Cultivate your inner gardener

An open book sitting on a bright red modern chair.I think it’s possible that each of us have had some kind of awakening or epiphany recently. Whether it’s discovering time for a new hobby, rediscovering what it’s like to spend real time with our family, or even reconnecting, in new ways, with people whom we’ve lost touch. This time of uncertainty in the world has wrought many challenges and at the same time brought many renewals, and revivals. Disclaimer: I would never want something like this to happen in the world and I am completely in awe each day by the stories of people who are demonstrating a level of bravery and sacrifice that is just plain remarkable. I continue to pray for all of us during this time for protection,  healing and provision.

What I have seen in my own life and in the lives of many of my friends, and family is a desire to know God better. A desire that cannot be quenched by binge watching Netflix, or reading the entirety of Oprah’s book list, or having a weekly Zoom meeting with everyone I know that doesn’t live in my house. Nothing can fill the space in my life that has been created for God alone. Yes, I said a space in our lives that was CREATED for God alone. For those of you asking, yes, it is a space in every person, everywhere regardless of their beliefs. We are all children of God, created in His image for His glory, so that space is in all of us.

In the words of C.S. Lewis, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” (Mere Christianity) We simply cannot fill the space created for God with anything other than God. What I am hearing a lot of, is people running out of things to try, and looking for what will work. People are hungry for that which can only be satisfied by Jesus.

Talking with my Pastor this week, we were discussing how there are more people watching Sunday service than normally attended pre-quarantine. With so many people in the world  looking for something to fill that space, our Sunday attendance has continued to grow. It’s a wonderful thing technology, how it can help connect people to each other and even to get out the message of our Lord. People are coming to know who Jesus is and why He came and what He did for each of us! It is a glorious thing!

Herein lies the challenge, and it’s one Paul faced with the church in Corinth. ” Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are sill worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NIV)

Paul preached Jesus and Him crucified to the Corinthians, they came to believe and formed a church. Paul shared with them all he knew about Jesus and the life of a Christian. However, when we are spiritually young we can not come to understand the deep things of Christ that He wants us to know so we can be more like Him.

OK, Betsy, what are you trying to tell us? I am trying to say that spiritual growth is a participatory sport, not a spectator sport. Yes, ultimately it is the work of the Holy Spirit in us that causes growth. However, we can not sit back in our lazy-boy and expect God to move us.

I love listening to sermons and messages from amazing Godly preachers. This week while I was listening to Priscilla Shirer, I was so engaged and inspired and I found myself wishing I possessed the knowledge of scripture that she had, her ability to know and understand and share the truth of God is anointed! Wow, I caught myself, I was (unconsciously) counting on her to pour scriptural knowledge into my head, instead of seeking it out for myself.

Let me be clear, God created and called people to be teachers and preachers. However, that does not relieve us of the responsibility to lean into God for ourselves. That was part of what Paul was facing with the Church in Corinth. They were arguing over who had the better teacher, were they followers of Paul or Apollos or Cephas? Our teachers are doing what they are called to do and they will be held to account according to that calling. Each of us, also will be held to account for what we have done with what God has given us. We won’t get to point to someone else and say, “they never told me that!”. No, we have been given a precious gift, a gift that the people of the first century Church didn’t have, we have the inspired word of God! We have NO excuse to stay in a place of spiritual immaturity.

When you think, and this goes for me as well, of the amount of time we spend trying to fill the space created for God with things created by God, we could probably have read the bible 5-times over by now.

There will always be things to do, people to see, and work to be done. Our lives are very full, (even though we can’t leave our homes or go to school or to church or the movies…you get the picture), the space is calling to us and nothing, I repeat NOTHING, will fill it except Jesus.

I love that we are finding ways to continue to share Jesus with the world. We need to also find ways to help people connect with Him in a real way outside of that initial experience. We need to find ways to grow spiritually with Christ, so that the birds of the air can’t come and snatch away the precious gift that has been planted in the lives of new believers.

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy.  But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

We need to cultivate the ground. Where possible we need to help others do the same, lead by example, show the way, lend a hand, cultivate your inner gardener. Get out of your chair and participate, you will not be disappointed.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Stingy Sowing

sowing reaping

I want you to picture a plot of land. It’s tilled, clean, no weeds; as a gardener myself it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing so exciting and full of expectation as a ‘yet to be planted’ harvest. Imagine what God sees as He looks down at us. However, what God sees is not a perfect, clean, weedless, fertilized, field of soil.

“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'” Matthew 13:3-8

When God is sowing, He is throwing seed (His word) toward us, wherever we are. We may be on a lonely path, in a time of life where nothing is penetrating into our hearts. We may be in a rocky time of life, and because of the difficulties in life we are unable to maintain growth without the root. Perhaps the seed is sown while we are so focused on the things of this world, that we have no energy to focus on the things of God. Our desire for wealth, fame, position, choke out any desire we have for God. Then, sometimes, the Word is sown on good soil, where it will grow and flourish and produce abundant fruit.

The point being, God is always sowing. He is always calling out to us. He calls when we are not ready, kinda ready, think were ready and when we are actually ready. Any one of us have been every kind of soil at some point in our life. But God, (best words ever) keeps sowing. God never gives up, He never stops calling us, He is faithful in all He does.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6

God has also called us to be sowers. Christ called each of us who believe to reach out to all those who do not know Him. We are to reach out to ALL those who do not know Him. I have found that we have a tendency to reach out to those who we are most comfortable with. We reach out where we believe there will be the least resistance. We reach out to people like ourselves. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47

What I found most inspiring in the parable of the sower; is that God continued to sow! He provided His word to everyone, everywhere no matter their condition, no matter their place in life. He didn’t discriminate in any way. Even knowing that some of the time the seed would not sprout, He continued to sow. God never gives up on us! He generously sends His Spirit to each of us, over and over and over again. He is constantly reaching out to bring us to Him.

Why then, are we stingy with our sowing? Are we worried about making people mad, offending someone, scaring them off, making a bad impression, losing a friend or just plain looking the fool? Everything that keeps us from walking like Jesus did, will fall away. We’ll look back one day and know all the times we stingily kept Christ to ourselves and the silly reasons we did it. We’ll also recognize that in the Kingdom, those reasons just don’t matter. How will we feel knowing that it was more important for us to be comfortable than to share Christ? We pick and chose who we think deserves our time as if we know better than God. We are called to sow not to judge.

We want to pick and chose where we sow the Word, we want to see growth, we want to stand proudly and say, “we did that.” But the truth is that God is the only reason any seed will grow, our job isn’t to identify the perfect place and time to plant, growth isn’t dependent upon us. Our job is to sow, and to sow generously. What happens to those seeds after that is up to Him. We may never see the results of the seeds we plant. We know that God’s word will always accomplish it’s purpose.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11

Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

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Humpty Dumpty and the Tower of Babel

humpty dumptyWe all know the rhyme, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the kings horses, and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again. The image of something so silly as an egg, sitting on a wall, falling down, and being smashed into an irreparable state, made us laugh as children, who would come up with such a sad silly story, without a happy ending?

Similarly, in Genesis we read a story about how all the people in the world spoke one language and how they came together to build a tower to ‘reach the heavens’ and ‘to make a name for themselves’.  Like a silly round bottom egg sitting on a wall, their pride drove them to take actions which ultimately led to their being scattered across the world, unable to be unified as they once were. There was nothing that could bring them back together like that again, irreparably broken they went their separate ways.

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech.  As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-9

God saw that the people, (all as a group), had great pride. Pride that drove them to believe themselves His equal. A pride that will continue to drive the human race to attempt feats that bring us renown, and make us feel godlike. “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Throughout the Old Testament we find stories of the people of God, driven by pride, to take action in direct opposition to Him, serving only to glorify themselves.

Why would Humpty sit on the wall? To have the best view of the military parade passing by, to be seen as clever by attempting the impossible, balancing so precariously on a wall. We don’t know why he did it, we do know that he fell, and his pieces were so completely shattered that no one could repair the damage. Not even the people he sought so hard to impress.

This moment in Genesis, the people were of one mind, one language, working together for a common cause; the cause however was not God’s, it was their own. We as a race, instead of using our unity for good, wanted to use it to glorify ourselves and try to reach the heavens, we wanted to be god’s in our own right. Sound familiar, how many times in our history have we done something we thought was so smart, only to reap the horrible consequences of those actions? From that moment, we were scattered, never again to be so unified in purpose. “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” No longer able to communicate the people lost interest in their project and went their own separate ways.

What happens next you ask? Well, instead of working together we fought each other; for land, for money, for ‘love’, for every reason you can imagine. The unity we knew, the unity we were created to have, was destroyed by our pride.

God knew what we were capable of accomplishing together, we are, after all, made in His image. We have His capacity for love, compassion, joy, peace, hope, patience and kindness encoded into our very DNA. But pride won over.

Then one day everything changed. He provided a way for us to again be unified. Christ is our universal translator. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit demonstrated that when He came to indwell in the hearts of the Apostles and all those who would believe, we could again be unified in heart and purpose.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” Acts 2:2-4

From Babel to Pentecost, God did not provide us a way to reunite, doing so would only have led to the same outcome. Our lives being about us. But Christ’s selflessness and sacrifice brought us all together; Jews, Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free people. We are ALL united in Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks in and through all those who believe. God not only gave us the ability to be unified as His Church working together for one purpose, He also gave us the purpose.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

Babel to Pentecost; confusion to clarity, separation from God to unity in Christ. God’s plan reflects His character, He is Sovereign, loving and compassionate. His plans will never fade, fail or falter.

It was man’s choice to give into our pride, it was that pride that led to our confusion at Babel, it was God’s love and compassion that, through Christ’s sacrifice, we were again brought together and given a common purpose.

Yes, we all speak different languages, compounded exponentially by the number of people and cultures and countries that exist in our fragmented world today. But God (two of my FAVORITE words in the Bible) provided us a way, through belief in Christ, to come together. Will we use this blessing to serve His purpose, or our own.

 

 

The Old Can’t Contain the New

new and oldI have often read and re-read the parable of the wineskins, it’s one that serves as a reminder for me to renew my thoughts daily, to keep aligned with the mind of Christ, and not with that of the world. This parable is taught by Jesus in 3 of the 4 gospels, however I had not paid as much attention to the passage which immediately precedes this. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.” Matt 9:16

I find it funny, as someone who sews regularly, that this point didn’t pop out to me first. As a young girl learning to sew with my mother, the first thing we had to do after bringing home our fabric treasure hoard, (and it was often a hoard) was wash it. You should never create your masterpiece out of unwashed fabric, or after washing a completed garment, it may shrink, tearing the stitches, pulling away from the zipper or, even worse, end up smaller than you’d planned. The point being made here, is if you try to patch something old with new, unshrunk fabric, it doesn’t work. It’s the same with trying to patch holes in old ideas, legalistic views, or worldly habits, with Christ, they don’t fit. One will pull away at the other until the whole garment is destroyed.

This concept of not patching the old along with the new is woven throughout the scriptures. We read that we must loose the old dead self, we can’t fill old wineskins with new wine, unshrunk cloth to old garments. We can’t continue to live our old life once we become a new creation in Christ.

There is a level of dissonance that will keep us from enjoying all the fullness that is our inheritance with Christ. When we have an encounter with Jesus through the Holy Spirit and give him our lives, we can’t continue to live as we did. That is the whole point! Why would we reach out for Christ to free us from the death trap of our lives, then chose to live a life unchanged. We’re robbing ourselves of Christ’s promises. That kind of life, isn’t really a life at all, in constant battle with one’s self. This is what Christ meant when He spoke about being hot or cold, cause lukewarm He’ll spit you out (Revelation 3:15-16).

This internal warring can only lead to corruption and death. When we continue in our old ways not only are we missing out on God’s best for our lives, we aren’t being a good witness to those around us, we will not live in peace, we will not grow in Christ and eventually get discouraged and fall prey to the pulls of the flesh. Jesus, when responding to the Pharisees claim that He had cast out demons in the name of Beelzebub, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposed himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end  has come.” Mark 3:23-26

If we, as followers of Chris,t continue to pursue our fleshly desires, our end will come. We can not survive in a state of division against ourselves. We will either chose to give Christ our all or chose to follow the world, there is no in between. Also, if we are indeed all members of one body (as we are told in scripture) and you are still choosing to live as part of the world, what effect will that have on the body? How can we perform the function God created for us, if we are still choosing to live in world?

Unshrunk cloth destroys old garments, old wineskins burst from new wine, a house divided against itself can not stand. We have a daily choice, to design our garments with new fabric woven from threads of scripture, stitched together with prayer and cleansed by the blood of Christ.

We can’t continue to try and cover the old with the new, the old must be completely thrown away, that is the only way we can walk anew with Christ.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Pack Rats and She Sheds

pack ratsI’ve been studying 1 Corinthians and came across a portion of scripture that brought to mind my latest backyard project, my ‘she shed’.

“By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any one builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.1 Corinthians 3:10-13

Paul, of course is speaking of the foundation he laid with the Corinthian church, that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Revealing to them the mysteries of Christ as they were able to receive them. He explained to them that you can only lay a foundation once, (all you contractors and builders out there shaking your heads, bear with me for a minute). The foundation on which we build, not only stabilizes the structure, it also helps to form the structure. So yes, while you can lift a building and place it on a different foundation, it will not replace the original. The form of the building will always be based on the original foundation.

This all brought to mind my new shed. Yes I have been planning for the past year or so to replace my Tuff shed, with a new ‘she shed’. Over the past several years my ever faithful Tuff shed has weathered the Arizona desert heat, wind, storms and more heat. It has stood the test for 10 years. A few years ago I  noticed that the wooden frame foundation, that we built for the shed to stand on, had begun to rot. In fact it was rotting, being eaten away by squirrels, pack rats, bugs, you name it, the foundation was falling apart. Not long after I noticed the foundation, I began to notice the doors not closing properly, the roof no longer square was beginning to lift and the whole structure was starting to come apart.

There is a lot you can take from this. Why did I build a wooden foundation? Why did I wait so long before trying to fix the shed? Both good questions I’ll share my thoughts. The foundation was wood because it was cheap, easy and fast. I didn’t fix it sooner because the changes were so gradual over time that it wasn’t until I could barely open the door (it became inconvenient for me) that I really stepped back to see the dilapidation that my hasty building practices and lack of investment had caused.

Our foundation can not be cheap, fast or easy. Our foundation in Christ is tempered with time, testing, and trials. It is based on our relationship with our creator and comes at a cost which can not be valued. When we invest the time and make the sacrifices necessary for a solid foundation, nothing can uproot, or destroy it. “Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:6-8

We must continually check for cracks and crevices, making sure to keep our foundation strong by keeping it free from what would chip it away, eat at it or wear it down. The best test of the strength of our foundation, is our building. Is it straight, and strong? When we find something out of alignment, do we bring it to the Light and work with the Holy Spirit to repair and replace where necessary. When we are good stewards of what God has provided us, and we build with the best materials, only then will our house stand strong against the winds blow and the rains pound; it will stand strong against the forces that work to bring it down.

Our lives will only be as strong as the foundation on which we build them. Nothing can substitute for that. If we have our foundation in Christ, in His teachings, on His Word, nothing can shake you.  While our foundation is strong, we must also build wisely. Using materials that are proven to stand the test of time; as Paul mentioned gold, silver and precious stones which do not rust, wear or burn; as opposed to wood, hay or straw, which are weak and easily consumed. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4;8:9

What are the things that gnaw away at your foundation? Is it the way you spend your time? Is it the people you chose hang out with? Is it what you watch on TV or read in your free time. What is slowly chipping away at your foundation, at your life? God is faithful and will shore up those areas in your life if you give them over completely to Him. Having Christ as  your foundation means that EVERYTHING in your life is built on Him, everything! Not some things, not most things, everything.

My ‘she shed’ will be built, hopefully this year. I will invest in a solid foundation and strong materials so that I will be able to enjoy it with my family for years to come.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Say and Do, Hear and Obey

Marcus in heelsThis is such a nutty time. I know I could make that statement a 1,000 different ways, and we’ve all heard all of them. The picture I’ve included here is of my children passing the time by seeing who could walk best in my heels. This one in red is my 10 year old son. My daughters are making rose crowns to place on the dogs and I’m trying to balance the seemingly innumerous demands on my time. A co-worker of mine recently made the statement that we were not designed for the kind of responsibility we are now taking on…work, home school teacher, health aid, and counselor. As a parent, not sure if I agree?

Even with all the additional responsibility, the pace of life seems much slower, I get to be (noticed I didn’t say ‘have’ to be) with my family 24/7, and I’m loving it. One of the biggest pay-offs, outside of family time being all the time, is my time with Jesus. I am reading the bible more than I ever have before. I’m praying more and talking with Jesus more, it’s been eye opening.IMG_20200405_180221

My spiritual life is filled with questions, not the ‘where are You in the midst of all of this’, but more like how could the Jewish masses wave palms and praise Your coming one day and less than a week later, bay for Your destruction? Why did God allow so much disobedience in the Old Testament go seemingly unpunished? Why do we hold Gideon up as an example to follow, when actually his actions showed a lack of faith?

I’m working my way though the book of Jeremiah right now and finding that the story of God is a story of childhood disobedience. Not unlike my children. We give them boundaries and rules to obey, and they are constantly pushing those boundaries, trying to sneak under them, negotiation new ones, or just blatantly disobeying them…just because they feel like it. Yet, we as parents, each time correct, instruction, and redirect. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 16). Sounds familiar doesn’t it? As parents, this is our job to establish rules and guidelines and then to ‘parent’ our children through them.

In Jeremiah, God sent His word through the prophet to His people, “Cursed is the man who does not obey the words of this covenant “which I commanded your fathers in the day I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Obey My voice, and do according to all that I command you; so shall you be My people, and I will be your God” (Jeremiah 11:4) God speaks and always does what He say’s He’ll do. His word is never shaken, broken or brought into question. Our job is to hear and obey.

We are God’s children, created in His image to bring Him glory and to be heirs along with Jesus. He created us. He isn’t trying to torture us, or make our lives hard, or embarrass us in front of our friends or force us to do unthinkable chores (like folding laundry). No He created us to be in relationship with Him. He wants to give us the very best, that means we need to operate within the laws and guidelines He has created. God is practical, He isn’t asking us to do anything unreasonable or harmful. In fact, what He is asking is in complete contrast to the unreasonable, unethical, immoral and self-centered way the world wants us to live…and it looks like fun. The world wants us to think that God’s rules are outrageous and unfair and serve only to make us unhappy, and we buy it hook line and 24K gold sinker.

We stop hearing Him, we stop believing in His promises and we listen to the creation, instead of the creator. Why didn’t God act sooner to punish the unruly and disobedient Jewish people, because they are His unruly and disobedient children. And just like we would never turn our back on our own children, regardless of their disobedience, He will never turn His back on His children. He will let them take their sin to a point, then, using extreme measures to get their attention, He will bring them back to Himself.

For my kids it’s video games or texting their friends or watching movies. For the Jewish nation it was a conquering nation that carried them off into slavery; more extreme circumstances, same principle.

I may get frustrated and occasionally angry at my children’s actions and choices, but like my Father, I will correct, instruct and redirect. I will allow them to experience the consequences of their actions, missing out on free time, extra chores, not passing a class, or not getting virtual time with friends, but I will never leave or forsake them. I am their parent and I love them… to infinity and beyond. When they turn and return, they will find me running to them with open arms.

“That I may establish the oath which I have sworn to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as it is this day” (Jeremiah 11:5)

God always keeps His covenants. He has spoken and will do what He says, we need to hear His words and obey them, that it may go well with us.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

High Anxiety

High AnxietyDo you remember the 1977 Mel Brooks movie? If not I’ll shed a bit of light, it is a satire on several Alfred Hitchcock movies where the scariest scenes, ones that have terrified us for decades are turned into hysterical (and a bit irreverent) scenes where knives are replaced with newspapers and blood with ink. It takes us to the edge of anxiety, ramps it up a few notches then lets us fall down laughing at how we were taken in by what seemed to be something terrible, and turned out to be nothing at all. Sound familiar?

Proverbs tell us, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good words makes it glad.” (Proverbs 12:25) In the amplified Bible it expands the meaning to anxiety weighing a heart down. Anxiety can weigh us down, cause depression and ultimately whatever we’re obsessing about becomes the lens by which we see everything else in life.

While reading recently I was reminded, “worry comes when we lose our awareness that God is our Father. That He created us, and He cares…deeply loves, that which He created. If we are truly aware of who we are in Christ, we should be more confident than any other people on earth. Here’s the stinger…does that mean that we’ll never experience any kind of fear or anxiety? Does that mean that we will walk through life, and no matter what is thrown at us, we’ll just shrug our shoulders, and think ‘it’s all good’, and move on unflustered? Does it mean that if we do experience a moment of anxiety that we are living in sin?

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) This is a verse we’ve all read…but have we understood? In Luke we read, “ The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (8:14) Allowing your fretting, anxiety, fear to drive the direction of your life is a sin and can choke the life out of you, but experiencing a moment of stress or anxiety does not mean you are sinning.

I recently had a situation at work where I was faced with having a difficult conversation with a colleague. The thought of having this conversation was both freeing and anxiety provoking, I had knots in my stomach. You never know how the other person is going to respond, will it negatively affect our working relationship, how will it change our team dynamic? All these things were running through my head and heart as I was preparing myself for the conversation.

I sat down to pray, “in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.” I gave the situation to God, not with a heart of vengeance (this was not about me being right and they wrong but of clarification), I asked God to be in the conversation so we could hear and understand each other, move forward together, to be stronger and more effective in the future.

I believe in God’s word and the power and freedom that we find in obedience. I believe that we can life a life that is not weighed down by anxiety where our joy is choked out by the cares of this world. I do not believe that our lives will be, in this lifetime, free from anxiety provoking situations. In all the scripture I’ve read it states that when we experience anxiety, it is our response to that situation that determines the outcome. The scriptures say, ‘be anxious for nothing’ it does not say ‘you’ll never experience anxiety about anything’.

I will own that I struggled with this as I prayed about having the conversation. Did being anxious about the conversation mean I was in the wrong, that I was sinning? Did that mean that I was being sinful in the situation? Was the situation caused by my sin? Perhaps the anxiety was due to my being in the wrong. No! You can be completely in the right and still feel anxiety about a confrontation! It’s how you deal with that anxiety that determines where your heart is.

When Jesus sent out the disciples He said, “You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak but the Spirit of your Father  who speaks in you.” (Matthew 10:19) Jesus did not say, ‘you will not experience fear’ He said do not let fear overcome you and thus choke out your ability to hear the Holy Spirit.

We will all experience fear, anxiety, and stress in life; anxiety is defined as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome, that happens a lot, especially in these seemingly uncertain times.  Experiencing anxiety does mean you are sinning! When you allow those feelings to become a state of being, a driver of your live that affects all areas of your behavior, feeling of self worth or belonging, then you are living contrary to God’s will.

Be anxious for nothing, knowing that anxiety will happen. But, hand it over to God through prayer, and thanking Him for all the times He has stood by you, saved you, guarded and protected you. Remember who you are, and whose you are, and anxiety will not be able to control your life.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Mountains vs. Molehills

mountain-or-molehillAs a Christian, I struggle with fear and doubt. There I said it, yes even Christians can struggle with fear and doubt. I accept that seemingly bad things happen to good people and believe that our Sovereign God can bring good out of even the worst circumstances. Yet, in the midst of trials in my life I still experience fear and doubt. I question what I did wrong, how could I have avoided these circumstances, who is to blame for my suffering, how quickly can I remedy the situation? Perhaps these exact thoughts are not what pop into my head but in some form I am trying to rationalize the situation and devise a way out.

In my previous sentences you may notice the use of the word “I” A LOT, and therein lies my struggle. In 2 Peter, we are told of several instances where God has preserved the righteous in the midst of the ungodly.

“For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.” (2 Peter 4-9)

The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations. So, while I’m sitting there stewing on what I can do to fix the problem, God’s solution had been ordained since the beginning of time. To put it more simply, God’s got my back. When temptations come, God promises to ALWAYS provide a way out of it…always, in fact the way out was there before we experienced the trouble, we just have to decide to take it.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
So, why then do I respond the way that I do? I get caught in the moment and fix my eyes on the trouble I am in, not on Jesus. I get stuck in the immediate fear and pain of the trial, and instead of looking at the whole situation and what God is going to teach me through it, I allow myself to be paralyzed. Yes, I know it is hard in those moments to focus on the solution not the problem, but that is what we need to do. If we are focusing on the situation, and how we are going to fix it, we are not allowing God to work.

At the very beginning of our daughters chemotherapy treatment, we got an enormous cell phone bill (this was before there were unlimited plans). I was completely blindsided and had no idea how we were going to pay for the bill. The cell phone was our primary source of communication with family, friends, doctors, therapists, pharmacists. We literally could not do without a phone. I was so stressed with a little phone bill, it became the biggest thing in my world. I made a humongous mountain out of this molehill. This obstacle became the tipping point of my daughters health. Now looking back, it was such a small thing, but at the time it was HUGE! You will not be surprised to hear that an anonymous angel paid that phone bill. It was just the first of a long line of teaching opportunities that grew my faith, patience and trust in Jesus.

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are attentive to their cry;
but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to blot out their name from the earth.

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the Lord delivers him from them all”
(Psalm 34:15-19)

God’s way may not always be someone coming out of the woodwork to pay your bill, often it’s the simple answer that while difficult, provides a peace that passes understanding. What I would encourage each of you to do, along with myself…is to see the whole picture. Instead of asking, ‘why God’ in the midst of trials, ask ‘what are you trying to teach me’ or ‘what can I learn in this storm’. See the forest for the trees, molehills are just molehills unless you lose sight of the bigger picture. Keep your eyes focused on God and He will direct your path, keep your eyes focused on the problem and the problem will direct your path.

I’d love to hear from you. If you like what you’ve read, please share and comment.

Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Perspective…You are NOT your job

In-Christ-I-Am-640x226Your identity is in Christ.

That statement in and of its self is HUGE; however, we still fight the concept. Our work has become our identity. Our happiness is based on our work status and whether or not our job fulfills us. We want to find a partner who is as ‘dedicated to their work’ as we are. We talk about finding ‘work life balance’ not ‘life work balance’.

In a world where we are inundated day in and out on TV, social media, news, virtually every media outlet you can think of with finding and elevating our career satisfaction, it’s no wonder that so few do. After all, if hundreds of people can make millions of dollars teaching others how to be happy in their jobs, there must be a lot of unhappy employees out there. Work, job, career, vocation have taken the place of the only thing that can truly fulfill our lives…Christ.

No I am not saying that you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t want to be happy with the work you do. I’m saying that we should not be spending disproportionate amounts of time worrying, being anxious and crying over our jobs.

Recently I’ve had several individuals come to me with challenges that are rooted in their job satisfaction. They don’t feel appreciated, valued or perhaps challenged. They don’t feel they get paid enough or that the stress their job creates is wearing on them. I too have had some doubts recently about where my ‘career’ fits into my life. Then I read something that began to alter my perception of my job.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

It doesn’t say work heartily for the things you like to do, or are fun to do, it says ‘whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men.’ It doesn’t matter if I’m at home folding socks (which I HATE doing) or weeding my garden (which I LOVE doing) I am called to work heartily as if I’m doing it for God Himself. If we begin, just begin to start seeing our jobs as something we do for the Lord, not something we do that takes the place of the Lord, our feelings might change.

God does not want you to hate your job. Yes, that is another truth. God has given you the work you have to do, regardless of what it is, He can bring amazing things forth from it.

“I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor – it is the gift of God”  Ecclesiastes 3:12-13

The Lord blesses us with employment so that we have meaningful work, to provide for our families (2 Thess 3:10-13), to provide for those in need (Eph 4:28), and to live as part of the body of Christ (Eph 4:11-16) He does not provide us this work so that we become the work, or so that work becomes our life.

All the labor of man is for this mouth, and yet the soul is not satisfied. Ecclesiastes 6:7

I have spent the better part of my adult life striving to be the best at whatever I do. Early on I discovered that I could receive all kinds of positive reinforcement, awards, accolades and advancement if I worked harder, smarter and longer than anyone else. I achieved great success in the world…at what cost? I had a fancy office on the Potomac, traveling 3-weeks a month away from my family. I would introduce myself to people I met using my title as if it were my last name. I could never just be Betsy Stuetze; no, my true identity was found in what I did, my job title, not who I was. For the record; I was lonely, sad, scared, and desperately empty, and none of this could be cured by my job, my office, or my expense account.

Over the past year, some of which I’ve been serving as a bi-vocational pastor, I have learned that when you keep your (secular) work in its proper place, it can be incredibly satisfying. Our work can be a blessing to our families, others and ourselves. Our work can glorify God. Our work can have far reaching impact on those around us, however, it is not supposed to define you.

Lauren Daigel has a song out that I have gotten in the habit of playing over and over. You Say, has been a call to me when I feel like my priorities are beginning to get out of balance.

“Let every detail in your lives – words, actions, whatever – be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.” Colossians 3:17

People who know their value, value people.

Love your neighbor as yourself“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20

Paul writes, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me“. Hear the words he is saying, Being crucified with Christ means that we have partaken with Him in His death and resurrection. We have been made a new creation, and now instead of living as we were, being who we were it is Christ who lives in us. We are to identify ourselves with this single statement, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

Can you come up with any greater statement of worth? If then we no longer live but Christ lives in us, shouldn’t we then live as He lived, love as He loved and give as He gave?

I have noticed that people who understand and know their value, I mean really know their value, always (and I mean always) value other people. It’s like knowing who you are gives you permission to treat those around you with respect and dignity. People who know who they are in Christ don’t need to establish a pecking order or earn respect via their status, appearance or possessions. They know who they are, so that kind of attention doesn’t matter to them.

In Matthew, Jesus is asked by the pharisees’, “what is the greatest commandment”, to which Jesus replies. ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 28:34-40

I have had the opportunity to share this scripture several times over the past week and it continues to inspire me. Jesus is stating that you love God first, (yes Betsy we all know that part) but second is not to love others, as it is often quoted. The second part is to, “love your neighbor AS YOURSELF“. Yes, my dear ones, we are to love ourselves, we are to know our worth, only from loving God first and knowing who He is can we know who we are and thereby be able to love others.

This statement needs to ring true for all of us, regardless of where we are in life, what we face, what we’ve done, how much money we have or don’t have. You matter! Knowing who you are, really knowing who you are is the key to being able to show Christ’s love for others. Christ died for us, He died for you. You are worth more to Him than you could ever imagine. You should never settle for less than what you know God would want for you.

I want to shout out to several of my dear friends, and to some others that I know this is meant for. If you are currently struggling with a decision, I would ask you to consider the situation as if Jesus was physically standing there with you. Not because I want you to feel guilty, on the contrary, I want you to see the love on Jesus face as you make your choices. What decision would you make then, standing face to face with your Savior, knowing how much He loves you? How might that change the way you chose?

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

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