- 2015Apr 07
I’m not a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. I would probably not enjoy it, if someone told me to hop in the car for an impromptu vacation and said, “we’ll figure it out as we go!” Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t even hop in the car! I like organization and planning. I like knowing what to expect. In fact, I don’t really like to feel out of control of anything. I’m a total planner who likes to have money put away for that inevitable rainy day fund. I am the girl who plans the wedding years in advance or maps out the future of my kids at birth. You know the type. I’m a recovering control freak. Now, I don’t admit that to you, lightly. I have tried for years to cover it up in fancy Christianese. I’ll tell people that I’ve given a situation over to God, only to talk about with my friends far too much, worry about it way too often, and lose sleep repeatedly over that thing. And may I be completely transparent? There have been a million things.
When I was a little girl and young teenager, I needed to have my room spotless, bed made, closet and drawers organized, and everything neatly in its place. People told me that would change once I had children, but it didn’t. It just expanded. I kept their rooms clean, neat, and organized, their faces washed, and their clothes immaculately ironed. As they got older, I tried desperately to control their friends, choices, and futures.. I worked hard to keep my budget in order, my health in check, and everything perfect.
The need to control (and the perfectionism that followed) has kept me in bondage for years. Perhaps it stems from past disappointment of others or failures of my own. Maybe it was having suffered through years of traumatic abuse. Whatever the cause, the need to control a situation (before it controlled me) has been an ongoing battle. Now, more than ever, I have been on a journey of self-discovery and some of the things I’ve discovered haven’t been easy, let me tell you! I have begun to dig deep into what Christ wants for my life versus what I have created in my life.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 6:11-13, “I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively.”
That’s the kind of life God wants for me (and you). He doesn’t want us bound by a small, fenced-in life. He wants us living and walking in the freedom that is found only in him. He wants us to enjoy the seasons of our life, whether expected or not. He wants to give us peace, even when life’s storms are tumultuous. As I’ve been on this journey of discovering how to lose control and find freedom in Christ, there are three things I have discovered that keep us from living freely:
- Our mouth. Yep, that’s right. I can’t seem to keep mine shut. We generally want to talk all about the big ol’ mountains in our lives rather than the big God we have to move them. We want to whine about the challenges and how much bigger they seem than everyone else’s. It seems that sometimes we’d rather commit verbal suicide every day rather than speaking life to move our mountains!
- Our past. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that when we accepted Christ as our Savior we became a new creation. And we know that Scripture promises us that Jesus is faithful to forgive us from our sins and spread them as far as the east is to the west, when we simply ask. It’s done. We’re forgiven. But why do we struggle to forgive ourselves? I have found that in my own life, if I’m not very careful, I keep looking back to my past, allowing it to control me, rather than walking in the freedom of my new life.
- Our choice. Now, this is a hard pill to swallow. What do you mean our choice? Too often, we choose bondage. Don’t believe me? Listen to what Exodus 13:17-18 says, “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God let them in a round about way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea.” The Israelites had been begging for freedom from slavery for years and God delivered them miraculously from the Egyptians hands in a way that only he could have. Yet, he fully recognized that if they faced a battle, a challenge, a major life obstacle, that they may very well choose to go right back to the bondage that God had just set them free from. Isn’t that just like us?
The God that delivered the Israelites into freedom many years ago is the same God that sets people free today. He’s the same God that allows us freedom to walk in forgiveness, to let go of control, and sets captives free. Join me in this amazing journey to live the wide-open spacious life and leave the rest behind.
** Article first appeared at iBelieve.com.
Jennifer Maggio is considered a leading authority on single parents and womens issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who draws from her own experiences through abuse, homelessness, and teen pregnancy to inspire audiences everywhere. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and writes for dozens of publications. She has been featured with hundreds of media outlets, including The 700 Club, Daystar Television, Moody Radio, Focus on the Family, and many more. For more information, visit thelifeofasinglemom.com
- 2015Mar 17
It was dark. The silence was deafening. Nothingness. It was my eighth consecutive night of virtually no sleep. I was surrounded with only my thoughts. I had cried so much that there were no tears left. The mourning was still in my heart, but the tears wouldn’t flow. God, where are you? Do you hear me? Do you even care?
I would love to tell you that that night was long ago, when I wasn’t saved, didn’t pray regularly or read my Bible. It wasn’t. Truth is, I’ve had many days or nights like that one. There have been days when my prayers seemed to go unanswered, weeks and months where God’s voice was silent, and His prompting uncertain. My Christian journey has been filled with highs and lows. There have been times of unspeakable joy where God’s hand was so evident upon my life that no one could deny it. And there have been other times when I was desperate to hear God’s direction for my life, and I simply couldn’t.
My testimony of God’s goodness is a powerful one. He rescued me from myself. He rescued me from every poor decision I had made. I was once a homeless, severely abused, single mom who was pregnant four times outside of marriage. I lived in poverty, clung to everything empty, and ran from God for years. It’s not hard to track my story and see God at work in my life. And because I now work in full-time ministry, there may be some who would mistakenly think that my Christian life is perfect – easy, effortless. And then there are others of you who already know…it couldn’t possibly be.
Raising teenagers is hard. Being a wife is hard. Being in ministry is hard. Life is hard. It’s that simple. Jesus told us that in John 16:33, that we would have trouble in this world. As Christians, we’ve all had those amazing moments with the Lord, where the Holy Spirit nudged our hearts in a dramatic way. We’ve felt the joy of knowing where we will spend eternity. Most of us have been on fire for God, where we just wanted others to know about what He has done in our lives. But we’ve also gone through the dry seasons, the spiritual wilderness where we hear nothing but silence.
Over the last 18 months, my family has been in and out of the hospital and doctor’s offices more times than I care to count. An otherwise healthy family, we’ve had to undergo seven surgeries in the last couple of years, endless hours of physical therapies, and mounting medical bills. The fear of opening yet another medical bill has sometimes consumed me. The worries of where my teens would go to college or if they would make good choices with friends have kept me up at night. And frankly, I’ve cried out to God when I didn’t feel Him near.
Too often in our Christian walk we navigate our faith based on how we feel. When God’s moving in an obvious way, it’s easy for us to praise Him. It’s easy to remain faithful, when we are full of happiness and joy, when the new job came through, or a miraculous healing takes place. But if you’ve been a Christian for more than about 60 seconds, you realize, life’s journey brings ups and downs, struggles and joys. Our salvation was and never will be based on how we feel.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9
I once heard a pastor say it like this, “Our feelings are a great servant, but a terrible master.” Our feelings help us gauge where we are or how we are dealing with a circumstance, but they aren’t our litmus test of salvation. When we don’t feel God’s presence, it doesn’t mean He isn’t near. When we don’t see active movement from Him in our lives, it doesn’t mean He isn’t working. When we don’t feel like serving Him, it doesn’t mean we don’t.
Thank God our salvation is far deeper than temporary emotions. Thank God that His word is our truth, not the way we feel when we get up in the morning! And that, my friends, is what brings true joy.
** Article first appeared at iBelieve.com.
Jennifer Maggio is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on single moms and womens’ issues. She is an award-winning author and speaker who has a God-given passion to see women walking in total freedom. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and has been featured in countless media venues.
- 2015Mar 03
And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.” Matt 25:40
John 13 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end.[a] 2 It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas,[b] son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.
6 When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”
8 “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”
Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”
9 Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”
10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet,[c] to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked,“Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
Why is serving others so important? Why does it even matter? Here are a few thoughts on serving:
1. Jesus served and so should we. The very last lesson Jesus taught his disciples before going to the Cross was to wash each other’s feet. Why? Jesus said, “14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.” Jesus is teaching his disciples: Since I have done so much for you, because of me you are saved….serve others. How many times do we look at a situation to see what it is we can get out of it versus what it is that we can put into it? Jesus showed us that his blood paid for our freedom, but that because it did, we ought to desire to serve others. Make no mistake. Our service and deeds do not save us, but our salvation should prompt us to serve others. That service shows others Christ in a tangible way.
2. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. Jesus knew who he was. He wasn’t worried about how others perceived him or what others would think if he served or if he was the most important man in the room by other’s opinion. His service wasn't about being seen, and he certainly didn't run from serving others, because it was beneath him.
3. Serve because of what God did for you, not because of what you can get from it. I’ve been pouring into single moms around the country for years. I’ve sat through labor & deliveries. I've often given more money than I had. I've considered it an honor to babysit their children through the years. Our ministry has counseled and prayed for and with women. And the ministry has grown beyond expectation But it's never been about number or who would know us or making the name of an individual or ministry famous. The root and heart of ministry - the very core of who we are- has been about no single mom walking alone. The same has to be true for you. Your service should flow from a pure heart, not a title or accolade.
4. Everyone has something to give. Some of you have money to share right now. If so, you need to give it to a worth cause. But all of you have gifts, talents, and skills you can offer to others. All of you can leave a situation better than you approached it. You can pick up trash in your neighborhood or apartment complex. You can have a friendly conversation with someone to brighten their day. You can stop and pray for others. You can have a potluck dinner and game night for a group of people.
Too often we approach situations with What’s In It For Me? By nature, we are self-absorbed and self-centered. Only Christ in us makes us self-less and servant-minded.
Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and speaker and founded The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is a happily married mother of three who has a God-given passion to see the body of Christ living in complete freedom. For more info, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.