Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Before I was saved, I was extremely claustrophobic. I didn't like caves, elevators, or even small beds. Now that I am saved, I am more at peace and tolerant of small spaces, but being trapped in small spaces still makes me a little uncomfortable.
I began to think about narrow places. Sometimes the narrow road takes us through some "tight" spaces. You know, those places where you hold your breath and hope for the best, or those places where you have to stretch yourself to the max in order to squeeze through. Sometimes it even requires you to lighten your load by leaving things you were carrying along with you behind so that you can fit through the place you are attempting to pass through.
The narrow road that leads to life is no different. It is not always comfortable. Sometimes we come to a place where we're not sure if we are going to be able to "squeeze through." For instance, when something devastating happens to us, we just have to hold our breath, hang on, and trust God to get us through because we really don't know how to get through on our own. So we just believe that God will either make us thinner or make the narrow place wider to insure that we pass through it intact.
Other times, we are stretched to the max! For me, these kinds of narrow places often involve the stretching of my character in order to be able to deal with the undeveloped character in others. It stretches me in the areas of patience, compassion, mercy, understanding, and humility. Fortunately, faith is like a muscle. When it is stretched, it develops tone, shape, and strength and is a better support of my body and I'm able to handle the next narrow place that I encounter successfully and in a way that pleases my Savior.
Then there are those times when I just have to totally leave something behind. This can be the hardest thing. Of course at salvation, we drop a great many things immediately, but over the course of our journey, God requires us to rid ourselves of everything that keeps us attached to the world. Sometimes the things He requires of us to give up just doesn't make sense to us. For me, this has been a lesson and a test in the area of submission. For instance, when my Pastor says that he feels something is harmful to me, I must be willing to lay it down and leave it behind me. It may not seem like anything that is inherently sinful. It may even have the label "Christian" attached to it. It may be something that I enjoy.
For example: my pastor, who is also my hubby, does not believe that playing cards are a good thing for a Christian to have. Now, I used to love to play cards and I was a good card player. I never gambled with cards or went to wicked places to play cards. They were a purely social activity that I enjoyed with friends. So when he said that, it was hard for me to think about never playing cards again and I honestly didn't see the danger in them. But because I honor and submit to him, not only as my husband, but as my Pastor and shepard-the one appointed by God as the guardian of my soul, the cards went and I have never played since.
I came to the conclusion that it would not make any difference to me in heaven if I did or didn't play cards while I was here on the earth, but if I chose to not submit to my God placed authority, even if what he suggested seemed insignificant and trivial, it could totally make a difference in where I spent eternity and could affect the ability of God to bless me in ministry and life while I was here on the earth. It just wasn't worth taking a chance. To God, the issue was not really the card playing, it was whether or not I was willing to unload something I was carrying along in order to walk in submission to Godly authority in my life. To be honest, I don't miss cards at all. God has replaced it with so many other good and spiritual things. Had I not obeyed, even though it seemed so silly to me at the time, I would have missed out.
I just read a wonderful book called "Touching Godliness through Submission" by K. P. Yohannan. It has blessed my heart in so many ways and I truly see the wisdom and love of God in establishing authority in our lives. As I read in the pages of the many examples of Godly submission in scripture, the life of the author, and the lives of Godly men of old, I gained a new understanding into the freedom of being totally submitted to authority, even when it causes you to pass through those uncomfortable narrow places in life. Walking in submission is truly a paradoxical experience. It just doesn't make sense to your mind, but it is totally liberating to your Spirit and well worth a little breathlessness, stretching and downsizing!
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I seem to be finding good articles lately. This one could have been written about me! I went from the worst in marriage to the best in marriage, by the grace of God! What this has to say to those who are married and struggling is obvious. I also think that what can be read between the lines is applicable to every woman, no matter her marital status. If heeded, it could save those who are not yet married a lot of heartache and struggle.Why Husbands Aren't Enough
What I did know, and know very well, was the ache of a vague yet familiar yearning for all things intimate and emotional. Because I wasn't experiencing such things in my marriage, I set out to make intimacy happen—only to find myself, months later, more isolated than ever—from both my husband, Rick, and God.
I was a bottomless pit of emotional need: No matter how much love was poured in, I was never filled up. My expectations had become like carbon monoxide—slowly, invisibly asphyxiating the sweet breath of life from my newborn marriage. If my husband jumped through one hoop, there would be another one waiting on the other side.
I knew things had to change when Rick's words laid bare my insecurity. "It's a shame, Alyssa; you spent most of your single life trying to figure out what a man should do for you, yet you have no idea what you should do for a man," he said. Ouch! How dare you, Mr. Model of Christ's Love for the Church! But it was the truth.
I sat there, stunned, an unrepentant, emotionally-unfulfilled, selfish heap. My husband doubted that I loved him more than I loved myself, and do you know what? So did I.
Pathetic as it might seem, I had not seriously gone to the Lord with my need. I knew going to Him would hurt because my main issue was not an intimacy problem with my husband; it was an intimacy problem with God.
The Lord had seemed so far away for so long that I wondered whether He could make a difference. I had wanted Jesus to swoop down on me and overwhelm me with His love, just as I had hoped my husband would do. When neither came through—in my way and in my timing—I became resentful.
Still, God patiently pursued me—in His way and in His timing. As I sat before Him in prayer, the Holy Spirit began to show me that I needed to stop focusing on my unmet needs and my husband's weaknesses and put my eyes on Him.
My prayers were simple: "Lord, show me how to be a godly wife. Show me how to love my husband."
The Three Deadly C's
God was faithful to answer these prayers. But first He convicted me of developing false expectations based on worldly attitudes. I had seen the movies, watched the sitcoms and read the end of Cinderella; I naturally presumed my life would follow the same script. As a result, I formed an immutable mental concept of what love looked like, acted like and sounded like.
I had become a breeding ground for disappointment. Though my husband had always deeply loved me and wanted to make me happy, he was unable to live up to the Superman standard I had set for him—a standard that was not only unrealistic, but also unfair and hurtful.
The more Rick fell short of my expectations, the more damage I did to my marriage with the three deadly C's: complaint, control and comparison. Day by day I shot more holes in it by depending on him instead of on God to meet my needs.
Complaint. When you're not living for, and giving to, someone else and are focused on only your own need, externals become a really big deal. I'm not a chronic complainer, but shortly after getting married, I found myself frequently commenting that the Florida heat was unbearable, the little town we lived in was ugly and outdated, and if it weren't for marriage, I'd still have a life as a glamorous, single public relations executive.
I began to look to my husband to make my life what I thought it should be. I decided he ought to call more during the day; be more sensitive to the huge sacrifice I made by marrying him; send more flowers. If only he would do these things, I would be content.
Control. I also decided that in the areas where Rick wasn't naturally the way I wanted him to be, I would just show him the way. A couple of pointers, a few subliminal suggestions and bingo! He'd immediately follow suit, and then I would be fulfilled.
Conflicts would usually surface right around special occasions such as birthdays (mine), Christmas, Valentine's Day and our anniversary—any occasion on which Rick was supposed to come through with "the" gift.
Not just any old gift—the right gift. To eliminate the possibility of disappointment, I would tell him weeks—sometimes months—in advance exactly what I wanted. Then I would remind him of my desire at regular intervals preceding the special occasion.
I realize now that my behavior was simply an attempt to stave off the fear of being forgotten. But my annoying reminders and rules of gift-giving were saying to Rick, "I don't trust you."
Comparison. I have to admit, I really like watching a popular television sitcom in which the main characters, a married couple, have a great rapport. I wanted Rick and me to connect like that.
But Rick wasn't anything like the TV husband. He wouldn't say 99 percent of the things the TV husband says. He wouldn't even want to! The problem was, I would want him to. Whenever I compared Rick to my television idol, he always came up short.
He didn't measure up to the standards set by my relatives, either. My two sisters and my sister-in-law were all happily married. Discussing questions with them such as, "What did you get for Valentine's Day?" and "How many times a week are you intimate?" provided a yardstick by which I could determine the status of my own marital relationship.
If it wasn't on a par with that of my sisters and their husbands, the enemy would have a field day with my thoughts. He'd whisper: "You and Rick weren't good enough friends when you got married.
"You don't relate to each other as well as your sister and her husband do. You don't have the sex life of your sister-in-law. Maybe if you had married another personality, it wouldn't be so hard. Maybe you deserve better."
Obviously, my ways—complaint, control and comparison—were not the ways of love (see 1 Cor. 13). As I spent time in prayer and studying the Word, God began to show me how—after I had thoroughly repented of indulging in them—to replace them with His ways.
He gave me the weapons with which to fight for victory over my weaknesses. First, He taught me to have an "attitude of gratitude." So instead of complaining, I started to thank God for my husband, focusing on all the good things about him (see 1 Thess. 5:18).
I thanked Him for the person He made Rick to be and for the spiritual gifts and fruit He was bringing about in Rick's life. I also started thinking about all the things that were "lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy" in my husband (Phil. 4:8, NIV).
Amazingly enough, the image of who I thought my husband was started to change in the midst of my thankfulness. Rick's positive attributes began to emerge afresh, helping me put my pet peeves into perspective. Newfound respect and admiration were awakened, which naturally flowed into an increased desire to love him as he deserved to be loved.
Second, God taught me to surrender. Instead of trying to exert control, I learned to relinquish myself—and all my preconceived ideas about what love is—to Him. This set me free to love my husband without conditions and to release him from the pressure of demands that say, "I love you, but you'd better (fill in the blank), or I won't be happy."
What if I don't feel as if I have enough love to give him? I admit it. Within myself, I don't. I take Paul seriously when he writes, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Cor. 12:9). I continue to ask God to impart His unconditional love to me for my husband and to enable me to see Rick through His eyes.
Third, God taught me to combat comparison with prayer and intercession for my husband. Praying for him has become the manna from heaven that feeds selfless love. I don't have time to comparison-shop when I'm busy asking God to bless Rick and help him become all that He intends him to be.
I told the Lord that I would intercede for Rick and his business every day. At times when I sat before God, He gave me encouraging words and Scriptures for my husband that helped keep him spiritually fueled in the midst of rigorous business trips. Knowing his wife was at home praying for him gave Rick the extra "umph" he needed to go out there and work for our family.
I also noticed a budding empathy for my husband that nurtured our oneness. I became more concerned with his needs than I was with my own. Prayer changed my perspective and gave me a heart for Rick.
Being a bride of only two years, I know there's much more sanctification yet to come in my marriage. I also know there's more love, joy, intimacy and freedom as I submit to the Holy Spirit.
But at least I have learned that God never intended for my husband to meet all my needs. God alone is to be my all in all. The Lord Himself—not my husband—is to reign on the throne of my heart and satisfy its deepest longings. He wants my heart to be able to declare with joy, "Though heaven and earth and husbands may fail, You are enough, O God!"
If you have ever been deceived into thinking, as I once did, that it is solely your husband's responsibility to fill your emotional tank, take the following steps:
1. Repent of idolatry. No man can take the place of God in your life.
2. Admit your need. Ask God to make His love real to you.
3. Learn to love. Pray that God will impart to you His agape love for your husband.
4. Intercede for your husband daily. Pray as the Holy Spirit directs for God's will to be manifest in his life.
5. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Thank God for your husband just as he is.
6. Live to forgive. Only God is perfect; give your husband the grace to make mistakes.
7. Reject worldly standards of love and romance. Meditate on scriptural standards as expressed by biblical models such as Jesus, Boaz and Hosea.
I believe you will experience a new freedom, develop a healthy dependence on God and release your husband from the need to perform. And over time, you will learn to love him as he is, without placing undue expectations on him, and your marriage will become—for both of you—all God wants it to be.
Alyssa McDaniels is a free-lance writer and homemaker based in Central Florida. She and Rick, her husband of 2-1/2 years, enjoy traveling together and playing with their 10-month-old daughter.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
I’ve been asked numerous times for my take on the firestorm surrounding Carrie Prejean—the reigning Miss California who lost her bid for Miss USA after publicly affirming her belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman.
Those who hold to the biblical concept of marriage couldn’t help but be glad that this young woman courageously stood for the Truth, knowing that to do so could be costly.
Yet, for those who affirm and cherish the biblical perspective of femininity and sexuality, this story has an important subtext and raises a number of issues that should be of great concern to us as followers of Christ.
Carrie has made a strong public profession of her faith in Christ. As Christians, we are called to live as redeemed men and women and to reflect to the world the beauty and holiness of God. I’m not in a position to judge Carrie’s motives or her heart. But while I applaud her courage, I also believe some of her choices and public actions, past and present, are representative of many women who consider themselves Christians, but who lack clear biblical thinking and conviction on such matters as virtue, womanhood, beauty, modesty, and discretion.
In my mind, Carrie Prejean’s story is symptomatic of deeper root issues in the evangelical world—issues that in my opinion outweigh most of what is being debated in the secular press.
Sadly, Carrie is the product of a Christian sub-culture that has lost a sense of what it means to be citizens of the kingdom of God and has embraced the values and thinking of this world.
By and large, young adults who have grown up in our evangelical homes, churches, and schools, are buying into a message that they have seen modeled by those around them who call themselves Christians—namely, that Christianity can be divorced from Christ-likeness, and that practical holiness in everyday life is out-dated, irrelevant, or optional.
Carrie Prejean’s situation highlights the desperate need for Titus 2 “older women”—mothers, youth workers, mentors—to take an active role in the training and discipleship of younger women—teaching them to live out the implications of the gospel in every area of their lives.
So many young women in the Christian world have little understanding or discernment when it comes to modesty and personal purity. And can you blame them when they are following in the footsteps of a generation of so-called believers who tolerate, justify, and flaunt immodesty, sensuality, and immorality of every form, along with serial divorce and remarriage?
That’s why as women we need to be asking ourselves questions like:
• How does my life measure up to the Word of God?
• Am I modeling Christ-like, Gospel-drenched virtue, modesty, femininity, beauty, and discretion to the next generation?
• What kind of impact am I having on the younger women in my sphere of influence?
• What I am doing to invest in their lives, to point them to Christ, and to mentor them in godliness?
Carrie Pejean’s story should cause us to be on our faces crying out to God over the extent to which the church today has accommodated to the world. It should cause us to plead with God on behalf of our children and grandchildren, and then to get up off our knees and go out and engage this younger generation with love and grace and truth and to become agents of redemption in their lives.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Death is never a pleasant thing, especially when it is a loved one. And even though we buried the oldest living patriarch of our family, his death was the catalyst for the revival of dreams, the planting of hope, and new connections in Christ.
In memory of Rodgers Ellsworth Slick who fought the good fight and finished the race and who has received the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus.
Things his obituary did not say:
-found Christ at a young age through his mother who was converted as a result of the Asuza St. revival.
-traveled in a gospel band as a teenager to campmeetings all over the U.S. There was no instrument that Pap could not play.
-had a voice like a fog horn
-played softball with his grandchildren and great grand children every Memorial Day up until the age of 93.
-Had a laugh that was contagious
-was in more Holy Ghost meetings than we could ever count, and oh, the stories he would tell us.
-left an incredible spiritual heritage to his his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren
-will be sorely missed
The call came on Tuesday informing us that he had only a day or two to live and he desired to see his grandson one more time. We hurried to his side. He was too weak to speak but was able to communicate that he was disappointed that we didn't bring our children. (We wanted them to remember him the way they were most familiar with, not wracked with pain, unable to speak, and wasting away). And he motioned that he was ready and wanting to go home and be with Christ.
The Bible tells us that we do not mourn as the world mourns and the time we spent in a drenching rain, protected by a funeral tent over the the graveside was evidence enough of that. Tears of sentiment were shed, laughter over times shared together and the fact that after 15 years of discussion, arguing, and research, we will never discover who "JOE" is. The most poignant moment came as we surveyed the graveyard with it's bright flowers and rows of tombstones. We do not know many buried at that site, but we knew that someday there will be a great disturbance there as four graves, laying side by side, will burst open at that great sounding of the trumpet and four members of the Slick family will suddenly be changed, in the twinkling of an eye and their bodies will not be found! What comfort it brought to us all as we pictured it in our mind's eye. We could truly say, Oh grave, where is thy victory, oh death where is thy sting?
Good times were had as "the cousins" were all reunited for some silliness. Good food-I can't remember that I have ever eaten so much fried chicken. As our ancestors were discussed, we learned more about where we had come from as a family, more about our spiritual heritage, more about each other.
Sunday services were filled with preaching of a Pentecostal message, just the basics, but very encouraging and refreshing! The preacher, a visiting evangelist/missionary/church planter who had been scheduled months before. His words and prayers brought renewed vision, the revival of hope deferred, and confirmation to prayers that we have been praying as a couple for many years now. Although a stranger to us, he brought us a word that could only have been from God.
And finally, a new friend made. The preacher, a kindred spirit. What good fellowship we enjoyed! A new relationship has been initiated. We look forward to see what God will do in it. It's so refreshing to meet an evangelist that is not evangelastic (stretches the truth)!
So even though the occasion that brought us together was sad, God made all grace abound to us and brought the renewed sense of His promise that death is not the end, it is just a transition into an eternal form of life. We were again reminded of the life that was brought through the death of Jesus Christ and it was cause for rejoicing. (We all voted and decided that we are holding out for the rapture, something that Pap had so longed to experience himself.) And we experienced that even in death, life and hope can spring forth anew in our hearts and lives. The promises of Christ are truly a tangible substance that sustain, comfort, renew, revive, and give us hope through anything that we experience in life, even the death of a loved one.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
But a close friend of mine, who also happens to be married to the ministry took one to figure out what 5-fold ministry gift she was. Actually it was a 3-fold ministry gift test between the giftings of apostle, pastor or prophet. As I would have guessed, she tested pastoral.
I have never felt called to 5-fold ministry. I just happen to be married to someone who is. In fact, the one statement I hear more than any other is "you're not a typical Pastor's wife". Friends and acquaintances along the way have tried to ease my troubled mind about my success or lack of it in this arena of pastor's wife. But the nagging thoughts are still there. I even left my friend a message on her Facebook account that read "I would be afraid to take that test for fear of what it would say!"
So, just for fun, I took the test!
This was the next message I left for my friend.
"It figures! I took the 5-fold test and ended up with a picture of a man scratching his head and telling me I need further testing!" No wonder people tell me I'm "atypical". The experts can't even figure me out!