Aha!

2016 was a year of some exciting events. To name a few: one son got married, one son got engaged, and a devotional I wrote is being published. Major ups! Also, there were some downs. Forgive me for not listing them, as they are pretty fresh in my mind.

What has struck me a few times seemingly right smack-dab over my head about the aforementioned low points…the prayers answered differently than I had hoped…is: Try as I might, I have not been able to make sense of them.

I know Romans 8:28. I repeat it often. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I remind myself that God said, “ALL” things. And I remind myself that His good and my good are not always identical, because His ways are higher than mine. His thoughts are higher than mine. He and I are looking at these situations from different perspectives. One of those perspectives is a tad bit self-centered at times.

Do you ever try to politely explain to God why answering a certain prayer a certain way will surely be better for everyone involved? You don’t? Okay, maybe I am the only person who thinks God doesn’t “get it” sometimes. How super-nice of me to take the time to explain it to Him.

By the way, I am a slow lesson-learner when the lesson is, “God is really good at being God, and He knows what He is doing at all times.”

Prayer requests are never unanswered. As I have heard numerous times: sometimes the answer is, “Yes,” sometimes it is “No,” and sometimes it is, “Not yet.”

When the answer is, “Not yet,” that delayed answer to prayer reminds us that God’s timetable is much more timely than ours, after all.

And when the answer is, “No,” sometimes we eventually have that revelation moment, when we say, “Okay, I get it,” because through the trial, someone came to an important realization in their faith life.

But we are not going to be granted that revelation “Aha” moment every time circumstances don’t turn out as we expect or request. If we think that everything that happens in our lifetime is going to make sense this side of heaven, we may waste precious time on this earth being puzzled instead of at peace.

I wholeheartedly believe there will be some monumental revelation moments when we get to heaven. “Aha” moments of unmatched proportions when answers to some of our unanswered earthly questions will cause things to fall into heavenly place in a heavenly way.

Some answers will make sense here, and some will make sense there. Some may seemingly not make sense…anywhere. One of the most powerful statements I have ever heard is, “God is not obligated to explain Himself to us.”

Perhaps saying the following prayer will give us the “Aha” moment we need to experience that will trump all other “Aha” moments: “Dear God, I know You are good. I know Your reasons are good. Even when I do not understand, I choose to trust You and Your loving ways. Thank You for making ALL things work together for good. In Your holy and perfect name I pray. Amen.”

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

Rejoicing In The Rain

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24)

What If you wake up tomorrow with your mind already made up to rejoice in the day and be glad in it? How will your attitude tomorrow differ from your attitude today?  I have jumped out of bed with a determination to rejoice ‘no matter what’ before, and I have done a commendable job…right up until the first difficult situation arose.

       To choose to rejoice in the day no matter what happens is a significant decision, because we all know that every day brings both joy and trials. Sometimes joys outweigh trials. However, sometimes the scales are tipped in the opposite direction, and we are faced with multiple moments in which our resolve to rejoice is tested.

When something good happens, we find it easy to rejoice! A dictionary definition of the word “rejoice” is: to feel or show that you are very happy about something. Saying, “Thank You” to God directly for people, protection, and positives He blesses us with is a wonderful example of how to rejoice.

On the flip side, when we come up against a problem, rejoicing is not usually our first instinct.  However, once we have made a decision to rejoice in this day whether the sun shines or not, there are genuine reasons to rejoice in the rain.

First, we can rejoice because we get to see God work! We get to see Him bring beauty from ashes. When we have a problem that needs solving, being thankful that we worship the Ultimate Problem Solver is something to rejoice in!

Also, we can rejoice that we have an opportunity to display God’s grace to others while we face difficult situations.  Arguably, this should be number one on the list of reasons to rejoice when trials come! When we handle difficulties with a joyful spirit, stemming from the fact that we know we have a faithful God who is going to take care of us…even in the midst of a storm, we give others hope. We give them a glimpse of Who Jesus is in our life, and Who He can be in their life!

One more reason to “rejoice in the rain” is that after we have gone through a trial, we may be able to help someone that is facing a similar trial. We can offer them empathy and encouragement. We can offer them concern and comfort.

We can give them a reminder of the overwhelming faithfulness of our Father. Coming alongside someone and encouraging them to draw closer to God is a blessing that is well-worth rejoicing over!

Trials, difficulties, hardships, and rain – all can help us grow, to bring consolation to others, and to rely fully on God. All rain can give us cause to rejoice.

I clearly remember one gloomy day as a preschool assistant, lamenting to the children that it was raining – forcing our playtime to be inside instead of on the playground. A sweet student looked at me and wisely declared, “Rain is good! It makes the crops grow.” Yes…rain is good. And rain does in fact make the crops grow. Five-year-olds just get it sometimes.

This is the day the Lord has made: Let us rejoice, really rejoice, and be glad in it. Rain or shine.

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Leaving the Nest

wedding

Clink on this link to go directly to my latest post (all about  a new parenting chapter in our lives) on Momspuration.com! http://momspuration.com/2016/06/29/leaving-the-nest/

“May we be encouraged that although they may be leaving our nest, they will always and forever be carried on and sheltered by His wings.”

It’s Okay Either Way

I am in the midst of preparing for a graduation open house in honor of our 18-year-old son, Drew. Two long, rectangular tables will be reserved for photos of his childhood and scrapbook pages highlighting his growing-up years and achievements. Our shop will be filled with family, friends, food and photos on May 22nd.

While perusing his baby book, I came across the following prayer that I wrote down when Drew was 4: “Dear Jesus, please help Brady tell me all of his secrets, because I won’t tell anyone. But it’s okay if You don’t make him tell me because You are the Holy One and You’re my favorite guy. In Your holy name, Amen.”

Drew’s style of praying was straightforward, reverent, and unswerving from the very beginning, and hearing him pray aloud recently showed me that is still the case.

In this particular prayer fourteen years ago, a little boy voiced a request in a straightforward manner, addressed God reverently, and displayed a faith that is unswerving…a faith not shaken by God answering a prayer differently than he hoped. A faith that led him to say, “It’s okay if You don’t…”

I asked Brady (his next-oldest brother) if he remembered those secrets that his younger brother found so enticing, but he did not remember what they were or if he revealed them. Wondering what provoked this prayer made me smile. It also made me think. The child-like faith that is expressed in this prayer is the type of faith we are all supposed to strive for. Often children bring honest requests to God, knowing God is in charge and understanding that His way is the best way.  Basically it is: ‘Here is my prayer… please answer it however you see fit, because You are God. It’s okay either way.’

How often do adults pray that way? I’ll start with me. Do I have a straightforward way in relating to God? Yes. Do I address God in a reverent manner? For the most part, but there is room for improvement. How do I do with the unswerving faith component?  Here is where I sometimes fail. Here is where my work begins. My goal is to begin consistently praying something like: “Answer my prayer how you see fit, God, because I know You have my best interests at heart. You love me. You have a plan whether I see it or not. My faith in You is based on who You are, not what You do. It’s okay either way.”

I was searching for cute photos, but I came across a cute prayer that contained a lot of wisdom. The open house tables will be filled with photos of Drew growing up with his brothers and sister, playing sports, playing with cousins and friends, and other important memories. I also plan on finding a special spot to display this sweet prayer. May I learn from my son’s prayer from 14 years ago. I do not know if God answered that prayer with a yes or a no, but I know Drew’s faith was unswerving. It was okay either way.

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As it turns out, we really don’t have to forgive everyone…

As it turns out, we really don’t have to forgive everyone.

I have knelt at an altar, placing the names of people at His feet. I have felt anger and betrayal, and if I told you each story, I’m willing to bet you would agree that I’m justified in feeling wronged in at least a few of the situations.

But, I have had to remind myself of something very important: There have been people kneeling at literal and figurative altars placing ME at the feet of Jesus. I’ve wronged people. Sometimes I had the best of intentions, but unfortunately did something to hurt another person. 

And other times? I just got it wrong. No, let me use the real word – I sinned. And therefore sent someone directly to an altar trying to forgive me, or sadly, directly in the opposite direction – where bitterness increases and peace is elusive. That place where we go to not lay people at the feet of Jesus, asking God to give us the ability to forgive them, but instead where we justify our feelings of betrayal and anger. That place where we dwell in a heap of self-destructive self-righteousness.

We are ALL sinners saved by amazing grace. Who are we to keep forgiveness from someone else?

We put others on a mental list entitled, “Not worthy of forgiveness,” while we couldn’t imagine our own names being on it. Do we truly think we are any more worthy of forgiveness than others? I mean, think about it…every sin has the same root: we think our way of doing things or our way of thinking is better than God’s way. The sins themselves have different degrees of how they shake out, how many people are affected, and how the world categorizes them. But, the root? All the same.

And God forgives us all without fail, repeatedly, and with arms wide open. 

So what I am saying is that even the people we would least like to forgive? We have done things equally as ‘unforgivable.’ We cannot say that they don’t deserve our forgiveness if we want to speak the truth. That leaves us with the only option left: we have to forgive them.

Wait! We don’t have to. Continue reading “As it turns out, we really don’t have to forgive everyone…”