I Have to do What?!?

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 6

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage. – 2 Kings 5:11-12

Naaman had different expectations as to how his healing would take place. And unmet expectations can lead to disappointment and anger. Naaman displayed both.

When we start to realize the extent of the work we need to do on our journey toward healing and recovery, we can get very angry. In the beginning we naively think it will be a simple process.

Naaman thought the prophet would come see him in person, stand there and call on God, wave his hand over the spot and cure him. Just like that! Seemed simple enough.

Now Naaman is receiving instructions from the prophet’s servant! Not what Naaman is used to in his position. And the instructions are placing all the work for healing on Naaman. He thought the prophet was going to heal him! And this work he’s being required to do in order to be healed is going to take him even further out of his comfort zone.

Why couldn’t the prophet just do it the simple way?

This healing was turning into a process. A process where Naaman is doing all the work. And he’s having to go further out of his comfort zone. And it’s taking a lot longer than he believed necessary.

Naaman wasn’t sure it was worth it!

And neither was I.

I remember the first time I heard the word co-dependency. It came from the lips of a therapist. I was in her office because my life was falling apart. I was in my mid 40’s and as hard as I tried, I could not get the people in my life to behave. They were continually making decisions that made my life miserable.

If they would just do what’s right, I would be fine. At least that’s what I thought. And that’s what I told the therapist.

She asked me a few questions about how I felt about certain things in my life. I had a hard time answering them . . . because I wasn’t sure how I felt about anything. I was pretty sure I knew how my friends and loved ones felt about things. I could definitely tell her that. But I had a hard time defining my own feelings.

She told me I was co-dependent and recommended a Co-Dependants Anonymous (CoDA) 12-step group close to my home.

Well, that wasn’t exactly how I thought she would handle the situation! I really expected her to bring my loved ones into the room, tell them how they needed to change their behavior, and then everything would be fine.

Now she was telling me that I had to do the work, and I had to go way out of my comfort zone to do it, and it was starting to look like this process was going to take longer than I had expected.

And just like Naaman, I got angry.

I wasn’t the one making all these poor decisions that were complicating my life. Right? I was the sane one, wasn’t I? How would me working on my ‘stuff’ have any effect on the decisions my loved ones were making? They were the ones with the problems, not me!

I wasn’t sure I believed what the therapist said. And I definitely didn’t want to go to a 12-step meeting. Those were for people with real problems . . . like addictions. Shouldn’t I just stay home and spend more time telling my loved ones how they needed to change? Maybe if I just tried a little harder things would get better.

Naaman wasn’t sure he believed what the prophet’s servant had told him. And he definitely wasn’t sure he wanted to go wash himself in a river in Israel. Maybe he should just go back to his own country and wash himself in one of its rivers, like he had been doing. Maybe he just hadn’t done it enough. Maybe seven times was the key.

At this point Naaman and I are both tempted to go back into our cycles of insanity. Trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

And Naaman and I both get angry. Anger is one of the major emotions we have to deal with on our journey toward healing. We all usually have a preconceived idea of how it should work and it rarely, if ever, happens that way. So we end up with unmet expectations which can translate into disappointment and anger.

And when we get disappointed and angry we start to question everything instead of just taking the next step. We start to blame other people’s actions and lack of action for our anger. And we think that maybe we just need to keep trying . . . just a little harder.

Unfortunately a lot of people spend their entire lives right here. They keep trying harder and harder, tweaking things just a little, and expecting that one day things are going to be different. They don’t have the courage it takes to take the first step on their journey . . . to do something different.

I’m not sure where my courage came from. Maybe things got so bad that trying anything different had to be better than what I was experiencing. Maybe it was the encouragement of the therapist . . . or the encouragement of my daughter. I’m not sure what it was, but I’m sure glad it happened.

There’s something else in this passage that I want to mention.

I used to wonder why Elisha sent his servant out to give Naaman directions for his healing. I mean, he could have come out himself and told him. But I think I understand now.

I think Elisha did it for two reasons. I think one reason was to humble Naaman. As we learned in the first couple of verses, Naaman was a very prominent person in his country. One who was used to the best. He had a personal relationship with his king. He was famous. And he was used to dealing with other prominent people.

The fact that Elisha didn’t come out to personally deliver the message probably injured Naaman’s ego. But I also think that it possibly helped jumpstart his journey.

I’ve heard all my life that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. In other words, everyone who comes to Jesus for forgiveness of their sins has to humble themselves at His feet. We’re all equal there. No matter who we are.

The same is true in the healing and recovery process. The billionaire CEO addicted to porn is no better . . . and no better off . . . than the Skid Row meth addict . . . or the Christian lady with a shopping addiction!

Everyone who takes the journey toward healing and recovery starts at the very bottom. We have to realize who we are and what we’ve done and that we’re at the very beginning point. No one gets a head start. No matter who they are.

And I believe Elisha knew Naaman needed to learn that.

The other reason I believe he sent his servant to Naaman was so no one would give Elisha credit for the healing. Elisha wanted to be sure God received all the credit.

I think when we are someone’s Elisha we need to be sure we don’t take any credit for their healing. We can give someone direction. We can share with them about our journey and give them good counsel. But we can’t heal them. And we need to be sure we don’t give them the impression that it has anything to do with us.

I’m so thankful for my Elisha’s and their counsel along the way. And I’m very thankful I got over my disappointment and anger long enough to start my journey.

But most of all I’m thankful to God for the healing He has provided as I’ve cooperated with Him along the way. And for this example of Naaman that He shares with us here.

Let’s see what Naaman’s going to do . . .

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Lights . . . Camera . . . DRAMA!

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 5

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” – 2 Kings 5:8-10

Do you remember the Peanuts character Pig-Pen? He was the little guy who had a perpetual dust cloud around him. In more than one episode Pig-Pen bathed and put on clean clothes and the moment he stepped outside he instantly became dirty. He then remarked to Charlie Brown, “You know what I am? I’m a dust magnet!”

I think that possibly describes us . . . especially before we start our journey to healing and recovery. Except we’re not dust magnets . . . we’re drama magnets! No matter how much we say we want out of the drama, no matter how far away from certain drama kings and queens we try to stay, the drama seems to follow us around.

And when we’re enveloped in this cloud of drama all the time, we can’t see things clearly.

I remember when I first started my journey toward healing and recovery, I was amazed at how clearly some people were able to discern the issues behind all the drama in my life. While all I saw was seemingly never-ending confusion and chaos, they saw simply black and white issues that could be addressed.

I wanted that! And gradually and eventually I got more and more of it.

The king of Israel appears to me to be another kind of king . . . a Drama King! I have to believe that he knew about Elisha. I believe he knew Elisha was God’s prophet. I bet the king knew about some of the miracles God had performed through Elisha. I have a feeling he knew where Elisha lived, or at least knew someone who could point Naaman in the right direction.

But instead of calmly addressing the real issue . . . that Naaman had come to the wrong person for healing, the king of Israel throws a drama party.

Thankfully he had someone who could see through his cloud of drama.

Elisha hears about it and sends a message to the king. The message has three points. Here’s my paraphrase:

  1. Quit being the Drama King.
  2. Send him to me.
  3. Offer him some hope.

Elisha was not fooled by the cloud of drama in the throne room. He calmed the Drama King down. He gave clear direction for Naaman’s next step. He kept Naaman’s hope alive . . . hope that the king had just dashed to pieces.

Al of us need an Elisha in our lives – people who can see through our drama. People who know our next steps to take in the recovery process. And people who know how to keep our hope alive when things look bleak.

Naaman decides to give it a try. So he and his entire group ride up to Elisha’s front door. I don’t know for sure, but I bet Naaman’s entourage was bigger than the house Elisha lived in!

I realize Naaman probably didn’t want to travel alone. And maybe he had to take part of the cavalry with him on his trip. But did the entire clan have to go to Elisha’s house?

The healing and recovery process is only available to individuals. There’s no group rate. Now you may very well be part of a group, 12-steps or otherwise, but the work is done on an individual basis.

And like Naaman had to go to the prophet’s house, we will definitely have to go out of our comfort zone during our healing process. And isn’t that a good thing? I mean for crying out loud . . . our comfort zone is smack dab in the middle of dysfunction and chaos! It’s filled with drama and hopelessness! Who would want to stay there?!?

I would. You would. We all would. Because we know what to expect there. Right? Even when what we expect is not pleasant, at least we’re used to it.

It takes a lot of courage to leave our comfort zone. Even if that comfort zone is dangerous. Every day women stay in physically abusive relationships that end up killing them.

Others of us stay in relationships that are abusive in other ways and put up with it for a long time. Some stay their entire lives. We don’t have enough courage to try anything different. We know what to expect. Even if what we expect is not good. Or right. Or even safe.

And when we’re offered hope of a better life through healing and recovery, we want to drag all that baggage with us and fix everyone involved at the same time. We continue to ‘carry’ all our relationships and history with us. We don’t understand that the only person we can change is ourselves.

I was once told by a therapist that the best thing I could do for my loved ones who were involved in this dysfunction with me was to heal and recover myself. That way I could be an example for them.

She knew what I didn’t . . . that when I changed, all of my relationships would also change.

The directions Elisha gave Naaman were not what Naaman expected, as we will see in the next chapter. I don’t think the healing and recovery process is ever what we expect it to be. We want instant fixes. We want easy to follow directions. And we want to stay in our comfort zone with the companions we have now. We want to continue with our life the way it is. (Say, didn’t we recently talk about insanity?)

My healing and recovery process took me further out of my comfort zone than I ever imagined. It cost me things I did not want to lose. And I had to do things that did not make sense to me.

But I continued . . . not because it was easy or comfortable or logical. I continued because people kept holding out hope to me. Hope for healing. For sanity. For a functional life.

I continued mainly because I met people who had lived much worse lives than I, had been in much deeper pits, and were now sane. Healed. Hopeful. Functional. Were their lives perfect? Definitely not. Were all their loved ones healed and recovered? Unfortunately not all of them. But these people seemed genuinely happy.

They had let go of things they couldn’t control or change and were clinging to what they could . . . their own journey. They were focused on enjoying where they were on their path and in continually pursuing the next step.

My goal in healing and recovery became MY healing and recovery. Yes, I wanted those around me to make the journey too, but I learned that was not in my control. So I made the decision to pursue my path.

I’m so glad I did.

There’s one more thing that Elisha says that I believe offered Naaman . . . and me . . . hope for the journey.

Elisha said that the results of Naaman washing himself seven times in the Jordan would be restoration and cleansing.

The first thing that hits me here is that Elisha said Naaman should ‘wash himself’. I wonder if this had to do with the fact that Naaman came with his entire entourage, which probably included a servant or two.

I don’t know if Naaman was accustomed to being bathed by his servants, but I think Elisha wanted to be clear here that this was something Naaman had to do for himself. No one else could do it for him. Just like our own healing and recovery process.

I think the rest of that sentence represents two things. The restored flesh is a physical sign of the inward cleansing. I believe that continuing the healing process, following through and not giving up will result in a major change on the inside.

But I believe that the inward change will also be displayed on the outside. Others will recognize that something monumental has happened to us. The transformation we go through will become more and more obvious  . . . especially to the people who know us best.

And that is why some of them will decide to pursue their own journey of healing and recovery. Because our transformation offers them hope.

Our experiences will enable us to one day be someone else’s Elisha.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Poster Child

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 4

I love this popular definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I was the poster child for that definition for most of my life. I stayed in my comfort zone and kept trying the same things the same way time after time after time. And for some reason, I was surprised when I kept getting the same results.

In our story, Naaman has decided to stay in his comfort zone and follow his boss’s suggestion. Instead of going to a lowly prophet in Samaria for healing, he took a large payment and went straight to the top. The king of Israel.

I believe my healing is a job for God and me. And your healing is a job for God and you. And Naaman’s healing was a job for God and Naaman.

When we’re hurting we need to ask God for direction and then go where He leads us. Sometimes it may be to a therapist. Sometimes to a 12-step group. Possibly to a chiropractor or naturopath. Or it may involve a physician or a surgeon or medication.

Healing . . . whether it’s mental or physical or emotional . . . is God’s work. But we have to cooperate. We have to take responsibility for our part – which is following God’s directions.

I also believe in miraculous, out of the blue, instantaneous healing straight from Heaven! But I believe those incidences are fewer and farther between than the mercy-filled, day after day, difficult, God-dependent healing He wants to do in us.

God had given Naaman clear direction through the servant girl. And now, based on a new direction suggested by his master, Naaman is shifting the responsibility for his healing from God (through God’s prophet) to the king of Israel.

And the king of Israel is annoyed!

II Kings 5:7 – As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

For decades I lived my life mired in dysfunction. Co-dependency to be exact. I didn’t know how to distinguish between my responsibilities and the responsibilities of the people around me.

I frequently took over their responsibilities without being asked. That usually didn’t upset them too much. But I also turned some of my most basic responsibilities over to them!

And that didn’t always go over very well!

It’s so easy to see now, but at the time I was so dysfunctional that I actually thought that was how life worked. Even though it wasn’t working very well for me! But I kept trying. Can we all say INSANITY?

I think Naaman made the same mistake. He turned over the responsibility for the decision about his healing to his boss and then to the king of Israel. His boss did things the way he always did. And the king of Israel got angry because he was expected to do something he wasn’t capable of doing!

Shifting the responsibility for life decisions, including our healing, may make us feel relieved in the short-term. It’s in someone else’s hands. It’s not up to us. But the relief is only temporary and the healing process is prolonged and misunderstandings are created.

Expecting someone else to take responsibility for fixing us is asking for trouble. No one else can fix you. A therapist can’t, although they can help you start to recognize your issues and what you need to do to change. A 12-step group can’t, although they can be a great source of direction and encouragement. Your spouse can’t fix you. Neither can your boss, or your children, or your parents, or your friends.

As I said earlier, I believe your healing is a job for God and you. You cooperate with the process He leads you to and through. You do the required work. He does the healing.

And the flip side of that coin is that you can’t fix anyone else! No matter what your position is or how much education or experience you have. No matter how much you love a person and can see what they need to do.

You. Can’t. Fix. Them.

And when someone else expects you to fix them, it’s very frustrating. Just ask the king of Israel! You are no longer just responsible for your own life . . . they’re holding you responsible for theirs, too.

Someone is expecting you to do something you don’t have the power to do.

I think that’s how the king of Israel felt when he read the letter from the king of Aram.

And to top it off, Namaan brought with him a generous payment for the healing he was asking the king of Israel to perform. How exasperating!

Healing is not a transaction. Our status and ability to pay don’t secure our healing. The tools God uses to heal us may cost us monetarily. But His healing isn’t for sale.

Healing is a process. It’s usually a process in uncharted territory outside of our comfort zone and almost always takes longer than we think it should.

But I’m getting ahead of the story.

For now, we have to take responsibility for our own healing. And since God is the one that heals, we need to rely on Him to lead us to and through the process He chooses for us and cooperate with Him every step of the way.

Trying to pass our responsibility on to anyone else is useless.

Unless you want to take my place as the poster child for that definition of insanity.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Simple vs. Complicated

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 3

It’s a pretty well-known fact that one of the best ways to kill a good idea is to hand it off to a committee. Even if you don’t kill it, you’ll at least delay it long enough and probably change it enough that it won’t be nearly as effective as originally designed.

This is true in the government as well as in the corporate realm.

And it’s true for individuals.

We can completely complicate a simple idea by asking for input from too many people.

Or just one wrong person.

I believe obtaining wise counsel before making a major decision is absolutely biblical. I’ve made some really poor decisions that could have been avoided if I had only been humble enough to ask for honest input from a few godly friends.

But we need to be careful whose input we ask for and whose counsel we follow.

I believe the path to God and the healing we so desperately need is simple and direct. But that doesn’t necessarily equate to easy and fast. Most healing requires work, sometimes very difficult work, done repeatedly over a period of time.

In 2 Kings chapter 5, the directions the Israeli girl gave Naaman for his healing were simple. She said he should go see the prophet in Samaria.

However, the situation became complicated when Naaman followed his Master’s directions instead of the girl’s.

4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. 6 The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

I’m sure Naaman needed the king’s permission to travel out of the country. After all, Naaman was the head of the king’s army and the king needed to know where he could find him if he needed him.

I’m also sure the king of Aram . . . as well as Naaman . . . wanted to let the king of Israel know that this was not an attack on their nation. Because that had happened recently . . . and would soon happen again. Maybe the silver and gold and clothing were to help ease the king of Israel’s mind.

But that note!!!

The king of Aram totally ignores the prophet in Samaria that the Israeli girl told Naaman to find. Instead he tells the king of Israel that HE is responsible for the healing of Naaman.

Granted, the king of Aram is probably used to dealing with other kings . . . not lowly prophets. And possibly Naaman is too. So this is more than likely pretty typical for what Naaman does when sent on missions for his king.

So this is probably much more comfortable for Naaman than going in search of a prophet of a God he didn’t know.

That may be why Naaman went along with his king’s plan. Because it was much more comfortable than what the Israeli girl told him to do.

I don’t know about you but my comfort zone is REAL comfortable. And I like staying there. Just like I like sitting in this leather chair by my fireplace while the snow flies outside.

Why would I want to venture outside of it?

But if we always stay in our comfort zones, we never grow. We never change. We never learn.

And we never heal.

I spent decades of my life in my comfort zone. I only took jobs I knew I could perform. I didn’t try any sport that I wasn’t pretty sure I could play well the first time. I only participated in board or card games I knew I could probably win.

I only did things I could comfortably handle. I wasn’t willing to take any risks. As I look back, I can see how totally insecure I was.

And I lived my life by default. I not only made decisions based on staying in my comfort zone, I also allowed the opinions and influences of certain other people determine the life I would live.

These people didn’t want to make those decisions for me. These people didn’t even know they were making those decisions for me. I just gave up my right to make decisions for myself. I really thought I was being a good daughter, a good wife, a good employee, a good parent, a good friend.

Handing off my life choices to other people was a much easier way to live life. I didn’t have to make decisions or take responsibility for them. All I had to do was somehow determine what the important people in my life wanted me to do and do that.

And if I failed, I had others to blame.

The king’s plan probably appeared to be easier to Naaman. He could stay in his comfort zone. And if something went wrong, he could always blame it on someone else.

He would go to Israel, hand the king of Israel the letter from his master, hand him the gifts he brought with him and soon Naaman would be on his way back home—a healed man. Sounded simple enough.

However, instead of being simple, it ended up getting complicated. Real fast.

How fast?

Faster than you can say Royal Wardrobe Malfunction!

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Weather Alert

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 2

When something bad happens to us, it will make us better or it will make us bitter.

And the choice is ours.

So we’re told.

We’re also told that when life hands us lemons we shouldn’t settle for drinking their sour liquid that turns our mouth inside out. Instead we should use it to make delicious, thirst-quenching lemonade.

If only life was that simple, right?

Alabama is my home state. It’s where I was born, raised, married, built a home, had a baby, raised my daughter. My roots are there. So is my extended family.

On April 27, 2011, several towns, including a few in which members of my close family lived, were ravaged by devastating tornadoes. Left in their wake was unbelievable death and destruction.

Thankfully my family was safe. But I still wept as I watched the coverage on television in the safety of my Colorado apartment. My heart broke. I could not imagine what people felt as they crawled out of the rubble that was once their family home. Or what the survivors felt when they discovered their spouse didn’t make it. Or when people had loved ones literally snatched out of their arms, their lifeless bodies later discovered hundreds of yards away. I cannot imagine the pain and loss felt when the father of 13 children uses his body as a mortal shield to protect one of them, saving their precious life by sacrificing his own.

I can’t say for sure that I would make the choice to allow that experience to make me better.

I hope I would. I pray I would. That’s what I aspire to do.

But I don’t know.

My goal is to be like the young Israeli girl in Naaman’s household. But I’m not sure I’m that mature.

Let’s look at her part in this story.

2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” – 2 Kings 5:2-3

Here’s a child who’s been torn from her home and family and taken captive by her enemy. She is now a slave to that enemy. She has to serve them every day.

We have a modern name for it. We call it human trafficking. We preach against it. We raise money to protect the vulnerable. We work with those who are rescued to help them get their lives back to some kind of normalcy.

And that takes time. I’m sure they have a lot of issues to deal with. Issues like unimaginable fear. An inability to trust. Even shame, guilt, and feelings of worthlessness.

And I’m sure they have questions. Probably one main question. Why? Why did this happen to me? If God loves me and cares about me why did He allow it? At least, I think that’s what I would be asking.

This young Israeli girl probably dealt with those same issues and those same questions. And yet somehow she apparently came up with a satisfying answer.

I say that because she shows here that she still believes in God’s goodness. She still believes in His power and desire to heal. And she still believes in His concern … and hers … for people who don’t even know Him.

Even her enemies.

I’m not sure I would respond as well as she did. I like to think I would, but I’ve done much worse in much less difficult circumstances.

This young girl shows us that we don’t have to remain angry at God or our perpetrator when bad things happen to us. She also shows us that God is able to use us while we’re still healing to bring healing and freedom to others.

He’s able to use us IF we allow Him to. IF we don’t wallow in our self-pity. IF we trust Him to use our circumstances for good.

When bad things happen to us, we don’t have to lose our faith in God’s goodness.

Our faith won’t take away our pain. It doesn’t replace our losses. It can’t make everything okay. But when bad things happen to us, we have an opportunity to see life from a different perspective. IF we choose to.

If we allow ourselves to feel the pain and go through the process of healing, we can start to see our circumstances from an eternal perspective instead of a temporary one. A heavenly perspective instead of an earthly one.

God’s perspective instead of our own.

And from His perspective, things look a lot different than we see them.

Have you ever seen a complete rainbow? I don’t mean one that stretches from one spot on the horizon upward in an arc and down to another spot on the horizon. Those are gorgeous. But have you ever seen an entire rainbow?

A few years ago I was flying back to Denver after visiting with my family in Alabama. We had to take the long way home because of a huge storm front that was passing over the Rockies. We took off from Birmingham and went due west and later we turned right and went due north. By the time we hit Colorado the worst of the front had passed, but we still had a rough flight through the remainder of the storm. And Denver was still wet as we flew into the area.

I love to sit by the window because I love flying. I love taking off and landing (usually) and I love looking down on the earth and trying to figure out what state I’m flying over. This day I was extremely thankful I was sitting by the window because I got to see something I had never seen before. I got to see a complete rainbow.

And I learned something new. I learned that rainbows are not half circles. Rainbows are complete circles. From our perspective on the ground, the horizon prevents us from seeing the rest of the rainbow. I didn’t know that until this particular plane ride. And I still wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t flown through the storm and looked out my window.

That’s true in life, too. If I don’t run away from the storms that come my way . . . and they are going to come my way . . . and if I am willing to keep my eyes open and look at things from a different perspective . . . a higher perspective than my own . . . I will learn things. I will learn to see things differently. Even things I’ve thought I’ve been right about for decades. Like the shape of rainbows.

Storms are not fun. They’re not fun to fly through on a plane and they’re not fun to walk through in our lives. But storms are a part of life here on planet earth. And God wants to use them to give us a new perspective. His perspective. He wants to use them to change us and to make us attractive to people who will one day go through similar storms.

He wants us to share our new perspective with others when they are going through situations similar to ones we’ve been through. He wants to use us to encourage them. To explain to them the process we went through. How we were able to heal. Who we turned to in our pain. Who we credit for our healing.

Just like this young Israeli girl. God wants to use us to point people to Him. To the healing He offers. Even people who don’t know Him.

Especially people who don’t know Him.

But in order to do this, we have to have gone through storms ourselves and we have to have healed from them enough to have gained a new perspective.

Thankfully this Israeli girl had.

And in some areas, I have too.

And because I have, I now know the real shape of rainbows.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

What’s Your ‘But’?

Healing Naaman and Me – Part 1

“Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” (New International Version, 2 Kings 5:1)

You know Naaman.

He’s your neighbor. Or your co-worker.

He could be your spouse. Your parent. Or even your child.

Or Naaman could be you.

He’s the person whose life looks great on the outside. People envy him. He’s successful, well-connected. He rubs elbows with high-profile individuals. He’s powerful, well-known in his community.

But he has a problem. A problem he keeps covered up. A potentially deadly problem.

Naaman has leprosy.

That’s probably not your neighbor’s issue. Hers could be alcohol. Your co-worker may be addicted to pain meds. Your spouse could have anger issues. Your parent may be a hoarder or your child an anorexic.

And then there’s you.

Naaman had a resume any man would want. He was powerful, successful, admired, respected. He was being used by God . . . although I don’t think he realized it at the time. He was at the top of his game. And everybody knew it. And probably every man around wanted a resume like that.

Until the last four words: “. . .but he had leprosy.”

What’s the ‘but’ at the end of your resume. We all have one.

No matter how successful we are, how far we’ve come, what we’ve overcome to get there—we all have a ‘but’.

Maybe yours isn’t as radical as a physical addiction. Maybe you just like to gossip. Maybe when the going gets tough, you go shopping.

Or maybe you just have to stay busy all the time. Can’t stand to sit still. Can’t bear to be quiet with just your thoughts.

Maybe you can’t stand to be alone. You have to be in a relationship, even if that relationship isn’t the best for you.

Whatever it is, your ‘but’ is holding you back. Keeping you from being all you were created to be.

It needs to be uncovered and dealt with.

Even though we can fool other people into thinking our life is great, going smoothly, we know deep down when something’s not right. Sometimes we’re not sure what the issue is and it takes some work . . . and possibly some help . . . to figure it out because it’s not always obvious.

And unfortunately, sometimes our life has to implode before we decide to deal with it.

Don’t wait for an implosion. They can be real messy. Trust me.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

Healing Naaman and Me – Introduction

I spent most Sunday mornings of my childhood in church. I attended Sunday school almost every week. And I learned all the major Bible stories.

I watched as my teachers played out the scenes on the flannelgraph. I memorized verses like “God is love”. I sang songs like “Zaccheus”.

By the time I was grown, I knew all the details of a lot of Bible stories. But they were just stories stored in my memory.

Fast forward a couple of decades.

I attended a women’s retreat in the north Georgia mountains, and I learned something new. At least it was new for me.

I learned the three-question Bible study method. It’s very simple. Not difficult to do.

But it was life-changing for me.

With this method you don’t just learn the facts from the scripture passage you’re reading. You have a way to uncover the truths that are there. The life lessons that you can use to make decisions today. And you also create application questions that help you determine how well you’re living out those truths from the scriptures.

I started using this Bible study method the next morning during my quiet time. I’ve used it ever since.

I have learned more from my study of scriptures in this last decade than in all the previous ones.

Now when I go back and study the Bible stories I learned as a child, I don’t just see the facts. I see truths. I find life lessons I can use to make wiser decisions.

When I teach the three-question Bible study method, I choose one of my favorite Bible stories to use as an example. I want to help people see how relevant the ancient scriptures are for our lives today.

God’s word is alive. And active. And it’s as relevant today as it was when it was written. There are truths and life lessons to help us live life today—as it should be lived.

That’s what I want to show you through this study of the healing of Naaman. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

I don’t have a flannelgraph. But through this blog over the next several weeks, let’s see if we can learn something new from this old story. Something we can apply to our lives today.

I’ll be back soon.

© Rhonda Fleming, 2013

A Broken Dish

I broke my measuring cup the other day.

I was baking—which I should NEVER do. I’m a decent cook but I’m a lousy baker.

The irony of it is that I wasn’t going to measure anything. I was just going to use it to melt butter in the microwave.

That’s about all I ever use it for. Excuse me, USED it for.

Apparently I set it down a little too close to the edge of my cutting board and it fell onto the kitchen floor and broke into a kajillion pieces. I am not exaggerating.

There was glass all over the kitchen floor, under the stove, under the refrigerator, in the pantry, on the carpet in the hallway, and even on the bathroom floor across the hall from the kitchen!!

An unbelievable mess.

It took me over an hour to clean it all up. By then I was out of the mood for baking. But I didn’t want to waste the cinnamon bun ingredients, which by now had been at room temperature for over an hour. And I was hungry. So I made them anyway. And they were good. But definitely not worth what I went through.

I don’t believe in luck, good or bad, and I’m not superstitious. And I try not to look at everything that happens to me as ‘signs’.

But breaking my measuring cup may have been a sign for me. Actually it may have been two signs.

The first one is a given. It was reminding me that I am correct in my assumption that I need to continue avoiding any recipes whose success requires exact measurements. I will leave those recipes to my daughter, my Mom and my niece, all of whom are fabulous bakers!

Besides that, this could have been a sign for me on a more personal note—a visual representation of what I want to do internally.

Of what I’m attempting in 2012, what I talked about in my last blog.

Stop trying to measure up! Instead, be the best me I can be and allow God to change me where I need changing.

This year I’m not creating a long list of detailed goals and measuring myself against them every day or week or month. Instead I’m trying to relax and ask God to–and trust that He will–mold me into the person He designed me to be.

Watching that measuring cup fall to the floor was a reminder that I need to ‘let go and let God’.

So maybe it was a sign that I’m on the right track this year.

Well, I’m off to buy a new measuring cup. I’ve got some more butter to melt.

Original Artist

I met my daughter and a friend from work at a painting event the other night. The studio was packed with people with skills ranging from really good artists to people who haven’t touched a canvas since they did finger painting in kindergarten. In front, on an elevated platform, was the artist who was going to help us paint a beautiful picture. Her name was Danielle and she had created the original painting that was hanging on the wall beside her, the work of art the entire class was going to try to emulate.

Danielle led us step by step from the blank canvas to the finished product. She gave us lots of instruction and even walked around the room giving individual encouragement and pointing out how we could improve our paintings by making minor changes. There was also a lot of conversation at each table, complimenting our friends, sometimes laughing at our mistakes, sometimes giving encouragement or repeating Danielle’s instructions to each other.

At the end of class, Danielle had each table hold their paintings up so everyone could see the finished products. It was interesting to see the same picture painted so many ways. You could tell that each person had worked hard for their picture to look as much like the original as possible. And yet each one had its own unique style. It was amazing.

Although my finished product didn’t look exactly like the original, it was a good resemblance in my own style. And although there were others whose paintings I thought looked much better than mine, I was still proud of the work I did. I also learned some things to do differently next time. And I’m sure that the next time I go I will learn more things that will help my art look even more like the original.

Before I left the studio, I was comparing my art to the original and seeing what I needed to change. Everyone was encouraging each other, pointing out what they liked about their friends’ paintings and learning from each other’s mistakes and triumphs.

However, it didn’t take long for things to change. In fact, as soon as I walked into my apartment with my painting that evening, I looked at it and thought to myself that I really didn’t do a bad job. I didn’t notice as many flaws as I did in the studio and I wasn’t as interested in making changes to it. I felt like it was good enough.

It hit me a few minutes later. That is exactly what our lives as Christ-followers are like.

When we spend time doing our best to learn from and follow the Original Artist, encouraging each other in our attempts, and allowing Him to show us what we need to change, we will continue to grow, and our life, our individual work of art, will continue to look more and more like the Original.

But once we leave that environment of instruction and encouragement, it’s easy to start thinking that we’re doing okay just like we are. We can start believing that our work of art is good enough and that there’s really nothing important enough to spend our time and energy changing.

Hebrews 10:25 says, “let us not neglect our meeting together.” I believe that verse has been misused by church leaders trying to fill pews. But I also believe that verse is truth.

It’s very important for us to be an active part of a group of believers who are striving to emulate the Original Artist. You can attend church every time the doors are open and still miss the point of it all. But I don’t believe you can continue to grow more and more into His likeness without the encouragement and support of other believers . . . in addition to a lot of time spent alone with the Original.

If my goal were to be a great artist, I would need to continue to go to the studio, continue to be exposed to good artists who would instruct me individually, and continue to be around people who were also learning . . . so we could encourage each other in our journey.

Since my goal is to be a representative of Jesus here on earth, I need to spend time alone with the Original Artist, learning how to emulate Him and asking Him to show me what I need to change to be more like Him. And I also need to spend time with other believers so we can encourage each other and learn from each other’s successes and failures.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back in the art studio, but I do have daily plans to spend some one-on-one time with the Original Artist. And I also have plans to get together regularly with other believers for some encouragement . . . and maybe even a few laughs at my latest failure on the canvas!

Limbo

I hate limbo. I’m not talking about the luau game . . . although that’s not my favorite either. And I’ve never played the video game by the same name.

I’m talking about that in-between place we sometimes have to live. The place between what was normal and what is going to be our new normal at some point in the future. Limbo is that place where we don’t have a normal.

Sometimes limbo feels like freefalling. Like I just hit the bottom of the biggest incline on the biggest rollercoaster . . . and my stomach’s still at the top. It feels exciting. But mostly it’s just scary.

Other times limbo feels like nothingness. Like I’m nowhere. It feels like I’m far from home, I don’t know how to get back home, and I don’t know when I’ll be back there.

Sometimes limbo is the result of a good thing. Whenever I start a new job, I always feel like a fish out of water for the first few weeks. It takes a little while to get my feet on the ground . . . to find my new normal.

But other times limbo is caused by something not so positive. Life happens and all of a sudden it’s like a rug’s been jerked out from under me. I’m in shock. Hurting. Possibly angry. Definitely confused.

It feels as if life stops right then and there, and that life won’t start up again until I get back to normal . . . or until I figure out my next normal. But during limbo, I don’t feel like I’m really living. I feel like I’m just surviving.

But I believe there’s a lot more going on during limbo time than just nothingness.

I’ve been studying Noah recently and I saw something in Genesis 8 that I don’t remember seeing before. Something that makes me think limbo can potentially have some positive results.

If there was ever a time of limbo illustrated in the Bible, I believe it’s Noah’s time on the ark! He no longer has a home. He doesn’t know exactly how long before his life gets back to normal. And he has no idea what his new normal will be like. Or even where it will be located! And during this time there is no mention of God talking to him like before the flood. Life feels like a lot of hard work (mucking stalls) and drifting along (literally) with absolutely no control.

Noah’s journey on the ark definitely paints a picture of limbo. But let me share what I saw in this story.

If you went to church decades ago like I did, you probably remember the flannel board showing the animals walking up the gangplank onto the ark two by two. From aardvarks to zebras and everything in between. Later you saw them walking down the gangplank two by two when the flood was over.

But when I recently read the story in the Amplified Version, I noticed that the animals did not come off two by two. Verse 19 says they departed the ark by families! There had been growth that took place during the limbo season. That’s encouraging!

We’ve all had limbo seasons and we’ll probably have more. But at least we can trust that our limbo seasons are not just “nothingness” . . . although they may feel that way. If we’ll just do the work we need to do every day and trust that God is in control, I believe that our limbo seasons can be times of growth . . . no matter how uncomfortable they are!

So the next time I’m in a holding pattern . . . whether it’s on an airplane, an ark, or just a normal day at the office . . . I’m going to trust that God has a purpose for my limbo . . . and I’m going to start looking for the growth!