To My Acquaintance in Pain

Humans desire to not only leave a mark on the places they go: “Sam was here July 2017”; but we also take remembrances of the places travel.  We collect  t-shirts, refrigerator magnets,  photos, and key chains. I do not buy trinkets, I collect pain.

I gather  stories, not the history of locations, I do not remember the details.    I amass feelings, the joy, the sadness, the fear, the awe, the confusion, and the exhaustion of those around me.  My accumulation includes the emotion found after someone says: “Please pray for my friend” or “Let me tell you about”. Some of these remembrances are complete enough to have the amazing resolution to the difficulty, but most do not.

My library of stories is vast involving people of all ages, races, and life experiences. Many of the volumes contain my own tears; because they are my life’s events. They are arranged by categories such as: hilarious, joyous, sorrow filled, and bittersweet.

I just returned from a six-day journey that involved an international airport,  going through customs, and the collection of emotions.

The purposes of the trip were:

  • Make residents aware of groups of Jesus worshipers in their midst through our small free carnivals and a parenting class based on the book I wrote.
  • Find people who are seeking God by knocking on their door and offering to pray for them and surveying those who attended one of the carnivals or baseball clinic.
  • Share the good news of Jesus Christ.
  • Meet the needs of the believers through supplies, Bible based activities with their children, prayer, smiles, and advice.
  • Encourage the leaders who feel lonely or overwhelmed.
  • Listen to the stories of the amazing things God is doing.

The letter below is my attempt to complete my purpose.

 To those experiencing tragedy I want to say:

I heard of your crisis today.  I truly cannot imagine your pain. Although you did all that was possible, it still happened.  I want to believe that there is always logic and order to the world. Certainly, there is a basic order to the universe, but even in the laws of nature there is the unexpected flood, or genetic mutation (Genesis 3:17-19). So just as you were helpless to stop the tragedy, in this instance, you are not the lone catalyst either.

Only people with faith say: “God, why didn’t You intervene? In other instances, You protected, provided, and prevented, but not for me. For me, You are stony and silent. What reasoning do You use to justify your attentiveness at times, and unresponsiveness at on other occasions? Is your love and power based on whim?”

Although it may give you little comfort, Job (Job 30:20-21), John the Baptist (Matthew 11:2, 3, 6) and Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)  each struggled with those same questions.

The truth is that many died, and continue to die without ever receiving an explanation from God (Hebrews 11:13).

When you became a Christian, you placed your trust in Jesus’s ability to forgive your sins. You declared by faith that Jesus was God’s perfect only Son, who died to pay for your transgressions. You knew your baptism represented Jesus’ resurrection from the grave and the new eternal life you now have with Him. What you could not know at the time, was that you would be forced to rely on that same faith numerous times throughout your life (Daniel 3:17, 18).

Whether the crisis of belief comes in the form of: crime, addiction, divorce, earthquake, illness, death of a child, fire, loss of a job, or a hundred other things; all Christians have their faith challenged. Will you believe that God totally loves you, He is always wise, His timing is continually perfect, and is all-powerful, even when your emotional pain causes you to be physically ill? Is your faith conditional? Will you believe even when you cannot feel His presence?

In moments like these, I  cried out: “Help my unbelief (Mark 9:24). I want faith, but I am lacking even a mustard seed of trust (Luke 17:6).” I wish I could tell you: “Then my sorrow parted like the Red Sea, or I heard God’s still small voice (1 Kings 19:11-13), or angels appeared to give me comfort (Mark 1:13).” But usually what happened was another Christian called, or came by my home. Sometimes God would remind me of a song or a verse from the Bible. Occasionally He would call my name (John 20:16).

As I thumb through the stories of my life, I can point to some shouting, “Hallelujah”. I understand now; I see God’s presence all over the situation now that it is over. But there are others that still baffle me, and a few that even now bring tears. Time removes pain in some instances, but sometimes the sorrow is just as intense years later.

Why am telling you all of this?

  1. Pain is meant to be shared, let other’s help you carry the load (Galatians 6:2).

  2. Do not waste your time saying, “if only”; you must accept what has happened (Lamentations 3).

  3. Even when God seems to be absent, He is there. Keep being honest with Him (Psalm 22:1-2, 19-20).

  4. Remind yourself to trust in God’s character, even when your circumstances scream otherwise (Psalms 142). Memorize scriptures that contradict your feelings (Psalm 20:7, Psalm 27:1).

  5. Start or continue your prayer journal. Read your previous journal entries to remind you of  answered prayer and how your perspective has changed (Romans 5:3-5).

  6. Be patient with yourself as you grieve. You cannot control grief.

  7. When you control your actions you will better manage your emotions. For example:

Choose to do something kind for someone else every day.

Pursue a physically healthy activities such as: nutrition, exercise,  and sleep every day.

Talk casually to someone other than your family every day.

Do something you used to enjoy every day.

Prepare for the future by planning an activity, an event, or making an appointment for the next week.

  1. When satan uses words like hopeless (Hebrews 6:18,19), sing praise songs (Psalm 31:24).

  2. If satan tries to make you feel guilty for laughing, then Praise God, you are healing (Nehemiah 8:10). Celebrate every joy and every blessing!

 Dear Believer, I am so sorry you are suffering. I am listing below passages that have helped me.

 Your Soul Sister, Jayna

“No one has ever seen this, and no one has ever heard about it.
No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.”

 “Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Who has been able to teach him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2: 9, 16 NCV)

So what should we say about this? If God is for us, no one can defeat us. He did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all. So with Jesus, God will surely give us all things.  Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right. Who can say God’s people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God’s right side, appealing to God for us.  Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death?  As it is written in the Scriptures:

“For you we are in danger of death all the time.
    People think we are worth no more than sheep to be killed.”

 But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us.  Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers,  nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:31-38 NCV)

Submitting to God and Painting a Room, an Analogy

I am one of the few women in the world who doesn’t love redecorating the house.  I do enjoy changing a few things around the house as the season change, but I am not someone who notices that the house needs painting or that the curtains are fading. Changing my counter tops from Formica to granite isn’t even on my radar. Fortunately, my husband is very creative and skilled at home improvements, so my home is very nice.

How is painting a room like submitting to the Lord?

Just as I become blind to chipping paint, I get used to my sin.  God shows me the sin I call “normal” and if I let Him, He will make me right again. Of course, God isn’t concerned about just a few focal points, or behaviors, He wants to repaint the entire room of my heart.

When Steve repainted our bedroom, my job was to take down all the pictures. God expects me to allow Him to take down my idols. He will not force, me to surrender my will to His.  Submitting to God means trusting Him with my heart and giving Him complete authority to renovate me.

The following are scriptural references I used as I a guide to this scenario:

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:3 ESV)

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Revelation 3:16 ESV)

 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. (Romans 8:7 ESV)

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations.” (Ezekiel 15:6 ESV)

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5 ESV)

Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? (Romans 2:4 ESV)

Imagine Jesus as the painter, and my heart as the room.  Suppose after asking Him to renew me, I refused to take down a photo from the wall of my heart:

Puzzled, Jesus says, “Jayna I noticed that you left that picture on the wall.”

“Yeah, I just love that photo, I couldn’t take it down.”

“You couldn’t, or you wouldn’t remove it?”

Defensively I reply, “Hey, I took everything else down. I want that one thing to stay up there. Can’t you just paint the other walls? I get comfort and security having it. I can’t remember a time in my life when I couldn’t count on it decorating that wall.”

Jesus never goes against my freewill; therefore, He paints the cleared walls with love and grace.  The walls are beautiful! They give me great joy.  All day I try with all my mind’s strength to focus on the new walls. But the distraction in the room keeps me from peace and abundant life, that I had expected.

Days pass and I forget about the walls and just enjoy my picture.

Jesus reminds me, “Jayna this room is not complete, it would have been better not to have started than to leave it like it is. You have to take down the picture.”

“I know.” I sign with frustration, “You don’t understand; it is so hard.  I will keep trying; maybe I can tomorrow.”

The next day I decide to paint the wall myself.  Quickly painting the wall top to bottom, I splattered the color on the floor and ceiling without noticing.  When I get near the picture, I use a tiny brush.  I try pivoting it around the nail, so that I can cover all of the wall behind the photo except for the most centered part.  Cleverly I conceal my secret, I accomplished what Jesus couldn’t, renovate my heart without disturbing my idol.

As I put away my supplies, I notice the drips.  Using all of my strength, I scrub away the splatters. Frankly, I am Proud of doing this without any help from Him.  I hum “I Did It My Way,” the rest of the day.

Jesus returns and I open the room certain He will be fooled into thinking I took the picture down at least temporarily before I painted the wall.  I just know He will be impressed with all the good work I did.

However, when I look at the wall with Him. I don’t experience joy. I feel shame. At first my eyes notice that every brush stroke is visible. I turn to compare my wall with one of Jesus’s, I notice that my splatters are not cleaned; they are huge smears.

Jesus just looks at me, as I turn back to my wall.  I am horrified to realize my photo is ruined. Not only is the wall scraped, and the frame bent, but paint has trickled down and dissolved portions of the photo!  I fall to my knees and weep. Jesus holds me as I cry. There are no words of condemnation, no “I told you so”.

Eventually I look again at framed idol. I now see the ridiculousness of my drawing comfort from the object. Feeling repulsed at the image, I am nauseated at the thought of touching my framed sin, even to take it off display.  Desperately I beg Jesus to take it, to destroy it. As He removes it, I repeatedly apologize for putting it up there and for trying to deceive Him, all the while thanking Him for rescuing me.

Jesus takes more time painting this wall.  Often, He stops and assists me as I deal with my paint splatters.  I am no longer distracted by the framed sin, so I can now give God all of my attention.   The wholeness, the satisfaction I now experience is new to me. I feel comforted, exhilarated, loved, and humble.

Gradually I replace the pictures on the wall.  Jesus and I discuss not only which pictures to use, but their placement.  He has a better ability as to how things will work together on the wall, than I do.

Is there something you are not willing to let Jesus touch? If so, ask Him to reveal your sin from His perspective. Stop and consider what you are giving up to keep that in your life.  If you will submit your will to His, God will gradually remove its power over you.



Learning to Wait on The Lord in Silence and Stillness

I panic at the idea of being stranded for an hour without my phone or something to read.  I am happiest when I am multi-tasking. I love listening to book on tape while cooking. Learning to wait on the Lord in SILENCE and STILLNESS, did not come easily for me.

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, (Psalm 62:5 ESV)

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

My Story:

About fifteen years ago, I realized that I did not really love God. I knew facts about God just like I knew facts about celebrities on TV, but I didn’t really know God like I did my husband. I was a praying, Bible reading, tithing, never miss church, Christian who was uncomfortable with the idea being alone with God. “How would you like it if the only time anyone ever called you was if they wanted a favor?” God seemed to ask me.  “How would you like it if the only time anyone ever called you was if they wanted a favor?” God seemed to ask… Click To Tweet

The first time I tried to focus on The Lord without asking Him for anything; I was at a conference. I turned off the TV, I didn’t have a phone to turn off. Sitting on the bed with a note pad; I expected an emotional event. I wouldn’t let myself read the Bible; because I knew I would get caught up in the story and forget about God.

I sat there waiting  to get some supernatural high. I said, “God I apologize for coming to you every day and giving You a to do list, but never taking the time to get to know you.” Not knowing what else to do, I started listing God’s attributes like: all-knowing, merciful, creator. I would not let myself list my blessings; because that would put my attention back on me.

After about a half hour, I didn’t feel any different. I read over my notes from the conference and went to sleep.  I am glad that it was not a warm fuzzy experience, otherwise I would have developed a craving for warm fuzzy experiences and not a desire to know God.

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. (Psalm 42:1 ESV)

I believed that my soul could pant for God just like David’s. I spent two years reading the gospels over and over because Jesus said Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9). Soon I started to see God more clearly in other Bible passages.

When I walked for exercise I stopped listening to podcasts, choosing to think about God or His creation instead.  Sometimes I shortened my normal Bible study and prayer time so I could just imagine sitting in God’s lap with me telling Him that I loved him.

Often I sit  with my palms up and saying: “God I trust You. I surrender my time, my money, and my life to You.”

The Holy Spirit started revealing more of God’s character to me as I asked and waited. Some days I wake-up feeling home-sick for God. I have to be careful not to harden my heart against it; because it is easy to say, “Not today I am too busy.” Of course, God knows more about my day than I do. I am learning that taking even a few minutes to sit quietly listening for God’s voice refreshes me. I may or may not come away any new guidance or the ecstasy of falling in love, but I do regain my sense of God’s presence in my life. I am learning that taking even a few minutes to sit quietly listening for God’s voice refreshes me. Click To Tweet

I did discover that by being still before the Lord, I get less upset about circumstances. Now I am less wrapped up in myself, my friends, my family. I trust God to use the unexpected for His glory.

There is no magic formula that transfers the knowledge you know about God into an experience with Him.

My Advice:

Remember this is a spiritual battle, satan will do everything he can to distract and discourage you from learning to wait before God in silence and stillness.

Yes, God and I both know how hard it is because of your schedule, your preschoolers, …. Why did you think it would be easy? Mark 1:13 says that while Jesus was fasting for 40 days, He was in the wilderness with wild animals. You prove to yourself that you value God by how hard you are willing to work at disciplining your thoughts. This does not mean become legalistic or prideful about how much time you spend thinking about God.

Begin with spending only a few minutes during your prayer time. During those moments focus your attention on The Lord. Ask Him to tell you about Himself. 

Give yourself a bit of grace. Let yourself check the caller id to see if the phone call is important or if it can go to voicemail. Keep paper handy to list anything of importance that comes to mind. By quickly jotting it down, you can return to waiting on The Lord in silence without mentally rehearsing your to do list.

When you get sleepy as you listen for God, change your posture and position. Try dancing before the Lord using the music in your mind.

When satan is especially distracting try talking out loud. Even repeating, “Jesus I want to know You better;” is a victory. Try singing a praise song.

Watch to see satan’s distraction techniques:

  • Does your mind go to things you need to accomplish, ask God if your idol is pride.
  • If it is worries about family or friends, contemplate if they are more important to you than God. Or do you not believe that God is trustworthy? Or do you believe that you love them more than God loves them?

I still have times that God seems far away, or abstract. But I experience the same thing in my other relationships. It takes an effort to reconnect with people. I have to make waiting on The Lord in Silence and Stillness a priority; because I love Him.

This has been so life changing for me that I wrote about it from a different perspective in “How to Create an Intimate Friendship with God.

Is it difficult for you to be still and silent as you listen for The Lord?

Be Unpredictable With Your Teen

One of the challenges of writing a parenting book is that advice can be taken out of context, that is one of the reasons I created the Parenting with the End in Mind Facebook Group.  I wanted to be able to discuss exceptions with readers. For example, when dealing with a three-year-old, consistency is essential. With a preadolescence, you may have to do something completely unexpected to get her attention. You will want to shake the smug “I got you figured-out” expression off her face.

There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: (Ecclesiastes 3:1 HCSB)

Last year it may have been appropriate to send your misbehaving child to another room; younger children generally want to be near their parent. Now, that may be the completely wrong tactic. Because:

  1. She wanted to be away from the family.
  2. Isolation from you makes her peer influence stronger.
  3. Satan may feed her mind with, “See even your own family can’t stand to be around you.”

When you were a teen, did you think that your parents cared more about your room, your chores, your grades, than about you?  It is probable that you need to take a break from improving your child, to focus on enjoying your child. This change will throw her off balance, flip the script, do the unexpected and improve your relationship. When there is mutual respect again, you may find the conflicts over chores and attitudes lessens automatically.

I realize that the following ideas will require mental and emotional toughness. Parenting is hard and your life may have been easier when she just stayed in her room. Yes, it may appear that you are rewarding bad behavior, but you are paying it forward.  When you work on the relationship, you are planting seeds of good will.  Also, do not expect immediate results, your goal is to recapture your child’s heart; not get a couple of behaviors changed.  Ask God’s guidance as to the right variation of these ideas for your specific child.

  1. Start hanging out in her room when she is in there.

Go into her room without complaining or saying anything negative. Begin doing an activity that you normally do in the family room. As an explanation, “I miss being with you. I thought, why should you always have to come to me to hangout.” Do not initiate any conversation.  Your attitude is I am happy just being near you. Expect skepticism, she knows you. You don’t like to be with her, you just like to gripe at her. She will provoke you, so respond with “I was remembering when you used to ____ while I did this. I believe we can make more good memories.” Seize opportunities to join her routine, without making any demands. The break through you are watching for is:

  1. She makes her bed so you are more comfortable when you come in.
  2. She starts telling you about her life without you asking a question.
  3. She chooses to be with you in another room of the house.
  1. Surprise him by taking him out to get a snack like wings or a hamburger.

Watch for occasions to have him alone with you in the car, preferably not on the same day of the week. Try not to create a predictable pattern in the beginning. Do not take the food home. Eat in the car, at the restaurant, or at a park. Do expect him to say thank you, do not expect him to talk, do not expect him to put down his phone, do not use your phone, and do not stare at him.  Just be available to him, use the silence for prayer, use the silence to make a mental list of all the things like about him. Make sure that any words that you say do not have any sarcasm, criticism, or advise.  It is working when:

  1. You become more important than the food or phone.
  2. When he laughs at your jokes.
  3. When realizes, he is more important to you than his school work, or team practice.

When our children are young, we express our love in hugs and words. As they get older, we express our love in acceptance and time. In their attempt to determine who they are, they may reject us temporarily. But when we stay available to them, they will return relationally just like the younger son does in Luke 15:21-23. However, if they believe that behavior is all that really matters to us, then they may become like the older son- never really having a relationship with us at all. Can you imagine living with someone for twenty years all the while never knowing who they were?  Can you imagine living with someone for twenty years all the while never knowing who they were? Click To Tweet




NBC’s Comedy, “The Good Place” Demonstrates A Misconception About Heaven

Careful never to use the term “heaven,” Michael Schur’s sitcom, “The Good Place” demonstrates the problem in a commonly held afterlife formula.

Good Works – Selfish Acts = Your Life Score

Based on the numerical value of your score, you are sent either to “the good place”or “the bad place”.  This view is loosely taught by every religion except Christianity, even most agnostics respect the idea of Karma. Although the idea of good  earthly deeds causing eternal rewards is widespread, it is unusual to see it so plainly analyzed on television.

As the episodes progress, we discover that good works done for self-gratification do not count toward your life score.  And just because you mean well doesn’t mean your score will be high.  One character’s attempt to always be ethical made everyone around him miserable; therefore, his effort was not rewarded.

NBC’s show subtly asks these challenging questions  about bad actions:

  • What if the person’s childhood was so terrible that she did not receive a moral compass necessary for her to determine right from wrong?
  • What if the person’s lack of education keeps him from being able to understand cause and effect?
  • If someone has always lived a life of selfishness, would she even want to live in “the good place”?

I am curious as to how and if the show will answer those questions. But I do know that the “good place” portrayed in the show is nothing like the heaven described in the Bible.  The Bible destroys the premise of the plot.

There is no action good enough to get someone to heaven.

as it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one. (Romans 3:10 HCSB)

One of the reason’s God gave the simple ten commandments was to demonstrate how incapable we are at being “good”.  Adam and Eve had only one commandment, “don’t eat from this tree”, and  yet they refused to obey.

One act of rebellion destroys all the good.

Adam and Eve didn’t have to eat all of the fruit to ruin their relationship with God.  They ate one piece of fruit and immediately hid from God (Genesis 3:8). The unavoidable penalty for their rebellion was the death of their relationship with God. Sinners avoid the presence of a holy God. The unrepentant or prideful heart often  runs from God.

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12 HCBS)

Imagine for a moment, that God did grade us on the curve and top .0001% kindest people entered heaven. What would happen as soon as one act of selfishness occurred in paradise? Heaven would begin the downward spiral that we have witnessed throughout time. Sin is a virus that can only be cured by the perfect sacrifice made by Jesus.

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm. (1 Peter 3:18 HCSB)

 The only hope is in accepting God’s grace.

 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 HCSB)

No one deserves any afterlife other than “the bad place”. “The good place” is not earned. It is a gift made possible because Jesus died in each person’s place. He paid the penalty required.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:5,6,8,9 HCSB)

There is no one so wicked that Jesus will not forgive, if they acknowledge their sin and accept His offer of salvation. It means choosing to make Jesus their life’s priority. Although everyone fails in their commitment, God knows if someone is truly sincere or pretending.

 “Therefore, everyone who will acknowledge Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before My Father in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33-34 HCSB)

Can you image a wife denying she knows her husband? Those in heaven admit to having a relationship Jesus.

Salvation is so simple compared to the points system purposed in “The Good Place”. Heaven is a matter of who you trust; not a result of  your life score.

Following Jesus is Like Walking Through a Fun House of Distorted Mirrors

Have you ever been in “fun house” at an amusement park? Everything is distorted. Items are disproportionate, making you feel either tiny or huge. You will step into a room and discover you are walking on the ceiling. Looking into a mirror, you will realize your own appearance has changed. Life was strange like that for the disciples following Jesus. Could they trust their eyes?

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