Monthly Archives: November 2016

Momentum in the Midst of a Mess

Whether we are referring to the Thanksgiving holiday or the attitude of thanksgiving, selflessness is found right in the name. In this increasingly self-centered world, it is a breath of fresh air to intentionally focus on being grateful and to give thanks to God for His countless blessings.

Thanksgiving is uncomplicated when life is rolling along just how we pictured it. For example, when our Thanksgiving table is set with matching linens, our turkey is roasted to a perfect golden-brown, and our family is seated around a table with smiles on their faces as conversation abounds about faith, family, friends, and food, giving thanks is easily in the forefront of our minds.

But what about when our personal lives are right smack-dab in the midst of a mess? Maybe that is when we make the life-changing (yes, I said life-changing) decision that we are going to make sure that the attitude of thanksgiving will take place right smack-dab in the midst of that mess?

Making a conscious effort to stop in the shambles and halt in the havoc and say, “Thank you,” to our faithful God who refuses to forsake us is sometimes a difficult thing to do. But it is a valuable thing to do. It refocuses our eyes, minds, and hearts on the fact that the size of our mess is minuscule compared to the size of our God. It is often the necessary step to keep us moving in a forward motion into the peace that God offers, instead of backwards into a place of anger or despair.

When we are in the midst of any type of mess; financial emergencies, a cancer diagnosis, family feuds, or broken relationships, if we are consumed by thoughts of, “Why me, why now, why aren’t You there, God?” we will remain at a standstill or even take a step back in our faith life. Thanking God for blessings and the fact that He is going to help us through it, evidenced by the fact that He has been faithful since day one, is a much better mode for our mind to operate in. It strengthens our faith, and it brings honor to God!

Recently, we were heading to an open spot on the arena bleachers to watch our oldest son’s basketball game. Our second son was walking behind me. I was looking up at the action on the floor and unfortunately was not aware of an object on the floor in my path. Boom. Suddenly, I was on the floor and many thoughts rushed through my mind, including “How embarrassing, how embarrassing, and yes, how embarrassing.” My middle name is not Grace, and I have had some missteps in my life; more than I would like to admit. But somehow, this one made me want to find a magic door that would lead me back in time to a few seconds before when I would have plainly seen any objects in my path and avoided an embarrassing situation.

When I fell, there was an immediate helping hand, and it was pretty neat that it was from someone I gave birth to twenty-one years ago. He did not hesitate in bending down, making sure I was okay, and offering to help me up. A few minutes later, after getting seated and attempting to casually give the impression that falling in front of a gymnasium of on-lookers is as natural as bending down to tie my shoes, and pretending that my knees were not feeling a fair amount of pain, I tapped my son on the shoulder. I said, “Brady, thank you for helping me up right away instead of passing right by me and pretending you didn’t know me. I really appreciate that.” And I did. I really did appreciate that. I thanked him, and I thanked God for a reminder that my husband (who was also concerned but was in front of me and did not realize what happened until I was back up on my feet) and I are blessed with three sons, a daughter, and a daughter-in-law who are genuinely kind-hearted in a world where kindness is underrated.

I am not going to pretend that tripping and falling in public is an example of a personal crisis, but I am sharing it as an example of when there was a choice to be made. Dwell on the negatives and suffer in a standstill or even backwards direction, or else find something to thank God for in the midst of a mess and move forward. Keep praying about the mess, because we have a God who hears us and cares about our circumstances more than we even realize. But find something to thank Him for as well. Thanksgiving launches our momentum in the midst of a mess. The decision is ours.

There’s No Halfway

How do you feel about “halfway” people? Half-hearted, on the fence, lukewarm people? I feel the same way. How about when you are guilty of a halfway effort? Are you proud? Doubtful. Are you regretful? Do you crave another shot at it? Me too.

Halfway is no way to go about life. If we are being honest, we would want our lives to be characterized by “all out,” “all in,” and “all the way” efforts! And when it comes to Christianity, there really is no halfway.

I’m not saying that Christians have to say and do everything perfectly… that would simply not be possible. What I am saying is that as Christians our desire should be to say and do everything in a Christlike manner. And once the desire is in place to say and do everything in a God-honoring manner, we will strive toward that goal and our words and actions will line up more often than not! Since we are members of the human race, and therefore not perfect, our success rate on this God-honoring thing will not be 100 percent. But God is blessed when living for Him is a sincere, whole-hearted effort on our part.

If your child were to proclaim that they cannot possibly get a 100% on an upcoming school exam, would you tell them it is not worth trying to do their best? Would you tell them it is not worth trying at all? Correct me if I am wrong, (and it will be unfortunate if I am) but I believe you would tell your child to take the information they know and put in their very best effort on that exam. It is too late to control how much studying they put in for the exam. However, they can control how hard they try on the test. They cannot control the results.

Are you predicting the analogy I am going to draw? We can control how hard we try to live a Christlike life. We can, from this point forward, control how much we “study;” what I would describe as diving into His Word and spending time in prayer in learning how to become more and more like Him. We cannot control the results as far as how people react to us, what people say about us, and what people think of us.

However, God will be smiling down on us as He sees our heart yearn more and more to be like His Son. And yielding a result like the approval of our Heavenly Father trumps all the worldly results, wouldn’t you agree? The wishy-washy results that waver and shake in this unsteady world leave us insecure and unassured. May we long for the security and assurance of an unwavering, unshakeable God who lavishes a steadfast love on His children.
Why am I advocating for Christians to set the lofty goal of being Christlike? It isn’t because we are to come up with admirable goals. It is because the Bible has many specific references to our lifestyle being an imitation of Jesus’ lifestyle, and also because one of the Bible’s most vital overlying messages is to live our lives in such a way that others will be filled with the longing to know or to become closer to Jesus Christ! 1 John 2:6 says, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Ephesians 5:1-2 says, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

We might boldly live out their faith in most aspects of our lives, but hold back one detail or more from complete surrender to God. We think we can handle that one facet on our own. We do not want to bother God with that part…or maybe more likely, we do not want to bother to give it to Him because it might mean we need to bring an end to a behavior that is unpleasing to Him. Unfortunately, we forget that God will give us the ability, self-control, and desire it takes to make changes in that part of our life.

Halfway or lukewarm Christianity is not spoken highly of in God’s Word. Being hot or cold in our faith are both more desirable to God than lukewarm. He would rather see His followers on fire for Him or be outright rejected by us, than to have people claim to be His, and then act like they absolutely have no concern for or interest in what that actually means.

We see it out there in the world, don’t we? Lukewarm or halfway Christianity is prevalent. If we are being honest, we might see it in ourselves as well.

Romans 12:2a says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

I believe it is a daily process, this laying down of our half-hearted Christianity. Let’s spend time in prayer, asking God to help us be the wholehearted Christian He has created us to be. Let’s spur each other on as we whole-heartedly pursue whole-hearted Christianity!

When it comes to Christianity, there really is no halfway. img_0856