I Was Wrong


thYBQHQ7S5Have you ever noticed that there are not many people these days admitting when they are wrong? I see lots of  people in the news media pointing fingers and placing blame but rarely do I hear someone utter the words “I was wrong”.  Take for instance our government – have you ever seen so much name calling and accusations as we see between the political parties that are responsible for running our country?

And what about celebrities caught in scandals? They are masters at spinning their story to make it appear as if they are just an innocent victim of someone else’s wrong doing. Even when they do get caught completely red handed, their apologies are often half-hearted and insincere. Think Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton and Paula Deen.

th27YG3WKMThe problem with never accepting responsibility for your mistakes is that you can never receive forgiveness for something until you are first willing to admit that you were wrong. So you spend your life carrying around the guilt and shame of your wrongdoing because you are unwilling to take the blame for it. Placing the blame on someone else is the enemy’s way to keep us from the freedom of being forgiven.

God never intended for us to carry the burden of our sins and believe me, it is a burden! The weight of guilt can be overwhelming. That’s why God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we may be forgiven and set free from the burden of sin. But to receive that forgiveness and freedom we must first admit that we were wrong. If you’re blaming others, then it places the responsibility on them to seek forgiveness for something you’ve done. You can’t receive forgiveness if someone else is seeking it in your place so you continue to drag along the ball and chain of guilt.

thL00ECGNONobody causes us to sin. It’s our choice. So why is it so hard to say “I was wrong”? There are many reasons why we find it difficult – pride, shame, embarrassment, and selfishness to name a few. Sometimes we think it’s understood by the person we’ve hurt and that we shouldn’t have to admit our wrongdoing. Other times we think too much time has passed and it’s pointless. The reality is that until we humble ourselves, go to God to admit our sin, and seek His forgiveness, we will be trapped in the enemy’s snare of unforgiveness. The longer we wait, the heavier the weight we carry and the harder our hearts become.

So what’s keeping you from admitting you were wrong? Is it worth hanging onto? Is the burden of your unwillingness to admit your mistake weighing you down? Today is the day to be set free by taking responsibility of your choices, going to God and saying these words….I was wrong, please forgive me. It’s truly that easy to experience the freedom of forgiveness. 

 

You’re Not Entitled


thCCETYUECToday there seems to be an overbearing sense of entitlement in our country. Many people believe they are entitled to various things such as being treated a certain way, certain benefits and earnings or certain material items. Some even believe they are entitled to happiness. Many of those who have these expectations have put forth very little effort to earn the very things they believe they are entitled to.

Even those who don’t think they have this attitude can quickly find themselves harboring feelings of entitlement that they may be completely unaware of. Take my husband for example. There is a gentleman he works with that brings my husband a Dr. Pepper to work every day. Not some days, not occasionally, but every day. My husband never asked for him to bring the Dr. Pepper. He just did so because he noticed Dave would sometimes buy one from the vending machine and he began bringing one in for Dave because he’s a kind and thoughtful person. Dave looked forward to the drink every day and knew he could rely on his friend to bring him one.

Then one day his friend failed to bring him a Dr. Pepper. He had run out and hadn’t had a chance to go to the store. Dave confessed to me when he got home from work that he actually felt deprived that he didn’t get his daily dose of Dr. Pepper. Although his friend didn’t owe him the drink, had never asked if Dave  wanted the drink or forced it upon him but simply offered him the drink each day out of the goodness of his heart – Dave felt he was entitled to it. And when he didn’t get what he felt was owed to him, he felt disappointed.

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It happens sometimes without our even realizing it. We begin to believe we deserve more than we do. We take on the attitude that we are owed something. And most of the time it’s something we know we haven’t earned. We just want it and we want it now.

There is one thing and one thing only that we are entitled to. And ironically, it’s the one thing we deserve the least. We are entitled to the free gift of salvation. What we really deserve is the punishment Jesus Christ endured on the cross for us. But His love for us is incomparable. Instead of allowing us to receive what we deserve, He gave His life so that we can be forgiven and set free from the power that sin holds over our lives. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. And by doing so He ensured our entitlement to an eternity with Him in heaven if only we’ll  believe (Romans 10:9).

On this Memorial Day I want to share with you a wonderful saying I saw posted online. It said “Today I give thanks for the two defining forces who have offered to die for me and you – Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for our souls and the other died for our freedom.”

Please join me in giving thanks not only to those serving our country who sacrificed all but to the One who sacrificed to give you what He thinks you deserve.

You and What Army?


When I was in middle school a common response when someone threatened to “beat another person up” was – “oh yea? you and what army?” In other words – “if you think you’re gonna take me down you better bring an army along with you because you’re gonna need it.”

Last night our cat, Dakota, was sitting on our porch minding his own business when the neighborhood bully cat started to head in his direction.  From the window I saw Dakota crouching lower and lower hoping to be invisible to his approaching nemesis. As the bully cat quickened his pace, I dropped what I was doing and ran straight to the door. As soon as I opened the front door the bully cat stopped in his tracks. I told Dakota to come inside but he didn’t budge. I yelled at the cat thug to go back where he came from. He didn’t budge. I turned to my husband sitting on the couch and said “I think we’re fixin’ to have a problem.”

Suddenly Dakota realized he was not alone. He had an “army” of me, Dave and my son, Scott all standing behind him and looking on. He leaped from the porch and headed straight toward the bully cat. His new-found boldness came from knowing that we were there and that we would protect him. So he decided to take the offensive and run the cat thug out of his yard and away from his home. Even though Dakota was pretty much powerless on his own because he was smaller and doesn’t have his front claws to fight with, in the moment he knew he had the strength t0 battle, not because of his own power but because of the power of those who stood with him.

thFNW1G6IRAs Christians we don’t have to battle our enemy, the devil, alone. Against such a formidable foe, we are virtually powerless in our own strength. But when we have God and His army of angels to wage war on our behalf, we can battle with confidence knowing the victory has already been won. But too many times we cower in fear when we face the enemy because we think we have to fight on our own. If we’d only respond by trusting that God is in the battle with us then we would confidently go after the enemy and chase him out of our lives whenever he comes near.

If the enemy is coming at you and threatening to attack remember that there is army in heaven ready to wage war. All you need to do is use the power you have available to you through prayer and call upon the promises of God’s word. Have faith in knowing that if we will submit ourselves to God and resist the devil then he will flee (James 4:7) and the victory will be ours.

Leave It To A Professional


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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Puzzle Pieces Come Together


thIRE44WN6I’m not much of a puzzle person. They seem like they would be fun to put together. But when I open the box and see all the pieces, I can’t envision the completed picture when all those pieces fit together. So I tend to give up before I even get started.

 

For the past 6 years God was putting together pieces of a puzzle in my life and I wasn’t even aware of it until it was completed. It all started when my family and I moved to Tennessee in 2007. We knew God was calling us there and we thought the reason was to take care of my grandmother. But six years later and with the puzzle complete I can see that there was so many more pieces that I didn’t recognize until the puzzle was completed.

 

Many times in our lives we can’t see how the challenges in our lives will fit together as part of God’s plan for us. We only see the individual pieces of our circumstances and fail to miss the big picture that He is creating. When we allow ourselves to focus on the chaos of all the pieces of the unformed puzzle, we miss the opportunity to trust God that He is putting all the pieces together according to His will for our lives. I spent most of the last 6 years focused on the individual pieces. I didn’t realize how God was putting it all together to form a beautiful picture of one of the most special seasons of my life.

 

Our move to Tennessee wasn’t an easy one. Florida was home. We had friends, church family, jobs and a wonderful home. We were excited to live near our family again but that’s where the excitement ended. But nevertheless, in December of 2007 we headed north – the first challenging piece of the puzzle.

 

We moved my 95 year old grandmother in with us almost immediately. It didn’t take long before all my preconceived expectations of having her live with us were shattered. Being a caretaker turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done – the 2nd piece of the puzzle. And I spent much of my time fixated on this piece of the puzzle and wondering why God would place me in such an arduous position for so long.

 

And then there were the other responsibilities. I was also a wife, a mom, a church administrator, a small group leader, a children’s ministry teacher, the chief housekeeper and yard person, a friend, and a daughter to parents who no longer lived hours away but mere minutes. Balancing it all had become the 3rd piece of the puzzle and it was demanding much of my attention.

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And then it happened. After almost 6 years there, I experienced a moment I can’t really explain, but I know was from God. One morning while getting ready for church, God revealed to me a beautiful completed puzzle. And in an instance He showed me all the precious puzzle pieces that I had missed along the way because I was too focused on the bigger, more difficult pieces that didn’t seem to fit into my plan. He showed me how the difficult pieces had to be part of the puzzle in order for all the others to fit into their place during this time in my life.

 

There were the people – I met some of the most incredible and courageous women I’ve ever had the privilege to know. The military wives I came to know during that time blessed me in ways they will never know. The fact that our paths crossed was no accident. It was a purposeful plan from God to reveal Himself to me through them. To be able to witness God work in and through them is a gift I will forever cherish.

 

There was our church – I’ve never served with people like the Godly men and women I served with at our church in Tennessee. I will be eternally grateful for the impact they had on me. I learned how to live out the command of loving God and loving others by their example. There truly isn’t a more dedicated and loving group of servant leaders on this planet. I am blessed for having had the opportunity to serve alongside them for that season.

 

There was my family – it  was a blessing to be able to live near my parents again. I was able to build on my relationship with them after many years of living several states away and to see my children develop a lifelong bond with them that had not previously existed. It was a precious experience that included creating memories we will never forget. I was also able to reconnect with family that I had not seen in years and introduce my children to family members they probably never would have had the chance to meet had we not moved there.

 

There were my friends – I have a new best friend that I wouldn’t have in my life had it not been for our time there. She is the best friend I’ve waited a lifetime for and was there to encourage me for 6 years while I was focused on my problem puzzle pieces instead of the big picture. And I was also able to reconnect with a childhood friend whose friendship proved to be one of the more precious puzzle pieces of them all. The two of them kept me encouraged and made me laugh during a time that could have easily consumed me.

 

There was my grandmother – what I thought was a struggle was simply a small piece of a much bigger puzzle. In seeing the worst of myself revealed through the frustrations of being a caretaker, I realized just how desperate I am for more of Jesus in my life. He showed His incredible love for me by moving me out of the comfort of my life in Florida to a place where He could show me the areas where I needed to be transformed more into His likeness. And it was through my grandmother that God showed me His compassion and His incredible love for those we may find to be not so loveable. To have her in our home and for my family to have that experience was invaluable.

 

thJXHSSNIWSo when the storms and challenges of life hit you, remember that they are only a small piece of an incredible puzzle that God is putting together in your life. Keep your focus on trusting Him and His ability in all things to work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The pieces may seem like a chaotic mess but God will place them in the exact order to reveal a picture He created especially for you. And when that finished puzzle is revealed you will see God’s amazing love for you and know every piece was worth it no matter how difficult it was.

Prisoner of War


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

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

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

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

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

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

My Soul Felt Its Worth


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Every Man For Himself


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Beyond the Crashing Waves


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

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

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

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

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

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

Assessing the Danger


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

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

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

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

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

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

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