Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Commercial Break.


Well, I decided to take a quick commercial break from my "Forgiveness" posts to give an update on my plans for Kenya.  For one thing, last night I dreamed about my trip to the airport.  It was....enlightening.  (In a bad way.)
 
Turns out I forgot to fill my prescriptions beforehand -- boarded the plane with a handful of Rx papers and a hopeful heart instead.  Then I forgot my laptop case and was busy asking if I could get through security with a carry-on, plus a bare laptop.  As you can imagine, they were pretty impressed by me.

Oh yes, and then that little issue of bringing my passport along.  (And P.S.  Is it really necessary to wear shoes in an airport?)

When I woke up, I started making a master list of everything -- and I do mean EVERYTHING -- I need to take (down to chapstick, an extra pillowcase, and a list of important phone numbers) so my dream (er, nightmare) doesn't become a reality.

I can take three pieces of luggage, total.  I'll be gone for two months.  Each bag has a separate (and declining) weight limit, so I'm looking for the largest, yet lightest duffel bags possible.  (On that note, does anybody have any traveling/flying suggestions for me?  I've never exactly done this before -- besides in my dream and that just proved I need some serious help!)

Also, I've been trying to think of a practical, but cute gift for the kids at the orphanage.  Something small (and preferably lightweight -- ahem).  A couple days ago, I was working on my own packing list when I got it (or at least, I think I did).  Headscarves!  (Or bandannas -- whatever you'd like to call them.)  I'm taking several of my own to wear while I'm there (seems practical to keep my hair tied back and protected while I'm working in the gardens, etc.) and I think the kids would really enjoy having some too.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I'm going to work on buying some, sewing some, and recruiting a few other people to do the same.  The scarves will be in all different colors and varieties.  Does this sound like a brilliant idea or a brilliantly stupid idea?  They all spend a great deal of time outdoors, so it seems like a winner.

Sounding board?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Hardest Words To Say.

You’re doing the right thing. A sacrificial thing. Saving innocent lives. Putting yourself in danger for it. And suddenly, your sacrifice becomes enough evidence to convict you to a concentration camp. While there, you watch your sister weaken and eventually die. When you are finally freed, you learn that your father also passed away and that you are the only surviving family member.

”Forgiving Others” begins with a reference to the life of Corrie ten Boom. Two years after Corrie was released from the concentration camp, she spoke at a church in Munich. The message she brought was on God’s forgiveness.

After she left the stage, a man approached her. “You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk. I was a guard there,” he said. “But since that time I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Will you forgive me?”

Corrie stared at his extended hand. The minutes ticked by as she wrestled with the most difficult decision she’d ever had to face. How could she possibly forgive him?

In order to do it—and really mean it from the bottom of her heart—she would have to understand the true meaning of forgiveness. And what exactly is that?

Forgiveness is the dismissing of a debt.

In the New Testament, the Greek noun aphesis denotes a “dismissal” or “release”. So….

--When you grant forgiveness, you dismiss the debt owed to you.

--When you grant forgiveness, you dismiss the debt from your thoughts.

Forgiveness is dismissing your demand that others owe you something. Especially when….

--They fail to meet your expectations.

--They fail to keep a promise.

--They fail to treat you justly.

Forgiveness is dismissing, canceling, or setting someone free from the consequences of falling short of God’s standard.

--The standard of God is perfection, yet we all have sinned.

--The penalty for our sin is spiritual death.

--That penalty for our sin (our debt) was paid by Jesus through His sacrificial death on the cross.

Corrie had a huge task before her. Was it possible to speak those three words—“I forgive you”—and turn to walk away, knowing it was the truth?

Her question is also mine.  But in the back of my mind—and hers, we already know the answer.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I Never Forgave.


How do you possibly learn to forgive someone? On Wednesday, while working at the pregnancy center, I started reading a book about forgiveness. I picked it up because I had a no-show and an extra 30 minutes before seeing my next client. The book was short and the cover was cute. I didn’t think I could learn anything from it. Silly me.

Remember everything that went on last fall? I blogged about it, a little.

I don’t even think I was more than two pages into the book before I realized I still had a problem. A big one. By compartmentalizing the hurt I’d experienced, I found a way to go on with my life without it playing as a constant refrain in my mind. But, though I’d absorbed the impact of the hurt and for all appearances “let it go” by “forgetting” about it, I hadn’t forgiven everything.

Because I wasn’t moving on.

Forgetting is not the same as forgiving. And believe me, it was the worst feeling in the world to realize how much I still have to give up to God.

Last night, I sat on the kitchen table talking to my sister with tears streaming down my face as I tried to explain just how many layers of hurt and unforgiveness are still piled up in my heart. “How does this go away? How am I supposed to forgive everything?” I asked her. “How can I just walk away and accept everything that happened?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “It’s something God gives us the power to do. We can’t do it ourselves.”

So. “Hello Lord, it’s me, your child, again….”

And, on top of that, I’m going to re-read the book. It’s by June Hunt and the title is, “Forgiving Others”. I’ll blog my notes (or any particularly good quotes I come across) as much as I can. I have a lot to learn and I hope I am willing to.

Thanks for joining me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shots.


Apparently, where I saved on my ticket, I was hit by the vaccines.  Ahh!  But thankfully, I was able to get them done this morning (except for one follow-up shot I'm getting the day before I fly out). The whole operation cost far more than I expected it to -- but that's okay.  It's all going to even out in the end.

I decided to start a Kenya scrapbook with all my receipts and pictures and papers and journal entries and other et cetera I acquire along the way.  Those are the kinds of things that won't have a place in my book, but I know I'll still want to hold on to them for memory's sake.  (No, I'm not being a pack rat.  I have a good use for everything -- and a place to put it.  See?  Ahem.)

Passport down.  Shots down.  Ticket, pending.  I really am going to Kenya.  Eeee!!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stress, Songs, and Airplane Tickets.

Some days I get stressed out before I even walk out the door.  This morning, I knew I'd be seeing more clients than I'd ever before seen in a single day.  They were also all first-time clients, which meant the sessions would be long and I'd have to cover all my bases: spiritual, emotional, and physical needs -- always difficult to remember everything.  (After I walk a client to the door, it seems like I always remember a question didn't cover -- ugh.)

Oh.  And the write-ups.  I try not to take notes when I'm in a counseling session so the girls don't think I'm making them into a "case" or a "project", but I had a hard time imagining a whole day without any note-taking.  Some evenings I sit down to do my write-ups and can't remember which FOB is employed and which one is here in the United States without a visa.  Which girl attends the church on the corner and which one hasn't been in years.  Which FOB already has 2 kids and which one has the stepson named Eric who is always getting into trouble at school.

Long story short?  I got through it.  In some places, it was rough.  My first client didn't care where she was going after she died ("This might sound funny, but....").  For a minute, I didn't know where to start.  Then the Lord gave me words.  My last client barely spoke English.  Then the Lord reminded me of my South Korean co-counselor who taught me a lot of useful phrases during our summer together.  We finally were able to connect.

When I finally left the center, I no longer felt up to visiting the nursing home, but decided to go anyway because I'd already promised to stop.  And as usual, once I got there, I was hooked.  I spent an hour and a half visiting and praying with everyone, but after walking up and down the halls a few extra times, my feet were starting to hurt and I decided it was probably time to go. 

I told everyone goodbye and started to walk out, but my friend Willie grabbed my arm and said, "Listen sugar, you go ahead and sit down in that chair for a minute until I come back."  I kind of shrugged to my other friend Beulah and watched as Willie walked out the door onto the balcony.

"Should I go?" I asked her. 

"I don't know, honey," she said.  "He might be playing some kind of a prank.  Why don't you wait and see."

That sounded good.  I decided to wait.

Time went by.  He still didn't show up and I was getting impatient.  I didn't look forward to an even later, long drive home through the city so I walked over to the balcony door and looked through it.  On the far side of the porch, I saw Willie enjoying his evening "smoking privilege" (that all the residents speak of with such reverence).  Seriously?  I thought.  He probably forgot he told me to wait.

I walked back to where Beulah and her friends were sitting.  "I think Willie got sidetracked," I said.  "I'm going to go ahead and leave."

Then I heard him call out behind me, "Jennifer, wait -- don't go!  I want to sing you a song.  Or -- oh well, maybe next time."

"Oh no, please sing!  I was just going to leave 'cause I thought you forgot about me," I teased.  "I'd love to hear your song."

So, with all the residents gathered around in the hallway and a few nurses looking on amusedly, Willie threw his head back and sang 5 verses of song I highly suspect he (mostly) made up on the spot.  It was all about how much he truly loved me and how much everyone looked forward to my visit.  The fourth stanza was about his work with the local police force (it made me smile) and the fifth talked about how much he wanted to meet my family and go with me to Africa some day.

One line that stood out particularly was when he said their hearts all skipped a beat when they heard my footsteps on the stairs and then saw me walk through the door.  Really??!! 

Because, wow.  I don't deserve that.  In fact, tonight, I didn't even feel like coming.  I didn't know it meant so much to them.  I didn't know what to say.

Then Beulah told me to wait and came back a few minutes later clutching a copy of Our Daily Bread and a stack of type-written papers with guided Bible study notes.  "You gave me books last week and I'm still reading that picture book you gave me about Africa," she said.  "Remember you wrote in the front of it?  Now honey, you take this one and read it.  It's about God and I think you'll really like it.  Look up all the verses and study it, okay honey?  Promise me you'll do it."

I assured her that I would, hugged them all, told them I loved them, and ran down two flights of steps, through the foyer, and down the dark sidewalk to the car, thinking the whole way, "He is faithful, He is faithful".  I could barely remember the morning's stress.

And then, as if that wasn't enough of a blessing, when I came home and checked my email, I had a message from my travel agent -- she found me a round-trip ticket!  Also, it's missionary fare: which means that I can take 3 pieces of luggage without an additional [and crazy] fee.  It was also $200 less than I'd expected to spend and I am so grateful!

I'm still trusting God for the rest of it....but He has a way of working those things out.  I'm not worried.  He is so good to me.  Why do I ever doubt Him?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

To Friend or Not to Friend.

Top 10 thoughts on adding friendship to evangelism.

Crazy lady that Jenn is, she asked me write about evangelism. Specifically, she wanted me to talk about friendship in evangelism.

You've probably heard this debate. One side says we need to spend every waking moment telling people about Jesus (and not sleeping too much). The other side says we need to first cultivate friendships before sharing the gospel. It's like the chicken and the egg, only the gospel is the chicken and friendship is the egg. So which comes first?

Crazy guy that I am, I'm attempting to answer the question with a question: isn't it both?

Lest Jenn never invite me to guest post here again, I'll try to explain myself instead of just leaving you with that Philosophy major answer.

(By the way, I like lists and, evidently, long posts. I hope you don't mind.)

1. The answer isn't either/or.

It's both. You can't expect someone to believe the amazingness you share without trusting you. On the other hand, it's no good when someone trusts you if you're wrong.

2. Trust is important, and friends trust friends.

I've said before that friends accept friends before they accept advice. I'm sure you can think of exceptions to this, but they don't hold when you get into repeating the gospel.

If you just give advice, you're either accepted or rejected right there. That's it – you have one shot.  If you build a friendship, though, even if the person doesn't accept the gospel advice the first time, you still have a huge opportunity to follow up again and again.

3. The Truth is important, and the Gospel gives Truth.

The danger in building friendships is that we can easily slip into friendships only, forgetting the truth of the gospel altogether. I think this is why many Christians are so zealous about avoiding “friendship” evangelism. Friendship is a fantastic medium to exchange ideas and beliefs. But we can't forget that it's not the message. The message is the gospel. Friendship brings the gospel to everyday life.

4. Evangelists are afraid to friend.

Friendships require commitment. Door to door, broadcast evangelism often requires no commitment at all. If 100 new Christians were converted to Christ from the efforts, the evangelist would most likely direct all of them to his or her local congregation and eagerly go back to walking door to door.

Christ's commend, though, was to go into the world and make disciples. Sometimes, oftentimes, it's easier to just tell about Jesus than live like Him. (More on this in #9.)

5. Friends are afraid to evangelize.

I remember one time in particular walking door to door inviting people to a home fellowship in a neighborhood where I used to live. I had no problem with the houses where I didn't know anyone. I was more apprehensive about sharing with the neighbors I knew.

At the unknown houses, if I made of fool of myself or for whatever reason they didn't accept what I was saying, no problem. I'd just brush it off and never see them again. But at the houses where I knew someone...

When you share with friends, you put your reputation on the line. You put the whole relationship on the line. Friendships take effort to maintain, so it can be scarier to share with those you know than those you don't know.

6. Without friendship in the beginning, evangelism can easily deteriorate into a duty.

It's easy to spout off the Gospel message and assume you've done your good deed for the day. I know I often fall into this slump. I share, then figure if they don't accept it, it's not my problem. My mission's accomplished. They can't blame me for not sharing with them when they stand before God.

I think a lot of Christians have that mindset. We often share the gospel because it's the Christian duty. But no, I don't want to do that. I want to evangelize because I genuinely care about people. That's why Jesus shared with others. He actually cared about people. Evangelism is a privilege, not a duty. We tell others about Christ because we care.

7. Without the gospel in the beginning, evangelism can easily startle.

Nothing like building a friendship around misconceptions to ruin a friendship. I'm all for friending, but don't ever come across as someone who's not a Christian. I know it can help smooth into friendship in the beginning, but when (if?) the gospel does come up, it breaks the trust of the friendship, destroying the benefits of the relationship. That's why the gospel is important from the beginning. Live in such a way that everyone knows you're a Christian even if you're not directly evangelizing.

8. Friendships don't take as long to build as we think.

The apparent urgency of the gospel message seems to force us to cut to the crucial points of salvation as quickly as possible. This means cutting out the relationship part – or so we think.

We've confused making friends with maintaining friends. Making friends can be a relatively quick process. Start by buying a stranger (not of the opposite sex) a Latte at the neighborhood Starbucks sometime. You'll see what I mean.

9. Friendships are harder to maintain than we think.

Friendships don't take long to make, but they are difficult to maintain. This is where evangelism crosses into discipleship. Discipleship is about committing to someone with no guarantee for response. Discipleship is about following up and opening up. It's about authenticity. It's about teaching by example, not just by the words you say.

Pulling this off requires us to have a much deeper relationship with Jesus than what's required to deliver a track and invite someone to fellowship. Those are fantastic, but they're only the beginning.

10. Friends encourage instead of just providing more information.

For me, this is the clincher. At least in Western culture, everyone's heard about Jesus. They might not have the whole, accurate picture, but they've heard. It's like most other things now - we have all the information we need. If someone wants more info, Google it.

Friends do more than offer more information. They offer encouragement. They build certainty into the information that's already available. Most people have heard the gospel. What they need is to see it walking around, to feel it caring for them. That's where we come in.

At least that's where I try to come in.

But what do you think? Am I completely off base? What role does friendship play in evangelism?

_________________

Marshall Jones Jr. is your average carrot juice drinking, 20 year old PK who lives, writes, and runs a free e-course from beautiful Louisville, Kentucky. He blogs about serving others at www.bondChristian.com.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cutting.


Is cutting wrong?  The other week, I counseled with a girl named Katie who, after struggling with the habit for many years, realized it might be.  She explained that in years past, it brought the release she needed from anger and depression, but now it left her feeling guilty.  Did that mean she really needed to quit?

“I mean, I pray to God and ask Him for help with my problems and stuff, but I also need something that works right away,” she added.  “Cutting works.  Is it really wrong if it gives me peace?  God wants us to have peace, doesn’t He?”

I thought for a moment.  “If cutting really brings you peace, where does this guilt fit in?” I asked.

She shrugged.  “Yeah, I see what you’re saying,” she said.  “But then….what does it mean?  What should I do about it?”

A Reputation.

Katie isn’t to be blamed for the confusion brought on by her feelings of guilt.  As she is now fully aware, there’s a great deal of stigma associated with the habit of cutting, and those enslaved by the habit are often painted as victims: unstable and depressed.  Since she didn’t feel like an unstable victim, she questioned the validity of her misgivings, hoping the guilt was misplaced and not evidence of a deeper heart issue.

The truth is that many people who cut (unbeknownst to their friends and family) are easily accepted as normal, happy, and productive members of society.  They fear discovery because they know it will risk their “other” image forever.  “I don’t want this to define me,” Katie said.  “If people find out, they’re going to treat me like a mental case and I know I’m not.  I guess if the guilt means I’m being convicted, then fine, but if it’s just because I’m afraid of what other people think, then I don’t want to hear about it.  I know myself better than they do.”

Reasons Why.

Are cutters mentally unstable?  Many studies show that cutters are not necessarily unstable—they just have great difficulty managing their deeper emotions.  Either they spend too little time dealing with them—or too much.  The imbalance usually leads to unhealthy actions.

Is this a rare problem?  Not at all.  According to a poll done by Christian Parenting, 51% of all respondents said that either they, their child, or someone they knew were involved in self-injury.  Is this statistic shocking?  2% of the world’s population have already been treated for self-injury—imagine how many more are still dealing with it alone.

So, what makes people start cutting?

There are myriad reasons why someone might resort to self-injury.  It’s often the result of intense emotional turbulence, induced by such things as stress, abandonment, depression, relationship issues, failure, or general feelings of worthlessness.

Author and speaker T. Suzanne Eller recounts a conversation she had with a 17-year-old girl: "I've never told anybody before," she said. "I'm only talking to you because you didn't freak out. The last thing I want is for my Christian friends to think I'm evil or possessed.  I love God with all my heart.  But I feel so worthless.  I feel trapped."

Another teen admitted that cutting gave her a feeling of control when she was in the midst of turmoil that otherwise left her helpless.  “It’s my way of doing something.”

Eller’s article continues: “Leslie Vernick, author and licensed counselor at Christ-Centered Counseling for Individuals and Families, says what a teen's really saying is, Help, I'm hurting and I don't know how to deal with my pain!’

““The endorphins released during cutting often soothe a deeper pain—the pain of rejection, depression, self-hatred, or helplessness," says Vernick.  A teen who self-injures finds instant release through the biochemical reaction and confuses cutting with comfort.”

Wendy Lader, Ph.D,  describes self-injury as "self-medication." Cutters haven't learned to identify or express their emotions so the feelings persist. "The teen is using physical pain as a means of saying something she's unable or unwilling to put into words," explains Vernick. "She needs to be listened to and helped to process whatever emotional pain (even if we as adults might see it as typical teenage pain) she feels so she may learn healthy ways of dealing with hurt.”

Who Does it Affect?

Middle-to-upper-class female teens are most likely to fall prey to the habit, according to statistics, though no one is immune. 

One teen admitted that she began cutting because her family was under a lot of stress and she felt like adding her own turmoil to the mix would only cause a greater burden.  After trying to deal with her emotions by self-injury, she realized that she’d caused a greater problem.  When her parents discovered her secret, they were mortified and heartbroken.  Their disappointment not only increased the feelings of shame and inadequacy, but drove her further and further away from any chance of rescue.

The vicious cycle is plain to see.

Also, as is evidenced by this scenario, cutting seems to be especially prevalent among empathetic and introspective personalities.  These personalities are inclined to bottle up the frustrations and disappointments of others (as well as suppress their own emotional reactions) until they often feel the need for physical release.

The Temptation.

It’s difficult for people outside the situation to understand the true temptation a cutter faces.  According to Katie, the mere sight of a knife or razor weakens her resolve.  “It’s easy to be unsympathetic if it’s not your weakness.  But saying stuff like, “Why don’t you just stop!” or, “Think about how it looks to other people!” or, “Why don’t you just talk to someone about it?” only makes it worse.”

“Sometimes I think, ‘So what if I cut?’” said Katie.  “I mean, I have a whole life apart from it.  I do a lot of things.  I’m involved in church.  I go on mission’s trips.  My friends even ask me for advice on stuff.”

Is There Hope?

God asks a lot from us.  He desires that we rely on Him—not a person, habit, or substance—for our ultimate peace and fulfillment.

No addiction is easy to give up.  But at the same time, God never asks us face something He doesn’t also give us the power to conquer, through His grace.

In Leviticus, the Lord specifically forbids the Israelites to indulge in practices derived from the pagan cultures around them.  “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks upon yourselves. I am the Lord.”

In other cultures, death was received with much mourning and despair.  People cut themselves to display their grief as well as bring emotional relief.  As Christians, the Lord reminded them that they still had hope in such things as death—there was no need to ease pain or depression the same way the heathens chose to.  Sadness was expected, but it could be cast onto, and resolved through, Christ.

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.”   We belong to Christ.  We’re set apart as His treasured possessions.  We don’t need the coping techniques of the unregenerate.  As Katie admitted, the cutting brought temporary relief, but the after-effects of shame drove her to cut herself over and over again until the habit just consumed her and she was broken.

As Christians, we also know that we are to respect God’s creations—especially what is made in His own image.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, ”Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, who you have received from God.  You are not your own; you were bought with a price.  Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”

While this entire passage is generally referring to sexual immorality, these two verses obviously speak about much more than our sexual conduct.  We are not our own—we were bought with a price: the price of Jesus’ death on the cross.  And now we belong to Him.  Out of love for Him—and gratefulness for His sacrifice—we are called to be obedient to His will—including the directive to honor Him with our bodies.

Lysamena, author of www.self-injury.org, comments: “God made our bodies (Genesis 1:27), and if we are Christians, the Holy Spirit lives in them. Therefore, a proper Christian life involves care not only for the soul but also for the body—even while the body must be kept under control and used to serve the Lord. Self-injury, then, is prohibited for Christians because it violates the principle explained here: that the Lord's holy people are not allowed to deface God's image in themselves.”

Cutting also demonstrates an acute lack of trust in God’s promises.  By defacing our bodies, using them as a release for deep feelings of depression and anger, and trying to “fix” things ourselves, we are basically telling God that He is no longer sufficient in our weakness.  We begin to trust our flesh.

When we put confidence in our own wisdom—doing things that are right in our own eyes—we step outside of the circle of blessing that is shown through obedience and in so doing, forfeit our communion with God.  If you find yourself in this heartbreaking condition, cry out for His rescue.  He is a God of pity and tender-mercy; He won’t leave you on your own.

A Call to Healing

Lysamena continues, “Does this mean that Christians never self-injure? Of course not. Both Christians and non-Christians struggle with self-injury.  The wonderful and glorious truth, however, is that Christians believe and trust that Jesus' death on the cross has already paid the penalty for all the sins they will ever commit.  Moreover, they have died with Christ and are dead to sin.  The life they now live here on earth they live by faith in order to please God (Galatians 2:20, Romans 6:1-13).  Does that mean ending self-injury?  Yes, it does.  Because of the Spirit's help, the Christian won't be doing it alone.”

Lysamena is right.  Thankfully, you aren’t called to fight single-handedly.  The Lord will give you “grace to help in time of need”.  If you’re trying to conquer the addiction yourself, you are likely to fail repeatedly and sink deeper into despair.  Ask the Lord to come alongside you and remind yourself that He is good—He will provide for your emotional needs like no one and no thing ever could.

And finally, realize that you can’t—and never will—be able to fix the pain in your heart without Him.

No addiction is easy to conquer and no one should pretend that it is.  As I’m sure anyone who has struggled with the habit could tell you: there’s no “quick fix” for cutting.  But there is an everlasting love and a perfect promise you can run to when you are faced with temptation or despair.

Is cutting wrong?  Yes, it is.  It’s a sin against God and against yourself.  But it doesn’t ultimately make you a victim unless you let it pull you under.  Choose God’s freedom over your bondage.  Cast your cares on Him.  And, according to your love for Him, strive to obey Him.

He loves you.



Friday, January 1, 2010

A Fresh Start.

Happy 2010!  I’ve looked forward to this new year for some time now.  2009 wasn’t the best year of my life, by any means, but it was a year of growth—in countless ways.   I can see that already.

I promised myself I wouldn’t be in a reflective mood when the clock turned and ushered in a new decade.  There’s so much I’d love to remember, but it's all so tinged with grief and regret, I figure it isn’t really worth reminiscing over.

I’m ready to turn the page.  So far, I’m more excited about this coming year than I have been about any other new year in the past.  I know the Lord has so many great things in store and I’m eager for change.

Years like 2009 were necessary years: years designed to shape and prepare me for things to come.  I don’t need to remember everything.  Certain events are better off buried right where they collapsed, but what the Lord taught me?  It should be shouted from the rooftops.

There’s a verse I’m using as a benediction over 2009.  In Exodus, the Lord says,

“Build altars in the places
where I remind you who I am
and I will come
and bless you there.”

Even in the midst of heartbreak and turmoil, the Lord showed me His protection and love.  The lessons He taught me were by no means easy, but in every instance, He gently reminded me who He was—and who I wasn’t.

He is the Savior who does all things well.  The God who never sleeps.  The Friend who sticks closer than a brother.  The One who loves me with a jealous love.  The Author and Finisher of my faith.  El Shaddai, Adonai, Jehovah Jirah.

And I am nothing without Him.

So, instead of begging for a memory charm to forget 2009, I will build an altar in my mind—in all the places where my Savior revealed Himself to me—and beg Him to bless me there.  Ask Him to redeem lost time.  Ask Him to restore brokenness.  Ask Him to turn regret into peace.

Maybe 2009 was a good year for you.  Perhaps it’s 2010 you’re dreading.  Either way, remind yourself that the Lord sends both good times and bad—and through it all, reminds you of who He is.  “I will come and bless you there.”  His ways are not our ways.  What a comfort that is!

What are you looking forward to in the coming year?