Friday, November 7, 2014

An Opportunity to be ThankFULL

By 2012 Mercy Graduate Katrina

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is less than three weeks away! Christmas, despite what retail stores would like us to believe, is not the next major holiday on the calendar. Stores are already decked out with the lights, Santas, elves, candy… (side note—if you’re buying Christmas candy now, thinking you’ll be able to save it until Christmas, you may be in serious denial). Instead of allowing society to take a moment (a whole day even!) to be thankful, we’re ready to charge right into the materialistic aspects of Christmas. BUT, November and December are actually an incredible opportunity...

We get to choose what that opportunity will be.

We have the opportunity to be incredibly stressed, worrying about every minute detail for Thanksgiving get togethers, travel, Christmas parties, cards, gifts, and the like… or procrastinate until the last second and then run around like a turkey with our head cut off, getting things done last minute.

We have the opportunity to be short-tempered and uncharitable to those we come in contact with because we have allowed the “holiday busyness” to drown out any “holiday cheer” we once had.

We have the opportunity to complain about the things we don’t have. To grumble about the well meaning person who said “happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” To be resentful of hearing the same Christmas song 17 times in one day.


We have the opportunity to be JOYFUL always—an unconditional joy amidst every stressful thing that comes up this season.

We have the opportunity to PRAY continually – To pray for loved ones. To pray for the people who get on our nerves, cut us off in traffic, are short tempered towards us. To praise God. To ask God to help us grow in virtue and grow closer to Him during this season.

We have the opportunity to give THANKS in all circumstances - How about an “attitude of gratitude this November/December? When others are irritable, why not be a light in that situation? Why not choose to be thankful for what we do have, instead of dwelling on what we don’t? Why not praise the Lord for coming to this earth? Why not give thanks for our family and friends (even when they do get on our nerves)?

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What are some things you are actually extremely thankful for, but either continually take for granted or complain about (can be something or someone)? During this time of year, is it easier or harder for you to live out this verse? What are practical ways you will express gratitude this week to those you love?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Faith & Physics

By Mercy Staff Member Alex

I find myself reading about Newton’s laws of motion this morning. According to Newton, when a force that compels me in one direction meets another force, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. 

Why talk about physics on this rainy Friday when I could be curled up in my favorite hoodie with a cup of tea watching Netflix? Here’s why… On Monday something became real to me. I found myself ending the day in my counselor’s office. Me—an “object persisting in a state of forward motion”—unexpectedly came up against another force as I sat in that black leather chair.

I hadn’t realized the force of all that I was carrying. All that stuff I was afraid to put words to. All that stuff I had avoided acknowledging for so long. Yet, on that Monday afternoon, all of it broke through the emotional wall in my soul and flooded into the room, into the light.

I was stunned by the weight of it. My chest felt heavy, my lungs burned as I inhaled. I was suddenly aware that I had been running and functioning, moving in one constant forward motion with a tremendous burden I was too afraid to release.

So back to the beginning...when the force that compels me in one direction meets another force, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Wikipedia gives a great example of this: walking. When I push against the floor, the floor also pushes against my foot in an equal way, allowing me to be able to walk and not fall through the floor.

When it comes to interacting with people, I can see this law at play. We tend to go through life, each compelled by forward forces, but we bump up against one another, don’t we? We meet up against one another and reactions happen.

Maybe your force of anger meets up against my force of fear, and I react by fleeing, bottling up my emotions, and continuing in whatever direction your force just pushed me.

Maybe my force of need meets up against your force of fear, and you react by buckling powerlessly, afraid of not measuring up. Maybe that force becomes a burden you carry as you passively turn in the direction my force pushes you.

Maybe your force of fear meets up against my force of fear and we’re both too insecure to speak. Maybe neither of us tap into our true self and God-given voice but instead fall into the directions we just pushed each other.

The forces of motivation behind what we do are too many to count…what drives you?

It could be chasing success, seeking approval, dodging fear. The sub-categories of fear alone are endless: fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of betrayal, fear of what other people think, etc. Although these forces compel us forward to make a life that’s worth something, they happen to be the same forces that can push us and others backwards.

As my heart bled open into the room on Monday, I had a thought for the first time. What would happen if the force that compels us, that thing that impresses the direction of our lives, was a CONSTANT? Something that was unchanging when pushed up against. What if there was a stronger force—one that consistently guides us forward, despite the forces we come up against in our every day lives? What would happen in the law of motion if the force that compels me was not a natural force?

The good news is I have a supernatural Savior in Jesus. He wants to be the compelling, forward-moving force in my life and in yours. He intersects and changes the direction of my thinking. He says, “Walk forward this way. Let the reality of who I am (the Gospel) and the Truth of my Word be the force that compels the motion of all that you do.”

What happens when other people’s forces of need, fear, anger, and dependence bump up against my life? Now that Jesus is my force, I don’t have to react to their forces. Instead, I get to respond with His stronger, supernatural, and equipping force from within me that shows grace and continues moving me forward. The cool thing is that it welcomes the other people to move forward too (more so than my force of fear would have ever done for them).

Maybe the Gospel can even be seen in Newton’s second law. "The change of momentum of a body is proportional to the impulse impressed on the body and happens along the straight line on which that impulse is impressed." I was going about my way, compelled by fears of all kinds (a slave to the force of sin), until another force—a force of grace/life/freedom (the Cross of Christ)—met me and entirely changed me.

While the breadth and depth of the Gospel cannot be contained in a physics lesson, or in the laws of motion, it can be evidenced; it can be seen. The Gospel was written by a Holy God who receives the most glory when His people find their satisfaction in a personal relationship with Him. In His presence there is complete freedom.

Freedom means that I don’t have to continue being compelled and impressed by natural forces—by slavery to fear or anger or codependence, by my circumstances, or by yours. Freedom means that I don’t have to be the source that fuels the force or direction of my life. Freedom means that Jesus has forever changed me—and with Him as the compelling force, I don’t have to live reactionary. Freedom in me means that when our lives intersect, the impression of Jesus in me meets you and whatever you’re going through. It changes the atmosphere. Instead of me reacting and forcing you or you forcing me, the Gospel intersects and brings Life.

Father, be the force that compels the motion in our lives that we might not move forward bottling up burdens that were never meant for us to carry alone but to surrender to You. Jesus, be the stronger force that sends us out into freedom, that when we intersect the lives of others we do so marked with Your compassion, grace, and wisdom. Overflow in us that we might overflow into others the life and freedom of the Gospel.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Who Told You That You Were Fat?

By 2008 Mercy Graduate Amy

“Who told you that you were fat?”

I remember thinking this after I read Genesis 3:11 for the first time. In this passage, Adam and Eve are hiding from God. They knew that they had messed up after eating the forbidden fruit, so they hid. God says, “Where are you?” And Adam says, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

God then answers, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Growing up... No one told me that I was fat. 
No one told me that my music wouldn't make it.
No one told me that I would never be good enough.

But even if they had, I BELIEVED THESE THINGS.
Where did this condemning, dark, demeaning and insulting voice come from?

Not God.

At a young age, I believed the voice of a traitor. The voice of a liar.
I have believed this voice for much of my life. It led me down a path that destroyed the majority of me.
But now—each little day at a time—I'm learning new things...

The enemy of our souls knows that if he can turn us on ourselves, it makes his job of stealing, killing, and destroying that much easier. When we listen to his lies, we do his job for him without even knowing it. We start to hate on and destroy ourselves.  

Our lives become an echo of the voice we are listening to.

One voice leads to death, but the Other leads to Life. It wasn’t until I was near true, physical death that that Other Voice, the stronger Voice, spoke through the depths of my disaster, declaring...

“No. No more. She’s MINE.”

I have spent many years trying to run away from the voice of the enemy. There is only ONE voice of truth, and every day I have to decide—sometimes over and over, second by second—which voice I will choose to listen to. I'm continually learning how to discern the difference in the voices. Some days I follow the wrong one. Some days I allow the manipulative (often masked by enticing glitter and attractive eloquence) voice to dominate me...

And I start to…
...believe that I will never get married.
...believe that I am not talented enough for music.
...believe that I am not thin enough, pretty enough, young enough...

Sometimes it’s easier to believe the lies over the truth.

AND YET, without fail, every single time—before I get too far gone—that Voice emerges, beckoning me to stop and reconsider what I have been thinking. 

“Amy, who told you that you were not beautiful?”

“Amy, who told you that you were not talented enough?”

“Amy, who told you that you were not amazing?”

The Voice of Truth is always there speaking to us if we will listen. 

I don’t know what voice you are listening to right now.
I don’t know what voice you have been agreeing with and believing.
Maybe like me, it gets confusing and hard to know.
Maybe like me, everyday is a battle to turn your ear towards God's Voice.

Maybe like me, you need to stop, and go back to the very beginning.

Go back to Genesis.
Go back to the only One who knows you, created you, formed you, breathed life into you, and charted all the days of your life.
Go back to the One who loves you.
Go back to the One who knows the Truth.
Go back to the One who is speaking Life.

What is His voice calmly speaking over you today?

You can read more encouragement from Amy on her blog, Ashes to Beauty.

Friday, October 3, 2014

You're Stronger Than You Know

By 2012 Mercy Graduate Sophonie

Have you ever wondered how the circus is able to keep a wild elephant tamed when its true nature is to roam free?

I’ll tell you… it’s the same way the devil tries to bind a believer. 

In captivity, they put a chain around an elephant’s leg, then tie it to a wooden peg that’s hammered into the ground. That elephant, 10 feet tall and weighing around 5,000 pounds, could easily break the chains, uproot the wooden peg and run to freedom. But it doesn't. As a matter of fact, it doesn't even try. Why is that?

When the elephant was only two days old, a chain was put around its leg. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the baby elephant pulled, tugged and cried out for freedom—day in and day out—yet it was never set free. It would try over and over for days, weeks, and months to break away, but the chain pulled back every time, cutting into its skin and causing it to bleed. This created a wound that hurt even more every time the baby tried to escape. At some point, the elephant started to realize that it hurt more to be free then it did to stay bound by the chains.

Years later, the baby has grown into an adult elephant who is fully capable of breaking free—yet, it remains bound. It doesn't matter that the metal stake has been replaced by a wooden peg. It doesn't matter that the once 100-pound, powerless baby is now a 5,000-pound force of strength! This elephant will not try to reach for freedom again because it remembers the pain it felt as a baby. Physically, the elephant has the power to set itself free, but mentally, it is held captive.

 I was that baby elephant... 

At a young age, the chains of low self-esteem were put around my legs and tied tightly to the metal stakes of insecurity. Day in and day out I would tug, pull, and try to break free like the elephant—but the wounds of being told I was ugly, too dark to be beautiful, stupid, worthless and would never amount to anything held me down. I stopped pulling against the chains that told me that someone else could always do it better. Chains of abuse, hurt, manipulation and betrayal left deep wounds that hurt too much!

Like the baby elephant, I quickly fell into the trap of believing it was easier to be bound than to break free.

Years later, when I became an adult, it didn't matter how many people told me I was beautiful or how good I looked when I stood in front of a mirror... all I saw was ugly. I was mentally bound to the words that “my skin was too dark to be beautiful.” I would start things but wouldn't finish them because I was tied down by the words “I’d never amount to anything.” It didn’t matter if I was physically free on the outside—on the inside, I was tied so tightly to the lies I believed about myself. They controlled me.

Long ago, the Israelites found themselves in a similar position...

"All the people of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land to be killed by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will be taken away. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and return to Egypt.” Numbers 14:2-4

God had just delivered unspeakable plagues upon the Egyptians, and after 430 years of slavery the Israelites had escaped to freedom through the Red Sea. But, as soon as the drinking water ran out, these recently-freed slaves started demanding to return to Egypt—to Egypt, where they would be put back in chains! Why? Why would they even THINK of going back?

These people suffered from a slave mentality. They had been under a whip for so long that they were simply unable to visualize what it meant to be free. They knew that slavery was not fun, but it was at least understood. It was comfortable. They knew what to expect.

If you’re still reading... maybe you've evaluated your own life and discovered your own mental bondage. The thing (or things) that try to bring you back to the land of Egypt. The good news is that no matter how bad the condition of your life or your thought life... it's not too late to regain authority over it!

The enemy knows how powerful the mind is and will try to use it to destroy you, but John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free indeed!” You've been set free by Jesus! You have the right to bear arms against the lies that taunt: "Once a slave, always a slave." It's not true! Don’t allow your past to dictate your future. Your past is where you’ve been, but it is NOT who you are! By reading God’s Word and learning what He says about you, you will find freedom. Jesus will not only make you free, but He will keep you free if you let Him.

What lies are you believing? Many times we believe something in our hearts, but our minds war against it. A stronghold in the mind is a spiritual fortress made of wrong thoughts, a fortified dwelling place where demonic forces can hide and operate in power against us. The ideas and thoughts that make up the stronghold are based on lies that challenge the truth of what God has revealed about Himself and about us. That baby elephant's lie was that he couldn't break free from that wooden peg and chain, which kept him in captivity his whole life. Maybe you’ve been told you’re never going to make it, you’re damaged goods, you’re stupid, you're too much to handle yet not enough of what you're "supposed to be." Maybe you’ve always been compared to others. Maybe you’ve dealt with physical, mental or sexual abuse. Maybe you’ve hurt someone. Maybe you had an abortion and can’t forgive yourself. Whatever it is... today can be your first day on a journey to freedom! 

This is your day! Ask God to set you free. He will help you see your mental chains and discern the difference of what they tell you versus what He wants to tell you. He will help you realize how powerful, precious, and beloved you truly are. His truth will set you free. As you awaken to who He made you to be, you'll experience His power to break every chain!