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Archive for the ‘Devotional Life’ Category

Most of you know me well enough now to realize that I love to encourage people. I don’t just see the glass half full…I see the glass at least 3/4ths full, maybe even more. I try to always find that silver lining. When I tutor my students, I combat low self-confidence all the time. I love motivating them – to see themselves as accepted, intelligent, capable, and productive.

I also enjoy motivational sayings. Facebook and Instagram are full of images of beautiful lakes, flowers, mountains, seascapes with a lovely motivational quotes about working hard, staying positive, “just do it”. I brought a couple to show you.

Fail_Stop_Trying_quote          Make_It_Happen_quote

 

What a great saying to get me up in the morning.

River_Rock_Persistence_quote

Aren’t these great? Don’t you feel motivated to tackle that task you’ve been avoiding?

And I made one just for this morning.

Quit_Before_Its_Too_Late

Wait – what?

Quit before it’s too late? How is that motivational? Let me tell you…

1 – Give up…Let it All Go

This is a perfect topic for Mother’s Day. Moms are not quitters…ever. We persevere through any trial, work hard every single day, strive to take care of our families, keep track of everyone’s schedules, make sure the dogs get fed, the kids do their homework, the church gets cleaned…we work, volunteer, run our kids to sports practices and games, dance lessons, 4-H club meetings, decorate for birthday parties, serve on church committees…and then we cook, clean, do laundry, mow the lawn…doing, doing, doing.

And we get it done. Somehow. But at what price?

We’re tired, grumpy, emotional, stressed, discouraged and certainly hardest on ourselves if we feel we failed at any one thing. We’ve set our expectations so high that we are often disappointed in ourselves for not “doing more” or “doing better.” Maybe we feel we’ve let others down when we just can’t do one more thing. Sometimes, when we don’t get everything done that we’ve put on our list, we mentally and sometimes, verbally, blame ourselves, our spouses, our kids, our bosses. We think we can do it all…or worse, expect perfection…from ourselves or others. Inside we’re discouraged, condemning, feeling like failures…when in reality there is only one thing we need.

We need to quit. We need to give up and let it all go.

2 – You were designed for more

Have you ever heard of the No Thumbs Challenge? It’s a little YouTube sensation where a couple of people very securely tape their thumbs down into their palms and then attempt to do a variety of normal activities…such as opening a bottle of water, writing their name, operating a can opener, peeling a banana. Some are easier than others, but overall, the tasks are made much more difficult without the use of thumbs.

This is an object lesson for what we do in life. God gives us brains, strengths, talents, gifts – and we can accomplish a lot without ever asking God to help us. We can be super-successful on our own. Many people in the world accomplish great things without once considering God. But they, and we, are going through life with our thumbs bound…yes, we can accomplish a lot…but think of how much more we could do – if we quit trying to do it on our own and ask God to help us.

We are designed to work best when we work WITH God’s guidance – when we work WITHIN His design for us (Psalm 139).

You’ve put up with a life “without thumbs” – learned to do everything we need to do with only 4 fingers – but it’s been a struggle, a hardship, sometimes a failure…let’s quit trying to do without God, when with Him, it is more than we could ever imagine.

Luke 18:27 – “But He said, ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’”

3 – Embrace the ASK

We need to admit we need help. That can be a real battle for some. We like that good ole American work ethic…that “git ‘er done” mentality. We’re proud of our accomplishments. But at what cost? Our health – physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.

Even if we do consider asking God for help, we don’t (or won’t).

“God, you’re great and all, but probably pretty busy with important world issues, like famine and war and cancer…so I’ll just go ahead and do my little stuff on my own. I got this. No sense in bothering You with my little things.”

But asking God for help, no matter what we need, is like being set free to do more, to see Him working through you. God wants to free you from the bondage of pride and self-sufficiency – He wants to release you – set you free and empower you to do more and better, as He intended.

2 Corinthians 12:9“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’” Paul goes on to say – “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

When we ask for God to help us, we become stronger than we are alone. When we admit we are weak without Him, then His power takes over. Instead of apologizing for bothering God, you should see how excited He is when we ask him to overcome our weaknesses with His strength.

So how do you go about asking God for help?

James 1:5“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to ALL liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” In Psalm 46:1 we hear that God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.

He doesn’t just listen to me, and not to you. He delights in hearing your requests. He delights in YOU.

Once you’ve asked for God to free you from your own pride, and give you wisdom in your daily life, expect to see a difference. John 8:36 says “Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” All four fingers and a great big thumb!

I challenge you to test God. Test His Word. Begin each day asking God to help you in every situation you encounter…both the planned and the unplanned. Ask Him to guide your steps, to give you wisdom when you don’t know what to do…to give you words to speak life and encouragement to your family and friends, even your enemies. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you what to do when you’re confused or discouraged. He promises He will.

A number of years ago, the Chicago Bulls had a couple of pretty good basketball players…maybe you’ve heard of them. Michael Jordan and Stacey King. Of course, everyone knows Michael Jordan…but Stacey King was a decent player himself.  One night the two of them had a great game, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the game, reporters interviewed King, quoting him in the next morning’s newspaper:

“I’ll always remember this as the night that Michael Jordan and I combined for 70 points.”

Wouldn’t that be a great game? Of course. But the part King left out…Michael Jordan scored 69 points and King scored only one.

But that’s how it is when we partner with God. God only asks that we are willing to score our one point, and He’ll take care of the rest. He’s a big God and He can and will help you to meet and exceed the challenges each of you face each day. Beyond your expectations.

Let’s pray.

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It’s Friday and that means another installment of “Five for Friday,” my version of my favorite things. Today I’m listing my five favorite blogs.

Five_For_Friday

There are thousands of blogs in cyberspace. Maybe hundreds of thousands. I love to read, but I only subscribe and regularly absorb only a handful, because it would be sooooo easy to spend all day and all night reading other people’s insightful (but sometimes downright stupid) writings. The following is a list of my favorites…in no order and in no relation to one another.

The Leadership Freak blog arrives in my email inbox every single day. Dan Rockwell is a leadership genius but the reason this blog is one of my favorites, which I read every day, is because he writes this blog every day. Without fail. Even on Christmas and Easter. And each post is encouraging, uplifting, enlightening, insightful, educational, and best of all, short. Dan has committed to keeping each post around 300 words. Short, to the point, and makes me think. Every time.

Jeremy Affeldt is a former major league relief pitcher, retiring last year with the San Francisco Giants. I forgave him for pitching for one of the Cubs’ competitors when I first started reading his posts. Jeremy is a strong Christian who not only believes in Jesus, but follows through with obeying the words of Christ. His blog is about grace and justice and the true meaning of following Christ. Wisdom from a Giants pitcher. Go figure.

 I probably don’t have to say much about my next two favorites. Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) is known to most people because of her Food Network program, but I knew of her long before she hit cable television. And she is certainly more than just a great recipe. Ree was a city girl, transplanted to ranch wife, when she married her Marlboro Man and moved to Pawhuska, Oklahoma. She began blogging many years ago, before I even know what the word “blog” meant. She is a homeschooling mom, photographer and humorist…and each blog is a vulnerable look into her life. One of my favorite’s is a conversation with her husband. Hilarious.

Ann Voskamp is the author of a little book called “One Thousand Gifts” – a little book that has its own website and sat on the New York Times’ best-selling list for 60 weeks. A little Christian book about being thankful, finding joy even in the midst of incredible suffering, written almost like a poem. 60 weeks. Her blogs are similarly written – beautiful, flowing script full of wisdom and integrity and bravery. Ann is a wife and mother who was surprised at her little book’s success but has stepped into the role God has given her as a voice for embracing brokenness and pain to find healing in Jesus.

Sean_McGarveyLastly, I love, love, love my own son’s blog. Sean is my second son, a young adult who writes honestly about struggles with love, disappointment, despair, success, and hope. He writes both fiction and non-fiction but each post reflects his sensitivity and wisdom. I am so proud of him. Cannot quite wrap my brain around this young man who would cry crocodile tears when I gave him a writing assignment as a middle school student. You’ve come a long way, baby.

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Pride.

It’s a nasty thing. Pride keeps me from trying new things, meeting new people, and praying fresh prayers. I don’t want to look foolish or feel uncomfortable. I want people to think highly of me or more accurately, not find fault with me. So I try to be perfect. And fail miserably.

Within the last few years I’ve come to accept my shortcomings a little more. I know now that I’m missing out on fun adventures and amazing friendships. I’ve attempted to live a little bigger and give silliness a try once in a while. As I’ve grown older (and grayer), I’ve tried to see the world through new eyes. Instead of wasting time criticizing others’ looks and behavior, while trying to appear “exactly right,” I’m letting go of pride and embracing who God made me to be. Sometimes silly. Sometimes adventurous. Always less than perfect.

Kris_Morgan_dancing

I still fail. Often.

I still struggle with pride every. single. day.

But I will not give up. Life is too short to give in to an issue that has no place in my life. Or yours. Let go of pride and pick up your dancing shoes.

“Pride leads to destruction.
    A proud attitude brings ruin.” Proverbs 16:18 (ICB)

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Every day we wake up to choices. Get out of bed or stay in? Bath or shower? Coffee or tea or water or…? Read my Bible or watch TV? Workout or sleep longer? Go to work or call in sick? 

Each choice brings a set of consequences, some immediate and some we won’t feel for a long time. Some consequences are the result of years of choices, made well or made poorly. For instance, the dark chocolate M&Ms I’m currently munching on give me short term happiness, but long term weight gain issues. Obviously I’m choosing instant gratification over long term consequences. 

View from a Cedar Rapids skywalk


Despite the rainy, gray spring day in Iowa, I chose to take a long walk today. I knew I may be uncomfortable in the short term, but glad for my choice later in the day when my Fitbit celebrates 10,000 steps. 

Tonight our children’s midweek church program ends until September. Though each adult helper I’ve talked to seems glad for the break in activities, I know each made the choice to serve in this area because of the long term consequences in the lives of these precious children. They know their choice to help in music or crafts or youth may not reap rewards today, but each child encouraged or fed or loved on will benefit for years to come. 

How are you doing on your choices today? Settling for the short term, or banking rewards for the future gain? 

Choose well. 

“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” Psalm 119:30

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My 30-Day Gratitude chart has some very interesting topics on which to focus. Today says “What hour of the day are you grateful for?” This seems like a silly question to me, as I’m grateful for every hour of the day. Aren’t you? Why would I not be grateful for another hour to live, to breathe, to love, to eat, to sleep…whatever? Maybe they mean – “what hour of the day are you MOST grateful for?”

Easy – lunch hour.

And not just because it’s another opportunity to stuff my face.

Monday through Friday I work in an office where I sit for the majority of my 8 hour day. But on my lunch hour – almost every day – I walk. If it’s warm, I walk. If it’s cold, I walk. Even if it’s rainy, I walk. As you can tell, I’m somewhat obsessed with walking.

TrailWalking does many things for me, physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. One website says a daily walk of 20-25 minutes could add 7 years to your life. Sounds great to me. The author, Dr. Mercola, claims a two-mile walk a day can cut your risk of heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis. Other benefits include improved sleep, joint health, and circulation.

I love my lunch hour walk because it clears my head. I usually pop in my ear buds, turn on a walking playlist of music, and sing along as I walk through the neighborhood. Yes, I’ve received looks from other pedestrians, but I’m not concerned. I don’t sing THAT loud. By the time I’ve completed a 2 to 2.5 mile circuit around downtown, I feel refreshed and mentally ready to tackle the afternoon.

Even if the weather is cloudy, or chilly, or gloomy, I can walk because Cedar Rapids has a great skywalk system. If I start at our public library and walk to the end, including all the little side trips, I’ve gotten over two miles of walking…and stayed warm and dry. There are several restaurants along the route so if I feel inclined, I can stop for pizza, or a burger, or soup and salad. I can enter and exit the skywalk at over a dozen different locations, so I can do a little inside and little outside walking, depending on the weather and my mood.

Sometimes I leave my music in the office and pray as I walk. Sometimes I just think about the tasks I have left on my to-do list or what I’m going to blog about. My lunch hour walk is a sacred time for me, when I quiet my spirit and worship through music or prayer; when I give my body a good workout; or when I just think. I don’t believe it’s an accident that God promises to walk in close fellowship with us through life. He wants to accompany me as I journey along each day…not run from task to duty to job…but walk, conversing together as I put one foot in front of the other.

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

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Do you remember The Who’s song “Who Are You?” I’m old enough to know it from the initial release in 1978 (high school graduation year) but I sing it more because it was the opening theme song for the “CSI” TV series. Of course, I only know the opening lines: Who are you? Who, who, who, who?…repeat indefinitely. You are now singing it in your head, aren’t you? You’re welcome.

But this could also be my theme song every day…or at least a question I should ask myself frequently. Who are you, Kris…who, who, who, who?

Who are you when:

  • you stub your toe in the dark
  • that crazy driver cuts you off on the interstate
  • someone unfriends you on Facebook
  • you bomb that job interview
  • there are 20 people in the only open Wal-Mart checkout lane
  • a mole wreaks havoc through your lawn
  • an “overdraft” notice arrives
  • your identity information is hacked
  • ugly rumors about your pastor reach your ears
  • your husband watches TV while you clean the house
  • the church committee didn’t ask for your help
  • your favorite (fill in the blank) comes up missing
  • a deer sideswipes your car
  • you get caught by the red light cameras
  • you miss a deadline
  • the scale shows five pounds more than yesterday
  • the dishwasher floods the kitchen

We don’t need more examples…pretty sure you get my drift.

Who I am is what’s on the inside that comes out during times of stress, or disappointment, or rejection, or pain, or normal living of your everyday life. Although I love being on the mountain top, I become the real “me” in the valleys of life. And sometimes, I don’t like what comes out of me. Sometimes I see the ugliness of gossip, shame, condemnation, rejection, self-hate, and impatience.

However, I want to welcome these wake up calls. Because if I don’t see the yuck inside occasionally, I won’t ever be able to clean my house. If I don’t recognize the nastiness inside, I’ll keep going along, thinking I’m just fine, so fine.

Don and I had a wonderful mentor who told us often:

“CharacteCB063014r is what happens when someone tips over your coffee cup.”

Who are you? I hope you find out today.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.Psalm 139:23-24

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It random-act-of-kindnesswas a saying my mom used to tell me when I complained in junior high about people being mean to me. Looking back, I cannot remember anyone’s actual actions or words toward me that I would consider mean…but I certainly do remember my mom’s advice, “Just be nice to them, Kris. Kill them with kindness.”

Most of the time, I think I’m a kind person, but I also realize that plenty of times I’ve chosen what felt good to me over what may have been kindness extended toward someone else. The times I could have allowed someone in front of me at the WalMart check out lane, held a door open during a walk instead of hurrying on myself, or getting Don a cup of coffee while I was up getting my own…I could go on. So could you.

Today I’m grateful for kindness. I’m also grateful for the POWER of kindness, because I believe if we, all of us, make the intentional choice to be kind to others, we’ll help inch our society in the opposite direction of where it is currently heading.

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32 (NLT)

Here’s my intentional kindness action plan for this week:

Day 1 – Baby steps: smile at everyone I meet, even if they are grouchy or frowning. This includes while I’m driving (my biggest challenge) and when I answer the phone. I don’t know about you, but I can tell when the person on the other end of the phone says “hello” with a smile. I’m weird that way.

Day 2 – Everything from Day 1 PLUS…within the course of the day, choosing kindness in the little things. This could include holding doors, making coffee, running errands, doing a favor, extending grace, being generous, laughing at dumb jokes.

Day 3 – Day 1 + Day 2 + taking note of my body language and tone of voice so I exude kindness with more than just words. Walking the walk, not just talking the talk, as they say.

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud.” 1 Corinthians 13:4

Day 4 – Everything from the past three days PLUS adding in kindness to those who don’t like me.

NOOOO!

This one is the hardest, of course. Who likes doing nice things, being nice, showing kindness to people who do not deserve it? Not me.

But…

That’s what God has asked us to do…and in fact, it is what He did (and keeps doing) for us. We don’t deserve God’s love…we never deserved Jesus’ sacrifice for us, but He did it anyway. Because He loves us more than we can imagine. And if we really want to show the world a better way…the BEST way…we must demonstrate God’s love through our actions. Kill them with kindness.

“Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Romans 12:20-21 (The Message)

I once heard a message from a guest speaker about kindness. A person sitting near to me scoffed about it afterwards – “What a stupid topic for a sermon!” I guess they thought it wasn’t spiritual enough. But in actuality, showing kindness is one of the most spiritual disciplines you can aspire to reach. By showing kindness, you are showing an unbelieving world the unconditional love of our Father God. We are proving His love for them, and using us as instruments of that love. What is more spiritual than being a tool in the hands of the Master?

“We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us,[a] and by our sincere love.” 2 Corinthians 6:6

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