Tag Archives: God

Enjoy the Ride

IMG_2734When I was a young mother, I remember being appreciative of some advice that experienced parents shared with me.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps,” “Pick your battles,” and “Time goes by quickly, so enjoy every moment with your children.” I wholeheartedly agree with these words of wisdom and have passed them along to others from time to time.

I went into motherhood armed with that short list of recommendations found above, but the list of things I didn’t know yet was much, much longer. A couple of decades of parenting has given me new insight. I’m crossing my fingers that a couple more decades will only increase the amount of knowledge! (Well, I’m praying it will, because the finger-crossing trick isn’t very effective.)

This is not a list of advice, as much as a list of “Things You Won’t Realize Until…You Realize Them.”

I now know being a mother is the most exhausting, emotional, educational, enlightening, and extraordinary experience known to mankind.

I now know that you are going to want to give anything to go through the sicknesses and injuries your children are facing in place of your child. Anything. If there was a way to do some sort of Disney-style Freaky Friday movie flip-flop, this mom and every mom I know would have found it by now.

I now know that you will want to shout it from the rooftops (and all of your social media accounts) when your child wins an award or is recognized for an achievement, but the moments when they stand up for themselves or others, stretch out their hand in kindness, or step into bold faith make you beam with an even greater pride. And those instances make you attempt to think of ways to shout from rooftops and post on social media about what an awesome human being your child is without sounding like “that mom.”

I now know that kids can bring you so much joy that the risk of being “that mom” is worth it.

I now know “mother’s intuition” is real and “perfect mothers” are not.

I now know that kids are quite forgiving of parenting mistakes, and staying mad at yourself is pointless and damaging. Decide to do better and be better. When we screw up again, we can decide to do better and be better. Again. Repeat as often as necessary.

I now know that being in unknown territory as a parent is a real feeling, but it is not a reality. God is there through it all. I mean, honestly…He is already there – the territory is not unknown to HIm. He is ready to ride along with you.

Motherhood is full of moments of triumph and turmoil; satisfaction and sorrow: glee and gloom. It is a roller-coaster ride evidenced by the fact that you will scream, throw your hands up in the air, brace yourself, laugh, hold on to your loved ones, and just when you think you can’t do it anymore, find yourself in line to get right back on and continue the ride.

Remember not to ride alone. Through every twist and turn, God is eager and willing to sit beside you, hold on to you, and guide you through unknown territory.

For the Record, Please Include an Upbeat Hymn

I have never been involved in a group-funeral-planning-session with the person whose funeral was being planned. Until that day.

There I was, seated in a cozy living room…the kind of room where you actually have uninterrupted visits and maybe even engage in profound conversations of life-changing proportions, because there is no television to act as the central attraction, or to detract from what the actual central feature should be in living rooms: people.

I listened mostly, because that is my nature. When it comes to spoken conversation, I have always taken time to process the previous dialogue and reply with measured responses. And this was one of those days when more listening than talking on my part seemed appropriate.

Questions were asked about what main message she wanted preached, which scriptures she wanted shared, and which songs she desired to be sung.

“She” was my aunt. A woman dearly loved by her family and friends. A woman who was admired and adored by all she encountered.

She was clear about wanting the message of having a relationship with Jesus Christ and allowing God to be in charge of judging others, not us, to be at the core of the pastor’s sermon. The scripture she chose coordinated with that message well. And after the funeral, there was agreement that her wishes had been carried out in a way that honored the life she lived and her God.

The music she chose was comforting and touching. During the planning, a question of whether one of the songs was too upbeat was voiced. She is the one who raised that question if I remember correctly. The consensus was that a funeral of someone who served God and was looking forward to spending eternity with Him is a perfect setting for a triumphant, upbeat song to be sung.

I know that expected funeral decorum is that of reverence and respect, but I believe funerals are an opportune time for reminding the living of what our eternal future holds as well. If we accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness and relationship, our eternal future will certainly be a place of victory and celebration. Upbeat songs work well in that capacity.

I have a God who loves me beyond description in spite of my doubts, my sin, and my anxiety problem that turns me into a complete mess from time to time. He loves you beyond description too. He sees the potential in us. He placed it there. When we accept Him as our savior, new life in us begins, because His love compels us to want to become more like Him. When my time here is nearing an end, if I am able to be a part of planning the funeral, that is the message I will want communicated to those who gather to remember me. My aunt felt this message was something to sing about. I wholeheartedly agree.

For the record, please include an upbeat song at my funeral. Image 4-29-17 at 11.33 AM

 

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

A Beautiful Blessing

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Have you ever received an encouraging message at the exact moment you needed it? It happened to me recently. This particular day, I was allowing my negative emotions dictate how I felt about not only the day, but also how I felt about myself. I have always struggled with putting too much stock in unkind comments or comments that I interpreted as unkind. Those comments cause a feeling of rejection in me…which is a trait that happens to be on my list of “I-totally-need-to-work-on-that” qualities.

Filled with an unhealthy dose of self-pity, I walked outside to retrieve our mail. In our mailbox was a handwritten note from a dear friend. (By the way, how many people actually handwrite notes nowadays? How cool is that?) On the outside of the card was a beautiful print. The beauty of the words on the inside of that card had an immediate effect on how I was feeling on the inside!

It was a sincere note of gratitude to me and to God for our friendship. I walked back in the house with a new outlook. I guess you now know how changeable my emotions can be! I’ll be honest: sudden mood changes seem to be a part of my wiring. (Okay, add that to the aforementioned list.) Well-timed, beautiful words took my focus off of feeling sorry for myself and put it back where it belonged: on God and how much He loves us.

When it comes to my mind to thank someone or to share words of admiration with someone, I try not to delay! When you sense a prodding to extend gracious words to others, I encourage you to grab a card and start writing, grab a phone and start texting, or grab a chair and start visiting face-to-face. A conversation that seems fleeting or inconsequential to us might be the same words that replay in their mind when they are in need of a boost in their morale.

I am certain you can think of times in your life when someone has said (or typed or written) beautiful words to you at just the right time. One of the many wonderful attributes of our Holy Spirit is His impeccable timing; He nudges us to extend encouragement to others right when they need it the most.

Proverbs 25:11 brings beautiful images to mind. The Message version says, “The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry.” In the New King James version, it reads, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” The right words said at the right time to the right person can certainly be thought of as beautiful, just as a custom-made piece of jewelry or golden apples in settings of silver would.

Let us join together in praying that we become more sensitive to our Holy Spirit’s prompting to encourage others with uplifting messages. What a blessing to add beauty to the lives of others!

Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

(This post appeared on LiftUpYourDay.com today. Check that site out for daily encouragement!)

 

He Is What?

This is my latest contribution to LiftUpYourDay.com. Take a look!

He Is What?
JUNE 15, 2016 ~ GWEN THIELGES
Years ago at a Women of Faith conference, I had one of those moments. Well, a few actually. I was brought to tears as several speaker’s and singer’s words touched my heart.

But the song that had me weeping and wondering why tissue boxes weren’t handed out as you walked in the door was, “I am,”

When Nichole Nordeman spoke about the meaning of the song, she very articulately explained the meaning of God’s name for Himself in Exodus, “I Am.” I’m unable to quote her now, as it has been a number of years…but in essence, she said that God has promised to be all that we need no matter the situation.

Her song moves chronologically through a typical lifetime of events.

From a childhood fall off a bike, to teenage angst, wedding vows, starting a family, and to the time God calls us home, she beautifully expresses through the lyrics that God is the filler of every single void that we have. It is not just what He does…it is Who He is!

Anytime I am reminded of God deeply loving me, His ultimate sacrifice, and the fact that He desires a genuine relationship with me, it brings me to my knees (sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively) in tearful praise of Him. We are not worthy, but He sure seems to find us worth it.

Before that conference, when I heard the phrase, “I am,” in reference to God, I secretly waited for the rest of the sentence. Finally, I grasped the awesome truth and promise that name contains. The name, “I am,” means He is.

He IS.

Are you hurting? He is Healer. Grieving? He is Comforter. Sinner? He is Savior. Fearful? He is Peace. Lonely? He is Friend. And on, and on, and on to infinity. Any need you throw at the King of Kings will be met in the only way He does things – perfectly.

My tearful-turned-full-out-weepy praise of Him in that moment was caused by finally realizing that God’s presence in every situation is something that He desires. We are not a bother or a burden to our Heavenly Father.

We have a God that seeks us, loves us, and is in it for the long haul with us. He wants to be in it with us. He wants to be our I AM.

Maybe you have a deep need today, and you do not know how it can be met. Bring it to God. God not only knows the way to meet your need, He IS the way to meet your need.

Thank You, God.

 

And here is the tweet from Nichole Nordeman after she read it! This is the complete conversation, including my spelling error! 😉Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 6.07.07 PM

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer After A Long Day

imageDear Lord, it was a tough one today.

I am not complaining about big burdens or big problems. My family is relatively healthy. I have a loving family. I live in a caring community and have wonderful friends. But today, I lost my focus on the good. My eyes wandered onto what I did not have instead of what you have blessed me with. I wavered in my resolve to become more like You. I struggled. Big-time.

I woke up with positive plans. I read my Bible, spent some time with You in prayer, and attempted to put my day in perspective.

Then life happened.

An abrupt response, an irritable child, a broken-down appliance, no clean pair of socks, forgotten homework, a flat tire, and an unexpected bill.

I took the first couple of mishaps in stride. After that, I lost it. I was responsible for some non-Christlike reactions, some negative comments, and fixing my mind on some thoughts that were definitely not authored by You.

Lord, I could have done that whole “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” thing and that “Be imitators of God…walking in love” thing if my day would have been smooth sailing. It is easy to serve You heartily, happily, and wholly when difficulties are not seemingly getting in line to attempt to defeat and disappoint me.

Lord, I wish there was a reset button. But there is not. So, please help me concentrate on what IS available to me: Your amazing mercy, Your second chances, Your unfailing love, and Your all-encompassing forgiveness. That is already quite a list, and there is even more.

You do not hold these gifts of grace in some secret place, waiting for us to go through a special ceremony to unlock them. Instead, You hold them out to us in Your arms that happen to already be outstretched in order to hold us and tell us You are here to comfort us.

Lord, please refill me with Your Holy Spirit, refresh me with Your peace, and renew me with Your power.

Lord, You love me. You love me when I ask for forgiveness, and when I repent of my wrongdoing. You love me when I seek You and when I call on Your name. You love me when…I could go on forever.

I am the recipient of unfailing love that I do not feel worthy of, but You declared on a cross that You are willing to overwhelm me with. You continue to cover me with that love on bad days, good days and all days in between.

May I never use Your promised love as an excuse to not strive to be more and more like You every day. The “You love me no matter what,” fact should be incentive to become more and more like You, not an excuse to ‘get away with’ actions that do not reflect Who You are.

Lord, maybe people did not see You in my actions today. Lord, I ask You that they will see a glimpse of You in my renewed determination to display Your character tomorrow.

Only You can shine through a broken vessel like me. Thank You for wanting to show Your glory through my weaknesses and imperfections. Thank You for assuring me that while sin separates us, my repentance and Your forgiveness bring us back together again.

Thank You for second, third, and countless chances. Thank You for being Who You are. In Your Holy Name I pray. Amen.

Lamentations 3:22-23

Ephesians 4:32

Ephesians 5:1

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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