Leave It To A Professional


thQQATP0ODHave you ever tried to fix something on your own only to find that you made a bigger mess of it than before you started? I have. I have fully replaced my yard twice because I over fertilized and under watered. Then there was the time I almost ended up divorced over wallpaper removal and replacement. Oh, and there was the time I thought I could fix a borrowed chainsaw. If only I’d just left it alone I wouldn’t have had to replace it with a brand new one. Some things are better off left to a professional, especially when it comes to people.

I used to get frustrated at people who refuse to believe the promises of God’s Word and walk in victory over their past and present battles. I’m not talking about the unchurched, non-believers who don’t know what the promises of God are. Or even Christians who believe in God and go to church on occasion. I’m talking about the born-again believer who knows God, who reads their bible, prays, serves in the church and is surrounded by fellow believers. No matter how many times they’ve heard the message, attended the small group, been prayed over, and encouraged – they refuse to accept who God says they are and continue to walk in shame, condemnation and insecurity because they believe the lies of the enemy and who he says they are. I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t want to believe who God says they are and to be free from the bondage that held them captive.

th3NQ7U036I could see that they were missing out on the peace and joy that God was waiting to pour out on them. The life they dreamed about and deserved was within reach if they’d just take hold of it. Why didn’t they simply trust God and His word? Maybe it was fear, feelings of unworthiness, too many lies in their head, too many deep rooted wrong beliefs that were too hard to overcome. My frustration came from the fact that no matter how hard I tried or how much encouragement I gave them – I couldn’t change them.

I came to realize it’s not that they didn’t want to believe it, they just hadn’t reached the point yet where they do believe. God showed me I needed to have a lot more grace with people. I also learned there is a fine line between wanting to be used by God and wanting to be God. Pride can prevent us from having grace and from allowing God the room in our lives to speak through us. I pray for God to use me as a vessel to speak hope to the hopeless yet when I have the opportunity to do so I battle against sharing my own thoughts and advice versus hearing from God what He wants to say to them. Knowing when to shut up and knowing when to let God speak up has long been my struggle. How can I be used by God to speak to those in need of direction without trying to be their Holy Spirit and trying to “fix” them?

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The answer for them was the same for me. Instead of trying to fix our problems through our own strength and abilities, we need to trust Jesus. I need to trust Jesus. I need to always remember that God is God and I’m not. And even though I may have areas of my life that I’ve surrendered to Him and have victory over, I have other areas that I’m still struggling in. So, I’m no different from those who have yet to find their peace and victory. We’re all a work in progress. Who am I to gauge how far along someone should be on their journey or to get bothered because their roots run deeper and their battle rages stronger than mine?

I want to see God to heal the brokenhearted, restore the broken, bring hope to the hopeless and victory to the defeated. The peace I have when my frustrations rear their ugly head is that He is more than able. He did it in my life and He can do it in theirs. It’s not up to me to make someone believe that the promises of God are for them. But it is up to me to believe it for them when they can’t believe it for themselves. They may have given up for now but God hasn’t given up on them so neither am I. So until they believe it, I can stand in the gap and believe for them. Who in your life needs your grace and needs for you to believe for them until they believe for themselves?

Behind the Scenes


thQZS2XXA1I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve told others “don’t focus on your situation. Keep your focus on God and trust Him to take care of everything even when you can’t see any changes occurring. He’s working behind the scenes in ways we can’t imagine. Just trust Him.”

Simple, right? Well, as they say, it’s easier said than done.

Recently we had our home for sale. We felt certain it would sell quickly  and the activity when we first listed the home confirmed to us that we’d have it sold in no time. The initial excitement quickly faded. People quit coming to look and no one was taking flyers from the “for sale” sign. And so it began. I started to doubt that it would ever sale even though I knew that we had prayed about it and we were certain that God had put in our hearts the desire to move. When there was activity I trusted God to work it all out. But as soon as the activity ceased, I began to doubt. I began to focus on what I could see (which wasn’t much at that point) and took my focus off of God.

thXZQCDBURHave you ever worked the curtains for a theater production? My son is an actor so as a stage mom, I’ve done my share of opening and closing the stage curtain. The job itself gives you an interesting vantage point. As you stand just offstage you have a unique view of what’s happening on both sides of the curtain. On one side you can see all the stagehands running around quickly and quietly backstage setting up the next scene and the actors hurriedly taking their places before the curtain begins to open. It’s ordered chaos as everyone works as fast as possible to make sure that everything is perfect when you begin to pull the rope.

th6UXI3G2COn the other side you can see the audience. They sit patiently and quietly waiting for the next scene to begin. They can’t see anything happening and they really have no idea everything that’s going on just beyond the curtain. But they trust that when that curtain opens, everything will happen just as the program they hold in their hand has promised it will. They can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes but they don’t sit in their seats thinking “we might as well go home because the play isn’t going to happen.” They know that even though they can’t see it, it will happen but only when everything that is going on behind the scenes has been perfectly set into its place.

Oh how I could have used that reminder when we were selling our house. When I couldn’t see anything happening I failed to remember that God had everything under control. That He was working behind the scenes, setting everything into place so that when the right moment came, the curtain would open and His perfect plan would be revealed.

thSOZHDE4YOne Sunday after church we were fixing lunch when someone rang the doorbell. I went to the door and there was a couple there. They asked if we would be willing to show them the house. The lady began to tell me that she had been looking at our house online for weeks. She had seen it as soon as it was listed and it was exactly what they’d been looking for. They hadn’t had a chance yet to come by in person because they lived out of town. She said she had looked at it online every day until that day and couldn’t wait to see it in person. Within three days of the showing, we had come to an agreement and they bought our house.

God was working behind the scenes. Even when I couldn’t see anything, He was at work orchestrating the sell of our home. I couldn’t see what was happening so I wrongly assumed that meant nothing was happening. I was focused on the lack of activity and my very limited ideas for a solution. I should have been focused on trusting God and believing that He can work things out in ways I could never imagine. It was a reminder (one of many in my life) that God is in control. Our job is not to figure out how things should happen or when. Our job is to trust Him and believe Him when He reveals a promise to us.

What has God promised you that, from your vantage point, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen? What is it that you have lost hope in? The problem may simply be that you lost focus – you’re eyes are focused on the situation and not on the One who is in control of it. Refocus and trust that there are things going on behind the scenes and when everything is in place, the curtain will open to reveal God’s perfect plan for you. 

 

Prisoner of War


thDU0YGLOPI’ve never known someone who was a prisoner of war – or so I thought. Toward the end of my grandmother’s life she began to experience the effects of dementia and she started to say things that didn’t make sense. One of the things she frequently mentioned was that she was being taken as a prisoner of war each night but that they would let her go in the morning. My family thought it was odd that she thought she was a prisoner of war since no one in our family is in the military and she didn’t have much contact with anyone or anything that would cause her to think thoughts that were related to being a prisoner of war.

But after several weeks of her sharing these thoughts with us, I began to see how she could see herself as being a prisoner of war. At 101 years of age my grandmother knew she was in the final season of her life. Death was imminent and she was extremely fearful of that fact. She had lived her whole life in fear of many things. In her mind, she was a prisoner to those fears and insecurities. And in reality she was a prisoner to the lies of the enemy.

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My grandmother, like many of us, fell into the trap of being imprisoned by the her thoughts, her fears and her insecurities. She was consumed with the lies that replayed in her mind over and over again that she wasn’t good enough, that she didn’t deserve happiness and that she was unloved. Although none of that was true, the audio of those lies had been replayed so many times in her mind over the years that it had become her reality. She had become a prisoner of the spiritual war that raged for her thoughts and what she believed.

Often we allow the negative thoughts and emotions to take priority in our minds and over time those thoughts begin to take deep root. They start to control how we think of ourselves, how we think others perceive us and how we respond to and treat others. Those thoughts can then begin to spill out of our heads through our mouths as we begin to speak negatively about ourselves and our situations. Instead of speaking life into our situations and relationships we condemn them to a death sentence through our negative words. We allow the enemy to define what we believe about ourselves and others and we become imprisoned by our own doing.

There is a war for your thoughts. There is a very real enemy who wishes to convince you that you are no good, no one loves you and you are incapable and undeserving of whatever it is you dream of for your life. It may be a particular profession, it may be the restoration of a broken relationship, it may be healing for a hurt within your heart or it may be forgiveness for your past. Whatever it is, you are a prisoner of war if you believe the lie that says you are unworthy and incapable.

th45NVTJIYThe good news is that it’s never to late to break free from that prison. God wants to set you free and He gave His one and only Son so that you may live a life free from the prison of your thoughts and your sins. Your identity is who Christ says you are, not the person the enemy tries to make you believe you are. The choice is yours – will you believe the truth of God’s word and who He says you are? Or will you continue to be held captive by the lies of who Satan says you are? It’s time to set your mind on Christ and take back control of your thoughts. Your life can be completely transformed simply by renewing your mind through the reading of God’s word and through the thoughts you allow to enter into your mind (Romans 12:2). Jesus Christ came to set the captives free. He came to set you free. The next step is up to you – surrender your thoughts and you WILL be set free.

iStruggle


144042Why do I feel the need to have it all together? Why do I think that at this point of my life everything should be perfect? For some reason I think that I’ve reached some magical point in life that I shouldn’t still be dealing with the same thoughts, struggles and behaviors. I believe that by now I should be able to somehow control it all better and keep a lid on it. But I don’t. My thoughts, my actions (or inactions), my behaviors – all are constant reminders that I’m still dealing with much of the same old stuff I always have. I don’t know why my expectations of myself exceed the reality I know exists. I know life means struggles.

I was the primary caretaker for my grandmother for five years. In those five years I daily, yes daily, woke up and prayed that that day would be different. That I would not get frustrated. That I would not feel resentment. That I would not wish that she would be more grateful for all that I was doing for her. That I would not feel sorry for myself for being in the situation I was in. That I would not get angry that I was the one taking care of her because nobody else was willing. That I would be able to control my responses to her mean comments. That I would not question God as to why He had put in the role of caring for such a difficult person. That I would not allow my grandmother to push my buttons and draw me into an argument with her. That I would not wish that she was no longer living with us. Every day. Not sometimes. Every day.

tattoo-quotes-about-life-struggles-i13I could not understand how I had all those thoughts and feelings as a Christian. I knew better. I should have had control over my thoughts and actions. I had reached that magical point, right? I’d been doing the “Christian thing” for 16 years. Surely by now I knew how to “act” like a Christian. Surely I could control myself. And therein lies my problem. So many times, even now after all these years, I’m still trying to run my life, my thoughts, and my actions. I still find myself trying to act like a Christian instead of being a follower of Christ. I go through the motions which, on the surface, look like I know what I’m doing. But inside I’m screaming “what am I doing?! Why do I keep thinking like this or behaving like that?!”

The answer is not a simple one. There’s no secret formula. There’s no magical point in life that we reach when it all comes together and reach Christian nirvana. Life is a struggle – always has been, always will be. So the question is not how can I stop struggling but how can I struggle less? The answer is through complete and total surrender. I know how I’m wired. I’m a bona-fide control freak. My struggle is to stop trying to be in control because who am I kidding? I’m not in control – God is. The biggest mistake I make is when I sometimes allow myself to think I’m in control. And I’m fooling myself if I think I can control my thoughts, my behaviors and my actions without the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s word. The answer is complete and total surrender and the way to do that is to spend time in the presence of my Lord and Savior through prayer and spending time reading my bible. That’s not to say it will ever be easy for me to give up trying to be in control but my daily prayer is no longer for God to help me control myself. My prayer is for God to be in control of everything.

thO965BW57The truth is the older I get and the more I do this Christian walk, the more I realize how desperate I am for Him and how quickly and completely out of control my life can get when I try to be in control. We all need Jesus. I need Jesus. Desperately. Completely. More than anything else. So, why do I struggle? Because God said I would in His word when He said “in this world you will have struggles.” But His promise to his disciples that followed His comment is His promise to me. And the good news is that Jesus is not done with me yet. He has fully redeemed me – my past, my present and my future. And every day that I spend in His presence, I am transformed more into His likeness and His character. I don’t have to let my struggles take over and consume me because He promises me that even in my struggles I can have peace in Him. I don’t have to struggle on my own to take over the problems I face in this life because He has overcome the world. (John 16:33). He has overcome my struggles.

Every Man For Himself


cruzThis morning as I watched Senator Ted Cruz speak from the Senate floor, I became engrossed in the details he shared about what had happened to the original 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence and the sacrifices they made in their quest for liberty. These were well-educated, successful men who had all they needed for themselves and their families yet they valued liberty more than their security. As a result many lost everything they had. Most of them had nothing to gain personally and everything to lose when they made the choice to put their signature on one of the most well-known documents in history, certainly in America’s history. Their personal sacrifices were made in part because they saw the bigger picture. They knew what they would have to endure for the remainder of their lives in order for generations to come to live in freedom would be worth it. They knew the costs yet they were still willing to lend their signatures because it was not about them, it was about freedom.

selfieAt this point I will now do what I vowed never to do when I was a teenager – sound like an old person complaining about “young people these days”. Heaven help me. But seriously, have I become that person I disliked so much as a teen or were the older folk really right and I was just a dumb teenager? Or is there something truly disturbing about the behaviors of the next generation? I’m not sure but there are a few things that I do know for sure that I’d like to share. My generation certainly had issues, there’s no doubt about it. Like all younger generations, we were viewed as self-absorbed, lazy, know-it-alls who were lacking in knowledge of what the “real world” was like. And while every younger generation, including the current one, has plenty of those same qualities to go around, I dare to ask the question – is it just me or are young people today, generally speaking, taking self absorption to a whole new level? The good kids, the questionable kids and the completely rogue kids today all seemed obsessed with themselves. I’m pretty sure they spend more time taking pictures of themselves than they do anything else in their lives and the term “selfie” will soon be an official dictionary word if it’s not already. If I never see another duck face selfie again I’ll be just fine but I somehow doubt that will happen. Social media and reality/competition television shows have driven the desire and pursuit of instant fame through the roof. The need to have more Instagram and Twitter followers than anyone else they know is bizarre to me. And the lengths at which they are willing to go to become known is scary. And I’m pretty sure the use of the word “scary” when referring to young people throws me directly into the old people category.

But it’s not just the young people in our society. Adults too are willingly crossing moral and ethical lines to get ahead in the workplace and justifying destructive and hurtful behavior because they “deserve to be happy” no matter who gets hurt in the process. We’re living in a time where the sacrificial mindsets of the 56 individuals who signed the Declaration of Independence would be mocked and ridiculed. Maybe it is just me but it seems that there are fewer and fewer people who are truly willing to sacrifice so that others (outside of their immediate family and friends) would benefit. It’s an every man for himself kind of world we’re living in.

declarationAnd as I listened to the devastating consequences that many of those 56 men and their families endured because of their dedication to the cause of independence, I questioned how we all can be so selfish and so unwilling to sacrifice at that level today. What has changed in our human nature since their time? What would those men and their families think of us today if they could see how we treat the freedom many of them sacrificed everything for?

And then my thoughts went, as they often do in those melancholy moments, to my Lord and Savior. I thought of the ultimate sacrifice that He made on our behalf. I thought about how different my life would be if Jesus had thought “I’ve got nothing to gain personally and everything to lose by sacrificing myself.” I thought of what my family’s lives would look like if He only thought of Himself in that moment instead of knowing that His personal sacrifice would give freedom and liberty to those held captive by sin for generations to come. I thought about how different our world would be if Jesus had an every man for himself mentality instead of an attitude of “my life for every man”. I gave thanks in that moment that no matter how discouraging things may seem to me at the times when my focus is on the negatives, I know that if I’ll just turn my thoughts back to Jesus, I find peace.

freeMy peace is in knowing that when I was still a self-absorbed, lazy, thought I knew-it-all young person, He loved me. My peace is in knowing that when I’m a self-absorbed, lazy, think I know-it-all “somewhat middle-aged” person, He loves me. My peace is in knowing that because of Him and the sacrifice He made, there is hope for those who are drowning in their hopelessness. My peace comes from knowing that the only freedom that REALLY matters is the freedom HE died for, the freedom from the bondage of sin. My peace comes from knowing that I live in a country where I can still be free to share the good news of the freedom in Christ thanks to the 56 men and their families that sacrificed so much for that freedom a long time ago. My peace comes in knowing that I have the choice to be that crabby, “somewhat middle-aged” person complaining about young people or I can choose to love them as Christ loves them and as He loved me at their age. My peace comes from knowing that the Son set me free therefore I am free indeed.

 

Beyond the Crashing Waves


August 2013 1397On our recent vacation to Florida I was lying in my perfect beach chair, under a perfect beach umbrella, looking out at the perfect calm waters beyond the crashing waves and thinking “can it get any more perfect than this?!” and the answer was no, not at that moment. I was relaxing among sheer perfection and relishing every second of it. But the calm beyond the waves was calling my name and I had to get out there to see if it really was as peaceful as it appeared from my point of view. When I reached the water and began to make my way toward the peace I could see in the distance, my focus was interrupted by the waves that suddenly began hitting me with pounding consistency. The harder I tried to get toward the calm waters, the harder and faster the waves came at me. The distant calm seemed to be getting further away instead of closer. But I was not about to give up that easily.

I looked back at the perfect chair and perfect umbrella I’d left behind. I was so very tempted to just turn back and return to their ease and comfort. But when I looked back out over the crashing waves, the peaceful, still waters ahead once again called out to me.  I began to get frustrated because it seemed like for every bit of headway I made after a wave passed, the next wave just seemed to push me right back to where I’d just been. But then I glanced back again to the chair I’d left behind and realized I had made it a lot further out than I had thought. Even though it felt like I really wasn’t getting anywhere, my persistence was paying off. I looked forward to refocus on the destination and it was a lot closer than I had realized. Just a few more waves and I’d be there. And the further out I got toward the calmer waters, the less punch the waves seemed to have. They were losing their power to knock me backwards. Either my determination was making me stronger or the waves were getting weaker. Either way, I was re-energized for the final stretch.

waterThere was no real line that I crossed, I was just there. I looked around and realized that I was in the calm, peaceful waters that had been almost impossible to reach – but they hadn’t been because I was now right smack dab in the middle of them. There was a stillness out there that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. The laughter of the children playing close to shore was so distance I could barely hear it. I was so far out that when I looked back to the shore I was a little afraid for a moment because I was alone in the deep – and it was really, really deep. But it was the most peaceful place I had ever been and it was worth ever bit of energy, frustration and determination it had taken to get there.

Many times we see the peaceful waters in the distance from our current vantage point. We know it’s calling our name but some of us never leave the comforts of the here and now because we decide where we are is “good enough.” But God desires so much more for us than “good enough”. He wants to give us the very best but we get too lazy and too comfortable and decide to settle because His “very best” requires commitment and maybe a little hard work on our part.

water4Then there’s those of us who leave our place of comfort and venture out toward the deep but as soon as the crashing waves come at us we retreat back to where we came from. We decide the calm isn’t worth it and we determine to go right back where we were. Others make it further toward the peace of the calm waters. They fight the waves and keep pressing on in spite of the difficulties and challenges. But no matter how focused they were in the beginning, the waves become too much for them and they quickly forget the destination that lies ahead. They loose their focus and become consumed with the crashing waves that rob them of their energy, determination and ultimate goal. They begin to believe they can’t make it so they turn back and retreat to the starting point.

August 2013 1424My encouragement to you today is that no matter how hard the waves are crashing all around you, the still and peaceful waters of Christ are not out of reach. Stay focused. Be determined to reach the stillness of His presence knowing that He has so much more He wants to give to you – more of His love, more of His peace, more joy, more blessings than you could ever imagine or hope for. Take your eyes off the waves and look out to the calm that lies beyond the distractions and obstacles. It hasn’t gone anywhere and it’s not beyond your reach. Keep pushing back against the waves and every now and then take time to glance back so you can be reminded just how far you’ve come. The harder you fight and the more determined you are, the closer you’ll get and the waves will lose their punch. Then suddenly you’ll look around and realize that you don’t know when, or really even how it happened, but you entered into the stillness of the peaceful waters of Christ and it was all worth it. Just keep swimming.

Lessons From Remodeling: Lesson 3 – You’ve Got To Start Somewhere


scarlettMy final lesson learned through our recent remodeling project is one that I have struggled with the most. I find myself easily overwhelmed and add to that fact that I’m a self-professed procrastinator and my attitude can quickly become “eh, it’s just too much, I’ll do it later” and many times later never arrives. And it is that very mindset that caused me to take FOREVER to get started putting our new bed frame together.

My husband and I were in need of a new mattress and we made the decision to go for a king-size after sleeping on one during our vacation. The problem was that this meant we would also have to buy a king-size bed and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So we opted for purchasing a bed frame online knowing we would have to pick it up at the store and then put the bed together ourselves. Even though that isn’t my number one idea of a fun, I knew it would be worth the cost savings. Besides, the reviews were great and all the comments described how easy it was to put together so I surmised “seriously, how hard can it be?” We picked the bed up at the store and a guy helped my husband load it into our van. When we got home and had to unload 5 long, heavy boxes I felt that first twinge of “what have I gotten myself into?”

Several weeks passed before we made time to dig into the project of putting the bed together. We were going to lug the boxes upstairs before we realized we’d probably kill ourselves in the process so we decided to open them downstairs and bring the contents up through multiple trips. When we opened the first box I had that second wave of “what have I gotten myself into?” There were A LOT of parts in the first box but I thought to myself “surely the rest of the boxes don’t contain this many parts.” I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’ve never seen so many parts in my life! At that point I was headed toward full-blown overwhelmed mode.

June 24 2013 007After about an hour we had all the parts laid out on our bedroom floor. As I looked around at the seemingly endless piles of pieces and parts, I thought “no way, I’m done. This is too much!” I so wish I had taken a picture so everyone could see the chaos I saw in that moment. It was more than I could handle and I was ready to give up before I even got started. But thank goodness for my husband. He is so calm and so encouraging in those moments. He makes it possible to get things done when I’m feeling less than motivated. He got out the directions, looked them over and announced that we were ready to begin with step 1. Thankfully and with great wisdom he didn’t tell me at the time that is was an 84 step process and that was just for the items in box 1, not to mention boxes 2-5!

We began following the directions step by step. Slowly we saw some progress – it was a small amount of progress but progress nonetheless. In the moment I had my first twinge of “well, this isn’t so bad.” With some focus and determination we kept plugging away at the directions manual. Before I knew what had happened we were done with not only the first set of directions but the second one as well. The pile of parts was diminishing and the progress was becoming more evident. I began to feel that second wave of “hmmm, I think we can do this.”

Step by step we stayed the course and before long the parts were all gone (well, not all because we seemed to have what we hoped were extras!) and there was a new, king-size bed sitting in our bedroom where there had previously been a monstrous pile of pieces and parts. I felt like doing the Dora dance while singing “We did it, hooray!”

So, what did I learn from this “fun” project?

scarlett21. Don’t give up before you even get started – this is one of the enemy’s oldest tricks in the book. He wants us to believe that “it’s just too much, I can’t”. The truth is, you can’t. But God can. Quit focusing on what you can’t do and start trusting in what God’s word promises that He can do. Remember, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13).

2. You’ve got to start somewhere – your problems aren’t just going to disappear and things won’t magically get better. A wise friend once told me “work like it depends on you and have faith like it depends on God.” You do your part and trust God to do what only He can do. Your part may be seeking forgiveness from God for sinful actions or behaviors, taking your problem to God in prayer and trusting His will to be done, seeking Godly wisdom from a “seasoned” Christian, searching God’s word to seek answers to your particular situation, reconnecting with church and spiritual family if you’ve drifted away or making necessary changes in your life to remove unhealthy relationships and behaviors that are negative and harmful. The bottom line is if you don’t do anything, you’ll never see progress so get started on step one.

scarlett43. Don’t get overwhelmed with the big picture – start with baby steps. If you take small steps and stay focused, before you know it you’ll look up and see progress. And it’s that progress that will motivate you to keep taking those baby steps toward the ultimate goal. (see #2 for what some baby steps may be for you) God typically doesn’t show us the whole picture when He reveals something to us because He knows we probably couldn’t handle it. And if you’re like me, that defeatist attitude will paralyze you if you try to see the whole picture at once. Break it down into small steps of faith as you trust God to lead you each step of the way. Think Abraham – God didn’t reveal everything to him from the start. If He did, Abraham probably would have thought “not happening, that’s just too much!” The first command to him from God was simply “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1-20) He didn’t tell Abraham where he was going, how long it would take, what problems he would encounter along the way. He gave Abraham step 1 and we know he must’ve thought “ok, I can do that” because he obeyed God and left behind his country, his people and his father’s household – one step at a time.

scarlett34. Surround yourself with encouragers – if it wasn’t for my husband and my friends I might never get anything done much less get started. We need people in our lives that will speak positive words over us and will stand by us, hold us accountable and cheer us on each step of the way.

The answer to the age old question of “how do you eat an elephant?” is one bite at a time. So go ahead, take a baby step of faith, keep your focus and watch that elephant slowly but surely begin to disappear.

My prayer for you today is that no matter what your situation may be or no matter how bad things may seem, that God will bring peace to any overwhelming feelings you may have, your faith will empower you to trust God as you take the first baby step in a new direction and that you will be surrounded by others who will encourage you along the way toward your goal.

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.

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.

 

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?