Be Careful What You Ask!

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By Paula Marolewski, August 30, 2009 6:14 pm

Proverbs 18:21 reminds us that “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” And that’s true even about the questions we ask.

Too many times, people ask questions thoughtlessly – unaware of the damage the very question they are asking can cause to the listener. Questions like:

  • “So, when are we going to throw a baby shower for you?”
  • “You’re such a nice person – why haven’t you married?”
  • “Your boss is really unfair. Why don’t you get a new job?”

Questions like these are hurtful for two reasons. First, the questioner is making an assumption about the other person’s desires. In the above examples, the questioner is making the assumption that the other person wants children, wants to be married, or wants to get a new job. It is entirely possible that the person doesn’t want children, or doesn’t want children now; that they are perfectly happy being single; or that despite their boss, they really enjoy what they do. In that case, questions like the above put the person on the defensive – they feel that they have to explain or justify their current position to the questioner.

Second, the questioner is making an assumption about the other person’s actions. For instance, the person may have tried every infertility process available and still can’t conceive, or they might have longed for marriage all their life and feel horribly lonely because the right person has never come their way; or they may be sending out dozens of resumes every month but haven’t had so much as a nibble in the way of a job interview. In that case, these kind of questions make the person feel depressed at best and inferior at worst – depressed, because the questions are like pouring salt in an open wound, and inferior because they may feel that their best hasn’t been good enough, so maybe they themselves aren’t good enough, either.

If your relationship with someone gives you the right to ask a question of a personal nature such as those above, then be sure to ask that question in a gentle and respectful fashion. For instance, you may first want to verify what the other person’s desires are on the topic, i.e., “You seem very happy being single, but I’ve always wondered – do you or did you ever wish to get married?”

Based upon the person’s answer, it may then be appropriate to ask a question about their actions with regard to the issue, i.e., “I’m sorry that your boss is so unpleasant that you want to move on. Have you taken any steps toward that end yet? Is there anything I can do to help you search for a new position?”

Remember, “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” Be careful what you ask. The smallest question can harm or heal.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Should Church Membership Ever Be Denied?

By Paula Marolewski, August 28, 2009 9:08 pm

I wonder if we sometimes err on the side of being too nice. Too trusting.

Too gullible.

Let’s take a hypothetical example. Suppose that an individual, we’ll call him Bob, applies for membership at a local church. But a current member in good standing at that church, we’ll call her Susan, knows Bob personally, and is an eyewitness to the fact that Bob is a trouble-monger who delights in tearing down church leadership.

Susan, in genuine concern, lays the facts of her personal experience with Bob before the pastor of the church. The question is: what should the pastor and church leadership do?

Now, I am fully convinced that people can change, and that Bob may have turned over a new leaf. After all, that is the core of Christianity! However, that being said, I don’t necessarily think the pastor should just accept Bob’s application for membership without discussing the issue with him.

What if Bob claims he has confessed and repented of his sin? Even then, discretion would be wise. For instance, the church leadership could require a probationary period before membership could be accepted – but it would have to be a long enough period where Bob’s true character traits would have ample opportunity to manifest themselves … for better or for worse. I believe that a truly repentant Christian brother or sister will honor and respect any conditions placed upon acceptance of membership.

Matthew 7:17-18 remind us that “Every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.” When the health of the church is at stake, I believe that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” If there is a reasonable cause for concern, use discretion. Wait to see what fruit is produced.

© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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The Inadequacy of Being Sorry

By Paula Marolewski, August 27, 2009 7:05 am

When it comes to giving and receiving forgiveness, “I’m sorry” is not the same as “Please forgive me”:

  • “I’m sorry” focuses on me instead of on the person I hurt. “Will you please forgive me?” puts the focus appropriately on the injured party.
  • “I’m sorry” can be said in a vacuum and requires no response. “Will you please forgive me” and “Yes, I forgive you” are lifelines thrown across a broken relationship.
  • “I’m sorry” has become cheap. Do we really want to use the same word for everything from “sorry that I missed your phone call,” to “sorry that I can’t make the dinner engagement we had,” to “sorry that I murdered your son”?
  • “I’m sorry” may or may not acknowledge wrong-doing. I may just be sorry that you took offense at what I said or that I got caught red-handed in sin. “Please forgive me,” on the other hand, clearly acknowledges moral guilt.  
  • “I’m sorry” doesn’t necessarily require that we come down from our high-horse of pride. “Please forgive me” is by its very nature humbling: with the best kind of humility. It reinforces the fact that we are sinners, dependent on God’s grace, saved by faith, and working out our sanctification each day of our lives.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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A Letter to a Friend Struggling with Doubt

By Paula Marolewski, August 25, 2009 7:56 pm

Dear Friend,

I want to encourage you that doubt and questioning are a normal part of maturing in your Christian faith. For many people, it’s the “rite of passage” that brings them from believing because they’ve been told, to believing because they know. In fact, I would say it’s not only normal, but it’s healthy.

For my own part, doubt and questioning have been an integral part of my growth in my faith. And I have to tell you this: I still struggle with periods of doubt. They come now and then, shaking me to my core, and making me re-examine what I believe. But through it all, God has proven himself faithful, good, and true – and has used these scary periods of time to strengthen me, increasing my knowledge of Scripture and my understanding of himself.

This is a scary period in your life. It’s not a comfortable thing to have the ground ripped out from under you – I know. So let me make bold to give you some anchor points to help you as you feel tossed about:

First, approach your doubt with prayer. This may seem almost a contradiction in terms, because God is the very Person you are doubting. So what? If he’s not there, he can’t answer. If he is there, he will be pleased to answer the honest seeker’s prayer. If he’s there and doesn’t want to answer an honest prayer, he wouldn’t be a God you’d want to serve, anyway. So pray: tell him you’re not sure he’s even there. Ask him to show you the truth. Remember: God can handle your questions. This period in your life comes as no surprise to him. Don’t be afraid to pray.

Second, keep reading the Bible. You see, it’s very easy in periods of doubt to throw out the Bible and stop praying and cease going to church and all the rest of it – because you’re questioning all those things. But that means you are not giving God an honest chance to demonstrate to you that Christianity is true. If you doubt and question, and only feed your mind with philosophies and books and conversations that are anti-Christian, you’re going to “load the dice” in favor of a non-Christian decision. Don’t kid yourself: we’re very easily swayed by what we take in – and if we take in 100% of a certain idea for a long enough time, we’re going to believe it’s true – simply because we don’t have any input presenting an alternative view. If you really want to know the truth, then you have to be fair in your search for it.

Third, journal your thoughts. Keep it private and safe, so that you can be honest in the journal. But it’s important to write things down, because when you’re feeling tossed about in your thoughts and beliefs, it’s hard to think straight. I know that from long experience. But when you write it down, you can at least look at your questions in black and white, and review what your thoughts are and what you’ve learned. That helps you think with your mind, rather than with your emotions – which right now are pulling you in every direction.

As a final word of advice: Don’t rush this process. This is going to take time. It should. It’s serious business, and you are asking serious questions. Take the time you need. If that means months of reading and researching and asking questions, then take those months. God will be with you every step of the way.

I’ve been where you are. I understand how hard it is. And I’ve come through it with my feet on solid ground. You will, too.

In Christ,



© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Severe Anxiety: Confronting the Social Stigma

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By Paula Marolewski, August 20, 2009 7:54 am

It’s strange: we don’t mind saying we have diabetes or heart trouble or a broken leg … but nobody wants to admit that they have severe anxiety or an anxiety disorder (or any other mental or emotional condition). There remains a very real social stigma when it comes to admitting that we have a problem that is located in our mind or brain or emotions.

But since writing Fire in My Mind: Personal Insights & Practical Help for Severe Anxiety, I have (understandably!) begun sharing much more openly with others about my struggle with severe anxiety and my journey toward wholeness. This is what I’ve found:

  • An incredible number of people suffer from severe anxiety. Some have dealt with it successfully, some are still deeply in its grip.
  • There are many others who are suffering from severe anxiety – and don’t know it. All they know is that their life is falling apart. But since they don’t know the problem, they can’t work toward a solution.
  • Most people know someone who has suffered or is suffering from severe anxiety. Some of those people know how to offer help to the sufferer; some do not.
  • Many people are treading the danger line of severe anxiety, living life stressed to the max and pushing their limits day after day. They have no idea how close they are to triggering a real anxiety problem.

Here’s the key: by talking openly about severe anxiety, I have had the opportunity to help people in each of these categories. If I bowed to the prevailing social stigma and kept my mouth shut, their pain would have continued unchecked.

That is why I am encouraging you today: if you have suffered or are suffering from severe anxiety, don’t be ashamed. Don’t hide it, afraid of “what people might think.” Certainly, there’s no need to shout it from the rooftops, as it were. It’s a personal matter and should be shared or not shared in the same way you would treat any other part of your private business. But if you are in conversation with someone and the topic naturally comes up, I encourage you strongly: be open about it. You’ll never know the help you might receive or give (and often both!) until you try.


© 2009 Paula Marolewski


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Temptation: A Necessary Preparation for Ministry?

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By Paula Marolewski, August 18, 2009 2:03 pm

This morning, I read of Jesus’ temptation, as recorded in Luke 4. Consider these verses (1-2, 13-14):

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil …. When the devil had finished every temptation, he left Him until an opportune time.  And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit …”

Sometimes, I think we forget that Jesus wasn’t tempted with just the specific temptations recorded in the gospels. Those three trials were the culmination of over a month of hellish whispers. He was tempted continuously for forty days – Satan tried everything, the above passage notes. And in Hebrews 4:15, it affirms that Jesus was “tempted in all things.”

But the Holy Spirit brackets the temptation – Jesus was led by the Spirit into this time of testing, and he was filled with the Spirit upon his successful completion of it. And I paused to consider: does God often, or perhaps even always, allow this period of extreme temptation prior to launching a new ministry?

It does make sense. Temptation is a test – not of the mind, but of the heart. It reveals our answers to questions such as:

  • Do I trust God even when life seems to be falling apart?
  • Will I obey God even when nobody is watching?
  • Am I engaging in this ministry for fame and fortune, or for grace and goodness?
  • Do I have the determination to persevere through difficulties?
  • What or who am I relying on to see me through life?

If you are trying to launch a new ministry, don’t be surprised if you experience delay, doubt, temptation, trial, despair … in fact, a spiritual desert. I know what the wasteland looks like. I know it seems endless, and that you’re hungry for God, thirsty for his Spirit, longing for the touch of Jesus.

The Spirit of God may have led you to this very place, and done so for a very distinct purpose. Trust him. Persevere. Purge your life of sin. Pray without ceasing. Rely entirely upon God and his Word. When you are led out into the place of ministry, it will be “in the power of the Spirit.”


© 2009 Paula Marolewski

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Faith and Hope

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By Paula Marolewski, August 13, 2009 11:04 am

Hebrews 11:1 is the classic definition of faith: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

I like that link between faith and hope. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” Faith is forward looking. Faith knows that there’s a future, and that it’s a great future.

That forward-lookingness is based, however, on a Person. It’s based on God. We don’t believe things will all work out because we have good karma. We don’t believe everything will be fine because the world is actually maya, an illusion, and so who cares anyway? We don’t believe because we think man is on a steady course of moral progress.

No. We believe and have hope in the future because WE BELIEVE THAT GOD IS IN CONTROL. We believe that God is the Sovereign of the Universe. We believe that he’s good. That he’s loving. That he’s powerful.

Our faith is based on nothing less than the person of God himself.

That’s comforting to me. My faith isn’t based on me. Or on other people. Or on the church. All those things can fail. In fact, when my faith itself is rocky, I can have hope – because God is the Solid Rock. He is my foundation. He is the one who keeps me secure. My security and future and hope are in his hands – and he has wonderfully strong hands. They bear the scars to prove it. 


© 2009 Paula Marolewski,

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Sink Your Roots, Deepen Your Faith

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By Paula Marolewski, August 12, 2009 8:15 am

Sink Your Roots is dedicated to helping Christians grow in their faith and in their relationship with the Lord. This blog is simply one more avenue that I hope and pray will serve that purpose.

Topics will vary widely from day to day and week to week, so you can always be sure to find matters of interest to you. I warmly invite you to comment on the blog entries and to share your wisdom on the topics addressed. Let’s work together to create a place where the Christian life is celebrated, and where Christian growth is encouraged!

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