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.

You’ve Reached Your Destination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fixer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game Over

nfl 3My husband and I are NFL fans and most Sundays we have football on the TV no matter what teams are playing.  Because we live near Nashville we see the Tennessee Titans games locally. My 100-year-old grandmother, who lives with us, is also a football fan and more specifically she is a Titans fan. Yesterday she was watching the game from her room and about midway through the 2nd quarter she came out and announced “well, the Titans have lost.” I told her the game was only in the first half and even though they were behind there was still plenty of time for them to win the game. After all, in the NFL things can change very quickly and you can’t assume a team has lost until every last second has ticked off the clock. But my grandmother’s mind was made up. She had already given up on the Titans and she had written them off before the game was even half over.

As Christians we many times face the same scenario. By all accounts it’s game over. We check the scoreboard of our life and we decide there’s no way we can come back from our current situation. We give up hope as we determine that there is no possible scenario for us to stage a comeback from our dire circumstances – the marriage is over, we’re never going to get out of debt, we’ll never be happy or find Mr. Right, finding a good job is a lost cause, the family drama will never end, our spouse will never change, overcoming this disease just isn’t a reality. We walk out and give up and add our situation into the “loss” column. Yet many times we are just an instant away from a game-changing moment. If only we’d just hung in there just a little bit longer……..

scoreboardI’ve done it myself and I’ve witnessed it in the life of others. We decide early on that there is no way that whatever we are facing can end up being a “win” in our lives. So we just give up. We lose hope. We don’t have enough faith to believe that things can turn around. We can’t imagine any possible way. We proclaim that it’s going to take a miracle but then determine that miracles don’t happen to people like us. We can’t do anything to change the outcome, it is what it is. We underestimate God. And so that’s it.

In 1996 my husband and I walked out of 2 Jacksonville Jaguar football games thinking the game was over only to hear the stadium erupt as we left and we had to listen to the Jaguars stage an incredible comeback from our car radio. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we were never going to leave a Jaguars game again before the final second had clicked off the scoreboard. The Jaguars went on to have one stunning game after another and as fans it was thrilling to be a part of. No matter what the scoreboard said and how bleak the situation looked we believed they were going to win because we’d seen them do it and we had the faith that they we able to overcome even the most dire situations.

comeback2Our lives and the lives of many people we know have paralleled the Jaguars 1996 miracle season. I have experienced and I have seen it firsthand in the lives of others great comebacks when by all accounts there wasn’t a chance. My own marriage made a miraculous comeback when it seemed like there was no hope left. I’ve seen friends overcome impossible obstacles. I’ve known people who have come out on the winning side when the odds were highly stacked against them. I also know those who are right now in the middle of a losing battle. They feel like giving up. They know it looks like it’s game over. But like those of us who have lived through an unbelievable comeback, they are putting their trust in God to stage the comeback of all comebacks. They know that they cannot win without Him. They know the odds are not in their favor. But they know never to underestimate God and to never, ever walk out until the last second has clicked off the time clock.

touchdownHow much time is left on your clock. Have you already called the game when there’s still plenty of time left. Are you heading out the door because you’ve decided the game’s over? There’s still time left. Don’t take the chance that you may miss the very moment when the momentum shifts in your favor. You may be giving up just before the breakthrough. Praying to God right now and telling Him that you can’t see any way your situation can change but that you know that He is more than able to turn your loss into a win, may just be the game-changer you’ve been waiting for. Don’t miss that moment when the heavens erupt into a chorus of cheers because you hung in there and made the decision that you’re not giving up until you have a victory. It can happen. You’re moment is coming. Don’t find yourself on the outside when it comes. Take a seat and ride it out. Your comeback is playing out right now – and trust me, you don’t want to miss one second of it.

Seriously, Is It Worth It?

More often than I would care to admit this very question enters into my mind. Sometimes it actually makes its way out of my mind as I utter the words aloud in disbelief. Why, you ask, does this question frequent my thoughts? Blame it on Pride and her ugly, little step-sister, Stubbornness. All too often I encounter people who allow pride and stubbornness to keep them from something or someone they really wish they had if the truth be known.

So many of us allow our own pride to keep us from the very thing we want. Our pride and stubbornness becomes the barrier to our blessing. And more often than not we find every other possible person or thing to blame other than ourselves. If only we could be willing to act in humility and to take the step to break down the barriers, we could experience the blessing of whatever it is our pride and stubbornness has kept us from. And from my own experiences, it normally takes far too long before we reach that point of surrender. Then we find ourselves wondering “why did I allow that to go on for so long?” Standing your ground for the sake of your pride will never be worth whatever momentary embarassment, shame or humiliation – real or imagined – that you may feel. I promise.

What is your pride and stubbornness keeping you from? Is it the reconciliation of a relationship you once valued but one “offense” is keeping you from each other because neither is willing to take the first step toward an apology? Is it peace within your household because you and your spouse have decided to keep a scorecard on each other (“he did that so I’m going to do this”)? Is it freedom from the bondage of sin because you are unwilling to admit that your friends and family are right and that you really do have a problem and need help? Are you missing out on all the ways that God wants to bless your life because you are unwilling to surrender control to Him? Are you in a perpetual cycle of financial struggle because you think you know better than God how best to manage your money? Do you have years of anger and resentment built up toward someone because you’re unwilling to forgive them for something that happened a lifetime ago? Do you refuse to stop rolling your eyes every time someone mentions your coworker’s name because you think she got the promotion that you deserved? Have you been giving your spouse the “cold shoulder” for three days because you absolutely WILL NOT be the first to say I’m sorry this time? Are you willing to risk your eternal salvation because you have taken the stand that it will be your decision when you’re good and ready and not because your wife keeps nagging you about the whole church thing?

Whatever you are missing out on because of pride and stubbornness, seriously, is it worth it? Let me answer that question for you, no! It’s not worth it! It never will be! So what are you waiting for? Get over yourself and humbly take the first step toward conquering Pride and Stubbornness in your life. Only you know what action you need to take but whatever it is, don’t waste another minute.

And for the record, a funny thing always happens when I release a tirade upon the shortcomings I see in others. God gently put his finger on an area of pride in my life and lovingly whispers “seriously, Renée, is it worth it?” And in that moment, humbled by His overwhelming grace and mercy that I will never deserve, I find myself once again crying out “Father, forgive me.” Won’t you do the same? It’s so worth it!

Who Am I?

In the show “Hannah Montana” Miley Cyrus played a young girl who had “the best of both worlds”. She was a normal kid by day and a superstar by night. Each episode revolved around Miley’s constant struggle to keep her secret double life under wraps. After four seasons the series wrapped up with Miley finally finding peace as she revealed to the world who she really was. In the end she no longer had the daunting task of “keeping up an appearance” and bearing the burden of trying to be someone other than her true self.

People project a certain image of themselves for many reasons. A person may want to showcase certain qualities they possess for a job interview by projecting  an image of confidence and professionalism. So they may carefully choose what they will wear in order to best communicate those characteristics that they want the employer to notice. Unfortunately, there are those who project a false image of themselves in order to gain something they desire. A person may project an image of trustworthiness and sincerity in order to gain the confidence of another, only to use that trust later to harm the individual. The horrific testimony of those victimized by Jerry Sandusky are an example of how he projected this type of false image throughout his life while in reality he was found guilty of committing the most evil crimes. While Jerry Sandusky is an extreme example of hidden secrets and leading a double life, there are some of us who regularly project an image that may be something other than the “real” us.

Many times we exert so much enery trying to project an image to the people around us because we fear that if they knew who we really were they would judge us, ridicule us or reject us. Although our motive for projecting a certain image may not be driven by selfish desires, those driven by fear and insecurity are no less damaging.

I clearly remember a time in my life when I lived my own double life. I had two sets of “friends”, two different physical appearances, two very different attitudes that drove two very different behaviors. There was a certain image I projected to my parents, employer and certain friends in school and a completely opposite image I projected to my other set of so-called “friends”.  It was an exhaustive juggling act attempting to ensure the lines didn’t get crossed and I ended up exposed. Trying to keep my darker side secret was more than I could handle. What I allowed people to see on the outside – the image that I was happy, had it all together – was in complete opposition to what was really happening on the inside of me that was visible to no one. I was lost, full of shame and regret, and completely falling apart. I worked very hard keeping that part of me sealed away from the outside world.

But God saw the very part of me that I thought was hidden from view from everyone. When I reached my lowest point God revealed Himself to me when I turned to Him in desperation. And through the overwhelming love I felt from Him through my prayers of hopelessness and through believers who reached out to me, I was able to bring into the light my darkest places.  I repented of the things I had been doing and experienced the freedom from the burden of having to keep such destructive secrets and behaviors in the dark. And what I thought would happen when I imagined being exposed was nowhere nearly as bad as my worst imagination. While there were those who did turn away from me, it was for my best that they were no longer part of my life. Those who really cared for me were overwhelmingly supportive.

I began to spend time working on a new image – an image in Christ. Through discipleship with strong, Godly women, reading my bible and prayers of newfound hope, I began to understand my true identity, my identity in Christ. The more time I spent in His presence the more my life was transformed into His image. I began to believe who He says I am in His word and not who others said I was or how I saw myself. I no longer had the desires to do the things I once had. My desire was to do the things that would be pleasing in His sight. I no longer was insecure about who I was, I gained confidence in who I am in Christ. I no longer feared someone finding out about the real me, I rejoiced in the fact that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by my Father in Heaven (Psalm 139:14). I was no longer bound by guilt, shame and regret. I was captured by freedom, victory and His unconditional love for me.

In Christ I am fully redeemed and I am the righteousness of Christ. But I still live in a sin-filled world and although my soul (my mind, will and emotions) desires to do what is right, it doesn’t have the ability to do so (Romans 7:18). So, my journey is not over and I am still daily seeking God’s presence until the time when both my soul and my spirit are aligned. It’s not until I stand in His presence in heaven and out of the presence of sin on earth that I will be fully glorified (Romans 8:18, 1Cor. 15:53). But until that time I have the assurance of who I am in Christ. I know that as a believer, if I am projecting any image other than that of Christ then I’m projecting a false image. My identity in Christ is the only legitimate image I was created to project. Anything else is an illegitimate, false persona that He never intended for me.

Are you struggling to find your identity? Have you allowed others to tell you who you are? As a believer, have you lost sight of the promises of God that say you are forgiven, blessed, a new creation set free from the bondage of sin, accepted and redeemed. Or are you someone who has never known that it was even possible to be forgiven and set free from the shame and guilt of the darkest areas of your life? It is possible for those who believe in Jesus, who died for your sins so that you could have a new identity in Him. If you’re in an identity crisis in your life, seek God and surrender your life to Him. He will give you a new life and a new identity, one set free from the weight of trying to be something other than who He created you to be. No matter who you might think you are, you are loved and chosen by God and your true identity is in Him.

Ignoring the Warning Signs

My youngest son Scott has been fascinated with all things Titanic for several years now. He has read many books about the most well-known ship in history and knows countless facts and details about the fateful night in 1912 that she hit an iceburg and sank. One year for his birthday we visited the Titanic museum and spent hours looking at actual pictures and artifacts from the ship. There is just something about the Titanic that most of us find captivating.

Scott recently shared with me some incredible circumstances and procedural failures that occured leading up to one of the greatest maritime disasters in history. I was astonished at the number of missed warning signs that, had they been heeded, could have prevented such profound calamity. The ship received a least 6 ice warnings the day of its sinking but most were ignored.

One of the warnings came late in the evening and detailed a large number of icebergs in the Titanic’s path. But because the wireless system had been down the day before, the crewman on duty had a stack of priority passenger messages to send out. He wrote down the warning, set it aside and it was never delivered to the bridge.

The crew on duty in the crow’s nest, whos specific assignment was to look out for ice, were doing so without the use of binoculars because the prior shift had misplaced them. When the crew did spot a huge iceberg directly in front of the ship, the first officer misjudged the distance to impact and hesitated to give a command. After a 30-second delay, he made the decision to slow down and attempt to turn away from the iceberg. If the engines had been left at full speed and Titanic turned immediately after the iceberg was spotted, the ship would have likely missed the iceberg, with a fair distance to spare.

Finally, the ship’s builders advised White Star Lines that the ship could hold many more life boats than the number that was legally required. But White Star chose not to add any additional lifeboats even though they knew they didn’t have nearly enough for all the passengers onboard because ironically they felt it would be too expensive for the most luxurious and costly ship ever built. Because of this decision and lack of preparedness among the crew, many lives were lost at sea that could have been saved.

So many times our lives are like the Titanic disaster – filled with warnings of imminent danger that we both ignore and are ill-prepared to handle. When we are living in a cycle of destructive behavior it seems like everyone but us can see that we are forging full steam ahead on a collision course full of damage and regret. But we seem blinded to the glaring obstructions right in front of us, many times until its too late to avoid them. Why is that? Why do we choose to ignore the obvious when we know the actions and decisions we are making are hurtling us toward personal and relational destruction? I’ve been in that very place in my life and have wondered many times why I continued on a course that I knew was going to lead me down the wrong path.

I had responded to the gospel and believed Jesus had died for my sins when I was 13 years old. I asked for His forgiveness and according to God’s word, I was born again. Like the Titanic I was a magnificant new creation – unsinkable and a beauty to behold. But without the proper preparation and the right people in place to keep me afloat I quickly fell for the doubts of the naysayers who said that I really hadn’t changed. Without people in my life to disciple me and teach me how to walk out my new faith long after the emotional experience of responding to the gospel had passed, I found myself ill-equipped to battle the deceptive ways of the enemy. I thought that if I made a mistake, I didn’t deserve to be blessed, to be happy and to live a life worthy of being called a Christian. The first mistake I made led to the next and I quickly found myself believing the lie that God no longer loved me because I didn’t measure up. I had failed Him and I deserved to hit that iceberg head on and the resulting damage was inevitable for my life.

But I learned in time that unlike the Titanic, a life in Christ is unsinkable. There may be icebergs in our lives but through repentance the resulting damage of our sin can be repaired if we will seek God’s forgiveness and turn away from our sins and back toward Him. And unlike the staff and crew of the Titanic, we must be prepared and we must be aware of the warning signs when they appear. The key to being prepared is building strong foundations in our lives based on the spiritual truths of the bible. We must have people in our lives that will speak the truth to us in love and let us know when we have veered off course. We must spend time in God’s presence through prayer and reading His word. We must get involved in small groups to build relationally with other believers who can encourage and disciple us in our walk. We must attend and serve in a local church. And we must commit to daily seek God’s will for our lives through obedience to His commands.

Are there warning signs in your life that you are choosing right now to ignore because you think you deserve to crash head-on into the iceberg you’re facing? Have you failed to prepare and instead of minor damage, you may receive grave damage when you do hit an iceberg? If you are a born-again Christian, do you know that you are an unsinkable, magnificant new creation? Do you know it’s not too late to repent and turn back to God in order to get back on course? Don’t let the avoidable sink you and cause your life to end up a tragic tale of missed warnings. Let this be your warning – it’s time to start building an unsinkable life in Christ.

Do Unto Others

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Remember that one? Anyone over the age of twenty-five has surely heard their parents utter those words to them at some time or another. I know I did – not so sure I lived by them but it’s not because nobody ever said them to me. I’ve always heard that saying referred to as The Golden Rule so I figured it was just some nifty saying that a parent made up to try to make their kids play nice with other kids. It wasn’t until I was a parent myself that I found out that it actually comes from the bible (Matt. 7:12). Surely I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know that…….was I?

Today I overheard a conversation that was quite different from the Golden Rule while picking up some things in the local super center. A lady was on her phone telling who I’m guessing was her friend that she is “tired of always giving and getting nothing in return.” She went on to say that he, whoever he was, “is never going to change” and she’s “done being the only one who gives in this marriage- it’s over.” As I looked up at the woman on the phone I was saddened to see two small children in her cart. This conversation has become so common that it could have taken place anywhere, anytime in any town.

It’s become our culture’s way of thinking – What’s in it for me? Why should I bother when I’m not getting anything out of it? Nobody’s doing anything for me so why should I bend over backwards for them? I don’t care what you want – if you’re not going to give me what I want, then we’re done. You may never have heard the Golden Rule, but I can bet the farm you’ve heard someone you know or maybe even you yourself have said something similar to those comments. Many relationships today are based around this new rule that says “if I’m going to give of myself then I sure as heck better get something in return.” Oh, we want others to “do unto us” and we’re even willing to “do unto them” as long as it’s working both ways. But for many people today, the minute someone stops doing for us is the minute we stop doing for them and start planning our exit strategy. If you are married and you stand any chance of staying that way, you will have to do for your spouse during times when they are doing absolutely nothing for you. It’s a fact and it is guaranteed to happen to us all, married or not. There will come a time in your life that you will have to make a choice to continue to do for someone else who is doing absolutely nothing for you or you will choose to walk away. And it’s in that moment your choice reveals the motive of your heart. If your sole purpose for giving to and serving others is to see what you can get out of it for yourself, then you’ve missed the whole point. It’s not about you.

Jesus hung on a cross for you and me. He was beaten, spit upon and condemned of a crime for which He was completely innocent. He gave His life. And He did it all knowing that He would get nothing in return. The best we can ever offer Him in return for His selfless example of how to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us, is to love Him with all our hearts, soul, strength and mind. And, to do unto others as we truly would like for them to do unto us. Deep down we want others to love us unconditionally. We want them to be willing to give of themselves to us without expecting something in return. We want them to put us above all else in their lives. We want them to not just tell us but to show us how much we mean to them.  We want them to sacrifice things that are important to them in order to spend time with us. We want them to show their love for us by protecting us both physically and emotionally. We want them to have our back and to stand up for us when we come under attack. We want them to lead our homes and our families with honor and strength. We want them to be an example of strong values to our children. We want them to model to our children how to love your spouse sacrificially and unconditionally. We want them to be slow to anger and quick to forgive. We want them to be just like Jesus.

And yet. Why are we not willing to be like Jesus? Why are we so unwilling to love them like Jesus loves them? Why do we see every fault and point out every mistake when we should be seeing their God-given potential and calling out the greatness in them that God created them for? Why are we so quick to accuse and slow to forgive? Why are we so unwilling to give and so willing to take? Why are we so focused on our needs and so incapable of meeting the needs of others when there’s no reward for us? Why do we look to our relationships to meet our needs when we should be looking to Jesus as the example of sacrificial giving. Why do we keep score and ask “what have you done for me lately” instead of doing everything we can to point others to Christ by serving them without expectation of reciprocation? Why are we so quick to remember every wrong of those who hurt us and so quick to forget all Jesus did for us when He gave His life on the cross? Why do we ask God to change our spouses instead of crying out to Him “Lord! Change me!!”? You may never get what you want from whoever you are giving to. But when you serve them with the motive of showing them the same love that Christ has shown you, you will find the strength to continue and your life will be forever changed because of it.

It’s time to stop making a list in your mind of all the things you want changed about the person in your life who you think owes you something. Start asking God to show you His list of all the things in your life that need changing so that you can be more like Him. The Golden Rule is not just a nifty saying made up by parents – it’s God’s wisdom He shared with us through His word because He knew there would be times we’d forgot, times we’d become resentful, times we’d want to give up. And He knew in those times we’d need a reminder – if you want someone to do unto you, the key is to do unto them without expectation and with the motive of simply serving them. And God knew that when we do, just like when Jesus did on the cross, lives will be changed – starting with our own.

In a Fog

I’m not really sure what causes fog. I know there are certain conditions that must occur in the atmosphere for fog to be present, but what they are doesn’t really matter. Some days it’s just there and today was one of those days. What I do know tabout fog is that there are some times that it’s thicker than at other times. I also know it makes it difficult to see both the things that I know are there even though I can’t see them and the unknown things that I will only be able to see once I get through the fog. This morning when we turned the corner and headed straight toward my son’s school it looked at though the school was gone. We joked that we might as well go back home because he couldn’t go to school if the building had disappeared. Even though we knew it was there, we could no longer see it through the thick fog.

After I dropped him off and headed home I noticed the sun shining through the fog. The heavy fog had completely hidden the school building but the brightness of the sun could not be masked. It was not completely clear but there was no doubt that it was there. I thought about the years I lived my life in a fog. I spent many years unable to see that God was right there with me because I was living in sin that obscured Him from my view. I was unable to see what was right in front of me because I chose to focus my sight on my circumstances and not on Him.

This morning’s dense fog made me curious so I looked it up to find out more. Because of its characteristics, the term “in a fog” came to be used as a term for something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone’s thought processes. Looking back on my life I can definitely see that the way I chose to live my life obscured the way I saw things. And when you aren’t seeing things clearly you can easily become confused and misguided. Because of my immoral behavior and poor choices my view of what was true and what was real had become distorted. Somewhere along the way I had lost site of the truth of the gospel. I had forgotten about the redemptive power of my faith in Jesus Christ. I lived as though I was powerless to overcome the temptation of sin. I failed to see the way out that God had provided for me. (1Cor. 10:13). My life had spiraled so far down that the fog of my sins had completely blinded me to the love and forgiveness of my Savior. Not only was I blinded to what was right in front of me, but I had no hope for what the future held. The road ahead was hidden and I couldn’t see where I was headed. I just knew I was going in the wrong direction.

But God is faithful and He will never leave us nor forsake us. (Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5, Matt. 28:20). He had never left me. I had turned away from Him. When I was in 7th grade I believed that Jesus died for my sins and that He forgave me. But over time I believed the lies of the enemy that said God wasn’t pleased with me because I had failed to live up to a false standard I had placed on myself. I wrongly believed that if I wasn’t perfect then God wouldn’t love me any more. I never understood that I would continue to miss the mark throughout my life because I was and still am a sinner. So when I did fail, the guilt and shame of my sin caused separation and distance between me and God. But God’s grace allowed me to see that His forgiveness is still available to me today just as it was when I first received it in 7th grade. His forgiveness by no means gives me a license to sin. However, I know if I do sin and I’m truly repentant in my heart, He will forgive me now just as He did then. Now my obedience to God’s commands is not SO He will love me but it’s BECAUSE He loves me that I want to obey His word. There is no longer a pattern of blatant sin in my life because I have been set free from the control that sin had over me through Jesus. Now sin doesn’t have any power over me – through the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I can now overcome the temptation to sin. And I no longer carry the false burden of having to earn God’s love – I’ve come to understand that He gives it freely and all I have to do is receive it.

Just like the sun is what burns off the fog that covers everything on a foggy morning like today, it was the Son that made the fog in my life completely disappear. And like the sun today, God’s light cannot be covered up no matter how thick the sin is in your life. He’s always there shining through the darkness if we’ll just look up to see. As I look out the window now the fog has lifted and there are clear skies ahead. Where I couldn’t see my future before because the fog of my sin obscured what lie ahead, now my future is filled with hope. I’m no longer confused by what I see around me. I now clearly see God’s direction in my life because I spend time with Him in prayer and reading His word. The veil that kept me from seeing the truth has been lifted and I see the direction I want to be going in. I still make wrong turns sometimes but I never allow the fog to become so dense I can’t see my way back to the Son.

If you’re living in the fog of sin, first of all know that fog was never intended to be lasting and permanent and neither was the sin in your life. God never meant for you to remain in the bondage of sin. That’s why Jesus died on the cross – so you can be set free from the prison that sin holds you in. Secondly, you must look up to the Son. Look to the forgiveness that Jesus offers when we believe. The light of His love is right there shining through the fog in your life. Look to Him and believe – when you do the fog will disappear and you can begin to see clearly the love and peace of the One who has been right there waiting for you all along. Isn’t it time for you to stop living in a fog?

Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall

On June 12th, 1987 Ronald Reagan stood behind a podium in front of the Berlin Wall and issued a challenge to Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Soviet Union. President Reagan, in referring to the wall that had become known as the symbol of Soviet oppression, said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”. Those words are known as the most famous words of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Twenty-nine months later on November 9th, 1989 East Germany finally opened the Berlin Wall and by the end of that year work began to dismantle it completely. Although there is much debate over the amount of influence President Reagan’s words had on the destruction of the wall, it was an important moment in Cold War history.

During that time period there was an “invisible” wall of mistrust between the Soviet Union and the United States. Secretary Gorbachev had openly expressed his desire to increase freedom among the people living in the Eastern Bloc countries through glasnost meaning “transparency” and perestroika meaning “restructuring”. The tearing down of the Berlin Wall ushered in a change among the political climate of the time which eventually led to the dissolvement of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War by the early 1990’s.

The invisible wall between these two superpowers is very similar to the invisible walls that exist in our own lives – walls created by things that have become a stronghold that keep us imprisoned in the bondage of sin and unforgiveness. Many times these walls of strongholds are built by unforgiveness we have toward someone, by a feeling of rejection or betrayal from broken trust, unhealed wounds caused by hurtful words and actions of others and guilt from our own actions we deem too shameful to ever be forgiven.

Over the years I’ve come to know many women with such great potential to experience freedom, peace, joy, financial breakthrough, and fulfilling, loving relationships with their spouse and families. Many have come so close to seeing the sledgehammer swing to begin demolishing the walls that hold them captive. But each time they get close to demolition day the same lies, doubts and insecurities upon which their walls were built begin to consume them once again and all bets are off. God stands by waiting to shower us with His love, forgiveness and freedom from strongholds but many times our walls are so fortified that even a Navy Seal couldn’t break through them. And every time we turn away from God’s wrecking ball of freedom before our walls are shattered, the walls become even higher, stronger and more fortified.

During the Cold War the relationship between the former Soviet Union and the United States could not move forward until the invisible wall that separated and divided the two was torn down. It was not a physical barrier that kept the US out but a symbol of the guarded, protective and fearful nature of the communist government.

After we have been hurt, rejected or betrayed by someone, it is our nature to react the same way. Much like Mr. Gorbachev, our desire to be transparent and allow others to see what we are really hiding behind and our desire to bring into the light all that we have covered in darkness, must be stronger than our desire to continue to hide behind our walls.

Mr. Gorbachev spoke of being transparent but until his actions backed up his words, the Soviets remained veiled behind deception. We too must take action in order for the process of eliminating the barriers to our freedom in Christ can take place. We must not simply say we are forgiven, we must believe that when Jesus died on the cross and we confessed with our mouths that we believe in Him, then our sins were forgiven. Period. Until you truly believe that, you cannot begin to walk in the victory that freedom in Christ offers. You will remain in a perpetual cycle of discontent marked by an inability to find fulfillment no matter how hard you try. When you try to repair your problems on your own, you will find yourself continually striving to breakthrough what only God is able to tear down. You may come close to breakthrough when you try on your own but you’ll find yourself giving up every time just before it happens. True breakthrough happens when you surrender to Jesus Christ and allow Him to heal the broken places of your heart. You were never meant to do this life on your own. You were created to be in relationship with your Creator.

Are you tired of laying more bricks in an attempt to further fortify the walls around your heart? It’s time for the walls to come down so true and lasting healing can begin to take place. Stop trying to fix everything on your own and stop believing that over time things will get better. The truth is that the innermost hurts and insecurities that hold us captive from the freedom we long for can only be healed by the love and forgiveness found in Christ. Just as President Reagan in 1987 spoke to the oppression against the people of the former Soviet Union, my challenge to you today is to Tear Down This Wall! Your willingness to respond allows for your relationship with God to begin to move forward and for perestroika to take place. Let today mark the start to the restructuring process of your life being built on the foundation of the Rock.