Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Promises of God

I've been reading through the book of Joshua in the Old Testament. I love Joshua the man! He had spunk and faith and energy and a heart of gold for God. His story blows across the embers of my own faith and makes my fire grow. I want a faith that remains in the face of the odds and the people who like to talk about them. I need a long-haul faith that will cook a roast and not just wieners. Know what I mean?

Anyway,  my eyes began to glaze over as they perused chapter after chapter of cities they conquered and divided up among name after name and tribe after tribe. Then my eyebrows went up as I landed on the last verse in chapter 21:

"Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass."

My heart dances a jig when I read it. My feet of faith do a different dance across the hot coals of unbelief, knowing I have no business being there but still I step, blister, and try to get out as quickly as possible. Then those feet land on the cool pavement of a verse like this. Ahhh! A reminder that God does everything He says He will. He cannot lie. It's impossible. Airtight.

Another step takes me to the cooling comfort of 2 Corinthians 1:20:

"For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God." Mmmm!

The mind naturally asks, "What promises has God made me?" I believe God makes some specific promises to us individually, but they all fall in the framework of the general promises He makes in His Word. Some are conditional but all are kept.

What is YOUR favorite promise?

Please share.

I'll start.

Philippians 4:19 - "My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

Hebrews 13:5b - "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

Matthew 6:33 - "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you."

Those promises are like a spa day for the spirit, soaking away doubt, exfoliating fear,  and replenishing trust in Him. Oooo!

 May you be refreshed by the Lord as you reflect on His great and precious promises today, My Friend.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

My Fear & Faith Journey, Continued

The scholarship money ran out, but God already knew that was coming. A fellow student had a cleaning job at a church and asked me to sub for her whenever she had to be away. One day she handed the whole job over to me. Toward the end, I was working at the church bookstore and taking in sewing in addition to the cleaning job to pay for school. That's just as much God's provision as the checks falling from the sky. I think it was Beth Moore who talked about being a "wonders junky" --someone who wants to binge on miracles. Let God decide when He wants to show off. You and I need to be ready to accept whatever way He chooses to provide. Amen?

Life got hard sometimes. I can't recall every intricate detail, but we needed a second car. Hubby had a car to get to work, but it was too hard to share it.  People would donate cars to the seminary so I applied for one. I didn't get it because we lived in seminary housing and they reasoned that because I could walk to class, applicants living farther away had dibs. That's understandable, but I was discouraged all the same.

 I will never forget what God did next. 

He let things get worse. He let my husband's car break down. The repairs were expensive and we didn't have enough to get it out of the shop. I went into a depression. 
One Wednesday night I was working behind the bookstore counter. Two ministers I knew walked in.

"Heyyyy! How are you tonight," one of them said.
I mustered as much of a smile as I could and answered, "I'm ok."
One replied, "What would it take to make things better than ok?"
I don't tell my personal business to acquaintances, but my mouth took on a life of it's own and said, "Getting our car out of the shop."

He asked for more details and then huddled in a corner with the other minister.  When he came back, he said he would get me a check  for the rest of the amount we needed. 

But wait, God still was  not through!

Before the two-angels-in plain-clothes incident, another car came available at the seminary. I was gun shy from the last rejection and wasn't going to apply for another car. A friend said I should try again. I did, and BECAUSE OUR FAMILY HAD NO CAR, they awarded us the free car. THEN the angels came to the bookstore and God gave us our old car back! In other words, God let our only car break down so He could give us two cars. 

Ladies, sometimes when we feel God is picking on us, He's actually positioning us for a greater blessing than the one we lost. When Moses first started with that, "let my people go" stuff, things got worse. Pharaoh reasoned that those Israelites must have too much time on their hands and he required they find their own straw and still reach their original daily brick quota. (Exodus 5:6-9) The Israelites were angry with Moses because it appeared he was making things worse for them; however, God was just setting everyone up for His big appearance on the stage of ten plagues and then deliverance.
Fear takes every opportunity to say, "See, I told you!" She did it for me many times. I recall having many meetings with God to see if I really heard Him right.
I would have missed seven years of God's amazing provision had I allowed fear to keep me on the porch. 

I have one more story to share from those amazing years. Let's bring this thing in for a landing tomorrow! 

When You're Frustrated With Yourself...

Do you get frustrated with yourself because you keep making the same mistake over and over? Have you ever rolled your eyes at yourself  or rebuked yourself with a stern tone for not doing better?

I, too, wish I could get it together already, but let me encourage you to remember two things.

One, the fact that you even care enough to want to get it right is a good sign. Those with a sloppy walk with Jesus are all the time jumping on the net of grace instead of falling on it while trying to please God. Lazy Christianity that rolls around on the bed of "Oh, it's ok, God will forgive me anyway," get fat on backslidden bites of grace but reap the tragic diagnosis of what the Psalmist calls a leanness of soul (Psalm 106:15). See? Didn't that make a chill go through you? It's because you care about pleasing God! This is a good sign.

Two, you wouldn't fault a child falling a hundred times while learning to walk, would you? "As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him;
for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:13-14) You may be rolling your eyes at yourself, but it doesn't mean God is doing the same. God reserves His stern voice for those who either act like they have it all together or those in active rebellion. If this is you, repentance is the way back, not self-flogging.

So, My Friend, be encouraged. Be patient with yourself. By all means press on and press in. Allow God to continue the work He began in you, but please stop the eye-rolling and tongue-lashing. Ask forgiveness quickly when you fall, forgive yourself, and get back in the race. None of us will reach the finish line failure-or-trip-up-free, but we can choose to arrive there with no more self-inflicted wounds.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Blogkeeping Matters

Hello Dear Readers,
Did I mention that I am taking an online writing course? Today I learned I need to publish at a pace I can sustain. Soooo, here is my new blogging plan. I want to commit to publishing a blog post at least twice a  week. My teacher says I can produce higher quality work when I give things time to percolate in my mind before I hit the "publish" button. I think this pace will also give some of you time to catch up on some posts you didn't have time to read. I have gone back through the Free Writing Posts and given most of them proper names to make them easier to find if you wish to read again or share with a friend. I love that you allow me the privilege to minister to someone you know by sharing my posts. Encouraging is my favorite thing to do, and your sharing helps me do just that. Thank you!

One final housekeeping matter: if you have had trouble leaving a comment on the blog site, it may be because you have not subscribed or because you did not confirm your subscription. Please check your spam folder for the confirmation email you must reply to. You may also email me at ordinerrygirl@yahoo.com anytime! I enjoy hearing from you!
Bye for now!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Do You Do It?

Joshua's boots had gotten dirty in chapter 10. He received a call from the Gibeonites to come save them from the Amorite kings and he answered. The Lord assured that He would give Joshua victory. I love the verses where God shows off- throwing large hailstones from heaven and killing more enemies than Joshua and his fellow soldiers did with the sword. Then, at Joshua's request, God made the sun stand still for about a whole day's time.  When the fighting work was done, the sun went down and they all went back to base camp at Gilgal.

Then Joshua got great news. All five kings were hiding together in a cave. Sweet! I was struck by what Joshua did next in verse 18 -19:
 "And Joshua said, 'Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and assign men by it to guard them, but do not stay there yourselves; pursue your enemies and attack them....' "

Did you see it? It's called delegation. Do you struggle to do it like I do? We perfectionists try to do it all ourselves because we fear someone else won't do it as we would. Or we just want the pleasure of doing it all. We fail to realize that the pleasure is cut in half because we spread ourselves too thinly and we become  stressed and grouchy. What's more, we miss out on the beauty of community. We forget that although people won't do it exactly the way we would, the outcome is better because many hands make light work, and fellowship is more important than having things turn out our way.
Besides, if we are busy trying to do everything on our list, chances are we are neglecting the very assignments on God's list for us. Ouch.

So how can you delegate today?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

What We Can Learn from Jacob in the Bible

I love that when I read the Bible, God causes me to see things I didn’t notice the last fifty times I read the same passage. This time He caused me to notice a few things about Jacob in his dealings with his father-in-law, Laban.

First, Jacob learned what it was like to be on the receiving end of deception. He had swindled his brother Esau out of his birthright and his blessing. Laban was his even change when he did the big switch with Leah for her sister Rachel (Genesis 29:21-30). He could have given Rachel and not required the additional seven years since Jacob wasn’t working to get Leah in the first place, but Laban was an opportunist. I wonder if Jacob wondered if Esau felt the same way when he did him dirty. Funny how our sensitivities heighten where they once were dull when we find ourselves on the receiving end of the very thing we did to someone else. It’s a humbling experience. Jesus was pretty smart to tell us to treat others the way we want to be treated, huh (Matthew 7:12)?

Another thing that stood out was how Jacob kept mentioning that Laban had changed his wages ten times (Genesis 31:7,41). It seems he high-lighted that point every time Laban got on his nerves. Bitterness is like that: it keeps detailed records of wrongs.

 I am not saying Jacob didn’t have a right to be angry. It is obvious he was sick and tired of being messed over. I don’t blame him. Getting sick and tired can be a gift from God. It can give us the courage to do what we’ve been needing to do but were too afraid. 

I love that God blessed Jacob’s need to move on (Genesis 31:3) God had a covenant to fulfill in Jacob’s life. He had bigger plans for him than making Laban rich. So often we use the “not God’s will” thing as an excuse not to take that big scary step when it actually is God’s will. I know I have used it. Have you? We want everything to be perfect before we step out, but that is not the life of faith. That’s also not where the excitement and testimony of God’s faithfulness abide. God’s faithfulness loves to hang out between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea… between “Leave your familiar spot,” and, “I will let you know when you get there.” Perhaps in one of these blogs, I will share some of my adventures with God in those very spots. I would love to hear yours too!


How was your weekend? Did you accomplish all you hoped? 
I decided to do something different this weekend: accomplish as little as possible. Well, that's not completely true. I should say I  was intentional about NOT accomplishing a particular thing. The idea of the Sabbath has lost it's appeal to our American culture. We see the weekend as a chance to get ahead. Truth is, I hear that those who rest are the ones really getting ahead. 
Have you heard the story of the two lumberjacks who had a contest? On go, they both started hacking away at their respective trees. Lumberjack A was going at a feverish pace. Lumberjack B was too, except about midway, he stopped. Lumberjack A saw his chance to get ahead so he sped up, chopping so hard and strong he nearly made himself dizzy. Imagine A's surprise when, shortly thereafter, he heard B shout "Timmmbbberrr!" 
A: "H-h-how did you...?"
B: "Well, my friend, while you were wearing yourself out a-choppin'' I got ahead by pausin' to sharpen my axe!"

I decided to give that a try. I had chores to do on Saturday that wore me out, but after church Sunday,  I went to visit a relative- something I rarely do. The visit was not a long one, but I got some valuable info about a small problem I had. I was just making conversation and the issue came out. Something else was said that God used as food for thought. 
I had a big project that was calling my name, but I chose not to answer. No, today was gonna be a time away. I didn't know what to do with myself in some of those moments--I asked the Lord to help me to just... be. 

I heard a book subtitle the other day that says something like, "Stop spending 100% of your time on 10% of your life!" It spoke of how we can be so consumed with reaching a goal that other important things get pushed aside. At some point, we have to trust God will help us get done what He wants done. I am trying to live that way. It's been so refreshing!  I find I have more time for relationships. Also, I'm discovering that creating margin in my life leaves a place for God to fill. He reminded me that my neighbor had an ambulance outside her house the day before and that I should call to check on her. Racing thoughts and running around drowns out those opportunities for God to speak.

So now let's see how well I do once the work week starts. Will I look at my project with fresh eyes? 
What about you? Will you allow time to pause during the week so you're not frazzled. Hope so. 
Good night.

Run Your Own Race, Girl!

When the wind turned just the right way, the smell of grilled fish made their stomachs growl. They had gone fishing but caught not a one. Someone was cooking fish as they were heading back to shore. It had been a rough few days for all of them. Perhaps their appetites waned with the flashbacks of the brutal murder of their Friend. Maybe their thoughts were a-swirl with having seen Him alive twice since the murder. How could it be? Had they hallucinated? The Fish Cooker interrupted their thoughts while standing on the shore shouting through hands forming parentheses around His mouth, “Did you catch any fish?” The gang of fisherman shook their heads and verbalized in the negative.

What happened next was a de ja vu: The Bystander asked them to throw their nets on the right side of the boat for a catch. The amazing number of fish they caught illumined them that this was no stranger. They had experienced this miracle before and there was only One Who could perform it.

 Their seaside Host invited them to a breakfast picnic. There were awkward silences as nobody verbally acknowledged that this was Jesus. Peter had the least to say. He avoided eye contact with the Savior he’d denied after such a bold declaration of loyalty. Perhaps this was the closest proximity he’d had since that awful day that ended in his life’s bitterest tears. Jesus broke the ice when He addressed Peter directly. A dialogue ensued of questions about Peter’s love and answers that the love was indeed there. Love warmed Peter’s heart as he heard Jesus give him a life assignment that showed Peter had not been thrown away. Jesus hasn’t put you on the trash heap either if you’ve blown it and are repentant.

The next words from Jesus’ mouth I find chilling. The message is so hard to swallow that He cushions it in a metaphor. I’m glad the author interpreted it or I would have missed it. It was a hard message about the sort of death Peter would die. Ouch. True to human nature, Peter looks around to see if anybody else was going to get tough news too. John was in his line of sight so he asks, “Lord, what about him?” Can you see Jesus stop in His tracks and turn around to look Peter in the eye—like, “Oh no you didn’t just ask me that”?

He said, “If I want to let him stay alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow Me” (John 21:22). Jesus did a “nunyo” with Peter! We all need one of those from time to time. We tend to forget that God is not obligated to do anything on the group rate. What He gives any one of us to do or have or be is His prerogative. I see people doing something amazing for God and I wonder why He didn’t choose me to do that. I would have loved to have done what she is doing! If I had what she has, I could do ______. None of that matters.

The same is true on the flip-side. We have a hard row to work- a difficult marriage, a wayward child, a worrisome health issue, financial distress, an addiction, a coworker from Hell, whatever- and we wonder why others we know don’t seem to have those problems. We must remember that it is a comparison of apples and doorknobs -no comparison. God is doing what He is doing and it’s none of our business why He allows or doesn’t allow. It’s a hard word, but one that will save a lot of unnecessary headache. Run your own race and you will be plenty busy.

Even the hard words God gives us are couched in love. Self-condemnation is never the proper response to a holy rebuke-repentance is (Psalm 139:23). 
 So, let’s end with a question: What territory are you treading on that God says is not yours?  Leave that jurisdiction today and humbly get back to the business He has given your hands to do. It is enough, it is wonderful, and it is His best plan for you.

What Would You Do With Another You?

If God would give me a second life to live, I would be a missionary. I'd go to school to learn how to relate cross-culturally. I'd learn a new language, and I'd go to a foreign land where there are women who dress, speak, and eat differently than me. I would  meet a need and win them over as friends. Then one day, while sitting around the cooking fire or washing clothes in the creek, the Spirit would put the words in my mouth to tell them about Jesus. Some would immediately recognize Him as Someone they'd seen in their dreams and decide to trust Him as Savior. Others would need to ask more questions. (Squeal of delight inserted here)

The missionary life in the traditional sense has not been my life, but an equally important thing has been. I have the privilege to give so others can go. I love that God let's me do eternal work with my checkbook and my prayers. A friend quoted her pastor to me the other day with regards to missions: "There are the senders, there are the goers, and there are the disobedient!" In my college years, my heart was open to going if God wanted. I have learned that it is up to us to offer ourselves for a certain work, but it is up to God to take us up on our offer or not. It is also up to Him how long we do a work for Him. To everything there is a season. What season are you in?  Waiting is a season too. I seem to have lifetime tickets to that season. Anybody else? 

What about you? What do you wish you could do if you weren't doing what you are now?  Can you think of a way to do it even if it's not exactly as you dreamed? I challenge you to pray about this. You may be delightfully surprised how God may answer that desire if your heart. 

I have the privilege of ministering to women full time who have a struggle I have never experienced. I know what you're thinking. I tried to tell God He had the wrong girl, too, but He wasn't hearing it. Something about His grace being sufficient. His other favorite with me is  2 Corinthians 3:5 "It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God." For nearly six years my qualification has come from God.  Every day my heart's prayer is that God will let me be of some use for Him and to someone there. 
What are you doing on grace fumes alone? What have you learned because of it? I would love to hear about it!

By the way, thank you all for hanging with me through these 31 days. Only a few more to go! It's been wild. Some days I can't get my  editing mind to work. Thanks for scrambling through the typos and rambling thoughts. Thanks for taking time to comment. You guys rock and I love you! 

Hope for Helplessness

One of the worst feelings in the world is helplessness. I had that feeling today. I had a big dilemma and was at a loss on what to do. At first I told myself not to panic, that the situation might not be as bad as it seemed. Have you done this? Tried to keep the problem from ballooning in your head and taking up the space for rational thought?

I finally got to the place where I could pray, "God, show us what to do." In those moments I wish the answer came right away, but it doesn't always. Sometimes it does, but often God allows the fog of our emotions to clear first. When we have calmed, solutions come like  suggesting whispers.

God does not always speak the solution outright. No, He allows our minds to be a part of the process. We try this or that to see if it will work. All the while God is guiding us to the right answer.

 The scenic route to His answer may seem like a waste of time unless you remember God wastes nothing. Have you ever been searching for something only to find something else you had been looking for? In the same way, we discover something about God and how He works when we find ourselves in a helpless position. If you are like me, you just want to solve the problem already, but God's ways are higher. His agenda is always a good one, and He calmly operates it in the midst of our frantic helplessness. Did you catch that? God is not wringing His hands while we wring ours. This should bring us confidence even if our frantic heartbeat hasn't caught on yet. If you are a child of God, helplessness is an emotion, not a fact.

Warm your heart by the fire of this truth:

 "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; ... The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge." Psalm 46:1

I still have not arrived at a solution yet, but God has been faithful to comfort and assure me that He knew this big thing would happen before I did, that He loves me, and that He'll fix this. He took me down memory lane of other times He fixed my biggies. He caused me to happen upon a friend who shared how God has done amazing fixes in her life, and I was encouraged. God is up to more than solving our problems. He's befriending our hearts toward Him on the vehicle of our troubles. It's a beautiful trip even if it's sometimes a bumpy one.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How to Break a Bad Habit

1 Corinthians 4:2 says that it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. I have one area where I've been struggling with good stewardship. Here is my story and how I got victory.

Do you feel as guilty as I do when you waste food? I opened my fridge the other day and a foul odor assaulted my nose. Each week I go to the grocery store with good intentions, but I often end up not making good on a promise I made to myself to prepare a marvelous meal. I end up eating a simplified version of what I planned. Sometimes I just forget what I have in there until the molded version reminds me.  So, I sigh a prayer of apology to the Lord like I've done too many before; however, this time I did something more than just say I was sorry. I decided to change. Isn't that the first step if we want to do and be better?

What do you want to change in your life? Your weight? Your negative thought patterns? Letting fear win? Being on time for work or church? Overcome an addiction? It doesn't matter what the habit is, desire to change is not enough, is it? We must decide we don't want to live like this anymore. It's got to be strong enough to move us from desiring to deciding to doing.

Ask yourself some questions: How do I keep falling into this habit? Is there a constant that accompanies this habit? What can I do to be proactive in arriving at a better outcome?

Take my food decay dilemma for example.
I asked how I kept falling into the habit of throwing out spoiled food?

Answer: I don't pay close enough attention to what's in the fridge. I lose track of how long certain items have been there.

Question: Is there a constant that accompanies this habit?

Answer: Yes. I am too tired to cook what I planned so I put it off until the food spoils.

Question: What can I do to be proactive in arriving at a better outcome?

I can be realistic about the amount of cooking I will do during the week and buy accordingly. I read an article years ago that said we need to grocery shop according to who we really are and not how we think we should be. So no more planning three course meals unless I have days off to actually prepare them.
One more proactive thing I did was buy freezer bags to put prepared food on ice before it was too late. Freezer bags was one of those things I didn't think I needed so I never had them on hand when I did need them. I needed to change my thinking, didn't I?

As the mind goes the body follows. My body and mind are much happier now that they are are not engaging in the unlawful neglect of food and the consequent guilt that followed.

Will you join me in the dance of desiring, deciding and doing? Please share, if you are so inclined, how you answered those questions I shared today.

Know of a friend who would benefit from this post? Please feel free to share.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Encouraging Words on God Speaking to You

Isn't it amazing that God speaks to us? I mean, pause a moment and let that sink in. God, Who created the earth and the planets and the galaxies speaks to YOU! No dropped calls (though some go unanswered by us) and no misdirected messages (though at times I feel a message for me would be better carried out by the girl next to me). This idea of God speaking is an exciting one. How can you help but be curious about what He wants to say to you?

I think we are all afraid we will misinterpret what He's saying. May I offer you encouragement about that fear? Remember when God told Abram to go to a land He would show him? (Genesis 12:2) Do you think Abram might have been a little frightened that he might go in the wrong direction? I do too, but then we must remember that Abram started in A DIRECTION. The Bible doesn't tell us that he started in the wrong direction and God had to say, "No, go here instead," but this very well could have happened. Perhaps he ran across a battle going on between two armies and had to re-route. I am not big on Bible maps but if there was a sea in one direction and he had no boat, it was a safe bet that God was not leading him across the sea. Are you following me? You don't have to be afraid of getting your signals crossed and scrambling up His message to you. If your heart's intent is to obey Him, no way will He let you get too far down the wrong path before He lets you know to turn a different way. So loosen your grip on the steering wheel, Girl! Let some blood flow back into those knuckles that are white from being choked of blood supply. You are not big enough to screw up God's plan and He loves You too much to let you. Don't forget, this is a relationship and not a robotic system that can malfunction. Half the fun is the interaction you get to do with God in figuring out what He's up to. Ask Him, "Lord, did You mean for me to go this way?  No?  Lead me, Father. I want to follow You." It's wonderful!

This leads me to the idea of our fear of failure. I liken it to a door we need to walk through, but our fears are on the other side roaring and snarling like a lion and pit bull rolled together. When we open the door, we discover a kitten with a snarl and roar recording. Your fears are designed to play mind games that keep you stuck. What's really waiting in the other side of your fear-of-failure door is growth and a testimony for God's glory. Guess who has NO interest in either of those happening?

You and I must develop a Queen Esther mentality: "If I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16) Staying where you are is not an option because disobedience is a hot seat a child of God finds torturous. Besides, aren't you tired of the same old same old? Yes? Adventure lives on the other side of that door. Say a prayer, swallow hard, and twist that knob. I would absolutely love to hear what you find on the other side.
P. S. If you found this blog encouraging, why not share it with someone you want to encourage?

How to Love Someone You Hate

How do you love someone you hate? Too shy to use the word "hate"? Let's just say you strongly dislike their guts, shall we? The bottom line is they have ways and means that always rub against your grain. Perhaps they did something or are daily doing something that squeezes the ugly out of you. Love is the last thing you want to mention in a sentence with their name unless it's, "I would love to see___________ get <<insert painful thing here.>>As children of God, we feel the tug of the Holy Spirit rebuking us about those feelings and yet the fire won't go out, not for long anyway.

What to do?

First, find comfort that the commandment to love your enemy is not a call to a feeling. Emotions are merely the smoke that belongs to a fire. Douse the fire of not loving and the smoke will be gone too. So, what is love if it's not a feeling? It is a choice. Yes it is. It is a deliberate act of your will to behave lovingly toward your enemy.  If you're like me, you may act lovingly toward them but your facial expression will give you away.

This  brings me to the second truth: loving an unlovely is a supernatural act. Love is a fruit of the Spirit so if the Spirit in you doesn't do the loving then it won't get done. Yes, you must be willing, but the real work is done by God through you. Ask Him to help you rearrange your facial expression as well as empower you to be loving.

Third, loving an enemy or a nerves-grater is like forgiveness. It has little to do with their deserving to be loved and everything to do with the love you have received from God. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). God is not asking you to concoct love in your heart for them but to pass on the love He placed there.

Finally, if you struggle with hardness in loving the difficult to love, prayer is a great softener. What do you pray? Besides asking God to change their ways, ask for the same you are praying for yourself. I don't understand how it works, but Jesus was sure it would! "Pray for your enemies," He said (Matthew 5:43-48).  A closer look at the text implies that something happens to the one praying: a maturing. That's what I love about God! He has benefit installed in even the most difficult of His commands.

There you have it--how to love your enemies. It's a practice none of us embraces, but one that will hug us back when we do.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Our Little Hearts Can Love Big God

What do you love about the love of God?
As a young Christian I remember being told I should love God. I struggled with the idea of loving Someone so big. Why, I couldn't even put my arms around Him! How could I love Him when I couldn't see His face with eyes by which I could gauge His feelings for me? Besides, human love seemed it would dwarf in the presence of a huge, majestic, all-knowing God. Reverencing God seemed easier to do. He was my Creator and therefore the Boss of me. I had received Him as Savior and Lord; therefore, it was understood I owed all my allegiance to Him. That I could do. The obedience thing was a struggle at times but understanding that I should do it was not. But love Him? There seemed to be some ingredients missing for love to be what I thought He wanted of me.  Then someone told me that loving God is different from the love we have for people.

I wrestled with this loving God thing for a long time. I didn't understand it so I stuck with what I did know: obedience and worship of Him. I wanted to please Him. I wasn't afraid of going to Hell. I knew that was settled. I just didn't want to make Him angry. I'd heard about sin making God sad. That  idea was odd to me too. Anyway, I didn't want to do that to Him either. For years and years I went on obeying and worshipping. Then something happened. I can't recall what the catalyst was, but something began to awaken in me. Was something missing? Yes. It was passion for Him. I was afraid of having those experiences that made people jump pews and say stuff nobody could understand. I didn't crave that. I did want the kind of ... of... love, yes, that was it... I wanted the kind of love I'd seen in other people. They'd hold their arms crisscross over their chest and talk about loving Him. I recall journaling that whatever that was I didn't have, but I wanted it. I wrote God that I obeyed Him because I didn't want the consequences of not doing it, but I didn't know how to love Him.

Oh!  It's coming back to me now. The catalyst was a devastation that occurred. I became disillusioned with heroes falling off pedestals. My heart ran to God for a place I couldn't name. My insecurities were floating in the air like dust too thick to breathe in. So much of what I'd depended on was no longer there, and I was lost. God seemed the logical place to go. I am so thankful for the volcanic blast of trouble that blew me into His arms. The blast also uncovered sin I'd buried but never gave a proper funeral.  I was driven to dig into His word for answers to questions I never had before. The God I knew mainly as Judge, and Ruler, and Master slowly became the Wooer and Lover of my soul.  Had I not witnessed it in a few key people, I would have been afraid of it. It was like a burning. A deep yearning to reach up to the sky and cup His holy face in my hand. It didn't matter anymore that it was too big, my passion would not let that detail matter. Why? Because I'd caught glimpses of Jesus in man-size loving me and in God sized proportions. I was ruined for reverence only. He was so much more than a God to be respected- He was One Who touched parts of my soul nobody else could. Those parts were reserved for Him alone and the intimacy was a holy and yet all-consuming one. This love birthed a courage I never had before. Fear had been my title, first, and last name, but His love called me out. I recall feeling like the ugly girl being picked by the captain of the football team.

Just when I think I love Him all I can, He knocks out another wall and expands it again. It makes me want others to see what they're missing. It makes me want to trust Him to do more through me. Is that what the Apostle John meant when he said  in 1John 4:18, "perfect love casts out fear"? If you are going around fearing that God is mad at you, then you can't fully absorb His love. You are uncertain of it and you can't let your hair down with Him. You won't worship Him with passion and abandon because all you see is your Judge. Your salvation will feel like a legal contract, but God offers so much more!  His love makes the obedience something you embrace instead of the unfortunate price you pay in exchange for accepting that thing He did on the cross for you.

  So let me ask again. What do you love about the love of God?  Where do you believe He's calling you to experience something deeper?  Did you once love Him more than you do now? Is there an elephant in the room it's time to talk to Him about? This is the perfect time for a love that's always in the air. Take hold of it, My Friend, and let it take you to places you never thought possible!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to Love the Hard-Hearted

Dear Friends,
You know what? Love can melt a heart of granite. Have you seen it? Hard times sometimes harden people. Some tragedy happened to them or someone they love.
The pain is unbearable. They swear they will never hurt again so they cement all their soft and vulnerable places. They put on a sour face as a camouflage to keep anyone from coming closer. In keeping people out, they have to notice they've locked themselves in. They are lonely. Afraid to risk the company of fellow humans, they try to find companionship from other sources: alcohol, a hobby, television, the internet, pornography, books, or any number of inanimates. Those things can only do so much. There you stand on the periphery of their life. You smile and they turn away, determined not to make a connection. You keep smiling and making friendly gestures. They may become irritated because you are chipping away at that concrete ever so slightly. It was easier to be left alone, but the yearning to be cared for is knocking the scab off some sore heart-places they convinced themselves were fully healed. Your gentleness continues. They become suspicious. You must have some dastardly ulterior motive. Nobody is that nice for no reason. They want to avoid you. The deeper the hurt, the fiercer the fight to keep you away. They may not even know they secretly hope you won't give up on them. For some, the language of love is so foreign they don't even recognize it. It doesn't matter. Keep speaking it in your unique way anyway.

 Then comes your big chance: they find themselves in need and you step in and meet it. I don't mean with just money. Sometimes the need is an acknowledgment of how hard it is to be in their shoes. Sometimes it's a gesture that says you noticed something out of the ordinary was going on and you wanted to reach out. Do not underestimate the power of this. People feel invisible in this culture and saying you noticed ________ tells them they are not alone or invisible. It's the kind of love that melts walls built up for years.

Sometimes the melting is more like an erosion that's here a little and there a little. Don't grow impatient with the process. It's the way relationships are built anyway. Sometimes I think we get in such a hurry to seal the deal with a "profession of faith" or  "one more soul snatched from the fires of Hell" that we forget these are real
people who get just as weirded out as you or I would with tactics that try to rush things. Some will profess whatever you want just to get you out of their face. I've seen it happen. No, I believe there is a better way: be a friend, genuinely care and let the Holy Spirit build a case for falling in love with the Son.

Don't complicate it by straining to be what you can't. God is asking you to do and be what you can through Him. Get yourself out of the way and it goes much smoother (experience talking here).

You likely already have a person in mind who is so encrusted with that cement they can barely move their lips to crack a smile. Your first assignment is always to pray for them. Then let God decide when your practical part in their story begins. I would love to hear if you have a concrete-cracking or mountain-melting story to share. It doesn't have to be dramatic. Oftentimes the deepest work is done in the quietest settings; sometimes so subtle you don't see it at first.

Time for bed. Goodnight, My Friends. May God use you to break through someone's pain in such a way you'll beg Him to use you to do it again! 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

You Can Show the World Real Christianity!

Every now and then I scroll through the TV  channels and I land on something that rocks me to the core. I wanted to change the channel but I couldn't. Well, a couple of times I did, but I kept coming back. It was a documentary about the Oklahoma City bombing. Isn't it sad that that wasn't the worst attack we've had? This goes to show that the enemy is never satisfied. You may think he's done a doozy on your life, but he's always dreaming and plotting to do more. This is why it's critical that you and I hold on to Jesus daily. A full-time devil can only be fought with a fuller-time God. Ain't you glad you got One? 

Anyway, the horrifying part was the white supremacist group behind the attack. There were pictures of these people deep in the woods sitting in a church with Bibles on their laps and crosses hanging on the wall. The recordings were the worst of all. I was not so much offended by the supremacist rhetoric as I was that they dared attach the word "Christian" to it. Something grated on my liver every time they said the word. How sick to think that Christ would sign off on anything they were doing. It made me mad. "Go find another name to use for that crap," my spirit shouted, "leave my Savior's out of it!"

Then this got me to thinking: I wonder how many people hate Christianity because this  is the only sort of Christianity they know? I don't mean just the radical deviance like that group. I mean the kind that only judges and never extends grace. The kind that blends in so well with the culture that there's nothing to make it attractive. Friend, real Christianity is attractive!! If it's not that to you, then you either need to put it back on the shelf and reach for the real thing or quit nibbling at what it offers and eat it whole so it can change you like only it can.
Sorry, I keep chasing rabbit trails. Back to my point. Could it be that some (not all) of the people who want nothing to do with Jesus have had bad representatives of Him? How many have encountered fronters and fakers?

The world is hungry for the real Jesus. They want so badly to run across someone  who is as loving as He is. They are looking for someone like you! Don't look away. Remember, perfection is not a requirement otherwise we all would have to go home. No, you are just the person God can use to stop someone in their tracks and take a second look at this Christianity thing. Yeah, I know, many are not interested in real Christianity at all; they want one that lets them do whatever they please. I'm not talking about those people. There are still those who would come to Jesus if they really saw Him. Let them see Him in You. 
This gets scary unless you remember He is going to do the attracting if you will do the yielding. Please stop saying you are not perfect. They already know that. Your goal is to present them with Someone Who IS perfect. The only way they will believe He's real is if they see something coming out of you that couldn't possibly have been from you. Am I making any sense? I've had times when I wore myself to a frazzle trying to be a good example to those around me, but all I ended up being was legalistic and that is a turn-off. A better, less exhausting approach is to give Jesus full access to your heart, your soul, your mind, and strength. Let Him animate Himself through your limbs, your smile, and even your bad days. Then watch out, Girl. Influence can't help but happen. Glory will get got and it'll come from them and go straight to God ( Matthew 5:16). You have the joy of being used by the only One of Whom it's a privilege to be used.

  The world is full of sick and twisted variations of what they call Christianity. Let's you and I do our part to show what real Christianity looks like. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How to Keep a Thankful Heart

Thank God for all that is. There may come a day when what is is no more. So much of what we enjoy as Americans is a luxury elsewhere. For example,three meals a day is unheard of by many. Then there are the CHOICES of what to eat: Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Thai, buffet, drive-through, Hibachi, TV dinner, meal at church, cold chicken from your fridge, and on it goes. 

Plenty has a way of numbing our thankfulness if we don't watch it. It can be soil for entitlement to grow. You know you're there when you lose a blessing and you get mad.
When Job lost it all, his response revealed that he hadn't lost sight of where it all came from: " The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21).

How do you keep your head about all that is good? May I suggest it is done by recognizing each blessing as if you just received it? Jeremiah said that the Lord's mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Why not thank God for it newly every morning? There is a child-like wonder that happens when we do this. I know you're probably thinking, "But won't that get old really quickly?" No, not if while your lips are listing what He's given, you let your mind imagine what if it weren't there. 

Try it. 

I thank God for my job, my house, my husband, and the ability to read. If God decided not to renew either of those tomorrow morning, my life would change dramatically. See what I mean?

 Somebody will go to bed tonight with one less family member than when they woke up. An accident can change a whole family even without loss of life. A phone call, a doctor's visit, or a pink slip can be God's debit card to remove what has been there for so long.

 This thinking is not a push to drown us in the what-ifs but a pull to our perspective on all we enjoy. Every day that we have what brings us happiness was an intentional act on God's part, so let's be intentional in our gratitude too. 

"Thank You, Jesus, for letting my car crank."

"Thank You, God, for the water that comes from my faucet."

"Thank You, Lord, for inventing coffee."

"Praise you, Father, for hot doughnuts when the sign is on."

It's a wonderful exercise that makes gratitude fun. It keeps our hearts aware of how blessed we are. Most of all it gladdens the heart of our great and generous God.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

What to Do When You Doubt God's Love

I recall thinking as a child that the love of my parents could be illustrated like Morse Code. The dashes were when they loved me, but the dots meant they didn't. I remember saying something to my daddy about this. His sweet brow furrowed as he tried to get into my young head and untangle my mangled ideas about his love. When he spanked me, I thought his love was taking a break. When he gave me candy, his love was back again. 

This is a childish perspective on love, but if we aren't careful, our view of God's love can be just as immature. If He is doing everything we ask, we are sure He loves us. Let Him remain silent too long about a request, and the questions start. A tragedy can pull our faith in Him up by the roots. For some, faith never grows in that spot again.

  Let's be honest, it takes an effort to think maturely when times are hard. Our emotions default to doubt and accusations when we are in pain. The enemy is at the ready to accuse God in the face of heartache, and our sinful emotions are quick to agree. Maturity reins it in more quickly, but the temptation, I believe, always arrives first. 

How do you keep your head in times when you feel God's love is a dot rather than a dash? You must become a frequent guest at all your favorite watering holes. Don't let your anger cause you to pout and stay away. Limp if you have to, but get yourself to where you find encouragement. In this culture, there is no excuse for drying up. Where do you go when you need a spike in encouragement? Do you call a friend? Listen to a favorite preacher online? Dig up some old sermon notes? Maybe you let a favorite Bible character whisper in your ear or reheat a Bible verse that's gone cold. 

I also think there is something to be said for being a regular customer at those places so that when troubles come, it's not such a stretch to get it together. Sometimes discouragement and defaulting to doubt are an easier visit if you've been hanging out close to their neighborhoods anyway. God's love hooks are wedged deeper in the hearts of those who hang out with Him than those making a visit like an in-law's uncle's cousin twice removed every other Christmas. It takes less to re-convince you of His love even while your heart is stinging from tragedy, My Friend, if you stay close. That's part of how faith matures, by doing the day to day love thing with the Lord. You already know that getting through the tough times strengthens you too. Each get-through builds a more convincing case for the love that will not let you go and makes you into one who won't let go of  Him either. 

 What can you do to keep your dot and dash looking more like a steady line? Attend church more regularly? Hang with people who are working on doing the same? Pull away from those who squelch your faith? Listen to music that pickles and preserves a strong faith? Pray more? 

Be encouraged, Dear Reader. God's love endures forever (Psalm 136). He has loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Nothing can separate you from His love (Romans 8:38).  Believe it when you feel it and even more when you don't. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

How to Overcome Jealousy, Part 2

Yesterday I shared that overcoming jealousy can be a rather lengthy and painful process. One way to expedite victory is to humble yourself. This starts with calling jealousy what it is. It's not about how the object of your jealousy rubs what they have or what they are in your face. It's not that their personality is annoying and not that they need to grow up or tone it down. Even if all of that is true, it's not the real issue. The issue is that you resent their having the very thing you want. They possess something that is dear to your heart, and you can't stand it. That big lump of pride goes down hard, but it will make the rest of the surgery go much more smoothly.  So say it: Father, I am jealous that ___________ has _________and I don't. 

Next, ask God to reveal what you believe you're missing out on.  There is ALWAYS a core hunger crouched beneath a jealousy. It's never about the man and the ring or the status or education. For example, let's say you are jealous of a friend who has a good man while you aren't even dating anyone. You're not really jealous that she has a good man. You are jealous of the companionship, maybe the security, the intimacy, the validation, or the stability she has. This shows up your loneliness and insecurity. It may even highlight a feeling of rejection a lack of a man makes you feel. Not pretty, is it? No sense kicking yourself or wallowing in it. It is what it is, and the good news is you're working through it. 

Next, you must remember jealousy is a very irrational emotion. You know, like a two-year old pitching a fit because she wants cookies BEFORE carrots NOW! Jealousy wants what her friend has NOW. Never mind that you are not ready for a relationship or it is not God's timing. Your friend has it now, and you want it now too. 

Commercial break brought to you by Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

....and we're back.

I have discovered that one of the best cures for jealousy is perspective. I was so eaten up with jealousy back in the day that I couldn't hear the Father say, "Your turn will come." My friend's turn had come. Like a guest at a birthday party of a friend who hit the mother lode, I needed to remember this was her moment in the sun, not mine. 

Jealousy told me mine would never come. She's a liar, which brings me to the next cure: You know jealousy is lying when her lips are moving. Her breath smells like impatience, and her teeth are black with hopelessness. Always ask yourself, "Where is the lie?"  Ask the Father to help you sniff it out. It may take a minute, but He will. Ironically, you are most likely to find it hiding in the closet of a truth in God's Word. For example, Jeremiah:29:11 says, "I know the plans I have for you... to give you a hope and a future." This bright truth has its nemesis hiding in the closet where it's dark whispering, "You have a bleak future with no man." See what I mean? I trust you to make application for your own jealousy scenario if the man issue is not yours.  

The point is that jealousy can be defeated. My journey was a hard one because I had so many issues that needed to be cleared up before the surgery could be a success. I hope yours is not as arduous, but even if it is, it's worth it. The joy and perspective are like a life-giving transfusion. Your quality of life will increase massively,  and there will be spring in your step powered by life and that more abundantly. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

How to Overcome Jealousy, Part 1

Jealousy. Don't you wish it was not a part of your life? I am sure I experienced it as a child, but my first real war with it came in my adult years. My world was small and I was happy, but one day my friend's world got larger and I noticed a nasty emotion. I tried to ignore it (denial) but it wouldn't go away. Why was I saying these ugly things to someone I loved? We used to talk about anything, but why were there suddenly certain topics I wished they would keep to themselves? One day I slammed the phone receiver down and the Lord hit me right between the eyes when He said, "You, my dear, are JEALOUS!" 

I tried everything to get rid of it. I tried to be happy for my friend. I tried confessing it to death. I asked for a radical jealous-ectomy. None of this worked. Don't you hate it when you feel something you know you shouldn't? 

I was at a loss. I think I even looked for sermons on the internet on this topic. They seemed to quiet the monster for a season, but then it would come back, sometimes with two heads and an extra tail! 

  Much can be said about this ugly emotion, but a couple of things have been etched on my heart about it.

  1. Jealousy reveals what our heart values. We are never jealous of something we don't want. Sometimes what we are jealous of shows how shallow we are or how discontent we are with what God has given us. 
 2. Jealousy reduces people down to objects or looks or money. People are so much more than that. I realized my friend didn't want what I envied about her to blind me to her need for friendship, for an encourager, for a lunch partner-- all that is good in human relationships. Sounds shameful, doesn't it? Would you want to lose a friend because she couldn't get past your owning something she wanted? It cheapens something precious. 
  3. Getting over jealousy is not usually an out-patient procedure. No, it's a rather lengthy and painful surgery because it strikes at the core of what really matters to us. Get healing in those areas and you can cut off both heads of the monster. 

What about you? Have you struggled with jealousy? What have you discovered is a way to overcome it?