Monday, October 5, 2020

How To Hear From The Lord




I am not very good about being disciplined, when it comes to reading the Bible.


Oh, I have a Bible reading plan on my phone. And I read it for awhile, then start skipping days… here….and there.


I listen to sermons via podcast, and when life is “normal”, I try to attend church more often…than I don’t.


I listen to Christian music in addition to my “non-Christian” music.


I pray.


These things keep me focused on being and acting, along the lines of what I believe.  But they are not God’s Word directly. Not all of them. 


I heard someone say once that we rely on God’s people (pastors, bible study leaders, christian authors, etc) to tell us what to believe and think when it comes to being a Christian. But it’s filtered. We are asking God’s words to come to us THROUGH someone else. And that’s not bad. Except if that’s ALL and the ONLY place that we hear from the Lord.


I actually read a little of God’s Word this morning. HIS word. From the Bible. Not through and filtered from someone else. And do you know what I read?


In Joshua 1 verse 8, God says “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”



MEDITATE ON IT DAY AND NIGHT.


Now how many of us do that?


If we go to church, maybe a sermon here and there sticks with us. But even then, do we meditate on it?


If we are training for a marathon, we meditate on our runs, our eating, our everything. 


If we are preparing for a big presentation at work, throwing a big wedding together, planning a huge cross-country trip - we dwell on it. We plan for it. We think about it all day. We go purchase the things we will need. We are “all about it.”


Yet we don’t do that with God’s Word. Most of us don’t anyways.


So how can we expect to hear from Him? Why do we complain and say, “I never know what God wants me to do. He is silent.”


Why do we WISH we had the kind of faith life and evidence of God in it as someone else? (Maybe they actually open their Bible).


Friends - I’m just as guilty. And I’m convicted.


The Lord means everything to me. EVERYTHING. And I can see in the world today, how His time of coming is growing nearer and nearer. Am I prepared? Are you?


Do I battle fear over what is going on, or do I feel peace knowing He’s got it in His hands? 


Do I know what He’s said? Do I see the signs around me? It would be hard to see them if I never took the time to read them in His Holy Word!


MEDITATE ON IT DAY AND NIGHT.


If we say we believe in Him - why do we not make the effort, take the time, and actually saturate our lives with Him?


You can’t expect to finish a marathon if you haven’t trained for it.


You won’t know what to say for your presentation at work, if you didn’t study.


The same is true for being a Christian believer.


We need to KNOW God’s Word. BELIEVE in God’s Word. READ God’s Word. Ponder it. Digest it. Learn it. Listen to it.


And watch our lives change because of it. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

Are You a "Joseph?"







Things are unfair. 


I don’t know about you, but I really struggle with things being unfair. I want to whine like a little girl, “But that’s sooooo unnffaaaiiiir!” I think I internally hope and expect for someone to fix it. I’ve quickly learned life doesn’t quite work that way – as much as I’d prefer it to.

Sometimes life simply stinks.

I think, “Don’t they know how wrong they are being?” or “If they could only get to know me or my child, (or fill-in-the-blank) they’d feel so badly that this happened to us! Again – not the case.

Not everyone likes me. Not everyone likes my kids, or my family. Or they do like us, but they have their own interests in mind and are prioritizing something that matters more to them.

Life hurts.

When my daughter was in high school, something that our family thought was unfair happened to her. We thought she got a really raw deal in a certain situation. It wasn’t the first time, and I was just upset about it all. I did my thing – trying to fix it for her. No go. Then I got angry. Then I pouted. Then I went to the Lord (which of course I should have done in the first place.) God softened my heart and helped me get to the point where I saw that I needed to help my daughter process and grow in this unfair situation, instead of focusing so much on my own feelings, and how I was “ticked” about what had occurred.

He brought “Joseph” to my mind. 

Joseph from the Bible. Heard the story many times. Took it in and let it flow right back on out. Until God showed me how to apply it to that very moment and situation.

I talked to my daughter and I was able to share with her how I felt God wanted her to handle this particular situation. 

I told her that some things are unfair. Very unfair. But I asked her if she remembered the story of Joseph. I said, “Do you remember how Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery?”  I proceeded to tell her how Joseph didn’t deserve that. It was unfair. Many things in Joseph’s life were unfair. Prison was unfair. But Joseph did the best he could in each situation. He flourished in each position he entered into. He continued to be the best he could be, even though he didn’t deserve to be there. And God rewarded him.  We all know how Joseph ended up working for the king, resulting in him saving his brothers and family from starvation.

Joseph turned lemons into lemonade. He didn’t go looking for a reward. He didn’t strive for “better.” He simply did the best where he was, and with what he had. 

That’s what God asks of us. Sometimes we are “Joseph’s.” We are in a place, a situation, or a role that isn’t fair. But we need to flourish where we are, for God has a reason for us being there. We need to have integrity, honor, and pride in who we are as God’s servants – and be faithful.

This was the lesson I shared with my daughter on that day.

I think it helped somewhat. I know it helped me. I’ve not soon forgotten that lesson, and I’ve brought it up several times since that day. For I’m reminded that God knows where I am, and what I’m going through. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a prison, a desert, school, or a home where things are hard and unfair. I need to give my all and BE my all for the Lord.

For if I’m faithful to God He will be faithful to me.

How many other Bible “stories” could help us in our today’s and our “now’s?” How many of them do we overlook?

When their lessons are so deep, so relevant, and so powerful.


SO timely.


Joseph was there for us on that day. Maybe he can be there for you, too.

Monday, August 10, 2020

It's Far Better to Bend, Than to Break

 


To Bend.


God requires a lot of bending from me. In fact, I sometimes feel like I will forever be in a “bent” posture. (I know this isn’t so – but it feels that way.)


My pride so often needs to be bent. My dreams need to be bent. My will. My wishes. My planning. My control. All need to bend. To make room for God to work. 


Bending is painful. It’s not fun. Even if it’s not painful, it’s painful emotionally because a lot of times you are crying over what you feel is unfair. Unspoken. Unmet.


It’s about sacrifice. Letting go. Giving in. Giving up.


And this is life we are talking about here. Not everything has a fairy tale ending. Just because you bend and give something up doesn’t mean a better outcome will take its place. No. Sometimes things are still left unfair. Unsettled. 


But I’ve learned that it’s far better to bend – than to break.
Especially out of disobedience. 


If I hear God whispering to my heart; prompting me and I ignore Him? He will bring me to my knees quicker than I can say my own name. He’s so good at that. Humbling me. Making me see that obedience is far better than willful stubbornness. 


I can hold onto my own agenda. My own control. My own loss. But it gets me nowhere.


So I bend. Sometimes out of love for my Lord. Sometimes out of fear. Sometimes because I know I have no alternative. Sometimes bending is a last resort for me. And then I see how I wish I would have come to it much sooner.


A piece of glass that is bent turns into a beautiful piece of artwork.  As am I. I am God’s artwork. Only He can see the results of the process. 


I might not get what I humanly want.  But yet I’m still richer inside. Softer. Genuine. Generous. I gain more than I lose when I bend. For it’s about my soul. My eternity. And maybe someone else’s as well.


If I could only take my eyes off of myself. The bending would come so much more naturally. Freely.


So I continue to learn in my bending.  And I continue to bend. For there is no other way if I want God to be Lord of my life.


It may hurt. I may fight it. But I am being molded. Shaped.


I can’t wait to see the results of God’s handiwork on my life.

Monday, July 13, 2020

What Sets You Apart?




We all feel the need and desire to be accepted. Everyone wants to feel like who they are is given the stamp of “approval” by others.

I think it’s human nature.

It can be hard for us, to feel different. To have any part of our lives that others don’t understand - or look at, as weird, strange, or even laughable.

And yet - that is what God has called us to. 


Psalm 4:3: Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.


2 Corinthians 6:17: Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you.


Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.


1 John 2:15-16: Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.


This very issue seems so simple, and yet it is profoundly HARD.

Not conforming or allowing our values, principles, habits, and even standards to bend to what is acceptable in society - is HARD. We have to be very intentional about recognizing what things we have allowed to slip into society’s standards, instead of God’s.

Some things are not outright wrong. They are not sinful. And yet - by partaking in them, we still cause others to think and see that we are no different than the rest of the world. Bad? Harmful? It may not seem like it - but it’s harmful to God’s kingdom, because it is damaging the very thing He has asked of us… “to be different.”

In the quest to make our churches “cool and hip”;  in the quest to still be adored by society, and in the desire to always have a good image… what have we sacrificed in the process? We have pushed aside our quest to be “holy”, our desire to be “accountable only to God”, and our ability to have wisdom and discernment about what is BEST for our lives and our walk with Him.

Things may not be outright sinful - but should they still be allowed in our lives? If we allow them in, are we “set apart” or are we just like everyone else?

There are many controversial subjects about what a Christian should and shouldn’t do. The question when considering something that isn’t clearly defined in Scripture should always be, “Will this hinder anyone from coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ?” Does it “set me apart as a believer?” We should ask that question when it comes to what we eat and drink, what we wear - everything.

The issue may seem small to you. Reading a dirty romance novel, or some other issue isn’t a salvation issue. But it may be an issue to someone else watching you. For we never know what others think or feel, or what may be a trigger issue for them, as far as something even as simple as coming to church.

There is no disputing that MORE is expected out of us. And if we take our Lord, our faith, and our salvation seriously - then we need to be intentional about what we allow in our lives.

If we don’t take it seriously, if we are not intentional about it - then we are just like everyone else. And we are not “set apart.” We are not separate, like God commands, and asks us to be.

It might be time to purge and “spring clean” our habits, our homes, and our lives. It just might be time to look for those things we don’t really need to partake or participate in. Things that pull us away from the Lord and only draw us deeper into the things of the world.

May others see HIM in us. Not because we are like them, but because we are “set apart” drawing them into our presence, and HIS.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Not Every Family





Not every family plays games together.


Not every family has traditions, legacies, or heirlooms to pass down.

Not every kid grows up in a home where they see mom and dad laugh together, kiss, cuddle, or hug. Some only see fights.


Not every family talks. Some actually, don’t talk at all. 


Not every family says “I love you,” “I believe in you,” you’re a wonderful person,” or even hugs.


Not every child knows the benefit of having rules and boundaries. Most children may not like rules, but at least they know they usually come with love and wisdom from mom and dad. Some children CRAVE having a parent care enough, to lay down some rules!


There is a world full of families. It can be easy to assume that families and children are all the same. That they all have good homes. 


We can overlook the fact that not every child is safe when they are at home. Whether that is physically, or emotionally.


We all grew up in different kinds of families. Some of us shared often, while others of us were lucky to get an “I love you” tossed our way every few years. And how we grew up, impacts how we see the world, and how we feel about ourselves.


Whether or not we grew up in a healthy, solid family - we can still grow one of our own. 


We can play games with our kids. Love, encourage, and cheer them on in their activities. 


We can take lots of pictures. Listen. And do things together.


Not every family has dinner together. And not every family knows kindness. But YOURS can.


YOUR family can be generous. 


YOUR kids can be respectful.


YOUR home can welcome in other hurting hearts.


It’s your choice.


If you wish you’d come from a family that loved on each other WELL… if you wish you HAD a family NOW that loves on each other well… then start moving in that direction.


Start today. And your whole family dynamic can shift and impact generations to follow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

You Can't Love the Holes Out of Someone's Life





We all have people in our lives who disappoint us.  It may be our siblings, our spouse, our parents, coworkers, or friends.


Usually, it’s someone we deal with closely. USUALLY, it’s a family member. 


Because we care so much about them, it hurts all the more, when they let us down.


I don’t know what it is, but it feels like for most of us, we feel like we can just “love them better.”  It’s as if we are trying to overcompensate for the holes they have personally in their own character, attitude, and life. We feel like if we just showed them love more often, were more vocal or interactive or… whatever… that the relationship would improve.


If…. “WE” did something better… then “THEY” would no longer disappoint us, fail us, neglect us, or hurt us.


Loving is the greatest gift we can give ANYONE. Grace, mercy, forgiveness.. invaluable. They can heal so many wounds and hurts. But if someone CONTINUALLY hurts and disappoints - nothing WE do, will make up for that.


In fact, if we vow to only try harder, do more, and ignore the fact that some healthy boundaries need to be put up (yes - even in close family relationships) we are only fueling the fact that we will continue to be disappointed, let down, and hurt.


People have to decide for themselves that someone is a priority to them.


We can love to the best of our abilities, but some people will just take advantage of that.


We CANNOT love enough to change someone. Oh, how I wish we could! And I’m not saying to stop loving someone. I am, however, saying there are times where love needs to show different action in the face of habitual behavior.


Sometimes, instead of doing MORE, we need to do LESS. And that is the most loving thing we can do for a relationship.


Sometimes, instead of ignoring an action, or behavior, (and calling it love), we need to call someone on it.


Sometimes, instead of giving, and giving, and giving, and giving - we need to let go. And let God address what needs to be addressed. This can be SO HARD, when you are in close proximity with the person who disappoints you. It can be painful.  But no one can move a heart like God can. No one can get someone to WANT to improve or be a better man or woman, than God can.


We cannot love the inadequacies out of someone else.  We can only simply love. And sometimes that means protecting others in our lives from those very hurtful inadequacies. It means distancing yourself, so that that other individual might gain the space and time to realize they miss you. They want you in their life. And that they’ve taken you for granted.


We allow ourselves to be used. To be taken for granted. All in the name of love.  But love is not weak. It is strong. Yes, it’s patient. Yes, it’s kind. But it’s also long-suffering and it has self-control. Those two qualities might have to come in the form of saying, “enough, I will not enable you anymore in your unhealthy habits.”


Love is so powerful. It is so beautiful. But it also has great strength. True love for someone else, might mean removing yourself from the equation of filling those unhealthy holes in THEIR life, and letting them continue.


We will continue to be disappointed by people. But we don’t have to continue to place ourselves as a target.


Love. Love well. But know when to love well by saying, “I won’t be your excuse for not changing anymore.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Love Is Everything



Love.

Think about it. It’s everywhere.

It’s in the tears that fall from someone’s eyes when we have hurt them, or when they are so burdened for another; that they bring them to the Lord in prayer - over and over and over again. It’s in the tears that fall when that someone dies, or gets hurt.

Love is in the unspoken things that are done for each other. Things like buying our spouse’s favorite brand of cereal or chips.

Ironing their shirt. 

Love is in the music that grips our heart because it reminds us of a certain time and place - shared with someone close to our heart. And it exists in every beat.

It’s in the smells that remind us of a meal lovingly made for us, when we were growing up. It’s in the scent of the cologne or perfume, that lingered long after we were hugged.  

Love is in so many things. The clean sheets and blankets our mama tucked us into, at bed at night. The handwritten note we kept in our closet for years. The dried flower left over from that special occasion. The awkward knick-knack our child gave us when they were a toddler.

It’s all around us. It’s in us. Beside us. In front of us and behind us.
It’s the greatest gift God has ever given us, and we are capable of heaping it into the hearts and souls of those around us. We can give it again and again. We can grow it. We can BE it.

Love.

Love can fuel us, if we let it. I know for me…. it’s what I wake up each morning wanting to feel. What I want to give.

I live for it. I long for it.

To me, love is feeling connected to someone else through a hug, a gift, or a few words of appreciation. It’s seeing the expressions of laughter, adoration, camaraderie, and joy in being together - when you look at a photograph.

I don’t know how people live without knowing the feeling of love in their hearts, and in their life.

A resonating example of love that has always stuck with me - is a video clip I saw of Princess Diana once.  She had been away from her boys, and they were coming to see her after she had just returned. They were running to her, and she stretched open her arms as far as she could. And just waited for them to run into them.

That visual has always stayed with me.

That is how I try to live my life. With arms outstretched. I want those I love to be able to run into them. To feel my love. To know my love. 

And - because my Lord and Savior is love…I feel HIM when I’m either giving or receiving it. And it’s the greatest feeling in the world. 

I never want to live outside of that feeling.

I want to be known for my love. Not just for my family (but OH YES, I want my GREAT love to be known for my family.) But, I also want to be known for my great love for my Lord. 

For my country. 

For the hurting, the lost, the forgotten, and the ill.

You see…love IS. 

Love WAS. 

And love CAN be.

It’s everything.

Reach out for it. Give it. 

Embrace it.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Who Do You Let Shape You?



It occurs to me, how much of who we are - is defined by others.  

Yes, we have our innate personality. Some of us are shy, others were born to talk.  

We have our natural tendencies, of how we wish to go about life. Some of us can’t think clearly without a room being organized and made beautiful. Others of us, don’t see why there is so much fuss given to “things.” If it’s messy - we still know where our things are! 

And yet those things, as real as they are to how we go about and live our lives - aren’t the things I’m thinking of today. No, I’m thinking of those other very REAL things that shape who we are.

Those things that are wound up in emotion. They exist in layers of our heart and soul. Very tender spots that exist so closely to the surface of our thoughts and feelings - yet so very buried to everyone else around us.

The people in our lives may have no clue as to what truly shapes us…. Or who.

There are words said long, long ago - that we still recite in our hearts and minds every morning when we get up.   For some of us, those words are similar to, “you are worthless,” “stupid”, “you idiot”, “you’re not good enough”, or the lack of important words at all.  We craved to hear “I love you”, and so we don’t feel loved, because we weren’t told we were worthy of it.  We crave to hear “I’m so proud of you,” and so we feel incapable, because we don’t know what it feels like to have someone place pride in us for who we are.

If we are blessed, we wake up each morning and recite words like, “you are beautiful,” “you matter,” “you are loved,” “you are a delight,” and “you are worthy.”

Words. Always associated with deep feelings.

And they shape who we are. They shape how we feel about ourselves. They shape our view of the world.

The thing is - whether we are in the “blessed” camp, or the camp where we beat ourselves up with words said from someone in anger, bitterness, or from their own hurt… we forget our own power in our lives. We forget we have the POWER to reject or accept someone else’s words and label of who we are.

None of us wants to waste our life. But some of us DO.  We just can’t seem to overcome the fact that God has a plan for who we are. AS we are. We have let the unkind words so seep into our skin, that we believe them. We believe the nonsense thrown at us from someone who really isn’t in the position to be judge and jury.

YOU - CAN - SHAPE - YOU.

You CAN be beautiful. As you are.

You CAN be worthy. As you are.

You CAN be loved. And you DO have a brain.

Don’t let someone else define and shape who you will be, unless it’s something good. 

You were no accident. And just because there are people in our lives who don’t understand us, don’t love us, or don’t believe in us, doesn’t mean they are right in their assessment of us.

Because EVERYONE is worthy of those things. EVERYONE.

So when you wake up tomorrow morning, and you recite words in your heart and soul as you begin your day… why don’t you dump a few? Replace them with words from people who you know TRULY care about you. And say those things over and over until they become habit.

And you start shaping your future to be the one you are worthy of having.