Thursday, October 29, 2015

I Know You're Feeling Like You've Got Nothing Left

My prayer list this morning is a long one.  It is loaded with friends that are just plain old hurting, and for good reason.  Being a parent is hard, and seeing your child hurting magnifies any emotion you have.  I have multiple friends with children in the hospital battling diseases, some physical and some mental. Others are battling the same kinds of diseases for themselves.  In most of these cases, my friends are helpless to solve the problem, as am I. But..I can pray and that is a powerful tool.

On occasion, I see people somewhere with their heads down and the words “sad” and “broken” and “beaten down” come to my mind.  Sometimes, they are standing waiting on the bus, sometimes they are children that I am tutoring, and sometimes it’s the homeless girl on the street in Columbus.  

I would bet if you looked around today, you would notice people like this too.  I have probably looked that way more than once in life, but by the grace of God, His spirit fills me and most days I look up, make eye contact with people, smile and try to show HIs love to people.  

I can give the homeless girl the leftovers from my meal and that might solve her problem for a little while.

I can encourage and try to make the child I am tutoring laugh and that might make him feel better for a little while.

I can make eye contact and smile at the person waiting on the bus, and that might make them smile for a little while.

I can listen and encourage my friends who are hurting, and that might relieve some of the heartache for a little while.

But God is the only thing that can fill those voids and heal those hurts.

I saw this Scripture and it made me think of these things this morning:

Lord, You know the hopes of the helpless.  Surely You will hear their cries and comfort them.  
Psalm 10:17

My goal for this week is to lift each person I see that looks sad, beaten down, and broken up to God and ask Him to comfort them.  I pray for my friends, but I don’t often think to pray for the strangers that I see that are hurting.  This week, I want to change that.

The words of TobyMac’s Move (Keep Walkin’) are running through my head..

I know your heart been broke again
I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet
I know you're feeling like you got nothing left
Well, lift your head, it ain't over yet.
So..Move.  Keep walkin’ Soldier keep movin’ on..

Lift your head, move, keep walking.  It isn’t over yet, but one day it will be. Amen!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Do You Ever Think God Must Be Laughing At You?

Do you ever have a moment when you think God must be laughing at you?  Not in an evil, maniacal way, but in a “Seriously?” way…

I had that thought today as I was vacuuming.  I was praying for the son of a friend who will be undergoing surgery soon, and then my thoughts went to the prayer requests that I repeat daily, and feel like I have been repeating for a LONG time.  But, then, out of the blue my mind went to 

2 Peter 3:8
But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends:  A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.

I have this one particular prayer request that I have been praying for years, and I always end it with the word “soon”.  That’s probably where God gets a kick out of me and starts laughing.

Soon!  What does that mean?  To me, it means tomorrow, or actually later today would be preferable.  To God, however, He already knows if and when He will answer and “soon” probably doesn’t mean a lot to Him.

In a world where we live and breathe by schedules, appointments, timetables, practices, meetings, yada yada yada, God will breathe life into us through fellowship with Him and spending time in His word.

Do I think it’s a coincidence that the particular Scripture mentioned above came into my head? Absolutely not.  Something about the whir of the vacuum let my mind stop long enough to actually listen, and that’s what God wanted to tell me.  So, people, I am going to try and stop saying “soon” after my prayers.

I am going to try and focus on God’s timetable and not the one that is accepted by our society, which might lead to less frustration, which will probably lead to being more grateful for all the countless things He has given me and prayers that have been answered, which will probably lead to God smiling at me.  I like that.

Sound like a plan?  I’m going to start NOW (not soon)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I love Jesus...and Justin Timberlake

It’s true.  I love Justin Timberlake.  I like his music. I think he’s funny and I am a fan.  It’s also true that I watch television shows and movies that contain behavior that I don't condone, but I am a fan of those shows.  I admit it.  

I was reading this passage this week, and it made me think..

I John 2:5-6 (NLT)
But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love Him.  That is how we know we are living in Him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

That is some heavy stuff.  I could list 1,000 ways I don’t live my life like Jesus did.  As I was contemplating this passage, I looked at the footnotes in my study Bible and it says this, “How can you be sure that you belong to Christ?  If you do what Christ says and live as Christ wants.”

So, what does Christ tell us to do?  He says to love one another. Over and over and over and over, he says that we are to love one another.  What does that mean?  Does it mean the same way I love Justin Timberlake? No. 

 To me, it means that we give to other people in need, we listen and support the people He has placed in our lives, and serve others.

Jesus did all of those things while here.  He didn’t have any material possessions, and warned many times about the dangers of being rich, however, he gave healing and comfort to many people through His miracles.  I don’t have the ability to heal people, but God has blessed my family with enough resources that we feel comfortable donating to people who need it.  I always hope that they feel loved through that support.

Jesus picked twelve disciples while He was here, and while Scripture doesn’t talk much about His human friendships, I tend to think that He was a good friend to them.  He rescued Peter from the water when Peter’s faith wavered.  Peter was a hothead.  Matthew was disliked because he was a tax collector, and it wasn’t done so kindly back in those days.  The twelve men that he chose weren’t perfect,but He loved them, was patient with them, and was there when they needed Him even when He knew they wouldn’t be there for Him in the end.  I want to follow that example with my friends.  I admit that it isn’t always easy to do, but I hope they feel loved.

Jesus, the Son of God, who deserves nothing but honor and praise and worship also took the time to serve other people.  He washed the feet of His disciples which in those days was one of the most humbling things you could do.  I am currently not working outside the home, so I have sought out ways that I can serve other people.  Believe it or not, I don’t watch Netflix ALL the time.  For those of you who have careers, you have been placed in a position that gives you the opportunity to serve other people and show Christ’s love while you’re working, whether you know it or not.

So, yes..I like to listen to music that isn’t always Christian based, and I watch some shows and movies that aren’t rated PG-13 or below.  I even read books that aren’t written by Christian authors.  I could go on, but you get the point.  I have no doubt I will hear from some folks that have told me before that I shouldn’t be doing those things, and be so public about my Christian faith, but I am who I am and the bottom line is that I love Jesus and He loves me.  My relationship with Him is strong and He knows my heart and my intentions.  

The love that Christ has for you and me is a REAL , selfless love that gives, supports, and serves.  He really does love us so!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Are You Comfortable In Your Own Skin?

People are complicated.  Every day we have choices to make, and those choices shape how others see us, and more importantly how God sees us.  Most first impressions are decided by outward appearances.  That’s human nature.  Thankfully, we can rest in the beautiful fact that God couldn’t care less what we look like, because He is looking at our hearts, and what is being reflected out of them.  That is where He sees our beauty or lack thereof.

He knows WHY we make the choices we do as to how we will spend our time.  Is it for appearances OR is it to help others or ourselves improve physically, emotionally or spiritually?

He knows WHY we choose to treat the grocery store clerk with kindness OR ignore them during the transaction.

He knows WHY we choose to invite people into our lives OR stay in an exclusive clique making others feel excluded.

He sees YOU.  The real YOU.  Just like He sees the real ME.  Eek!  Scary? Yes, but He loves me anyway.

I like to think that I’m comfortable in my own skin.  I have come to accept the gray hairs that I cover with blonde (that’s acceptance, right?), the fact that I am under 5 feet tall and not the skinniest chick you’ll come across (yes, I know I need to exercise more frequently), and the scars have mostly faded from having severe cystic acne as a teen (well, the physical ones anyway).  However, while watching the Emmys last week, as Frances McDormand accepted an award, I noted that she wore a dress that was appropriate, but she wore no makeup and her hair looked normal, and I thought “Now, that’s a woman who is just comfortable in her own skin.”

That isn’t easy to do.  I am 46 years old, and getting closer every day but I pray every day that I reflect the light of Christ to other people.  I don’t always succeed in that effort, but it there is any inner beauty seen in me, it comes from Him.

I love I Samuel 16:7 “ But the LORD said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him.  The LORD doesn’t see things the way you see them.  People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  God had told Samuel to go to Israel and anoint a new king.  Samuel was being human, judging on appearances, seeing who looked the part of being a powerful king, but God had already chosen David and he didn’t look the part…on the outside anyway, but David’s heart was what God was saw.

It can be hurtful when people say things about your appearance.  The emotional scars from that can last a long, long time. It can affect your confidence until you find the strength to be who God wants you to be.  Take comfort in knowing that God sees your heart.  He knows WHY you make the choices you do, He knows WHY you put up walls or take them down. He knows YOU.  

I hope as you grow to know Him better, you become more and more comfortable being who God created you to be, relying on Him for strength.  I pray that for myself as well.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

If You've Ever Felt Like God Doesn't See You or Hear Your Prayers...This Is For You

How many of you are tired?  I would guess that the majority of people reading this would say , "Me!".    Every morning my Facebook and Twitter feeds are flooded with people talking about that cup of coffee to get them started in the morning.  

But, there’s a different kind of tired that a Scripture has me thinking about this morning, and I’m going to admit one of my many imperfections here:  There are certain people and situations that  just wear me out.  If you know me it won’t be hard to visualize the eye roll as I say, “I’m just so tired of it.”  Anybody else been there?  

As I was reading Isaiah 40, verses 27-29 this morning, my initial thoughts went to how physically tired I feel, but after further meditation on it, the correlation is much more about being emotionally tired for me.  Here it is in the New Living Translation:

Isaiah 40:27-29-  
O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?  
O, Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?  
Have you never heard?  
Have you never understood?  
The LORD is the everlasting God, the creator of all the Earth.  He never grows weak or weary.  No one can measure the depths of His understanding.  He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.

  • If you have ever felt like God does not see you or hear your prayers…this is for you.

  • If you have ever felt like God is ignoring you…this if for you.

  • If you have ever felt like your problem is too small for God to care about..this is for you.

While we get weak and weary and tired and worn out by situations and people, God does not.  We can ask and cry and plead and whine and ask and complain and ask Him and He still doesn’t get annoyed with us.  He just doesn’t get tired.  As a matter of fact, that is what God wants.  
                        I Thessalonians 5:17 says Never stop praying.

Hmmm..that’s a three word sentence that packs a punch.  Don’t give up because the answers that we are praying for aren’t coming as quickly as we want them to.  

And while we are waiting, feeling weak and powerless, ask God to give you the power and strength to deal with that gnat in your life that continues to annoy you as you swat and miss repeatedly.

It won’t surprise anyone who knows me that as I am writing this, there is a TobyMac song running through my head. It’s from his new album “This Is Not A Test” (which is AWESOME by the way).  It is called “Move (Keep Walkin’).  I will end with posting some of the lyrics from that track that speak to me the most, but you should really check it out for yourself, and remember to lift your head, it ain’t over yet…

Seriously, lift your head.  Look to God and find the strength and power you need.

I know your heart been broke again
I know your prayers ain’t been answered yet
I know you’re feeling like you’ve got nothing left
Well, just lift your head
It ain’t over yet
So, move
Keep walking

Soldier, keep moving on..  ~ TobyMac

Monday, September 14, 2015

Just A Normal Chick Trying to Live Her Faith Out Loud

I spent the weekend catching up with friends that I don’t see very often.  One was a friend from high school, several were ladies that I taught with, and the rest were women that I hung out with on a regular basis during our time in southern Ohio.  We moved from that area to eastern Pennsylvania 7 years ago, and have since moved to northern Ohio.  A question I was asked more than once was if I liked living in Sandusky, which I do, and it was mentioned by multiple people that I seemed happy no matter where I live.  That always brings to mind that whole Bloom Where You’re Planted thing.

The thing I was surprised about was the number of those women that mentioned missing this blog.  I was encouraged to hear them tell me how it helped them through hard times. I have been asked my many people why I haven’t posted in a while and honestly the answer to that has several answers.  The main one was that life got really crazy for me with another move coming, transitions with colleges for my kids, blah blah blah.  It didn’t feel like blah blah blah when I was going through it.  It was heavy and time consuming and I needed time to be fed spiritually instead of feed.

Some of you will think that’s selfish.  Honestly, another reason the posts stopped was what people were saying.  I always tried to make it clear that I am FAR from perfect, and that I struggle to reflect the light of Christ on a daily basis, but somehow I was still called a hypocrite when I made a mistake.  Even though I know my heart and my intentions, it still hurts when you’re called out , and I just didn’t think it was worth it.  I’m not a Bible scholar.  I’m not a minister.  I’m just a normal chick trying to live her faith out loud, and I let the noise of other people drown me out.

It’s easy to sit behind a computer and drag someone else down.  My goal of the blog was to encourage and show love.  Some of the posts that were written as testimonies by other women were getting negative comments on them.  That upset me because those women were vulnerable enough to share their story and because of a venue that I started, negative things were being said to them for the public to see.  That was discouraging as well.  

So, the posts stopped.  I had a group of women that contributed their thoughts weekly and after prayer, I diligently worked to craft their words of wisdom into something that would be a light to other women.  Those women didn’t deserve negativity either, so the sabbatical continued…

We are settled into our new home now.  Our kids are out of high school, and I’m not working so I have been praying that God would show me how He wants me to use the gifts that He has given me.  I knew His answer was to start sharing here again.  I actually knew that when I met friends in Charlotte in March and I heard the same things, but I ignored it then.  But since that time, the messages, emails and conversations have continued, and I knew it again this weekend when those words of encouragement were said.

I don’t know if it will look the same.  For now, I’m just planning to share my thoughts on  Scripture that gets my attention, and if it encourages one other person, then I know I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, even though it still makes me a little nervous. But as TobyMac says, “I’m leaving the sweet spot, sure shot and trading it all for the plans You got.”  The sweet spot is sitting behind this computer watching Netflix..

The Scripture that woke me up this morning was Jeremiah 17:7-8, “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.  They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.  Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.  Their leaves stay green and they never stop producing fruit.”

If you’re up for thoughts from a flawed woman trying to reflect the light of Christ I hope you’ll join me on this ride.  I’m going to fail at times, but because I trust in the Lord, I hope that some of the fruit produced will nourish a soul or two..

Sunday, November 2, 2014

A Challenging Thankful Challenge

For the past several years, the 30 day Thankful Challenge has been popular on Facebook.  Each day, you post something that you are thankful for.  It’s a great way to remind ourselves that we have a lot of things to be thankful for.  BUT if you want a real challenge in being thankful, don’t think of things, but be thankful in circumstances, in whatever is happening in your life.  Every one of us is struggling with something, and we need to be thankful in it.

In Philippians, Paul tells us there are four thieves that rob us of our joy:
  • circumstances
  • people
  • things
  • worry

He then tells us how to keep these things from making us into bitter, whiny, complainers.
  • Be single-minded:  This means to stay focused on our blessings and our allegiance to God.  James 1:6-8 tells us that a double minded     person is unstable in all his ways.  God wants all of our loyalty, not for it to be divided between Him and this world.
  • Have a submissive mind:  This means to stay focused on others.  Take a look around, and take your eyes off of yourself and your problems for a moment.  Choose to help people in need around you.  This can help in so many ways, plus it can help curb annoyances with other people when we aren’t getting our way.
  • Have a spiritual mind:  Spiritual minded people focus on what God wants.  They are looking for lessons and messages in every circumstance.  If we choose to look at things that way, instead of being obsessed with what we do or do not have , things will start looking up.
  • Secure your mind:  People with secure minds just don’t allow worry to enter them.  Having a secure mind means that you have guarded your heart and mind with the word of God, and you have faith that good will come from whatever is going on.

Following Christ is an action.  We are not to sit around and play a passive role, but instead we should be active; always abounding in the work of the Lord:  praying, rejoicing, and being thankful no matter what.  

We might be weak, we might cry too often and proclaim, “I can’t do this, God”, BUT God is faithful.  He fills in for the weakling.  He gives joy.  He provides mercy that we do not have, patience that we cannot muster and love for people who might not be easy to love.

Happiness is not based on your circumstances, but on a decision that you make.  Paul was literally chained to a prison guard at all times.  However, through it all, he had joy.  He prayed without ceasing, he wrote letters encouraging churches to be faithful, he witnessed to the guards, the other prisoners and to high officials.  By the way, Paul would probably never have come in contact with these people if he hadn’t been imprisoned.

Paul didn’t let his circumstances rob him of his joy because he wasn’t living to enjoy circumstances, he was living to serve Christ. And he was thankful in every situation that he was put in, no matter how difficult it was.

Whether you are facing unemployment, cancer, a rebellious child, caring for aging parents, uncertainty or anything else you’re struggling with, choose to be thankful.  It’s a challenge, but I am taking it.  How about you?

Passages to Ponder:

I Thessalonians 5:16-18  Always be joyful.  Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

James 1:6-8  But when you ask Him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.  Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.  Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

Philippians 2:3  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.  Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Contributors:  Karen Bromby,  Tammy Holtzapfel, Kim McClure and Shawna Nelson