Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Devotional Life’ Category

It’s not even a word – but it so accurately describes my life. I have a lot of unexpectedlies – every day. And so do you. At first, I was blindsided by happenings in my life that I never planned for. Death. Accidents. Job loss. Broken relationships. All these and more kept me off balance, sometimes teetering on the edge of grief and despair. I felt more fear than faith – dreading the next bend in the road.

One weekend TrailI had an epiphany. I came to realize, with the wooing of the Holy Spirit, that these unexpectedlies are opportunities. Opportunities to find blessing in the midst of sadness. Joy in the midst of sorrow. Healing in the midst of pain. Instead of finding the gray on the backside of every cloud, I really do attempt to find the silver lining.

This past month, three close friends have passed away. One was my beautiful daughter-in-law’s father. He was a huge influence in my life, in the lives of my friends and family. Another was a man who helped me navigate the stress of my first radio job, moving from co-worker to great friend. He and his lovely wife gave me support in the hardest time of my life and for that, I will be forever grateful. Just this past Tuesday, another friend entered in the presence of Jesus. We’d only known each other three years but we became the best of buddies, joined together through our love of the Chicago Cubs and our little church family.

Each man was an unexpectedly in my life – unexpected voices of encouragement and affirmation, sometimes challenging, always loving and supportive. I am a blessed woman to have known these three and I am so grateful I was able to run part of my life’s race alongside them.

Takeaway – celebrate the unexpectedlies. Look for the blessing in each one. Grow through the experience. Choose to respond to each one with grace and forgiveness. Love fiercely because unexpectedlies happen…every day.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I gave a kids’ sermon to the children at our small town church. I usually try to come up with some sort of object lesson to help the teaching stick with them. Almost always I get good feedback from the adults in the congregation because, taking a page from “what would Jesus do”, I’ve found telling stories is the best way to communicate truth about God, no matter what age I’m teaching.

toothpasteIn yesterday’s sermon, I used a tube of toothpaste. I had one of the older children squeeze out as much toothpaste as they could onto a paper plate. Then I asked him to put it all back. Of course he told me he couldn’t. None of the other children volunteered to try either, except the one smarty who told me she could with some sort of vacuum. Kudos to the problem solver. She’ll probably be an engineer some day.

The purpose of the lesson was to illustrate that speaking out without thinking is much like squeezing out that toothpaste.  Once those words are spoken, it’s almost impossible to get them back. I encouraged the kids (and the listening adults) to choose their words carefully, and if they speak hurtful or angry words, to quickly apologize. Most of us don’t realize the power we have with our words. I even told the kids their words can sometimes hurt their moms’ feelings. Yes, moms have feelings. There were a few significant looks exchanged between daughters and moms at that gem of truth.

Left that little 5-minute lesson feeling pretty good. I’d passed on some truth, encouraged kids to be kind, laughed a little over squeezed out toothpaste and sat down. This morning I got a little frustrated over some circumstances beyond my control. How did I respond? Did I remember my own sermon? Did I get all spiritual and think, “O Lord – You have prepared me for this moment. I will respond in kindness and compassion, just as Your Word teaches. I will love and honor my fellow man.”? Nope. Not even close.

I lost it. I chose (yes – it was my choice) to pass on my frustration through angry words in a conversation with one of my favorite people on the planet. It took a long walk around my city (and a cold iPhone battery leaving me with no walking music) to allow the Holy Spirit to show me my failure. And I learned a lesson of my own.

I’m not a rock star. I’m not a superhero. I’m not a great Bible teacher. I’m a flawed human being who needs the grace of God to exist in relationship with others. My pride took a hit today…and I really hope I’ve learned this lesson so I don’t have to revisit it again tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day. But I know a few things about God and I know He wants me to pass this test so I can move on to something else. So – as I’m trying to cram toothpaste back into the tube, will you give grace to those who may lose it on you today? Most everyone has a story we don’t know. Face value is rarely accurate. And, if you can think fast enough in the face of frustrations, try to choose life-affirming words. Toothpaste is a real mess to clean up.

James 3:4-6 – “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.”

P.S. – I apologized and thankfully, I was forgiven. I think the heart emoji helped.

Read Full Post »

 

I try to take long walks over my lunch hour. One of my favorite spots is along the Cedar River. We have a beautiful downtown trail that hugs the river through town for over a mile, and will soon extend over the river in a beautiful bike/pedestrian bridge. We have all kinds of birds that use the river (and trail) as a food supply. As I was walking today I couldn’t help but think of the traits of some of these birds and how they mirror the traits of some people I know (no names, of course).

Year round, the Cedar River area teems with Canadian geese. They love the trail even more than I do…because they leave multiple deposits everywhere they go. They nest along the river, pecking along the grassy banks for whatever food geese eat. (This blog is not meant to be a science lesson on the habits of Midwestern birds.) And they are more than slightly territorial…especially at this time of year. When those male ganders see a pedestrian, they stick their heads pretty high in the air, make some serious hissing noises, and intimidate me to no end. Even if it’s all an act, they are very believable, and I go a different route.

We also have a crow problem. I’m mean a serious crow problem. Three years ago city workers installed dead crows in the trees to try to deter the living ones…maybe it worked to some degree, but not totally. As the snow is melting, it’s uncovering dead crows everywhere. Large, ugly birds…which I’m sure have a purpose on this earth…but while living, tend to be loud and obnoxious, pushing into others birds’ nesting areas and eating dead animals. Yuck!

Lastly, we have a large, but temporary, population of bald eagles. Last week I counted over 30 of the large, majestic birds perched on a tree along the river, sometimes swooping down to catch an unwary fish but more often, gliding beautifully up and up and up through the sky. Soaring_EagleI was mesmerized today by the three or four I saw on a different stretch of river. They were perched on a patch of ice, occasionally lifting off to glide just above the surface of the water, and other times, playing “chicken” with each other. One in particular kept my attention. At first he drifted above the river, close enough that I could see his beautiful white head. But as I watched, he soared higher, and higher, and higher, until he was just a speck in the sky. It was obviously a good day to fly.

I started thinking…what kind of bird am I? And, what kind do I want to become? Am I only interested in protecting what’s mine, taking over and leaving crap everywhere I go? Or maybe I’m loud and obnoxious, a bully that’s satisfied with taking what isn’t mine and pushing everyone around. No – I desire to soar on eagles’ wings. And that means I must place my hope in the Lord. Only He can cause me to rise above my circumstances, my fears, my disappointments. Only He can renew my strength and give me the ability to fly.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

 

 

Read Full Post »

To_Tell_The_Truth_image

The old television show “To Tell The Truth” featured a panel of four celebrities whose objective is to correctly identify  a described contestant who has an unusual occupation or has undergone an unusual experience. This “central character” is accompanied by two impostors who pretend to be the central character. The celebrity panelists question the three contestants; the impostors are allowed to lie, but the central character is sworn “to tell the truth”. After questioning, the panel attempts to identify which of the three challengers is telling the truth and is thus the central character.

The show expects people to lie…and lie very well. The challengers get paid if they fool the judges into believing the lies. Satan is like that. Instead of two other contestants lying to convince the panelists that they are the real person, we have the devil and our pasts which try to convince us that we aren’t really who we say we are. But the best part – instead of having a group of celebrities question every one and vote – we have the Creator of the Universe, our heavenly Father, who declares who we are for all to hear…we just need to believe it. Because HE really is telling the truth.

What is the Truth?

Most of the time we believe certain things about ourselves based upon our experiences, or things people have said to us or about us. On the surface, those things may appear to be true, but usually, we believe lies about ourselves.

For instance: I used to think that I was mediocre, just average. I talked about my “mousy brown” hair (before it was this beautiful silver), and being overweight. I refused to believe it when someone said I was pretty…because that isn’t what I saw in the mirror. I was average in sports talent, less than average in musical talent and certainly not particularly special. I “faked” confidence because inside I was trembling and scared that people would see the “real” me…a phony. I thought if people really knew me, they wouldn’t like me…so I stayed on the sidelines and watched others do talented and successful things…all the time, wishing I was brave enough to get out there and try something big.

When I became a Christian, I didn’t automatically change my thinking. It has taken the unconditional love of my heavenly Father; love and words of affirmation from my husband and then making the choice to believe the truth and not the enemy’s lies about me – all have combined to help me see myself as I truly am…and as you are too.

Who you are in Christ is all that matters…

But let’s look at a few of the lies the enemy of our souls would like us to believe…

Lie #1 – Satan tells us that we are sinners because we sin

Yes – we were sinners, but the blood of Jesus washed away our sins when we asked Jesus to be our Savior. We are no longer sinners, but saints because God has declared us righteous through the blood of Jesus.

1 John 1:7 –  But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin, He sees an adopted son or daughter, brought into the Kingdom of God through His only Son’s sacrifice. You are no longer a sinner – You are a child of God.

Lie #2 – Satan says our identity comes from what we have done.

He wants us to believe that if we were cheaters, liars, thieves, adulterers, cowards before we accepted Christ, than that is still who we are…but that is a lie.

We are not those things any longer. Our identity is not what we used to do…God’s Word says our identity comes from what Jesus did for us. Instead of a liar, I am now a member of Christ’s Body…instead of a cheat, I am now redeemed and forgiven…instead of a coward, afraid of everyone, I am now a friend of God. And I am free from any condemnation – one translation says I no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud.

“The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” Romans 8:2 (The Message)

Romans 8:1-2 – There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,[a] who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

You are free – no longer chained to the lie that we are what we have done in the past.

Ok – here’s Lie #3 – The devil says your identity comes from what other people say about you.

We’ve all believed this at some point or another. I had coaches who told me I was average…a good teammate but never good enough. I had classmates who told me I was too smart to be their friend…I wasn’t any fun. I wasn’t ambitious enough…I wasn’t pretty enough…I wasn’t outgoing enough…I was never enough!

But the truth of God’s word says my identity comes from what HE says about me…what He says about you!

God says you are fearfully and wonderfully made…He says you are chosen and He has a plan and purpose for your life. God says you are a temple of the Holy Spirit. You have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. You have been bought with a price and you belong to Him.

Psalm 139:13-14 – For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;[a]
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.

1 Corinthians 3:16 – Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?;

Ephesians 1:3-8… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body[a]and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Stop believing the lies that we are what someone says we are – believe the truth that you are what GOD says you are.

And finally, Lie #4 – the devil will try to convince you that your behavior tells you what to believe about yourself.

The truth is that what you believe about yourself will determine your behavior. When you realize this, you can see who you really are…no longer stuck in the lies but choosing to believe the truth.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 – “…has given us the ministry of reconciliation…ambassadors for Christ.”

We don’t have to sit back and accept anything…we had DO what Christ has given us to do.

Ephesians 3:12 – “…in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him.”

Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me.”

The Apostle Paul thought of himself as the “least of all the saints,” – talk about a self-esteem issue…yet he didn’t let that keep him from moving forward, doing the work God had given him to do…and with boldness. He may not have been a naturally outgoing guy – but he knew what God said about him, and accomplished it all because he refused to believe the devil’s lies.

How about you?

Instead of saying, “I really screwed up at work, so I must not be smart” – we should say “I screwed up, so I need to admit it and move on, because God has given me the mind of Christ, and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Instead of saying, “My kids are struggling right now, I must be an awful parent” – try going with “My family is struggling right now, but I have access to the God of the universe who loves me & my family. He wants the very best for me. He will give me wisdom to know how to pray and what to do or not do for my kids.”

Or, “I was a bully, treated my parents badly, hated my teachers, disobeyed the law so God can’t really love me, I’m such a rotten person.” You don’t have to be that person anymore. Your behavior doesn’t mean that is who you are. Once you start believing the truth about yourself – then you’ll start to see behavior changes.

I used to only try those things that I was comfortable with. I was afraid so I didn’t attempt anything outside my comfort zone. Because I never thought I was enough…I behaved that way. I was told I wasn’t good enough at any sport so, instead of fighting against that opinion, I believed the lie and just went with it. I didn’t push back against the enemy’s schemes…I went along with all the lies. I was nervous and scared of being noticed, I tried to blend in…instead of standing out anywhere. I didn’t want to embarrass myself so I never tried anything new. I went with what was safe…all the time. I allowed my fears to rule my behavior and in the process, I missed out on the excitement of adventure.

It was all a lie. My behavior doesn’t mean that’s really who I am. In reality, my belief about myself will determine my behavior. And I needed to change my belief…I needed to believe what God says about me…and you need to believe what God says about you too!

Read this out loud – so your ears can hear what God says!

I am accepted…therefore I am renewed day by day. I am a friend of God so there is nothing too difficult for me. As a child of God, I have no reason to fear. I always have access to God – what can man possibly do to me?

I am secure…forever free from condemnation, I cannot be separated from God’s love. I am established, anointed and sealed by God.

I am significant…the salt and the light of the world, seated with Christ in heavenly realms, a branch of the true vine. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

You do not have to believe the devil’s lies about who you are…God’s truth is the final authority. Now you need to tell yourself the truth. You can stand up and proclaim that you are accepted, you are secure and you are significant.

Would the real ­­­­YOU please stand up?!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »