Unexpected Enemies

By Erika Rizkallah

A couple of days ago I wrote about the Orlando shootings and prayer. In a comment to a reader I mentioned that one of Jesus’ commands is to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And then I thought, I’m so glad there are no enemies in my life.

Then, bam! All of a sudden I have one.

Don’t you just hate that?

Someone I began to care for deeply, betrayed and hurt one of my family members. His pride and inflated ego caused him to do and say some things that can never be undone. Though I’m not at liberty to discuss, I know it’s an opportunity to practice the command I mentioned to someone else.

man-1331997_1280

But I don’t want to. I don’t want to stretch and grow this way. I don’t want to encourage my family members to do the same because they’re not ready to forgive. It’s difficult because the unrepentant culprit is eaten up by his own need for vengeance. I don’t want to take the high road because it doesn’t seem fair.

I suppose that’s the point. Did you know many of Jesus’ commands were appalling to the hearers of his day? After all, the Israelites followed a tradition of law codes recorded thousands of years before.

jerusalem-980328_1920

Jesus’s words flipped everything upside down; they cut straight to the heart of humanity. He was known for his phrase, “You have heard it said . . . but I tell you.” Whenever we read it we know he’s shattering the status quo. We know he expects something different of his people.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:38-39

In the ancient world, striking someone was considered more of an insult than a beat down. Jesus was a reformer encouraging his followers to lay down their natural rights to retribution. If I’m a disciple I must submit to his authority and do the same. I will but I still don’t want to and that’s ok.

I’ll get there eventually.

heart-1145528

It’s funny because today someone told me that my enemy said, “Miss Erika is the nicest lady I’ve ever met.” But it’s not me, it’s Him living inside me. Because of that I can trust Him to change this guy’s heart – and mine as well.

How about you? Do you find it hard to love your enemies?

 

 

 

Good advice for the angry

By Erika Rizkallah

During my bridal shower – twenty years ago – my mother passed around a journal and asked the ladies to jot a note or write some marital advice. Among the blessings and prayers was the popular suggestion to “never go to bed angry.”

journal

Many people are surprised to learn this principle comes from the Bible. In context the whole passage is about the Christian life in general. To be exact, the passage reads: Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Ephesians 4:25-28.

As you can see, the verse about anger is sandwiched between lying and stealing. But it still makes good advice for soon to be newlyweds. However, it’s not one my husband and I have always been able to apply. Sometimes we go to bed angry and sometimes for no good reason at all – like last week.

For three whole days we didn’t speak to one another except in casual (if not comfortable) conversation, and then only because we had to.

Let’s just say it was his fault.

The highlighted quote about anger comes from the Old Testament in Psalm 4:4 which reads: Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. The “tremble” part means in your anger, which makes sense because when we’re really angry, we shake with it.

Sometimes quiet introspection is good when we’re arguing. It allows us to step back and think about why we love one another in the first place. It also helps us not say things (sometimes) that are sinful and hurt the other party.

wedding-997631

              “In your anger do not sin.”

So if you’re giving advice at a shower or in a doozy of a fight with your spouse, remember Psalm 4:4. The world – and our marriages – will be better and a whole lot quieter.

Words of Wisdom

By Erika Rizkallah

Sometimes the best thing you’ve heard today was written by someone from another era. Here are some words of wisdom from the great Charles H. Spurgeon:

Dear believer, do you understand that God may take away your comforts and privileges in order to make you a stronger Christian? Do you see why the Lord always trains His soldiers not by allowing them to lie on beds of ease but by calling them to difficult marches and service? He makes them wade through streams, swim across rivers, climb steep mountains, and walk many long marches carrying heavy backpacks of sorrow.

military-755414

This is how He develops soldiers – not by dressing them up in fine uniforms to strut at the gates of the barracks or to appear as handsome gentlemen to those who are strolling through the park. No, God knows that soldiers can only be made in battle and are not developed in times of peace. We may be able to grow the raw materials of which soldiers are made, but turning them into true warriors requires the education brought about by the smell of gunpowder and by fighting in the midst of flying bullets and exploding bombs, not by living through pleasant and peaceful times.

soldiers-1002_1920

So, dear Christian, could this account for your situation? Is the Lord uncovering your gifts and causing them to grow? Is He developing in you the qualities of a soldier by shoving you into the heat of the battle? Should you not then use every gift and weapon He has given you to become a conqueror?

humanitarian-aid-939723

Your Turn: Is any of this true for you, dear Christian?

5 Tips for Conquering Procrastination (aka Resistance)

By Erika Rizkallah

5 tips - procrastination

5 tips for conquering procrastination

Yesterday I was talking with a shrink (that’s what he calls himself) about procrastination. I was listening in on an open conversation he was having with a family member and as soon as he said the word my ears pricked up. I struggle with procrastination and he told us it’s really a symptom of anxiety.

cat-800760

He said if it were laziness we would be fully lazy – we wouldn’t do anything at all. But if it’s procrastination it’s a matter of choosing to do something other than the thing we’re avoiding. I think there’s some truth to that and it got me thinking about  Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art.

It’s a great book for people of a creative nature. He talks about resistance being an impersonal but powerful force that immediately appears as soon as we delve into the creative.

While it’s secular in nature, it speaks to me and I turn to it as as way to shake the grip of procrastination from my spirit. Here are 5 of my tips to help you conquer this inevitability.

Tip #1 – Be prepared: There are always things in life that will make us anxious. Whether it’s a task, conversation or event, rest assured, resistance will come. Benjamin Franklin said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This is a good time to run the “what if” scenarios through our minds. We can ask things like, What if my computer crashes? or What if the boss doesn’t like my presentation? By thinking through things that could thwart our efforts, we’re preparing ourselves for success.

gears-818461

           Think through problems

Tip # 2 – Pray for God’s strength: We’re simply human beings, only flesh and bone. We are inherently weak, but when we ask God for strength to persevere, we’re accessing his power. He’s generous and he loves to give us gifts.

Tip # 3 – Face the obstacle head on: Yes, there may be resistance but we don’t help ourselves by avoiding it, we just delay the inevitable. Or worse, live with regret.

Face obstacles head on!

Face obstacles head on!

Tip # 4 – Get an accountability partner: Grab a friend and ask for help. Ask her to help you stay on top of the issue by calling, e-mailing or standing with you as you reach for your goal.

Tip # 5 Stand firm: At the end of procrastination is a gift waiting to be opened. In his struggle to preach the gospel, the apostle Paul suffered beatings, hunger, shipwrecks, sleepless nights, and more. It’s likely we won’t suffer physically, but if we do, we’re in great company.

Your Turn: Can you share tips for conquering procrastination? What tip will you use from my list? 

Relationship Challenges

By Erika Rizkallah

Have you ever heard of NaNoWriMo? November is National Novel Writing Month and NaNoWriMo is a movement and challenge to write and finish a novel in 30 days. I was thinking about working on my middle grade adventure novel when I discovered the bloggers equivalent of the challenge.

It’s called NaBloPoMo so you’ll be hearing from me more frequently – as in every day. I’ve never blogged daily but I need to be challenged in areas other than relationships.

Creating posts and managing healthy relationships are both difficult but blogging stretches and challenges my mind, whereas relationship drama tends to shut me down. Unlike a blog, I can’t just stop communicating (though at times, I certainly want to).

I swear I sometimes wish I could hide.

girl-542841_1920

Like blogging, relationship building requires good and consistent communication. But what do you do when people get stubborn, cranky and negative? What do you do when bedroom doors slam shut and phone calls and questions go ignored?

I’ve decided to take a month off of arguing and debating with people and let everyone – including me – have their space. Instead I’ll be blogging and doing my best to keep a quiet mouth and spirit at home.

I love the quote below

 relationship quote

The key to calm in the storm

By Erika Rizkallah

As I wrote this post, a storm raged outside. It’s name was Joaquin.

Isn’t naming storms strange? I’m not sure why we do this. Why do we try to “humanize” a havoc wreaking force of nature? It’s not as if Joaquin is a friendly visitor popping in for coffee. No . . . Joaquin is no friend of mine. He’s flooding my town and turning my backyard into a swimming pool.

backyard flood

See, there I go using the pronoun “he” for what’s really a large mass of wind and rain. It’s a storm for Pete’s sake! And who is Pete and why is this a phrase?

I guess it’s part of our need to name things and somehow understand them better. It gives us a sense of control over the mysterious. Oh sure, science has it all figured out so we no longer consider them “Acts of God” (until our insurance denies the claim – then it’s God’s fault.) We know what elements cause storms in our earthly environment, but what about the “storms of life?”

Who or what causes them? Do they really strengthen us as people claim or just leave a mess of nasty debris that needs to be cleaned up?

backyard flood 2

Are you experiencing a hurricane of your own? Has a crisis whirled through your life like a tornado?

As my friend Sondra would say, “Rest in Jesus.”

He knows all about storms. Once when he and his disciples were cruising across the Sea of Galilee (actually a large lake), a perilous storm arose. Even today fierce storms suddenly occur on this lake, creating waves as high as twenty feet.

The account is written in the Bible in Luke 8:23: As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” He asked his disciples.

Jesus is almighty and all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He will still the storms but we need faith in order to see it played out in our lives.

Let’s pray!: Heavenly Father, you are mighty and rescue us from trouble. Help us navigate through our trials with grace and peace. Help us trust you when it appears you are asleep to our problems. We know you have good plans for us and we ask that your timing and will be done in our lives. Amen.

Quiet Time Musings: The Difficulty of the Christian Life

Last night a friend and I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning discussing the Christian life. We lamented the fact that being obedient to God’s calling and will for believers is challenging. Here are some of the questions we asked:

Why is it so hard to be obedient?

Why does God allow certain things to happen in our lives even though we’re wholeheartedly trying to follow Him?

Why do we not do the things we know are right and instead, do what we know is wrong?

We both went to bed pondering. In fact, I assumed I’d be faced with a sleepless night if I continued to think about it – fortunately I was wrong and slept like a baby.

In my quiet time this morning God gifted me with an answer through the day’s devotional reading in My Utmost For His Highest. The scripture was this: Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

gate-419890_1920

The author, Oswald Chambers says, “If we are going to live as disciples of Jesus, we have to remember that all noble things are difficult. The Christian life is gloriously difficult, but the difficulty of it does not make us faint and cave in, it rouses us up to overcome.”

I often forget Jesus’ words . . . Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me (follow me), he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 emphasis mine

Jesus’ cross was heavy. In fact, it was so heavy that when he stumbled beneath the weight of it, the Roman guards called another man to help him carry it to the road leading to the place of his crucifixion.

Jesus_carrying_cross

Our crosses are heavy too. In order to carry it we have to have Jesus’ help. And with his help, we too can overcome.

Are you struggling under a heavy load right now? As Jesus frequently reminded his disciples, Take courage! He is with you.

Your Turn: My challenge for you today is to find a friend. Speak aloud your needs, confess your sin and ask for prayer as you struggle to journey through the narrow gate.

6 Lessons to remember when your child is bullied

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23 (New Living Translation)

In my last post I promised to write out the lessons we learned about bullying. There are two types: One from Kat’s perspective (teenager) and one from mine (parent).

I’m breaking them out and giving our bully the nickname “Brutus” for easier reading and because I still love him.

Lessons Kat Learned

Don’t put too much trust in your friends – We all crave family in one way or another and research shows that teens value the opinions of their friends and peer groups above all else. Kat put all her energy into one group of friends and Brutus was her bestie. He’s also the most popular, so when their friendship crumbled . . .

Teens are apt to choose sides, much like adults do when close friends divorce. Making friends in multiple areas of life is essential for helping teens get through relationship adversity.

friends-775356_1920

Forgive people when they make mistakes – Forgiveness isn’t only a biblical mandate, it’s a life skill . . . and it’s freaking hard! In this case Brutus was unwilling; he’d built up weeks of simmering anger. He’ll need to learn how to forgive an offense. Kat learned to forgive herself and others as Jesus does.

Pay attention to warning signs – In other words, trust your gut! God gave us powerful instincts. Kat knew something was “off.” She noticed Brutus’ behavior change and repeatedly asked him if something was wrong. He denied it so she decided to trust his word despite contrary evidence.

attention-803720

Lessons I learned (not including my husband because he just wanted to beat everyone up).

Be available – Like most parents, I’m busy. But years ago my other daughter endured a bullying attack so severe it landed her in the psychiatric ward of our local hospital. When you see your teen suffering or notice a drastic change in their behavior, drop everything. Be available day or night and seek a professional for help.

Listen and don’t judge – Although angry with Brutus, I leaned on Jesus. Who better to lean on than the one who forgives us all? I turned to him in prayer, trust and faith that he knows more than I do and would work it out because he loves all of us.

Jesus on cross

Mother and mentor – Teens often don’t listen to parental advice despite our best effort. In this case we met with a trusted mentor who knows both kids well. This amazing woman validated all I’d said to Kat in our tearful late-night chats. That felt great!

She ministered to her which allowed me to step back from the situation. She comforted and encouraged Kat to endure through the trial as a strengthening experience. I can’t say enough about making sure your kids have Godly mentors in their lives.

Your turn: I’d love to hear any bullying advice you can give!

Love and lies: Have you gotten sucked into a gossip triangle?

Three weeks ago, my 17-year old daughter was the object of a severe bullying attack by several of her best friends.

She considers these kids her family and so do we. We love them like family, minister to them when the need arises and eat hundreds of pizzas.

They are all Christians doing ministry together.

Katya dancing

My beautiful girl (in blue) doing what she loves the most! None of these kids are involved in the situation.

Have you ever been hurt by people you’ve shared everything with?

If so, you know the pain and suffering she’s enduring – WE are enduring. When one member of God’s family hurts, we all do.

Gossip is an age-old problem and our situation began with an “innocent lie” (no such thing) between a guy and girl. My daughter took part in the lie in a misguided attempt to spare someone’s feelings. Then someone lied to another person, and the offended party learned about it through gossip.

It was the spark that lit a wildfire of lies, accusations and slander. Despite her confession and begging forgiveness, her name and reputation is ruined (for now).

According to the Bible, gossip is a sin and causes all kinds of strife. In fact the Apostle Paul writes about it in his letter to the Corinthians. He says, “For I am afraid that when I come I won’t like what I find, and you won’t like my response. I am afraid that I will find quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorderly behavior.” 2 Corinthians 12:20

She got caught up in the middle of a gossip triangle that sucked her in and spiraled out of control.

The Gossip Triangle

Life is full of hard lessons and while attempts at forgiveness and restoration are finally being made, the damage is permanent.

Yesterday in my quiet time, I read from My Utmost For His Highest and the wisdom is a perfect fit. The author, Oswald Chambers says, “Jesus Christ never trusted human nature, yet He was never cynical nor suspicious, because He had absolute trust in what He could do for human nature.”

In my next post, I’ll write about the lessons we’ve learned from this fiasco. I hope it helps you keep your kids from being sucked into a gossip triangle.

With love and peace, Erika

Friends are like pancakes

Friends are like pancakes.

Making the first one is hardest and sometimes has to be tossed (or in this case eaten).

pancake fail

They come in all kinds of shapes

pancake 5

colors and sizes

pancake 4

and sometimes they even come with little ones.

pancake 3

The thing they all require is attention, patience and often, sacrifice.

I’ve been struggling in the friendship area lately. Keeping old friends and making new ones in this season of my life is difficult. I find myself unable and unwilling (sometimes) to give attention to those who don’t give at least the same level of care and attention back to me.

And I know that for the most part, this is wrong. Proverbs 17:17 says: A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity. 

My New Year’s resolution is to take the attention, patience and sacrifice necessary to reconnect with some old friends, and make new ones. Hopefully, I’ll make some new sisters in the process.

If I’ve neglected our friendship over the past year, I apologize. And if we haven’t met yet, then I’ll try not to disappoint you.

What about you? How do you feel about your friendships…or pancakes?