Untangling Our Will From God’s

Decisions, the ones that really matter, are difficult. And no matter how hard we try to view a situation objectively, more often than not, each choice will be enmeshed in emotion and obligation, tainted by our sinful nature, and … hopefully, ultimately resting on a desire to be obedient. So how can we separate the latter from the former? Is that even possible? What are some steps we can take to surrender our will to Christ’s and zero in on His guidance? First, we need to understand that we are, by nature, sinful people, prone to pride, selfishness, and self-deception. If not dealt with, these sins have the capacity to squelch the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the first step is prayer, asking God to cleanse our hearts. Consider making Psalm 19:12-14 a daily prayer, especially during times of indecision. “How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer” (NLT). The next step, which is an ongoing one, is to listen. Throughout Scripture, God promises to lead and guide us. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your own ears will hear Him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or to the left” (NLT). Sometimes God will guide us by gently whispering to our heart. Many times He’ll speak...

Resetting For the New Year

I’m pretty sure I was born wearing running shoes. Then, somewhere along the way, in my rush to get things done, I picked up a heavy dose of people pleasing, coupled with an aversion to saying no. Combined, this can leave me with growing obligations and decreased flex time. And every year, come December, I’m left wondering how this happened. How one obligation led to another then another, many times without me paying attention. Then again, that’s the problem–that I don’t pay enough attention, and that I don’t plan ahead enough, leaving cushion for the unexpectes that are sure to arise. Which begs the question: How can I be led by the Spirit when I’m dominated by my schedule? When our daughter was young, I was determined to follow God’s leading in every area of my life, in every minute of my day. My goal–to learn to discern God’s voice better. I was convinced the more I turned to Him for guidance, the more I tuned my ears to Him, and the more I responded to His leading, the better my “hearing” would become. If I was in the middle of a task and sensed God telling me to stop, I did. Or if I felt Him nudge me to do something else, I did. I let go of all my expectations and plans and simply rested in Him. I soon discovered that with this plan, everything got done, only instead of stressing and angsting over the when and how, my days were filled with peace and the deep fulfillment of walking hand-in-hand in with Christ. I’ve often wondered, what...

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...

Stepping Back From the Drama

Commercials present an idyllic view of the holidays, but for most of us, this is a fantasy.  We may wish we could attain it, even running ourselves ragged in our efforts to do so, but we never seem to hit the mark. When that happens, we are often left feeling defeated and saddened. Then there comes the dinner table with all those relatives we may or may not get along with: Crazy Aunt Bertha who’s convinced the world is going to end. Angry Uncle Wilbert who feels personally affronted when someone takes the last drumstick. Sassy Sally who rolls her eyes at every other statement, and of course, all the relational baggage that comes with living in a fallen, sin-cursed world–relational baggage that is magnified during the tense, stressful holiday season. Is it any wonder so many struggle with depression during November and December? And an even more important question–what can we do about? How can we make it through to January first without going completely insane and dragging our loved ones with us? Imagine hosting a dinner party for the most talked about personality of our day. Would that stress you out a little? Cause your stomach to convulse and sweat to build, quite glamorously, along your hairline and on your upper lip? Now imagine tossing sibling drama into the mix. I don’t know about you, but that’d about make me want to cry, and then I’d really have a mess on my hands–the mascara streaked tears kind. But what if I learned to step back and disengage? You may be familiar with the Mary and Martha story....

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,...

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,...

What if We Really Believed?

We talk the talk.  Don’t we? We have the good scriptures memorized. “I can do all things…” “For God so loved the world…” “Lord, if it is your will take this cup…” “Our Father who art…” “Though I walk through the valley of death….” Sunday morning, we will be up bright and early. We will dress in our best. We will press palms and welcome each other with Christian fellowship, drink coffee, sneak a donut, repent, praise, pass the cup, break the bread, nod amen. If the sermon is spot on and the music is just right there may be a tear shed – we vow to be different, better this week. And we will leave filled up, and we will now feast, nap, mow lawns, clip coupons, wash one last load, and start all over Monday morning. Afraid. This is my peg word.  This is how I have lived the better part of 40 years. Afraid. Afraid of death, doom, gloom, vomit, spiders, the IRS, the scale, cancer, Walmart, egg salad, and pain; these things are what haunt me. And although I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death – I still fear much evil.  Although, my Jesus has saved me time and again… I continue to be afraid. If He were here now He would certainly ask, “Are you so dull? How long must I stay with you? Really Jami? You think you will drown – I am IN THE BOAT?!?!” Afraid. This word rocks me to my core. Lately, it is all I hear. “I am afraid of what will happen to our...

Waiting…Turn Your Wait Into a Verb

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:25 ESV Over the last eight years I have spent a good portion of time in a waiting room. In 2005 my oldest son had a traumatic illness occur and thus started the journey of my time in the waiting room. The journey began on August 17, 2005 where we spent 51 days in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) at the local children’s hospital. He was eleven at the time and for about three days we had no idea what was going on with our child and due to the trauma his body was going through he was put into a medically induced coma. Completely clueless as to what was going on and what had happened to our healthy little boy we trudged through those first few days completely unaware of how dramatically our lives would be changed. That was a long hard 51 days for our family, but thankfully our little boy is now a nineteen year old college student. I would love to say he is completely healthy and things are back to normal, but that is just not our reality. There were complications from his trauma and he was left insulin dependent (he lost 90% of his pancreas) and is now diabetic. A few years after that he started to have seizures and so back to the hospital we went in search of answers as to why this was happening to our boy. Tests, exams, scans, MRI’s and everything in between was run to find out what could...

Me and My Stuff

We are moving. I don’t like to move, although I am pretty much a pro. When I was growing up, my dad got transferred all over the country, and that man could pack a U-Haul like a Cuban artisan can roll a cigar.  He defied every recommended safety notice and challenged the laws of physics. Volume, mass, weights, measures, space, and time were no impediment for my father when it came time to relocate. Once he accidentally packed my brother.  If it was in the driveway, it was going in the U-Haul. We moved into this house two and a half years ago in a desperate attempt to adopt two little girls out of the foster care system. They have recently been adopted by another family. Had I gotten my way, we wouldn’t have our sweet Charlie.  Nor would we be loving on the dear flower child peaceably sleeping in the nursery now.   Thank God I don’t always get what I want. Alas, it is time to move on. As I wrapped this and that in sheets of clean newsprint today, a memory of unpacking this house swept over me, and I was overcome with sadness. In our rush to get settled here two and a half years ago, all hands were on deck.  We wanted to get our child protective services inspection moving forward quickly on the two little sisters in need of a forever family.  I set a box in the living room with my most prized mementos from my dad’s mom, Grandma Mickey. My Grandma Mickey was very dear to me. I have her green eyes,...