What do you do when you fall?

I lacked grace. Mercy was nowhere in sight. Instead, I chose to be headstrong, stubborn, and consumed with my own judgements. I was right, my friend knew it, and I certainly knew. In the heat of the moment, I was hell bent on making sure my thoughts were heard. Truth needed to be spoken, right? Yet, I sounded like nothing more than a clanging cymbal because I lacked love (1 Corinthians 13:1). As I focused solely on being right, I lost sight of the person standing before me. I diminished her situation, her struggle. I diminished her as I hurled my words at her. Negating the reason she had approached me, the reason the conversation began, I became wrapped in my own knowledge and insights. I puffed myself up to the point I nearly imploded. There she sat in front of me, wincing as I rubbed salt into her already wounded heart. I can prophecy and move mountains with my faith, but am nothing without love (1 Corinthians 13:2). While nearly breaking my arm patting myself on the back with how accurate my rebuttal was, I finally paused to look at my friend. Her head hung down. Her shoulders hunched forward as a gentle stream of tears flowed down her cheeks. What had I done? How could I have been so callous, so prideful? Was being right more important than helping her to navigate the situation she faced? Yes, she had made a poor decision, but now, so had I. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7), but my words had lacked love. I had fallen hard,...

do I love something else more than Jesus?

We know that Christ’s proximity to us never changes, so if I’m walking through a moment, a week, or a season where He feels distant, there’s a chance there’s something going on in my heart. I question my heart when I’m feeling anxious, apathetic, or overwhelmed. If I’m wondering where Jesus is or having trouble hearing Him, I compel my heart to evaluate: Am I loving something else more than Jesus? That’s not to say that His silence or my emotions are always tied to some prioritization, sin-issue. Sometimes we walk through desert seasons, unprompted by our actions, where He is actively silent. Sometimes our emotions just don’t make logical sense. Yet, in asking these questions, I’m able to better identify if something emotional or spiritual is going on that’s causing whatever disconnect my body and soul are feeling, or if it’s something that I’ve consciously or unconsciously stepped myself into. Over the years, I’ve found a couple of good indicators that help me answer this question honestly. If any one of these things is true of my recent habits or thought patterns, it’s often an indication that something has stolen or is in the process of stealing away my first Love. 1.) If I’m not tithing. . . This is often the first place I can go when it comes to checking the priorities in my heart. Since I was little, giving generously hasn’t been a strong suit of mine. While the Lord has been gracious, patient, and convicting, it’s still one of the first things to go when I’m keeping a tight grip on my life or am...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Are you free?

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13, NASB) If the recent U.S. presidential election has shown me anything, it is how broken humanity is. I saw statements being made on social media that made me cringe. I shuddered as negative, condescending comments were slung haphazardly across the internet. Would we dare to speak those words if we were face to face? Maybe. Maybe not. Being able to voice our opinions while also respecting others seems to be quite the balancing act. We have teetered and tottered, and often crashed wildly into one another. You see, we are free to have our opinions. Certainly, we are free to believe passionately and strongly on issues. We are free to use our social media accounts as we choose. We are free, yet we live as though we are chained. In Galatians, Paul speaks of our freedom. His warnings then are valid now. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things you please. (Galatians 5:17, NASB) How do we know if we are being led by the flesh? Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

The Difference Between “Us” and “Them”

In my high school Persuasion and Control class, the teacher quietly distributed sheets of paper, then instructed us to work on our own to answer the questions on it: Who is “we”? Who is “they”? We (and probably they) use those words often, but what do they mean? There were a few other questions on the assignment, but they all stemmed from these two. After several minutes of personal reflection, we began discussing, and it was one of the most animated, perspective-changing, convicting class times I remember from high school. Our world was small at the time, but it didn’t seem that way. We had groups in high school, as I assume most do, and the open discussions about what we thought about ourselves, what we thought about others, and what we thought about what others thought about us surprised and unsettled us. The internet was just beginning to creep into our daily lives, so we didn’t have access to as many viewpoints as people do now. But I’m not sure that would have mattered. After all, we have access to a lot of information now; we can easily get to know people around the world or around the corner who are very different from us. Yet we still separate ourselves. Separation helps us feel protected, worthy, and justified. It helps us determine our identity, as we often deteriorate others’. “We” still define “us” and “them.” So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave...

Get Over Yourself

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 ESV Listen, I know when you first read the title you were probably taken aback a bit, but I hope you hear my heart on this–sometimes we really do just need to get over ourselves. We live in a world where it’s all about ourselves and what makes “me” happy. The problem starts when we live a life that is only focused on ourselves then we can become entitled, self-righteous, judgmental and sometimes downright ugly. When our thoughts and lives are filled with only thoughts about us and our needs/wants, then the rest of our relationships become strained or even nonexistent. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who only thinks about themselves. So, what’s a person to do who is struggling with this? First, I’d say get a copy of Tim Keller’s book, “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness”. It has radically changed my thoughts on this whole concept. In his book he talks about a gospel-humility that takes thinking of ourselves right off the table. How do we even do that? Through lots of prayer, lots of patience and lots of practice. I read this book over a year ago and it’s still been something I wrestle with daily, but something that I intend to keep on wrestling with and working through. We spend our days scurrying around trying to fill our lives with more of stuff to make us happy, but the reality is that the “stuff” we long for isn’t really going to bring us the fulfillment we...

No More People Pleasing! It’s Okay To Be YOU!

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 ESV Do you want everyone to like you? Do you spend time trying to make sure everyone is happy? Does it worry or bother you if you think someone doesn’t like you? Then chances are, my friend, that you are a people pleaser. Oh, I am right there with you on this one. Honestly, I’m not exactly sure when it started for me but for the most part, I can remember that most of my entire life I’ve wrestled with wanting people to like me. I guess it was one thing when I was an awkward teenager, or the constant “new girl” in school (yep, went to 3 high schools), but for crying out loud, I’m a grown woman now: what’s the deal? It wasn’t until the last few years, particularly this last year, that I’ve really started to wrestle with letting this whole people pleaser thing go. I’m sure I’m not the only one who is or has wrestled with this, so let me share with you what God has been teaching me about what’s wrong with being a people pleaser. I’m not being true to who God has called me to be if I’m trying to be something I’m not. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139) I am not perfect. (Romans 3:10) I can’t make other people like me and it’s okay if they don’t. (Galatians 1:10) Listen,...

So you think you’re a failure?

Did you know that the Dyson vacuum cleaner is named for Sir James Dyson? Dyson was frustrated with the Hoover vacuum he owned because it would lose suction. He came up with the idea of cyclonic separation to create the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner in a universe filled with replacement, disposable sweeper bags. Dyson experienced 5,126 failures before he mastered the concept, but then met even more resistance in the UK because no one wanted to step out and be different with a vacuum that didn’t require you to purchase paper bags for the rest of your life. Give up? Never. This entrepreneur went to Japan with a hot pink Dyson and it won awards and eventually a U.S. patent. But even this wasn’t enough for manufacturers, so he was forced to form his own company to get the Dyson on the market. Today?  The Dyson bagless vacuum is worth more than £3 billion! The Apostle Peter was also doubting himself over a few bad days. He witnessed Jesus being led away to be crucified. He denied him. Three times. Try to put yourself in Peter’s place. Impetuous Peter. Insert-foot-in-mouth-before-thinking-Peter.  Walk-on-the-water-and-sink-Peter. (Hey, he did get out of the boat!) He might be you. He is me. But he didn’t walk away. He didn’t quit. He didn’t leave the disciples, but instead obeyed what Jesus had told them to do: go and wait in the Upper Room and He would send the Comforter. Peter was there when the power fell at Pentecost! He witnessed the 120 being filled with the Holy Ghost, that power from on high. He then...

My Neighbor is a Convict

An ex-con lives 50 feet from my front door. He has been my neighbor for two years and I never spoke to him until last month. Richard* (not his real name) has always seemed slightly odd. He keeps to himself and I rarely see him outside. Every now and then I watch him climb into his old, rusted-out truck and drive down our dirt road. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of him walking to the mail box. If I happen to be outside when he is pulling his trash cans to the curb, I always wave. But the truth is, I didn’t even know his name. I could tell he was uncomfortable around people. I could say that the reason I never went over and introduced myself was because I wanted to respect his privacy, but really I was just too busy to be bothered. Last month Richard wandered on to my property. He held an empty leash in one hand and seemed a bit confused. I thought it was strange he was roaming my property looking for his dog when one quick glance was all he needed to realize there was no dog to be found. I watched as he walked up my gravel driveway. I quickly called my kids to come inside. That evening I was unloading groceries from the back of my van when I heard his voice directly behind me. Startled, I jumped and turned around. “Have you seen my dog?” he asked. “No.” I replied. “Your dog isn’t here.” “Okay. Thanks.” Richard said. And he continued to stand there in the rain. He shuffled his...