Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

PART 3 OF TWO BROTHERS + AN OVER-TOLD STORY : MAIN TAKE-AWAYS

February 4th, 2016

After looking at the events that took place in Exodus 31-33ish in post 1 and observing each brother’s response to the circumstances in post 2, this 3rd post will highlight what I believe are some further take-away applications for anyone seeking to grow as believers in Christ. In all honesty, we can find ourselves relating to […]

 

After looking at the events that took place in Exodus 31-33ish in post 1 and observing each brother’s response to the circumstances in post 2, this 3rd post will highlight what I believe are some further take-away applications for anyone seeking to grow as believers in Christ. In all honesty, we can find ourselves relating to either of these two men who served God…so it is beneficial to store away some Biblical wisdom for times in our life that are not too unlike this time in both Moses and Aaron’s walk with God.

What we can take away from this – 

This is what brothers are for – God can do anything and everything, yet He often uses our family of believers to help each other and come alongside each other – both to teach us how to live when we feel like Moses in this story as well as reveal insight, truth, and hope to us when we might find ourselves more like Aaron. When we can see our lives in light one of these two brothers, we realize God can use us in the lives of others to help us see, know and understand our Lord’s heart more, and He can work in our lives to shape our hearts to be more like Christ and more suited for the plans He has for us if we choose to come to Him in our time of need. As it is in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “ Two are better than one, … For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” God doesn’t have to involve us in the work He’s doing in other people, but He chooses to often to teach and stretch and shape us both through our life circumstances if we seek Him in them. Are we there for others when we could be? And do we come to Him when we realize we’ve wandered?

For times we could be Aaron – When we are unsure of our calling, We need to trust that God has a plan for our lives, especially if we’ve experienced Him before, and rest assured that He planned what he wanted us to do long ago (Ephesians 2:10). Meanwhile, if we feel like we do not yet know specifics about what God has called us to do, we need to carry out the great commission while loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength… and love our neighbors as ourselves (the general call on all believers’ lives Matthew 22:36-40, Matthew 28:16-20) and continue to seek Him wholeheartedly lest we be led astray to temptation (2 Peter 3:14-18).

And For when we feel like a bystander like Moses – We need to first check our hearts and ask God’s help in making our hearts like His. Moses was overcome by anger – which tends to cloud our ability to keep perspective and leads to poor reactions. I believe we need to make sure we ask God to help us exchange some of the raw reactions of our heart for a heart that more reflects that of the Holy Spirit  (specifics of what God’s spirit exemplifies in the fruit of the spirit and definition of love in Corinthians)  before we’ll be able to be most useful in the given situation. Once we have done this,  we should pray to God fervently for mercy for whoever is an Aaron in our life…and be willing to act when God invites us to share the truth in love and point to Christ to our Aaron.

Moses and Aaron. Two imperfect brothers…One Holy, Mighty, and Loving God, and a chord of three strands that was not quickly broken. May we always have someone to help us when we fall, and may we always be there to help when another falls, and may we come to know the heart of our awesome God through it all!

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Two Brothers + An Over-told Story That Taught Me a New Lesson Pt. 1

January 27th, 2016

Wo! I just read Exodus 31-33ish and it was some stuff that blew my mind! Before diving in I want to note that many of these thoughts are from reading the scripture as well as Matthew Henry’s commentary…so many of these thoughts are paraphrased as my understanding from some of his writings as well as […]

 

Wo! I just read Exodus 31-33ish and it was some stuff that blew my mind! Before diving in I want to note that many of these thoughts are from reading the scripture as well as Matthew Henry’s commentary…so many of these thoughts are paraphrased as my understanding from some of his writings as well as scripture.

In these chapters, God was specifically telling Moses about the very special and honorable and high calling He had for his brother Aaron. Aaron was to be set apart as a high priest and all his sons after him were to have this calling. What a calling on someone’s life! But wow the sequence of events to follow. This first of three posts will summarize the sequence of events and insights gleaned from it.

A little back story is that Aaron had just encountered multiple amazing, undeniable God experiences. As Moses’s brother and right hand man, he literally was used by God to do many of the signs and wonders with his own hands and staff before Egypt – the events that led to Pharaoh letting them leave (Exodus 7). It was Aaron’s staff – not Moses’s – whose staff became a serpent before Pharaoh and swallowed the magicians’ and sorcerers’ serpents up. It was Aaron’s outstretched arms who turned the waters of Egypt to blood, his hands stretched out and brought the plague of frogs and then brought the plague of gnats. He’d just seen God use him to perform miracles, to send plagues against Egypt while also distinctively preserving and sparing the people of Israel, and he’d seen God provide miraculous deliverance leading them with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13), parting the sea (Exodus 14), creating drinkable water out of a rock and providing food in the wilderness (Exodus 17). He also was one of the two holding Moses’s arms up to God and witnessed God’s intervention that led to battle victory over the Amalekites (Exodus 17). And as if that weren’t enough evidence to authenticate God’s existence and power, the entire people of Israel just watched a mountain shake as they audibly heard God speak and call Moses up to the mountain.

So flash forward to the mountain top experience for Moses. While much of the talk would be about the law and instruction regarding the tabernacle, a substantial portion of the conversation concluding Moses’s time up there was about Aaron and how God has a high, specific, and purposeful calling on his life. But meanwhile, the people forgot God and assumed that Moses was gone, so they cried out for Aaron to make a god for them. I should know this story inside and out but was actually surprised at Aaron’s role in the horrible decisions that followed. Did Aaron remind them of God? Did he rebuke them or stutter in his answer? No! The Bible simply records a very willing and participating Aaron who actually led the charge on creating and worshipping the golden calf.

How could someone with such an incredible assurance of God in his life, such previous experience of His goodness and faithfulness, turn so quickly and do something so opposite? So against God? Have you ever found yourself in Aaron’s shoes? Where you have experienced God in a powerful, personal, undeniable way in your life and then found yourself doing the unthinkable? In her book  Arm Yourself Against the Enemy’s Schemes: A Taste of When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, Beth Moore suggests that actually after a personal failure or a spiritual victory is often when we are incredibly vulnerable to fall to an attack of the enemy. So, this is not as surprising as it seems when we know how Satan can attack us… but to the one caught in the schemes and finding themselves in a situation against everything they once stood for, it can totally catch you off guard. If this has never been you, perhaps you have you been like Moses and known an Aaron or an Israelite in your life who has seen or possibly experienced God but chose to chase after other things. I think of a few things about this in particular about Moses and Aaron –

1.) Moses knew of Aaron’s calling, Aaron did not yet know God had this awesome continued plan for Him. Moses was enraged to say the least to learn what was going on when he got back. As a bystander, it can be heartbreaking and enraging to be so sure that God has great things in store for someone you love, they hold so much potential, and then you look and they are drowning in ungodly strongholds.

It can be so heartbreaking and frustrating (especially if their struggles affect you personally) to say the least to come off a mountain top experience with God like Moses and realize how broken the world is. From an experience of everything good, true and right to everything corrupt, twisted and provoking. In much of how Moses responds (some right ways some wrong ways), we see that – as a light for Christ and thus ministers to those we love and influence – our role is to help “expose the greatness of sin”. We can only help reveal the wickedness, but we are helpless to fix it for anyone. The truth we hold  can only help expose, but it cannot fix the situation. Similarly, the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses cannot make us righteous…it can only make us knowledgeable of our sin, but the laws will never cure anyone of sin. The cure for sin is only found in the atonement and acceptance of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. (Matt Henry)

2.) Aaron had not yet known God had a high and purposeful calling on his life for his future, BUT he had seen God use him and work in his life. And as the one in the middle of the struggle, sometimes we don’t know of what God has planned and we lack vision for ourselves and do not seek God with all our hearts which leads to abundant opportunities for temptation. Where there is no vision, the people perish (Prov. 29:18). Aaron could have and should have, – and if he would – have stood firm in what He already knew and experienced of and with God, and fled temptation and sought God with all his heart, he most likely would not have gotten lured or wrapped up in something so far off from what God wanted for him. Not to mention his actions led and encouraged many others to go astray.

So here they are – Moses frustrated and enraged, and Aaron leading a charge against everything he’d just witnessed. What’s a brother to do? We’ll look at their responses and some powerful insight on each brother’s situation in the next post.

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Like Apples of Gold…

December 9th, 2015

Recently I’ve been learning a lot  about how to better love and honor people, and I find myself eager to look for and find praiseworthy things in people among me to build them up or compliment them. I know how it is to be a woman (or just a human being in general), and sometimes […]

 

Recently I’ve been learning a lot  about how to better love and honor people, and I find myself eager to look for and find praiseworthy things in people among me to build them up or compliment them. I know how it is to be a woman (or just a human being in general), and sometimes it means everything to hear some one say a kind word about how you look, the efforts you are making in things in your life, and simply acknowledging and praising the good in who you are. My goal has become to genuinely see the beauty and good in people and, when I look for it, it is always possible to find something to sincerely appreciate and share in an encouraging compliment to brighten their day. Maybe it’s because I’ve experienced what it’s like to be down, and my heart doesn’t want that for anyone.

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I know I am probably not the only one, but sometimes it seems that this life choice to be an encourager can be a lonely one way street.

What God’s been teaching me through it is to find my encouragement in Him alone, and yet to be grateful when He does use someone to brighten my day with a kind word.  Recently I walked into a gathering and was surprised to have multiple people compliment me. I will be the first to tell you that – for me – THIS IS NOT NORMAL. But looking back I will say that I never knew how much I would have needed it. After this gathering, I would soon experience the opposite end of the spectrum and find myself at the end of the day feeling defeated and like a failure. It wasn’t until I talked to my Mom that I burst into tears. But it wasn’t what you would think.

I was indeed sad and discouraged and feeling less than loved or valued, but I didn’t break down to tears until I remembered the unusual and beautifully kind encouragement God had sent my way just before He knew I would face temptation to feel worthless. How extra loving it was to send this gift of encouragement my way, and I was reminded He is always working to teach and shape my heart in the good and the hard. I  am so thankful that, when I need it, His Word never fails to overflow with the lasting encouragement I need. It is my help in filtering out negative or destructive thoughts or assumptions I may make and editing my thoughts to only the truth in His Word about who I am, who He is, and what really matters.

When I worry about what others might criticize about me, I know He knows my heart and I have peace and choose to accept that that is enough. And I am also thankful for those people who loved on me with their thoughts and words when they easily could have kept their thoughts to themselves or chose to pick me apart and identify all my flaws instead of praising the good. My new and true hope in reflecting on my own experiences is that we never hold back a kind word…because we may never know how much that word means or how God may just use it to send some extra love and encouragement to somebody when they need it most.

Unfortunately encouraging words aren’t always received when we can use them, but this is how we learn to go to a faithful and overflowing source of encouragement – God’s Word. When I need a word of lasting encouragement, I am never disappointed to find it in scripture.

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And being the pinterest quote saver I am, here are a few quotes and scriptures about the power of kind words and looking for the good and praiseworthy in others!

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And this brought to mind this song written for people to encourage each other in the Lord. What a favorite!

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Responding to Failure in Relationships

November 23rd, 2015

“When Jesus told the disciples they would soon abandon Him, He was not attacking them or challenging their loyalty. He knew them. He saw the limits of their faith. In compassion, He loved them even in their weaknesses. -(Journey Magazine article October 26, 2014) Even Jesus, with a perfect record of love, joy, peace, patience, […]

 

“When Jesus told the disciples they would soon abandon Him, He was not attacking them or challenging their loyalty. He knew them. He saw the limits of their faith. In compassion, He loved them even in their weaknesses. -(Journey Magazine article October 26, 2014)

Even Jesus, with a perfect record of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control…with a life chock-full of miracles and example of faithfulness and loyalty, even He did not receive 100% loyalty or faithfulness in return by those closest to Him. Was it because He was not worthy of their loyalty or faithfulness? Not at all. No one was, is or will ever be more worthy. But this was not about whether He’d proven Himself worthy. It was about the imperfect wavering hearts of even the most faithful of mankind. Even when we have the best intentions as people, there are always fleshly limits we are facing in need of God’s transforming work.

Jesus knew his beloved disciples and He saw their limitations. And His love did not waver.

Reading this devotion, I think about the standards, the impossible standards, I tend to hold for my husband and even others very close to me. Today, while reading this, I saw my husband and my loved ones through the heart of Peter. Now, before you think Ha! She thinks she is Jesus in this story… believe me – I saw just how short I fall of the description Christ-like when comparing my usual response and perspective to that of Jesus here. Zealous and passionate, Peter fiercely rebutted Christ’s prediction that he would deny Him. Like Peter, one of the virtues I love most about my husband in particular is that he has a very strong sense of loyalty. He would never think himself capable of anything else in his relationships – our marriage in particular. He has stood up in awkward situations time and again chosen strategic personal guidelines guard himself and protect our marriage. But the truth is, like Peter, we are all capable of failure. While Bryan has never detrimentally failed me, I realized that anything less than perfection from him tends to really disappoint me. It seems, at least for me, those closest to us in life will always be those we depend on most, but it will also sting the most when they let you down – even in the tiniest of ways.

In this case I saw how very much I could learn from Jesus in the responder role when in this situation. My A-ha! moment was studying His response after Peter denied Him…and also the outcome of the events. Peter was in this case devastated when he realized he’d failed Jesus. Because he already recognized his failure, Jesus, after the resurrection, chose to approach Peter – not with I told you so’s or How could you!?’s but with a humble and loving presence. I noticed two things here:

  1. Jesus knew his accusations were not needed to fix the situation…or to even the score of the offended. Isn’t it amazing how, when we can see through the eyes of Christ in this passage, we see the frivolousness of our tendencies? When we are denied in a sense or disappointed, what if instead of focussing on making someone understand  just how much we’re hurt or disappointed …we instead recognize that the root of the issue is something entirely different? What if we seek Christ to show us what is really needed rather than honing in on making sure our offended heart is understood or justified? When someone disappoints us, the way we feel is only a symptom, and we need to pray that, instead of our feelings blinding us to only our perspective, that God opens our hearts and eyes to His – the Great Physician’s – perspective so that we can discern how to be obedient let God can treat the root of the problem in the hearts involved rather than us slapping some salve on the symptoms that affect us individually.
  2. When we do our part, we are a more effective vessel for God’s purposes remaining out of the way for God to do His part. We can only do our part. Our job is not God’s job. God’s job is not our job. When we are obedient and stick to our part, God can do His part and those moments and change everything. That dark moment of failure changed Peter.

Peter knew he’d failed. No hurt-filled or harsh words from Jesus were needed. They might have felt good to vent, but they weren’t necessary or productive. In fact, in Peter’s story, accusations or harsh words might have drowned out that dark quiet silence that followed his failure that were so key to transforming Peter deep within his heart. It is through this sting of failure that Peter began to change within from the man whose original name Simon meant “like grass or a like a reed which is flimsy and wavers and is tossed by the wind” to Peter whose name means “Rock” to which Jesus told him “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matt 16:18)

I think again about the sometimes impossible standards I hold for my family – my sweet husband in particular. Today I see a perfect picture of how Jesus – though being the standard of perfection – holds us to a standard of grace. He even told the disciples about their weaknesses and loved them with compassion through their weak points which proved key to changing them from the inside out. I often want my husband in particular to be to me what only Jesus could ever be – unfailing and perfect. Ever been there before? And when he falls short, I either blame myself or blame him viewing it from my limited perspective. This passage is key in refocusing to a better perspective. I am not Jesus. I am imperfect. And I am beyond blessed to have a husband with the godly character, loyalty, love and devotion that he has. But he.is.not.Jesus. And he.is.not.perfect. And when I expect that, he will miss the mark every time. But like Jesus knew his disciples, I need to know my husband and loved ones and pray that God would help me discern my their current limits that I may also receive and heed godly instruction on how to best love them compassionately even in their weaknesses…that they too, like Peter, might develop strength in areas they were once weak in through the love grace and power of Christ. When we are obedient and do our part, instead of attacking or challenging our loved one’s loyalty, we have a powerful opportunity to be a vessel for Christ’s truth, love and grace while trusting God to do His part in His way in His time. And we’d be blessed to have our loved ones hold us to the same standard of grace in return…because – really – we are all like Peter. And we are all capable to let Christ chisel His character into our hearts like never before when we seek Him through our failures.

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The RED CUP UPROAR and My Two Cents on The Heart of the Problem

November 11th, 2015

I don’t always blog about controversial Facebook Bandwagons, but felt like this blog post I have been sitting on and modified this morning may make a point right about now… I sat in my seat ready for a great message at my church in Alaska. Pastor Rod began “How many of us jump on boycott bandwagons […]

 

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I don’t always blog about controversial Facebook Bandwagons, but felt like this blog post I have been sitting on and modified this morning may make a point right about now…

I sat in my seat ready for a great message at my church in Alaska. Pastor Rod began “How many of us jump on boycott bandwagons as Christians?” he asked. I immediately thought of a particular store chain I refused to give business to. He continued “We are always boycotting something…stores that say Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas, companies that support spiritually opposing or political views we despise. But all we are doing is missing the point. If we as followers of Christ could recognize that it is not a behavior problem – it’s a heart problem – and be more concerned that people come to know Jesus rather than behave as if they did…lives could really be changed, hearts could be changed, and behavior would follow.”

People’s choices (the Starbucks leadership and ours included) simply reflect what is in our hearts. We cannot expect others to behave in a way that contradicts with where their hearts are. When it comes to homosexuals, pro-choice advocates and – dare I say – the oh so offensive Happy Holiday people…it reminds me of the woman at the well caught in a quite appalling act.  If Jesus himself appeared face to face with these people as He did with the woman at the well, I hate to say that many of us soapbox boycotters would be shocked to find that Jesus – like His experience with this woman – would not handle it the way we tend to respond. With this woman, for example, He did not refuse her to be in his presence because of her opposing choices, he did not give those people disgusted or appalled at her behavior a thumbs up for their intent to penalize her severely…nor did He Himself condemn her for her choices. You see, Jesus knew the heart of the problem wasn’t a behavior problem at all. It is a heart problem. As mentioned in a previous post, His response to her was beautifully free of condemnation, filled with love and grace that would begin to transform this woman from the inside out, and a specific truth and call to leave her former chosen behavior not just because he despised it but because He knew a better more abundant life was possible through the way He calls us to live as believers. Sometimes we are so loving that we lose truth and honesty, and other times we are so honest it can hinder someone from receiving the truth when love is replaced with judgement, ridicule, anger or hate. Jesus was and is equally a picture and living example of truth and love. To divide our approach is to divide all that Jesus stands for and will render ineffectiveness for sharing Him with others. As a new friend in my life recently shared with me – when we expect or demand people to change or behave a certain way we are asking them to perform rather than allowing God to transform their hearts as only He can.

My hope is that we become heart focussed people like Jesus. If a spouse, friend, relative, child, etc. is having a behavior issue, I pray that we remember that it is their heart that first needs help from Jesus and that we help shine a light on Jesus who calls Himself The Way and prayerfully ask God to transform them from the inside out while supporting them through it. If a company or political party or politician or whoever fails to act as if they follow Christ, I pray we would respond like Jesus and begin praying for heart changes and finding ways to respond in truth and love equally…it is ultimately up to the person themself what they choose, but our demands to behave or perform in a way that contradicts their heart will never produce authentic or lasting outcomes.

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When I am Irritable

May 14th, 2015

**Though my example in the beginning is married folk…this one is not just for married people. Stick with me here! 😉 If you are married, you may very well experience days and weeks when things are wonderful. You and your spouse smile, laugh and enjoy fun things. You may also experience spurts of frustration. Perhaps […]

 

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**Though my example in the beginning is married folk…this one is not just for married people. Stick with me here! 😉

If you are married, you may very well experience days and weeks when things are wonderful. You and your spouse smile, laugh and enjoy fun things. You may also experience spurts of frustration. Perhaps you aren’t full blow out angry at one another too often, but sometimes it seems like everything the other person does simply irks you. Sometimes as a wife, laundry, shoes, and dishes left throughout the house after we just picked up or cleaned can be exhausting. Yet often at the same time for men, it can be the consistent nagging or mothering lectures from their wives that makes them weary and agitated. Sometimes one or both spouses feel the loving things we do to help our better half become expected rather than appreciated which begins to make us resentful. I find in my own marriage we become most prone to irritability when one or both of us are tired, overwhelmed or under extra pressure at the time. I can only imagine (since we aren’t there yet) that this intensifies when children are involved as there can be even more responsibility and workload sharing between the two adults (a good example of this is here). Both spouses begin to seem demanding, easily angered and sensitive to each other’s criticisms that seem to just keep coming especially when life is stressful. This happens in other relationships as well. Often things at work are amiable until there is a deadline with high stakes and all of you have your own idea of the best plan of attack, share of responsibility (or lack there of), and cooperation. Or maybe it is the friend, relative, or co-worker who is always on your case, who drains you of your patience and kindness, or who has a knack for being obnoxious just enough to make your eye twitch. ;( Or maybe you have just had a really bad day and a store’s customer service rep just happens to tick you off extra when they are rude, unhelpful or even insulting.

Either way,  I hope I am not alone when I say that even though I long to show the love of Christ to everyone that I often find myself being irritable (especially to those close to me) – especially when I am having a “bad day”.

Do you ever feel justified to be irritated?

from Desiring God by John Piper

from Desiring God by John Piper

This past week I told myself – “I am just tired and overwhelmed with the mess of moving boxes still left to sort and the rest of the house being a wreck while the kitchen is installed,” along with multiple other reasons like “I wouldn’t need to nag if he’d just _A,B,C…X,Y, & Z_(Gee I guess I demand a lot sometimes)…and somehow I excused my “snappy” demeanor by just apologizing each time hoping I would cease being that way. The problem was that I knew I was disappointed when my high standards weren’t met and I knew I wanted to seek a godly perspective on how to view and handle it. My excuse that I was “just going through a lot” turned to shambles when an article writer reminded me that the worst parts of us are already in our hearts to begin with…they just rise to the surface when under pressure. Ew. I began to feel convicted about it and I knew I wasn’t doing a good job of snapping out of my snappiness on my own. So I began searching for the truth in God’s Word and what it says about when we are irritable. I hate to tell you (especially if you find yourself in my shoes) but I realized how unlike Christ we are when we allow ourselves to become and remain irritable. And particularly related to marriage, I stumbled over a verse I could probably recite to you…but in a fresh way for my eyes. You know it –

“Love is PATIENT and KIND;

love does not envy or boast;

it is not arrogant or RUDE.

IT DOES NOT INSIST ON IT’S OWN WAY;

IT IS NOT IRRITABLE OR RESENTFUL; 

6it does not rejoice at wrongdoing,

but rejoices with the truth.

7LOVE BEARS ALL THINGS, BELIEVES ALL THINGS,

HOPES ALL THINGS, ENDURES ALL THINGS.” (emphasis mine)

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By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

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“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.” (Philippians 4:5)

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“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak,

and slow to become angry, because

human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires(James 1:19-20 emphasis mine)

 

Right about now is when I think – gosh – I know I started this blog to share God’s truth, I just wish it weren’t so often in the testimony of the uncomfortable correction to my heart! How messy! Haha. (LORD I did ask you to rid me of any and all pride.) Anyways, those of us who do not feel like gentleness is possible for our personality – praise Jesus that – through coming to Him – He gives us what we need. A life transformed and renewed by God’s Word and loving kindness is evidenced by patience, gentleness and kindness (among other things Gal. 5:22-23) and the Word tells us we have everything we need through His power – “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness,” (2 Peter 1:3). So I challenge you as I am challenging myself – if you find yourself deceived into a spirit of irritability, let us pray for God to give us the things we need to love one another in a way that all men can see that we are truly His. If you know you have been irritable and need to make things right, God’s Word tells us how to make things right with one another, with God and in us.

  1. Reconcile with the person or people you have been irritable or angry with. According to Matthew 5:22-25, God would have us do this even before coming to Him. Sometimes the most difficult and humbling words to choke out can be an apology (especially if you are not the only one in the wrong!) but our wrongs are all that we are responsible for…and at the end of the day – they are the only part of making amends that we are responsible and accountable for. I promise it will also give you a healthy dose of godly humility and will help rid you of your pride – which will most definitely make your Lord smile to see the chiseling of godly character happening in your heart. I hated apologizing recently to Bryan because I knew I would earn a smugly pleased little smile and even worse – he would be so perfectly forgiving making his actions look even better next to my ugly ones! We laughed about this one a good bit. 😉 
  2. Be ok with whatever the result. Sometimes the offended will accept your plea and forgive willingly. Sometimes they won’t. Accept that you’ve done what is right in God’s eyes to apologize with earnest desire to be more loving and patient and gentle and that you can’t control anyone’s response or reaction.
  3. Go to God’s throne of grace in prayer, confess, repent and ask for forgiveness. And receive it! He already knows, and is ready and waiting to move forward with you to who you are becoming through this. 
  4.  Confidently receive forgiveness and cleansing and sin no more! A genuinely repentant heart will willingly walk a new path seeking to flee temptation to continue with what God has already brought to light and dealt with in your heart. You make make mistakes along the way – but keep going through this reconciliation process and praying and depending on God to help you become free of the habitual cycle. You should not have any lingering guilt or shame because God’s mercy and forgiveness are complete. If you do – it is a red flag that the accuser is deceiving you and I would suggest this 3-part blog I wrote here – #1, #2, and #3

I would love to suggest some awesome resources to help with this particular – sometimes daily – struggle. The book Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst was wonderful – I may need to re-read it time and again! These articles really opened my eyes and provided fresh reminders:

For married people in particular I would also highly recommend this article, as well as the book The Love Dare, The Love Dare Day by Day Couples’ Devotional, and/ or The Love Dare for Parents.

I choose gentleness… Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle.

If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer.

If I make a demand, may it be only of myself. ”
— Max Lucado

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From the Heart He Gave Me: Hard Lessons, Help, and Hope

April 23rd, 2015

Written the day our beloved furry best friend Maya passed away: Forgive me as I am a complete sappy mess writing this. But if you know me you know I can’t be any other way. I love deeply, and so when my heart breaks it breaks in large messy pieces.  But the LORD made me […]


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Written the day our beloved furry best friend Maya passed away:

Forgive me as I am a complete sappy mess writing this. But if you know me you know I can’t be any other way. I love deeply, and so when my heart breaks it breaks in large messy pieces.  But the LORD made me with this heart so here is my attempt to use every last messy piece for Him.

I would absolutely love to report that this time here thus far has been peachy and that I have been riding unicorns and that there are rainbows everywhere arched over thousand year old architecture, but in all honesty, month two has been a considerably difficult one. I shouldn’t complain – it is not deployment. But I can say it has been much more difficult than I expected.

Days after we partially moved into our new flat (which is actually awesome! Thank you Jesus!), Bryan packed his gear and baby wipes to head to his month-long field training during which he would lose hours days of sleep, bathe with said baby wipes, have no running water, a stove to heat their tent during the freezing nights that would later actually set their shelter ablaze (another story for another time) and be launched into working with his new unit under less than desirable conditions than one might want for dipping their toes into his new work environment.

While enjoying the new town and new place, I soon realized that I was very ALONE in an empty, at the moment kitchen-less house with just myself, microwavable food, the pets, and a town full of another culture. And though I am counting my blessings to be here, going solo…without TV…a data plan or even Wi-Fi to fill the empty place with some noise, it was lonely. Like I watched two online photo courses multiple times, read a whole giant book and a half, watched the Indiana Jones trilogy + special features 3 times and I still have time lonely. I had one German friend at this point, but she worked and I am not the type to demand any more of her time than she might offer. She invited me to Easter – which was weird, crazy and wonderful – but other than that it was pretty lonely. I couldn’t help but get frustrated from time to time trying to catch a signal to phone home no matter the unpleasant weather happenings or how my dog was leaning and begging incessantly at the lunch-goers next to me while I tried. And yes…the verge of tears was almost reached when trying to call (on my prepaid phone) customer service umpteen times trying to find just one rep who spoke English to ask them about my still-missing Wifi kit. And for some reason, one simple phrase began placing itself in the forefront of my thoughts. “God with us. GOD with us.” I feel alone, but I am not alone.

And then, out of nowhere, my beloved dog and best friend Maya got sick. After the most horrific morning rushing her to the vet, telling her she was a good girl and that she’d be ok, I discovered I had arrived too late. I had just lost the best dog I could have ever asked for, I didn’t get to hug her goodbye and tell her all I thought of her, and I was in shock and denial surrounded only by compassionate German Veterinary staff. But Bryan was in the field for a while yet, family in America were sleeping…and, BOY, did I feel alone….broken and alone. And worse, I was flooded with all the ways I could have been a better caretaker of my dog. Guilt. Regret. Tears. Cries… and sick to my stomach. And I slowly realized a few things:

  1. I love animals -particularly this dog- so much simply because I cannot deny the beautiful, unique, loyal loving qualities of my Creator in the creature. He made her (and dogs and other animals) to be a creation simply marvelous and worthy of admiring…at least that is how I see it.
  2. We are accountable to God for the care we give to people or creatures He places in our lives or allows us to take responsibility for. For instance, if I don’t feel like therefore slack off in doing wifey things that Bryan and I mutually agreed that I would be responsible in our relationship for, I am failing to care for my husband the way God desires me to.  Likewise, our children, and even our pets are God’s creation and blessing in our lives, and we are accountable to do the best we possibly can in caring for and loving them not just on the day we feel up to it – but every day we are blessed to have them. If you don’t want that much responsibility, plant a tree to decorate rather than stick a dog in your yard my German friend would say.
  3. If my love for Maya is only a fraction of the love God has for His creation, how great His love must be for His creation of all types and how much greater His grief must be when one is lost or lives their whole life without knowing and coming to Him!
  4. Only God’s love is perfect. Though sometimes I may fail to love consistently, He never does. He is Love. It is not just what He does; it is who He is. We are just people. Imperfect. Wavering. Inconsistent in the pursuit to be perfect. And yes I probably didn’t do everything perfect for my dog throughout the past 7+ years. It is just one reason why I am in need of a God who can forgive me when I fail or feel I’ve have failed, and one who can re-direct thoughts to accurate ones, honorable ones, and even true and lovely ones of when I run to the light of His mercy and grace. When my mind raced with my presumed failures (I should have taken her to the vet at the first sign of anything… I could have done this or that better…I should not have fussed at her for drooling everywhere the other day, I should not have hated sweeping all her fur all the time) I opened my iBook to the study I am reading  (A Heart Like His) and, low and behold the chapter the flippin took me to had essentially a 6 step process I happened to need desperately in this time of life. Granite, David of the Bible was hiding for his life in a cave…but hey the heart needed what his heart perfectly exemplified a heart in this state needed to do:
    1. Pray. Check
    2. Cry Aloud. Double Check.
    3. Pour out your heart to God. The study even says, “Even if your feelings are not accurate assessments of the truth, they are worthy to pour out before God. Feelings are sometimes like laundry.  Sometimes we can’t sort them until we dump them out.” I am only able to sort out my feelings of guilt or regret in a healthy way when pouring them all in a messy pile before God – who so tenderly continues to point out the things He has already given me grace and mercy for and blame that I perhaps have misplaced.   Also – ironically – as I was (and still am) feeling so alone, David happened to voice the same aching cry. (Psalm 142:4) But again as this study mentioned, “Without a doubt, the most precious and painful times I have had in this Christian experience were times when I realized I was all alone with God. Such times forge an unforgettable, inseparable bond. Don’t miss the opportunity. I am convinced that God sometimes stays the encouragement of others purposely so we will learn to find it in Him.” Have you ever been there? I am here. Don’t get me wrong. I have an outpouring of kind words and prayers being spoken for my family during this time and I am forever grateful for it! But I am physically all alone…and though I am not asking to be in the presence of people much right now, I would really really prefer the comfort of having Bryan here to get through the toughest part of losing a beloved little member of our family. And I honestly hate reading that there is a good reason and opportunity in being alone just because it is not at all easy, but I know this is a necessary lesson in my life and that my God is faithful to be everything I need.
    4. Remind yourself of your trust in God. I couldn’t believe it, but everything I have been reading (in ALL my spare time) turned into weapons of truth to combat my out-of-sort emotional thoughts. I feel alone…but GOD IS WITH ME. This is why that phrase has been on my mind so much. Life is not about the absence of pain, but the presence and power of a healer, comforter, redeemer and savior to work in and through any hurt to grow and shape hearts through all ups and downs of life to point to the fact that He is the One and Only able to work in life’s bad and bring good, to bring growth and peace when we don’t immediately understand, to bring tenderness and strength in equal proportions to the needs we have.
    5. Long for His presence. If I hadn’t already begun longing for it when my heart broke and I realized life had just changed way before I was ready, He certainly had the center of my attention when I couldn’t have the luxury of some one here in person to cry with.
    6. Confess the desperate need. This kind of just happened when I was pouring out my heart (part c.). With me – when it rains it pours. Like I said its how I am made, and thank God there is a healthy way to channel it.

I don’t even know how to put into words the way I am so deeply sad and heartbroken about Maya. It makes me scoff at myself for almost wasting tears on Wi-Fi. Dog people – I know you’ll understand. Those of you who have lost a loved one – I am beginning to have just a teeny tiny glimpse of the sadness and aching of such a deep loss. I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through. I confess plain outright that I am actually now even more terrified to lose a close friend or immediate family member because I simply cannot gather myself about my furry best friend. I am too weak!! I cried out in one of my prayers! How will I ever deal with anything harder!? But it reminds me of a beautiful thought from a high school friend (Amanda Rice Stanton) on how to view my broken heart from her realization when she was frightened to become a foster parent because of the inevitable toll it would take on her heart when the time came to give them up. What a young woman full of insight – she literally said something in her blog like “I know that when it hurts and it hurts deeply…it is because I loved them well.”

NOTE TO SELF: LOVE DEEPLY in spite of the risk of pain, because the benefits and rewards of deep love will far outweigh the hurt. I would not trade one single minute of my life with Maya in it to escape the inevitable hurt of losing her. I just wouldn’t! The joy and companionship and affection she added to my life (and Bryan’s) these past years is precious, and of far greater worth and impact than the sting of her death. How much more is this between one person and another?

And NOTE TO SELF #2 – When the sting of loss happens – follow the 6 steps. God is with us. His compassions never fail. He sent Christ to bind up the brokenhearted and comfort all who mourn, to give them the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit (Isaiah 61:1-3), He is faithful. He cares about the details of our lives and does not grow weary of tenderly caring for our hurts – small or severe.

“Haven’t you known? Haven’t you heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t faint. He isn’t weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of him who has no might. (Isaiah 40:28-29)”

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What You Believe Determines the Way You Live

January 31st, 2015

^ Proverbs 27:6 ^ “I’d rather you punch me in the stomach with the truth than pat me on the back with a lie,” I repeatedly told Bryan as we began getting more serious. You see, I’d been lied to before, and I never wanted to experience the unraveling effects on myself and others that […]

 

^ Proverbs 27:6 ^

“I’d rather you punch me in the stomach with the truth than pat me on the back with a lie,” I repeatedly told Bryan as we began getting more serious. You see, I’d been lied to before, and I never wanted to experience the unraveling effects on myself and others that came from a dishonest relationship again…with friends, family or anyone. Since God got a hold of my attention and faith as I mentioned in my testimony, He’s begun working on me little by little, and in the last few years I have begun to recognize that while I had a growing faith in God, I needed (and I continue to need) to correct my thinking and living little by little.

I want you to know that I am NOT a Biblical scholar, theologian, or expert on the Bible by any means. But I am reading and learning, and learning and growing in my understanding…and all the while gaining little bits of wisdom as I see what I am learning ring true as I live life. I will not be writing about anything that isn’t relevant to what God has taught or is teaching me in my personal life. As my pastor once said, “I am just a beggar telling another beggar where I found bread.” :) And good, sweet, life-giving BREAD (I mean heyyyyy!) is enough to excite me in hopes that we can relate and benefit from God’s Word together. This post is a collaboration from my notes from the Study Lies Young Women Believe and Believing God, along with other quotes I’ve connected to its theme of what I’ve been learning along the way.

A lie is “an inaccurate or false statement with deliberate intent to deceive.” It is “an imposter of the truth.” We will probably be talking about dishonest lips in the future as it is a theme throughout Proverbs, but today I want to talk about the lies that distort our reality and affect the way we choose to live.

2 Peter 2:19 says “Whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” The term “overcome” means to defeat, conquer or control. Just to mention a few things capable of overcoming our attitudes, conquering and controlling our thoughts and actions and defeating our hope – fear, doubt, anger, sadness, loneliness, pride, insecurity, greed, envy, laziness, hatred, impulsiveness, the list is endless. Many of us are experiencing the consequences of being enslaved to harmful patterns in our lives and are experiencing those above mentioned emotions that overcome us without recognizing the lie they are connected with. If we can identify the lies we didn’t realize we have been believing, we can break free from continuing down that path.

The Bible says that Satan is the father of lies – (John 8:44). His lies begin with planting doubts, half-truths, falsehoods disguised as truth. And he is smart. He throws us a baited hook, so that we will bite.  Satan takes what you desire most and promises to fulfill it if you reject God and ignore His word and set out to fulfill your desires on your own rather than in a way that aligns with God’s Word. 

What is one thing you want more than anything?

 Example: I want to feel….pretty, attractive…

                                           ….loved, cared for….

                                                ….important, successful, recognized, powerful…

                                                           ….comfortable

Examples – An easy example that young girls and guys alike face is the desire to be attractive – usually it is a combo like the desire to be attractive and loved and important, etc. So instead of clinging to what God charges young people to pursue, we might spend way too much time and effort to meet this desire or combination of desires instead – and by any means necessary – healthy or not. I want to feel pretty or attractive. Unhealthy ways to fill this craving might include things like ….taking a million selfies to get one perfect one to post, shopping for new clothes way too often , or I spend unreasonable hours on makeup or hair or attempts to cover my flaws, or I dress or do whatever it takes to get any kind of attention from people, or I will do whatever it takes to get or stay skinny. All of these are harmful habits started with attempts to fill that one deep desire. Every harmful habit, or sin if we may call it that, in your life begins with a lie. Lies are found everywhere…in our emotions that warp our perspective, in our culture and social media, conversations with friends, etc. Some consequences of believing lies in our own lives can include self-sabotaged broken relationships, fear, depression, guilt…the list goes on. Satan’s goal is to help you let your own sin destroy you. He taunts us to accomplish and fulfill what we desire our own way or how the world seems to chase it rather than the wisdom of what God’s Word tells us about where to find fulfillment of our deepest desires.

So where do lies get their power to destroy our lives? Satan’s lies may be tempting, but they have no power without us. 

Unfortunately, instead of standing firm and confident in the truth we can find in God’s Word, we often allow ourselves to play a part in tripping over the lies of the enemy like a fly hypnotized by a light on a bug zapper. The first lie we can read about was told by the enemy (in serpent form) to the very first woman – Eve. Tomorrow we will look at 4 ways she cooperated with Satan took the bait.