Lessons From Remodeling: Lesson 2 – You Must Perform Preventative Maintenance


remodelingThere’s that old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Well, that’s exactly what we learned from the whole remodeling experience. Owning a home is a big responsibility and we discovered that if your not really paying much attention and when you’re definitely not taking preventative steps in caring for your home, it’s going to cost you.

I am a bona fide procrastinator and when I see that something needs to be done, I can unfortunately find reasons to put it off. There’s always a to-do list for our lives, and for me house stuff tends to be low priority. But the problem with not performing regular maintenance and  fixing things when they first need repair instead of putting it off, is that it will usually end up costing more than if you’d just fixed it when you first noticed a problem. I learned through our bathroom remodel that many times there are things happening that you cannot see until it’s too late. Regular maintenance and checking on the condition of things in your home can ensure you don’t end up with unforeseen surprises that cause you to spend more than you had bargained for.

remodeling2The same holds true in our personal lives – both physically and spiritually. Most of know that if we take care of ourselves on a regular basis by eating right, exercising and routine visits to the doctor and dentist then we lower our chances of illness and disease while improving our overall health. Our spiritual lives require the same preventative care. But unfortunately many do not consider their spiritual lives an area of concern when it comes to regular, routine maintenance.

Many times we ignore our spiritual health much like I ignored the repair needs in our home. We rationalize that we’ll do more “some day”, when we have more time, when our circumstances improve, when we “clean up our act”. We plan to go to church when work’s not so busy, when the weather gets warmer, when school starts back for the kids, when things get better. The problem is that just like our health and our home repairs – things don’t magically get better and there’s never a good time. You have to start somewhere and you have to take responsibility for yourself. No one else can do it for you and ignoring it won’t make it go away. You have to do your part then trust God to do His part. The longer we ignore our spiritual life, the more damage is done. And like my home, there can be things going on that we’re not even aware of. We can have unforgiveness toward someone, issues with pride, wrong attitudes and thoughts or a lack of knowledge about something we’re doing that can cause harm and we can be completely unaware of the damage it’s causing to our spirit.

remodeling5So how do you perform preventative care of your spiritual life? The same way you do your physical health – with regular, routine visits with the Great Physician. You must spend time with God regularly through prayer and reading the bible so that He may reveal to you the areas in your life that need attention.  The Holy Spirit will convict you of the things you need to correct in your spiritual life and God will speak to you through His word to teach you how to improve your spiritual health. But you have to make it a priority.

remodeling3And you need people in your life who are trusted fellow believers who can point out the blind spots that you may miss or are unaware of. We need spiritual family – people who have gone before us and can help teach us how to follow Christ, not just on Sundays, but every day. The only way to ensure you maintain your spiritual health is to do regular maintenance. You must be purposeful and it must be a priority. Remember, there may be things occurring that you’re not even aware of and preventative care will keep you from a spiritual catastrophe that can happen when we ignore the need we have for God daily in our lives. Denying that fact could cost you more in the long run. Don’t learn that truth the hard way like I did with our home. Check your spiritual pulse today and make an appointment with God to ensure a healthy, peace-filled spiritual life.

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Lessons from Remodeling: Lesson 1 – The Longer You Wait the More It’s Going to Cost You


May 2013 023Recently our home was the site of a bathroom remodeling project that, not suprisingly, taught me some valuable life lessons. In this process I discovered that I do not do well with remodeling jobs as it most certainly was not fun but more a necessary evil to endure until it was completed.

The problems started not long after we moved into the home. We started to notice mold on the ceiling in the master bathroom. We didn’t think too much about it at first but after it spread we called a contractor to come take a look at it. He explained that the vent in the bathroom was not vented to the outside of the house and all the steam from the showers was going into the crawl space above the ceiling and the moisture settling on the ceiling was causing harmless yet unsitely surface mold.

duct tape5We now knew the source of the problem but it just wasn’t convenient and not within the budget to have it fully repaired at that time. So we tried cleaning the mold off, especially after it began to spread to the walls. That would work temporarily but the problem always came back. Then we tried to paint over it. Again, that was only a temporary cover up and the mold underneath soon began to reappear. It finally got to a point that it was so bad we just ignored it and decided we’d get it completely restored to a brand-new condition “some day”. Five years later our “some day” came along but not after there was several secondary problems that resulted from our decision to put off the repair of the initial problem in it’s early stages. We learned the hard way that the longer you put off addressing a problem, the more it’s going to cost you.

The same is true in our own lives.  Many times we recognize a problem in its initial stage and we choose to blow it off as no big deal. Perhaps it’s the flirtation with a co-worker we deem “innocent fun” and that we think nothing of, even though we’re married and so are they. Maybe it’s “borrowing” a few office supplies from the supply room at work that we justify because after all, we did work on that project last month from home a few times off the clock so the company “owes us”.  Or it could be the unforgiveness we have toward a parent or sibling that we no longer have relationship with because they did something to us that we consider very hurtful and they don’t deserve to be in our lives – especially since they never even apologized and still try to stir up drama through other family members.  Maybe it’s the “gut feeling” we get when we compromise our morals to fit in or because we give into temptation and cross a line we said we’d never cross. Our reasoning becomes “everyone else is doing it so it’s not a big deal, right?”

The problem is that those little problems, the small indiscretions, the momentary lapses in judgement, the choice to compromise just a little, becomes the very thing that leads you down the road to bigger problems with bigger consequences. The longer you put off addressing a problem, the more it’s going to cost you.  The more you allow yourself to justify the little things that you know in your heart are wrong btemporary fixut you do it anyway because it’s “no big deal” – the easier it becomes to justify bigger compromises. And the more you justify the bigger compromises the more numb you become to the feeling you have in the moment when you have to choose between right and wrong. And the bigger the compromise the bigger the consequences. You keep chipping away at your conscience until the line between right and wrong becomes so blurred that you wake up one day with a huge problem on your hands that will cost you more than you ever imagined possible.

You may think that little “problem” you have today is nothing, but that little problem, if ignored, can grow to a point that it consumes your thoughts and your focus as you attempt to keep it hidden. You may think it’s harmless but there is no such thing as harmless sin. The devil will most assuredly help you to justify that little sin because he knows where it will lead you. And he’s in no hurry to drag you into sin. He will sit back and patiently wait while you take baby steps away from God and toward your own selfish desires. He knows the longer you wait to address the problem, the bigger the consequences will be. And he knows that if the consequences get really big you may get to the point where you believe his lie that says “there’s no turning back now, you’ve gone too far.” The enemy of your soul wants you to believe that you are beyond repair.

new creationBut the truth is that no matter how bad your situation may look, no matter how deep into this thing you are, no matter how far you’ve gone – like our home repairs – it’s never to late to make everything just like new again. The first step is to make the decision that it’s time to do something about it and stop putting off addressing the very problem that got you into the situation you’re in. The next step is to go to the One who can can make all things new – Jesus. The bible promises in 2Corinthians 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” You don’t have to stay in the darkness of sin. You can turn away from that sin and turn back toward God and seek His forgiveness which He promises to give if you’ll simply ask.

If you’re at the point where there’s that little something that you keep telling yourself is nothing, but deep down you know it is wrong – the time is now to repair it before it becomes a bigger problem and costs you more than it already has. There is no sin that will ever be worth it no matter how tempting it is. It’s never to late to turn to God and let Him fix everything but remember, the longer you wait the more it’s going to cost you.

Look Again


lost and found2Like most people, when I lose something I look for it. I start with the most likely places and keeping searching until I get to the not-so-likely places. And like most, if I don’t find it the first time, I go back to the beginning and start the search again – taking more time to look harder the second time in hopes that I may have missed it before.

Recently I was feeling particularly sorry for myself. It was an overcast, cold day and all I could see before me was a list of all the things I needed to and the small amount of time I had to do them in. All I could see was the commitments, the errands, the responsibilities, the desire for more time with God that doesn’t feel rushed or distracted and the desire for time for me. I tried to find something to be thankful for but in the moment of self-pity I couldn’t see anything.

And while I wallowed in my selfishness, God showed me what I had missed the first time I looked. I began to realize just how much I have to be grateful for and how very blessed I am. In that moment God didn’t stop me and say “suck it up, buttercup!” or “get over yourself and quit complaining!”. With all the love and grace I could stand, He simply turned down the volume of the negative thoughts in my mind and turned up the volume of the singing birds outside my window. I looked again at my circumstances and began to think of all the things I have to be thankful for. I saw the overwhelming love of God as He revealed one by one a list of blessings, answered prayers throughout my life, and simple moments like this one that typically go unnoticed but have the power to usher us into the presence of God if we’ll slow down long enough to allow it to.

refocus5Some of us may be going through difficult times – maybe we’re struggling financially, maybe we are barely able to make ends meet but at the end of the day most of us have a roof over our heads and food to eat because God is providing for our needs. Some may be dealing with marriage or relationship problems, health issues or family situations that are almost too much to bear. But whether you are having a bad moment, a bad day, a bad season or even a bad life – if you say there is nothing for you to be thankful for and there are no blessings in your life – God wants you to go back and look again. He wants you to refocus and look closely for what you may be missing because the noise in your head is distracting you from His goodness. Remove those thoughts from your mind and ask God to show you what you’ve been missing.

Do you find yourself looking at your life, your marriage, your circumstances and you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for? Do you feel alone and far from God? My encouragement to you is to look again – He’s right there waiting with open arms.

The Monopoly Strategy


monopolyOne of the best gifts we bought our son for Christmas was the game Monopoly Millionaire. I grew up during the height of Monopoly’s popularity and remember playing for hours at my friend Donna’s house along with a group of friends from school. To see my son discover the same enjoyment I had when I played so many years ago has been so much fun for me. However, the bad part about playing with my family is that I shared my strategy for winning and now it’s not so easy to beat them. When I play my goal is to buy everything I land on. I spend every fake dollar I have to acquire the most property because I know that I can defeat them by taking from them each time they land on one of my properties, especially once I start building houses and hotels. They don’t stand a chance when I keep taking and taking from them what they hold on to so dearly. They wrongly believe that if they hold on to their money and I spend all of mine then they will win. They don’t realize that even though they may have money in the beginning, eventually I will take it all away from them.

monopoly2We live in a world today where so many people are simply taking from others. They believe they will “win” if they can aquire more and that they will defeat the hurts hidden inside of them by taking from and hurting others. For many their life strategy is “I’ll hurt you before you have the chance to hurt me.” They take trust, time and love from those closest to them and misuse it, abuse it and never give it back in return. They play the monopoly strategy until those who love and care for them have nothing left to give. The game never ends for them because once they’ve taken all they can from one person they just move on to someone else and continue the game. The problem is that no one ever wins in this game.

monopoly5But there’s a different strategy for life that may not work in the game of Monopoly but it’s a proven winning strategy when it comes to real people and real relationships. It’s the strategy modeled by Jesus and one that all believers are called to follow. The world we live in teaches us that the way to defeat people is by taking from them. But God’s way is not to defeat people but to win them over to a relationship with Him by giving to them. When we give of ourselves sacrificially to others – we can give our love, our attention, our time and our trust – we model the same selfless love that God showed when He gave His Son to die on the Cross for us. It was an understanding of that sacrificial love that won me over into a life committed and surrendered to my Lord and Savior. It’s the same strategy that we as Christians are called to today. When we sacrifically give to others – from those we are in intimate relationship with to those who are complete strangers to us – we win them over to the love of Christ by showing them how much He loves them.

monopoly7What’s your strategy? Are you a taker? Are you selfishing hanging on to all you could be giving due to fear of being used or rejected? Are you trying to defeat people for a better position or more pay? Are you taking from others but giving nothing in return? Are you trying to defeat past hurts by refusing to give forgiveness, your time or your love to those who caused the hurt? Has your strategy changed from a giver to a taker because someone betrayed your trust? Are you unwilling to give until you receive?

Or are you a giver? Do you give of yourself – your time, your love, your attention, your resources – in order to win God’s way? Have you experienced the joy and the blessing that comes from giving instead of taking? Do you seek ways that you can give more to those you love? Do you give even though you may receive nothing in return?

monopoly8Being a giver does not come without risk. But with God’s guidance on how to give and who to give to, you can minimize that risk. The joy you will receive from giving will far outweigh any risk involved. There are so many people who are empty because others have taken from them. So take a look around and see who God puts in your path that desperately needs to receive what you have to give. There’s someone waiting to filled with the love and hope that can only come from God. Let God use you to show others the incomparable love of Christ through sacrificial giving and in turn you will see how truly amazing our God is.

 

You’ve Reached Your Destination


gps 3I began this particular journey about 5 years ago. It began like most journeys God has sent me on with a little apprehension, a little uncertainty of what lie ahead, a little curiousity as to how long the journey would last and a lot of expectation as to what God would do through this new journey.

It wasn’t long into the journey that I realized this one was not going to be an easy one. In January 2008 we moved my grandmother in to live with us. She was 96 years old at the time and in remarkably good health. She was pretty self-sufficient and the change to our lifestyle was minimal. That all changed pretty rapidly. Her health remained good for her age, but her expectations increased a lot. At first it was not that big of a deal. After all, she was my grandmother who I love dearly and I wanted to make this final season of her life as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. But the more and more that was required and expected of me, the more difficult the journey became.

I found myself becoming resentful toward what I began to see as unrealistic expectations. I struggled to continue the journey without an attitude, especially when I felt everything I did was not appreciated and was never enough. The more the journey impacted my lifestyle and my family, the more my resentment built.

destination 4I began to question God as to why He sent me on this journey. I wanted to know when it would end. Don’t judge – I’m just being honest because this is truly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wondered what lesson I could possibly be missing that God was trying to teach me. Oh, I knew the obvious ones – patience, serving others with no expectation of anything in return, doing all things as unto the Lord, obedience, praising God through the difficult times – but I just knew that there was something I was missing. I knew I was right where God wanted me to be, yet I became frustrated and defeated because I just couldn’t seem to change my attitude no matter how much I prayed about it.

God certainly encouraged me along the way with special encounters with complete strangers who had also been caregivers. Each time I experienced one of these chance meetings I walked away with a renewed resolve to stick it out until God showed me I had reached my destination and the journey was over. We also had opportunities to go on vacations over the past 5 years that allowed for a time of rest and rejuvenation to continue on. But in the past 6 months, more often than not, I found myself dealing with emotions that were not Christ-like and left me feeling ashamed.

Shortly after Christmas, Sissy (that’s what we call her) fell in her room. We took her to the hospital but they soon sent her home after finding no broken bones. She began having difficulty sleeping, was in constant pain and her health seemed to be declining. After a second fall, we decided together that it may be time for her to be in a place that would be better equipped and trained to care for her. I began to look at different facilities and prepare for the end of the journey.

I quickly found that moving Sissy into a long-term care facility was not going to be an option based on a lot of different variables. I surrended to the fact the journey was not over and in reality, there was no end in site. Once again I felt deflated because I thought I had reached the end of a difficult season only to realize it was not only going to continue, but was going to continue indefinitely.

destination 5I began to pray once again for God to give me the strength to continue on the journey He had set before me and to help me to have a Christ-like attitude in caring for Sissy. A few days later I was doing my typical routine of checking email/Facebook/Twitter when I came across a link to an article on Twitter. It was an interview with Amy Grant, a Christian recording artist, who was caring for her aging father. She talked about the challenges of being a caretaker and the abundance of emotions you experience. But then something she said “clicked” with me. She said there’s no map for this kind of journey but it may be the last lesson you learn from your loved one. My heart began to change and I stopped looking for what God was trying to teach me and began to focus on what I could learn from Sissy.

Within a few weeks God began to open doors for the journey to come to an end. Even though I clearly knew God was orchestrating everything that was happening and I saw that the opportunity was there for my prayers to be answered, for some reason I questioned if I really had reached my destination. I had gotton comfortable in my difficult situation and no matter how much I had longed for it to end, when God did open the door for that to happen, I did not immediately step through. It’s funny how sometimes the very thing we pray for, is the thing we hesitate to receive when God offers it. And when we hesitate, we miss out on the fullness of blessing found in His perfect timing.

gps2In my hesitation, I realized I felt like I had not completely “got it” and that I still needed more time for my heart and my attitude to be completely right. Then one day in Sissy’s room while I was kneeling down before her putting her socks on her feet, God whispered “I see your heart, the journey is over. You’ve reached your destination.”

On March 1st Sissy will be moving to a small, privately-owned assisted living home. She is looking forward to being somewhere offering around the clock  care and to meeting new friends. She knows the time is right for this next season of her life.

Are you on journey or in a season of difficulty that you wish would come to an end? Or perhaps God is bringing to an end a season you’ve been in – even a comfortable and good season yet you may sense that He’s telling you it’s time for it to come to an end? Don’t question the end of your journey, God just may be preparing you for your next great journey in life. Trust in His timing, you have now reached your destination.

Strength in Numbers


strongerLike many other Americans, I watched the Grammy’s last night. Since the early American Idol days, I’ve been a fan of Kelly Clarkson’s music. And last night her album “Stronger” won the grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album. The album, and single by the same name, were also nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. The song has become an anthem of sorts for those going through difficult times, especially in the area of relationships, who believe that what doesn’t kill them will indeed make them stronger. And Kelly Clarkson is not the first to sing about finding strength through trying times. Kanye West had a song with the same theme. The saying has also been quoted in the movies Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Steel Magnolias (1989). The philosophy that we are strengthened by the situations we endure and survive originated from German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche in 1888 and it is a philosophy that many live by.

There is certainly some truth to the concept and there are many who have gone through major crisis situations in their lives that forever changed them for the better. They walked away with a resolve to use their circumstance to reinforce and strengthen their determination that nothing can or will destroy them. Based on the number of life difficulties some of my friends have been through, they should be nearly invincible at this point according to Nietzsche.

stronger 5Yet I have come to understand that while that may be true for some, it is most certainly not the case for all. I have encountered those who have lived through extremely challenging situations and the ensuing result is far from strength. What didn’t kill them made them hardened toward life and toward other people. It wore them down to the point that they found themselves no longer fighting their situations, but accepting them as the hand that they’ve been dealt. In some cases, what didn’t kill them has left them broken and mistrusting of others. It has made them bitter and closed off to the love and acceptance offered to them by those who attempt to reach out. What didn’t kill them has worn them down to the point that they are simply enduring life instead of living it. It has left them hopeless, weakened and lacking the will to fight through their circumstances. What didn’t kill them has nearly destroyed them.

I believe there is danger in looking to life’s difficulties for strength. When we do so, we come to rely on ourselves to get us through the hard times. And while there are those who seemingly are the exception, the majority of us need something so much more than our hardships to find strength. After a series of hard times early in my own life, I found myself beaten down and defeated. I was angry and resentful that I didn’t have it as “easy” as everyone else seemed to. My marriage was added to a list of personal failures and I was left feeling weak and hopeless. It was during that low point that I turned to God, who had been waiting for me all along. I sought God at my weakest point and in that moment I surrended control of my circumstances to Him. And when I turned the fight over to God when I no longer had any fight left in me, my life was forever changed. For me, my strength was never found in that which did not kill me. My strength was found in Christ.

stronger 2I found that when life gets hard and I feel beaten down, I find such hope in knowing I no longer must rely on my own strength to fight the battle. The battle belongs to my Lord who is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7). I trust in Him to be my strength and the bible promises that “those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31). What didn’t kill me taught me that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:13) – not through the challenges I face, but through Christ. In 2Cor. 12:8 Paul asked God to take away a hardship he faced and God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

In recognizing his source of strength, Paul concluded: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor.12:10).

stronger 6It’s no easy feat to “delight” in our weaknesses, hardships and difficulties. But when we find our strength in Christ and not in how well we endure what life throws our way, there comes a point when we realize that finding delight through the tough times by relying on Him is a whole lot easier than relying on our own strength. We were never meant to fight alone. We were never meant to struggle through life in attempt to barely crawl across the finish line when our life is over. We were meant to soar on the wings like eagles!

What have you been through that hasn’t killed you but has made you battle weary and broken? Are you ready to surrender the fight to God and lean on Him to give you the strength to carry on? In battles of war, surrender is a sign of weakness. But in the battle of life, surrender is strength. Isn’t it time you wave the white flag?

Executing the Play


superbowl 10SuperBowl 47 will be remembered for many things – a 30 minute power outage delay, the Harbaugh brothers coaching against each other, an epic comeback attempt by the 49er’s, and a couple of SuperBowl records for longest kickoff return for a touchdown and longest singing of the National Anthem. And today the internet is filled with opinions of how the Ravens were able to hold on to the win and with reasons the 49er’s were unable to finish the comeback on top. But the bottom line is both teams were well coached, had a well thought out gameplan, both came fully prepared to play and both faced the same adversity during the power outage. In most every game, the team who’s players execute the plays and trust in the coaches to know the best play to call in any given situation, end up with the victory. Yesterday it was the Ravens who simply executed the plays relayed to them onfield from the coaching staff better and more consistently than the 49er’s.

superbowl 3God knows and can see the big picture for our life. He is our coach who is there to direct us into His perfect will for our lives. He wants us to experience victory over sin and the things like unforgiveness, bitterness and anger that keep us from experiencing all He has planned for us. He gives us instruction or “sends in a play” to us from the sideline either through His word or through the wisdom and advice of others. He calls in to us the right “play” at the right time so that we may successfully move forward and grow in our faith. We get in trouble when we look at the situation on the field and decide that we know best which play to run so we change the play last minute at the line of scrimmage. Whether He instructs us to make a move in a new direction or to stay put where we are and trust in His timing, it’s our job to execute according to the His play call, not our own. When we fail to follow His lead we find ourselves stuck in circumstances without hope for a way out. Thank God He has an endless playbook and even when we fail, He continues to give us opportunities to follow His gameplan.

I remember a time in my life when I had prayed to be able to quit my job so I could be a stay-at-home mom. I waited on God and followed the path I felt He was leading me on. That path included staying put in my job for 2 more years after I began praying to be home. But when God opened the door for me to quit my job and stay at home, my lack of faith in the moment caused me to change the play He had called, to one according to how I thought things should go. I quit my job but instead of becoming a stay-at-home mom full-time, I decided I should work part-time so that I could continue to bring in income for our family. I didn’t trust God to be our provider and to meet our needs.

superbowl 5Within a month of working as a bank teller part-time, my cash drawer came up over $1000 short. I was given 3 days at home without pay while they investigated to determine where the missing money was. It was in those 3 days that God clearly showed me that He never told me to go to work part-time. He had fully opened the door for me to stay at home, which was my heart’s desire. He was trying to give me what I had asked for but I lacked the faith to receive it. I changed the play based on our financial circumstances I saw with my own eyes instead of trusting Him enough to execute the play as He had called it. I repented and knew when the 3 days were up the bank would call to tell me I was fired for not doing my job and causing my cash drawer to be short. And then I could start being at home full-time which I knew then was God’s plan for me.

To my suprise they called after 3 days and although they had been unable to account for the money, they offered for me to return to work because they believed it was an honest mistake and the money would turn up upon further investigation. God didn’t just shut the door on my mistake, He gave me the opportunity to run the play again and this time to execute it according to His plan. I returned to work and gave my notice thanking the bank for their confidence in me and explaining that I had decided to completely trust in God to provide for our family so that I could be at home with my children full-time.

superbowl 7If you are going through a difficult time, you are faced with a hopeless situation or you have prayed for a change in your circumstances – look to God for direction. And when He calls in a play through His word, through the counsel of other believers or through a gentle whisper to your heart, execute the play exactly as it was called no matter how things appear. Remember, He sees the big picture that we cannot and it’s in the times we choose to trust in Him and the play He’s called for our lives, that He reveals enough of that picture to give us hope to keep going and to grow our faith in Him alone. Stick to God’s gameplan and in His timing you’re guaranteed to receive the victory you seek.

Is It Live or Is It Memorex?


memorexWith all the recent media attention given to Beyonce’s singing (or not) of the National Anthem at the Presidential Inaugaration I thought it may be a good time to share some thoughts on authenticity. There was a commercial from the early 1970’s – yes I’m dating myself but let’s suffice it to say I was very young and barely remember the commerical 🙂 The commerical was for Memorex tapes which were used for recording purposes. They featured Ella Fitzgerald  singing a note that shattered a glass while being recorded to a Memorex audiotape. The tape was then played back and the recording also broke the glass as the announcer voice asked “Is it live, or is it Memorex?” The point was that the recording was so close to the real thing that you couldn’t tell the difference between the two. People have always been fascinated with the real versus fake stories in which something we thought to be real was revealed a fake – think “Lance Armstrong doping scandal”, “Manti Te’o fake girlfriend”, “runaway bride from Georgia”, and the heartbreaking story of Susan Smith of South Carolina. These stories make for headlines that we just can’t seem to get enough of.

memorex 2I think the fascination comes from our instinctive desire for authenticity. We want people to be real and we want to believe them when they appeal to our emotions in an effort to make us buy into their story. We want a happy ending for them, we cheer on the apparent victim and our hearts ache for those in seemingly impossible situations who display incredible strength and hope. We want desperately for their story to have a positive outcome. And then there’s the letdown – the moment we turn on the news and confirm our doubts and suspicions that it was all a big fake. Dozens of these stories over the years have created a cynicism among us that causes us to question every story and every person as we wonder “are they for real?” Whether a person’s behavior is good or bad, we just want them to be real and authentic. That’s why many celebrities with less than stellar reputations have such a following of supporters. They may behave horribly but in people’s minds “at least they’re being who they really are and not pretending to be something they’re not.”

memorex 4We long for authenticy because it’s part of our design. We were created to seek what is real and what is true. In a perfect world that longing would lead us to Jesus. But for many of us we are drawn to what seems real only to find ourselves fooled by imposters. The enemy of our souls is a master deceiver and he uses his abilities to draw us into believing in something or someone other than Christ. Many times the fakes are packaged so well it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

Because we instinctively seek that which is authentic, we can be incredibly scarred when we believe something to be real only to find out it never was. People who are seemingly real wield great power to influence those desperately seeking something or someone who is genuine. Sometimes that is used to bring great harm to those who believe the lie. Jim Jones and David Koresh are just two of many such individuals who took advantage of people who were seeking the truth only to later to be revealed as masters of deception.

The impact that such deception, whether intentional or simply by the succeptibility to failure of the human nature, ranges from mild letdown to devastating hurt. Many have put their trust and faith in a person, a job, an organization, a church or an ideology only to be forever damaged by broken trust and crushed faith when they found that what they believed to have been true and real was not.

memorex 5There is only One in whom we can securely put our trust and faith in. And with great confidence we can believe everything He says to be true because He has never failed, never been anything other than who He says He is. His love for us displayed in the sacrifice of His son, Jesus, is proof that His love is real. For those willing to say they believe, He reveals Himself fully as the Truth. But many find it hard to believe and hard to trust because their previous misplaced trust and faith has brought them great pain in the past. So they respond with disbelief and doubt.

For those of us who call ourselves Christians, we are charged with sharing His truth with those who doubt. And if we are to be successful in influencing them to share in what we already know to be real, we must first be authentic ourselves. People must see Christ through us so that we are not setting them up for letdown. If we are solely depending on our own abilities to influence others we are risking failure and loss of trust. But when they see Christ in us, we cannot fail because He never fails to be anything but authentic.

memorex 6The way we do this is by spending time with God through prayer, reading His Word, and spending time with other believers who seek the same. In doing so we are molded more and more into God’s image and that becomes what is reflected to others when they encounter us in the workplace, in school, in our neighborhoods or in the community. And we must always guard our hearts against the deception and temptation of the enemy. There are many people in the world today seeking something real and we have the opportunity to show them God by being authentic ourselves. We must take our responsibility seriously and refrain from actions and behaviors that would compromise that opportunity for influence.

As humans we were made to seek that which is truth. If you are a believer, make sure you do everything you can to ensure that when they meet you they’ll see the authenticy of Christ in you. Unlike Memorex, being a real good copy will never have the same impact as being 100% real. Make sure when someone asks “are they for real?” the answer is a resounding yes!

Back in the Saddle After Falling Off the Wagon


new years2It’s that time again – time for New Year’s Resolutions. Time to get back in gear and do all those things we know we should be doing but don’t. Even if we do fairly well on a regular basis, there is something about the holidays that seems to make it easier to fall off the wagon.

Personally I didn’t just fall off the wagon – I took a flying leap! I ate way too many of those little Christmas Hershey kisses that I kept buying to fill the empty Santa candy dish. Exercise wasn’t an afterthought – I just didnt’ think about it at all and my drink of choice was Dr. Pepper without even a glance toward a glass of water. Oh, and did someone say blog? What blog?

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in my backslide but now that the holiday season is over it’s time to get back in the saddle. Time to get back on track. But sometimes that’s easier said than done.

It’s certainly one thing to get back to eating right, exercising or drinking more water. But what about getting back to making Godly choices after a “season” of sin? That is not always so easy. There are those of us who believe that if we perform a certain way (read our bible, pray, go to church, attend a small group) then God will approve of and love us.

But if we make a mistake, a wrong choice and commit a sin – and I’m talking about a grievous sin like adultery, giving into an addiction, alcohol or drug use or continuing to choose to live an immoral life – these are not so easy to just turn away from and get back on track.  We all have a very real enemy of our souls who lives to see us fail. His desire is to tempt us into wrong choices and then provide a constant reminder of those choices in order that we may be consumed with guilt and condemnation.

It’s in those moments when we’ve fallen off the “Christian” wagon that we begin to believe the lie that we cannot get back on. That God will not accept us back because we’ve done something so bad that He will forever disapprove of us.

crazy cycle5So we continue in what I call the crazy cycle – the perpetual cycle of sin that keeps us isolated from God. We keep thinking that we’ve fallen too far, we can’t go back to the way things were, everybody will know if we walk in church, there’s no way God will forgive us. But that way of thinking is exactly what keeps people from the peace and joy that God intended for them. We are our own worst enemy aside from the devil. We make things so easy for him every time we believe those lies – and that’s exactly what they are – lies.

We keep being deceived by the enemy and find ourselves agreeing with every negative thought he puts in our heads. And the result is we stay in the crazy cycle where nothing changes, we have no peace, the same old sins keep finding a way back into our lives, we remain in bondage to the same old habits and choices and we sit around wondering why everything is the way it is. You’ve read the quote – the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Crazy! Yet we all do it.

back in the saddle 6So what’s the answer? How do we get off the crazy train and make changes that will produce different results? It’s the same way you lost weight after you gained it back from the last time you lost it, the same way you quit smoking for the 11th time, got back into exercising after a “little break” of 2 years, starting eating healthy again after that epic holiday binge you just participated in, same way you got back on budget after you maxed out the credit cards – you just get back in the saddle after you’ve fallen off the wagon.Why is it so easy for us to tell our kids or even our friends “You can do it! Don’t give up! You have to keep trying and you’ll get it!” but yet it’s so hard for us to do it ourselves?

For goodness sakes, just do it! Determine right now to quit listening to the lies being fed into your mind that there’s no turning things around and then start turning them around. Quit avoiding church because you think everybody knows what a horrible person you are – they’re all sitting in their seats thinking the same thing about themselves so you might as well join them. Sign up for a small group. Call your church, a church, any church and ask if there’s anyone who could “disciple” you. You may not know what that means but they will and you need it if you’ve fallen off the wagon so just ask, it won’t kill you.

Turn off the junk you’ve been listening to in your car and change the station to a Christian station. Put down 50 shades of something and pick up a bible. Get over the fact that you don’t feel like – I don’t either but here I am. Quit telling everyone on Facebook every detail of your life and start telling God that you want and need Him more in your life. Stop belly-aching about how bad you’ve got it and start thanking God for how good He is.

Thank Him that even when you’d given up on yourself He didn’t and that He’s been waiting there with open arms for you the whole time you’ve been doing your own thing. The time is now so saddle up buckaroo and let’s do this thing together!

The Fixer


scandal 2One of my favorite shows on TV is “Scandal”. The show’s main character, Olivia Pope, is known as a “fixer”. Or more appropriately, she is The Fixer in Washington, DC. When someone finds themselves in the midst of a major problem or scandal that needs fixing, Olivia is the go-to girl. She has an uncanny ability to know exactly how things will play out in each situation and she has a response plan in place before her client hardly knows what has hit them. She is cool under pressure and a brilliant communicator. She is a strong woman who can handle most anything thrown her way and she never reveals her hand before it’s time. Even her own team many times has no idea what she is thinking because she is unbelievably difficult to read. The show’s characters are complicated, Olivia being the most complex by far. Her life revolves around her repairing the damage of one scandal after another. But like everyone, even the seemingly unbreakable Olivia Pope has a weakness. And while she is the Queen of fixing everyone else’s problems, the one thing Olivia cannot fix is herself.

mr fix itLike Olivia, many of us live our lives as fixers. We are constantly attempting to fix things like our marriages, our finances, our family drama, our job situations, our kids, our loneliness, our sadness, our addictions, our hurts and our brokenness. Some of us accept the help of others by receiving their advice, counseling, methods or resources. Others simply say “I got it” and attempt the needed repairs all alone because they have all the tools they think they need at their disposal. Olivia Pope has a team that works with her but she is undoubtedly in charge and what she says goes. And each team member is forever indebted to Olivia because they too have been “rescued” from impending disaster by the one and only Olivia Pope. Although she is surrounded by others she is completely in control and very unwilling to relinquish one bit of that control.

You may be like Olivia Pope and you may be a really good fixer. In fact, you may be the best fixer among those you know. You may have fixed long-standing family feuds, you may have fixed your marriage or your finances, you may have even fixed a personal addiction, a problem with your child or a major job issue. But like Olivia Pope, you too have an area you cannot fix, yourself. No matter how hard we try we will never be able to fix certain things. There will always be areas of hurt, unforgiveness, anger or other wounds to our hearts for which there is only one fix.

God healsGod is the original fixer and He alone can fix the areas that you and no other person or thing can fix. I was a fixer and I always found a way to fix that one thing that I just knew would make my life complete. The problem was that I never really fixed what was really wrong. Each thing that I thought would bring me happiness was only a temporary “fix” and I found myself right back where I started, feeling empty and looking for my next fix.

Finally someone told me I didn’t have a happiness problem, I had a joy problem. I based my happiness on my circumstances. I thought that if everything was fixed in my life then I’d be happy. What I didn’t realize was that there would always be something that needed fixing. But that if I would surrender my life to The Fixer, Jesus, then I could still have joy even when there was some area of my life in need of repair. I didn’t need a better husband, a bigger house or more stuff. I desperately needed a Savior. I needed to admit I couldn’t fix everything and that I needed Him to fix me.

nativity 2I needed to stop living a life of sin where all I thought about was myself. I needed to surrender my life to Jesus and seek His will for my life and not my own. I needed to stop trying to pretend like some things I couldn’t fix would simply fix themselves with time. I needed to trust God to heal those areas I’d never be able to fix or the areas I didn’t want to face. I needed the love of Christ and the peace that surpasses all understanding to fill the voids of my life. I needed the strength I have in Christ alone to overcome the things I’d never be able to in my own strength. I needed the promise of eternal life that I received the moment I said “I believe”. I needed His comfort in times of sorrow and His guidance in the times I felt lost and confused. I needed to believe that things could get better and they did when I placed my hope in Christ alone and no one else, including myself. I needed that precious baby born in a manger so long ago who came from heaven to earth to die the death that you and I deserve so we don’t have to. I needed his forgiveness of my sins so that I would be able to forgive others. I needed His unconditional love and acceptance more than I ever realized. I needed fixed. I needed Jesus.