Learning and Discerning Vocations: Baby Steps

What is a vocation? My understanding is that it is a call from God on how He wants me to live while I am growing to know, love and serve Him.

This path of vocation is the best that God has for me. If I choose God to be in my life, I have made the first step. This first step is a big one. God is always near but this is a step that declares that I believe He exists, that I believe that He is who He says who He is, and that if He is in my life that means that I need to make room for Him. When I had made this step, the first thing that happened to me was an awareness of His provisions and encouragements and love. As I stepped into this choosing of God to be in my life, I noticed that I was learning that God has chosen me. This began with the scripture that I heard at Divine Liturgy.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other (John 15:9-17, NIV).

When I heard these words, I was intrigued. Jesus’ message of love was clear about loving, about His love for me, His desire that I would have joy, even that He declared friendship, but the most clear message was that He chose me. Me! I reacted with “I am not important enough for God to choose me!” I struggled with that message! The rest of the message was good and encouraging but those words “You did not choose me, but I chose you” caused me to reflect and dig deeper for understanding of just what that meant.

At first, I almost rejected the message because of my own struggle of accepting myself with all my unmet expectations and weaknesses, and peer judgments on me. I prayed and asked God to let me see what He sees when He looks at me. I felt a warmth envelop me. I felt peace and happiness. I was listening with everything in me and I had a desire to “know the truth.” I did not expect anything. But, there was awareness that I was heard. I wanted to take it slow. I did not want to rush.

I found that I was making room for Jesus in my life. Often, I would say His name. I would wake up in the morning and speak to Him about my day. This was a long slow process and it had many, many bumps and breaks. When I had been feeling alone, I would call on Jesus. I did not have anyone in my family who encouraged me to get to know Him. I was always encouraged to “be good” and “listen.” I heard of some young people going to church through the week during Lent. I felt a desire to go too! I went as often as I could and found that I felt good. I wanted more.

Copyright © 2011 Irina Demkiw, all rights reserved.

 

…..published Oct 2,2011 under my pen name, Irina Demkiw, and now —– republished on April 24, 2014 under my personal blog site:  “Small Thinks with Great Love”

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

 

Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life – Part 2

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 (NIV)

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.
On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that
sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and
we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
 

This scripture has been a touchstone for me in my life. The battle in my mind goes on but now I have victory. This passage of God’s Word teaches that I am not fighting God and that I have power over my thoughts with prayer and claiming scripture.

The source of the negative thoughts are usually from my own history of brokenness and woundedness but also the enemy desires to torture and destroy my gift of peace.

The battle of negative thoughts can be based on many important or non-important issues in my life; e.g., guilt, shame, resentments, fears, anger, worry, and the list goes on.

When I have been in a struggle with some negative thoughts, I do not have to fight alone.
I can demolish or destroy negative thoughts and arguments. I can by my own words and reactions to the negative thoughts put an end to the accusation, argument, or divisive language and words. I can capture or seize the thoughts, taking control over the influence that the negative thoughts have and rendering them ineffective. By my taking my rightful role as a child of God in prayer and with the divine power that comes with the Word of God, I can rebuke the thoughts and neutralize and invalidate the messages.

The weapons that I have to fight these negative thoughts are God Himself and prayer and claiming scripture to come into effect into my life. I ask God to help me. I speak to the negative thoughts and tell them to be quiet, and to go to Jesus Christ, and I ask Jesus to give me His thoughts.These thoughts that come to me now are under the obedience of my Lord Jesus. I can tell by some of the spiritual fruits in my mind, as mentioned in Galations 5: I will experience some of the following: peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I may have to do the exercise several times before I sense peaceful thoughts, as well as kind and loving thoughts.

Often I will claim the scripture passage  2 Cor 10:4 and 5 as a prayer and the thoughts change.

May this scripture be a powerful blessing to you in your life as it has been in my own.

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

Change Your Life, Change Your Thoughts

Every now and again I feel that my life needs to change. To be more specific, I need to change. When I spend time in prayer and meditation, I sense the Lord calling me to come closer. If I am feeling rebellious, I want to run the other way. There have been some days though when I sensed the intimacy and love of God and desired more. On those days, when it seems that God knows when is best, I sense that more is better.

Change can be frightening. Only when I am aware of the love and care of my God am I able to say YES to him. I trust that his plan is good and safe for me. It may be challenging but with him at my side I can do it:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13)

The area of change is in my thought life. If I change my thought life, change is possible. I never knew that I could choose my thoughts. I was never told this. Yes, there are areas of maturing that are ongoing and I am grateful for the wisdom that God has been providing for me through scriptures and through people who speak his truth to me. I never had any intuitive leadings to this. So scripture provides the truth for me:

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

So here I am wanting to choose my thoughts and applying both scriptures and a new insight comes to me. When I choose my thoughts, I am choosing God, I am choosing healthier thoughts, I am choosing to grow and learn, I am choosing more than I have now, and I am choosing the best that God has for me. He will guide my thoughts as I ask him to teach me how to love as he loves.

God’s best love is Jesus. The Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, are providing the best, IF I ASK.  I have heard somewhere in my life that “I have not because I ask not.”

So now I ask “Lord help me! Help me with the choosing of my thoughts and help me to choose you and more with every breath in me”

 

Copyright © 2014 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

 

God Provides

I have a had a revelation and wanted to share it with you. I know that God provides and that if I have God I have no need for He completes everything in me.

It goes like this:

God does not provide for MY WAY!
God does provide for HIS WAY!

When I want my way, I am off course for my mission and destiny. When I follow His Way, everything will lead me to complete my mission and destiny.

Copyright © Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

Early Childhood Lesson

Early remembrances of childhood have memories of being blamed for wrong doing in the schoolyard. I did not forgive easily. God has His ways of teaching us that He knows what is best for us!

On one occasion, I became quite angry and frustrated when I was blamed for writing with chalk on the brick exterior walls of the school. It was my first occasion that I was with some girls who had “borrowed” chalk from the classroom and brought it to the schoolyard for recess time. The usually writing on the walls that I had seen earlier was about some girl’s crush on a boy, e.g., Suzzie loves Johnny. When the recess attendant, a teacher, saw the writing on the wall, she recalled who was at that wall during recess. And since I was with the group, I was painted guilty with same brush stroke. I did not like being blamed for something I did not do. No defence could change this judgment.  We all had a verbal reprimand. This left a bitter taste in my mouth. Guilt by association….Hmmmmm!

However, at another time, later, when I was with the group and trying to impress upon them that I had “courage” and had “borrowed” chalk from the classroom, I did my bit of writing on the school brick walls. The girls seemed to be impressed and I thought that I had a good thing going, until the recess attendant came up behind me and began to blame me for the mess on the walls. Oh my! My cheeks grew hot and I could feel tears ready to fall from my eyes. Fear gripped me! I was responsible for the writing this time and there was not just a verbal reprimand but a consequence assigned to me to “clean the bricks” with water and a brush. The principal advised me that I was deserving of the blame for the chalking on the school walls and that I needed to come to him with an apology when I was done my punishment.

At that time, I was not a happy girl. I was not sorry. I was embarrassed that I got caught! By the time the bricks were cleaned, I was feeling remorseful that I had done it. I came to the principal and apologized. The principal was very kind and gracious and said that this was a light reprimand and that I had better not be a repeat offender.

In hindsight this was a good lesson for me. I had much to think about while scrubbing those bricks. I had never liked the look of the chalk writing on the school walls. I did this “deed” with the hope to get peer attention and approval. The school looked awful with the chalk writing. The persons who I had named with my writing had been embarrassed. The girls who I had been trying to impress thought I was deserving of my punishment and did not offer to help me clean the bricks. The best understanding came last. I had not shown respect to the school, the students and teachers, and especially the persons whose names were displayed on the bricks. I was looking for respect and acceptance at the cost of disrespecting others and the school building. I learned that I had better choose better “friends” that would not entice me to do things that are wrong and that I did not need to try to impress those types of friends again.

As an adult, this lesson has been seared into my mind and heart. Now, as a Christian, because I love God, and know that He calls us to love one another, first I seek guidance regarding my choices from Jesus Christ in prayer and scriptures. This early lesson is a guidepost regarding loving others and respecting their property and personhood. I no longer strive to gain attention and approval from peers. I am to be forgiving to all those who try to lead me away from Jesus and His desire for me to be a blessing to others. Yes, I have forgiven those “friends” of my childhood and myself! And, I have asked God to forgive me for all my part in both incidences. Thank you Lord you rescued me from myself!

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;  let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
(Psalm 31: 1-5)

When I come to my Jesus, He blesses me with His peace, and His love, His approval, His wisdom, His courage, His discernment and His understanding of receiving everything needed from Him. In Him I am complete. I have God! I have everything!

Copyright © Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

Imperfections

I do not like my imperfections. I have tried to change them, to improve them, to not have these flaws be highlighted in my daily living. I am so human. I have many flaws that I do not want to see, nor anyone else to see them. Because I am a Christian, I search for my answers in scriptures. I am seeking a healthier perspective on my imperfections and I believe that the bible provides a perspective that will help me.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6-7)

So when my flaws/imperfections are causing me to be distracted from God’s gift of peace, such as, being haunted by my past mistakes, feeling out of control, feeling insecure, unforgiveness for myself or others, and so on, I have read the direction given in the above passage.

The instruction is to be rooted and built up in Christ. I desire above all else that I become even more rooted and built up in Him. My desire is my beginning. Upon meditation of this, I believe that my daily prayer life is my way of digging deep and laying roots for future growth. To make a commitment to my daily prayer is to start my day with “Good morning Lord!” not with “Good God, its morning!” I have a bible that I keep near my sleeping area so that it is within easy grasp as I wake up. I start my prayer with a reading of a psalm. I love the psalms and have many favorites, such as Psalm 23, 34, 37, 91, 121 and……so on….many favorites.

Sometimes my prayers are interrupted with my emotional thoughts. Those areas of my life that have unresolved conflicts like to break into my prayer time and distract me from focusing on loving and praying to Jesus. I received a teaching many years ago that God who is in control of everything has allowed the thoughts to come to me for a purpose. The purpose is to turn the thoughts over to His control and care. This is not always easy, but with God’s grace and my perseverance, I am a work in progress releasing each thought as it comes to me. Some thoughts are harder than others to release, especially if I have strong raw emotions such as anger, pain, regrets, sorrow. When I ask God to help me release those deep emotions and thoughts to Him, He always hears the cry of my heart and slowly, slowly, after perseverance and focusing on Him, the thoughts evaporate from my mind.

Only God can strengthen me in my faith with His love and His provision of experiences of His steadfastness and love for me. I was told many years ago that it would be a good idea to keep a spiritual journal. It has not been easy for me but I have persisted to sporadically write in it. Upon reading this journal, I am reminded of the many times I have cried out to the Lord and He answered my prayers or others’ prayers for me. The building up of my faith, the strengthening of my faith is given to me by God, the source of all, in all my daily experiences. He provides for me. He might send someone with a kind word for my heart, someone to open a door for me, a driver who lets me enter traffic easily, a hug from a child, or a call from a friend. God always provides for me.

I still work at not practicing my imperfections – this is my part in the process. I have to leave the changing/removal of my imperfections to the grace and power of God – that is His part. As I live with God during my day, sensing His presence and provisions, I am drawn into constant prayer, with ejaculations of “Glory to God!” or Thank you Lord!” I vaguely remember that there is a scripture that says something like (paraphrased) “God lives in the praises of His people,” so as I praise Him constantly by saying the Jesus Prayer (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner) or by ejaculatory prayers, I am blessed by Him and my imperfections seem less important.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17)

I have had people who know me come and say to me that I have changed. They cannot name how but that they see that I am different than I used to be. Wow! God’s grace in action.

I am a work in progress! Praise the Lord!

Copyright 2012 © Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.

Apologizing

It has taken many more years than I like to admit that I really did not know the best way to apologize to another person so that there was healing between us.

For most of my life, I was taught that to apologize to another person was to say, “I am sorry!” and then the other person would respond, “It’s okay! Forget it!” and we got back to living and growing in our relationship. It seemed like this worked for the most part. Most of my apologies were with school chums and siblings.

This is the type of apologizing that I took into my marriage. For several years, this style of apology kept us together and communicating. However, there was a cooling in our responses of “It’s okay! Forget it!” The words were said, but there were on occasions a note of curtness and tension. The knot in my stomach did not undo as it usually did. Looking back, I see that we were starting to keep score. We were not forgiving with our apologizing. That is dangerous to any relationship. It snuck up on us. We were unconsciously lying to ourselves and each other that we would “Forget it!” Sometimes the anger that was building carried over to the next day. It says in scripture,

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. (Ephesians 4:25-27)

We were letting conflict become a part of our lives, unconsciously. We did not try to quickly apologize anymore and often held the hurt. This tension was slowly destroying what we had hoped on our wedding day, that is, to live and grow deeper in love over the years. Our pride kept us from nailing down the issue that started the deception of “Forget it!” We were not forgetting it at all. Sometimes we apologized too quickly just to get passed the tension in the moment.

Some married friends shared with us what they had learned at a marriage retreat about apologizing and forgiveness. We thought that we had put up a good front but our friends could see and recognize trouble and these friends loved us enough to share their good news.

They explained to us that saying the words “I am sorry!” and “It’s okay! Forget it!” are not helpful words to restore a relationship. These words are touching only the surface and not truthful that we will forget about it. The words that are needed are to be spoken from the heart, after time spent in prayer. God wants to be involved in our marriages and we are to seek His advice and counsel when we hit walls of anger and unforgiveness.  The apology is to be sincere and indicate that there is regret. There should be no accompanying rationalization or justification for the offending action/words. The word “But” is not in the dialogue of apologizing! Compassion and empathy are needed for each other. These friends explained that the words that are needed are meant to begin healing and restoration. Those spoken words are “Please forgive me! I was wrong! I am sorry! I will not do that offence again!” The required response is to be equally deep and heart felt, “Yes, I forgive you! Thank you that you are committed to not repeating that offence again!“

Take time, maybe several days or weeks, to rebuild your relationship and perhaps then dialogue regarding the offence and learn from each other how to be “lovers” rather than declaring the rightness of your stance. Perhaps writing a love letter to each other about the incident would help to begin the dialogue, and then to gently sensitively listen to each other, without correcting the other person as they share their experience of the incident. Approach the dialogue with an open attitude of “I am teachable!” and ask God to help you to see and hear the other with His eyes and ears.

There is no such thing as a “perfect apology” but there is such a thing as a heart of love and compassion that comes after sitting with the Creator of love and compassion.

Copyrighted © 2012 Gloria Winn, all rights reserved.