Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Are We Really Just Chasing the Wind?

When I was a school girl, I thought, "if only I had friends..."
When I was in high-school, I thought, "if only I could be a cheerleader..."
When I was a stylin' hair stylist (before having kids), I thought, "if only I had a great figure..."
When I was a young mom, I thought, "if only I had a nicer house..."
When I was in the middle-school-parenting years, I thought, "if only I were a better mom..."
When I was first an empty-nester, I thought, "if only I had a couple more kids..."
Now...if only...I could lose the 15lbs...and move to Florida every winter...(in that order of course)

Whenever I focus on the "if-only's" or my "have-not's" my focus leaves anyone else and fixates on 'poor me'. 

All my 'if only' statements are external, temporary things. Things that do not ultimately satisfy, and are fleeting. {are you picturing it? Elementary friends? High-school accomplishments? Great figure when I'm 80? (okay, don't picture that one!) The house 10 years after a remodel? The inevitable empty nest?} Going, going, gone!

Then I saw that all toil and all skill in work come from a man's envy of his neighbor. This also is vanity and a striving after the wind. Ecclesiastes 4:4

This week our STUCK focus was on becoming content (unSTUCK from our discontent) and can you believe we came up with more than a few areas of discontent on our list?  And it appears that different seasons bring different things that we struggle with. The common denominator in discontent is paralysis or bondage (ie: stuck). We get stuck if we are focused on the things we don't have. 
What is the remedy?
Realizing that God gave us longings, and that He wants us. (YES! He wants us!) He placed within us the longing in order that we would long for Him and that we would reach out for Him and find our joy and satisfaction in Him. 

How does that sound to you compared to a large vanilla latte? Compared to owning a brick house with grand pillars and white board fences along your grandiose driveway? Compared to a successful career surrounded by people praising you? Compared to a Hawaiian vacation every year?

At first glance, that Hawaiian vacation looks quite appealing to me at the end of this seemingly endless Wisconsin winter. Unless I were to compare my longed-for vacation with eternity.

Everything pales when you think of eternity. The forever place of continual discovery of God, the glorious Artist.

I attended the play Kingdom Undone last weekend. I was drawn in by the amazing artistry of the playwright and the artistic talent of the director and the actors and by the moving music of the orchestra. When it was over, my heart wanted to run and grab and hug each person invested in the play because they gave me something I treasured, a life-experience that took me beyond myself and brought to view a greater glimpse of God's amazing eternal story. I wanted to do more than watch. I wanted to 'engage' with the artists.

I think that is what it is like with God. Last summer I spent about a month in Montana, I marveled at God's artistry as the carver of magnificent mountains and the painter of stunning skies! Seeing made me want to engage more somehow with the Artist. It was so wonderful, so amazing, but it somehow STILL didn't feel like enough! I wanted something more. You know what I mean. You have had the same experiences. Where you delight in a moment, then the moment is gone and you want more, but it is done. There is a thrill, and simultaneously-or shortly afterward-a regret that there isn't more...

A true artist leaves you with the desire for a connection to more art, yes...but ultimately to the creator of the art itself... That is God's desire in ALL of His good gifts (Like friends, and houses, and our bodies, and our vacation experiences, etc): It's like He is saying in each of them, "Enjoy these displays of my love for you because I want you to want more of ME!"

If we enjoy something and never look up and give thanks, we lose our joy. We are left wanting. Thanksgiving is one of two keys of removing the discontent in our hearts, lives and frees us to live fulfilling lives of purpose and meaning.
The first key, which is necessary for thanksgiving to take place is found in focus. Where we focus determines our attitude. Our contentment is based on where we set our sights. 

So the first key is focusing our hearts on HEAVEN!!! If our mind is heavenward, our expectations (focus) are not on this life and the fleeting outward things that disappoint us or leave us feel unsatisfied. If our mind is on heaven, we keep proper perspective and can give thanks in all circumstances because of His promises to bless and keep us. And ultimately we know that He is going to take us home where we will be free of all the brokenness and longings of living this fleeting life. We will be truly satisfied.

Isn't that how we endure our hard things? Things like having a baby? We endure the temporary pain knowing that we receive relief and joy on the other side. Or doing a difficult project, we endure the work knowing we will have the satisfaction on the other side of the difficulty.

The keys to contentment then, are: 
Eyes on Heaven & Hearts of Thanksgiving! 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fight. Fight. Fight. Crush. Crush. Crush...Come to the Cross...Let's Do Our Part to End the War

I skip around the internet...from one post to another commenter's blog, to another post and so-on... and I see things that just get me flustered and cause my heart to twist in a knot. You do too I imagine. Whatever social media you might wander through from YouTube to NY Times, you will encounter a host of angry comments and what I call a volatile undercurrent of war. Fighting. Fighting. Fighting. Pride. Pride, Pride. Ugly. Ugly, Ugly.

...I've been caught up once or twice in opinion-slinging myself.     You?

There is a place in our soul...a hole that needs, desires, longs to be fulfilled. We want someone to say to us, "you are special. valuable. known. loved. heard." and when people in our lives inevitably disappoint us, don't meet our needs inevitably, cross us inevitably, hurt us inevitably (did I already say that word inevitably?-because we are human after all)

Then we respond with feelings of inferiority causing us to withdraw (flight) or superiority causing angry tongue-lashings (fight). 

Inferiority. Superiority. Neither of those responses lends to living free and certainly does not lead to love. They are both bondage. Living with either attitude is like being held in a prison of people's opinions.

We let them crush or we set out to crush.                ...Crush. Crush. Crush...     
The absolute most grievous displays of crushing-fighting-pride are the ones who do so in the name of Jesus. Yes, Jesus. The one who said, "If anyone claims to love me but hates his brother (or sister) is lying, and my love isn't in them."
{1 John 4:19-21}

Once in awhile I find a back-story by an angry blogger (those prone to 'flight' probably don't write blogs, but probably read them). And I see they have been hurt. I feel sorrow for the pain~so much pain inflicted, real and raw~ but I also feel sorrow for their response to it because by holding on to the pain, they continue to give it power over their lives. They carry their burden when they could lay it down!!! Jesus would so willingly take it from them if they'd give it, and they could walk free. He died to set us free.

Carrying an offense is an offense to the One who died to deliver.

You see, when we have been hurt, He gets it. Look at Him. Innocent, hanging on the cross! If anyone was {wrongly} accused and rejected it was Him. Perfect love, never sinning against man but always telling the truth.

But his very love, it stirred the fierce anger of the prideful ones that crucified him. That was each one of us, right? We all have crucified the Christ because we all have had anger at someone. {Matthew 5:21-22} How then can we be angry with those who hurt us when we are just as capable of hurting? 

We have done the hurting

I pray for the hurting people who continue to nurse their wounds, (I've done that!) who have removed themselves from church, but who desire reconcilliation. I pray that they would find a safe place…for strength and wholeness… and I pray for those who are hurting and who have embraced resentment. I pray for them to be set free. It is the enemy who is the enemy, not the church made up of people. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but the principalities of darkness. {Ephesians 6:12} and I pray for us, the wound-makers, that we take responsibility when we have slung one and apologize. Be humble. Seek peace and pursue it. Let's end the war. Yes?

I pray for wounded ones (I've been them) to discern truth about their situation. To get counseling if needed. To see that they have fellowship with Christ Jesus in His sufferings and they will be enabled to say, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.”

I pray that those who hurt, {pray this with me} that they will love the Scriptures which shine light on the lies. That is my prayer for all who feel hurt and cannot let go. To know the truth... and the truth, it sets us free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matthew 5:21-22

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Words on Anger-For How To Get Unstuck From Its Ugly Consequences

MAD. {Have you ever been?}

There's a photo of a horse and then a reference to controlling our tongue. The member of our body that is hard to keep a tight reign on. {Does that resonate with you too?}

A horse compared to my tongue... A mighty powerful little thing, right?
{Photo courtesy of Wallpaper-me}

That large, enchanting and sometimes scary "beast" with the velvet-soft nose and often spunky spirit. And my tongue.

I was ten when Daddy said 'yes' to the horse for his pleading girls. Our neighbors had horses, and like many little girls, we dreamed dreams. Visions of having our own horses caused us to press our papa...Finally he gave in when the opportunity presented itself...

Flicka was actually a Welsh pony, but she was a bit larger than a typical pony. When you are ten, you don't want to say you rode a pony. I slung my foot over Flicka's back and planted my bottom on the saddle that very first time. It was with false confidence which reaped ugly consequences. 

My child-pride, it can't admit, "I don't know some things. Like how to stop a horse when it runs away with you on its back" resulted in my very first-riding misadventure. Its typical, shortly after saddling a horse which bloats its belly (in resistance to being saddled), the leather cinch loosened, and the seat beneath my butt, it slid right off her back! It fell with it, all of my panic-stricken body went down too as she continued her wild get-away race.

I've heard pride comes before a fall, and I also think it then might drag you on further in order to grant more pain, for my foot was stuck in the stirrup, and my whole body was hauled right through the ruts of the thistle-laden pasture. For what seemed miles. Fortunately, the grace of God gives boundaries and Dad had erected a fence around this arena or I may have died right there that day. Who knows how else Flicka would have been stopped?!? On the opposite end of the pasture, the fence kept me from certain death...I'm sure of it!

And this is my tongue. It needs reigns, and a skilled rider. It needs boundaries.
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you James 1:19-21 
and James 1:26  Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

Be slow to speak, slow to anger... Slow down Horse!!! (I think my words were more like "AAAHHHH HELP!!!! STOP!!!")

It is a common denominator among us, the need to slow down and reign us all in. Our perceived 'rights' cause us to react to situations with less-than grace. {say, impatience...and worse, harmful anger?}

In order for us to get unstuck from this pattern, we need to understand something: We humans have no rights, all of any good comes from God. We sin. So we cannot hold others under the gun when they sin against us.

Turn the other cheek.
Love your enemies.
If someone takes your shirt, give him your coat as well...

If that kind of behavior doesn't send a shockwave through the system of the one who sins against you, what will? Right?

But who can do those things? Giving more to the one who steals from you??? Really?
Offering your other cheek when you are slapped??? Okay?

Jesus. He who was without sin but took on my sin as he hung there. When I realize it is because of me; the cross is on behalf of me-of MY sins. I offended God with my sin. But then, because of His great love with which He loves us sinners (as exhibited on the cross), I have been pardoned. I have been forgiven.

I cannot then withhold forgiveness even one little bit from someone else...who am I? Why would I have expectations on another to fulfill what I, myself cannot? {did someone say perfectionism?}

Only the person who is laid low before the Lord Jesus in absolute surrender due to the humble state of her grateful heart that says, "I have no rights" can love like that. Because, truth be told...the only selfless One is Jesus and when we lay down and let Him live in and through us, then and only then can we obey Him by loving our enemies or blessing those who curse us.

Victory over anger or any other sin only comes from surrendering our whole self to Christ. This is the cross His disciples are asked to 'take up daily' (Matthew 16:24-26). Lay low. Let Him in. "Have your way with me Lord!" It is the only way. And it is freeing!!!

To let Him run the show means rest for me. It means Life and Peace and Joy. I've got nothing to hide, nothing to lose, nothing to fear, and nothing to prove since I am so loved already by Him who gave to me what I did not deserve. When I slapped Him, He turned the other cheek. When I was His enemy He loved me, and when I stole from Him, he gave me more...That is His essence. He is the Gift-Giver.

No longer do I need to strive or fight for 'mySELF'. He has me. I am cared for.

When we realize that this life WILL have its share of suffering and we stop trying to create heaven on earth for ourselves, then we are free to enable others to see God by letting Jesus love through us. Yes, even our enemies. Even those who slap us. Even those who steal from us...

{Re: MAD chapter of STUCK}

Friday, March 15, 2013

And Who Can Teach?

Teaching about a subject doesn't mean you know all about the subject...but that you know in part and are researching it in order to bring to light more of the truth about a subject. Teaching is a most humbling gift since one can only teach what one has been taught. And every teacher knows, or should know,  that unless One Greater reveals, there is nothing to teach...

Who knows a thing unless she searches it out? And what is the source of truth to teach?

So then, the one who teaches is simply reflecting the Teacher regarding the thing that has been taught. The learning, the seeking out of the truth becomes a song sung by the one taught...

"...what do you have that you did not receive?..." 1 Corinthians 4:7

So sing the song you have been given and bring to light the knowledge of the One who created YOU for His glory in HiStory...

Ponder this for your Saturday...joining Sandy for STILL SATURDAY where we are slow and still for the weekend...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Interlude {Broken}

This problem, it shows up wherever we go. 

I grumble having to climb out from under the warm covers in the morning. I wonder what that un-named cloud is hanging over my head, haunting my day~when I finally seek its source, I find out it's from an unsolved issue from two weeks ago that I have not yet taken to the Lord in prayer. 

I worry. I feel hopeless in the face of new problems. Powerless to overcome them. Broken. Weak. Stupid. 
This is the problem that we are talking about~sin. Its trying to live without God, relying on our own resources. As if we had any apart from Him, right? {1 Corinthians 15:10}

I don't want to worry, fear, let things go unresolved. I want to jump out of bed like I'm a morning person and dance for the joy of a new day, but I don't. I'm broken.

 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. Romans 7:21

So what is the answer to our want-to-do-good but feel incapable problem? What is the solution to my grumbling for having to get up on a cold day? {Did you know grumbling is a most-evil sin and invites darkness into the day? Just read the book of Numbers about the Israelites after their miraculous deliverance from Egypt through the Red Sea...}

I talked about this in my last post BROKEN
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1

God did something:
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3

That is what makes us right. But we still have the war inside...we want to do good, but we fail. So how do we take God into those broken places? It is by realizing, by admitting that we are broken. We need to stop pretending we are not. Acknowledge our need for something more than our own resources. It is when we come to the end of ourselves we find God waiting there to love on us, to provide for us, to help us.

When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me. Psalm 86:7

The past few mornings I have been getting up earlier. I am not dancing just yet, but I feel more productive all day. And I am not grumbling. Not because of a great rush of will power, but because I asked God to help me. He has been waking me up before my alarm goes off. I love that! I acknowledge Him in that. And that is a great way to start any day! Knowing Someone is on my side who is bigger than my problem.

What area are you needing help in today? What might be clogging your gears?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


What do you get when a dozen ladies gather in a coffee shop? LOTS of laughter and in-depth conversation...and of course coffee. And today covering chapter two of our Bible Study STUCK.

We are all BROKEN {that is the chapter 2 title) and spend much of our lives trying to fix ourselves. When we finally "get it"...when we get what Jesus came to do (mend us) we still will revert to trying to fix ourselves and in doing so, we get STUCK again. That is where grace comes in again. When we see we need, when we are at the end of our rope.....then,

There is grace, which we identified as God's Righteousness At Christ's Expense and also unmerited favor.

In our read-through of Romans 8 we learn of the two ways to live and the inner war that we wage every day to allow the Lord to lead instead of relying on ourselves. That is the black and white of it: His way...OR...Our way

The colored parts, the parts that we differ in, are the methods we use to get our way. Those are our stuck places mostly. (ie: prideful, overspending, grumbly, manipulative, fearful.....)

We have two ladies who are dealing with grief from loss.-That is a stuck place not related to sin or selfishness, but a stuck place just the same. It isn't something you can rush through or put on a shelf to deal with later. It is something you must walk through in order to process your loss in a healthy, freeing and God-honoring way. I am glad that we have that picture of a stuck place not always being a pit of our own making, but a place of inevitable pain that each of us will face during the course of our life.

We are also challenged in this chapter to really look hard at our faith. Is it genuine? Do we say we trust God and live like we have never encountered Him? Are we thankful for what Jesus did? Do we see how desperately we need Him and His mercy? Or are we coasting along taking it for granted and continuing to live however we want to? Are we obeying Him because we love and trust Him?

There is comfort in finding that our weak areas are not something we need to hide or cover up, but can be the very place where God shows Himself to the world. And that is always His aim. To be known. To reconcile His people to Himself. So, our weak areas become places of grace for others. It's kind of a loaves and fishes type of miracle. He brings nourishment from what little broken pieces of ourselves we have to offer Him. Isn't that what Jesus did with the loaves and fishes? He gave thanks and broke them and they multiplied and fed thousands.

"In the Lord I put my trust" (Psalm 11:1) "O my God, I trust in You." (Psalm 25:2)

"The Hebrew root word for "trust" suggests "to fling oneself off a precipice." It is to be like a child who hears her father say, "Jump!" and she trustingly obeys, throwing herself from a height into his waiting arms." ~David Wilkerson
As we encounter the grace and love of God we can fling ourselves into His crazy-big arms and live free!
BROKEN INTO-------->>>>REDEEMED!!! Live Free in Jesus! 
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery! Galatians 5:1

For those doing the study through the Facebook group, I will post again on Sunday afternoon about the DVD for this weeks' chapter: MAD. (I have a super-busy weekend!!!) But please leave your thoughts and questions, I will check in as often as I can.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Accusation Suspension

It is never the voice of God that slings stones of condemnation when you are in Christ. Its our soul-enemy that does that. {See Revelation 12:10} Often he just yells in our head, but he also uses people.

The condemnation that I felt before receiving the forgiveness of sin by surrendering my life to Jesus was a gift. Because it led me to find Him. Discomfort serves to seek solutions. I like how that works.

But after finding Him {or rather He found me, lost as I was...} I still struggled with feeling horrible when I didn't do something right. I knew I needed to be gentle, kind, and loving but, sometimes I wasn't.

One day my four-year-old grabbed a bowl sitting on the counter with leftover milk from cereal, and the sticky milk went flying, and so did I. Flying off the handle. Words went slinging. 

I was mortified two seconds later with my high expectations and unreasonable reaction toward my little blonde girl, eyes wide scared at how her mommy morphed. Instantly I apologized and told her that wasn't how God wanted mommies to act. But the aftermath of remorse in my heart went on for some time.

Then I went back to this verse: Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus, the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1

There are certain passages of scripture that I think if it were possible, I have worn right through like my favorite wool socks. Threadbare on the bottom of the heels....only with scripture being eternal, there is no such chance of having it fail. Eternal truth to keep me eternally forgiven. In Christ.

It takes less time these 20 years later to appropriate the truth of those words. I know my Savior better than I did then. I know myself better. I am not afraid of being found out as a sinner because really...who isn't one? Now it goes something like this: I fail--> I feel bad--> I find forgiveness-->I fly forward.

Sin is a birth defect of the heart. It is like my funny club thumbs. There's nothing I can do to change them, they came on my hands. Its why Jesus came. To cure my heart-defect (I might wish my thumbs but...) Only by His life laid down can I be free from condemnation and no longer tied to the past sins.

I'm free to fly by faith now, even after times of flying off the handle. Which, by the way, is less often as I learn from the One I follow.

Joining The Mom Initiative today:

Friday, March 1, 2013

Riding the River Faith

Leaving a company you have been employed with for 15 years when you are approaching the mid-century mark is a tiny bit scary. But that is what is happening here. With a new job comes facing the unknown no matter how things look from this place. No matter how things sound.

Naturally this brings tiny waves of "what-am-I-doing??" for my husband. And for me, a splash of "what is ahead for us?"

Him moving on, and me, closing my shop when I have no 'career' plan to follow, but a "calling" that I have yet to fully discern...we don't know what is around the bend. But we know WHO. 

The One WHO is governing my life has proven faithful in a thousand ways. I am so grateful for His faithfulness. Jesus is in my boat, this I know. {and if I were a songwriter...} 

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
 Psalm 145:3-7

 Where has your boat been? Are you facing a place that requires eyes of faith, a heart of trust? Remember this:
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God; 
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
Psalm 46:4