured, the more you realize exactly how much you have been given to be thankful for and you LOOK for things to be grateful for. You LOOK for the positive, you LOOK to do the positive, and you LOOK up to heaven and say THANK YOU!

You are thankful for the Hope in your heavenly future, and you are grateful for God’s abundancy that He has given you. The most natural response to having all these things is joy, peace, and contentment.

C.S. Lewis wrote – “It is a Christian duty for everyone to be as happy as he can.”

Personally, I treat delight and joy as a duty.

Let Christ be your treasure chest of holy joy!

From the Lecture Series for “Making Wise Choices”

Debra Lee, Speaker/Author of “It Is What It Is…but it wasn’t a tragedy” and “Making Wise Choices…the most important life skill to master”

Friday, September 28, 2018

Be Kind

” Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. “
~Leo Buscaglia

     Kindness is encouragement, understanding, pure, patient, love, respect, compassion, honest, and it offers mercy and grace. It is warm and caring. It comes from the heart and manifests itself in a good deed for another person.  
Kindness goes a long way and being shown kindness can turn a life around. It can take someone from the darkness and into the light. It offers hope, builds confidence, brings a fire to a spirit. Kindness is a teacher. We learn to be kind by receiving kindness.

Some of us have come from backgrounds where kindness was not lived out very well in front of us or even offered to us. Others had very loving and kind experiences. As a child, I was one who was not always treated well by my pears, teachers and other adults because of who I was, the daughter of the county sheriff.
We all have been shaped by our experiences. If we were not treated very kindly during our formative years, it should be of no surprise that we could develop a brutal spirit as adults and develop a lack of trust. Likewise, if we associate with peers as adults who are known to be without compassion or proper regard for others, that spirit will also influence us.

Depending upon how severe we have been mistreated, many of us end up being guarded most of our lives and have struggled to offer kindness to others for fear of getting bit. What steps can we take to move past this guardedness, learn how to trust again and work towards being a kinder person?
Believe it or not, the first step is to make a conscience choice to be kind to others, and we must make that choice daily. Let's look at what scriptures say.

1)    Clothe Ourselves. Colossians 3:12 states that we are to clothe (or endow) ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Galatians 5:22 Tells us that the fruit of the spirit (or the nine attributes of a Christian Life) is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

2)    Demonstrate and Practice. I John 3:18 tells us not to love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (“in truth” shows that we are disciples and belong to God) Action is essential. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. Kindness is a virtue that is to be practiced. There are plenty of good works to be done.

3)    Kindness is not Partial. James 2:1-9 talks about favoritism being forbidden. We are to treat everyone the same. Poor and rich. V 13 states that judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Love your neighbor as yourself, treat others as to how you would wish to be treated. James 2:4 states that if we are partial, we become evil.

4)    Be Kind as the Father. By being kind like our Father, we show that we are truly his children. Matthew 5:44-45 “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Test Yourself - Signs of a Kind Person
            1.    honest dealings (Genesis 21:23)
          2.    rewards good received from another (Genesis 40:14)
            3.    sympathetic / comforting (Job 6:14)
            4.    honorable behavior (Ruth 3:10)
            5.    shares burdens (1 Samuel 15:6)
            6.    shows friendship (1 Samuel 20:15, 16)
            7.    honors the dead (2 Samuel 2:5)
            8.    merciful toward enemies (2 Samuel 9:7)
            9.    demonstrates loyalty (2 Samuel 16:17)
          10.    shows gratitude (1 Kings 2:7)
          11.    has compassion (Jonah 4:2)
          12.  benevolent (Luke 6:35)
          13.  courteous (Acts 27:3)
          14.  hospitable (Acts 28:2)

God is the standard in kindness and in His kindness is constant. Isaiah 54:10 “Though the mountains be shaken, and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.

Time to Practice!
Make that daily choice to be kind to everyone. Yes, even the ones you don’t want to be nice to... (did you not read the scripture above?!) just saying!
Be willing to risk rejection. Remember, not everyone is going to take advantage of your kindness or reject you. If they do, they own that baggage, not you. Move on!

Watch what you post on social media. Social media makes it too easy to be unkind. It’s very easy to share unkind memes and posters with a click of a button. Some feel that they are invisible by posting bad stuff. Remember, God see’s your intent and your heart.
Review the emails that you write before you send them, how is the tone and how could an email be perceived.

Practice good social graces, always. SMILE! It’s inviting.
Step out of your bubble and do a random act of kindness! Go ahead, you’ll be surprised at what happens! I promise!

Demonstrate genuine affection, love, and concern to others and to those you want to build relationships with. Give them priority, find common interest, don’t discriminate or judge, reveal yourself gradually, and accept where they are at in their lives.
Your choice to do acts of kindness will have an impact in a world that is not always kind. And in a world where we have the choice to be anything…be kind.

From “Making Wise Choices Lecture Series”
By Debra Lee, Author/Speaker

“It Is What It Is…but it wasn’t a tragedy” and “Making Wise Choices…the most important life skill to master”

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Shackled by Fear

“Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death.”


     Have you ever been so scared that you couldn’t move? Growing up as a kid with a father for a sheriff and living in the same building as the jailhouse, well, we’ll just say that there were a few times when I had the begeebies scared out of me!

I remember a scary moment when I was about five or six years old that totally paralyzed me! I woke up from a sound sleep and saw a shadow of a man on the wall in front of me. He was looking through the window that was located directly above my bed. The brightly moonlit night well defined his grey silhouette.

I froze, could not move, could barely breath. I closed my eyes and opened them again, he was still there. I did this several times and then I slowly covered my head with the blankets in hopes that he would go away. I was so frightened, and I was trying to stay very still; my breathing became very shallow to the point that I thought that I might stop breathing! After what seemed to have been an eternity, I finally gathered up enough nerve to uncover my head and peer outside of the covers. To my relief, he was gone.

The next morning, I was still a bit shaken as I described to my parents what I had experienced. In their own way of trying to be protective, they told me that I had had a dream. I knew what I had seen, and I felt like they didn’t believe me.

I understand, now, that they didn’t want me to feel like I had been in danger and I think that was their way of calming my nerves. I don’t know this for sure, but I assumed that my dad probably went to check things out to see if he could verify my accountings, and I don’t know for sure that my imagination was running away with itself. Whether it was my imagination or not, I was frightened stiff!

No too long after that, my father walked me across the street from our home to the train station. Beside the station was a long and very tall wooden dock that was used for loading and unloading the cargo from the trains. (Hey, when you’re a kid, everything seems very tall.) Dad asked me to walk up the ramp to the top as he stood below. With his arms extended he asked me to jump. Jump into his arms. I was frozen. I couldn’t do it. He kept talking to me, urging me, assuring me that he would catch me. I was still frozen. I wanted to jump but I couldn’t move. Dad started to get a little annoyed.

Finally, after some firm coaxing, and before I broke out into tears, I jumped. He caught me. I don’t think he realized what that exercise did for me, or maybe he did. I overcame a fear and it felt good! It wasn’t overcoming the fear of jumping from a height that made the most impact, this exercise was instrumental in helping me towards the beginnings of overcoming some trust issues that were developing in my young self.

Fear. There is a reason we have the feeling of fear built into our beings. Our healthy natural feeling of fear is there to protects us. Fear tells us to not put our hands intentionally into a viper’s den. We know not to touch a hot stove. We know what could happen if we get too close to the edge of a cliff. There is this gut feeling and inner voice that we follow that keeps us from falling prey to danger. This is a good fear to have!

By not using our healthy fear wisely, we most likely will have to face some major consequences!

As a child I was a severe introvert. I know, right?!?!? No one would believe that today! But I was. I think most of us would agree that being an introvert can be very painful, and it is a learned behavior derived from fear. So many times, I have heard introverts say that God had made them that way, so that’s just the way they are. Personally, I know how painful it is, but I also think it gets used as an excuse to not deal with and conquer fears.

Let’s look at what scripture says. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

It took a bit of work, okay a lot of work, but I finally overcame being an introvert by the time I had reached early adulthood. I had to make myself do things that I was afraid to do or try. I had to push past the discomfort and break out of the shell.  I still struggle sometimes with the tendency to revert, but I overcome those thoughts by looking inward, finding my strength, forcing myself out of the comfort zone and then I move forward fearlessly! God has given me the power to do this!

In my book, “It Is What It Is…But It Wasn’t A Tragedy”, I write about fear and some of the people that I have known who lived their lives in a constant state of fear. Their fears usually had to do with their futures, the unknown things, things that could, might, maybe happen.  Their minds were consumed with fear of the unknown; the fear of losing their minds, their wealth, and the list of things that the Bible tells us not to worry about. And what I have found is that everything that they were so fearful of, came true!

So many times, we allow this unhealthy fear to enter our lives and take up residence. When we spend time with fear and living with its negative factors, we are not healthy! Most words associated with fear are negative words; distress, anxiety, worry, angst, panic, cold feet, and dread. Fear is the root of phobias which is the excessive fear of an object, place or situation. Most of us have some sort of a phobia. (I’m not talking about phobias that need a mental health professional.)

Fear changes metabolic and organ functions and changes behaviors like fleeing, hiding or freezing. Its cause and effect; we are not physically, mentally, or spiritually healthy when we live in a constant state of fear.

Fear of public speaking, fear of the unknown, fear of doing something new, fear of meeting people, fear of speaking up, fear of looking silly, fear of success, fear of failure, fear of making a bad decision so we don’t make one at all. The list can go on and on. Fear causes us to doubt ourselves and stick our head in the sand. Fear makes us feel trapped and it keeps us from growing, experiencing new things, and having the life that God wants us to have!

Satan loves fear and for a good reason. Fear is an emotion that can become a shackle if we let it. It feeds us full of lies, doubts, and uncertainties. It plays into our negative self-talk, making us believe that we can’t do something. Simply put, it robs us from having a full life. It also takes our focus away from God and all His goodness, and the assignments He has for us to do! 

God is much bigger than our fears, and even we are much bigger than our fears. As Christians, we do not realize the power that we have been given and the strength that we have been given to fight this menacing demon!

Even folks we read about in the Bible had to deal with fear. Moses was fearful about taking on God’s assignment and came up with all kinds of excuses. Jonah was fearful and ran miles away trying to get away from what God wanted him to do.

How have you reacted when God asked you to do something? Something that you feel you were unqualified to do or maybe it was out of your comfort zone to do and it felt a bit…scary? I know I tend to argue. Sometimes I put His request on the back burner, sticking my head in the sand. “But God?!?!”, I cry out.

When we are called by God, and by the way, all Christians are called by God, we are called be BOLD and He tells us not to be fearful! He gives us the work that He has qualified for us to do, (whether we understand it or not), and He will be with us the whole way, walking beside us, never leaving us, and He will give us what we need to do the assignment, with speech, persistence, boldness, tools, His Spirit, and He will provide everything that we need to be sustained.

God’s promises are all through the scriptures and they tell us of these things. All we must do is trust, believe, and take hold of the power that has been given to us by the Powerful Almighty God himself! We can be overcomers of fear!

Here is a short list of Scripture Promises to Help you on the journey of overcoming fear:

John 14:27 27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Joshua 1:9 9Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Psalm 23:4 4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 34:4 4I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”

Psalm 94:19 19When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy”.

Romans 8:38-39 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our LORD.”

1 Peter 5:6-7 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Psalm 118:6 6The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

Deuteronomy 31:6 6Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

Isaiah 41:10 10So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Matthew 6:25-34 25Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I have learned, and maybe age has something to do with it, but I choose to live a fearless life. It is a choice. I keep the full armor of God on in a state of preparedness, and I bow my knees in prayer when I feel fear knocking at my door.

When fear comes a calling, I speak out loudly and firmly, “Get behind me Satin, for I am a child of God and you will not win this one!” Then I shake if off and move on!

1 Corinthians 16:13 13Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.”

From the Lecture Series and book “Making Wise Choices…the most important life skill to master” and “It Is What It Is…But It Wasn’t A Tragedy”

By Author/Speaker Debra Lee

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Don't Let Someone Else's Sin Become Yours!

Don’t Let Someone Else’s Sin Become Yours!

On Judgements…

I grew up surrounded by judgmental people. Even the churches I attended in my early years were very judgmental and sometimes harsh. Close family members were very judgmental of others and had a spirit of criticism, so it was of no surprise that I had adopted those characteristics as well in my younger years. It was a learned behavior.

I remember my grandmother spending a good part of her Saturdays getting ready for church on Sunday. Her car had to be perfectly cleaned and detailed.  Her hair, nails, and clothing had to be perfect. The house scrubbed. The meal was all planned out and the cooking started early Sunday morning to be ready for a sit-down dinner after church, with the hopes that the preacher and his family would come by to eat.

In my early years we attended a small church that was made up of many family members from my mom’s side. Even as a young child, I found it quite odd that our family members acted differently at church than how I knew them to act outside of church.

One of my aunts had an alcoholic husband, but he didn’t appear to be “that way” in church. Even though people knew about it and gossiped about it and shook their heads in judgement. A cousin and his wife were very humble in church, almost martyr like, and were living with a heavy duty secrete from their past. I think they thought that no one else knew, but it too was gossiped about and judged.

Others had all kinds of struggles, and some of the other congregants had some real-life soap operas going on. But everyone seemed to clean up and pull it together for church!

I remember the tongue wagging at the church, and I remember the conversations at the dinner table after church. One by one each person who had made “the talk of the day” was ran down and judged because of the way they had acted in church or came dressed to church. Then there was the review of how someone’s children had misbehaved, or who had the smell of alcohol on them. (even though I witnessed several folks stepping outside for a smoke) Whoever came to church a little dirty with unruly hair always made the list. And sometimes, the gossip that was shared at church got spread around the dinner table.

The judgments in church and at the dinner table were cruel, but as a child, I seemed to soak it all up and found it entertaining. It was usually the men folk who would eventually put a stop to the smack downs at church and the dinner table, but a lot of the time, they would inject their own harsh judgments and those were usually the final words about a subject.

Many years later when I became an adult, I learned some very hard lessons about judgements. I got my come uppins’ for judging folks so harshly for their behaviors when I was a child and teen. I ended up with some of the same behaviors and even worse when I walked in the desert for thirteen years. 

I eventually came to a better understanding for the people that I had judged, after, I had walked in their shoes. I can truly say that I am one of the least judgmental persons. Over a year ago, an atheist friend in my life paid me a compliment. They stated that I was the least non-judgmental Christian that they have ever known and thought that I was pretty cool. That opened a door for further conversations with my friend.

Because of my past and the many lessons that I have learned, i.e. forgiveness, love, kindness, empathy, and because of the better understanding that I have of God’s love letters to us, I have no authority to throw the first stone…at anyone.

How Judgement Leads to Sins…

Many years ago, a young lady came to me for advice. Her father was on his death bed and she was clearly stating that she would never, ever go see her dad, and that she didn’t care that he was on his death bed.  Her reason, he had abandoned their family of ten children years earlier, leaving their mom destitute and having to fend for the family. This young lady was adamant about her decision and was ranting on and on about it, but, she was still wanting my advice on the situation.

Now, most people who know me well know not to come to me for advice if they don’t really want to hear the truth. Most know that I won’t be the person to wallow with them in their pity parties and help them break out in a whine fest! I won’t indulge any self-absorbed or self-centered motives either. If they don’t really want to hear the truth, then I ask them to move on.

This young lady did know me well and with that understanding, she still wanted my advice. So, my advice to her was very simple, “Don’t let your father’s sin become yours.”

She looked at me very perplexed. So, I explained it to her.

“Do not abandon your father like he had abandoned you, and do not judge your father for his past actions. You and your faith are not to be defined in this way because of what he did in the past.”

“Offer grace, offer forgiveness, offer him your love. This way you will be blameless, you will set things right for you, and regardless of how he reacts to you at this point in the game, you will not be held accountable for his actions, only yours. Do not let him leave this earth without doing this, for you will receive the gift of peace, and peace of mind.”

“By acting appropriately, you will not be hypocritical to the Christian faith, you will remain upright, and a leader in faith and actions. You will arise above what he had done to you in the past, and you will heal.”

The young lady twisted her lips and snarled, “I hate it when you are always right! Grrr….”

I just grinned at her as I walked away.

Appropriate Judgement…

Let’s explore when it is ok to appropriately judge someone and when it is wrong to judge someone.

We know that judgments through our courts of law are needed. Our court systems may not always get it right, but judgements through the courts are appropriate. The Laws of this country are in place for a reason and allows for suitable judgements to take place.

There are many reasons why we need laws: to regulate society; to protect people; to enforce rights and to solve conflicts. Laws prevent or deter people from behaving in a manner that negatively affects the quality of life of other people, therefore the consequences of breaking the law often fit the crime. (pp from Shirk)

So how do we know that we are not stepping into the sin of judgement?

It is not judging someone to exercise discernment about ungodly behavior or false teachings. It is not judging someone to be discerning about a person’s character, or to speak to them about sin. It is not exercising judgement wrongly to evaluate a person’s spiritual maturity, their doctrinal views and their shepherding abilities. These are appropriate.

When does it become wrong?

When you criticize a person out of jealousy, bitterness, and selfish ambition, rather than seeking to build that person up in Christ, it is wrong. When you assume you know all the facts and motives behind a person’s words or actions and set up human standards to judge by, rather than God’s word as the standard, it is wrong judgement. When you judge someone before judging your own sin before you begin to help someone with their sin, yep, that too.

You judge wrongly when you do it with a self-righteous critical spirit.

And the biggie: You judge someone wrongly when you make an authoritative pronouncement about their eternal destiny.

James says (4:12), “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy. But you-- who are you to judge your neighbor?”

James is asking, do you think you are God? If not, then why are you setting yourself up as God? God will take care of judging the person that has wronged you. We do not have to, it is not our job. Our job is to pray for that person.

To (wrongly) judge another person is a sin against God. Keep in mind God could rightly send each one of us to hell, because we are all underserving when you get right down to it.

Romans 3:23 states, that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Testing your Spirit: What to do if someone is DRAGGING YOU IN!

Here’s some tools, discerning questions, to use if someone comes to you with some great judgmental gossip.

Scenario: “Have you heard about Mildred?!?!  Why that Mildred! You would not believe what she did!!! I heard that there was a truck parked in her driveway ALL night long! And some man was seen coming out of her house this morning! 

(The truth, it was her brother.)

Things to ask:

1.     What is your reason for telling me?

2.     Where did you get your information?

3.     Have you gone directly to those involved to seek restoration?

4.     Have you personally checked out all the facts?

5.     Can I quote you after I check this out? THE KILLER QUESTION – stops the foolishness in a heartbeat!

Once again, it’s all about making wise choices! Don’t let someone else’s sin become yours. 

Debra Lee | Author/Speaker
"It Is What It Is...But It Wasn't A Tragedy" and "Making Wise Choices...the most important life skill to master" 

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Healing from Divorce & Why Some Women Don't Trust the Church

One thing to note before reading this blog, I am not advocating for divorce. I want to make this very clear.

Some of the latest information obtained on the divorce rate for couples who regularly attend church is the same as, and in some cases, higher than the divorce rate for unchurched couples.  

I remember one time when a friend came to me all in an uproar over her husband. She was telling me that she was going to divorce him. Her rant went on and on with all her complaints about him. Even though I was listening, my inner self was screaming, “put on your big girl panties young lady!” Everything she was saying was really…petty stuff. So, I had to speak truth to her. She didn’t realize the blessing that she had. I told her to go back to her wonderful Christian husband and figure out how to make it work!

With this blog, I simply want to bring attention to some issues that I have discovered through years of working with, having conversations with, and comforting abused women. Having been in an abusive relationship or two myself in the past, I have been a bit passionate about this subject. I give a portion of my book sales annually to the WIN organization, Women’s Initiative Network, a non-profit that helps women gain employment and education after they have left abusive relationships.

The following two verses come to my mind when I think about marriage:

Mark 10:9 “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Matthew 19:6 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

These two verses talk about “what God has joined together”. My first few questions to ponder upon are these:

·   Because a wedding took place in a church building, an ordained minister performed the ceremony, the people are all happy, the venue is gorgeous, the smell of flowers fill the air along with the wedding music, it all looks good and perfect, and legal papers are signed, does it always mean that God has joined the couple in union?

·        Or did the couple join themselves without really considering God in the decision at all?

·        Or maybe unbeknownst to one of the persons in the union, the other person was a pretender, and a very good pretender? 

·        Did God really join the union when there was evil intent working behind the scenes all along by one of the parties?

I’ve been told about the pretenders and have been around the pretenders. In some cases, my radar stood straight up like goosebumps before the couple got married. These are men who look for good Christian women to marry with some type of an ulterior motive. They will go to church, get really involved, put on the show of being a good Christian, they are charismatic, charmers, learn the Christian lingo, say all the right things, have knowledge of scripture, can quote it, all under the guise of finding a woman who is deep in her faith to marry. They can spend a lot of time planning and doing this. This type of pretender knows that after he has a woman captured into a marriage, her faith will keep her from leaving the marriage and his abuses.

After my first book had been out for a while, I found that women felt that they could be very open with me about sharing personal things that had happened to them in their own lives. Some were very painful experiences leaving many scars for each person to live with, both physically and mentally. One of the most common themes that was talked about was that of divorce and how it had affected their lives. In some of these cases, I had known the person for quite some time and I would never have guessed that they had even lived through a messy, very painful, and in some cases, a dangerous divorce.

I found, through these conversations, that most women had never told anyone in their current church that they had even had a divorce in their past.  The shame and embarrassment that they felt for living in a marriage based upon lies and abuses was overwhelming, and they didn’t want people to know about it.

I heard stories of men living double lives, having wives and families in two states, men who were living a secret life of crime, having affairs, and more.

Wonderful God fearing Christian women have had the most unexpected things happen to them! They thought they had married correctly. They thought they had followed the rules. They thought they were living right and were totally blindsided by shocking events that took place.

And what makes this even worse is that they thought that they had no one in the church to help them get through the hurt and the pain. Why? Why was the church not a place for healing?

As many reported to me, immediately they were judged and shunned by those attending their church, they were looked down upon, were made to feel shame and less than. They were outcasts, in some cases, they could feel the sting of being stared at. They knew about the rumors, they knew how people were talking about them, and some even experienced the feeling of being pitied to death.

Parishioners and pastors would say insensitive things like: “What did you do wrong.” “You must not have loved him good enough.” “You should never divorce, now go back in there and make it work, somehow.” Or, “Christ must not have been in your marriage.” These insults only heaped more on to their pain.

One women had been abandoned and never divorced her husband for fear of what the church would do to her. If there was not a paper trail or any legal actions towards a divorce, she would be allowed stay in the church and not be kicked out. She found herself a single mom with no means of support and had a bus load of children to raise without the help of child support. No court actions, no child support. The church was poor and didn’t really offer her much help either in raising her children.  She never saw her husband again and twenty years later she finally became a single person because he had passed. Her pain ran very deep. Betrayal by her husband, and basically betrayal by her church.

The Church Language

Many women never return to church after a divorce because they say that they cannot trust the male authorities. As history shows, male authorities have for many decades, and centuries, used language that is very damaging and unsupportive for women, especially towards women who are leaving a marriage because of violence. The scriptures only list two reasons for a divorce, abandonment and adultery, and It doesn’t specifically say anything about divorcing for reasons of abuse. (Even though the Bible is full of scriptures on how to properly care for, protect, and love one another, and more scriptures on how a husband is to love his wife.) Unfortunately, scriptures are often misused and abused by husbands and some of the Church’s interpretations have been used for abusive purposes as well.

I did some research on modern day church language concerning divorce due to abuse. The following statements are real and come from various churches:

Ø Spousal abuse should be dealt with by temporary separation and church marriage counseling designed to bring about reconciliation between the couple. But to qualify for that separation, your spouse must be in the “habit of beating you regularly,” and not be simply someone who “grabbed you once.” (My question, how many beatings would have to take place to qualify as regularly?)
Ø An unremitting message to women of “submission, submission, submission” so that they will not be women who will want to “rule over men.” This church tells couples to attend joint marriage counseling under lay ministry leaders, with no specific training for abuse survivors, and offers a prescription of submission and headship, often telling women to learn to submit “better.”

Ø Women often bring abuse on themselves by refusing to submit. Submission is so essential to God’s plan that it must be followed even to the point of allowing abuse. When God puts you in subjection to a man whom he knows is going to cause you to suffer, it is with the understanding that you are obeying God by enduring the wrongful suffering. 

Ø “Leave while the heat is on,” but only with the intention of returning to the marriage when the violence has cooled. (My thought, anyone with a lick of sense knows that, in a violent marriage, the heat is never really off. Everything can be fine one minute, and the next minute you’re dead.)

Ø Divorces will be treated as either an old pre-conversion sin if it happened before they were saved or forgiven as a repented sin if it happened post-salvation, but the mature Christians must admit that their divorce “was more for [their] own selfishness than any other reason.” (even if the woman leaves because of abuse, she was being selfish.)

Ø Teaches that women are the completers of men, and that therefore God created wives for the sole purpose of completing their husbands. Since the wife’s job is to complete the husband anywhere he is incomplete, wives are supposed to already know what he wants/needs. (In other words, it is your fault if you get beat for not knowing what he needs.)

Ø The issue of submission always arises in church discussions of domestic violence, “subtly reminding women of their duty to maintain a submissive attitude toward their husbands.” And that wifely unsub mission is the cause of domestic abuse.”

In all these cases there is an undue emphasis on female submission and too little emphasis on the husband’s duty to protectively lead his wife. The scriptures are very clear on how a husband is to love his wife.

There isn’t a woman on this earth who wouldn’t submit to a husband willingly if they were being honored like his queen! A husband should give his wife the impression that she is the finest in the land. In 1 Peter 3:7, the apostle links this with our salvation and with our relationship with God. It is that important!

“Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”

Your prayers will be hindered and may go unanswered if you do not treat your spouse in the way the Bible so eloquently describes a Christian marriage.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence reports that THREE women die each day because of domestic violence. ONE woman in FOUR experiences domestic violence in her lifetime.

Research has found that Christian women often stay in abusive situations several years longer than secular abused women because they are devout believers and are more bound by their desire to obey God. Christians are taught to forgive, so Christian victims put pressure on themselves to stay, submit, pray, forgive, and forget the previous abuse. They end up with a scriptural dilemma because of how they were taught to believe.

The Church role is to offer help and hope in the restoration and healing process of the divorced person. Unfortunately, many churches are ill-equipped.

Divorced people need to be accepted and loved. Many of them feel rejected because their spouse left them for someone else. They lose their self-worth, self-esteem, and self-values. Love and acceptance will help them offset those feelings. Accepting a divorced person doesn’t mean you accept divorce. Jesus loves people and sinners, but he hates sin. Work with the divorced by loving them through the tough stuff.

There are some helpful ways to help a friend heal from divorce:

BE AVAILABLE: Make time for your friend, listen, let them know you care, be a strong support system.

BE SUPPORTIVE: Help them find a good Christian counselor, accompany to court dates, sit with your friend in church, surprise with gifts.

BE UNDERSTANDING: Grief takes time to overcome. Love your friend unconditionally, listen for suicide ideations, discern “tough love” when needed.

BE USEFUL: Help create a financial budget, help find a job, fill the freezer with casseroles or easy fix meals.

DON’T: Lend money unless you are OK with never getting it back, give advice unless asked, bash the former spouse, share details with others, visit places that trigger memories, fix your friend up with a date, recite religious cliché’s, assume your friend still feels welcome at church. Often those ostracized by the church during divorce, leave forever.

Be ready to help your friend when words are spoken by insensitive bystanders. Words like, “It takes two. You must have done something to drive him to another woman,” or “It takes two to get married, but only one to get divorced.” Those kinds of remarks are a stabbing pain that will always be remembered. I still remember to this day the insensitive remarks that were said to me, even though most folks were extremely happy that I got away with my life and sanity!

Really encourage your friend to attend a Christian recovery group. They are safe havens to form new friendships and discover an identity in Christ, not in a spouse. Your friend can find the support and comfort they need from a healthy group designed for healing the wounds of divorce.  

Here is a list of things that your friend can do to help themselves with the healing process:

Ø Acknowledge the loss. After the shock, it is easy to go into denial.
Ø Accept the pain as being normal, accept and own their responsibility and part in the divorce, accept the situation.

Ø Allow time to heal. A broken heart takes longer to heal than a broken bone.

Ø Allow yourself permission to mourn.

Ø Stick with God’s Plan. Know what the Bible says about the character and behavior of godly men and women, and only seek people who are clearly living in line with the Bible’s directives.

Ø Get into a Christian support group.

Ø Realize failure is never final and the only real failure is not to get up one more time!

Ø Use the pain for motivation to grow and become a better person.

Ø Forgive to be free. Let go of the past.

Ø Keep a journal. It will help reduce some of the pain.

Ø Lean on friends. Make new friends.

Ø Avoid making any other major life decisions until you’re able to process your divorce.

Ø Guard against a rebound. Do not rush into another romantic relationship!

Ø Let go of trying to control everything. Admit that divorce cost you something. Bad things do happen to good people.

Ø Play fair with your Ex.

Ø It’s always better to take the high road when dealing with difficult family dynamics.

Ø Top priority! Help your children heal after divorce. They must feel safe, loved, and supported through the process. Children of divorce are often left with painful, traumatic memories and emotions that last well into adulthood.

There are other things that a person going through a divorce will have to deal with, like, who gets the dog, who gets the church, who gets the friends. Child custody. All these decisions can be very hard and painful to make.

As a support person, you do not have to choose sides or be responsible for the choices they make. You will need to practice neutrality and remain on the outside of the ring of fire to remain an objective helper. You will be of no use if you walk into the fire or get sucked into the middle of the fire with them.

Be prepared mainly to be a good listener, a prayer warrior, have your arsenal of scriptures in your pocket, remember that you are not a divorce counselor, and love your friend through this life changing event so that their spirit, their soul, and their faith, is not irrevocably damaged.

Debra Lee


From “Making Wise Choices…the most important life skill to master” Lecture/Commentary series.