5 ways to deal with the trolls in your life

By Erika Rizkallah

Do you have trolls in your life?

As a kid, one of my favorite stories was the Norwegian folk tale, Three Billy Goats Gruff. Don’t be surprised if it’s unfamiliar; the fact that I recall it shows my age.

It’s about three goats — a little one, a middle sized one and a huge one — who had to cross a bridge to get to the other side of the mountain to eat. A grotesque and ferocious troll lived underneath, threatening to devour them.

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The little and middle-sized ones tricked him into waiting for the huge billy goat who crushed his bones and threw him over the bridge.

Just a terrifying tale parents liked to read right before bedtime!

We also had troll dolls. Remember those? We’d smash the neon polyester hair down and spin their squat bodies in our palms to whip up crazy hairdos.

Seems kind of lame now but that’s what we did for fun in the “good ‘ol days.”

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Trolls still exist. They usually menace behind electronic devices, but sometimes actively pursue.

I have one and she’s not the fun kind.

She’s the mother of my son’s (former) friend. Our boys were goofing around in my home and it escalated into a physical fight. Though her son started the horseplay and sucker punched my kid first, hers lost the fight and was injured.

Out of town that weekend, I heard the story from my husband, son and another witness. And the detective assigned to the case — yes, she called the police. Not getting the desired result, she’s now hell-bent on harassing me.

She’s sent nasty texts, tried to post awful comments on my blog and slandered my family in the community. So she’s trolling everywhere.

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This is the world we live in. A world filled with strangers who feel free to unleash rage and harm. Just because they can or feel entitled to.

So how do we deal with it?

Ignore them: The first troll-defeating rule is always the best. Ignore them. They’re not worth our time or energy. Really, they’re not. They’re out living dull lives, getting their jollies by trying to cause harm. Don’t let them drag you to the party. Go about your own life and be thankful you have better things to do.

For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:13-15

Rise up: Unlike mythological monsters, humans are complex. Maybe they’re hurting and trolling is their only way to feel powerful. Maybe they’re immature, attention seeking or insecure. We’ve all had our moments but we don’t have to act creaturely.

A pig that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud. 2 Peter 2:22

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Talk it out: No, not to the troll — that won’t do any good. Talk about it with people who really know you. There’s nothing like meeting with a close friend to reassure us that we’re not what they say we are.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Go to God: Remember your creator. He’s the one who loves you most of all. He knows your heart, sees your frustration and can act in ways you’ve never even imagined. He’s the ultimate healer of the damaged. Meditate on this verse:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:13-14

Live with joy: Jesus warned that in this world we would have trouble. It’s the unfortunate part of earthly living, but we don’t have to dwell on Negativity Island. There are wonderful things out there that deserve our attention. We can do something nice for a stranger, offer a word of encouragement to a friend in need and spend time with positive people.

Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10

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Most of all, remember who you are. None of us are perfect, but we are all loved — even the trolls.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

 

 

He believes we can fly

By Erika Rizkallah 

Yesterday morning during my quiet time with God, my feral cat Moo Moo, began to bark. These were strange sounds coming from a kitty who’s named for a cow and meows like a mouse.

I looked up to see him standing on his hind legs on the back of my sitting room chair. He swiped furiously at something in the corner of a casement window. He’s a weird dude, but this was unusual behavior, even for him.

My big burly guy has a teeny-tiny girly voice except when he’s “hunting” indoors  — he’s terrified of the outside.

I got up to look and noticed a bee hovering near the top of my leaky window. It was a sunny and windy day so I figured I’d do him (and me) a favor and send him on his way.

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I popped open the window to give him plenty of room to fly. Instead, he flattened his wings and clung to the glass. I waited, thinking surely it’s a better option than death by cat, but he didn’t seem to agree.

So then I grabbed a magazine and gave him a gentle push, but he clung to the magazine. I helped him further by shaking the magazine into the wind, and instead of flying, he seemed to fall.

I yelled, What’s the problem you dumb bee? You’re in your element. God gave you wings!

Just then, a small still voice spoke into my spirit, Look who’s talking. You’re in your element. I gave you gifts. I gave you wings and yet you cling and refuse to pursue the purpose I have in mind for you. 

God. Smacked.

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Can you relate? Do you feel like God’s been calling you to something more and yet you choose to bide your time, waiting in fear or apprehension?

Sometimes he uses the pressure of an enemy or a gentle wind to shake us out of complacency. Sometimes he pushes us out of the window himself.

I wanted to share my lesson with you today because I feel like someone needs to hear it.

Our Heavenly Father created us with purpose and a plan to fill this broken world with love and light. He’s the only one who truly knows what we’re capable of, and he’ll do whatever it takes to push us toward the goal.

He won’t let us fall — he believes we can fly.

 

 

 

The one word standing between you and your dreams.

By Erika Rizkallah

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:4-6

Years ago when I was thinking about my life plans and goals, this verse shone like the noonday sun on my dreams. After all, who doesn’t want God to give us the desires of our heart?

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Certainly not me, I want it all! I want the full life Jesus wants for me and I must say He’s done it. He has given me the desires I desired and even ones I didn’t know about. But first I noticed three things were required of me:

Delight – To delight means to take great pleasure in him. I first needed to get to a place of joy in him, to take great pleasure in his presence and in his word. I achieved that by devoting my life and spending quiet time with him each and every day.

Commit – Next, I determined to commit my way to him. This means I decided to make his cause my cause. I needed to obey his requirements and plan for my life – not choosing my own path, but seeking to know his will for me in Christ.

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Trust – Trusting in someone we can’t see is difficult but our God is the living God. When we spend time in his word and prayer and then follow Christ’s lead, he hears and makes himself known to us. We obey and see him working everywhere. Trust then follows.

When I was in second grade my teacher introduced me to other worlds and cultures through studying two countries: Japan and Ghana. I loved my lessons and decided to be a world traveler so I could see places with my own eyes. Pippi Longstocking was my adventure hero and I wanted to be just like her.

The answer to my 7-year-old heart’s desire came much later, but now I do travel the world. I want to share my experiences with you through my writing. I want you to know that God is waiting for you to delight, commit and trust in him.

Sometimes there’s only one word standing between you and your dreams. That one word is . . .

YES!

Your turn: What desires are hiding in your heart? Do you believe he wants them for you as much as you do?

 

Struggling with prayer: 5 Tips to jumpstart your prayer life

Is regular prayer a struggle for you?

If so, don’t worry. Like everything new and unfamiliar, becoming a prayer warrior takes time and practice.

I’ll never forget the first time I went into Starbucks. For months I heard people talking about the delicious coffee drinks and I desperately wanted to experience what all the buzz was about. But I was intimidated. I knew there was a method – a certain way of ordering and a special lingo.

And what on earth was a Frappuccino?

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I stood in a long line with others and watched them, trying to figure out the process. I strained to hear above the din of the cafe with no luck. Then I looked at the overwhelming menu. I selected a drink and rehearsed saying it (in my head), while trying to look like I belonged.

Finally it was my turn and I lost my confidence.

“I’ll take a regular coffee please.” I said.

“What size and blend?”

“Just regular.”

“A tall?”

“Is that a regular?”

“It’s a tall. We have three sizes.” (slight smirk)

“Ok that’s fine.” I said.

I paid for my “tall” coffee feeling stupid, awkward and a grande bit proud. I did it. I was in!

After the first time I got better. It took awhile, but one day I was comfortable and could order without feeling like a moron.

Prayer can be like this at first. The beauty though, is that there isn’t a process. God loves hearing what we have to say despite our fumbling. Unlike a barista, he doesn’t smirk. Prayer is simply a private conversation between you and God.

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Tip # 1 – Start Small

Begin by thanking God for your food each time you eat. This is a pattern Jesus practiced every time he ate with his disciples.

Tip # 2 – Ask For Help

God loves when we trust and rely on him. We all face difficult tasks, problems with people and have personal concerns. Pick a challenge each day and ask him for strength, clarity and guidance.

Tip # 3 – Look Around

Opportunities for prayer are all around us. Choose a family member, friend or neighbor and ask God to meet whatever their needs may be. This is called intercession.

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Tip # 4 – Get On Your Knees

Bedtime is the perfect time to meet with God in peace and quiet. Thank him for the day’s provision and ask for protection and restoration of your body while you sleep.

Tip # 5 – Be Bold!

Getting uncomfortable is sure to jumpstart your prayer life. Ask a friend what they need prayer for and then pray with them out loud. This can be done in person or over the phone. Our friends are encouraged and comforted when we ask for God’s help on their behalf.

Prayer takes practice, but I promise if you actively work on it you’ll grow spiritually by leaps and bounds.

Your Turn: Which of these tips will you choose this week and why?

Mary and Elizabeth: Bearing fruit for the kingdom

In case my header for this post didn’t clue you in, I’m still thinking about fruit . . . the spiritual kind of course.

Jesus’s mother, Mary, had a cousin named Elizabeth who lived about 60 miles away in the hill country of Judea. Elizabeth was married to Zechariah, a priest. The Bible says they were upright in the sight of God and observed all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. (Luke 1:5-6)

Yet, Elizabeth was barren. Being unable to conceive meant she was disgraced and cursed in the eyes of her community. I can only imagine how painful it must have been for this faithful couple.

When Elizabeth was very old – well past the point of childbearing – God answered their prayer and Elizabeth got pregnant. Tradition says that Elizabeth and Zechariah were in their 90’s when they were blessed.

Talk about God’s timing!

Mary learned of Elizabeth’s pregnancy when the angel Gabriel visited her with an astonishing announcement. He told her she would conceive God’s son by the Holy Spirit and Mary, an unwed virgin was mystified by the news. The angel comforted her with these words:

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary had to see this for herself.

The Bible says: At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:39-44)

The actual words Elizabeth uses in part of verse 42 is “. . . and blessed is the fruit of your belly.”

Elizabeth’s baby John (aka John The Baptist) leaped for joy over the fruit in Mary’s belly. How awesome is that! Justin's fruit

We are to be fruit carriers. We’re to bear it within us and share it with the world. Often it takes awhile to come to fruition. Do you know what the old Middle English definition of fruition is?

Enjoyment!

Are you like me . . . waiting to actually see some fruit? Do you feel like you’ll be too old to enjoy it?

Don’t despair. It’s coming in God’s timing and in His way!

I’m encouraged by Mary and Elizabeth’s story, it proves that fruit production is ultimately God’s business. When we faithfully trust in him, His plans come to fruition.

Your turn: What are you trusting and waiting on God for?

Spiritual Fruit: Five questions to help you live a fruitful life

So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God. Romans 7:4       (emphasis mine)

I’ve been thinking a lot about fruit lately.

As believers, we’re called to produce fruit. Fresh, juicy, life-giving fruit for Jesus Christ.

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Yet, I’m running into some Christians who aren’t fresh or juicy. Instead of being life-giving, they are joy sucking. Sometimes they’re even downright rotten. Have you ever bitten into a piece of fruit expecting sweetness and got a mealy, mushy mouthful of yuck?

In Galatians 5:22 the apostle Paul gives us a description of what believers produce spiritually: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.”

Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control are by-products of a fruitful life.

I’ve been checking for fruit lately; asking myself these questions: (feel free to use them for yourself!)

  • Is spiritual fruit evident in my life?
  • Am I putting out good stuff into the world?
  • Is anything starting to rot?
  • Is what I’m producing giving life to others?
  • If I were a tree, would people want to pick from me or would they pass me by?

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I admit that some days it feels as if the joy suckers are winning. I feel like I’m constantly struggling against the elements of spiritual darkness. Against those powers and authorities that work to corrupt and discourage us.

I want to be fresh for Jesus. I’d like to pray for us and I’d covet your prayers for me!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the opportunity to serve you in this rotten world. Lord Jesus, we eagerly await your return and the restoration of all things. Give us the strength to persevere in our walk and help us fight against the evil surrounding us.

Amen.

Your turn: Do you have any tips on defeating joy suckers?

Offering the gift of Christ at Christmas

Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them he went on from there. Matt 19:13-15

Do you ever marvel at what a gift it is to receive the good news of Christ?

For the past couple of months I’ve been re-reading the gospels. Real slow. In fact, so slowly I’m not even finished with Matthew.

But if there’s anytime to savor God’s Word, it’s now.

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The scripture above remind us that the kingdom of heaven is a gift offered and available to all – even those who appear to be insignificant to others.

Jesus placed his hands on them and when he did, he changed the world for these “little ones” and us. Forever.

As we wrap our gifts during the next few days (…if you’re late like me) I challenge you to pray over some “little ones” – people who may be overlooked during this time of year or family members who don’t yet have a relationship with Christ. We never know what kind of heart work God’s done beforehand.  Your prayer person may just be ready to receive the gift and waits for you to offer it.

One of my own wandering daughters is one of the “little ones” on my list. I too, will be offering Christ so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Life verse: Do you have one?

Isaiah 58:11 is my life verse. One day, many years ago I was reading my Bible and this verse pierced my heart. God led me to it and I felt His presence and promise. It’s been stuck there ever since.

Note: If a particular scripture pierces your heart, God may be trying to tell you something.

My verse says: The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

I need to apologize for my lack of blog postings; I was getting dry and felt like I couldn’t write anything. In my home I have a beautiful tropical plant called an anthurium. They’re supposed to look like this…

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See those beautiful leaves? How lush and shiny they are nestled among the flowers? This is what mine looks like…

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There are no flowers and the brown and yellow leaf tip means they’re not getting enough water. I am at fault. I’m the gardner. Every time I pass by this wimpy, neglected plant I’m reminded that God never forgets to water.

He’s the perfect gardener all the time and He knew I was lacking and needed some refreshing. A little TLC and spritzing to encourage me and help me endure. Life has been tough for the last several months so my husband and I took a quick getaway to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

On one of our excursions, we went to the Castillo Del Morro which is an old fort overlooking the sea. It was built in the 17th century and is one of those crazy beautiful old places. While we were there peering over the walls of a closed cemetery I noticed these beautiful ferns growing from the massive stone walls.

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It was a reminder that God sustains all things. If you know about ferns you know they mostly grow in damp shade with well drained soil. But here they were, growing without any human help along a sun scorched stone wall. It reminded me of my life verse.

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I was looking at some other things growing outside of the cemetery walls and came upon this strange tree growing these gorgeous flowers and I thought, yes – this is me blooming again!

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It’s great to be back!

So how about you? Do you have a life verse to share?

The Way

Say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.” Isaiah 35:4

Living with fear, especially in our day and age – these days of brazen and barbaric wickedness – can seem like a normal way to live.

I lived much of my life with fear. In fact, I was one of the most fearful people I know…until I was delivered of it. Fear is a form of bondage. It causes anxiety, stress on the body and affects all aspects of our lives. We are clothed in it and everything we do is borne out of it. In short, it’s a terrible way to live.

…he will come to save you.

And Jesus did. He came to save us and set us free from the oppression of it. I know this to be true because it’s part of my story. One of my earliest memories is one of fear. And even when I accepted Christ as my savior, at the age of 26, I wasn’t immediately released from it. God had some serious work to do in my spirit and my freedom wouldn’t come until years later.

I urge you to read all of Chapter 35 in the book of Isaiah. It’s titled Joy of the Redeemed and speaks of Jesus well before he ever walked the earth as a human. Isaiah gave God’s people a hint of what was to come and this picture always makes me think of him.

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It says our savior will:

give sight to the blind. And Jesus did.

unstop the ears of the deaf. And Jesus did.

cause the lame to leap like a dear. And Jesus did.

cause water to gush forth in the wilderness. And Jesus did.

cause the burning sand to become a pool and the thirsty ground bubbling springs. And Jesus did.

It speaks of new growth and a new road, a highway – a way in which the righteous walk. And Jesus was.

Jesus is The Way.

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Those who walk in this way have no fear, because His perfect love casts it out.

What about you? Do you walk in this way? Have you accepted Him as your savior? If so, fear not!

And if you don’t know Him as your savior yet, I urge you to choose life now. Your reward will be great. Your reward is Jesus himself and a new life. All you have to do is ask him to be the savior and Lord of your life. And he will because he loves you.

Isn’t that amazing?! It is! He loves you. He wants you and he wants to give you this new life and Way of life.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

How do you get your best rest?

By Erika Rizkallah

“There are no second acts in American lives.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control an estimated 50 to 70 million American adults suffer from sleep deprivation.

I think the often debated quote by Fitzgerald explains part of the problem. By “second acts,” I don’t mean second chances. American life offers plenty of them. I’m talking about the stage of life in which the fruits of our labor finally pay off.

For example, I’m a stay at home mom. I’ve spent the last eighteen years diligently investing in my marriage, children and family life. At this time, the fruit of that labor isn’t always obvious – especially in the teen years. In reality, I may not see it until my third act of life when I’m a grandmother.

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Maybe you know what this feels like. Maybe you’ve spent years investing in a career, education or hobby that’s produced more uncertainty than fruit.

What happens then? We can overcompensate and do and do and strive and spin in order to let everyone see we’re productive.

The church can also contribute to the exhaustion of its members.

I commonly hear church leaders say things like, “If you can picture what God wants to do through you, your vision is too small.” Or how about this one: “You’re not fully alive if you’re not serving on a team here at . . . ”

Well no wonder we can’t sleep!

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How can I relax if I’m supposed to have an unrecognizable vision? If I’m not fully alive?

That can leave us fearful and worried that we’re missing out on our calling or the thing that will remain undone if we don’t “step up to the plate” or “step out in faith.” Instead of becoming leaders of world-changing overcomers we end up exhausted and burned out underachievers.

Fortunately, God has an antidote for this problem. It’s called the Sabbath, a.k.a. known as a weekly day of rest. This practice was instituted by God for His people and is the fourth of the laws known as The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:8-11). I love how it’s subtitled in my Bible in Exodus 23 as The Laws of Justice and Mercy.

This scripture explains why God made it a commandment: Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed. Exodus 23:12.

This law is a law of love to prevent the abuse of people and animals by and for the community.

It also puts us in our place: we’re God’s creation and find ourselves most satisfied when we love, walk and rest in him.

Personally, I love a good nap, a great cappuccino and taking pictures of the world around me.

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How do you get rested and refreshed on the Sabbath?