Midday Connection

A safe place to process your story.

Midday blog: Codependents Identified

“My name is Mark… and I’m codependent.”

In those seven simple words, I’m opening up a door of vulnerability.

One of the definitions for codependency on Wikipedia states that it’s “the dependence on the needs of, or control of, another. It also often involves placing a lower priority on one’s own needs, while being excessively preoccupied with the needs of others.”

On the first read, how could that be a bad thing? Romans 15 encourages us to serve others and not please ourselves. Verse 3 says that Christ is the example of this!

I hope you sense my slight sarcasm and see the challenge I myself have found to think more deeply about this. The Wikipedia article also says that “codependency can occur in any type of relationship, including family, work, friendship, and also romantic, peer or community relationships.”

There are those in my life that I consider close – whether they are my blood family or “brothers from another mother.” There aren’t many things that I wouldn’t do for any of them. I enjoy nearly every minute I spend with them. I want to make sure they know how much I care about them.

You might say, “That’s so great, Mark. You love deeply and care intensely.” Okay, I might agree with you! But as some of my relationships grew, at a certain point, I had realized how much I had depended heavily on some of these people for my happiness. If I wasn’t doing something fun or hanging out with them, it bummed me out – to the point where I was sad and emotionally paralyzed.

I eventually had to realize that I couldn’t rely on other people to be happy. It was definitely easier said than done, and it didn’t happen overnight. But through self-examination and reading God’s Word, I can say I’ve experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding – and as Philippians 4:7 says, it guards my heart and mind through Christ.

Do I still struggle with it? Every day.

Are there times – or people – that cause you to lose focus on yourself, or on God? How do you reset when you face those times?

 

Mark BretaMark Breta has been with Moody Radio since 2007 and has worked with many of its programs. Mark currently works with Midday Connection, the Bring to Mind podcast and Treasured Truth. He has led worship at conferences and events, and more recently, at Chicago area churches in Arlington Heights and Oak Park. Mark has been posting a daily audio blog throughout the month of June at his website.

 

 

Midday blog: Holy Neediness

I used to be defensive about needing God. I’d push back on the language that described God or religion as a crutch. Certainly, I’d roll my eyes at Karl Marx’s famous words that “Religion is the opium of the people.”

Until last week, when I ran across that quote and thought, My word. Karl Marx is right!

Well, kinda, sorta.

Opium, of course, is dangerous stuff. It lures people in with promises of relieving pain, with mountain-top highs. But ultimately, opium leaves its users depleted, empty.

Nothing like God.

But here’s what Marx got right: opium leaves its users needy, desperate, looking everywhere for it.

Though God doesn’t promise pain relief or mountain-top highs—instead, he promises walking with us in our pain, in both valleys and mountains—and certainly doesn’t leave us haggard and depleted, truth be told: true intimacy with God does leave us needy, desperate, on the lookout for God everywhere.

At least, it has with me. And I’ve found needing God—as a crutch! As our hope!—is one of the great blessings in life. Learning to lean on God and God alone for our peace, our joy, our strength, our comfort, our security, our rest is how we learn that God is able, that he is trustworthy.

Caryn Rivadeniera

Caryn Rivadeneira is an author, editor and speaker. She earned a B.A. in English from Calvin College and attended the University of Chicago’s publishing program. Caryn lives in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, Rafael, her three kids, and a rescued pit bull terrier. Caryn and her family are members of Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church in Elmhurst, Ill.  To learn more about Caryn, please visit her website. Twitter: @carynrivadeneir

 

Midday blog: Jesus Loves Her, Too

I often begin my day with some time of silence.  I think of it as sitting with Jesus and enjoying being with Him.  I just sit, palms open, eyes closed, breathing, aware of Jesus with me.  One morning, I was sitting quietly with Jesus and my beautiful, long-haired cat, Scarlett, jumped on my lap.  She’s a little on the chubby side, so when she laid down over my hands, I could feel her soft, full, warm belly spilling over my lap.  She immediately began to purr, tail swishing back and forth contentedly.  This.  This moment is wonderful.  My heart is happy and I feel great love for this little creature on my lap.  I sighed and said to Jesus apologetically, “I sure do love her. A lot.  I know there are starving children in the world and lots of pain all around me… I feel guilty sometimes for loving my cat.  But.  I do.”  I sighed again, and felt Jesus say to me, “So do I.”  I was stunned!  Really, Jesus?  You love her, too?  Immediately, tears came to my eyes.  Could it be that I’ve been feeling guilt over something that I didn’t need to feel guilty about?  Could it be that this warm, soft, comforting, purring creature is a gift?  An expression of God’s grace and love?

Have you ever had a moment when you were shown a comforting truth that released false guilt?

Lori Neff is the senior producer for the award-winning national radio program, Midday Connection. Lori grew up in a small town in Ohio, spending more time outside in nature than inside. She is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. Her interests include art (looking at it and creating it), music, literature, humanitarian aid efforts, cooking, gardening, coffee, traveling, thinking, learning and spending time with her husband, John.

To learn more about Lori and read her blog, please visit visit her website.

Midday blog: Controllers Anonymous

Well I’ve started a new club with a girlfriend. You may have one in your area; I’m sure there are others around. Lynda, and I are calling ourselves Controllers Anonymous!

Here are some questions that helped us know we qualified for this new club. We found out we have both said things like:

“Why don’t you….”

“Well, you should/could/might have….”

“Did you do what I asked yet?”

“I would have….”

Ahhh, that well-intentioned advice or comment. Or is it? Sure, when others are ready to take a fall, we want to help them avoid it with some of our wisdom. And sometimes we need to follow up as leaders, making sure tasks are done and done well. But by whose definition? More often than not, I sense I just want my way, because, after all, it’s the best way, right? At least I believe it is! Oh boy, talk about arrogance.

Lynda and I talked about how our controlling comments can show a lack of trust that God is God. When we step in all of the time, we exhibit doubt that God is enough for the task of ___________(fill in the blank).  And we miss seeing what He will do, as well as then missing an opportunity to give Him glory as we see His empowering. Do we believe He is mighty, adequate, powerful or not? Or do we just want our way, by our methods?

I told Lynda about how I had wanted to have magical powers when I was a little girl – yep! I wanted to be GOD way back then! And she told her story of being in the car headed somewhere with her husband. She “suggested” he go a different way. He said to her, “Lynda, we can go your way or my way, but either way we are going to get there!” Okay then. Point made.

Anyone else part of Controllers Anonymous out there?

Melinda SchmidtMelinda Schmidt is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds a Broadcasting/Bible degree from Calvary Bible College. She has served with Moody Radio since 1980 in various hosting capacities. Married with two young adult children, Melinda lives outside Chicago, loves reading, developing her creative interests and hopes to be a life-long learner. Twitter: @melindaschmidt

Midday Blog: His Sovereignty in the Unknown

Don’t God’s responses to your questions usually surprise you? Don’t they seem to make no sense at times?  We ask questions because we obviously need some answers, answers that contain information our hearts are longing for.  We feel pressure, nervousness, fear, and so on.

We’ve all encountered situations when we don’t seem to be fit at all for the task assigned.  A speech in front of a multitude? A new position at work or in your church? A friend asking you for advice or people seeking your help?

Some of us, though, face tougher situations. Maybe you didn’t know how you were going to provide for your family the very next day. Maybe you had to make a decision such as ending a relationship or stepping down from a position at work.

The unknown is all around us, yet the good news are that we belong to an all-knowing God, the One who has total knowledge, awareness, and understanding. Nothing escapes His mind and nothing takes Him by surprise. His answers to our questions are the most suitable ones. They might not make sense when given to us and they might not fulfill our longing, but they are what we need to hear.

In Exodus 3 we see God revealing to Moses through the burning bush. In this particular theophany, He calls Moses to rescue His chosen people from under the Egyptian bondage (talk about the unknown!). Moses’ immediate question is: “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (verse 11)  Naturally we would expect God to start pointing to Moses’ strengths and explain to him why is he the chosen one for this task.  But, God gives the unexpected answer: “Certainly I will be with you…” (verse 12).

Moses asks who is he to take on such a responsibility and God answers by telling Moses that He will be with Him.  Doesn’t that seem the answer to a different question? You are asking God one thing, and He tells you another. He tells you He will undoubtedly be there with you. When He gives you the unexpected answers, know that those are the best. And in the darkest unknown, be sure that He is there with you.

Adelina GhileaAdelina Ghilea comes from the city of Arad, Romania. Her previous experience as a volunteer radio show host and producer not only deeply shaped her vocation and calling, but also brought her to Moody Bible Institute. She is currently a senior in the communications department and is serving as station manager for the campus station. Adelina is also serving with JoyFm, a new Reach Beyond (HCJB Global) radio plant in her hometown. After graduation, she is planning to return home and invest in the ministry there. Twitter: @AdeGhilea

Midday blog: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

As a worship leader, I continue to learn and grow in how to choose songs for a church service. Years ago, I used to think that a song that has a repetitive chorus was shallow (or that the songwriter was lazy. Ha!).

I discovered, though, that there are times when repetitive songs can be used effectively.

I recently came across this worship song, and God has been using it in my life over the last week or so.

“There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

There is power in the name of Jesus

To break every chain

Break every chain, break every chain.”

It has been a great reminder to me, while sorting the stuff of life – that nothing has to bind me.

Are there any songs, Bible verses or meaningful quotes that run through your mind throughout the day that have brought you encouragement lately?

Mark BretaMark Breta has been with Moody Radio since 2007 and has worked with many of its programs. Mark currently works with Midday Connection, the Bring to Mind podcast and Treasured Truth. He has led worship at conferences and events, and more recently, at Chicago area churches in Arlington Heights and Oak Park.  You can follow Mark at his website.

Midday blog: Halt

This past Lent, I decided to set aside a food item that’s been a comfort and a go-to item at the end of the day when I want some comfort. I felt the desire to set it aside so that I could take time to ask God if I was avoiding anything deeper. Was this benign comfort item hiding a deeper ache that needed my attention?  Thinking about this one day, I vaguely recalled hearing the acronym “HALT”…something about a checklist to help us pay attention to what’s going on when we’re feeling stressed. So, I did some searching and found more information on it.  Here’s what the acronym stands for:

H – Hungry
A – Angry
L – Lonely
T – Tired

The idea is to check in with yourself when you’re feeling stressed or out of sorts – are you hungry?  Are you angry?  Are you lonely?  Are you tired?  Usually, when I feel restless or want to reach for comfort food or zone out with some mindless TV, I’m actually feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.  When I take that minute to pay attention to what’s going on, I can address the anger, hunger, tiredness, loneliness instead of either engaging in unhealthy habits or things that could become unhealthy if the core issue is consistently pushed aside.  I can use this to rule out and address things that are irrelevant to what’s *really* going on.  Maybe I’m afraid of failing while also feeling tired and hungry.  Addressing my hunger and sleep issues can help me handle the fear better and with a clearer head.  I’ve also found it helpful as I walk home from work feeling stressed and cranky, to slowly and prayerfully breathe deeply as I go through HALT and realize that, yes, I am hungry and tired right now… and once I’ve identified those real physical needs, I’m less likely to misdirect my crabbiness toward my husband when I get home – or at the least, I can communicate to him where I am emotionally and that my crankiness isn’t about him.

How about you?  Are there some helpful tools that you use to identify what the deeper issues might be?

Lori Neff is the senior producer for the award-winning national radio program, Midday Connection. Lori grew up in a small town in Ohio, spending more time outside in nature than inside. She is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. Her interests include art (looking at it and creating it), music, literature, humanitarian aid efforts, cooking, gardening, coffee, traveling, thinking, learning and spending time with her husband, John.

To learn more about Lori and read her blog, please visit visit her website.

Midday blog: Can we shape another’s personality?

Have you ever noticed the subtle suggestion out there that parents can actually shape the personality of their child? Beyond the natural desire to guide children toward Biblical character development, there’s this hint that we can turn them into something – else. Something better?

The Biblical stories of Jacob, Cain, Abel, Esther, Mary the mother of Jesus, Paul, Joseph, his brothers, and others demonstrate that each were born with a unique personality that sometimes served them well (Mary, Esther, Abel) and other times did not (Samson, Jacob, Ham, Jezebel).  Some lives came to good ends (Jews still celebrate Esther’s Purim today) while others came to tragic ends (Lot), never able to overcome their bents. Jacob continued to wrestle with his personality into adulthood and eventually wrestled with God, figuratively and literally in Genesis 32.

And actually, none of these Biblical characters were perfect.

You’ve probably scratched your head wondering how children can come from the same parents but be so different! There’s no doubt genetics play a part in who we are, but from the beginnings of humankind, we understand that God is the Creator of us all (Psalm 139). We arrive on earth imperfect, but we can gift others with God’s love, joy and truth with the Holy Spirit’s power. After that, their next steps are their own.

As we send an aroma of prayer to God (Ps. 141:2), and let our loved one go, releasing them into God’s hands, we give them freedom to accept or resist truth. They are making their own choices. Will I carry my anxieties and worries about my loved one to God, and confirm my trust in Him? Fill in the blanks of Psalm 31:15 with your loved one’s name: “ _____’s times are in your hands; deliver _____from the hands of _______’s enemies (Satan for one! as well as drugs, an emotional affair, deceit, etc.), from those who pursue _______ (evil friends or ideas or destructive habits, or other temptations).”

Melinda Schmidt is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and holds a Broadcasting/Bible degree from Calvary Bible College. She has served with Moody Radio since 1980 in various hosting capacities. Married with two young adult children, Melinda lives outside Chicago, loves reading, developing her creative interests and hopes to be a life-long learner. Twitter: @melindaschmidtMelinda Schmidt

Guest blog: Embracing Community

Community is not a word that comes naturally to a Christian artist. It is for those who are the same, let me rephrase that, it was meant for normal non-artists. Artists of any kind balance ourselves in a place of in-between, most secular artists are not sure what to do with us, because we are not on the same search of what boundaries can we push and most Christians aren’t sure how to take us because of that boundary pushing stigma. So when Midday Connection asked me to lead a “community” through Lent a second time I was a bit unsure of what the outcome might look like.

Last year was my first real year to walk through Lent and what community could look like; it was raw, messy and honestly scary. I processed not just Christ’s death, but also my mother’s out in the open for all to see. I struggled with what I was going through and a few listeners were kind enough to join me on the journey. They poured into me as I poured everything I had out. Not one of them had ever met me in person, but they prayed for me, my family, they joined me during my sorrow – and for the first time I began to understand the idea of community and how I could use my art to help connect others together.

This year, I had hoped for the same, a small group who “got me and my conversations with God”. What I didn’t expect was for over 550 people from all over the world wanting to see how creativity could impact their daily time with God. They embraced their creativity and in turn were able to experience God in a new way as they themselves began to visually interpret their quiet time with God. This year my fear of being me, the creative being that God made me to be, was taken down a notch. I realized that when I finally allowed myself to be who God created me to be, a fully creative being, not only do I experience Him in new ways, but allow others to have the freedom to do the same.

 

Tamara PetersonTamara Peterson has her undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas in Communication Design, she has worked at Fossil, Fellowship Church and now freelances from home. Three years ago, she started a ministry called Safe Blankets that gives handmade quilts to children in crisis situations. Since that time they have given over 150 quilts to children in the Chicago area. Tamara has been teaching art and journaling classes for the past 2 years at women’s retreats, various small groups and even at her own studio. In that time she has taught almost 200 women this way of connecting with God and discovering themselves. She lives in Skokie, IL with her husband and son. For more information,  please visit her website .

 

Midday blog: Authentic Friendships, Part 2

Last month when I blogged, I focused on Authentic Friendships. You can read it here. This is part 2 of that important conversation.

Many of us have experienced betrayal in relationships. Some have even been abused or struggled with codependency issues. These things all color how we seek to develop and maintain close relationships, or whether we seek to develop them at all. When I was in Jr. High, I had a close friend betray me. After that deeply wounding event, I guarded my heart and wouldn’t let others in, especially other women. The year after I graduated college I had two women call me on it. I was traveling for a year with a singing group and there were only 3 men and 3 women in the group. The other two women confronted me and said, “If you won’t open up to us, first of all it’s going to be a long year, and secondly we don’t think God will work as deeply through us as he could.” I knew they were right. God used their loving confrontation to break me and begin opening my heart up to them, to Him, and others. I realized I was making them pay for something that happened in my past. In reality, I had been living with an open wound that had gotten infected and couldn’t heal.

I said in part 1 of Authentic Friendships that going deeper takes risk. It is much less risky if you know how important it is to link up with safe people. Henry Cloud and John Townsend are well known for their book Boundaries, which I highly recommend. Before they wrote that, they penned a book that greatly helped me called Safe People. They emphasize how crucial it is to be in relationships with safe people. It will help eliminate some drama in your life.

Here are the 3 characteristics of safe people:
1. A safe person will always lead you closer to Christ.
2. A safe person will always lead you closer to others. They will not isolate you and keep you to themselves.
3. A safe person will always draw you closer to your authentic self. They will see the gem you really are and help you move toward becoming all God created you to be as they encourage the development of the gifts they see in you.

There is one more crucial piece to the ‘safe people’ puzzle. I’ve shared this important equation with people for years and still had people come to me and say I make sure people in my life have these 3 characteristics and I still can’t maintain friendships. I started to notice something in common with those who had this experience and I realized something important. We have to run ourselves through the safe people grid. If we don’t possess the safe people characteristics, we cannot hope to find and retain quality friends with whom we can be authentic.

How’s your people picker? Has it been broken in the past? Do you think the Safe People characteristics can help?

Anita LustreaAnita Lustrea is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and has worked for Moody Radio since 1984. She is a sought-after conference and retreat speaker and loves to connect with Midday Connection listeners face-to-face. Anita lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mike, and her son, John. To learn more about Anita, her speaking schedule and her blog, please visit her website.

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