Executing the Play


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

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

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

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

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

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

Is It Live or Is It Memorex?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back in the Saddle After Falling Off the Wagon


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

It’s Complicated


There is a relationship status option on Facebook that says “It’s Complicated”. Whenever someone changes their relationship from “married”, “engaged” or “in a relationship” to the dreaded “it’s complicated” it tells me, in most cases, one thing – that a fight has occured and neither wants to be the first to apologize. There’s even a song from the 1980’s called “Hard to Say I’m Sorry”. Why is it that those two little words can sometimes be the most difficult to utter? Often our apologies come in the form of a written note or card because for some reason we just can’t seem to bring ourselves to look the person in the eye and say “I’m sorry.” Why is that?

There have been many sermons, studies and books all exalting the freeing power behind forgiveness. We are told that unforgiveness will hold us in bondage – that it’s like drinking poison but expecting the other person to die. It’s a ball and chain that we drag around and will never be free from until we forgive those who cause us pain. It’s like a deadly virus that consumes us from the inside. There is no doubt about it – unforgiveness is toxic and it is vital for us to forgive others so healing can begin to take place and the bitterness and resentment we harbor can be removed from our lives. Sometimes the person you need to forgive may never apologize or the situation may not be one in which an apology is an option. However, that is not an excuse to not forgive the person.

But today I want to focus on the other side of the situation. What about when you are the one who needs to seek forgiveness instead of being the one to give forgiveness? When the circumstance allows for it and you are the one who needs to be forgiven then it is up to you to initiate the process. Because in many situations, long before the forgiveness can take place, there is a need for an apology.

Did you know that the recent devastating fires in Colorado were most likely started by one small spark caused by a single lightening strike? One spark that caused 2 deaths, the destruction of 300 homes,¬†and the evacuation of 35,000 residents and fueled the worst wildfires in the state’s history.

On Sunday, June 18, 1972 an obscure headline at the bottom of page 1 of The Washington Post would most likely have become irrelevant history had it not caught the eye of two young reporters who decided to dig deeper. Their curiosity and subsequent findings launched the investigation that would later be dubbed Watergate. One small story that ultimately changed American politics forever and resulted in the first resignation of a US President.

The social network Facebook was created in a dorm room on the campus of Harvard by four young college students who created a website to compare two people’s pictures side by side to determine “who’s hot and who’s not.” This seemingly useless game created for Harvard students has now become the world’s largest social network site with over 600 million users worldwide. One small, creative idea that led to the creation of a media giant that has influenced an entire generation.

And just like these examples, two small words,¬†I’m sorry, can be the spark that ignites the process in which forgiveness and healing begins to take¬†place. While it is true that there is power in forgiveness, I believe there is also power in apologizing. I am constantly dumbfounded by the number of people unwilling to take responsibility for their actions and to admit when they are wrong by apologizing. There are numerous reasons for this which I shared in a recent blog called “He Did It!……No, He Did It!” But my point is that when you are willing to humbly say the words “I’m sorry” you have the ability to set in motion a chain of events that can have the power to bring healing, restore relationships and bring closure to unresolved conflict.

Often I hear the question “who do you need to forgive in order to break free from the bondage of unforgiveness?” Today my question to you is “who¬†in your life¬†needs to receive an apology from you?” Don’t let two little words stand between you and a relationship that needs restoring. And don’t let your pride keep you from being the one to take the first¬†step forward and say “I’m sorry”. Today is the day to uncomplicate things and let the healing begin. It’s just two little words – how complicated can it be?

Why Me?


I’m having a pity party today and you’re all invited to join me. I’ve been kinda sad the last couple of days and really feeling sorry for myself. I want so badly to do the right things but just can’t seem to avoid failing on a regular basis.

I think it all started the other night when I had eaten pretty good throughout the day but then when it came dinner time I enthusiastically said “let’s order pizza!”. I started thinking about all the times my mind thinks one way but then my flesh heads off in a completely different direction like “why do I say I want to eat healthier but just suggested we order pizza knowing full well that I will eat my fair share and feel guilty afterwards?”

Why do I head¬†out the door to go to CrossFit then wimp out and go on an easy hike at a nearby park instead? Why do I say I want to read the bible more and spend more time with God but then sit down and watch a TV show that makes me feel dumber for having done so? Why do I spend way too much time checking social media sites or reading blogs when I should be spending time with my children who are¬†growing up right before my eyes? Why do I vow to have more grace and patience with my grandmother who lives with us yet still get so frustrated when she asks me the same question for the fifth time? Why do I commit to being less selfish but find myself constantly thinking ‘what about me’?¬†Why do I plan to cut down on spending but then give in so easily to temptation when I see a cute purse or a great pair of shoes?

I ended my negative rant with comparing myself to “better” Christians (big mistake)¬†and thinking “Why me?!”

“Why can’t I get it together? Why do I have to keep struggling with the same stuff over and over? What’s wrong with me!?”

It was in that moment that the Holy Spirit whispered to me “you have the right¬†question but the¬†wrong perspective.”

I started to think about what that meant. I was hiking at the time¬†at the park (after chickening out of CrossFit yet again) and was just emerging from the woods to the area where the path takes you around a lake. I looked up and saw a group of ducks all moving¬†across the lake in a single file line. I stopped and just stared in wonder at the beauty and amazement of God’s creation. My thought in that moment was “why me?”.

Why God, when I’m in the midst of my pathetic whining, You allow me to see how You designed Your creation so perfectly and purposefully? Why do You allow me to feel¬†how much¬†You love¬†me¬†in the very moment that I’m complaining about how terrible I think I’ve got it? Why do You reveal Yourself to me at¬†a time when I least deserve it?

Why do I have a husband who loves me and is committed to our marriage when others are dealing with infidelity, addiction and abuse? Why do I get to be the mother to two amazing young men while I have friends who have children in and out of rehab or worse, jail? Why I am blessed to be able to be a stay-at-home mom when I know many single moms who have to work more than one job to just get by? Why am I in such good health yet have friends who have to go for cancer treatments every week?

Why am I able to freely worship You and study Your word while just this week Christians were killed during their Sunday morning worship service in Kenya? Why do you allow me the privilege of ministering to young, military wives when I feel so unworthy? Why am I so blessed?

With tears streaming down my face, again I asked “Why God? Why me?” And again the Holy Spirit whispered to me saying “because there is nothing you can do to deserve my blessings. I bless you because I love you. And even though you mess up every day, I know you love Me with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. And even when you make wrong choices, I know you want more than anything to be in the center of My will for your life.”

I don’t know why my life is so blessed when there are so many who are suffering, lonely and hopeless. There are so many things in this world that doesn’t make sense and isn’t fair. I will never understand much of what occurs this side of heaven.

What I do know is that we live in a sin-filled world where there are many horrible things that happen. I also know that while God is in control and He does allow these things to happen, He does not cause them to happen nor is it His desire for there to be so much suffering and pain.

I also know that it’s all temporary. The bad that happens in our world will come to an end some day. God will restore things to the way He planned for them to be from the beginning before sin entered into His creation. And I do know that what the enemy intended for harm, “God intended¬†it for good¬†to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20).

I know that even though I fail every day, God’s¬†love for me is unfailing. I know that when I think I’ve got it bad, all I have to do is look around to see how very blessed I am and that there are others who need my prayers and encouragement. I know that when I’m in the middle of a pity party that God loves me too much to let me stay there for long.

I know if you are onboard the pity train right now¬†God wants you to change your perspective so you can see how very much He loves you and He wants to bless you with an abundance of¬†His peace, joy, healing and freedom. He wants you to love Him with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to seek His will for you life, not your own. I know He wants to return to you what the enemy has tried to take. I know that like me, you have so much to be thankful for if you’ll just look around.

I know God longs to spend time with you and is always by your side even when you feel all alone. I know that God says to cast your cares upon Him because His yoke is easy and His burden is light. (Matt. 11:30). I know that while we will always have to¬†fight our sinful nature and sometimes I feel like I’m¬†losing the battle, the bible says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And I can live victorious¬†in Christ because the battle was won when He¬†overcame death on the cross.

I know it’s time to quit focusing on how bad you’ve got it and start focusing on¬†the One whose love for you is immeasureable and unconditional. It’s time to claim victory over the sin you struggle with in the name of Jesus. And I know it’s time for the pity party to be over, don’t you agree?

A Change of Fate


In Disney’s latest animated blockbuster, “Brave”, the movie’s heroine Merida is described as “impetuous” and “determined to carve her own path in life.” She defies her parents and the custom of her day in order to determine her future’s course. Because it had been promoted relentlessly, my whole family could quote lines from the movie before it was ever released. And my son has a knack for imitating other people’s voices and accents so every time the movie trailer comes on TV, Scott says in a thick Scottish accent, “If ya had the chance to change your fate, wud ya?” I’m laughing now as I write this because I just had him come say it for me and it cracks me up every time.

There was a time in my life when I was very much like Merida. I was free-spirited, independant and believed I was in control of my destiny. And just as the impulsive red-headed Merida, I would make rash decisions based on my emotions. Although I believed I was in charge of my destiny, I spent little time considering the consequences that the choices I was making would have on that destiny. And many times, just like Merida, my hasty, emotional decisions unleashed chaos in my life.

Today the idea of trusting in myself and attempting to control my own fate is something I want no part of. The old “been there, done that” comes to mind and believe me, where I was going and what I was doing was was not working. Back then, the way I figured it, the outcome of my life was inevitable and I didn’t hold much hope that is would be a favorable one. But I thought that I, alone, could change that fate – I honestly believed I had the power to change the course of my life. But what I didn’t know then was that as long as I continued to live in sin, the course my life was taking would never change and I lacked the ability to change it no matter how hard I tried.

The other problem with thinking I had the power to change fate was that I didn’t take into account my impulsive nature and my emotions that always got in the way. So even though I tried hard, things seemed to be headed toward the fate I thought I had the ability to alter. I had put all my trust in myself to overcome the hand that I had been dealt. But after several poor choices and their negative consequences, I began to believe that I really didn’t have any control over my fate and my life was spiraling toward the end result I had once believed I had the power to change.

It was fifteen years ago when I reached my rock bottom and I decided it was time to quit trying to run my own life. I had messed it up to the point that I had almost lost my marriage, I was in debt, and I had no hope for the future. It was in those darkest moments I realized that I really was in control of my fate – only it was definitely not in the way that I had imagined. I finally understood that in my attempt to control and thus change the course of my life, I was actually steering it in the exact direction I wanted to avoid. And I can now see that if I had continued, my life would have turned out just like I had come to expect it to. But thankfully God had a different plan for my life. He had created me with a destiny and a hope. But until I surrendered control to Him and sought His will for my life instead of my own, I would never reach the pre-ordained, perfect destiny He created me for.

What I learned in that difficult and challenging season of my life was that my fate was still dependant upon my choices. But at that point, I made a choice that would put my destiny in God’s hands, not my own. My future would no longer be dependant upon a predetermined outcome influenced by my choices, my circumstances, my family history, or what someone else negatively spoke over my life. It would be based on my faith and trusting in God’s promises for my life. In the spring of 1998 I chose to surrendered my life to Christ and began to put my trust and my faith in Him to determine the course of my life.

Fate implies an inevitable, usually unfavorable outcome. I learned the hard way that when you believe in fate you are saying that your life course cannot be changed and there is no hope to overcome your wrong choices, your mistakes or your misfortunes. The course has been set and you’re living each day moving toward an unavoidable conclusion. You may believe you can change your fate but as young Merida and I both discovered, taking your fate into your own hands only produces chaos. While there are those who are able to temporarily alter their fate by the choices they make, they will never be able to change the final outcome when they choose to live in sin. The bible says the wages of sin is death. If we choose sin over God our fate will always be eternal death (Romans 6:23). Our fate is ultimately determined by our unwillingness to surrender control of our lives. But God alone determines our destiny.

But when you live by faith, you are not affected by circumstances, past mistakes and wrong decisions. Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is not based on our negative thoughts or how things appear to be going in our lives. Faith means we are trusting that God is in control even we we cannot see the evidence of it. And when your faith is in Him you have hope in a destiny He predetermined for you, one that will have a great and noble end.

If ya had the chance to change your fate, wud ya? Your answer should be a resounding YES! The first step is coming to the realization that you are not in control, God is, and that you are in desperate need for Him to be both Lord and Savior of your life. And while He does give us free will to make our own choices for our lives, our choices will never lead us to the destiny we were created for. We will simply become overwhelmed and frustrated as we hurdle toward a fate we were never intended to encounter. The next step is to surrender your life to Christ and to put your faith and your trust in the One who determined your destiny long before He ever created you. No outcome you can imagine in your wildest dreams will ever compare to His good and perfect will for your life. So break free from the burden of trying to determine your own fate and let God lead you into your destiny – your life will never be the same!

Going In the Basement


One of my favorite radio hosts of all time is Jim Rome. He’s the host of a¬†syndicated sports talk radio program and¬†has also hosted a sports TV show on ESPN. He is probably best known for the quirky phrases he uses regularly on his show. One of the funniest is when he says he’s “going in the basement ” in place of saying¬†he is going to be on vacation. Going in the basement simply means he wants to get away from everyone and will be unavailable until he reemerges from the so-called¬†“basement”.

One thing I’ve noticed in people is their tendency to “go in the basement” whenever they believe they’ve disappointed God. They believe they cannot return to church, their small group or communicate with other believers because they’ll be judged. So they respond by isolating themselves from the very place and people who they should be running to, not from. The bible says “for all have sinned¬†and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The word used is all, not some, but all. But when we sin the enemy wants us to believe that we are the only one who is not living a holy and perfect life. We shy away from the fellowship of other believers because we wrongly think that they will know what we’ve done and will judge us. We also falsely believe that we must perform a certain way for God and that if we don’t measure up He will not love us anymore and we will no longer be close to¬†Him. Once you are born again you are never separated from God. You may feel separated because of sin in your life but you are never really separated from Him. But so many people believe the lie of the enemy that says “if¬†you don’t behave the way¬†God expects you to then¬†God will disown you”¬†so they isolate themselves,¬†hide from God and won’t come back to church out of fear of being judged. There are no guarantees that there will not be those who may pass judgement because believers are called to judge fellow believers (not unbelievers)¬†by their fruit and to hold them accountable in love and grace (Matt. 7:16-20, John 7:24, 1Cor. 5:12-13). But the response to that form of judgement¬†is not to run from¬†everyone. It’s a good thing that there are those who want only God’s very best for your life and who¬†will help you to return to rightstanding with God.¬†The church is filled with Godly men and women who understand they are not in a position to judge as they¬†themselves are¬†sinners too but are willing to share their wisdom and experience with new believers.

The “basement” is a dark and lonely place where we isolate ourselves from the encouragement, accountability and life-giving prayer and support of fellow believers. And this is exactly where the enemy wants you to be. If you ever watch animal shows on National Geographic you’ll notice that the animals travel in herds or packs. They do so because there is safety in numbers. The same is true for us. There is safety in the accountability and support of the local church and spiritual family. But when the predators attack an animal herd, their strategy is to isolate an individual from the group. They do so because the individual that is separated from the group is a much easier target to take down than when they are connected to the rest of the herd. Typically it is a weaker, younger animal that tends to separate from the group because they lack the experience and knowledge on how to safely stay with the rest of the herd. The enemy of our souls seeks to isolate us from our spiritual family because he knows we become an easy target when we are on our own without the support and help of a group of believers. And he targets the newer believers who have not yet had the opportunity to firmly lay the spiritual foundations in their lives that will give them the knowledge and experience they need to know how to call on others and to use the¬†tools God provides for us¬†during a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:11-18). Because they are a target of the enemy, it is even more vital for newer believers to run to God and their spiritual family when they battle sin and to firmly resist the temptation to remain isolated and alone.

If you feel separated from God the first thing you must realize it that you are not, you only feel that way because of sin in your life. You will never be perfect and you will continue to make mistakes along the way. You must accept that. But you don’t have to stay that way.¬†And you can be assured that God’s love for you is not performance based. You do not have the ability¬†to make God not love you. And you can never do anything so great that¬†God will love you more than he does now. Likewise,¬†you can never do anything so bad that He will love you less. His love for you is immeasurable and it will endure forever so stop trying to make Him love you more and stop believing the lie that He loves you less because of something you’ve done. When you sin your response must be to repent and turn away from that sin. Then you have to get out of the darkness of the “basement” and back into the light of God’s house and fellowship with other believers.¬†You will find protection, encouragement and support when you are firmly connected to other believers through the local church. In spiritual family you will find people willing to stand alongside¬†you and to battle the enemy on your behalf through prayer as they help you bear the weight through¬†difficult seasons. It’s time to emerge from the basement and reconnect with the¬†God who never left your side by returning to church and the fellowship and support of other believers. You weren’t created to battle alone so now’s the time to stop trying and rejoin your herd where¬†you’ll find there truly is¬†safety in numbers.

Is It Really Worth It?


The funny thing about knowing that your child will be heading off to college in a few short months is that there is a sense of urgency that overtakes you to wrap up every loose end that you’ve put off until now. The wisdom teeth that should’ve been taken care of a year ago, the allergy shots that should have been started 2 years ago and sorting through clothes to donate to Goodwill have all suddenly made their way to the top of the “To Do” list. I am the quintessential procrastinator and I am sorely paying for it right now as we madly dash around town to various doctor and dentist appointments.

One of our first stops was a follow up visit to our favorite allergy doctor.¬†We talked about symptoms and specifically we discussed¬†nightime congestion and the use of over-the-counter medication for relief. The doctor explained how the medications work and what the trade-off is when you use them. He said “you can get almost immediate relief and breathe freely through the night but I must warn you that 12 hours later you will be more congested than before you ever used the medicine in the first place. It’s up to you to determine if it’s really worth it.” Wow, isn’t the temptation to sin exactly like that?

Every day we are faced with temptations, some carrying much more potential for damage than others. It’s one thing for me to be tempted to eat ice cream and to give in to that temptation but it’s quite another when you are tempted to commit adultery, have a drink after having been sober for an extended time or to choose to do something unethical at your workplace that could cost you your job. But we must understand that there is no harmless, little sin. All sin is devestating to our souls and leads to death. However,¬†sometimes we are overcome by our desires and we find justification to give in to sin knowing that there will be instant gratification in doing so. But what we many times fail to consider is that the consequences that come later will cause us to be in a far worse condition than before we made the choice to sin in the first place. Even if we are already knee deep in sin it will never be worth it to choose to sin more.¬†And long after the false sense of fulfillment that comes immediately after choosing to sin has passed, we are left with a feeling of emptiness along with the mounting damage sin causes and the weight of guilt. Most of the time we cannot foresee or possibly imagine the ultimate destructive results of our momentary choices. But in that moment we find justifications to make the wrong decision, even in the times when we have some sense of what the outcome will be. In our minds we determine it will be worth it and we choose the trade-off.

But is it ever really worth it? You may think it is at the time. I may enjoy a piece of cheesecake and think “I can work out later and burn (some of) those calories so it was totally worth it”. But the problem with that way of thinking is that I fail to account for the long term damage a little bit of indulgence in the moment can cause. Over time my giving into the cheesecake every once in awhile becomes more frequent and thus harder to overcome. It’s the same with sin. We think just a little indulgence here and there won’t hurt but over time the damage builds, our ability to resist decreases, our justification turns to entitlement and our desire to seek forgiveness fades. Each time we choose to sin instead of choosing to turn away from sin, we are placing a new brick in the wall that we are slowly building up around ourselves – a wall that keeps God and those who want to help us out. The higher we build the wall, the harder it is to tear down.

So what do we do to keep that wall from being built? We must resist sin in the first place. And how do we resist sin? We spend time daily in the presence of God. The enemy is an expert at deception and he wants nothing more than for us to fall into his traps and make sin the lord of our lives instead of Jesus. But Jesus died for our sins so that we can be set free from the bondage that takes places when sin controls our lives. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we no longer have to be bound by sin. The more we spend time in the presence of God by talking with Him through prayer, worshipping Him through music, serving others and giving, and by building our faith through reading His word, the less likely we will be to fall into the traps laid by the enemy. There is nothing wrong with building a wall in your life as long as you are building a wall of protection from temptation laid with a firm foundation of discipleship instead of building a fortress that isolates you from the righteousness of God.

The choice is yours to make. Do you want a fortress built on the long term consequences resulting from the short term false sense of satisfaction that sin produces? Or do you want to build life long protection against the destruction sin causes so that you may have lasting peace and joy? As our allergy doctor said – the choice is yours but I must warn you, if you choose to sin in the moment, you will be in a far worse condition later than you were before you chose to sin in the first place. It’s better to begin now to seek God for the healing you need in your current condition than to continue to build the fortress that will only make it more difficult later. Make sure whatever you choose, that you consider if it’s really worth it. Jesus did when He decided you were worth dying for on the cross. He could have made the choice for instant relief but He knew if He did then things would only be worse later. He resisted the temptation of the moment and chose to suffer knowing the long term consequences of His short term discomfort, even the excruciating discomfort He suffered, would result in victory over sin for all who seek forgiveness and believe in Him. There has never been a choice more worth it than His choice on the cross. Remember that the next time you are faced with the choice to sin, and then think about the moment Jesus decided you were really worth it.