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.

thN54LHBHM

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.

Advertisements

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.

My Soul Felt Its Worth


January 2014 514It’s been a weird couple of months. Really, it’s been a weird year. I’m not sure weird is the right word but it’s the only way I can think of to describe a year that didn’t go like I expected it to. I began the year planning a family vacation to Florida. Who knew 6 months later I’d be packing our household and planning our family’s move to Florida? More than ever before, 2013 was a year of realizing that God’s ways are definitely not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8). I would never had thought we’d end the year the way we did.

The year began good. My grandmother was still living with us and although taking care of her was not easy, it was something we had resolved to do as long as we were able to provide the care she needed. It became evident early in the year that she was at the point of needing around the clock care and our family made the difficult decision to move her to an assisted living home. With our newfound freedom and time we did a lot of remodeling and repairs to our home and were able to take some weekend trips which were both long overdue.

prayer 5As the fall approached our attention turned to our plan (God’s plan really – we were just following His lead) to move back to Florida. We packed, put the house on the market and took a house hunting to trip to find a new home in Florida. Our need for God’s direction and guidance was undeniable as we put our trust in Him alone to work out the details of uprooting our family and moving to a new state. We prayed a lot. We prayed for His favor in selling our home, His will for my husband’s job situation and for His wisdom as we made decisions involving the move. It’s funny how much we seek God when we need something and it’s not hard to keep our focus on Him when our need for Him is so great.

And then our prayers were answered and it all began to fall into place. The house sold, my husband got a job transfer and we settled on a place to live in Florida. My dependence on God diminished. The stress of moving and packing took my time and focus. The move approached way too quickly. I felt the desire to spend time with all the friends and family who meant so much to us and I wanted to personally say goodbye to each person who had impacted my life while living in Tennessee. But too many obligations and responsibilities tugged at my time and I left without being able to do so which added to the pressure I was feeling. I was consumed with the move and began to feel overwhelmed.

Samsung November 2013 983Moving day arrived and my youngest son and I watched the movers load our belongings onto the truck while my husband was at work. We had a good visit with my grandmother the day before moving day. She was in good spirits and felt well that day. The movers left and we loaded up the stuff we were moving ourselves including the dog and the cat and headed off to Florida. My husband still had another week to work before transferring and stayed behind to wrap up the loose ends.

While passing through Atlanta, my phone rang. It was the assisted living home. My grandmother wasn’t doing well and the Hospice nurse said they didn’t think she was going to make it. I couldn’t understand how one day she was fine and the next they were telling me that she had just days to live. Another reminder that God’s ways are not our ways.

We spent the weekend in our new home sleeping on an air mattress while we waited for the movers to arrive on Monday with our household goods. My mother and the nurse kept me updated on my grandmother’s condition, which was not good. Very early Monday morning my phone rang. I knew they were calling to tell me that she had passed away. Just 4 hours later the movers arrived with a semi-truck full of boxes. It was not an easy day and by the end of it I was an emotional mess.

I had just moved to a new state without my husband alongside. I had a new place filled with boxes that needed to be unpacked and organized. My grandmother, who had lived with us for the past 5 years, had passed away. I was feeling the guilt of not being there with my grandmother when she passed away and not saying all the things I should have said to her before I moved. I had not been to church in a couple of weeks and God was far down on my list of things to do. I felt distanced from Him and wanted to close that gap but couldn’t seem to slow down long enough to spend time with Him and in His presence.

My son and I traveled back to Tennessee for the funeral, to reunite with my husband and oldest son and then to travel again to spend Thanksgiving with family. It was a whirlwind. I needed God but just couldn’t seem to make it happen. I knew in my mind that He hadn’t gone anywhere. It was me. But for some reason I just couldn’t get it together. I was feeling pretty worthless.

Christmas approached and I lacked motivation to decorate or shop. We didn’t have a dining room table yet so we planned to eat Christmas dinner out at a restaurant which added to my lackluster holiday spirit. Unseasonably warm weather didn’t help the mood.

candlelight serviceThen came Christmas Eve. Our tradition has always been to attend a church service on Christmas Eve. Reluctantly I found a church to go to. I just wasn’t “into” Christmas and my struggle with getting back into God’s presence only added to my gloomy mood. I sat through the service and listened to the pastor read the Christmas story from the bible. I barely noticed that we took Communion because I was so distracted with my thoughts. The service was coming to an end and we stood to sing “O Holy Night”. I’ve sang that Christmas song so many times I can’t even remember. I know the words by heart. It’s one of my favorites.

But in a moment of time my world stopped when I sang these words – “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.” I was overcome with emotions. God, in all His majesty, stopped time for me. He showed me His incredible love for me in a quiet Christmas Eve service in a small, nondescript church in Florida. My eyes were opened to the words I had just sang. I lay in sin and error but because of that baby born in the manager, the One who died for the sins I lay in, the One who loves me unconditionally, the One who loves me whether I pray every day and read my bible or whether I put Him at the bottom of my “to do” list, the One who loves me in spite of myself – He showed me my worth to Him through the words of a song on Christmas Eve. The next lines spoke to exactly how I felt in that moment. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees!” I wanted to do just that. I wanted to fall on my knees and rejoice.

God's loveI realized in that moment that I had allowed my feelings to take over my reality. My reality is that I am a child of God. I’m a born again believer that the Creator of the Universe finds invaluable even when I don’t “feel” like I have any value whatsoever. In an instance my eyes were once again opened to the love that He has for me and that whether I “feel” like it not, nothing will ever change that. Now that is reason enough for any of us who call Jesus Lord and Savior to fall on our knees (even if we don’t feel like it)!

Assessing the Danger


August 2013 1394On our recent vacation to Florida I was particularly aware of the warning flags that are posted on the beach. My children are older now and do not need me to be with them in the water or even at the beach with them at this point. Most days we all went together but sometimes they headed out earlier than their dad and myself. On those days I reminded them to pay attention to the warning flags so that they would know if the currents were strong that day or not. Having lived in Florida at one time, we are all too familiar with the dangers of rip tides so I wanted to ensure they were paying attention to the conditions and were well prepared.

My children are not trained to spot the dangers of the ocean. Neither are my husband and I as their parents. But what we learned on this vacation is that there are trained “spotters” who fly over the ocean each morning to assess the current and the threat level. They then pass on their assessment to the lifeguards and other personnel onshore who raise a particular color flag that represents the threat level as determined by the spotter.

August 2013 1384As untrained beachgoers, everything may look fine to us. The waves are crashing against the shore, the sun is shining, our sunscreen has been applied and we are ready to hit the water and have some fun in the surf and sand. We can be laughing and frolicking in the water completely unaware of the conditions that we are in. Our untrained eyes cannot spot the imminent danger of the currents. And without the warning from a trained and experienced individual, we could quickly find ourselves in danger.

As Christians we too need the training and experience of mature Christians to warn us when we may be facing imminent danger – danger that we may be completely unaware of. As a new believer I had much to learn about the dangers we face from our enemy, the devil. I was oblivious to the fact that he sets traps for us to draw us into temptation and away from the protection of our loving Father in heaven. I needed those who had been following Christ for much longer than me to disciple me and teach me how to spot the danger that was many times unseen by my untrained eyes. I needed trusted women in my life to show me when I was entering into relationships, behaviors or actions that might seem harmless on the surface but underneath could open the door to traps placed by a cunning and deceptive enemy who wanted nothing more than bring destruction upon my life whether through my marriage, my children, my finances or by any other means he could find.

August 2013 1424I needed those women in my life to assess my current situation by asking me tough questions like – Are you spending time in prayer and reading the bible? How is your marriage, your children, other relationships? Is there any sin in your life that you have not turned away from? Are there any unresolved hurts or unforgiveness in your heart?

I needed those women to challenge me so that I could grow in my faith and so that my life could be transformed and I would desire more of God and His ways and less of what I thought I wanted. I needed those women to encourage me when fear and doubt crept into my thoughts. I need those women to hold me accountable when I began to veer away from God’s plan for my life and headed back toward trying to do things my way. I needed them to pull me from my comfort zone as they stood by me in faith trusting God to lead me as I learned to surrender control of my life over to Him. I needed those women just like my family needed the spotters on vacation who kept us from danger.

August 2013 1389We were never created to live our Christian lives on our own. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit along with the wisdom of trusted, fellow believers to help disciple us as they teach us how to walk out our faith for life. We need spiritual family to encourage us and hold us accountable so that we may live a peace and joy filled life that God intends for us to. Do you have someone in your life who will warn you when you’re approaching dangerous waters? Do you have experienced, mature Christians who can spot the traps that have been laid for you and will teach you how to spot them for yourself? Do you have spiritual family that will walk alongside you as you seek God’s will for your life? If not I encourage you to get involved in serving at your local church or sign up for a small group bible study where you can meet those who can be your “spotter” because some day there will be someone who needs you to be a “spotter” for them.

The Cost of Forgiveness


Have you ever done something and people just look at you like you’re crazy as they shake their head in disbelief? They just cannot seem to comprehend your action or response to a situation because it’s so backwards from what most people would do. This happened to a friend of mine and I wanted to share her inspirational story. My friend, Andrea, experienced just how offensive the gospel can be to an unbeliever when her family went through a terrible tragedy.

Her family lived in Guam where her husband, John, was stationed. By her accounts the military families stationed on the small, Pacific island are a closeknit community. Everybody knows everybody. Early in 2011 John took their two children, along with their daughter’s best friend and next door neighbor Erynn, on a hike to nearby beautiful, rocky cliffs. Andrea was in the United States for some medical tests and to visit family and friends.

It was an early Sunday morning at 1:15 am, while still in the US, that Andrea received the call no one is ever prepared for. While her family and their neighbor were hiking, there was a rockslide. Heroically, her husband attempted to save his daughter’s best friend. But tragically the majority of the rocks fell onto Erynn. Her injuries were too severe. She did not survive. The unbelievable grief of the family and friends of this remarkable young girl was overwhelming. The small, closeknit community had lost one of their own – one who died much too young. One who had so many unfulfilled dreams and ambitions ahead of her. One who was a precious child of God. One whose parents had lost their daughter and were experiencing unspeakable grief. One whose family turned to their Heavenly Father for comfort and peace during this tragic time.

Although it was a horrible accident, Andrea’s husband was questioning if he could have done something differently that could have saved her life, something that would have prevented this whole nightmare. He fully expected Erynn’s parents, Gary and Kathy, to be angry, hurt, and to question him as to how he could have let this happen. He prepared to apologize and take full responsibility as he and his children sat in their home, right next door to the home of their dear friends who had just experienced the unthinkable.

While John tried to make sense of what had just happened, Erynn’s parents had gone to hospital where their precious child had been taken and where they were met with the confirming news that their daughter had died. Their next step was to go home to tell their other children. Friends and neighbors had begun to gather at their home. Two families. Two homes side by side. Both families trying to make sense of what had just happened.

After awhile Gary, Erynn’s father, got up and walked out of his home without saying a word to anyone gathered there. He headed next door to John and Andrea’s home. As neighbors and friends watched, they assumed Gary was going to confront John. After all, one father sat in his home with his daughter alive and safe while he had just lost his daughter.

John didn’t know what to expect when Gary approached him in his home. But to his disbelief, Gary hugged him and told him it was ok. He offered John forgiveness. Erynn’s father offered him an apology for the pain he was going through. There stood John still wearing the bloodstained shirt he had on as he carried Erynn from the accident scene. And her father hugged him and offered gratitude for John’s efforts to save Erynn’s life. Gary prayed for him to find peace in God’s comforting presence. The family who had just found out their daughter had died was offering comfort and forgiveness to the one who felt responsible for her death. John was awed by the love of Christ Gary modeled that night in response to a tragic event that will forever mark all their lives.

But what ensued in the days and weeks following the accident was far more shocking than the selfless actions of this Godly family during their darkest hours. As Andrea’s family continued to grieve with their neighbors, the rest of the community began to murmur. “How can the Haywards continue to spend time with the Mayers after what the Mayers have done to their family?” “Why did John save his own daughter and not theirs?” Why are the Mayers grieving? They didn’t lose a child.” John was hurting because he had been entrusted with something very precious that he was unable to protect when tragedy struck. John and Andrea needed the support and comfort of their community. But what they received was negative comments, rumors, people avoiding them in stores or staring. Both families were hurting but only one received acknowledgement of their pain.

Through the whole situation they learned that people want to be front and center when the drama first happens but once the dust settles and it’s time to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding, they disappear. The relationships John and Andrea had been most intentional about building during their time in Guam were the first ones to let them down. There were families who selflessly stood by them the entire time. They were there to give to the Mayer family, not receive for themselves. But unfortunately, many turned their backs on them.

The second thing John and Andrea learned was that God must be first in your lives both individually and as a family. When your priority is to pour yourself into other people, serving, or involvment in the community, you’re priorities are out of order. With so many opportunities and so many needs, it is easy for God to come behind things we deem more important in the moment, even good things. God must be first, period.

And finally they learned how Sovereign our God is. God knew long before the accident that it would occur. And He set Christian leadership in place at the highest positions on the base who would have the wisdom and discernment to handle the aftermath and assist John in getting orders back to the United States to be near family and close friends. They learned that God’s grace is sufficient and His consuming love for us is abounding. They learned His love alone can comfort and heal our deepest hurts if we will allow it. They learned that a family who models the love of their Lord and Savior will offend those in darkness but will bring hope to those who believe all hope is gone. They learned what true forgiveness is and how to freely give and receive it. They learned that there is no one like our God and even in the midst of tragedy, He is good.

Forgiveness is rarely easy to give and many times there is a cost attached to it. Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate price to give forgiveness to us for our sins. What price are you willing to pay to give forgiveness to others – humility, embarrassment, loss of relationships of those who think you’re wrong for doing so?

The more important question you need to consider is this – what price are you willing to pay to hold on to unforgiveness? It will cost you more than you think.

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 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.

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.