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When I pray, I always ask God to speak to me through His Word. When I open the Bible, I assume that God has me open it to whatever I am supposed to read that day. I have always done this, and I usually read something that really speaks to me that day. This is just the way I do it, and it works for me.
Today as I prayed, I felt like God was asking me to be silent. To just sit in His presence and listen to His still small voice. I have read some books recently which taught me this concept, and today, I felt like I just needed to listen to Him. Well, something came to my mind almost immediately. This had been in the back of my mind for a long time, but today, I felt as if God wanted me to delve in and understand this event in my life on a deeper level.
In 2011, just months before I found out that my husband had been having an affair, I began to have dreams that I was divorced. If you have read any of my past blogs, you will know that I had occasions of premonitions through dreams. My dad had this happen to him too – he dreamed that his brother was killed in a car accident, and a week later, it actually happened.
The first time I dreamed I was divorced, I just blew it off. I woke up thinking how ridiculous the dream was as I had no intention of ever getting divorced. When the second dream happened, I was a little bothered and wondered why in the world I would dream about something so crazy. When it happened a third time, I woke up confused and worried. I told my husband about the dream, and I asked him point-blank if he was going to divorce me. Although he denied that he would ever divorce me, his response was anything but convincing.
If that isn’t strange enough, around that same time, another amazing thing happened (although I didn’t understand it at the time). On at least three occasions while falling asleep, I audibly heard a voice say “Maria!” I opened my eyes, sure someone was calling my name, but no one was there. My husband was asleep next to me, and he didn’t move at all so I thought I had dreamed it. When it happened again, I thought that maybe it was an angel or even God trying to say something to me. Each time, I heard “Maria!”, clear as day, and when I opened my eyes, no one was there. My husband never moved, so clearly, he never heard it.
As I thought about these events this morning, I wondered if this was some kind of warning about what was going to happen to me later in 2011 when I found out about the affair. Was that God’s voice speaking to me?
I opened my Bible to Isaiah 41:
“Listen to me in silence…” Isaiah 41:1
This was interesting enough. But it went on:
“Do not fear for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Yes, all who are incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced….For I, the Lord your God hold your right hand. It is I who say to you, “Do not fear. I will help you.” Isaiah 41: 10-13
When I look back on these events, I now know that God was right there. I believe He was telling me that He was watching everything, and he knew every detail of the affair even when I had no idea what was happening. I believe this was His way of telling me that He never left my side during that time, and that even though I was going to be divorced, He would bring me through it. Even though I was about to go through hell and be yanked out of the life I knew, He would ensure that I would get through it and would end up in a much better place.
Always know that God sees EVERYTHING. He sees everything that is done in secret. He knows every insult, every lie, every betrayal….everything. Nothing can be hidden from God. On the other hand, He feels every single pain of betrayal. He sees every teardrop, feels every hurt, and goes through all the suffering with us. Remember – God was betrayed by Judas. He knows full well the pain of betrayal of someone who He believed loved Him.
He will always be with you, even when you think He isn’t there. God never leaves our side…EVER! As it is written in Isaiah 41:13, “Do not fear. I will help you.”
It is amazing to me how I always receive a new message each time I read the Bible, even when I read the same passage repeatedly. My own mother has remarked on this also.
Yesterday, as I read Romans, I thought about all the times that I have encountered people who strongly believe that their denomination is the “right” denomination. I have seen persecution of and by Catholics, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, and many others. There are many people out there that think in order to save someone, they must convert others to their own specific denomination. I would like to take time to address this issue today.
I have never believed that a specific denomination will guarantee your entrance into heaven based on the following statement that Jesus says in the gospel of John:
“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” John 10:16
However, I received more clarification on this subject as I read Romans, beginning in chapter 3.
“Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” Romans 3:29-30
This brings up the issue of following man-made laws in the church. Will God punish those who receive communion in a church when they are not a member of that church? No, I don’t believe so, based on the above statement. The real purpose of receiving communion is to spiritually connect with the Almighty and to remember His death on the cross for the salvation of our souls. This can be done even if you don’t receive communion physically. It is solely dependent on what is in your heart, and if you truly believe and accept Jesus as your Savior, these man-made rules have no power over you. God has the final say.
Continuing on to Romans, Chapter 9, it says “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” Romans 9:6
Paul goes on to explain, “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” Romans 9:8
I take this to mean that the choice is ours. We have to make a conscious decision to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior and truly believe it in our heart. This offer is open to all – Catholics, Jewish, Protestant, etc. It is not limited to one denomination. This is clarified even more in the same chapter in Romans.
“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one” and “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘you are not my people’, they will be called ‘sons of the living God.'” Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality.”Romans 9:25-28
Although this can sound a bit scary to some, it is actually great news. Anyone from any area, denomination, class, color, etc. can be saved! It is open to everyone! The door is open – all you have to do is walk through it and allow Jesus into your life. This promise isn’t just for a certain group of people – it is for ALL people, regardless of who you are or where you are. Take His hand and allow Him to enter your heart and lead you on the path of righteousness!
“What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith, but Israel,who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the “stumbling stone”. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” Romans 9:30-33
Do not fool yourself into thinking that other denominations are “wrong”. Each denomination has issues that they deal with – issues that can be improved. To think that only one denomination is “right” is akin to believing that you can only get to heaven through “works”. The only way to heaven is complete faith and trust in God. Always remember, “Do not judge lest ye be judged” and “all things are possible with God”.
I had planned on writing a different post this morning, but something happened yesterday that was nothing short of miraculous. I had to share this with you today.
Last Tuesday, I woke up with the feeling that something was in my eye. As I looked in the mirror, I was shocked to see what looked like a bubble or blister on the white part of my eye. It scared me to death! I ran downstairs to my computer and began to research what could possibly be affecting my eye. This is typical behavior for me since I am somewhat of a science geek, and I love to do research. I learned all about diseases of the eye, and from what I read, this little blister was probably not dangerous. However, I decided to follow-up with my family doctor.
On Thursday, my mom and I were scheduled to be on a flight to Kentucky to go to her school reunion at Nazareth College in Kentucky. I was excited to go since a big portion of my family lives in Kentucky, and I was going to be able to visit with them. However, my family doctor told me that it was inadvisable for me to wait on treatment for my eye. I canceled my trip, made sure my mom made it to the airport, and went to a opthamologist later that day.
The ophthalmologist poked and prodded on my eye for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, he told me that I had a conjunctival cyst. He went on to tell me that they are caused by prior eye surgery (not my case) or some kind of trauma to the eye. He also told me that they usually don’t respond to conservative treatment and surgery is required in most of the cases that he had in the past.
Eye surgery?? I surely didn’t want anyone to mess with my eyes. I had always had 20/20 vision until I was in my mid 40’s at which time I needed some reading glasses. Other than that, my eyes were perfect. The ophthalmologist agreed to let me try some prescription eye drops for two weeks, but he didn’t seem too hopeful that they would work. I went home and once again researched “conjunctival cyst” and “conjunctival cyst surgery”.
The next day, a close friend of mine called to check up on me. She knows me very well, and she knew that I loved to do research. After telling her all about my eye research, she made a comment to me that would have a huge impact on me, but I didn’t know it at the time. She said, “I’ve just been thinking about this, and maybe you should stop researching. Just stop. Just give it all to God, and let Him deal with it.” I thought about it, and she made sense. I was too busy trying to figure it all out myself, and I just needed to hand it over to God.
I talked with my mom that evening. She told me that she and my family had been praying, and she also asked the Sisters of Charity at Nazareth to pray for healing. I had met many of them several years prior to this, so they knew me.
The next day around 1:00, I put the drops in my eye. I closed my eyes, and while the drops penetrated my eye, I decided to pray. I told God that I didn’t want to have eye surgery, and I asked for His healing. I told Him that I was giving this problem to Him, and I asked Him to put His healing hand on my eye. When I finished praying, I dozed off for about an hour. When I woke up, my eye felt a little bit better. I looked at it in the mirror, and the bubble was gone! My eye looked totally normal! I couldn’t believe it!
This was clearly a miraculous healing. With the help of the advice of my friend, the prayers of my family, friends, the Sisters of Charity at Nazareth, and myself, God healed my eye.
Jesus replied, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Image at Creative Commons, http://www.commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3Aspondylolysis_back_pain_.jpg
Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries, And daub their natural faces unaware.
ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING, Aurora Leigh
Well, I haven’t posted here for a while because I have been in the ER once again for my back problems. In 2009, I found out that I had a broken back, and since then I have gone through three spinal fusions, the first of two of which failed. I had been doing quite well recently, so I decided to sign up for six personal training sessions at my local gym. Turns out that this was a mistake. About a week and a half ago, my trainer decided that I needed to do some dead lifts…..something that I found out later I should never do. I could barely walk the next day because of the pain, and then I had significant leg weakness that eventually landed me in the hospital. I have been on pain meds, a muscle relaxant, and prednisone to bring down inflammation. Luckily, I seem to be improving, so hopefully I won’t be facing any additional surgery. Obviously, I will not be returning to personal training at my gym!
I thought this would be a good time to share my story of how my broken back actually saved my life. I am writing my sixth book now, and this is part of the story, so you will be getting a little insight before I publish it. My first back surgery in 2009 failed and resulted in two broken screws in my back…..terrible I know, but it wasn’t as painful as you might think. I had my second spinal fusion in 2010, but to my extreme disappointment, this fusion also failed. I did extensive research and decided to change doctors to someone who was a noted expert in complex spinal problems. Before my third surgery, a slew of tests were run on me to determine the situation and identify any problems with me that could have contributed to the previous failed surgeries. One of the tests was a CT myelogram. However, before having this test, a head CT has to be done to rule out a rare problem at the base of the brain that could lead to seizures due to the injection of dye into the spinal column during the myelogram. So, in the summer of 2011, I went in for a routine head CT.
I wasn’t concerned at all about the head CT. I don’t have headaches except for the occasional sinus or tension headache. I was sure they would not find a thing wrong with me that would prevent me from having a CT myelogram. The test itself took about 10 minutes, and there was nothing to it. I left the hospital and began my errands for the day. But, about twenty minutes after leaving the hospital, my cell phone rang, and it was my doctor’s office. The nurse told me that they had found a brain aneurysm on the head CT and I needed to be seen immediately. She told me that my back issues would have to be put on hold because this aneurysm took priority as it could be deadly!
I was in complete shock. I had absolutely no symptoms, and I never would have known this aneurysm existed had it not been for all the problems with my back. The aneurysm has since been coiled. I have had several follow up angiograms, and the coiled aneurysm is now stable.
This just goes to show that God really does work in mysterious ways. Many times we complain about all the problems that we have in this life. Yes, I could have focused on the negative and complained about my broken back, asking God “why did this happen to me?” But instead, I look at it as a blessing. Not only can I help others who might be going through similar back issues, but all this suffering from my back actually ended up saving my life. Without my back problems, I would have never been aware of the aneurysm, and I might not have ever made it to see this day. So, the next time something happens to you that “looks” like a bad thing…..for example, being late because of a traffic accident on the road…..it could actually be God looking out for you and saving your life. Just think – if you had been just a few minutes earlier on that road, it may have been you in that accident!
Footprints In The Sand
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed
he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the LORD.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the LORD about it.
“LORD, you said that once I decided to follow
you, you’d walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most
troublesome times in my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why when
I needed you most you would leave me.”
The LORD replied:
“My son, my precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you see only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.”
Author: Mary Stevenson Zangare
The first few months of 2012 were probably the worst in my life. First of all, I was facing my third back surgery. My first two spinal fusions had failed and resulted in several broken screws. My third surgery was going to be performed by a different surgeon – one that came highly recommended for complex spinal cases. I was trying to remain optimistic, but just thinking about it created tremendous stress for me.
Secondly, I was still recovering from a coil and stent procedure for a brain aneurysm that was found just by chance during the treatment for my back condition. When the aneurysm was found, my back problems had to be put on hold as the aneurysm took priority. After that surgery, I was put on Plavix (blood thinner) for three months, and I was unable to have surgery of any kind until I was off that medication.
Finally, I found out about a month before my back surgery that my husband wanted a divorce. Also, I had been struggling with some of the behavior of my husband’s family. We clearly had differing moral values, and I struggled with this tremendously. I tried to make a difference, but everything I said fell on deaf ears. Divorce was never an option for me as I made an oath before God, but I was finally set free when my husband decided to become involved with another woman.
As you can imagine, I was a complete mess. However, my faith in God remained, and I prayed more during these few months than I had ever prayed in my life.
One night as I was crying myself to sleep, I had a dream that Jesus picked me up and was carrying me. When I woke up, I remembered that beautiful poem, “Footprints”, and I knew deep in my heart that He was carrying me through this deep valley in my life. I hung on to my faith for dear life and constantly asked God for His strength to get me through this terrible time. I knew I couldn’t do it by myself.
Several weeks before my third surgery, I went to a Catholic church near my house and asked to receive the sacrament of “Anointing of the Sick”. The priest talked to me a bit, and then stood up next to me, anointed my head with oil and prayed for my healing, both emotional and physical. I felt a sense of peace come over me, and I knew that God had heard the prayer.
That night, I opened my Bible and read this verse in Psalms:
For surely your enemies, O Lord, surely your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered. You have exalted my strength like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes. Psalm 92:9-11
A few weeks later, I was having a particularly bad day. I prayed fervently to God and asked him to speak specifically to me through His word. I opened the Bible and read this passage from Mark:
“Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:34
The doctors were very optimistic that the third back surgery would result in fusion……and it did! Eight months after the spinal fusion, an x-ray of my back confirmed that the fusion did in fact take place, and my back was now stable! A few weeks after learning that the fusion had taken place, I opened my Bible and read the following passage…..a well-known one from Psalms, but it now has a special meaning to me after having that dream and being anointed with oil.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23
The very next day, I opened the Bible again to this verse, also in Psalms:
I will exalt you, O Lord, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave; you spared me from going down into the pit. Psalm 30:1-3
Clearly, God was directly involved in my healing, both emotionally and physically. He removed the damaging people from my life and brought new and wonderful people to me that have helped tremendously in my healing process. This truly was a miraculous healing! Put all your faith and trust in Him and He will always bring you through the deepest valleys of your life!
Image at Creative Commons, http://www.lillylulu123.deviantart.com/art/Crying-Eye-315830804
“Narcissism falls along the axis of what psychologists call personality disorders, one of a group that includes antisocial, dependent, histrionic, avoidant and borderline personalities. But by most measures, narcissism is one of the worst, if only because the narcissists themselves are so clueless.“
It took me almost 49 years to learn the meaning of true fulfillment and true peace. I had to go through an extended period of living in a narcissistic environment and looking for life’s meaning through materialistic goals before realizing that I was way off target. I am currently in the process of writing a fiction book about narcissism that is based on a true story, but I wanted to share some basic facts on this blog about narcissism to help those who are having to deal with others with this personality disorder.
For many years, I was living in an environment surrounded by people with narcissism, but I didn’t realize it. I had heard of the word “narcissism” but really didn’t know much at all about it and honestly, I didn’t care to know. Little did I know that I was surrounded by narcissistic behavior and that I had been a victim of narcissistic abuse for quite some time.
Basically, narcissists are very selfish people. They are known to lack empathy for others and are known for always placing the blame on others rather than taking responsibility for their own actions. In my case, I was made to feel like I was the problem even if the issue had absolutely nothing to do with me. This led to me questioning myself constantly which eventually led to depression. I knew deep down inside that this thinking was twisted, but I managed to always make excuses rather than face the difficult decision to end these destructive relationships. The best way to describe it was that my soul was restless, and I did not have true inner peace. To satisfy the narcissist’s demands, I was continually finding that I had to turn my back on my own values. This struck right at the core of my soul, and I was miserable.
Thankfully, these destructive relationships did come to an end through the action of the actual narcissist. I was no longer any use to this person, so I was left as if I was a piece of garbage. However, this was probably the best thing that ever happened to me as I it opened the door to my healing.
The following are some of the characteristics of someone with a narcissistic personality disorder:
1. Lack of remorse for their mistakes
2. Does not care about the consequences of his/her actions
3. Pathological lying
4. Very charming; can get emotional in public, but this is all a show to manipulate others
5. Expects victim to follow along without question. He/she tells victim what to do rather than ask.
6. Controls spending of others, but he/she spends freely on themselves
7. He/she doesn’t listen simply because they don’t care
8. Gaslighting – manipulative behavior, takes advantage of others
9. Projects faults onto others – blaming others for their problems
10. Lack of empathy – doesn’t care about the needs or feelings of others
11. Highly contradictory
12. Breaks others down that they feel are inferior
13. Thinking he/she is better than others
14. Core of concern is power, success, attractiveness
15. Needs to be center of attention and requires constant praise
16. Appears unemotional
17. Easily hurt or rejected
Narcissists come across as being very egocentric and sure of themselves, but the root of the problem, believe it or not, is insecurity. It has been shown that those affected by this personality disorder are actually very insecure and they use the above behaviors to feel better about themselves.
Recovering from narcissistic abuse can be a long process, but you can recover and live a truly fulfilling life. First and foremost, you must realize that YOU ARE NOT THE PROBLEM! The narcissist can be very cunning and manipulative. It is important that you realize this. If you are with someone who refuses to take responsibility for his/her actions and wants to blame everyone else for their problems, the best thing to do is to get out of that relationship if possible. Narcissists do not want to change and they do not want to be criticized in any way, shape or form. In fact, “narcissistic rage” is a known feature of this personality disorder, and they can become very mean and vindictive when questioned. The narcissist has the problem, not you!
Realize that no matter what you say or do, the narcissist will not have sympathy or empathy for any of your problems, no matter what they are. If the problems do not directly affect him/her in some way, they don’t care if you are suffering. Remember, they are the center of their world, and the rest of the world are just puppets to be manipulated so that they can get what they want. They truly believe “the ends justify the means” no matter who they have to run over to get there.
Next, remember that narcissists truly believe that they are always right. It is pointless to get into an argument with them because you will never win. They will end up making you question your own sanity because they are expert manipulators. Additionally, narcissists believe that they don’t need any help. Counseling a narcissist is very difficult because they will not admit to shortcomings.
Bottom line – if you feel like you are in a relationship with a narcissist, please get some help. Leave the relationship if possible. Be educated about how narcissists function so you can deal with them as effectively as possible. Trust your intuition…..if you feel something is wrong, it probably is!
As for me, I am now at a place of true fulfillment and peace. By going through the healing process, I have not only learned how to recognize this personality disorder but I have also learned how to deal with this type of person more effectively. But the biggest lesson of all is the lesson of selfishness vs. selflessness. Over the past several years, I have been a volunteer at a thrift shop and found immense happiness in helping those who are less fortunate. I have also started up a website on adenomyosis (similar to endometroisis) which I suffered from for 17 years. Women from all over the world are accessing this site, and I constantly get “thank you” messages for making this information available to them and for letting them know that they are not alone. I am also writing this blog to help to inspire others to become the best they can be.
But the most important thing of all is putting all of my trust in God. Without Him, I would never have been able to come as far as I have in the healing process. He has literally carried me through some of the toughest times of my life.
Between trusting God completely, helping others, and putting other’s needs before my own, I have finally found true happiess, peace and fulfillment. I realize now that selfishness in the form of narcissism will never bring true happiness. Looks, finances, material objects, etc. will all vanish one day, but the selfless acts of a Christian person will never be forgotten. God not only saved me, but he showed me the way to true happiness. Selflessness is the key. My soul is finally at peace.
“For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Psalms 1:6
“The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors……For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as a shield.” Psalms 5: 5-6, 12
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
Narcissistic Personality Disorder, http://www.mayoclinic.org
Recovering From Narcissistic Abuse, by Andrea Schneider, LCSW, http://www.goodtherapy.org