But…

I knew it was coming…

It was that time in the school year.  Time to teach conjunctions to my students (for those who aren’t quite sure–a conjunction puts two parts of a sentence together).  I wrote this on the board:

F

A

N

B

O

Y

S

FANBOYS is an acronym used to teach conjunctions.  Each letter stands for a conjunction.  I started writing words in to accompany each letter: F-For, A-And, N-Nor.  And then, I had to write the word.  I prepped my brain and my response as I wrote:  B-But.

Now to elementary students, the word “but” is just funny.  It brings about snickers pretty much every time it is used in this kind of context.

This time was no exception.

I turned to my class after I wrote “but” and said, “OK, let’s all giggle because of this word. It isn’t spelled like what you are sitting on, but (smile, smile) I understand that it’s a funny word. Let’s get those laughs out so we can move on.”

After a few more chuckles and some sideways glances as they snickered, we finally went through the rest of the list (in case you are curious:  O-Or, Y-Yet, S-So.)  We discussed how each word could be used to join two parts of a sentence.

Since my sweethearts so loved the word, I decided to spend a bit more time on “but” (did you grin?). We talked about when we see “but” in a sentence, it means that whatever comes after it will be a contrasting idea:  for example–The little boy wanted ice cream, but he was just too sleepy to eat it.  I then let them come up with “but” sentences to share with a partner, and on we went with the rest of the day…

(And so concludes your grammar lesson for today!!)

It’s funny how things like that stick in my head.  Recently I have been quite attuned to the “but’s” in the Bible.  I have even found myself grinning like a child when I read the word at times.  But (hehe), when that word is found in the Bible, what follows could be a good thing or a not-so-good thing.

Take a look at these examples:

Genesis 50:20–“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Numbers 22:12– “But God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.”

Deuteronomy 18:14–“The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so.”

Judges 6:10–“I said to you, ‘I am the Lord your God; do not worship the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you live.’ But you have not listened to me.”

1 Samuel 23:14–“David stayed in the wilderness strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.”

Psalm 20:7–“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Mark 10:27–“Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Luke 18:16–“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

Acts 12:5–“So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.”

Romans 5:8–“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”   I’ll just insert a, “Thank you, Jesus!!” right here!!

I could go on and on.  When I did a search on Biblegateway.com, I came up with six-hundred, twelve references for “but God” alone!  Please feel free to look up these verses in context to dive deeper into their meanings.

Our Lord used conjunctions in His divine inspiration of the Word.  We should pay attention to what’s before and behind them, specifically the “B” in our FANBOYS.

So what should we do with all the times we find the word “but” when we are reading our Bible?  Some scholars suggest boxing it in, so your eyes will pay more attention to it.  That’s great, but unless you are attuned with really studying why that word is there, you may lose some of its rich and important meaning.

In our word today, a lot of people read the Bible on an app–think about highlighting “but”, and also highlighting the contrasting ideas.  You will be amazed I hope, as I have been, to see just how much God draws our attention to an action and then contrasts it with another.  “But” is a tiny word, but (haha) its meaning is huge–we see it especially as we search the Scriptures for answers on how to live our lives as modern Christians.

So today, as you read your Bible (and I hope you have a plan to do that–if not, biblegateway.com has reading plans available), keep your eyes open for our tiny, yet powerful word of the day.  You may want to hurry through your reading, but… if you’ll slow down just a bit and remember what we’ve discussed today, you may find the Scriptures much more meaningful.

Be a Scripture Searcher–and discover the many, many ways God has used a three-letter word to convey some of His most dramatic truths.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorites:

atone

 

 

 

 

 

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Crippled…

You could have knocked me over with a feather…

It was true, I didn’t see this person every day.

But nothing prepared me for what I saw.  Instead of the tall, healthy, full-of-life person I was expecting, I found myself face to face with someone hardly recognizable.  Gone was the lively man I knew–in his place stood a tired, drawn up shell of a man.  Shuffling as he walked alongside my mother, it was then that I realized how frail my dad was becoming.  This terrible disease was crippling him; both on the inside, and the outside.

That day will live in my mind forever as the day my dad became…sick.

The disease crippled him in his mental outlook, and in his ability to go and do the things he once did.  It was taking him from me, slowly but surely.  Though he would not lose his mobility, in essence he lost a lot of what made Daddy…Daddy.    Little by little we lost a bit here, a bit there, until one day he lay in bed gasping for breath, waiting for the “all clear” to meet his Jesus.  When his time on earth was finished, he met his Jesus and soared off to an eternity in heaven.  My dad is crippled no more…

But what about those of us here on earth?  Some of us may be literally crippled– struggling to take those precious steps to the kitchen, to the mailbox, to the grocery store. Some of us may be figuratively crippled–struggling to take action in our relationships, our jobs, our ministries.  Being crippled can take all sorts of shapes and be brought on by all sorts of events.  Crippled doesn’t always refer to a difficulty with the legs…

I read a story recently in Luke 13:10-17.  Please take a moment and read it, because it is an awesome story.  The paraphased-by-me version goes like this:  Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath.  The religious leaders of the time didn’t like Him or anyone doing ANYTHING on that day.  There was a lady in the crowd who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years (wow!).  She was all bent over and couldn’t stand up straight.  Jesus saw her and said, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity!” (v. 12).  He laid his hands on her and she stood up straight immediately.  Well, those religious leaders were all in a huff because He had done such a thing on the Sabbath.  Jesus called them hypocrites (not the first time nor the last time he did that!), and asked them if they untied their donkeys on the Sabbath and led them out for water? (Of course they did, and He knew it).  You gotta hear these words from Jesus:  “Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (v. 16)  You can imagine how those leaders felt then!

Think about it ladies.  Eighteen years of being crippled, of looking at the world from a different perspective, of not being able to straighten up.  Such a long time to be bound by satan.

My mind goes to situations in my life when, though not for eighteen years, satan has crippled me.  Fighting for years the call of Jesus in my heart, all because I thought becoming a Christian meant living by rules that would only stifle me. Resisting ministry opportunities because I believed I didn’t have what it took to be an effective leader (side note–I didn’t have it, but my Jesus had it all covered).  Believing the lies whispered to my soul–“you aren’t good enough”

“You aren’t pretty enough.”             “You aren’t exciting enough.”       “No one will love you.”

                                “You might as well give in–he’ll like you so much more if you do.”

“No one will want to be your friend.”    

And oh, the destructive reactions I had to those.

And the one whispered over and over that I credit with prompting my most hurtful responses–“Jesus could never love someone as worthless, useless, dirty, and incapable, as you.”

Crippled.  That’s how I’ve been during portions of my life. I didn’t see my life the way I should have.  I didn’t see those opportunities as blessings.  I didn’t see myself as a beloved child of God.

And my sweet, if you were honest, you would probably find you’ve been there, too.

Oh my friend, even after we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are still soooo very vulnerable to attacks from our enemy.  You see, it is when we take those steps with Jesus that our enemy swoops in.  He looks to cripple us so we cannot continue to walk the path that has been set before us through Christ.  Make us doubt, make us stumble, or maybe even in ways we don’t recognize…cause us to withdraw from friendships, ministries, life.

Crippled Christians.  Wounded, weary, worn-out.  Perfect prey for the enemy…

It doesn’t have to end there, my sweet.  Remember our story?  Jesus didn’t leave that woman crippled…nope, He saw her and untied her from her burdens that had weighed her down so long.

Did you get that?  Jesus saw her.  He sees you, and me.  He knows what we’re dealing with, how we have been crippled through our own or others actions.  Our inability to stand straight is not trivial to Jesus–hear me, my dear–He wants to untie us from what keeps us stooped over.  He wants us to stand straight.

Standing straight.  Looking ahead.  With some weight on our shoulders, but not an overpowering, crippling load.  Matthew 11:28 is such a wonderful picture for those of us who feel crippled by the burdens on our backs…come to me

No more crippled.  No more stooped over.  No more seeing life through the perspective of someone who is overwhelmed.  No more…

My sweet, I have come face to face with my crippled status.  I don’t want to be that way anymore.  Will you join me in giving these things that cripple us, that weary us, that overload us, to the One Who will carry all our burdens?  Will you allow Jesus to free you from what binds you?  If so, pray this prayer with me:

Lord Jesus, thank You.  Thank You for showing me why I feel so tired, so worthless, so insignificant, so ill-equipped.  I know now that my enemy is doing his best to cripple me–and I’ve allowed him to do so.  But no more.  I come to You, my sweet Savior, and lay all of those things that want to cripple me, at Your feet.  I am weary and so burdened.  I need Your rest, Lord.  Free me from these things that cause me to be stooped over.  Stop the whispers that cause me to doubt.  Give me the strength to stand straight up and walk in the goodness of You.  I love You, Lord, and I pray these things in the strong and mighty name of Jesus.  Amen.

If You prayed this, would you mind praying this for me as well?

May we stand straight, bound no more, in the fullness of Jesus!

 

 

 

 

 

Off…

 

I had a commercial-worthy event happen to me recently.

I was enjoying a relaxing day beside a crystal-clear river in Western Montana (Little Blackfoot River).  The sun was shining, the water was glistening, the birds were chirping…and the bugs were annoying.

Super annoying.

So, being prepared for this, I pulled out my trusty can of bug protector (deflector?) and sprayed myself, my chair, my clothes…well, you get the idea.  Yep, I was good to go.

As I sat back in my oh-so-comfy lounge chair, I happened to look up.  There, above me ten feet or so, circled a lot of bugs.

A LOT!!

I thought about how well my bug spray was doing its’ job.  It was like I was inside a protecting bubble, looking out at all those bugs just waiting for an opportunity to attack (can you see it in your head?  It would make an awesome commercial—please contact me if you’re in the advertising business.  I will gladly go back to that location to recreate the event!!)

BVWF off by the river

 

That bubble of protection got me thinking about God.  Through His grace, I am protected from an eternity in hell.  Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, I am protected from an abundance of bad decisions by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the difference between the bug spray bubble and the God bubble:  eventually, the bug spray bubble pops.  The bugs find their way in.  My protection is gone—until I make another spray of me and my area (which as I wrote this—I just did!!).  It’s a constant re-apply—it doesn’t last long.

Contrast that with my God bubble.  Once I accept Jesus as my Savior, my “heaven bubble” is set.  No more checking to see if it still “works.”  I am firmly set in Jesus’ hands for all eternity—John 10:28 says, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand..”  With Jesus as my Lord, the Holy Spirit lives in me, guiding me in decisions and every day life.  Yes, there are times when I choose not to listen to His wisdom—but He never leaves me or stops giving me the words I need.  Hear the words from John 14:16:  “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate (the Holy Spirit) to help you and be with you forever.”  My Holy Spirit bubble never pops.

Notice, my friend, that I didn’t say my God bubble protects me from temptation, satan’s attacks, or difficult times.  My human heart would love that to be the case.  I do know, however, that God will not allow me to be tempted by more than I can handle.

no temptation

I certainly cannot expect to be exempt from satan’s attacks—even the Son of God was attacked and tempted; Matthew 4:1 shows us, “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  And we think we have difficult times?  So did the apostles and early believers—they were spreading Jesus fame everywhere and were not immune to hard times (Acts 17:6 says, “These men who have caused trouble all over the world,” and Acts 24:5 reads, “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world.”)  We will have troubles as Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.”  Look my friend, at the second part of this verse: “But take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world.”  That, my sweet, is where the God bubble truly kicks in.  We, as children of God, are victorious at the end—maybe not always in ways we can see here on earth, but the final victory awaits.

So today, enjoy life in your God bubble.  Stop looking outside at earthly things, wanting them or believing they will satisfy.  Thank God for His protection, for keeping your safe from so many dangers and temptations.  And stand strong.  Like the bugs outside my bug bubble waiting to attack, our enemy will take even the smallest window of opportunity and use it to shake your faith–remember John 10:10a–“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

Stand tall, and tell your enemy, STAY OFF!  You are protected by the Almighty God!!

Drift…

I am married to a drifter…

Not the kind that goes from town to town looking for poor, helpless souls to swindle.

Nope.

My man is a highway drifter.

Perhaps you’ve seen one:  while driving, the drifter goes from the yellow line to the white line to the yellow line to the white line.

Yep, that’s my man.

(Just to clarify, it doesn’t happen all the time!) It usually happens when we are driving through a particularly scenic location.  You know, there are just sooooo many things to see in this great land–and sometimes, that seeing results in the car veering to the side on which he is looking (or the opposite side, it just depends!).

We haven’t had a drifting accident–though there have been a few close calls with mailboxes and ditches…

Anyway, on one such drifting occasion, after I shook my head in a judgmental way and not quite believing drifting had happened again, God placed some thoughts in my head, some surprising thoughts.

God told me that I was a drifter, too (cue the serious music–duh,duh, dum!).

Not the swindling kind or the driving kind.

Nope, mine is a different kind.

My drifter-ness has happened gradually–I have found myself drifting from God.

Let me set the scene:  once I was deeply involved in ministry at my church.  Once I only listened to Christian music on the radio.  Once I attended church regularly.  Once I wrote on this blog weekly, and studied the Bible constantly in order to do that writing.  Once I found great joy in fellow-shipping with other believers.  Once I had a close, healthy relationship with Jesus.  Once…

Do you see the picture?

These were activities that I enjoyed, activities that were meaningful, activities that brought me closer to God.  Why on earth would I drift away from them?

One answer–I didn’t notice because it all happened so gradually.  Drift…

You know, the ministry is going fine without me.  It’s time for me to step back.  Drift…

You know how much I love music–this is music from my younger days.  They are such catchy songs, and I enjoy thinking about where I was and what I was doing.  And, I know all the words…  Drift…

You know, I’ve had a rough week (a tiring week, a frustrating week, a great week).  It won’t hurt to stay home from church this week.  Drift…

You know, no one really reads what I write anyway.  It will be good for me to take the break.  Drift…

You know, there will be plenty of people at that gathering.  They won’t miss me, and I can get some things done at home.  Drift…

You know, my relationship with Jesus is just fine.  There are no problems at all… Drift.

What was happening in my life was similar to what happens to my man.  There are so many things to see, so many temptations, so many activities…that I let my heart and soul follow in the same direction that I was looking.  I never even realized it…

…until that day in the truck…when God spoke words to my soul that I never thought I’d hear.

You (me) have taken your eyes off Me (God).

Interestingly enough, I had recently attended a church service where the pastor used Colossians 3:2 as part of his text.  The words stirred something in my heart even then (now I know why). Take a look…

set

That verse came rushing back to me.  I had fallen short, very short, of these words.  And another verse also came to mind during that service and again in the truck…

fixing

My sweet, I had moved my focus away from God. I had stopped setting my mind on heavenly things.  I had stopped fixing my eyes on Jesus.

I had drifted… not consciously, but little by little, I moved…

I wish I could tell you that after those moments of realization and repentance came a wonderfully new outlook on life.   Yes, there were some great moments of “Ah-ha!”, but there are still areas where I am struggling to switch my focus.

That’s the thing about drifting…when you do it, sometimes it’s so much easier to just stay in that lane, in that train of thought, in that activity (or non-activity) pattern.

I am more aware of what has been happening, though I am not sure exactly how to stop it in some areas of my life.  Some changes are easy–listen to more praise music, start attending church regularly, find time to write at least once a week, move closer to Jesus through study.  I praise God for showing me the drift, and I have started to implement those fixes. The two hardest areas, ministry and fellowship, were the ones where drifting didn’t really bother me as much.  Those I think will be harder to “fix.”  I just have to remember our verses– set my heart on heavenly things and fix my eyes on Jesus.   Maybe that drifting had to happen with those two in order to show me new ways to serve and be involved with people, new methods to “set” and “fix.”  I wait to see…

Meanwhile, my dear, I urge you take a good look at your life.  Are you drifting in areas that you aren’t even aware?  Could you be moving away from God in subtle, gradual ways?  If so, please take my experience to heart.  Study these Scriptures that God used in my life, and apply them to yours.  Go to Him and have a real heart-to-heart about the health of your heart.

 It will be hard to hear, it will be tough to acknowledge, it will be difficult to believe.  

But it will only be then that you, and me, can begin to move away from being a drifter and move forward as a sold-out follower, with a heart focused on heavenly things and eyes fixed on Jesus.

And that’s really what we are called to be.

 

 

Zoned out…

I zoned out recently.zoned-out

Totally.  Completely.  Like how did I get here-zoned out.

And I was driving.

Scary, I know!

I cannot describe to you the brief, yet completely unnerving feeling I had when my brain finally kicked back into the present–and I had to figure out where I was versus where I needed to be.

Yep, zoned waaaaayyyy out!

I wish I could tell you that I was having a deep, spiritual conversation with my Lord.  Or that I was talking to someone with my nifty hands-free set-up in the vehicle. Or that I was simply distracted by something I saw.

But…that isn’t the case.

What I was thinking and doing for those few minutes is and probably always will be a mystery.

As I said…scary!

After I recovered from my trip to the dark recesses of my mind, I had a chance to reflect on what happened (after I got out of the vehicle, of course!!)

How did that happen?   Where did my thoughts go?   Why can’t I remember any of it?   Should I be concerned?

Sadly, I got no answers.  Instead, my Jesus led me in a different direction…not one I expected.

He turned it around to my soul.  I started thinking of my spiritual self of late.

I’ve been doing a great Bible study, I spend time with Jesus each morning, and I read the Word every day.  Still, I sometimes find myself wondering what to do in certain areas of my life–how did that happen?  

How can I feel so connected to God, yet sometimes feel like I’m not walking in the way He wants me to walk? There are moments when I question the very things I know I shouldn’t.  Where did my thoughts go?

In my lowest moments, I hear the whispers of my enemy telling me I’m not good enough.  Telling me I won’t be missed.  Telling me I’ll never reach the student who needs me the most.  Instead of hearing the promises of my Savior, instead of thinking of His faithfulness–why can’t I remember any of it?

Should I be concerned?  Have I zoned out in my relationship with Jesus?

My friend, that heart-to-heart with my Lord has been one of the greatest encounters I have had with Him.  In His sweet yet firm way, He pointed out so many truths to me.  Truths I had overlooked.  Truths I had taken for granted.  Truths of which I had head-knowledge, but not heart knowledge.  I hadn’t zoned out in my relationship, but I had started to move Him out of the equation in some areas of my life.  Scary!

Can you relate to having head-knowledge about God, but not heart-knowledge?

Sweetheart, it’s OK.  God used this crazy out-of-my-head occurrence to bring a real truth into my life–and He can do the same with you (hopefully without the experience I had!)  All you have to do is be open to His voice, ready for His leading.  Ask Him to show you a new truth about Him.  Then, hang on!  I can promise you that it will be a ride that you won’t forget!

Those questions, as hard as they were to hear and think about, actually have guided me back into a more fulfilling relationship with God.  Yes, there are still questions swirling around (aren’t there always??), but that peace that truly only comes from God is now front and center in my life and heart.  I know He is moving in my circumstances, I believe He is straightening the paths, I have no doubt that He is working.  All those revelations and heart-knowing truths from one brief zoned out moment??  You bet!  My God doesn’t need a lot of time–He just needs my attention.

zone-out-focusThese verses from Philippians 3 sum up my whole zoning-out experience, subsequent God time, and renewed vision quite nicely.  Check them out!

So today, tune into God.  Stop allowing the many distractions of this world to keep you from the Lover of your soul. Move out of the driver’s seat and let God take control of your life (yes, my sweet, it is a decision we have to make every moment to let God be in control).  When you stop zoning out in your relationship with Christ, you can start focusing more on those things He wants to give you–protection, provision, peace, patience, love, joy, kindness… the list goes on and on.  All you have to do, friend, is look, see, be, know, and experience.

Stop zoning out!  Become fully sold out to Jesus! Get on the right track–and stay on it!!!

 

 

Refreshed…

I love a good water feature!

Check out these pics of some of the amazing ones I’ve seen with my man on our adventures…

img_0157      img_2235montana-water     morrow-mountain-water

Yep, I’m a real crazy woman about water features…

As my man, our dog, and I were hiking recently, God was speaking to me as He usually does in these times. With the accompaniment of a lovely water feature in the background, He started talking with me about water.  He started talking to me a lot about water (and it isn’t necessarily the best thing to do when you are hiking 7 miles without the modern-day convenience of a bathroom…but I digress…)

My sweet, I was walking alongside a water feature created by my Creator, and He was speaking to my heart about water–but not just any water.  Oh no, this water can make a difference in a life…an eternal difference…

Remember the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman in John 4?  He asked her for a drink of water, but then moved away from the physical water to the spiritual water.  Jesus told her, “If you knew the gift of God and Who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water” (John 4:10).  I’m sure this probably messed with the woman’s mind–living water? What?

But Jesus didn’t leave her to wonder–check out verses 13 and 14 of that chapter: “Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” 

thirst-no-more

Thanks to The Radiant Wife for this awesome graphic!

Jesus was offering more than just a thirst quencher, more than a temporary fix, more than a jar that would have to continually be refilled.  He was offering her refreshment–ultimate, total, continual–refreshment.

Doesn’t that sound amazing?

Let me take you back to my hike.  I didn’t dip my toes in the water (as some of my friends love to do!), but I did put my fingers in the stream.  The water was cool, refreshing to my hand–and sooooo very soothing to my soul!  As I’ve said, I love a good water feature, and the one that babbled peacefully nearby as we walked was truly a fantastic one. There is just something about water that calms my spirit, restores my peace, refreshes my entire being.  I’m not sure anything in creation even comes close to how water speaks to me…

The same can be said for the living water that Jesus referenced to the Samaritan woman… 

Friend, living water can do more for you than even the most beautiful water feature in the world.  Living water fills you, keeps on filling you, keeps on cleansing you, keeps on refreshing you–from the day you ask Jesus to be Lord of your life until the day He takes you to be with Him forever.  Living water is the Spirit of God–living inside every believer, providing guidance and cleansing and refreshment each moment of each day.

Couldn’t we all use some refreshment…

As a God-follower, that cool water that refreshed me physically also is symbolic of how Jesus refreshes me spiritually.  Spending time with Him, reading His Word, asking for His guidance, looking to Him for decision-making wisdom–all of those things and sooooo many more calm my spirit.  I don’t have to do each day alone, I don’t have to keep going back to the “well” to quench my thirst.  That living water springs up eternally in me–all I have to do is dip my fingers in the flow, settle my soul on its’ banks, listen to the melody that it sings as I rest in its’ presence.

Oh my sweet, how I pray that you can hear the song the living water sings in your heart!

If you can’t, pray.  Ask Jesus in your heart.

If you are a follower of Christ, pray.  Ask Jesus to open your heart and your spiritual ears to the rhythm of the living water in your soul.

I would advise you to take a walk by a babbling brook.  I don’t mean rush by it in your hurry to get somewhere else.  No my sweet.  Rest on its’ banks.  Dip your fingers in the flow.  Hear its’ melody deep in your soul.  Stay a while.  Stay a long while.  Let God use the physical water to stir up the spiritual water inside you.  He will make it bubble up –so much so that it has to overflow into the lives of others.  Will you let Him?  Will you listen for the sounds of the ultimate water feature?  Will you…

…live… refreshed?

 

 

Now what…??

So, what are you doing today?

Staring at the piles of gifts and boxes and bags and tissue paper?pile-of-boxes

Looking at the Christmas decorations in your house and wondering why you put up so many?

Thinking about when would be the best time to dismantle the Christmas tree?

Yes, Christmas Day is over.  The build-up and anticipation of the day has passed.  Family members may have already left.  Even your left-overs may be gone.

I hope your leftovers are gone…

After such a festive event like Christmas, you may be left with a lingering question…

Now what??

I absolutely love the month of December–at least the part that falls before December 26th.  All the craziness and chaos only adds to the specialness of Christmas day. The searching for a gift and the racking of the brain for menu ideas are things I mostly enjoy (tell me this next December when I’m going crazy again!)

And then comes December 26th.

I  experience the letdown after Christmas.

I find myself thinking…now what?

The gifts are unwrapped, the eating is done, the visits to and from my family are over, the anticipation has ended, the wonder of the season has passed…

Or has it??

My sweet, we are not supposed to feel this letdown.  Christmas Day, while it is wondrous to celebrate, isn’t the only day we are to celebrate.

As Christ followers, we should be rejoicing every day over the magnificent gift of Christ.  We should remember the awesome sacrifice He made to come to earth as a baby. We should respond to the incredible tugging at our hearts to worship Him constantly.

But we don’t do that, do we?

And because we don’t, we are left with the “now what??” thought.

 As those “now-what’s” came into my thought process, my Lord gave me this verse: Colossians 3:17–whatever

My friend, my God has once again worked on my perspective.  My “now-what” has been turned into a “continue on.”  Christmas may be over, but my love and devotion to Christ hasn’t ended.  I need to “keep on keeping on” for my Savior.  I have many “gifts” to unwrap daily.  I can shine “light”  into any situation.  I can do plenty of “decorating” within my sphere of influence.

You see, December 25th is only one day.  We have our entire lives to bask in the glory and goodness of our Savior’s love.  We can give that love to others through our actions and words.  This “season of giving” should have no end with us–as we receive forgiveness and mercy from God, we should also pour those out on the people around us.  I write that for you as well as for me, my dear.  

So…now what???  Now we step on–committing our actions and words to Jesus, and doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.  Rejoice, my sweet.  Much of the world believes that Christmas is over.  But we know better.

The celebration hasn’t ended…

…oh no, my friend.  It has only begun…

Frustrated…

I’ll go ahead and admit it–I don’t do frustration well.

Not. At. All.

I’ve been in a situation for the last few years (yes, I said years) that has caused me mostly frustration.

I know what you’re thinking–I’ve thought it too.  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I’ve tried.  I’ve been semi-successful.  I’ve been unsuccessful.  I’ve prayed.  I’ve fussed.  I’ve walked away only to return.

And to be quite frank, I’m at the point where…I’m tired of drinking lemonade.

Not exactly the kind of uplifting writing you wanted to read today, is it?

Well, my sweet…  Sometimes life isn’t uplifting.  Sometimes life is messy.  Sometimes life makes us want to stay in bed.  Sometimes life kicks you in the gut.  Sometimes life just isn’t at all the way you imagined it to be.

And sometimes…frustration wins.

It’s in those moments, those screaming-inside-your-head-because-it-isn’t-acceptable-to-scream-out-loud moments that you just need to do something.  Something positive, something redirective in nature, something that will get your mind off that “moment.”

Yep, I don’t usually do that.

Nope, this “fixer” thinks that she can make things better.  So she does…in her own mind anyway.  She makes a suggestion that to her sounds perfectly reasonable.  She offers a word of advice that will ease the tension.  She puts her head down to keep from giving one of her famous looks-followed-by-an-eyeroll.

Yep, everything is much better

Here’s the kicker, friends.  Things aren’t better.  Yes I may have an awesome idea, but if it isn’t the right time to offer said idea, no one will think it’s awesome.  Yes I may put my head down to hide what I feel from showing up on my face (and believe me when I say, my face speaks louder than my words!!), but my face may still show it–just not in as easy of a view.

Yep, this fixer really doesn’t fix anything.  All she really does is grow her frustration level…up and up and up and up.

Thankfully, God has worked tremendously in my life.  I am no longer an exploder with frustration–which is good news for those around me.

Unfortunately, I do tend to fuss about things with those closest to me.  I don’t take my frustration out on them–nope, I prefer to think of it as sharing it with them.

Yep…I’m just that kind of gal!

So what does God do with one so messed up as me?

He loves me!

In His love, He shows me things.  He points me to things.

caught

Take this verse from Psalm 88:  “I’m caught in a maze and can’t find my way out, blinded by tears of pain and frustration” (v. 9)  This, my friend, is a perfect description of me.  I get soooooooo caught up in whatever is frustrating me that I find I can’t get out.  I think about it constantly.  I have imaginary conversations in my head with the source of my frustration (and I win those arguments, thank you very much). The frustration takes on a life of its own…and it’s then that I get in trouble.

For it is then, my sweet, that I need my Savior the most.  But it is then, my sweet, that I can usually see nothing but blinding frustration, incomplete plans, awkward silences, explosive anger, unanswered questions, unbelievable reactions.  My frustration whispers; I turn my head and I see all those things that just make my heart beat faster, my blood pressure rise quickly, my head to pound.  In all that chaos, I have no way to see God.

Sometimes I have a love-hate relationship with my frustration.  It’s easy to hold on to what bothers us–even if it causes pain.

The hard part is letting go.  I thought God and I had put this behind me.  God had used my very wise and very awesome husband to speak some truth into my life after a particularly trying time in Frustration City.  We were making progress–of that I am certain… I had repented of the sin that was gaining a toe hold in my life…

And then…another event caused frustration to rear its head once again.

Our enemy wants nothing more than to keep us in that maze that our verse speaks about–if we are focused on the maze, our focus will not be on God.  And that makes our enemy happy…

I don’t want to keep making him do a happy dance.  I don’t want to continue to have headaches and heartaches over something…

I’m frustrated with being frustrated!!

I want out of the maze of frustration.  I can’t walk around in circles anymore.  If you find yourself in Frustration City also, let me offer you this verse: “Be cheerful. Keep things in good repair. Keep your spirits up. Think in harmony. Be agreeable. Do all that, and the God of love and peace will be with you for sure”  (2 Corinthians 13:11-12).

harmony

Will this be easy?  No, I’ve dwelled in this maze a long time.  Is it truly necessary for me to get out of this mess?  Absolutely, because nothing nothing NOTHING should stand between me and my God.  Only Jesus can work in me to change me–and I am open to it.  I want to live out this verse in 2 Corinthians; I don’t want to be a walking-talking billboard for the Psalm 88:9 anymore.

Because after all– these frustrations are temporary. I don’t want to live in Frustration City …

 

I’m packing up the truck…today, I move…

 

Humbled…

Hello all!

A very long hiatus has happened…I wish I could say it’s over…but at least I’m here today!

So I begin our time together using an interesting verse:  Matthew 23:12

humbled

What a verse, right?

Yep.

I use this verse, because, sadly, I have seen it lived out.

Firsthand.

Friends, I do not consider myself a prideful person.  If anything, I tend to downplay any ability I may have in certain areas.  I don’t really like attention, and will do whatever is necessary to kind of fade into the background in most circumstances.

So when I have read over this verse in the past, I just thought about how sad it would be to find myself in such a position that the Lord of the earth would have to humble me.

I never thought it would actually happen.

But it did.

Enter teaching.  I have fought the very fibers of my being for several years, telling myself that I did not belong in a classroom.  Telling myself that the tug I felt toward school was just me missing friendships that I had there.  Telling myself that I could find fulfillment in other arenas.  Telling and telling and telling…

Until finally, on a hike high up in the Colorado mountains, I asked, “Should I go back to work full-time?  Should I apply for this job that is open at my old school?  Please Lord, I need Your guidance.”  And this time, I truly heard what my heart had known all along.  So I applied, got hired, and started the year in my normal fashion.

Coming into a new grade level has its own unique set of challenges.  Add to that being absent from full-time teaching and all the full-time responsibilities, and you can imagine that those first few weeks were crazy.

Seriously, C-R-A-Z-Y!!

Thankfully, God blessed me with two incredible teammates who kept this struggling chick afloat, answering questions and providing suggestions to make that time easier.  And it was easier…in some ways.

You see, I wasn’t going about this working thing the way I should.  I approached it from the “me” perspective–I can handle this, I can do whatever is necessary, I’m a veteran teacher–how hard can this be?  I was all about what I could do, how I could do.  Me, me, me…

Until…one day I was sitting at home thinking about all the millions of things I still had to do at work.  No matter what I did, I just couldn’t get a handle on how to make things happen efficiently.  I felt like I was falling further and further behind despite my best efforts.  Frustration, sadness, feelings of failure, second-guessing my decision to go back to work, doubt of my ability…it was then that I heard my God.  In the sweetest yet firmest of voices, He spoke to the depths of my soul–“That’s the problem…you’re relying on yourself.”

What????

Of course I’m relying on myself.  I have been given the gift of teaching, that I have been told by numerous people on numerous occasions.  I’m working within my gifting, I’m doing what I’m supposed to, I’m in the job because You arranged it… Yep, I am relying on myself (I sarcastically thought).

My friend, I will always remember what happened next as one of my defining moments.  Again, in the voice my soul recognizes, my Savior spoke: You cannot do it without Me.

It was as if my eyes had been opened for the first time.  The realization that came with that simple yet sooooo profound sentence nearly took my breath away.  I had been doing all of it within my own strength; never looking to my Provider, never seeking my Defender, never turning to my Creator.  Nope, I had it all under control.  No need to bother God–so I thought.

All the confidence I had in my ability had taken my eyes off of the One Who gave me the ability in the first place.  I was so sure that I could do whatever was needed…and because of that, I made my life difficult.  My stress, my doubt, my insecurity…all because of myself…

When I finally let the full weight of my personal inability fall on me… when I finally heard what my Lord had been trying to tell me… when I finally not only recognized but also acknowledged my need for Him… the weight of my current situation fell inexplicably and completely off my shoulders.  I felt free…I truly can’t explain it… totally free.  Unencumbered, relaxed, and…humbled.

I had allowed my pride to block my view of God.  I had put all my faith in me.  I had a serious dose of pride–thinking I was all that, and not needing any help from my Savior. No wonder I felt like I was being crushed.  Pride had weaved its nasty vine in my life–without me knowing it.  Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story.

I emerged on the other side of this life-defining moment a new woman: I had come face-to-face with my pride, and had experienced the disgrace of having to admit my sin and shortcomings to my Lord.  But I also experienced the grace and forgiveness of an ever-present God Who only wants me to draw closer to Him.  Through it all, I gained a wisdom and a sense of purpose that I would never have known had I not walked this path.  Proverbs 11:2 said it best:  “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”  I am also a living testimony of this verse–my God didn’t leave me as the person described in Matthew 23:12–He moved me to a whole new level in our relationship.

From that moment on, I have prayed each day, “God, this day is a gift.  I thank You for it, but I’m turning it around and giving it right back to You.  I know, without any reservations, that I cannot do this day without You.  I truly can do nothing alone.  I cannot teach these children, love these children, lead these children without You.  Take this day and use me to do what You need.”

Humbled, yes.  But so much more than that.  Free, relaxed, appreciative, dependent–no longer do I do my day on my own.  My humbled spirit bows to the Creator of me, trusting in His plan for me.  God made me a teacher; and I can only be how and who He created me to be when I lay each day, and myself, at His feet.

I choose every day to live humbled….wiser… and victoriously!

 

 

Looking back is good…sometimes…

It’s the season of reunions.

Family reunions, class reunions…the pictures and invitations are all over social media.

I graduated in a class of 44 people–yes, you read that right.

Out of that 44, some are no longer with us.  Some have moved away.  Some are in less-than-ideal life situations.

And some just don’t really care about getting together with the people with whom they went to school (most of us were in school together from kindergarten to 12th grade–yep, we literally grew up together).

You see, sometimes it isn’t easy to look back, to reminisce.

Some of us don’t have those wonderful high school memories.  I’m one of those people.  I had friends, but I lived my life in such a haze of lies and the pursuit of popularity–well, I’m not sure what kind of friend I actually was.  Don’t get me wrong; I did have some fun.  I did do some stupid high school stuff.  But, on this side of high school, I can’t really say that those years were “the best years of my life.”

Can anyone relate????

So for me, when I think of my high school years, I prefer to remember only parts of them.  That first kiss from the guy I thought I would love forever (and didn’t, thankfully).  That football game when I wore a cheerleader’s uniform for the first time.  The laughter I shared with friends I thought would always be there for me.

Looking back is good…sometimes…

When I think of looking back, the Bible story of Lot’s wife always comes to mind.  Remember the story in Genesis 18-19?  The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had become so wicked the Lord was going to destroy them.  Abraham pleaded for the cities, and the Lord said that if there were 10 righteous people there, He would not destroy the cities (Genesis 18:32-33).  That many were not found, so the Lord sent angels to warn Lot and his family to flee the city.  Lot tried to get his future sons-in-law to leave, but they laughed at the old man (Genesis 19:14).  Lot hesitated, and the angels grabbed Lot’s hands and forced him and his family to leave.  The angels told them, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!” (v. 17).  That sounded pretty straightforward to me!  As they were running, Lot’s wife couldn’t stand it.  She had to look back–and when she did, she became a pillar of salt (v. 26).

salt wife  (This is a salt formation known as ‘Lot’s wife as a pillar of salt” near the Dead Sea at Mount Sodom in Israel.  Hmmm…)

Looking back isn’t always good…

I don’t know why she looked back.  I don’t know why she couldn’t be happy with moving ahead.  I don’t know why she wanted one last look at the life she was leaving behind.

No wait.  I do know.

Sometimes we like to look back and think of times in the past as if those times in the past could be times in our future (did you follow that?).  You know–the relationship that didn’t work out suddenly seems like the best one for us.  The job we left because we were miserable suddenly seems like the ideal workplace.  The one place we promised we’d never return suddenly seems like the most incredible place to be.  The situation we really didn’t want to leave, but had to leave, suddenly seems like the only right thing to do.

Just like Lot’s wife, we have to look back.

My friend, I am here to tell you right now, in all love and sincerity, don’t look back!  Those “trips down memory lane” are nice, as long as you don’t dwell there.  God moved you out of a relationship, out of a job, out of a place, out of a situation, for a reason.  Don’t look back and dream of a life that won’t be–or try to make that life happen by re-living old times.  While you won’t be turned into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife, the repercussions could be just as harmful.

Start looking ahead, my sweet.  We can’t re-live the past–no matter how much we would like to change it, it’s already written.  Stop dreaming of what could-have-been and start dreaming of what-might-be.  Ask God for wisdom in your daily choices, and start looking forward with anxious anticipation.  Stop putting God in your box and let Him rule in your life.  When you live with abandon, with full confidence in what God will do, all the things in the past will fade into the background of your life.  Those situations will become only colors in your tapestry–not dictators of your present thoughts, but rather memories that pop up every once in a while.

Let me leave you with the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:

deepens

Let your joyful anticipation of the future dominate your thoughts.

Don’t look back–you don’t live there anymore!