5 Dangerous Signs You’re a Control Freak

Control Girls often don’t realize that they’re Control Girls. I sure didn’t.
I spent the first 35 years of my life completely oblivious to my control issues. I knew I was arguing with my husband. I knew there was tension with coworkers. I knew I was frustrated with friends and family members. I just didn’t know these things all stemmed from my unhealthy craving for control.
Recognizing I’m a Control Girl hasn’t solved all of my problems, but it has given me a starting point for change. So I want to invite you to ask yourself the question I should have asked long before age 35: “Am I a Control Girl?”
To help you answer, I’d like to provide five common traits of Control Girls:

1.       You tend to be bothered by other controlling people.

Do you become easily annoyed by that bossy woman who always tries to take over in the committee meeting? Do you get frustrated when someone interrupts you (which, by the way, is a classic control-seeking move)? Does your controlling mother drive you nuts?
I’ve noticed that the women who are most bothered by controlling people are often quite controlling, themselves. They butt heads with the other Control Girls in the room who are all lunging for exactly what they are-control.

2.       You struggle with anger.

Are you likely to respond angrily when someone doesn’t meet your expectations? Do you erupt when someone interrupts your plans? Do you inwardly seethe when someone cuts in or takes whatever you had your eye on?
Anger is common for Control Girls. Our anger flares when we lose the thing we want, which is control. And as a rule, both of these-losing our grip on control and losing our tempers-happen far more frequently than we’d like.

3.       You struggle with anxiety or fear.

Do you tend to worry about safety precautions, germs, or symptoms you’re experiencing? Do you obsess over what family members might be saying about you, or what your boss might be thinking?
What about fear? Do you imagine the worst when your teen is ten minutes late? Do you suspect the worst when your husband doesn’t answer his phone?
Fear and anxiety are common for Control Girls because we constantly have to face things that we’d like to control but can’t, such as the future, unknowns, risks, and the opinions of others.

4.       Others send you subtle hints.

If you’re a Control Girl who doesn’t yet know it, chances are, other people have tried to tell you. Now, they probably haven’t said, “Stop being a Control Girl.” Instead, they tactfully give you subtle cues. Such as when…
  • Your husband says, “Honey, the mechanic couldn’t hear the sound either. The car is fine.”
  • Your adult daughter says, “We’ve been over this, mom. We want our kids in this school district.”
  • Your teenage son says, “Mom, for the tenth time. I’m not coldI don’t want to wear a jacket.”
All of these are cues that the other person would like you to back off and stop trying to control. You might not see it as controlling, but they apparently do.

5.       God seems distant and uncaring to you.

Does God seem like He’s too far away to notice you or hear your prayers? Do you think of God as too indifferent, apathetic or disinterested to concern Himself with things that matter to you?
If you’re suspicious of God’s motives or you question whether He cares, you won’t surrender to Him. It wouldn’t make sense! Only the person who sees God as both sovereign over creation and lovingly involved in the details of everyday life will choose to surrender to Him. The rest, by default, will live like Control Girls, doing the best they can to get control and keep everything on track.
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About Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible

“I control because I care.”
“I just want to be sure of a happy ending.”
“I worry that everything is spinning out of control.”
Many women can identify with statements like these. They have a compulsion to make everything turn out just right and are willing to do anything to make it happen. But this unbalanced pursuit of control makes those around them anxious and defensive. And when they realize control is slipping from their grasp, they lose control of themselves and react in anger or fear.
Shannon Popkin knows this struggle inside and out. Keeping her inner Control Girl hidden is a full-time job. Thankfully, she also knows another very important truth: no woman has to be a Control Girl.
In this encouraging book, Shannon invites seven Control Girls from the Bible into the conversation. She examines each story for the moments in which grasping for control circumvented God’s plans for good, whether it was Eve’s desire to know instead of to trust, Sarah’s inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah’s controlling hand on her family’s future. Finally, Shannon finds God’s perspective on each of the problems and then reveals how readers’ can have their own happy endings in similar situations.
The author shares from her own struggles and follows each Bible study with questions for personal reflection. In the end, controlling women will find insight into their own experience, peace in the knowledge that God is in control, and relief that they are free.
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  Shannon Popkin is a writer, speaker and Bible teacher who combines her gifts for humor and storytelling with her passion for Jesus. She is a regular contributor for the Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman blog and author of the book Control Girl. Popkin and her husband live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens in Michigan.
Connect with Shannon Popkin and learn more about Control Girl by visiting www.shannonpopkin.com, following her on Facebook (shanpopkin) or following her via Twitter (@ShannonPopkin).

Bridging the Racial Divide in the Church

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Martin Luther King, Jr. once said,

“It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”

Progress is slow on racial reconciliation in this country, particularly given recent events. But why do lingering divisions exist in the Church, the very communities built on the promise of forgiveness and reconciliation? Finding racial unity in a congregation is a complex task that requires a deep recognition of racial differences in how Christians understand and practice their faith. In a recent study that builds upon our research on racial tension and the Black Lives Matter movement, Barna examined the divergent ways in which black and white Christians approach discipleship, individually and collectively, revealing insights that may contribute to the realization of King’s dream of an unsegregated hour of worship.

What Is Spiritual Progress?
The term “spiritual progress” is open to interpretation, and when asked to define it, differences in perspectives begin to emerge between black and white Christian leaders Black Christian leaders are more likely to describe the process of spiritual progress as “spiritual maturation” (31%), while white Christian leaders prefer the phrase “spiritual growth” (21%). The language of “maturation” implies more of an internal transformation and the development of wisdom through life experience, whereas the word “growth” tends to suggest an approach that entails reaching key milestones.

When both groups define “discipleship,” white believers are more likely to refer to it as a “process of learning to follow Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, seeking to observe all that Jesus commanded, by the power of the Holy Spirit and to his glory.” Black Christians instead commonly refer to it as “The process of transformation that changes us to be increasingly more like Christ through the Word, the Spirit, and circumstance.” For black Christians, spiritual progress tends to focus more on life experience rather than achieving goals, about maturing into a Christ-like character as they weather life’s storms. Read more.

The 21 Questions to Ask Yourself

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I ripped this list off Ed Gandia’s podcast directed towards high income business writers. This was such a good podcast that I listened to it 3 times when I worked out. Answering these questions will help you frame your direction and attitude for 2017. I’m going to work through this list. I encourage you to work through it with me by answering these questions for yourself.

The first question is: What am I most proud of this year? I would have to say that what I’m most proud of is the effort I took to connect with a whole world that I didn’t know existed a year ago. I’m a mother of a daughter with special needs and fought feelings of being isolated and alone in my fight for her dignity and spiritual growth. I took a step out of my isolation to meet a group of moms of special needs children at Grace Church.

This group of moms play bunco once a month through out the year. The ‘bunco’ moms group have been a lifeline of encouragement, exhortation and advice for me. They have connected me with a ton of resources for helping my daughter with special needs.

I’m also most proud that I made her faith and well being a greater priority in 2016. D’Andra is 14-years-old and has had a rough first semester at her new high school. There were times I wanted to tune everything out and ignore her struggle. But my new friend, Georgia who I met through the Bunco game night, and many other moms of special needs children, pointed me to other resources or people to talk to about my issues.

I had no idea that assistance was available for me to help with my daughter’s issues from the Down syndrome Guild and other organizations. The more I learn about her challenges, the better equipped my husband, Jerome and I become to help her. I’ve learned to look at challenges unflinchingly and unashamed with bold, tenacious faith.

I made some dramatic changes to help her such as joining a local community center with a heated pool. She loves to swim and this has helped her deal with her stress. I’m also looking for a Special Olympics team for D’Andra to join since I just discovered that she likes to kick a soccer ball. D’Andra may be the one who inherited her dad’s athletic genes. Jerome was a track star on his way to the Olympics in college.

So what I’m proud of is admitting my weakness and pushing myself out of isolation to find other moms in the same battle for their child’s dignity and well being.

What are you most proud of from 2016?

2 Shock Absorbers for Violent, Disturbing Seasons in Your Life

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Summer 2015 for me is marked by shock. I’m a dictionary and thesaurus nerd and this perfectly described my summer:

Shock (noun)

  1. a sudden and violent blow or impact; collision.
  2. a sudden or violent disturbance or commotion: the shock of battle.
  3. a sudden or violent disturbance of the mind, emotions, or sensibilities:

The burglary was a shock to her sense of security. The book provided a shock, nothing more.

  1. the physiological effect produced by the passage of an electric current through the body.

 

My summers are usually full of leisurely visits to parks, Longview Lake beach, Super Splash and Schlitterbahn. My husband, Jerome and I also host a annual giant barbecue with almost 100 people in our backyard but this summer we didn’t get around to it. This morning my husband asked, what happened to our giant barbecue? I guess I wasn’t in a particularly hospitable mood.

Violent, disturbing events marched in when I couldn’t go forward to see a child in his casket at his wake. I was a coward while the parents bravely welcomed people and affirmed their faith in God through their senseless tragedy. Weeks later I attended another funeral of a well-loved young man who left behind a beautiful, godly wife and little children. In the middle of those funerals was a memorial service for friends of mine whose elderly parents had committed suicide.

I admire my friend who went public with his parent’s suicide that was featured in the local newspaper. Going public with private tragedy exposes you and your family but they were embraced in their mourning. Sitting in a funeral, wake or memorial service causes you to realize that life is but a breath. And that whatever God put me on the planet for, I need to get to it.

The doing I’ve been wrapped in is in other people. Filling out complicated financial aid forms and going back and forth with Alex’s prospective university’s financial aid office. Cheering him on during his performances and shopping for his text books online. Filling out more forms and shopping for clothes and supplies for D’Andra starting her first year in high-school.

While people were dying and I occasionally screamed at the computer after watching a video or reading news about another senseless shooting, racially charged riot or the election, my body reacted with a skin disorder. I woke up in the middle of the night with the tormenting itch spreading uncontrollably across my body.

I lost a few clients and gained new clients and my body ruthlessly reminded me of my sensitivity to stress. Loud messages were etched on my skin that I’m limited, I’m human and I need help. The skin condition tempted me into isolation, because after all, I look horrible. Hence the Facebook live videos to encourage people stop and I limit my appearances.

The recent diagnosis of a skin disorder that has no cure shocked me. My doctor said I needed to learn to live with this disease that can flare up without warning. I’m a Christian and of course I believe in healing. I’ve seen people healed of cancer, blood diseases and arthritis. My husband has been healed many times by the power of prayer.

The incurable disease brings sleepless nights and changes my appearance. I spend sleepless nights praying for the parents who lost their child, the woman who lost her husband and my friend who lost his parents. I pray while the itch keeps me up as a way of saying to this torment that you’re robbing me but I’m fighting back by warring for my friends.

My shock absorbers have been daily devotions and time with friends. A trip to Franklin, TN sent me to Suzanne Tipton and Linda Walker, friends that knew me in my insecure, awkward 20s and to another friend who knows secrets I’ve never told anyone. Laughing with Suzanne while her globe-trotting missionary husband Greg visited with my husband and kids was a breath of fresh air. Enjoying pizza with Pastor Diana Trout who loves me even though she’s heard my dark secrets was a breeze from heaven. Sitting and laughing in Linda’s kitchen was another breath of God. Eating chicken with Steve and Deborah Murrell, Walter and Linda Walker and Rice Broocks was a wind of God refreshing me with dreams of conquering the world again even though I’m just a mom with an incurable disease being pulled in a million different directions.

The march of life stood still for a moment of enjoying being with friends we fought with in the trenches of campus ministry in our early days as Christian. We were involved in a very conservative worldwide campus ministry that ended in the late 90s. We were foxhole buddies or survivors of a giant dysfunctional Christian movement that dreamed of changing the world. God breathed hope into me again as I went from one funeral to another and juggled the demands of my children’s transitions.

Shock forces you to stop, ponder and consider the direction of your life. Friendships are weighed and commitments are tested. I narrowed my life because I have limited strength and focus to give.

I didn’t have the strength to pull off a giant social event. Instead, I chose to invest in a few people by having coffee or dinner with one person. The summer of shock made me go small with my social life. I didn’t post a bunch of Instagrams or Facebook pics showing off my social life because of the red rash and splotches around my neck.

I wanted to privately enjoy my TV producer 20-something who is writing a book or my Israeli martial arts aficionado who blew my mind with her story. Or the long-time bubbly blond friend who knows my propensity to isolate myself, yet she pulls me out of my self-imposed cave to take me to dinner.

Suzanne, Linda, Patty, Steph, Jacquie, Geneva, Cornerstone Group, the Bunco ladies group that I belong to and World Revival Church are my shock absorbers. They have helped me process transition, an unexpected diagnosis, financial stress and torment. Everyone needs a shock absorber or you will be consumed by the sizzling currents of tragedy and transition.

Reading the Bible everyday has been another shock absorber with stories of other people who have walked with God through treacherous times. The book of Psalms was written by David who was being hunted down by assassins or threatened to be overthrown by his son, Absalom.

“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?

Who can ever praise Him enough?

There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right.” Psalm 106:1-3

I sang this psalm this morning. I have found joy in the middle of shock and horror. Thanking him for long-time friends and new ones has kept me steadfast in the turbulence. Praising Him for His love and faithfulness with a friend walking through their dark valley keeps me close to Him. The summer of shock makes me thankful for the eternal gift of friendship.

May the Lord send you friends and scriptures that help you absorb the shock in your life whether it’s a bounced check, broken relationship or medical diagnosis. Hold tight to your friends. Open your Bible and cry out the psalms that David wrote in his chaos.

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Is Loving Yourself a Sin?

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For most of the thirty plus years that I’ve been a Christian, I missed a critical part of this scripture:

The man answered, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Luke 10:27

The part that I missed what...“Love your neighbor as yourself.

I fell in love with Jesus at 18 years old because I realized how much He loved me. My first encounter with God was when I was 10-years-old while I was considering suicide. His presence came into my dark bedroom like a cloud of life.

That presence made me feel valuable and like I mattered to the world. I grew up hating myself. I hated how I looked. I hated my ethnic mix. I hated where I lived. I hated being poor. I hated everything about myself. My relationship with Jesus stopped the self-hatred as I learned that He loved me.

However, when I became involved in church, I realized that my value was related to how much I could contribute with money, time and talent. I wasn’t intrinsically valued because I was made in His image. I was valued because of what I could do for the church.

What I could do for the church drove me into a performance-oriented relationship with people and God. That came crashing down when God brought into my life a child who taught me that she is valuable because God made her. Her value isn’t based on her stellar talent or that she can preach or sing. She is valuable because God says she is valuable.

My church recently hosted Danny Silk as part of Keeping Your Love On Tour. Danny mentored Kris Valloton who has reshaped my thinking the last 2 years as I’ve listened to his podcasts. Kris is the first person to emphasize the part of that scripture about loving your neighbor as yourself.

“You’re suppose to love yourself,” he said on the podcast. I listened to that over and over again because what was drilled into me was that I didn’t matter and my job was to die to who I am so that He would live in me. I didn’t learn how to love myself. Of course Kris clarified that loving yourself shouldn’t blow up into selfishness where you become a self-centered monster.

I always perversely thought that loving myself was a sin. That view affected how I treated people as commodities rather than valuable treasures of God. I allowed myself to be treated like a commodity when I was included or excluded based on what I could give or not give to the cause.

I’m learning how to love myself and love others as Christ loves. From Keep Your Love On, page 65:

“So what does love mean in the context of a relationship? The pillar of love is comprised of a commitment, an action and a result. The commitment part is this: ‘I care about you and value you – all of you. I care about your soul, spirit, body, relationships, dreams, and destiny.’ The action part is demonstrating care and value in many ways and in many situations as you get to know a person over time. And the result of these actions is that the person feels loved! They feel safe, valued, connected, nourished, protected and understood.'”

I thank God that He LOVES me and because He LOVES me, I can LOVE people without expecting anything in return. I’m not a commodity to God and He isn’t a giant machine in the sky dropping blessings or curses based on my performance. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who lifts us up, calls us out of darkness and transforms us with His love.

He wants me in His life and I want to be in His life. I am His daughter and He is my Father. We have a relationship and a connection. My desire is to protect that connection with Him and with people. Loving myself isn’t a sin but it can become a sin when I love myself more than other people.

Jesus was the perfect example of someone who loved beyond Himself. He reached out to the outcasts, the misfits and untouchables. He didn’t recruit them into a club to work for Him. He brought them into His family. Our faith is a family with love as the cornerstone.

When God Rips Your Mask Off

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Photo Credit: Steph Robbins

Genesis or the book of beginnings launches the story of a man and woman who had everything and lost it with a lie. That lie from the enemy sent Adam and Eve into hiding. When God came looking for them, they were afraid and ashamed at their nakedness.

“Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” “Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked. (Genesis 3: 9-11)

Adam and Eve lived in the garden of their dreams with the glory of God as their covering with no shame. “Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame. (Genesis 2:25)

Yet even in this perfect environment, Adam and Eve still fell for the lie that God was hiding something from them. Their disobedience released shame into mankind and we have lived with the effects by growing accustomed to wearing a mask and having a hidden agenda. Steve Brown is a long-time pastor, seminary professor, radio show host and author of Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart. Brown shares his own journey of how God removed the mask of religious success with humorous anecdotes of his own experiences such as failing at speaking at a conference of leaders who he wanted to impress.

“I will never remove my mask or set aside my agendas as long as I think Christianity is about fixing me and others, building empires, changing the world, making my life count, correcting doctrinal truth, promoting programs, raising money and being nice. It’s not. It’s about the forgiveness of sins.” (Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart p. 70)

Brown’s confession of being a pastor that smokes or having to clean up after suicides are bittersweet reminders of how Christians make smoking cigarettes the unpardonable sin or hiding the fact that Christians commit suicide. I’ve laughed and cried through his stories and questions that challenge me to take off my mask. I realized as I read the book that God sent a child with special needs into my life to remove my mask of professional or so-called religious success. With the removal of my masks, I have a lot more love and mercy towards people who can’t give anything to me. Removing my masks set me free and yet I’ve been more cognizant of the religious masks that Christians wear to hide their shame.

Brown explains how the kindness of God removes masks by allowing us to suffer, be embarrassed and being wrong in a big public way. I’ve never heard of Christians praying for God to let them suffer, be embarrassed or wrong in a public way. Yet Brown points out the leaders in the Bible that we admire experienced suffering, being embarrassed and publicly wrong. A prime example is David who was hunted for years by King Saul, called out by a prophet for his illicit relationship with Bathsheba and humiliated by the death of a child. There was no public relations machine that existed then for David to spin his failures.

The removal of these masks is a freedom to love and follow God without any hidden agendas. Brown also gives advice on how to safely remove your mask in a church prone to gossip or being human. I don’t want to give away his juicy material because I want you to read his book. You’ll be shocked, moved to tears and if you don’t experience any of that, you’ll have a burden to pray for pastors. Brown rips the mask off religion by exposing the hurt and pain that pastors endure to take care of their congregations with love and mercy.

You can use the book in a bible study setting which I’m thinking about doing but I know it will be uncomfortable. Living with someone elses mask is easier than seeing who they really are. The first mask Adam and Eve attempted to create to hide from God has been worn by mankind since the Fall. Yet God cries out, “Where are you?” while knowing the failures we want to hide. He still longs for us to walk with Him naked and unashamed. If only we could give love, grace and mercy to other people so they could drop their mask with us and God.

The Shocking Signs of Holiness

Does holiness mean being weird, super-spiritual and wearing funny clothes?

When I think of a holy man or woman, I envision a person living in a cave who doesn’t watch TV or movies or listen to secular music. The unspoken definition of holiness by American church culture is not cussing, not smoking, not drinking alcohol, not watching R rated movies or not listening to secular music while reading your Bible and praying regularly. The definition of holiness according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is “the quality or state of being holy” and the title of persons of high religious position.

Yet God’s definition of holiness in Leviticus 19 is shockingly different from the Merriam Webster dictionary. The instructions in Leviticus 19 were given to a tribal nation who were not filled with the Holy Spirit or had a Bible. The only sacred text they had were the verbal instructions given by Moses.

Holiness is defined in Leviticus 19 by how you treat people, how you treat God and how you worship. American church culture’s definition of holiness as adhering to a list of don’ts while performing religious duties are a far cry from God’s intention to portray a people separated to Himself while engaging the pagan culture.

The mark of holiness begins with how you treat people.

“Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Each of you must respect your mother and father, and you must observe my Sabbaths. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:3)

How you treat your parents and observe the Sabbath are priorities for holy living. Our culture is extremely casual about disrespect of parents yet this is the first sign of holy living. Respecting mom and dad equals observing the Sabbath in the eyes of God.

Leviticus 19:9-18 further defines holiness as to how you treat your neighbor, the foreigner, orphan, and disabled.

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:9-10

We are to show compassion for the poor and the foreigner. And we are not to curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in front of the blind. We’re to treat foreigners as if they were natives and respect the elderly. Holiness is treating people with the fear of God.

Sexual relationships are also an extension of holy living. Leviticus 20:11-20 defines forbidden sexual relationships in graphic detail. God defines who you can sleep with and who you can’t have sex with.

This makes me wonder if we religiously read our Bibles, memorize scripture, pray and attend church yet mistreat people, does God call that holiness? Some of the meanest people that I’ve met are Christians. If you’re mean, condescending, prideful and arrogant with people are you really a Christian according to this passage in the Bible?

Another sign of holiness is how you treat God and worship.

‘Do not turn to idols or make metal gods for yourselves. I am the Lord your God.’ Leviticus 19:4

Leviticus 19 also defines how to deal with spiritists, mediums and those who practice divination or seek omens. God is separating His people from the practices of the nations around them that defile themselves with their pagan spiritual practices and perverted sexual acts. Leviticus 20 outlines the severe consequences of violating God’s decrees regarding holiness. The reward for living holy in our relationships with God and people is an inheritance, a land flowing with milk and honey. (Leviticus 20:24)

While reading your Bible, praying and attending church regularly are valuable spiritual disciplines, let’s remember how important relationships are to God. The Bible is an account of His relationship with a family and clues as to what’s important to God. Obviously how we treat one another and treat Him are the bedrocks of our faith.

What crazy ideas do you have about being holy?