The One Thing I Refuse To Change

Moving to a new state to start a new ministry means tons of things in my life have changed. 

New home.

New routine.

New church.

New role.

New friends.

New hair stylist.

WAIT. 

That last one isn’t exactly true. Oh, I tried to find a new hair cutting and highlighting expert, but he only managed to effectively make me hate my hair….which, by the way, I had to live with for 7 weeks till it was time for another cut. So, I did what any self-respecting, forward-thinking, hair-loving person would do: I drove 3 hours back to Georgia for a hair cut.

Yes I did.

Not once. Not twice. Today makes my 3rd trip. I drive over, get pampered by one of the best in the business (Berni, Inc for my local Cumming, Ga friends), grab lunch with a few friends, and drive back to Bama before nightfall. Berni has cut my hair for 11 years. Why stop now? Seems perfectly logical to me since I can’t trust these tresses to just anyone, but my hubby sure wishes my hair cuts didn’t cost me a 6 hour round trip.

Men. They just don’t get it sometimes.

By the time you read this post, I’ll likely be sitting in a comfy chair, covered by a black cape, and looking like a freak with tons of little foils all over my head. Then I’ll look glorious while I do lunch with some of my besties.

Eventually I’ll have to find someone local to cut my hair, but for now I’m enjoying my little day-trips for beauty. Unless, of course, I can convince Berni to move to Birmingham.

And don’t think I won’t try!

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The Sentence That Stopped Me In My Tracks

So I was reading through Romans  the other day when one sentence stopped me in my tracks.

“We must not just please ourselves.” Romans 15:1 NLT

Well, that advice flies in the face of what our society teaches, doesn’t it? Self-help books, talk show hosts, and advice columns all teach that we should never live to please others. Seeking to win the love and acceptance of other people by saying and doing certain things only leads to empty, one-sided relationships, and any counselor would agree.

I agree. And so would Paul, the author of that quote. 

But Paul didn’t teach that we should live to please others in order to win their approval. He didn’t advance a plan for winning friends and gaining popularity. Instead, Paul taught that we should seek to please others out of respect for their view of God. The bottom line is this: what we say and do influences others. So when we choose a particular behavior or action, those watching us are influenced. They have an opinion about us and about God.

For instance, when a group of Christians collects funds to provide gifts for the needy at Christmas, people are blessed and know that God cares about them. When we invite someone to church, they are reminded about God. When exhibit honesty, loyalty, or compassion because we choose to live by God’s standards, we model God’s character for those around us. And, when we choose to avoid certain things or activities out of respect for those with weaker faith, we are displaying love and sensitivity. Check out what Paul said:

“We should help others do what is right and build them up in the Lord.” Romans 15:2 NLT

Living to please others is actually a very good thing…..it just has a vastly different definition in Scripture than it does in our culture! Our goal in pleasing others is to encourage them and their faith in God.

Today, live to please others. Not to win their approval, but to protect and encourage their faith.

Please others by showing love when someone has been rude.

Please others by displaying Godly character which encourages them to raise their own standards of living!

Please others by investing into a friend. Showing unexpected kindness models God’s love!

Please others by being patient with them.

All of these actions help to encourage the faith in others! You might not see the fruit in the moment, but we trust that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes. We trust that the Holy Spirit plants seeds in their lives through our actions….seeds that will yield a great harvest!

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The 10,000 Foot View

Not long ago I listened as a friend confided some problems she was facing. It seemed as if her whole life was a mess, but it really wasn’t. I was able to see a few key adjustments she could make to reverse course and feel peace again. 

Fast forward to just a few days ago when I faced a problem that frustrated me and felt like withdrawing from those around me.

Why was I able to clearly see the answer for someone else but not for myself?

It’s called the 10,000 foot view! When we rise up above the minutia and details of our lives, we can more easily surmise a solution. It’s “seeing the forest in spite of the trees.” And, more often than not, we have a 10,000 foot view of the problems of other people, but we are too mired in the details to have the same view of our own.

Check out what Paul wrote:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT

The bottom line is Paul challenged us to have a 10,000 foot view of our own problems. He preached that if Christians rise up above the frustrations and hurt that our problems bring, we will see the bigger picture.

  • We will see how our problems build up endurance (which means the next problem won’t trip us up quite as badly as the last one).
  • We will learn that our ability to endure difficulties builds a strong character (which prevents us from wallowing in self pity and makes us models to follow)
  • We will learn that our strong character makes us confident in our salvation (which brings purpose and peace)

Friends, if we could learn to pause in the midst of our problems to gain the 10,000 foot view, we would benefit immensely. I’m convinced our problems, though just as difficult, wouldn’t cause us to stumble so badly. Just look at Paul. He faced unbelievable circumstances: betrayal, threats, misunderstanding, jail, beatings, loneliness,….the list goes on. His problems were difficult but he wrote often of his joy, his purpose, and his willingness to keep going.

How could we gain a better perspective on our problems? Could we talk to a trusted friend? Could we make a pro/con list? Could we read Scriptures for insight? Could we pray? Could we read a book for help? Could we visit a counselor? 

Your Turn: What steps could you take to “pause” in the midst of a problem and gain a 10,000 foot view for perspective? 

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Don’t Be A Knucklehead

Do you know what I’ve learned in life? Preparation is the key to success. In everything.

  • Better grades come when I’ve studied.
  • Parties go smoother when I’ve thought through the details in advance.
  • My cars last longer when I keep the engine maintained.
  • Money stretches farther when I have a spending plan.
  • Afternoons at home are less stressful when I’ve created a dinner menu and have meals ready.
  • I respond to life better when I’ve consistently spent time learning from Jesus.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. If we are spiritually prepared, success will be ours.

  • Knowing scripture helps us overcome temptation.
  • Knowing scripture helps us understand God and His ways.
  • Knowing scripture helps us not fall for the enemy’s tricks.
  • Knowing scripture gives us hope.
  • Knowing scripture helps us know the difference between false prophets and God.

Whatever you are facing today or even in this season of your life, be prepared. God’s Word is full of wisdom and encouragement to guide your every decision. Don’t be one of those knuckleheads who try to figure things out without reading the instructions!

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Bless Your Heart

blessI live in the South where the phrase “bless your heart” can be a warm sentiment or an insult. More often, it’s a pity-filled insult. Whether it’s the lady wearing the worst outfit ever or the man with the over-the-top personality, we notice. Oh yes, we size people up and judge their attitudes and behaviors.

Guilty as charged. In the last hour, I’ve had opinionated thoughts about a local lawyer’s questionable TV ads and someone’s choice of social media posts. Don’t even get me started on people’s driving habits. In that arena, I always have an opinion.

But Paul challenged us in Romans chapter 2 to take a closer look at our swiftness to judge….and a closer look at what we are judging. Check it out:

“….When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you do these very same things.” Romans 2:1 NLT

While we might be guilty of shaking our heads at questionable outfits, we are probably also guilty of judging others for their actions.

  • “She hasn’t been to church in years.”
  • “He had an affair.”
  • “Did you hear? He embezzled money from his job!”
  • “She is such a gossip. You can’t trust her!”
  • “Wow. He is so sarcastic. All. The. Time.”
  • “She got caught in a lie. It’s not the first time either….”

The truth is it is much easier to tell someone else how to behave than to behave properly ourselves. It’s easier to quote the bible than it is to actually live out its principles. And it’s certainly more fun to point out someone else’s offenses than to deal with our own.

Yet, Paul didn’t mince words. He clearly stated that God will judge ALL of us for our secret lives.

“The day will surely come when God, by Jesus Christ, will judge everyone’s secret life.” Romans 2:16 NLT

YIKES. That put things into perspective. God desires us to be soft-hearted people who aren’t judgemental but are compassionate, patient with others, and kind with our thoughts and words.

And He expects us to turn our pointing fingers back on ourselves. Looking at the list of “judgments” above, we could choose to notice those actions in others but use those moments as a springboard to take an inward look:

  • I might be going to church weekly, but how is my personal love relationship with God?
  • He might have had an affair, but what am I doing to be the best spouse I can be?
  • He embezzled money, but do I take shortcuts with my money? Do I ever take what doesn’t belong to me? Do I steal in small ways?
  • She gossips, but do I protect others with my words?
  • He is insulting with his sarcasm, but do I proactively encourage others?
  • She lies, but am I always honest?

The bottom line, friends, is God is concerned not only with our integrity, but also with our compassion for others. Instead of judging, let’s love. And let’s evaluate our own personal integrity level so that we won’t bear the title of hypocrite.

Here’s our challenge for today: Each time we notice something negative about another person, let’s take an inward look to evaluate if any hypocrisy can be found in our hearts/actions.

This one simple exercise just might be a game changer in our lives!

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My Life Preservers

th“When we arrived in Macedonia there was no rest for us. Outside there was conflict from every direction, and inside there was fear. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.” 2 Corinthians 7: 5-6 NLT

Have you ever felt like Paul? “Outside there was conflict and inside there was fear”? There are times in life (sometimes those times feel more like seasons) when we face uncertain circumstances or unwelcome conflicts from the outside world which make us fearful of what our future holds. Pay attention, however, to what calmed Paul’s spirit: the arrival of a friend. If you read 2 Corinthians 7, you’ll discover that Titus arrived with a good report on the spiritual well-being of some mutual friends. Although his circumstances had not changed, the encouragement of a trusted friend brought Paul confidence and joy.

Friends, we cannot always change our circumstances. Life will throw us curveballs, and we must deal with them. Yet, if we’ve invested into Godly friendships, the people with whom we surround ourselves can help buoy us! They can help us keep our heads above water.

Are you investing into friendships with other believers? You need it! So do I. God often uses other Christians to motivate us, encourage us, and love us. And, yes, he also uses them to steer us back to the right path when we’ve been knuckleheads.

The next time you deal with conflict on the outside and fear on the inside, confide in a trusted Godly friend. Don’t tread those waters alone. Let your spirit be buoyed by the arrival of a friend!

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It’s 23 days away….

easterIt seems like we just counted down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and Easter is already upon us! Geez, times really flies. But, I don’t want Easter to fly by; I want to savor the meaning of the holiday and build memories with my family. So I turned to my best ally: Pinterest.

The other evening I surfed and pinned all kinds of Easter frivolity: inspirational quotes for the handy-dandy chalkboard that sits outside my front door, table center pieces that welcome spring, and recipes that will fill us up.

I’ll be honest. I surfed way too long. I got sucked into the Pinterest vortex and hours – literal hours – passed by. Don’t tell my husband. He probably thinks I was being super productive, but alas, I was mesmerized by the insane creativity of other pinners.

I scored several ideas, and I’ve already been to the store to purchase some fun decor. A teal wooden cross now hangs on my front door, a huge dough bowl of these oversized eggs in multiple colors now adds some Easter fun to my dining room table, and a wire basket of theses speckled, foam eggs  sits in my foyer.

Better still, I discovered Bunny Bait which I will surely make, and I wrote out my Easter menu. Our extended family will be with us, we’ll have an egg hunt for the littles, and we’ll enjoy the afternoon together…..on Saturday the 26th.

I know you’re probably wondering if some weird thing happened in this Leap Year causing Easter to fall on a Saturday. Nope. Our family is simply celebrating a day early so that we can all attend church on Sunday without have to rush home to prepare a meal. Less stress = happy people.

So those are my plans. What about you? Do you have a favorite go-to Easter recipe or decorating tip? Don’t let life fly by and miss celebrating this incredible holiday! Hop to it! (See what I did there? Some of you will get that one later.)

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Two Simple Steps to Avoid This Age-Old Problem

facepalmI love shopping at Whole Foods. I was just there last night getting a few items that aren’t available at my local stores. Whole Foods offers some unique and healthful items, but not everything is what it seems. Recently, Whole Foods was in the news for selling items at a high price that aren’t worth it. Prime example: asparagus water. Selling for a whopping $5.99/jar, asparagus water is literally 4 sticks of asparagus soaking in a jar of plain water. People have expressed outrage all over America for the ludicrous cost and the proof that people were buying items at a high cost which were, in fact, worthless.

Has anything ever cost you a lot but proved worthless in the end? I can think of tons of examples: buying items to bring temporary joy, filling schedules with activities to bring a sense of significance or achievement, or saying yes to every opportunity in order to please other people. Yet, these actions often result in feelings of anxiety over money woes, exhaustion, disappointment, or a loss of personal identity.

Have you ever been there? I have. Sometimes our decisions can cost us a lot but give us nothing in return.

It’s not a new experience, though. I’ve been reading through each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament, and it seems the Corinthians bought some proverbial asparagus water, too.  Paul explained that the false prophets in Corinth had charged high prices for their preaching, yet Paul had preached the Good News for free. He even asked, “Did I do wrong when I humbled myself and honored you by preaching God’s Good News to you without expecting anything in return?” (2 Cor 11:7 NLT). The Corinthians were probably a lot like you and me. They figured if it cost more it must be more valuable, and so they fell for the age-old marketing trick: a high price conveys worth. Spoiler alert: In the end, the Christians in Corinth recognized the false teachers as such, and they returned to the truth of Paul’s teaching. No word, however, on whether they got a refund on the bogus preaching.

Want to know how to avoid getting duped by pleasant-sounding people and opportunities? Pray for eyes to see and hears to hear God. (Prov 20:12)

  • Pray for eyes to see life’s circumstances and decisions the way God sees them. Don’t make decisions or confront situations without first seeing them through God’s lenses.
  • Pray for ears to hear God’s voice louder than all the false voices yelling at us. Don’t listen to the wrong voice and discover you’ve cost yourself time and heartache.

Our decisions don’t have to come at a high cost and give us nothing in return. We can avoid the d’oh! moments of life. Our lives – every decision, activity, and relationship – can be full of worth and value if we first filter them through God’s standards. 

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Don’t Be A Quitter

Did you know that 2 Corinthians is actually Paul’s 4th letter to that church? Since I’ve been obsessed with Sherlock on PBS, I guess I’ve put on my own detective hat and discovered a bit of Bible trivia. 

Paul spent 18 months ministering in the city of Corinth, a very cosmopolitan city. Both Jews and Greeks lived there influencing one another with their ideas of culture and religion. After Paul left, he learned the Corinthians were struggling with immoral behavior, so he wrote a letter to the church which has since been lost. That was letter #1. The Corinthians wrote a letter in return asking for clarifications on conduct and church rules. Paul responded by writing a letter we know as 1 Corinthians. His next letter (#3) to them was also lost, but his 4th letter is our book of 2 Corinthians. 

In each letter Paul not only encouraged the Christians in Corinth, but he confronted their sin. Time and again, Paul must have been disappointed in their drama and struggles. He taught them, invested into them, and spurred them on….only to travel to another city and learn that the Corinthians were listening to false teachers and struggling with immoral behavior. What’s more is that a few of the Corinthians began to doubt Paul’s authority! I can imagine Paul’s exasperation over their lack of maturity.

If you are a parent, I bet you can relate to Paul. We train our kids to act a certain way, and then we are shocked to see some of their decisions, like running crazily through a friend’s house or making a poor choice at a party. In those moments, we might feel disappointed or even angry. I’m sure Paul felt the same way on some level.

Here’s the kicker: Paul didn’t give up on the Corinthians. He didn’t wash his hands of them when situations grew tiresome. He didn’t stop loving or encouraging or fighting for them. He could have gotten defensive when the Corinthians doubted his authority. He could have become offended when they forgot all that Paul had already done for them. He could have grown tired of their immaturity and chosen to put his attention elsewhere.

He didn’t.

He didn’t give up, give in, walk away, get defensive, or become offended. He kept doing what God told him to do! Even when difficulties – physical AND emotional – made life tough, Paul kept fulfilling the mission God gave him.

Friends, that’s the key to resiliency: KNOW YOUR MISSION. When you know your mission….your purpose….you won’t give up in the hard times! Our ability to recover quickly from difficulties is found in the understanding of our purpose.

What has God asked you to do? Whatever it is, keep doing it. When – not if – life gets tough, when emotions get bruised, remember your calling. Paul did, and God used him to change lives. What could God do through you today?

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Do You Want My Honest Opinion?

honest_opinionWould you like to know one thing I’ve learned after 20 years in ministry? People get defensive easily. And often. Most people bristle when offered unwarranted advice, and they certainly get angry when confronted about some disagreeable act. I’m no different. All is takes is my husband having a different opinion than me, and I’m all abuzz. The bottom line is most of us aren’t very teachable. Oh, we can learn a new social media app or some new fangled math, but we often lack a teachable spirit. What I mean is, we don’t handle it very well when someone calls us out. Rather than assessing the situation and making changes for the better, we usually defend our actions and act incredulously that someone would dare poke their nose in our business.

Are you relating at all?

The apostle Paul held his Christian friends accountable in lots of areas and they were better for it. Because of Paul’s encouragement and admonishment, Christians in Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus, Thessalonica, and many other New Testament cities returned to their faith when they strayed. They could have balked and been overly sensitive. I’m sure some responded poorly, but the Bible records that many of them were, in fact, teachable. They shelved their pride and make adjustments in their lives to become more like Jesus.

Let me ask you: do you have someone in your life who can ask you the tough questions? Someone who can encourage you to keep running the race? Someone who can call you out when you are straying off the path? More importantly, are you teachable? Do you become defensive, or do you listen and make changes?

Today, let’s be teachable. Let’s shelve our pride and allow a trusted friend to challenge us from time to time. Remember, our goal is to become more like Jesus, not stay like we are!

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