Friday, January 3, 2014

What Challenges are Coming Your Way?


“O’ Lord, I pray, please let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who desire to fear your name; and let your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.”  Nehemiah 1:11
                There will be many challenges for us in 2014.  (Maybe you’ve already had your fair share in January.)  Challenges regarding our finances, future plans, issues in the workplace, church, or neighborhood.  The list is endless.  Challenges can cause us to do many things; act in haste, run away, become discouraged, remain on edge, or “clam up” and freeze.
                We could learn a lot from a certain man in the bible about how to face challenges.   A man by the name of Nehemiah we’re told was, “the king’s cupbearer.”  This meant he acted as bodyguard, advisor and food taster for the king.  (I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like the role of a parent to me.)
                Yet when Nehemiah was in great distress over the ruin of Jerusalem, his homeland, the bible tells us he, “sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”  Nehemiah 1:4
                Nehemiah did not act hastily, run away, become discouraged, remain on edge or “clam up” and freeze.  He did not become outraged or “check out” with pills or alcohol.
                Make no mistake, he was hurting and he took his pain and overwhelming circumstances to the only one who could fix them; God.
                What’s also interesting about Nehemiah’s response to his situation is what he did first; “sat down and wept.”  Many of us try not to weep when problems arise.  We feel the need to “remain strong” for our spouses, children, and others who may perceive our tears as discouragement, weakness, or “breaking down.”
                In my recent journey to more fully experience the presence of God I often find myself weeping uncontrollably in a church service.  And even my precious six-year old is aware of the negative connotations associated with crying, as she is often the first to ask, “Are you sad mommy?  Don’t cry.”
                Tears can be profoundly cleansing, a detox of the mind, and incredibly healing.  A good cry has the ability to provide great clarity and direction.
                You may not feel the need to let out a good wail in public the next time you’re faced with a challenge, but in the coming year, I challenge you not to hold back when the tears are persisting.
                If one of your resolutions for the new year is to grow closer to Christ, and become a stronger man or woman of God, remember what John 11:35 says, that even “Jesus wept.”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What Do You Want From Me?
 

                Relationships are tricky, to say the least.  Navigating moods, rough patches, and the general ups and downs of life (and that’s just with your children) can leave you frazzled.  But what about the other relationships in your life:  the spousal, co-worker, friends, and family?  Attempting to get along in these situations can leave a person wondering, “What do they want from me?”
Too often, we make relationships in our lives more complicated than they need to be.  We tend to “think for the other person.”  Assuming we know what they want from us and feeling frustrated, because we can’t always muster the resources to give it.
We assume the spouse would be happier if we lost weight, so we join the gym and the weight loss group.  We think the children would be happier with more “things” so we work overtime five days a week.  
As for the co-workers, neighbors and friends, we often assume they need our “two-cents,” so we freely give it, telling them step by step how to maneuver their struggles (yet we cannot seem to maneuver our own,) and feeling exhausted and frustrated when we find they didn’t heed our well thought out advice.
And what about God; what does He want from me?  Make no mistake, God does want me to be obedient, to walk in His ways, and to witness to others about Him.
Yet, above all those things, what God wants more than anything, is my heart.  And with my heart comes my time and attention. The bible tells us, that God doesn’t look down from heaven to see if we are living righteously or not, “The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God” Psalm 14:2.  The Lord watches and waits for us to seek Him. 
Interestingly, when I compare what God wants with all the other relationships in my life, I find what they all really crave is the same; my heart.  And with my heart, comes my time and attention.
Fifteen minutes playing football with my son goes a lot further than a new pair of Nike socks.  Fifteen minutes playing Barbie’s with my five-year old, means more than a new Barbie.  Fifteen minutes listening to my 12-year old talk about horses means more than a new riding helmet.  (Well, I may be pushing it, on that last one.)
However, one thing’s for sure, “You will show me the path of life; in your presence if fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:11
Today, experience the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore simply by spending time with God and those you love!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tackle Your Faith

                We took the plunge into tackle football with our ten-year old son this year.  And for anyone who’s traveled down this path (or any other competitive sport) you know the commitment is serious.  Practice three times a week and two games on the weekend.  Not to mention all the time invested in fundraising.
                Needless to say, if I wasn’t familiar with football before, I am now.  Terminology, plays, equipment; I’ve learned it all in just eight short weeks.
               I now watch college and professional football games with a whole new appreciation.  I understand the calls, well most of them.  I see the fouls, well some of them.  Yet, I cheer and “boo” with a new perception that makes the game so much more enjoyable.
                And thank goodness, because I live with two males who can find a game to watch almost every night of the week.
                This knew knowledge has caused me to wonder though; what would life look like if I invested as much time in my relationship with Christ as I have football recently?
                How would my life change if I “practiced” my walk three nights a week, reading the “plays” (promises) found in the bible and put them into action on the “field” of life?
                What would my coming week look like if on Sundays, I put all that I’ve learned throughout the week into action and spent the day “playing” (in fellowship) with God and those I love?
                Well if the answer is anything like football; it would mean that I would have a whole new appreciation for God and his plans for my life.  It would mean that I would “tackle” my problems with a new “play” (approach.)  It would mean that I would have a whole new outlook on life.
                To understand God’s ways, promises, and plans for my life I must invest in him.  So many times we excuse ourselves from investing in our relationship with Christ because we are too busy.  We are too busy, with work and the extracurricular activities in life.   Yet, we long to understand God’s plan for us.
                Knowing the dangers of football, I would never send my son onto the field without the proper equipment, knowledge and coaching.
                Knowing the dangers in life, we should not place ourselves (or our children) on the battlefield of life without the proper equipment knowledge, and coaching either.
                Your equipment is found in the word of God, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the wiles of the devil.”  Ephesians 6:11
                Your knowledge is found in God, “For the Lord is the God of knowledge.”  1 Samuel 2:3
                Your coaching is found in Christ, “Blessed is the man whom you instruct, O Lord, and teach out of your law, that you may give him rest from the days of adversity.”  Psalms 94: 12-13               
                I pray you find time to “practice” your walk with Christ this week and be blessed with a BIG WIN!

Friday, June 7, 2013

How Do I Know When God is Speaking to Me?


How Do I Know?
                My family is at a crossroads in life right now.   (Actually we are at several crossroads.)  With the kids growing up and friends, and the “outside world” beginning to have more of an impact, my husband and I feel very strongly that the decisions we make over the next several months could have a long term impact on our family.
               Needless to say, we are desperate to make the right decisions and ensure that they are driven by God and not some underlying selfish desire on our part.  So what should we do when we really need to hear from God?
               I know from experience, the answer is multi-faceted.  Think about this; you or your kids may have been able to breeze through grade school and even high school doing the bare minimum and making pretty good grades.  Yet, when you embarked on your college years (especially in your major) it took more.  Earning that “A” grade wasn’t as simple as just showing up for class.  It took study time at home, participating in group projects.  Getting to know the professor and asking for help.
             The serious issues in our lives are much the same.  They require more than just prayer or church attendance.  Getting answers to life’s tough questions require daily study in His word. 
                There are certain things we do every day that “get us going” for the day.  Maybe it’s updating your Facebook status, watching the news, reading the paper, or getting your morning coffee.  We simply don’t feel ready to face the day until we’ve had that first cup.  Cultivating a lifestyle of reading God’s word every day for spiritual nourishment and satisfaction will go a long way to ensuring we hear Him speak when we need it most.
            It doesn’t stop with just reading God’s word, He wants to imprint it on our hearts, allow for it to become part of who we are.  Just like an old song might take you back to your first love, God longs for His word to take you back to your forever love; HIM.  Allow God’s word to rest in your soul and be imprinted upon your heart’s wall, so that you may draw from its riches in times of need.
            Finally, if you need to really hear from God; listen.  You’ve heard the term “active listening.”  Ensuring we are hearing God clearly requires active listening.  Not just hearing with your ears, but engaging and focusing your attention on God, his will plan for your life.
            Joshua was a man of God who heard him speak very clearly.  Here’s what God had to say to Joshua (and what He may be saying to you, today.)  “Study this Book of Instruction continually.  Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it.  Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”  Joshua 1:8
           May you experience success and the blessings that flow from hearing God speak.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Worry LESS


Worry Less

                Worry less?  An oxymoron for sure, right?  Those two words simply do not belong together.  Is there such a concept?  Is it possible in this world of uncertainties, death, disease and destruction to worry less?

Take it from someone, whose bloodline is filled with worriers; YES.  The key is to understand your worries and the power they have in your life.  The topic of worry has been a struggle for humans for thousands of years.  So much so, that Jesus saw it important enough to teach about in his Sermon on the Mount.  We can learn vital lessons about our worries (and save thousands of $$ on prescriptions and doctor visits) by revisiting what Jesus says about worry:

1.       Worry cannot add one single minute to your day, so it truly is useless (Mt. 6:27).  Ironically, one of our biggest worries is the lack of time in the day to accomplish everything on our “to-do” list. If you can’t “worry more time into the day,” there must be a better solution.

2.       Worry indicates a lack of faith (Mt. 6:28-30).  Claiming to be a person with a strong faith, falling into the “Oh ye of little faith,” category is a hard pill to swallow.  I must remember however, that faith is the ability to maintain my inner strength (worry less) by trusting completely in the promises of God amid the problems of life.

3.       Worry may indicate that I am on the wrong path (Mt. 6:31-33).  God sometimes uses the uses the worries in my life to get my attention.  In other words, if I am taking care of the things that are important to God, he promises to take care of the things that are important to me.  Your worries may be an indication that God is too far down on your list of priorities.

4.       Worry indicates a distorted view of tomorrow (Mt. 6:34).  Jesus gives us a direct command to deal with today’s issues, and not worry about tomorrow’s.

We can summarize this lesson on worry by embracing, meditating and carrying one powerful verse with us wherever we go.  It’s a favorite of mine and a very special Sunday school teacher from my past (he now teaches my two older children.)  Matthew 6:33 reminds us, “But, seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

                (Thanks, Roland for your love of Jesus and this verse.)  And reading my column!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Jesus Calling


I’ve often heard stories of men and women literally hearing God speak to them.  Countless books offer near-death experiences and devotions such as Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” tell of personal encounters with a God who longs and yearns to speak  to those that love Him.
                It seems, the more we long for a clearer understanding of God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit, the more we are bombarded with things like the Easter Bunny and planting spring bulbs before it’s too late.
                Before you are overwhelmed with what to put in that Easter Basket, let me share with you what God wants you to know this Easter weekend.  The message is one of hope, not destruction.  It reminds us that with a closer walk with God we can do all things, for we are strengthened.
                After the resurrection, Jesus spoke, ate, walked with and encouraged those that He loved.  The messages He shared then can encourage and give us hope even today.  Below are the three themes that were shared as Jesus appeared to those He loved after His resurrection.
                “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:10).  We, as parents, teens, children living in such a crazy world need to hear this very message.  How much better do you feel when you take a problem to a trusting friend or family member and they tell you it’s going to be ok.  Jesus wants you to know that it’s going to be okay.
                “Peace to you” (Luke 28:36).  So much more than the typical greeting this phrase holds today.  When Jesus spoke it, it was an assurance, a promise that things would work out and He would remain with those He loved.  Couldn’t we all use the assurance that we’re not going to be left alone?  That when someone promises forever, they mean forever?  Jesus wants you to know that you will never be alone.
“Why are you troubled?  Why do doubts arise in your hearts?” (Luke 24:38).  Jesus reminded those He loved, and He reminds us today that He had just done what no one else had ever done before.
 He conquered and defeated the biggest and scariest battle on Earth; death.  He was now standing before them, not as a spirit or as a ghost but in the flesh (Luke 24:39).  If He could do that, there should no longer be room for doubt.
                The messages Jesus shared following His resurrection are just as powerful and relevant today as they were then.  If you struggle to hear a God who loves you and is here for you, know the message above is as personal for you as it was the disciples and friends of Jesus.   
                May you be blessed this Easter weekend to hear Jesus Calling. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In the Nick of Time


 

                My family and I are in the midst of a very real struggle in our lives right now.  One, which involves very real financial burdens and an uncertain future.  One that has put a wedge between my husband and myself and shifted the mood of our home greatly.
                I won’t share the details (I’m sure my husband will feel the above is already too much) but I share the scenario to offer hope and direction to the hundreds of other families facing similar situations. 
                Financial burdens, emotional struggles and uncertain futures are an all too common reality for most homes today. 
                And for many, the end is divorce, bankruptcy, and more uncertainty.  I can tell you without a doubt that amidst our struggles, there is still one very real reality in our home.  We have hope.
                At the onset of this situation, the first place I ran to (yes, my mom was a close second) was the bible.  There I found several verses that did not solve my problem, but gave me peace in coping.  (Isn’t that what we’re all looking for?)
                 “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.  There we will receive His mercy and we will find grace to help us in time of need.”  Hebrews 4:16  (It’s worth noting that the Hebrew translation of the phrase “in time of need” bears a closer resemblance  to the phrase, “in the nick of time” or “at just the right time.”
                When we are hit suddenly (as my family was) with pain and suffering, we don’t always have time to make sense of the situation or know which direction we should go.  But we can know that God is there, and when we go to him boldly (tears and all) He is there to help, at just the time we need it.
                Another verse I have been carrying with me, is John 16:33.  “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”  We are reminded here, that God knows about all the struggles and burdens we will suffer, but he has already taken care of them. 
                I often visit my brother’s grave when I am hurting.  When I was there a few days ago, sitting in my car, tears streaming down my face, a song I had never heard came on the radio.  The lyrics reminded me that we are never too far, too gone, too late, or too wrong for God to take care of hurts we are experiencing.
                If you are in the midst of pain right now, may you experience the peace realizing that God knows all about it, and He has already taken care of it; “in the nick of time.”