Thursday, May 17, 2018

Getting the Uglies Out


When I was a teenager, I was pretty great at noticing when guys were attractive or not. Thankfully, I also noticed when their actions were not kind as well. I started to see that guys who were initially very attractive, but not kind, became less attractive. Guys who might have been less attractive, but kind, became more attractive.

A few years back, while my kids were small, we had playdates with a friend whose children were the same ages as mine. Of course, while the kids played, the moms would talk. Those were some of my most favorite times. When my friend's children would become mean to each other, she would tell them that they were acting “ugly.” The first time I heard her use it left an impression on me and I have used it at times with my own children.

During a sermon several weeks ago, my husband said, “Have you ever said something that you regretted?” Throughout the congregation of people there was a collective groan. My internal groan probably was the loudest. I have regretted many things that I have said, but I do know that I am not alone. Maybe knowing that fact, we all should show a little more grace when others say things that should not have been said.

Several years ago, my husband and I went through a parenting class called, “Parenting is Heart Work.” I loved it. It made complete sense to me to instead of working on my children’s actions to work on the motives of their heart. Of course, that would take work, and it is not easy work. Through that work, it came apparent to me that not only do my kids need to work on their hearts, so do I. That conclusion did not feel good.

Luke 6:45-46 says, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” The Bible is a double-edged sword, and it has judged the thoughts and attitude of my heart with that verse. (Hebrews 4:12). When we speak without thought, then what is going to come out of our mouths will be what is in our hearts. What is in our hearts will be the things we are meditating on. For instance, if the only thing that comes of our mouths are complaints, then we may be meditating on the wrong things.  

How do we decide if what we say is good and productive? We need to measure our thoughts next to the Bible. If the complaint is about something immoral or not biblical, then we may have reason to use our words for the benefit of others. (Even then, we have to have a good knowledge of the Bible to deem if something is unbiblical.)  If it is not, then we need to take a long look at our own hearts. That is not easy work, but it is good work. It is humbling work and we need to know that we are not alone.

Working on Christian living is not easy, but when I stand alone in the presence of God, He is not going to measure me by other people. I will be measured by what is in my heart. That is work that I want to do and that I can do now, with Jesus’ help.

Philippians 2:12-16 says, Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

My hope for you and for me is that we work very diligently at getting the uglies out of our hearts, so that we can focus on what is really, truly important…. reaching the world for Christ. Trust that God will work it all out, He sees the big picture. We only see a part of the picture.

God bless you as you work out your salvation with fear and trembling so you can shine like a star. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

A Healthier Lifestyle


Through childhood until I was in my thirties, I was a pretty active person. I didn’t really watch what I ate because I would burn it off fairly quickly. Another bonus: I am a pretty frugal person, therefore snacks and eating out didn’t happen very often. That worked for me and I never worried about my size, nor my weight. However, I picked up a lot of bad eating habits and I believed the myth that being thin meant that I was healthy. Enter age 35. I saw my size increasing. I knew my activity level was decreasing. I realized I could eat a whole pan of brownies throughout the day….no self-control. That year I started on the road of dieting and exercise which lasted a few months.

That road has been difficult. How many celebrities or people that I know who yo-yo diet? So many! They would lose and gain. I can see why. I tried a fad diet that a friend told me about. I saw success. I started running. I saw some more success. I thought that I could continue to live that lifestyle. I couldn’t. I tried something different a few years later, and then a few years after that. Instead of success, I felt defeated. I have concluded that it would be nice to be the size I used to be, but most of all, I just want to feel better. I want to feel healthy.

There have been moments through the last few years, when I am eating a certain way and exercising, I feel great and have a lot of energy. I want to feel that way all the time, but the struggle is real. It is hard to follow these diet and exercise plans when money is tight, or the family is busy and cooking healthy food or finding time to exercise seems impossible. To tell the truth, it isn’t always about being busy. Sometimes it is downright mentally exhausting to try to accommodate 5 people’s eating preferences.

This year I was determined to change my perspective on eating. As I was circling it in prayer, I ran across a plan. It isn’t your normal diet fad. It could be, but if you read the book you get the idea that it truly is a way of life. It is about eating healthy, good-for-you foods. I have been working through the plan’s cookbook and trying at least one new recipe a week. Most of the recipes have worked out for us and we have liked them. My normal picky eaters have been trying to eat the different foods, and for that I am thankful and hopeful. (Quinoa, buckwheat, homemade ranch dressing)

The plan is called, “The Daniel Plan.” On the cover it says, “40 Days to a Healthier Life.” Quite honestly, I don’t care if it is 365 (or more) days to a healthier life, it is a pursuit that feels worth it. Here is why it is different from many of the plans that are out there: it could coincide with other plans and work with them. It is about eating good-for-you food. Not only that but it is a well-rounded plan, involving faith, food, fitness, focus, and friends. That is the whole you. It is not just about losing weight.

I don’t need to be in a bikini. I don’t need abs or buns of steel. I just want to be a healthier person. It isn’t about me looking like I did 20 years ago. Frankly, I don’t want to be that person anymore, anyway. This is me knowing there is more to life than feeling tired and weary all the time. God intended more for all of us. It may just start with the kinds of food that we are eating. The plan may not be 100% perfect, but neither I am. I am thankful and hopeful for this jumpstart to a healthier life.  Are you with me?

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Take Me to Church


At the start of the new year, my co-workers initiated an eight-week weight loss challenge. I was interested in it right away because I had already decided that I wanted to lose weight and get back to exercising. The plan made me nervous. There was a $20 entry fee. If the weekly challenge wasn’t met, or you gained weight at the weekly weigh-in, there was a $5 fine. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place would receive a portion of the bank. I had mixed emotions. I was nervous to try it, fail, and owe a lot of money. I was also excited because I knew that it might just be what motivated me. I took the plunge and signed up.

It was good. It brought companionship and accountability. I entered not expecting to lose a ton of weight, or to win. Losing weight can be difficult and it is interesting how you can lose weight on days you are not trying as hard and gain weight on days that you are trying. It is an emotional roller coaster. As I look back on it, I really liked the eating plan I chose. I felt great and I had extra energy. I thought I could continue to drink 64+ fluid ounces of water every day and stay on my exercise plan forever. In the end, I got 3rd place. I should have been “wooo-hoooing” but I was disappointed it was the end. Now, I was on my own to eat healthy and exercise. Enter Spring Break: a lot of good food, not enough exercise and a real bad sunburn that laid me up for a few days – what a way to break momentum.

As I was recovering from my sunburn, I considered all that I had gone through and I compared it to how it feels going to church. Being a Christian can be like a roller coaster. It has its highs and lows. Going to church can be like my weight loss challenge. It brings accountability and companionship. The only difference is with church, there is no end date unless you choose it.

I have been going to church my whole life. I have missed very few Sundays. Even on the days that I am dragging to get to church for whatever reason, I am always blessed after I get there. It could be that going to church is such a habit for me that if I am not there, I feel bad. I have met many people who love the Lord but going to church isn’t a habit to them. It is like my weight loss challenge. They want to stay on the plan, they feel good when they are doing it, it brings companionship and accountability, but something happens and they stop. After they stop….it is soooo hard to get started again.

This post isn’t a judgement on those who stop going to church. It is me saying, “I get that the struggle for some is real.” I also want to say: just like your health is important, so is going to church. My parents took me to church every Sunday. I am pretty for sure that their parents took them to church every Sunday. But somewhere down the family line, I am not sure where, some of my ancestors had to make the choice to go to church on a regular basis. Going to church isn’t about having to wear certain clothes or making it a big deal. Going to church isn’t about the show you see when you get there or about being entertained. It isn’t about the money they ask for at offering time. It is about worshipping the Creator of the world through songs, teaching, helping and fellowship. It is remembering the love Jesus showed for you because He died in your place, for your sin. It is where complete strangers are not strangers because you have commonality: Jesus. When you get in the groove, it can be a high. It can be joyous. It is righteous. I love that feeling, but after going to church for 40+ years, I know it is just a feeling. Feelings come and feelings go and then going to church might not feel good anymore. It is so, so important that we don’t listen to our feelings. Hebrews 10: 24 - 25 says: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

For those who are struggling, I wish I could give you a list of ways to make going to church easier. There is really no easy way. I do know that God wants you at church. He wants us to sharpen each other. You might think no one misses you, but your presence is missed. What you could give, what you could get. You will never know. Your presence is a ripple in the water. You may never see it on this side of heaven, but something is always happening. If you just sit back and watch, you can see God working. Echoes of the message that He is teaching you. This Sunday and every Sunday after, remember the important part you play at church. It is not only an important part of your Spiritual health, but the collective Spiritual health of the other members of your church. What I can say is: pray about it. Ask the Lord for help and  I hope to see you Sunday.
“Happy Easter!” or as I like to say it, “Happy Resurrection Day!”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Landmarks


When I drive a certain section of road, I am taken back to the day we moved to the area. Signs, buildings, and the way the road curves takes me back to the feelings I felt that day. Feelings of anxiety, tiredness and excitement to start a new adventure were tumbling about in my mind. Leaving the place where we had lived for 9 years was a hard decision because we were comfortable. I thought the move there was the hardest move since we were moving away from our families…no, it was the move back. I was unsure about many things, mostly the adjustment of my kids. 5 years later, those feelings come flooding back to me as I drive that section of road. Those feelings serve as reminders to me that God is faithful and that He is in the small and big things in my life. That journey on the road can be very Spiritual.

It also reminds me of a part in the Bible when the Israelites set up their own landmarks. The Israelites had been wandering in the desert and they were ready to enter the Promise Land with Joshua as their leader. If you are familiar with the wanderings of the Israelites, you would know that they had been hardhearted, and their hardheartedness had kept them from entering the Promise Land earlier. One of the first challenges for them as they entered the land was to cross over the Jordan River. Miraculously, the water parted and the entire nation of Israel walked over on dry ground.  If you want to read the story, go to Joshua 3-4.  Joshua 4 tells us the Lord told Joshua to choose 12 men, one from each tribe, to go to the middle of the river and pick out a stone. Joshua set up those stones and they were to be a landmark, a memorial to the Israelites about what happened that day. I can imagine the Israelites might have been feeling apprehension, tiredness and excitement as they knew the road ahead of them was certain and uncertain. They knew the Lord was certainly giving them the Promise Land, but how He would do it was uncertain. The stones eventually were forgotten, but I am sure they did serve as reminders to the Israelites of the feelings that were felt that day.

I am also sure that everyone has moments like these. Something will take you back to a memory -  a smell, a sound, a picture, a landmark. The memory could be good or bad or a little of both. It is important to give these memories to God and ask Him what you should take away and learn. During this process, give glory to God for His faithfulness. You could go a step further and build your own landmark. When something “big” happens in your life, capture it with a token of the moment. Each time you see it, you can praise the Lord for His faithfulness and you can tell others about it.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds, of your saving acts all day long—
 though I know not how to relate them all. 16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord; I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone. 17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. 18 Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come. 19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God?20 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. 21 You will increase my honor and comfort me once more. Psalm 71:15-21

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Permission to Grieve and Permission to Dream


I have been trying do a “Read through the Bible in a Year” reading schedule every other year. At times it is very easy and other times it can be very difficult. I decided this year, instead of reading it, I would listen to it. I have already decided after doing it for a couple weeks that I appreciate reading it more, but there is some blessing in listening to it as well. I have a 30-minute kid-free drive to work and the 20 minutes it takes to listen to Scripture being read has been a calming blessing on my way to work.

The plan I am listening to is a chronological plan. After listening about Noah in Genesis, the reader transitioned to Job – not my favorite book of the Bible. Job seemed to have everything going for him- wealth, health, family and friends. Those things were taken from him – to a certain extent- and he had done nothing wrong. At the end of the reading for that day, the reader gave some commentary on the text. She also mentioned how beginning the year reading about Job might be depressing, but that could be where some people were right then in their personal lives. She wanted to give the listeners “permission to grieve.”

That reminded me of a friend who found out that she wasn’t going to be able to have children, or another friend whose husband wanted a divorce because he wasn’t in love with her anymore. They needed permission to grieve. Their bad circumstance wasn’t because of something they had done. It wasn’t that God didn’t love them anymore or He was trying to tell them something. It just was. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time to mourn. We all have had disappointments in our life. It doesn’t matter how large or small our disappointments are, give yourself permission to grieve. Grieving can be healthy.

In my “about me” section of my blog I wrote that being a wife and mother was what I always wanted to be. Which is very true. In kindergarten when all the other kids knew what they wanted to be when they grew up, I just wanted to be a mom. Even at that time, I somehow thought that wasn’t a good enough answer and I copied another girl’s answer of wanting to be a singer. I never wanted to be a singer. Now, here I am a wife and a mother, just what I truly wanted…and yet life isn’t always what I planned or expected. Even in doing what I always wanted, I have had to grieve plans and expectations that weren’t meant to be. Also, I struggled writing the “about me” section because I know many ladies that wanted to be married and/or have children and they didn’t. I didn’t want to make my life sound so perfect, because it is not. I have a sign in my house that says, “Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful.” Life is what we make it - the imperfections and all.

As we get older, we forget to dream, or we think we are too old to dream. We need to give ourselves permission to dream. In my prayer journal I have a section where I have written my dreams. It makes me not ashamed of my dreams and it gives me confidence to hand my dreams over to my Heavenly Father.

In 2018, give yourself permission to grieve your disappointments in your life and permission to dream your heart’s desires.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Give Grace



I looked up “grace” in the dictionary. It is a word that can be used in many ways. For instance, some people are graceful in the way that they speak and in the way they move. It is the name we give to the prayer before a meal. It could be used in addressing a person who is royal. The word grace is best understood by Christians. It is represented by Jesus coming to earth and dying in our place for our sins. He pardoned us. That is grace. That is mercy. As Christians, we want to be like Christ and we want to be full of grace.

In churchland, (sorry, I made that up) you might have heard it said about a difficult person needing EGR, or extra grace required. It is a “cute,” sometimes not nice, quip used as a reminder to give grace, even to those who we find difficult to be around. *Everyone can be an EGR at times.

This Christmas, as you are finishing up your shopping and you are celebrating with friends and family, please take a moment and think about people in your life that need to be given grace. Make a mental list of the people who annoy you, who hurt you, who you are jealous of and start offering them grace. It may just be a mental attitude shift. No one needs to know. It may be in the way you respond to them. Think of it this way, if your best friend would have said that or did that frustrating thing, you may have responded differently. Treat that person how you would your best friend.

A synonym for grace is mercy. Jesus said in Matthew 9:13, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Giving grace could be difficult, but it could be the best and cheapest gift you give. It could enrich your marriage, your family life, your workplace, your church, etc.
This Christmas, give grace.

*updated 12/25/17

Monday, November 20, 2017

'Tis the Season for Giving Forgiveness


In the month of November many people take the time to be thankful. If you are on Facebook, some of your friends may come up with something to be thankful for each day of the month. It might be said that this is the “Season of Giving Thanks.”


A year ago, some company started running an advertisement that stated "Happy Thanks for Giving." I wasn’t quite paying attention, so I thought they said, "Happy Thanks for Forgiving.” I realized my mistake quickly, because who would spend money to promote forgiveness? (In fact, it appears being offended is the promotion of the day.)

The whole misunderstanding has got me thinking, even a year later. To be truly thankful and to truly give from your heart, you need to forgive. Maybe this season should also be the season for forgiving.

Mother Teresa said this, “People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the world your best and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway." Jesus says in Matthew 6: 14, For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

It can be hard to forgive. I have awoken from sleep so disturbed by what someone did that my heart would be racing and I couldn’t go back to sleep. Through time, I found praying it through and forgiving in my heart would seem to help until a few weeks or months down the line I would wake up disturbed about the same incident all over again. I thought when Jesus told Peter to forgive his brother 70 times 7, it was about different offenses. In my case, I had to forgive 70 times 7 for the same offense. Forgiveness might take time, but it is important. It is better than packing it up just to find it again later, and that can mean for a lot of baggage. For you see, it isn’t really about the people you need to forgive, but it is always about the relationship between you and God anyway.



Happy Forgiving and Thanksgiving.