Where do you Draw the Line?

by:Joan Meyler

You awake before the alarm sounds and lay there basking in the silence of early morning.  Soon the stillness is broken by the jarring sound of the forgotten alarm and you realize your few moments of stolen reflection are gone.  Your day has begun. Not the day you want, but the day you committed to yesterday. The events of which you have neither energy nor desire to tackle.  The things that have entangled you like weeds creeping around your ankles and up your legs dragging you down and filling you with dread. Why did you say “Yes” when you wanted to say “No”?

I am no better than you.  I too grapple with the desire to please, to take on more than I want, need or can handle; to “prove” that I am capable. But whom am I trying to please? What is the value of taking a burden that is not mine to bear? Have I not noticed that there are mental, physical and spiritual boundaries which when defied cause me to experience unnecessary stress? But wait, it was that stress that I was trying to avoid by saying “Yes” when I should have said “No”.

The simple yet profound words “Yes” and “No” are freeing. They express the choices we make in determining what and who we allow to influence us as well as our influence on others (Matthew 5:7). Jesus used these words very effectively; particularly in times when he needed to refresh himself (Luke 4). It is in setting physical, emotional and mental boundaries (just as Jesus did) that we project ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. Their presence helps us express ourselves as the individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others.  When we communicate our thoughts and feelings directly and honestly with others we open the door to developing authentic relationships and preserving our integrity.

There are times when saying “No” can be one of the best ways to express self-love, such as when it violates our boundaries. Saying” No” alert others that they have been or are about to be disrespectful or act inappropriately.  This powerful word allows you to be yourself without subjecting yourself to the will of others. Having boundaries make it possible for you to respect your strengths, abilities and individuality as well as those of others.

As you carve a few moments out of your day to reflect, focus on this thought:

If boundaries are important to God who made you with a unique identity, values, gifts and talents, shouldn’t they also be important to you?

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What is Your Brand

by: Joan Meyler

There is a lot of talk lately about product branding, even personal branding. Branding in this sense, is described as promoting a product or service by identifying with said product. This is like being known by the friends you keep, who you emulate, etc. Branding is not new, it is as been around for a long time. Joshua addressed this topic with the Hebrews when he told them to choose who they would serve (Joshua 24:14,15). Can you imagine seeing the majestic power of God demonstrated over and over in your life yet still choosing to hold on to gods of your enemies or own making?  That is what the Hebrews were doing. Unfortunately, the problem of idolatry still exists today in the form of anything we give more importance to than we give to God.

In Second Chronicles 7:14, as the people lamented to God, they were reminded that they had created their own problem by rejecting His “brand”. In His mercy, then and now, God gives us the steps to success; the path to change our circumstances. I am sure some rejected His offer then, just as some do today.

Why is it important to be known by God’s name (or a disciple of Christ)? Webster defines Disciple as someone who follows or demonstrates the teaching of another. In other words, we demonstrate His brand. Jesus’s earthly ministry showed us just how to do that.  Demonstrating God’s brand begins with salvation and continues with a daily living of our faith. Prior to his ascension, Jesus taught his followers (disciples) about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the role He would play in their lives.  He also advised them of the Holy Spirit’s three-fold ministry in the world:

To convict the unbeliever of sin by opening their spiritual eyes so that they might know

that Jesus is both God and Savior

To cause the unbeliever to see the insufficiency of their own righteousness and their need for the righteousness of Christ

To cause the unbeliever to recognize that their accuser, Satan, is already defeated; they are no longer condemned. (John 16: 7-17)

Just how do we demonstrate God’s Brand? When we accept the Holy Spirit in our lives, we become empowered. The Holy Spirit acts as Christ’s presence on earth, encouraging and counseling us as we battle against the forces of this world. We are given special abilities which prepare us for service to benefit and build up the body of Christ.

(1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:12)

Are you demonstrating God’s Brand or your own?

Obedience or Sacrifice?

By: Joan Meyler

Do you find fault with your body? Want to change parts for something “more attractive” or acceptable to the society in which you live?

On and off over the years, I have been toying with Romans 12:1(“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship”).

Trying to understand its meaning, myself and I have a conversation which goes like this:

“Living sacrifice? That denotes pain. Sacrifice is painful. Is God talking about your body or your thoughts?  Doesn’t 1 Samuel 22:15 say “To obey is better than sacrifice”? Then God must be talking about more than the outward appearance.  I believe that your actions are reflective of your thoughts so maybe this is saying that as you control your thoughts you gain control of your body. Jeremiah 1:5. Seems to clarify this as God speaks (my translation):Obedience“You have been in my thoughts.  I thought about how perfect you are. The qualities you have. The love in your heart. The compassion you feel for others.  I thought so much about you, that my hands began to form you in the secret places. My thoughts of you and my love for you created you.  Filled you with gifts and talents, surrounded you with all you will ever need. Your body is my gift to you. A housing for my Spirit in you.  I breathe my breath into you and filled your lungs with joy. My love caused your heart to begin beating and keeps it beating.  You are not your own.  You are mine, perfect as I am perfect.”

Realize there is nothing wrong with the way you look.  You don’t need to change any part of it. Understand that the “living sacrifice” is in the acceptance of who You are in Christ; His perfect creation. The one He made in His image. The one who through your love for him obeys his voice as it leads you through the seasons of your life.  Once understood, it is not a sacrifice (painful) to treat your body well, as you would something of great value.  Because you are.

My Words are Alive

By: Joan Meyler

 

How are you?  How do you think Jesus answer this question? What is your usual answer to the same question? Psalm 19:14 tells us to “let these words of my mouth and meditation of my heart be pleasing . . .  to God”. Revelation 12:11 reminds us that we defeat the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.  After God spoke the world into being, He asked Himself “How is it?” He did not respond ambiguously but declared “It is very good!”; meaning that everything planned and executed was of the highest standard (including you and me).

Your Words are Alive

Philippians 4:8 admonishes us to think, meditate, on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable . . . . excellent and worthy of praise, “because it is only by bringing our thoughts under control that we are able to speak life into our situations (Proverbs 23:7; 2).  Following the principles set forth in both Philippians 4:8 and Corinthians 10:5 we can change our lives for the better or worse.  Its all in our thoughts and the words we say.  Looking back at Genesis 1, God thought of the world he wanted to create; he planned it. Then He spoke it into being. Because He created us, we also have the power to create the life we want.  Remember, you create what you speak (Proverbs 18:21)

If your life is going the way you want it to, that’s wonderful; express your gratitude to God continuously (Psalm 34:1) and continue to walk in His abundant flow. If not, think about your thoughts and the words you have been saying, to yourself and others. Having negative or conflicting thoughts and speaking negative words bring negative consequences. Positive life affirming words produce positive consequences which release God’s provisions in your life, now. (Luke 17:21)

Let me encourage you to make a list of all the things you are grateful for and begin to thank our gracious, compassionate God for these blessings. Make a conscious decision to watch your words and thoughts. As you do so, you will notice the changes in all aspects of your life. Proverbs 23:7 tell us that we are what we think so why not take God at His word and prove him to be true (Malachi 3:10).

Yes, there is Power and Life in our words. Choose them wisely.

From Resurrection to Empowerment

By: Joan Meyler

For some, change is painful, unwanted; yet others welcome even embrace it.  Our experiences all point to change.  A new life. Not turn back the clock; but use our disappointment and pain to move the hands forward past the hurts. We try ways to turn the scars into a soothing balm.  Nothing works, the pain persists. We long for the place where we can emerge fresh, clean, wise and free of the pain of our past.  Jesus’s disciples believed they knew all there was to know about him. They had spent three action-packed years in intense training, having their understanding and knowledge of what they knew and thought they knew stretched beyond recognition. Then He had the audacity to die a criminal!  Their hopes, dreams, expectations dashed beyond recognition.

Jesus and a lady

The disappointment in His death, the pain and grief of loss ringing in their ears and hearts as the tomb was sealed; their hopes seemed dashed. But, ever faithful, Jesus kept his promise of resurrection and brought change to their lives. Once again, He proved himself to be who he said he was.  When we accept Christ as our savior, we also experience change.  There is a death that takes place within us and while we rejoice in our salvation, there is the dispelling of beliefs and practices which must be released before resurrection can take place. For forty days following his resurrection, Jesus continued to teach the disciples.  In secret! No one knows exactly what He taught them, but we can speculate that the lessons involved a review of what they already knew but had yet to practice.

Like toddlers on wobbly legs, we begin our new life seeking the Kingdom. Struggling against our old way of life, gaining trust and confidence as Jesus reveals truth to us. After the resurrection, the disciples felt joy, but they were also afraid. They, too, walked on wobbly legs. They also had to gain trust and confidence; have their faith increased.  Can you imagine the look on their faces when Jesus told them he would leave once more? It’s the same look on your face when you learn salvation is not the end, but the beginning. How blessed we are, that Jesus did not leave us without guidance.  The disciples did not wait idly for the coming of the Holy Spirit, they waited faithfully, prayerfully, trusting yet were surprised with the power trusted to them with His coming. This same power is available to us as we also faithfully, prayerfully, trustingly open ourselves to the introduction of the Holy Spirit; the one who walks alongside and teaches us all things.

Luke 24:49, John 14:26

Forgiveness

By: Joan Meyler

A few months ago, I had a revelation on my way to church. A profound revelation!  The radio preacher talked of forgiveness. Okay, so I know I should forgive others, etc. At least I thought I did.

As he talked, I began to realize just how difficult it is to forgive. As a Christian, I am called to forgive others. To release them from the bondage I have created for them.  Yes, I create bondage for others. Don’t you?  I bind them to myself when I think I have set them free from the hurt and pain they have caused (Luke 6:27-28) yet I revisit the hurt/wrong as if it were an old friend. I have told myself that s/he is forgiven while wanting the person to feel the hurt I have held close. As I thought about this, I came to realize that I have also hurt that person; caused them pain and disappointment.  “Surely, they are also called to forgive me”, I thought as I tried to justify my kind of “forgiveness”.  Pondering the words of Jesus, I held the hope of forgiveness in my heart, in my pride and pain, as I hesitated to approach the wronged one.  Yet I must.  I must recognize my guilt.

Then came the recognition that my actions also caused me pain.  I must first forgive myself.  And there lies the challenge! For true forgiveness to occur, for me to truly bless the one that thoughtlessly used me, I must strip myself bear and examine my motives, my actions, my weaknesses.  I must remove the beam from my eye, heal my self-inflected wound, (Matthew 7:5) I must first acknowledge the wrong I did, and accept forgiveness from myself. I must release the rope with which I bond that hurt, pain, disappointment to me and allow reconciliation to take place. (Colossians 1:22)  Then and only then can I offer forgiveness to the one who wronged me and bring us both into the glorious presence of God where we receive His forgiveness and restoration.

I thank God for His patience as He reaches out to me (and you) with grace and mercy.  May we allow Him to lead us into a deeper understanding of who and how he wants us to be.

What Wonder Woman Taught Me

By: Joan Meyler

Comic book heroes seem to be everywhere.  What do you think about that? I am a longtime Wonder Woman fan and am pleased that she is getting some renewed attention.  As a child, Wonder Woman was my hero!

a goddess, confident, possessor of super human power, able to defeat any foe and stand up for the good of mankind. And those weapons: lasso of truth, indestructible bracelets, projectile tiara, sword, shield, and boots up to her knees! Awesome!

In other words, she was everything I was not. What a fantastic role model for a little girl!

The latest Wonder Woman Movie starring Gal Gadot intrigued me and I made the decision to see if my childhood hero stood the test of time. I wondered how differently this version would be handled and attempted to suspend my prior knowledge. I enjoyed the movie but was struck by a new revelation.  Instead of focusing on the storyline I was mesmerized by her costume and character. The same costume that I admired as a child, took on a new meaning for me. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-20 to “put on the whole armor of God so that we are able to stand against the wiles of the devil . . . .” He goes on to list the components of this armor:

Belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith,

helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit (word of God)

Watching this movie, I realized that (to me) Wonder Woman was a Christian! She wore the Armor of God! She exhibited the characteristics I aspire to! To me,

Her lasso, affixed at her waist, represented the belt of truth

She wore protective clothing (the breastplate of righteousness)

The tiara reminded me of the helmet of salvation which holds the thoughts, feelings and

purposes of God’s heart.

The sword she wielded with such authority made me think of the sword of the spirit

While she used an actual shield to deflect and extinguish projectiles (sin) which would destroy

her, faith is our shield.

Those amazing boots! Have you noticed that they coveed the most vulnerable parts of her foot

and leg?  Her entrance in any situation, location, indicates the arrival of peace.

Also, she is always dressed in armor, even when it is not visible. But then, aren’t we always dressed in our armor as we” pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and supplications”?

Turns out there is a lot to be learned from comic book heroes.  I wonder what I’ll learn form the next movie I see or comic I read.

A Time for Everything

prayer (1) line

A Time and a Season

by: Joan Meyler

I’ve had occasion to attend several funerals recently and have been aware of even more persons who have transitioned from this world to the next, some very unexpectedly.  As disconcerting as some of these have been, I listened to family and friends share their experiences and memories of the life their loved one lived.  These testimonies brought about a greater awareness of God among us; in the life of the deceased, in the lives of grieving family and friends, and in the life of the on-lookers.

Ecclesiastes 3 shares the seasonality of life and listening to my friends speak of their relationship with the deceased, I was reminded of the “great crowd of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 and came to the realization that these witnesses are not isolated in a vacuum. They are us; the family spending time together, creating and sharing memories, learning to worship together, being vulnerable. Over and over throughout each celebration of life, daughters spoke of how their fathers demonstrated Christian principles without even trying, mothers teaching children to pray as they went about their daily tasks.  These men and women lived an ordinary life that became extraordinary because of their relationship with the One with whom a thousand years is but a day (2 Peter 3:8).

During the season of Lent, some of us have chosen to participate in a form on self-denial and spiritual discipline through fasting and prayer. As I reflect on these extraordinary lives lived by ordinary people, I pose these question to myself and you:

What do you hope to accomplish through fasting and prayer?

Are you seeking a deeper understanding of God’s word and work in your life?

Are you seeking a more trusting relationship, one moving your faith from Savior to Lord?

I pray that as we travel through this Lenten season, we emerge transformed into the extraordinary people God created us to be.

What Does Trust have to do with it?

by: Joan Meyler

What does Trust have to do with it?

You have faith in God, don’t you? Would I be wrong if I said you were very faithful? What about trust? You would probably say, “Of course I do”.  But do you really”.   We are told in Proverbs 3:5 to “put your trust in the Lord and . . . “ and not to depend on what we understand.  This is not talking about having faith or devotion in God’s abilities; but being bold, confident, reliant and secure that God will manifest that which has been promised.

 

Let’s look at Elijah, a man of faith. God sent him to the Brook of Cherith (place of separation) where he was fed by ravens and later to the widow of Zarephath. Elijah’s devotion to God was tested by the removal from the place he was familiar with. What he knew no longer made sense, so he had to change his thoughts. There had to be a manifestation of his faith in his thoughts and actions. In other words, Elijah had to be confident and secure in the knowledge that God would keep him alive and safe.  It was only then that God could use him in this woman’s life.  It was the same with the widow of Zarephath.  She was ready to eat her last meal and die of starvation. Yet, when she met Elijah, she followed his instructions with the confidence (trust) that God would answer her prayers for provision.  Elijah had to sit and wait (a most difficult thing to do) until God thought he was ready to be used.  The widow had to be confident in God’s ability to provide for her and her son even though all she could physically see was what she was lacking. Once their faith (devotion) was manifested in their actions (trust), they were now open for God to express his creativity and provision through them.

 

May I encourage you to trust (be bold, confident, reliant and secure) that God will manifest that which has been promised as you exercise your faith (devotion) and walk in the abundance of God’s provision. (James 2:14-26)

 

Brief exercise: Read 1Kings 17:7-16. Make a list comparing yourself with the Widow and/or Elijah

Field Notes from Liberia: A Message from one of our members overseas

Field Notes from Liberia: November 2016

by: Joan Komolafe

liberia-image-7.It’s been a little over three months since I have been in Liberia.  The rainy season has ended and the dry season or as I call it, “Dusty season” is upon us.  The weather has also gotten a bit cooler in the morning and days are shorter. I have been told that it will “get cold” in late December and continue through about February.  Of course, cold is relative because I have seen people walking around in winter coats and flip flops in the rain.

liberia-image-1

So, what is my job in Liberia?  Simply put, I monitor, mentor, and train current teachers who are seeking to improve their ability to teach reading and become certified reading teachers. I also work with several schools in developing their school library.  I am assigned to four schools which I visit weekly.  During these visits, I observe and provide feedback to my teachers as well as facilitate a teacher’s club (learning community).   As with everything else, the education sector was hard hit by both the civil war and the Ebola outbreak. Some teachers have no formal training while others have had some training at Rural Teacher Training Institutes; some are currently in school while others are near retirement, some are referred to as “volunteer teachers”, meaning they are paid by the PTA while others are “government teachers”, meaning they have been hired by and are paid by the Ministry of Education.  For the most part, I have found the teachers to be open and accepting of criticism and recommendations which some are beginning to apply.  Frequent excuses I hear are; “the class too big o”, “the children loud”; which I cannot argue with as classes range in size from 22 to 96 with one teacher. Also, classrooms are in open buildings allowing both air and an overflow of noise from surrounding classes and street.

Classroom management is very limited if present.  As if those challengliberia-image-2es weren’t enough, curriculum for grades Kindergarten through fourth is non-existent.  There are objectives for all grades, it’s just that the Ministry of Education has not gotten around to providing the accompanying curriculum.  Therefore, I also guide the teachers in developing a workable grade appropriate curriculum using available materials. Additionally, this seems to be the first time teachers have a curriculum and they don’t know how to use it.  So, I also guide and encourage them as they learn how to use and teach from a textbook. Apart from the challenge of their ability to read and understand the material, I sometimes feel as if there is a culture of admiring and not using a shelf of beautiful books, as no one wants to touch the books because they are “afraid of “spoiling” (damaging) them”. I am slowly (small, small, as we say here) guiding the vice-principal for instruction on how to inventory and disseminate this material to both staff and students.  Additionally, the only supply to be found is chalk. Teachers must provide any and everything they need/want to use, including a chair to sit on.  Language is also an issue.  Three levels of English is spoken – standard, Liberian and simple depending on how educated your audience is.

liberia-image-3Another issue is the seeming randomness of school.  Teachers do not always show up and there are NO substitutes, students may be sent home (but they linger on campus until the end of the school day) there may not be enough teachers so some classes have less than the six periods of instruction and students are not monitored during these times. Testing is done on a rolling basis through the school – this week grades one through three may be testing and next week it will be grades four through six.  Classes are cancelled for the grades not being tested.  Teachers may show up, but not teach, and whole days are taken for “activity”.  I don’t know what those are yet.  Liberians are very aware that there is a lot to be done and for the most part are willing to do the work.  They just don’t know how.

I have noticed that the underlining trauma from Liberia’s past is not addressed. People speak of their experiences during the war and with Ebola, often out of the blue, and then continue with the original conversation.  Again, the limitations of trained personnel make addressing these emotional issues difficult.

Children also bring many experiences with them.  They are not only children going to school, some are parents in elementary grades, (which presents the issue of making the curriculum appropriate for adult learners while still teaching children) some are taking care of siblings, doing housework and selling “on the road” before and after school. Their education is frequently interrupted for these and other reasons.

One thing I am grateful for is that even though schools are open buildings, people selling snacks, etc. do not interrupt class to do so.  They sit under a shed or tree and wait until recess before any selling is done.  During that time, you can get anything from water to a hot cooked meal.  Teachers supplement their income by selling snacks during recess.

liberia-image-4I had occasion to attend a traditional wedding recently.  I was very humbled by the seriousness of this event.

The ceremony began when the groom’s representative approached the bride’s family to formally ask permission for her to join his family. This was followed by much negotiation regarding the bride price and who should be compensated for her removal from their family. Once settled, the procession began. “We have to get your flower from across the water; we need $$ more. The canoe has a hole and must be patched”,

“We need to get a car to bring your flower here so we need $$ more, etc.” wish I could attach the video.  Several imposters were paraded in.  The required $$ was paid to reveal her identity only to discover she was not the right Flower. And the process began again.

liberia-image-5When the correct flower was presented, and the lappa covering her was removed, a declaration was made – “we the … family are giving you our daughter.  We have trained her . … are not a family who beats our women so we do not expect you to beat her”.  The conditions under which she is brought into this new family was laid out including how to handle disputes.

A gift of kola nut was presented by the family to the bride as a symbol of prosperity. The amount of strings tying the bundle represented the level of prosperity for the new family.

The nuts were broken and shared to be eaten first by the family signifying unity then by well-wishers. The nuts are bitter at first, but become sweet as chewed and swallowed.  Signifying the bitter and sweet experiences of life. This concluded the ceremony.liberia-image-6