Don’t Go It Alone

Each month I write an article for a local magazine in Cumming, Georgia, and I enjoy sharing those articles with you guys, too. The theme for this month’s magazine is love and relationships, but I took a slightly different approach. Full disclosure: this is a reposting of an earlier blog, but it’s worth another read. Enjoy!

Not long ago I read through the book of Acts. Reading about the lives of the very first followers of Christ in one short chapter each day is a fantastic way to learn how to live an effective, bold, and impassioned life for the cause of Jesus.

Over those 28 days, I read stories about baptisms and life change and the persecution Christians faced. But, maybe my favorite part of the book of Act was the stories of relationships. Since most of the book focuses on the missionary trips of Paul, I was privy to an up close view of his faith, as well as his friendships. Without question, Paul had quite an impact on the known world. He taught countless people about Jesus, started churches in each town he visited, challenged the religious elite, raised money for the poor, and endured beatings and imprisonment.

But he was never alone.

Paul valued his friends. He took them on his trips. He prayed with them. He was honest with them about his temptations. He comforted them, and he knew how to accept comfort and help from them. He seemed buoyed by their companionship.

Could it be one of the reasons he was so successful in his ministry?

Being in relationships with other healthy Christ-followers is essential to our spiritual growth. When difficult situations arise, other believers can support us, as well as guide us through the challenges. When we struggle with temptations, other believers can help us stand firm. We grow in spiritual maturity as other believers teach us the lessons they’ve learned, and we do the same for them. Just as it was true for Paul, we buoy one another.

Together, we’re better.

I believe Paul was able to plant churches, travel all over the known world, and teach relentlessly about Jesus because he was never alone. He had a posse. He was supported, understood, encouraged, prayed for, and loved.

Are you? Are you investing into and developing healthy relationships with others? Not the surface kind. Not the kind where you pretend you have it all together. The authentic kind where you truly share your heart and life.

You need it. So do I. Open yourself to being challenged and supported by a trusted Christian friend. You’ll be better for it. Take it from Paul.

Happy Birthday, Shawn!

2408Another Lovejoy celebration ensues today: Shawn Lovejoy turns 45! Birthday’s are big deals around here, and a vegan feast will kick off the party. I know the word “vegan” just killed it for most of you, but it floats Shawn’s boat, so we are in full support!

Although Shawn enjoys gifts, he’d rather just buy what he likes himself. What speaks to him….what makes him feel valued and significant….what puts a smile on his face? Knowing he has helped someone. Knowing he’s impacted their life for the good.

I could shout from the rooftops all that Shawn has done for me. He has been my confidant and encourager. He has believed in me like no other person ever has. He has loved me with a love I’m sure I don’t deserve. He has disciplined himself to be a co-laborer in the home and in our ministry. He has led our family spiritually. He has sought forgiveness, and he has forgiven. He fights fairly and with respect. He protects my heart. He meets my needs at the expense of his own. He takes care of our family financially. And he has the cutest legs ever! I love Shawn Lovejoy!

Many of you know Shawn personally and have been impacted by him, too. Would you take a moment to celebrate him today? @ShawnLovejoy on Twitter. You can always send a direct message if you’d rather keep it personal.

Happy birthday, Shawn! You are the best man I’ve ever known.

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Toes In the Sand and other daydreams today…

beachI’m staring at light snow flurries outside my bedroom window, but nothing fun will come of it. No accumulation. No sledding. No school snow day. No excuse to cancel my calendar events and drink hot chocolate. Nope. Just a few light flurries with gray skies and cold temperatures, but then this weather system will pass. Seems like kind of a letdown.

Let me be clear: I enjoy all four seasons. I like the new birth of spring. I welcome the cooler temps and beautiful colors of fall. I enjoy bundling up in cute scarves and boots in the winter. But, for me, there ain’t nothin’ like summer.

Hot temps. Long days. Poolside afternoons. Grilling out. Vacations. Bike rides. The smell of freshly cut grass. Car rides with the sun roof open. Flip flops. 

Oh, yes, I’m a summer girl.

Even now as I stare at the snow swirling outside, I’m daydreaming about a rented chair on the beach with Jimmy Buffet playing in my earbuds.

So I’m planning my summer vacay now, and I’d like some suggestions. Which is your favorite beach for a summer vacation? Destin? Orange Beach? Something further south? 

If you have a recommendation for a resort/condo/beach, I’m all ears! Let’s do a little daydreaming about warmer weather!

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Sherlock, John, and Paul….and life lessons along the way

sherlockI love TV. What can I say? I’m a child of the 80’s when we watched all the greats: Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Cheers, The Wonder Years, and MacGyver. On summer days, I would wake up in time to watch reruns of The Love Boat while eating Captain Crunch. On school nights, my homework was completed in time for Moonlighting with Bruce Willis. Oh, yes. I’m a TV girl.

Still to this day my TV is on most of the time. But network programming is so yesterday for me. Now, Netflix owns me. No commercials. Binge-watching. Thousands of options. I confess I often spend more time surfing those options than I do actually viewing movies, yet My List on Netflix is full.

My latest binge-worthy find? Sherlock. It airs on PBS on Masterpiece Mystery, but seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix, and I’m hooked. Last night, I watched an episode in which two characters were at complete odds. One had betrayed another, and weeks of confrontations and accusations had ensued.

Then, came the moment. John forgave his wife. He said her past was her’s to deal with, but her future was his privilege to embrace. Tears streamed down her face as she accepted his forgiveness. John embraced his wife in comfort even as he confessed that he was still very angry. Nevertheless, he longed to restore the relationship. Score! That was a great scene.

Now, I don’t want to stretch too far, but we could all learn a thing or two from John Watson. Better yet, let’s learn from the Apostle Paul….he probably has more authority since he was a real person and all.

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul dealt with a church discipline issue. Previously, the church had united in confronting a man over a particular sin. I’m sure it was difficult and painful. What confrontation isn’t? In 2 Corinthians, however, Paul shared profound wisdom. Check it out:

“Now it is time to forgive him and comfort him. Otherwise he may become so discouraged that he won’t be able to recover. Now show him that you still love him.” 2 Cor 2: 7-8 (NLT)

Wow. That is a practical instruction for each of us today! Paul is referring to the church discipline issue, but the instruction resonates with me! There is a time to confront and a time to comfort. In parenting….in marriage….in friendships….in working relationships…..we need to know when to confront and when to offer the comfort of forgiveness.  

Paul said there was a time to confront and there was time to comfort….otherwise the offender might become too discouraged to recover from his mistake. 

The same is true for people in our lives.

  • We cannot hold grudges against our spouses.
  • We cannot deal too harshly with our children.
  • We cannot ostracize other people.

Friends, let’s hold high standards but be full of grace, comfort, and love. Let’s not use discipline or confrontation in an unforgiving way. Remember, the goal of discipline or confrontation is to restore the relationship, not to destroy the person. When people in our lives repent, let’s shelve our anger and graciously forgive. After all, that’s what God does for us every day. 

What does that look like for you today?

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The Perspective Shift That Changes Everything

The apostle, Paul, never ceases to amaze me. 2 Corinthians 1: 3-11 details the trials and suffering Paul endured as he preached God’s messages in Asia. He and his friends were “overwhelmed” and “crushed” and thought they “were going to die.” Those are real emotions and experiences, not just some quaint story in a book. Paul’s focus, however, was the comfort God gave during those trials. He viewed his suffering as something to be expected in life, and he viewed God’s comfort as the beautiful gift….the supernatural strength…..to help him endure. Shifting perspective from despair to joy is nothing short of amazing.

Ok, friends. Let’s get real. Do we view life and difficulties in the same way as Paul? Do we count it as a joy to suffer in order to experience God’s comfort? Do we then count it as a joy to pass the same kind of comfort to others who are struggling? Our struggles, though very real, pale in comparison to Paul. Most of us aren’t in jail or being physically harmed for our beliefs. Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize our trials.

  • Conflicts in our relationships can bring emotional turmoil.
  • Financial stress can bring fear and anxiety.
  • Depression can bring isolation and unhappiness.
  • Parenting can bring exhaustion and frustration.
  • Medical issues can bring fear and irritation.

When we face a trial, our focus is often the trial, itself. We tend to pay attention to our pain and become discouraged. Paul was the same way, I’m sure. He wouldn’t have been human to respond any other way. But, Paul overcame his human emotions and put his eyes on God in the midst of frustration, fear, and unhappiness. He looked for the ways God was ministering to him, and he chose to be the man God wanted him to be, to soak up God’s comfort, and to pass that strength and motivation to others.

How can we do the same thing? How can we rise above the trials we face and look for God’s comfort?

  • We can praise God for the love and friendship of our spouse rather than complaining about their shortcomings.
  • We can pause to thank God for the paychecks that cover our bills and provide for entertainment for our families rather than complaining that we don’t have enough.
  • We can meditate on the goodness of God – His unending love, His forgiveness, His strength, His righteousness – rather than the perils of our problems.
  • We can look for the ways He refreshes us daily – through a bible verse, in an unexpected financial gain, in the words of a friend, in a burst of energy that allows us to get more done that we thought we could, in a quiet whisper that He loves you – instead of being blind to His activity.

So here’s my challenge for today: Don’t allow trials to be your focus or bring you down. Focus, instead, on the ways God is carrying you through the trials!

Some of you might have a hard time seeing God at work in your lives, however. If you don’t feel like He is carrying  through your trials, that could suggest you are separated from God. Feeling far from God, not hearing His voice….these are indications that you might have a relationship issue with your Father. The truth is sin causes separation in every form. Can I encourage you to pause right now and talk to God? Confess any sin and draw close to Him again.

Our trials will be difficult, but God’s comfort is enough to see us through. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you!

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Will God Choose Me?

“But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God’s deep secrets.” 1 Corinthians 2:10 (NLT)

God CHOOSES to reveal things to us. Some things He keeps hidden; other things He reveals. Have you ever wondered why He chooses to reveal Himself to some people and not to others? For instance, haven’t you met people in life who you felt had a much more intimate relationship with God than others? Why is that? Does God CHOOSE to reveal more to some people than others?

I THINK SO!

He chooses to reveal His deep secrets to those who seek Him with their whole heart. He said so Himself in Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Oh, how I want to be one of those people. I want to know God’s heart and His wisdom. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says we can understand these things, as Christ followers, because we have the mind of Christ!

How do we get the mind of Christ? I’m so glad you asked! WE GET TO KNOW HIM! Through reading scripture. Through prayer. By being mindful of His activity throughout the day. By choosing His ways over our ways.

Friends, I want God to reveal Himself to us! Be diligent in studying God’s Word. Seek Him with your whole heart, and don’t allow anything or anyone to stand in the way of your time with God!

God has wisdom to give and secrets to share. Are you listening?

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5 Steps to Understanding The Bible

I’ve had my Bible since 1992, and it sure looks like it. I’ve had it recovered once, and it’s certainly in need of it again, but I refuse to buy a new one. Why, you ask? Because it is packed full of all my notes, highlights, and thoughts as I have spent time with God each day. I’ve written summaries, circled phrases, dated meaningful passages, or written explanations in the margins of pages as I’ve read, learned, and studied. That book doesn’t explain my life….it is my life.

So when I meet Christians who confide that they struggle to understand Scripture, I just want to grab my Bible and spend some time showing them the relevancy…the practicality….the love and inspiration that God’s Word has for their lives.

Time or circumstance doesn’t always allow that to happen.

But, I might be able to help you today!

Are you struggling to understand Scripture? Here is a simple plan for day-to-day reading:

  1. Choose a book of the bible
  2. Read one chapter each day
  3. Write down one verse that grabs your attention and then explain it in your own words.
  4. List one adjustment you can make in response.
  5. Pray

Let me show you what I mean. I was studying the book of James earlier this month, and I tracked in my handy-dandy journal what I sensed God was saying to me. Here are my actual notes from James chapter 2, including my prayer:

“Whenever you speak and whatever you do remember that you will be judged by the law of love” (James 2: 12, 13) God’s grace is sufficient to forgive my sins, but He still requires that my conduct be acceptable to Him. As a Christian, I’m forgiven, but I’ll still be judged for my deeds. ADJUSTMENT: Stop overlooking poor behavior

“So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” (James 2: 17-18) Faith in God isn’t enough. Our faith must be proven by our actions. I should look, sound, and act differently than the world. ADJUSTMENT: Be proactive in my actions today to model my faith! Guard my tongue….react with wisdom…..serve others….be selfless….show love.

“And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God.” (James 2:23) Abraham and Rahab were considered God’s friends because of their actions! They DID what God asked of them. ADJUSTMENT: Remember that my actions speak friendship or opposition to God. Oh how I want God to view me as His friend rather than His enemy!

Father, sometimes I find it far too easy to relax in Your Grace! I excuse poor behavior, lazy words, and selfishness because I know You will forgive me as soon as I ask. Yet, James reminds me that my actions matter far more than I think. Although You will forgive my sin, my lack of good deeds or my unwise behavior reveals that my faith is useless! I do not want to be useless to You! I long to be considered Your friend and to enjoy all the benefits of Your love. Thank You for reminding me today that my words and actions matter to You. Help me walk slowly enough through my life today that I have time to consider what I’m doing and to be useful in Your Hands!

Ok, I wrote down 3 verses, not just one, but I’ve been at this awhile. If you are just starting out, start simply. 

Reading the Bible isn’t daunting or mind-boggling. It’s rewarding and renewing! If you’ve given your heart to God, He’s given you the mind of Christ and promised to help you understand His ways. Trust Him! As you read, He will be faithful to help you.

I know it’s true….and I’ve got the marked-up, tattered, highlighted Bible to prove it! Go ahead. Dive in!

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Learning The Hard Way

Last summer I scored an end-of-season deal on patio furniture, which was great since I needed to outfit our new home. With a click of the mouse the lovely chairs were shipped to me. In boxes…in lots of pieces inside boxes.

I guess I wasn’t thinking about the whole assembly thing. Some part of my brain must have protected me from the distressing thought of putting 10, count them 10, patio chairs together. It took 20 minutes just to properly unpack the first box and 15 minutes to make sense of my husband’s ratchet set. 25 minutes into assembling that chair I realized I had installed a key component backward and had to start over. 35 minutes later I demanded my husband take me out to eat. The first chair could wait.

Have you ever thought you were doing something really well only to discover you weren’t?

Paul talks about something similar in 1 Corinthians. The Christians in Corinth had been doing a bit of bickering about who was spiritually better than whom. In their effort to be super spiritual they had forgotten the very core of our faith: love.

In God’s view, we have little value if we aren’t demonstrating His kind of love — an unselfish love that seeks to build up and expects nothing in return.

Think about that for a second.

Paul said that if we could speak in the languages of Heaven or had the faith to move mountains (he was describing a devout believer here), but didn’t love others, we would be of no value whatsoever (1 Cor 13:3 NLT). Paul wasn’t talking about people, in general; he was talking specifically about Christians – committed, devout, serving Christians.

  • He’s talking to those of us who get so busy in the details of our volunteerism at church that we forget WHY we are serving in the first place.
  • He’s talking to those of us who say yes to opportunities to help others, only to find ourselves complaining about the work required to help them.
  • He’s talking to those of us who go to church every week but are short-tempered with daily acquaintances.
  • He’s talking to those of us who say we love God but then tear others down with our words.

YIKES! My toes are getting stomped on, y’all!

So what kind of love should we be training ourselves to show?

The kind that is patient and kind and not jealous. The kind that isn’t proud or rude or irritable. The kind that doesn’t give up and endures through every circumstance.

Reading 1 Corinthians 13 simply reminds me what God wants me to do. I will patiently and kindly love others….even those who wrong me because God does that for me. I will not allow pride to hold on to feelings of bitterness. I will not be rude in response to ill-will, and I will keep no record of wrongs. (Ok, let’s be honest. I might never forget the things others do to harm me, but I can choose not to hold it against them.) And, I will determine to remain hopeful in every relationship.

The truth is if we’re busy doing lots of good things, like serving in church or offering to help others, but we trample on people in the process, we are missing the point. God desires love, not activity. He is pleased with love, not busyness.

Let’s not live our whole lives thinking we’re doing something really well only to discover we’re not. Let’s start today learning to love God’s way. Trust me, it’s always the best way.

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Don’t Fall For A Lie

My friend is walking through a heartbreaking time. Her child is making disappointing decisions which have been shocking, and my friend and her husband have been left reeling. They have taught their children to love and honor God, and now they are watching in great disappointment as one runs the other way. To know you have shown someone the best path and then watch as they choose a road that leads to destruction is painful. For parents, it’s heartbreaking.

When I read this verse, I couldn’t help but remember the pain my friend is feeling.

“I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in His love and mercy called you to share the eternal life He gives through Christ. You are already following a different way” (Gal 1:6 NLT)

Paul was a parent in some sense of the word to the churches in Galatia. He had taught these early Christians about Jesus. He had spent time loving them, investing into them, encouraging them, correcting them, and guiding them. He was their spiritual father. I can only imagine his great disappointment when he learned that false teaching was running amuck in Galatia. I’m sure his disappointment turned to heartbreak when he learned the Galatian people were falling for the falsehoods.

In this world it’s far too easy to “follow a different way.” 

Paul experienced it in Galatia, and my friend is experiencing it right now. We all have, as a matter of fact. Often the choices before us seem good, and we dive headlong into trouble only to realize our mistakes when consequences bring pain. We are easily fooled, it seems.

The only way to stay on the right path is to know Scripture and stay connected to Jesus. He is the One who said, “I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in Him, he will bear much fruit. Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 NLT) We live in a culture that makes lies seem like truth. Without God’s Word and guidance, we’ll be tempted to believe those lies.

Thank God for these truths and hold them close to your heart:

  • God loves me.
  • God defines me.
  • God forgives me.
  • God’s grace is sufficient for me.
  • God never gives up on me.
  • God has a purpose for me.
  • God made me in His image.

Then, refuse to believe the lies that the enemy tells in order to twist God’s Word:

  • I refuse to believe the lie that God loves me only if I’m behaving well.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that my past or my actions define me.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that God holds grudges against me in order to punish me.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that I must earn God’s love.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that God will give up on me.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that I have no real purpose.
  • I refuse to believe the lie that I’m not beautiful just the way God made me.

Don’t fall for a lie when the Truth is so much better, friends. Arm yourself today!

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Cleaning Up and Clearing Out

I’m a list person. I make lists.

Grocery lists. Reminders lists. To-do lists (my list). Honey-do lists (my hubby’s list). Errand lists. Gift lists.

You name it, I probably have a list for it.

What I like most is seeing items scratched off the list! I find something so satisfying about seeing the progress of my activities, and drawing a line through item on my agenda puts a literal smile on my face.

One of those items is sticks. My backyard is somewhat wooded, and the underbrush and fallen limbs small trees have taken over. So, I added it to my New House To-Do List which hangs prominently on the garage wall on a large post-it pad of sticky paper. (Yes, I really go that far.) 

This month, my whole family is tackling that (overwhelming) project. It would be far too much to try to accomplish in a day or a weekend, so we simply take 30 minutes to an hour a few times each week to lace up some boots and drag some limbs to a debris pile that will be hauled off this Spring (thanks to our builder!).

As I look out of my bedroom windows I can see the progress we are making. Little by little we are clearing the land and turning what was once a mess into a thing of peaceful beauty. It’s not unlike other areas of life in need of cleaning up and clearing out. Whether it’s a messy yard or a messy heart, progress comes one step at a time.

I hope you drag a few of your own limbs to a debris pile today. Clean up and clear out your heart, your activities, or your relationships. It feels good. 

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