Month: May 2018

  • Finding Gratitude in Truth

    I broke my favorite glass yesterday. I was rushing around, trying to get out the door and the iron fell over and bumped the glass. It shattered it into a thousand pieces. I swept up the glass and simultaneously held my dog back with my foot to keep her from stepping on the glass. In that moment, I was consumed by a flurry of negativity and frustration and started to cry. Despite having been a good day up to that point, at that moment, it felt like it was all falling apart.

    Have you ever had a day like that? First one thing goes wrong, then it seems like everything else does too. Normally, I’m a pretty optimistic person and I like to find the bright side of things, but when my day starts to feels out of control, it is easy to perseverate on the negative. It’s easier to feel gratitude when things are going our way and life seems pretty smooth.

    Growing up, we used to sing a song in church based on Psalm 100:4 that went “I will enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart, I will enter his courts with praise..I will rejoice for He has made me glad…” It is a song that I know by heart and often sang without really thinking about the words. It is a song of gratitude and praise, but it can mean so much more depending on how you hear it.

    When I hear the lyrics, I think of expressing gratitude for the day, for being alive, for God’s creation and power, and a call to rejoice and be glad. A friend of mine was going through some difficulties in her life and heard the lyrics from a different perspective. She heard it like this:

    “I WILL enter his gates with thanksgiving in my heart. I WILL enter his courts with praise. I WILL say this is the day the Lord has made. I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.”

    What she heard was a choice–-a determination to worship and be thankful. Despite the tough stuff she was facing, she was choosing joy and gratitude, even when hope seemed elusive and life was hard.

    Gratitude in all circumstances, good or bad, is a decision made in the heart and the mind.

    It is on the mind that I want to focus especially. Our thoughts have the power to shape how we see ourselves and the world around us. Because of this, it is so important that our thoughts be firmly established in truth.

    Paul gives us some great imagery of taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. In every situation, we have a chance to stop right in our tracks and choose which way we will allow our thoughts to take us. Will we see everything that is going wrong and let our thoughts control us, or will we capture those thoughts and turn our mind toward Jesus instead? It will take practice and we will have to work at it, but the reward is peace and incomparable joy.

    After my favorite glass broke and I had swept up all the precious pieces, I sat down and caught my breath. I ate some food and enjoyed the silence of the house for a moment. I prayed and asked God to re-orient my thinking and give me strength. I focused on the truth and remembered that my day really hadn’t been a bad one. Work went well. I made it home safely. My husband had fed the kids and they were all at the baseball game where I would meet them to enjoy the rest of the evening. Peace washed over me, and I was filled with gratitude that I could come to Jesus with even the smallest of things.

    Things completely turned around from there. My family had a wonderful time together and we enjoyed the day and one another. If I had left my thoughts unchecked, I would have been stressed out, grumpy and distracted instead. I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the game or be patient with my kids. It would have robbed us all of a lovely evening.

    When stress has me tangled up in knots, I am learning to pause, reconnect with God, re-orient my thoughts and choose gratitude and joy. When the unexpected happens and all you want to do is throw your hands up in the air and say “Jesus take the wheel!”, practice the pause. What thoughts do you need to take captive today so that you can find gratitude in truth?

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  • God of Hope

    “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” – Romans 15:13

    Think about someone in your life that you trust absolutely. Likely they are someone who cares about you deeply, has your best interest at heart and would spring into action on your behalf. You know them and they know you. You can trust them because you know their character and they have proven themselves true.

    Even the most steadfast friend can make mistakes. We are after all, human. But God’s character is unwavering. He never fails to meet us in our need, to lift us up above our circumstances and set us back on solid ground. He has proven himself faithful and steady, loving and kind. We can trust Him. When we do, the Holy Spirit floods us with hope. It washes over us, dispelling our fears and renewing our hearts. Trusting God is not always easy, especially when we cannot see or understand what is happening in our lives. When we find ourselves in a difficult season, how do we trust and find hope?

    One way is to focus on the character of God, instead of our circumstances. When we focus on our circumstances, we can get caught up in the moment. When we remember God’s character, we stay grounded in truth. We can turn our face toward the God who knows us better than we know ourselves, and we can breathe easy. He has been a Father for a long, long time and knows what He is doing. He will fight on our behalf, keep us firmly in his grip and and redeem our pain for purpose.

    The word “remember” means to relive, hold dear, to know by heart. When we keep the truth of God’s character close, we can know Him by heart and look back to see how He has worked in the past and is working now in our lives. This brings us hope and a renewed perspective that everything is going to be alright.

    So, what’s true about God’s character?

    God is…Love (1 John 4:8)
    God is…Holy (1 Peter 1:15)
    God is…Steady and unchanging (Hebrews 13:8)
    God is…a promise keeper (2 Peter 3:9)
    God is…strong enough to carry you (Isaiah 41:10)
    God is…the Redeemer (Psalm 103:1-22, John 3:17)
    God is…Creator of all things (Isaiah 40:28)
    God is…Giver of all that is good (James 1:17)
    God is…perfect and true (Psalm 18:30)
    God is…present in our circumstances (Isaiah 41:8-10, Matthew 28:20)

    It is our prayer for you that you lean into God and trust in God’s character. As you place your trust in the steadfast love of God, you will receive overflowing hope for whatever you are facing.

    God, you are the God of hope. Help us to trust you, even when we don’t see the whole picture. Thank you for revealing your character through your Word, so that we can lean on your steadfast love, and receive hope through your Holy Spirit. Fill our hearts to overflowing, and help us to give hope to others.

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  • Exchanging Worry for Joy

    “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:4-9

    Every once and in awhile, I wake up to a day when my insecurities and worries threaten to get the best of me. It starts subtly, but can quickly spiral into a full-on questioning of the meaning of life! “Who am I? What if people don’t like what I have to say? What if I didn’t really hear God right and I’m not the right person for the job?”

    Do the worries of life sometimes overwhelm you? Maybe the little everyday stressors stack up and weigh heavily on your heart. I have recently realized how easy it is to become trapped in a prison and it’s called worry. You may know it by its other names…anxiety and fear. These things can immobilize you and keep you from the joy and peace that God intends for you. It is a slippery slope off the path that leads to peace and joy. It starts small and grows until all you can see is that worry or fear.

    Good news! God has given us a way to be set free. In this section of Scripture, Paul tells the church in Philippi to “rejoice in the Lord always.” He follows it by saying, “The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything.” Although these two phrases may not seem related, they are meant to go together. He knows we cannot fully rejoice until we let go of the worry and fear. Joy and worry are opposites in nature. Worry threatens to take our joy. Fear is out to destroy our peace. We must give our worry, in every situation, to God through prayer. When we lay them down in His capable hands we are set free from the hold they have over us. We trust in an all-powerful God, our Heavenly Father, who knows and loves us. He takes care of our worry and need, and gives us peace instead.

    Maybe your worry isn’t over a situation but rather a matter of the heart. Some of my biggest worries are over my own insecurities. Paul reminds us that there is a way out when the insecurities start to surface and whisper lies into our heads. The first key is relinquishing our worries to God. Once we allow God to take them over, we need to start filling up with truth.

    In John 8:32, Jesus said that, “the truth will set you free.” In Ephesians, Paul talks about putting on the armor of God and the very first item is the belt of truth that wraps around us. This is why he goes on to say,

    “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

    Paul is reminding us to fill up our minds with truth and goodness. This can help us take every thought captive for Christ as we compare it to this list. When the narrative in my head starts to spiral out of control, I can stop and ask, “Is this true? Is this right? Is it lovely or admirable?” When I stop to line my thoughts up with these questions, I often realize that my thinking is not grounded in the truth. I am caught up in the lies of the enemy. Satan wants us to remain ensnared by the untruths that tell us that we are not capable, not good enough, not called, that we are unlovely or unloved. He wants us to feel alone and paralyzed by worry, fear and insecurity.

    But God’s message is different. He gently calls us as a loving Father, to hear truth.
    “Come to me, my child. Give me all that weighs so heavily on your heart. Let me remind of what is true. You are radically loved. You are uniquely and wonderfully made by me and I make no mistakes. I have called you to be my child and be a light in this dark world. You have purpose and significance–there is work in this world that only you can do. I have given you everything you need to do my good work and I will provide for all your needs. Put your trust in me. You are never alone for I am with you always and will never leave you or forsake you. I will take your worries and give you peace that will guard your heart and mind”

    So today, if you find your worries and anxieties spiraling out of control, put these things into practice. Ask yourself, “Are my thoughts based in truth? Does the message in my mind match the message of God’s truth?” If not, talk to God about it and let him know what is on your heart. Trust Him with all that burdens your heart and mind and allow His peace and joy fill you up. He will give you a peace that rises above your circumstances, so that you truly can rejoice.

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  • Be Strong and Courageous and Do The Work

    Have you ever felt in over your head? Ever taken a step of faith not knowing if the ground was still really there beneath your feet? Maybe you were thrust into a position where you had to figure things out to avoid catastrophe. I think King David’s son Solomon, probably felt like this more than once.

    Let me set the scene…King David, though far from being a perfect King, was still a man after God’s own heart. In his later years, his crowning achievement would be commissioning the building of the Temple of God. David’s heart’s desire was to build a house for the ark of the covenant. The temple was to be more than just a lovely sight to take in or a hub for the community to worship, it was to be the very dwelling place of the Lord. The plans had been given to David by God through the Holy Spirit and it was an enormous undertaking.

    Because David was a warrior and had shed blood, God had determined that David’s son Solomon would be the one to build the temple. As David nears the end of his life, he commissions Solomon to build the temple, as God had instructed. Before all of the people, David encourages Solomon, the future king of Israel, to listen to God and follow his ways. Then David turns to Solomon and says,

    “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.”

    1 Chronicles 28:20 NIV

    This reference of scripture is also seen in Deuteronomy 31:6 when Joshua is being appointed by Moses to be his successor and lead the Israelites. I think it is no coincidence that David is quoting this particular scripture to his son.

    Though, what’s different here is one little line…Be strong, courageous and Do. The. Work.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have sat motionless in my anxiety telling myself “be strong and courageous and do not be afraid”. And there are times when that is both appropriate and necessary. There are seasons when we need to be still and let God fight the battle for us.

    But there are also times I need someone to come along side me, pull me up off the ground and remind me to there’s work that can be done. Waiting on the Lord is often continuing to do the last set of instructions you received, until you get new ones. It is working actively with what you have in front of you. God is faithful to equip us with exactly what we need. He brings people into our lives to fortify us, encourage and help us. I hope that you hear these words as coming from that friend who lovingly takes you by the hand and helps lift you up off the ground so you can stand, strong and ready.

    “But what,” you may ask, “does this look like in present-day times when the task is not building a temple, but folding yet another load of laundry thanklessly, or clipping coupons to make ends meet? How do we do the work when the thing before us just seems too daunting?”

    It will look different for each one of us. We all have tasks in our lives, some joyous, some tedious, and some completely overwhelming. The charge that King David gave to his son and to the people of Israel still rings true for us today. Listen to God, follow his ways, be strong and courageous and do the work. We dig deep, lean into the strength God gives through the Holy Spirit and step forward. The promise? God is with us, and he will never leave us. We need not fear. He will help us see this through and give us joy.

    So mama, weave prayers for your children into the folding of socks. If you are in a position to encourage and mentor others, or to speak truth in love, use your voice! If the path ahead is long with no end in sight, look for the next step right in front of you. The point is, in every season, we are all called and equipped to do good works, but we’re never alone. We don’t have to be afraid, God himself will lead us and not forsake us.

    Lean into Him. Be strong. Be courageous. And let’s do the work.

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