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.

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

 

Advertisement

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!

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

Follow Me

follow meA few friends and I are reading through each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament of the Bible. We read a chapter each day and then share our thoughts in a group email since we all live in different states. In the quiet moments of my mornings, I read, journal, and share with my friends.

The other day, one particular verse grabbed our attention.

“And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s.” (I Cor 11:1 NLT)

Wow. Sometimes I THINK this thought to myself, but I would probably never write it in a letter to a group of people! Paul was BOLD! And, apparently he was confident that his behavior was worthy of following.

I have to say, I find it much easier to model the Christian life when I’m “at work” (away from home, doing ministry, accomplishing a task, etc). When I’m teaching or coaching or engaging other people, I often feel confident to make the same bold claim as Paul. Yet, in my own home with those closest to me, my weaknesses bubble to the top. Maybe Paul could speak so boldly because he had no spouse or children to push his buttons! Maybe he was able to live “on point” because he traveled from place to place and was often alone after the crowds went home.

At least that was his explanation when he wrote in a previous chapter that following Jesus’ example was harder when we have the added demands of family, which he didn’t have.

Nevertheless, having a family has taught me vast amounts about love, sacrifice, forgiveness, selflessness, and compassion – all qualities of our Father in Heaven. When I stumble with my family, I ask forgiveness. When they stumble, I forgive. I am loyal and committed to them. Most importantly, I can see a steady track of spiritual growth since I met Jesus, and I’m using that to help train my family. As long as I’m doing those things, I can not only tell strangers to follow my example, I can tell my family to, as well!

What about you? Are there areas of your life that you can boldly proclaim “follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s?” Celebrate them! Becoming more and more mature as a Christian is something to which we should all aspire. If you are having trouble pinpointing some successes in this area, don’t fret. Just get started! Pick one area of your life and take a few steps of improvement by following Jesus’ example more closely. Remember, the goal is steady growth, not overnight perfection.

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

3 Daily Decisions That Produce Good Results

temperHave you ever had a good old-fashioned temper tantrum? I have, but it’s more fun to confess someone else’s shortcomings, so I’ll refer to my children.

My oldest and I were chatting the other day about how much she has changed over the past decade. At 17, she is a much different person than she was a 7. We laughed as we reminisced about drama-filled moments over clothing choices or bedtime routines. We can laugh now, but I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through some of those mind-boggling scenes. Today, she is maturing into a young woman who listens to our life coaching and instruction, even if she still forgets to return my clothes that she borrows.

Paul spoke of maturity and immaturity in the book of 1 Corinthians when he addressed the believers in the local Christian church. He admonished them for bickering among themselves, jealousy, and a lack of self-control. In Paul’s words, they were “acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord” (1 Cor 3:3 NLT). Sounds like any good parent accusing their kids of being raised in a barn, doesn’t it? Well, he was right. People who belong to the Lord ought to act like it.

But, we often don’t.

That’s why today I’m continuing a post from earlier this week. I promised to share 3 practical decisions that produce good results of self-control. These 3 decisions are part of my plan to live a mature Christian life. Here you go:

  • Stay fresh and recharged throughout my day. This means I take strategic breaks throughout the day so my nerves don’t fray. It also means that I use a family calendar to plan ahead for all activities in order to avoid those stress-inducing moments of rushing out the door or forgetting last-minute items.
  • Recognize my triggers. When the drama is escalating in my house, I send my kids to their room until I have time to calm down. (Remember James 1:19!) 30 minutes can make the difference between a screaming match or a teachable moment. I employ the same method with my hubby. If my temper is rising, I’ll sometimes tell my hubby it is not a good time to talk and that I need time to chill so we can talk about the issue without an escalating war of words.
  • Look for God’s activity. Left to my own devices, I’ll forget about God throughout my day. Sad, but honest. Yet, if I make a simple plan to pray at points during my day, I force myself to pay attention to Him and His work. Praying at meals, before my kids come home, or each time I hop in my car helps me stick closely to the One I want guiding my steps!

Friends, the Kingdom is full of toddlers who aren’t spiritually mature enough to navigate their own desires. Let’s not lead spiritually stunted lives! Let’s grow and mature. Let’s not excuse poor attitudes and bad behavior. Let’s stay alert, recognize our triggers, and keep God front and center in our minds.

Thankfully, our God is able to steer the course for us….if we are willing to use some self-control.

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

Toddlers and Faith and Other Insights From My Day….

Not long ago, I attended my niece’s first birthday party. I gave her a baby doll with its own bottle and pacifier, and she quickly sat down to feed her new baby. Until, that is, her 3-year-old brother saw it. Taken with the doll, he couldn’t resist slipping it out of his sister’s hands to play with it himself. The birthday girl was none too thrilled about this turn of events, and every adult in the room then busied themselves trying to distract both children in an attempt to avoid a total meltdown.

Every parent has been there. Toddlers don’t have the maturity to navigate their own desires, so parents must steer the course.

Toddlers aren’t the only ones, it seems.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul called the believers infants in the Christian faith because they weren’t yet spiritually mature. He didn’t mince words, either. He asserted:

  • They argued among themselves.
  • They were controlled by their own desires.
  • They were jealous of each other.

According to Paul, immature believers are controlled by their “worldly” desires, but mature believers are in tune with God’s desires.

That’s good food for thought, friends. Asking ourselves some probing questions might reveal answers that we don’t like. For instance, how much do my desires influence my behavior? What are my weak spots? In what situations do I seek to please myself rather than God?

I’m not asking you to do something I’m unwilling to do. After reading Paul’s words, I probed my own heart and pinpointed a few weak spots.

For me, my weaknesses become apparent when I’m tired or when my guard is down. For instance:

  • Late in the day when I’m tired.
  • When I respond too quickly without following James 1:19 (“Understand this, brothers and sisters, we all must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”)
  • When I have neglected God and have become more “me-centered.”

In those moments, I often choose to please myself and satisfy my worldly desires rather than to deny myself and choose God-pleasing actions.

Yet, when I’m focused on God, I stay in tune with Him! For instance:

  • When I’m refreshed and full of energy.
  • When I pause before I speak, act, teach, or respond.
  • When I choose to look for God’s activity throughout my day rather than ignoring Him and getting wrapped up in my own agenda.

So, what is my plan for living a mature Christian life? PRACTICAL DECISIONS THAT BRING GOOD RESULTS! Later this week, I’ll share those 3 daily decisions.

In the meantime friends, we don’t have to act like toddlers. With self-control through the Holy Spirit, we can navigate our desires and stay in tune with God. So, let me ask you:

What are your weak spots and how could a little self-control help you?

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

 

 

Two (or four) Are Better Than One

We recently moved to Alabama, and let me tell you I’m loving my new home. And my new community. And our new ministry. And being near family for the first time since 1998.

Life is good.

But one thing isn’t.

I’m missing my partners.

For years, I’ve worked out 4-5 times each week with 2 of my neighbors. Meeting in our homes, we used exercise videos or routines we found on Pinterest to facilitate a 30-45 minute workout. The accountability of meeting together kept us all on track (it’s hard to skip a day when 2 people are expecting you to show up). Here in Alabama, I’m on my own in my basement, and I’m missing the camaraderie and inspiration of my 2 partners. I find myself skipping a day or pushing the fast-forward button.

Left to my own devices, I’m slacking.

But, not in the spiritual growth department. 

3 friends and I are reading through various books of the bible together. Some Georgia friends; some Alabama friends. We might not be able to meet face-to-face, but we are meeting! After we read our selected passages each day, we email the group to share our thoughts and prayers. Nothing fancy…just a sentence or two about what we sensed God saying to us.

God is speaking to us about our attitudes, habits, and actions. He is challenging us to become more like Him, and He’s increasing our understanding of Who He is and what His purposes are.

So, while I’m pushing myself to tackle a daily workout, I have 3 friends pushing me to grow in faith. Trust me, I’m pushing them, too! Last week, we studied the book of James, complete with background research and memory verses. Next up, Galatians. We are stretching muscles and getting stronger.

What about you? Are you slacking? Maybe you need the reminder that two are better than one. Find a partner (or 3, like me!) and start growing! 

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other

walkingI love my community. I love eating at my favorite restaurants. I love shopping at my favorite stores. I love knowing the shortcuts to avoid traffic in town. I love that the bank tellers know me by name. And I love the countless friends that I have all throughout Forsyth County, Georgia.

I love this community because it is home. As I drove through town a few weeks ago, I wandered down memory lane. As my mind skipped through memories of my kids on football fields or receiving awards at school, I passed my favorite tree whose leaves turn a brilliant shade of yellow in the fall. Ahhh, there is so much I love about our community.

Then a question struck my mind: what makes a community home?

It is a sense of belonging. A sense of familiarity. The notion that one has roots that have grown down deep and strong and secure. Home is where the heart is, and the heart is full of memories. So in some sense this community will always be home to me and to my family because we have so many memories of this place.

Yet, God has called my family to something new. A new ministry. A new home.

So when I was driving down the city streets of my new community in Alabama, and I wasn’t shocked when I felt a sense of detachment. I didn’t belong. As I drove through town, I was acutely aware that those weren’t my shops, my restaurants, or even my people! I was so overcome with emotion that tears filled my eyes. It was a brief moment, but I had the distinct impression that I was not home. If you’ve ever moved, I bet you can relate. It was a vastly different experience from the warm fuzzies I felt as I had driven through Forsyth county just days earlier.

But God has a way of weaving my experiences together to teach me things, and today God spoke straight to my heart. He showed me that the only difference between my two road trips was my sense of belonging. Both communities are fantastic; I’m simply more acquainted with one than the other. In my quiet moments with God today, I felt Him challenge me to find ways to connect in my new community…to become familiar with my new surroundings…to initiate new friendships…to tackle this new adventure.

You see, my sense of belonging depends on me. It depends on my willingness to engage!

People – certainly people in ministry – move all the time. Yet, I’ve spoken with far too many who have stumbled through that process because they feel too detached from their new city and miss the sense of belonging. God reminded me today that my new home will be what I make it.

Maybe God is nudging you to do something new. Maybe you have hesitations. Can I encourage you? LEAP! Give it all you’ve got! Whatever God is inviting you to do, don’t walk; run! Don’t allow emotions or hesitations or fears to prevent you from living the adventure God has designed for you. God will direct your steps, but you must put one foot in front of the other.

So I’m leaping, too. I’m embracing a new community, new friends, and a new home. I’m exploring a new city, making new memories, and starting a new ministry. And God is filling my heart with gladness and purpose and confidence.

 What about you? Will you leap today? God will direct your steps. Will you start walking?

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

I Fell Off The Wagon

What was your New Year’s Resolution? If guilt is making you choke just a little as you recall your commitment, you are in good company. Maybe you, like me, have fallen off the “new year, new me” bandwagon.

For 2015, my family made a year-long resolution to focus on spiritual virtues. One each month.

In January, we focused on encouragement. In February, love. March was all about displaying joy and a good attitude. We have tracked our progress on oversized post-it pads hanging in our den by writing down the ways we’ve demonstrated these virtues. As a parent and wife, I had moments of sheer pride as I witnessed my family soaring.

Then, April came. dun, dun, duuuunnnn.

Our intention was to focus on kindness. Easy, right? Suuuurrreeee.

We simply didn’t do it. We didn’t take advantage of teachable moments. We weren’t proactive. And, there were several moments days when all of us were plain mean.

So what do we do when we fall off the wagon? Get back on! So what if we messed up, missed out, or took a few backward steps? If we fall down, we get back up!

This month, our family is focusing on RESPONSIBILITY. (The irony wasn’t lost on me.)

Being responsible isn’t just a notion instilled in us by our parents to clean our rooms or arrive on time for work. It is a character virtue commanded by God for His children to be accountable for our lives and actions. It is a moral obligation to behave in ways that honor God.

The bible explains that each of us are personally responsible for our lives. Check it out:

The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.” Ezekiel 18:20

God even explains that we will be rewarded for our responsibility (or lack thereof):

“Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds. Woe to the wicked! Disaster is upon them! They will be paid back for what their hands have done.” Isaiah 3: 10-11

Did you notice that God wasn’t describing rewards and consequences in Heaven or Hell. He was talking about life right here on earth! Don’t miss this: responsibility reaps rewards; irresponsibility reaps consequences. 

Now, that’s not new info, is it? It’s actually a relatively elementary thought. Yet, often the most elementary thoughts are the most profound.

Consider these things:

  • We are personally responsible for our actions.
  • We are personally responsible to work and provide for ourselves and families.
  • We are personally responsible to obey God’s commands.
  • We are personally responsible for our response to the Gospel.
  • We are personally responsible for telling others about God’s great love.
  • We are personally responsible for our character.
  • We are personally responsible for our spiritual growth.

Yet, we often avoid responsibility by shifting blame to others. It’s someone else’s fault. We excuse laziness. We ignore God’s commands. We fear talking about our faith with others. We rationalize poor character. We blame the church for not being “deep” enough. 

If responsibility reaps rewards, these excuses for irresponsibility are leading us down a path of demise! Let’s choose instead to be accountable for each moment of each day.

Why not join my family in taking personal responsibility for life this month? Choose an area and start walking a path that leads to rewards!

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

Perpetual Planning Paralysis

more actionI’m not one to make rash decisions. No spontaneous big purchases. No impetuous schedule changes. I’m what one would call a “planner.”

When hosting parties in my home, I orchestrate the details of guest lists, seating arrangements, and clean up well in advance of the soirée. When I supervise church events, oversized post-it pad papers full of instructions plaster the walls of my planning sessions. And if my husband offers a last minute change to any of my schemes, well let’s just say marital discord looms.

Being a planner has its upside. Considering all the details of an event or decision helps to avoid pitfalls like surprise expenses or overlooked guests. The world needs people like me. But all that planning has its downside, as well.

Let me give you an example. I’ve been planning a bedroom makeover for my 6th grade daughter. Her room is a hodgepodge of hand-me-down’s, and it’s time to give her a more grown up space. For the last several months (months, I said), I have pinned paint colors on Pinterest, made wish lists at Target, and searched decor ideas in magazines. Months. I have plotted and planned for months without taking any real action. No new furniture has been purchased. No wall has been painted. No old things have been thrown out. Apparently, I have become stymied in perpetual planning paralysis.

Well, no more. Determined to break out of my slump, I posted pictures of my daughter’s current bedroom suite to an online sales forum, and it sold in 20 minutes! That’s right, I’m the genius who sold all of my daughter’s furniture without anything to replace it. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting such a quick response, and now I feel slightly disconcerted knowing I must make quick decisions to complete the room redo. Painting the room and choosing furniture will most likely rock my world for the next few weeks, but it needs to happen. Too much planning and not enough action were getting me nowhere fast. Taking the drastic action of selling everything was just the kick-in-the-pants I needed to get moving in the right direction!

Maybe you aren’t a planner, like me. Maybe you are more of a free spirit that takes action when the mood strikes. Either way, all of us must take action in life.

In decisions.

In relationships.

In discipleship.

In leadership.

Planning paralysis and moody moments can rob us of becoming the people God created us to be and being effective in the hand of God.

Are you a perpetual planner? Do you, like me, simply need to take action? Or do moody moments prevent you from doing the things you ought? Do you need to:

  • have that difficult conversation you’ve been dreading?
  • cut up your credit cards and create a monthly budget?
  • engage in a mentoring relationship?
  • exercise?
  • disciple your family?
  • date your spouse?
  • use your God-given gifts in the church?
  • step out in faith?
  • obey what God has commanded of you?

Clearing out an entire room of furniture was the drastic action I had to take to start moving in the right direction. What drastic action is needed in your life? Don’t get paralyzed by perpetual planning and don’t wait until the mood strikes. Take action to become the person God created you to be! Take action to influence the world around you! 

I want to spur you on! Tell me: are you are a Perpetual Planner or Free Spirit? What change do you want to make?

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684

Prove It

love_heart_uidaodjsdsewThis month my family has taken a challenge to focus on acts of love toward each other and the world around us. Our goal? To perform one act of intentional love each day. In a world full of self-centered antics, Shawn and I want to disciple our kids to love others, and we want to inspire them to be proactive in their faith. Each morning we look at the huge post it paper I’ve hung prominently in our den to choose from a list of 30 ways to show love. Then, at dinner, we chat about our day and tell stories of who we loved and how we loved. Check out a few suggestions from our list:

Include someone

Plan a surprise

Go the extra mile for someone

Give someone your undivided attention

Invite someone to church

Make someone’s life easier

Be a shoulder to cry on…without having all the answers

Find something in common with someone different than you

Say I love you

Simple, really. But, small actions like these can have a grand effect. More importantly, talking about it as a family ingrains in each of us the most important commandment Jesus ever gave: LOVE God, LOVE people!

My challenge for you today is this: Find a creative way to love the people around you (family, co-workers, neighbors) and allow God to stretch you in this area. After all, love isn’t love until it’s proven. Include your family and have fun! And if you have a good experience let me know!

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8

6B6A23A1E06E69BEB0124FAF2CA3C684