Category Archives: Bread of Life

Jesus’s Emergency Room

ER1Hospitals, I grew up in one, and no that is NOT an exaggeration. It’s also not a stretch to say that it was partly because my mother worked there and partly because I was the clumsiest tomboy that ever waltzed through the Verde Valley, (notice the emphasis on was).

My mother worked at our community hospital for over 37 years. She held just about every non-clinical position possible. From unit clerk, nursing assistant and financial services representative to patient advocate. Needless to say if you ever found yourself there, you would have probably met my mom. The most memorable of her roles, for me, was when she was the admissions clerk in the Emergency Room. She would come home with stories, (never sharing identifying information as my mom has the highest of integrity when it came to hospital rules even before HIPPA was HIPPA), that seemed almost too odd to be true. We often joked that one day she needed to write a book because reality is so much more interesting than fiction.

She would enthrall us at the dinner table with stories about people with strange pets hidden in their clothing, obscure illnesses, gory injuries and sometimes people who just wanted someone to talk to. My mom was the first person they met when they walked through the sliding glass doors with “Emergency Room” written in big red letters. I can still remember the sound of those doors, both coming through as a patient as well as visiting my mom.

I was talking with a friend this week about how churches today are like hospitals. Jesus didn’t come to heal and save the well, but the sick and broken. In Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus stated that it was not the healthy that needed a doctor but the sick. This same statement is made in three of the Gospels, perhaps it is an important concept He wants us to grasp?

Matthew 9:11-13 –  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?” But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. “But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:16-17 – When the scribes who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with these people, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Luke 5:30-31 – But the Pharisees and their scribes complained to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

We all need to see our churches for what they are, hospitals, full of the sick and the broken. Our front doors should read “Emergency Room” in big red letters. 

Most of the time mom’s stories were of the usual suspects, drunk driving, sick children, motorcycle accidents, and the occasional broken bones, injuries and illnesses that were easily diagnosed and treated. Then there were the stories that baffled, the patients who come in covered in blood that would bring everyone running to the rescue, only to find the cause to be a small cut that was quickly repaired, no stitched required. Then there were those who came in looking ok, walking in on their own looking relatively healthy, who then collapse on the floor, almost dying in the waiting room from internal bleeding.

“You just never can tell”, she would say, “until the doctor can take a close look.”

Our doctor is Jesus. The Healer, The Great Physician, He raised the dead to life and restored the broken to their families and communities. Hospitals are no place for the faint of heart, they are messy, often loud, emotional, chaotic, and full of sick people. But, that is what we are here for isn’t it?

Luke 6:32-36“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.”

We talk about being accepting, we create ministries to reach out to the broken and lost of our communities, but then we complain about the mess. The Kingdom needs more hospitals, we need to be ready, willing, and able to accept everyone who walks through our doors, no matter how bloody or messy they are. It’s not easy, Christ told us it would not be easy. However, He was also very clear with our job description.

Matthew 28:19-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

As a follower of Christ, this is my job! It’s not always easy. I ask daily for God to give me His heart, His eyes and His hands to work in His hospital. I love nothing more than to see His people turn to Him and be healed. That, in and of it’s self, is worth every uncomfortable, chaotic and messy moment.

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

Hands and Feet

selfless-11-638I was driving to work this morning, on the rare occasion that I was not making multiple school drop stops. I was thinking through my day, and planning some upcoming events, praying and asking God for guidance and discernment. I pulled into my office parking lot about an hour earlier than normal and I got out of my car. To my surprise there was someone wrapped up in a sleeping bag lying on the sidewalk, blocking the door.

Complete transparency, I did not react the way I would have liked. My thoughts were uh oh, what now? They could be dangerous, they could be mean, they could yell at me if I disturb them…I could go around to the other door? Wait, I have to run to the store because I need to get flowers for one of my staff for their birthday. Ok God, I’ll go to the store and if they are still there when I get back, I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.

I went to the store, got the card and the flowers and returned to the office…yup they were still there. OK God, I’ll walk around to the other door and put all my stuff in my office, and come back down. If they are still there I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.

I went to my office and put my things down, and plugged in my computer. I grabbed my phone and my keys and walked down the stairs to the door…yup they were still there. OK God, I get it.

Trying to open the door, there was dead weight. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. I panicked, what if they were hurt, or sick or dead. “Excuse me, are you OK?” I Pushed the door a little more, “are you OK?” A man sat up, and began to apologize for being there.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to sleep that long, I’m so sorry it was just so cold last night.” He sat up and began to put on his shoes and continued to apologize. I noticed he didn’t have any socks as he put his shoes on. “Really I’m so sorry I’ll move, I was robbed and I have a job but they took my cell phone, I’m so sorry, really, I’ll go.”

I was so wrecked! “Please don’t be sorry, come inside and get warm the building is now open.”

“Really, thank you, my name is Tony.” He reached up his hand to shake mine, I took it.

Tony is down on his luck, he’d had a rough night and was cold. He just wanted to be warm and my response was fear, excuses and procrastination. I took a few minutes to talk with Tony, who was from Tucson and was coming home from California after his job had ended. He told me that each day since he got back things kept getting worse, the culmination was the previous day when he was robbed, loosing his lifeline to his job when his phone was taken. He was sober, articulate, appreciative and polite. After giving him some food, hot coffee and some money. He went on his way, to his job.

I’m not making any claims to the truth or validity of his story, but to mine. I was praying in the car for discernment on what youth curriculum to use, my parent’s upcoming anniversary party and whether to spend money on a new or used drum set for my son.

Tony slept in the cold, on the sidewalk out in the open, and had no socks. My response was not Jesus’, it was the worlds. As I began writing this, a Micah Tyler song came on. He sings:

“I want to be different,I want to be changed,till all of me is gone and all that remains is a fire so bright the whole can see, that there’s something different, so come and be different in me.”

How can we claim to be God’s hands and feet if we’re too afraid to step out of our own comfort zone?  We pray for God to give us opportunities to reach people, to help in tangible ways, then when it happens we come up with every excuse.

God wouldn’t want me to do something dangerous. Didn’t God send Ananias to Saul, the self proclaimed destroyer of Jesus Disciples? (Acts 9:10-19)?

God wouldn’t ask me to jeopardize my standing at work. God was clear that all we do we should work as if for him not men. (Colossians 3:23)

God wanted me to meet Tony, to help him, but more than that to show me…yet again…that His will, His good and perfect will  will never fall short of His glory. God loves all people, and not in an out there, for other people to act on, kind of way. Each and every person is precious to Him, so each and every person MUST be precious to us.

Regardless of what they’ve done, NO ONE is unredeemable! We are Jesus to this world, to every person we meet, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not, if they are rich, poor, clean, dirty, sick, healthy, young or old. That is who we are called to be, period!

The wold is full of Tony’s, full of people who need what we have, it’s time we shared with everyone.

I would love to hear from you, your comments and thoughts. Please take a minute to follow me and share with your friends. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Close your mouth and open your heart

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Vector illustration. three monkeysWhen I was a child, I liked to talk. To say that I liked the sound of my own voice would not be an exaggeration. My dad likened my verbosity to a torn pocket flapping in the breeze…and it was always flapping.

My mother would be trying to tell me something and I’m chatting away as if the only person in the room worth listening to was me. She would raise her voice to get my attention and tell me, “Elizabeth Rita, close your mouth and open your ears!”

I am happy to report that after 40+ years, I have learned to close my mouth and open my ears. Through the often loving and sometimes stern coaching of many a mentor, I have become a much better listener. I have come to really enjoy listening to people, their stories, their struggles, their lives. I love helping people connect to their purpose, to each other and to their calling. You can’t do that without listening, but you have to do it with more than your ears.

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Jesus didn’t make a move, a decision without consulting with His Father. They were one, of the same mind and heart because they were in constant communication. And not just casual, ‘”hey how ya doin”, conversation but real in-depth, relational conversation.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone. Matthew 14:22-23

It is when we are in real communication with The Father that we best hear His voice, share His heart. It is very difficult to do that in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our daily routines. We need to be intentional about our time with God, asking the Holy Spirit to help calm our hearts and minds to hear His still small voice.  If we aren’t making time to spend with Him how can we have a relationship?

How did your best friend become your best friend? Was it through quick 5 minute conversations between meetings or getting the kids out the door? No, it was through spending long hours of intimate conversation and shared experiences, growing together over time.

My best friend and I have known each other since we were 16 years old. We can finish each other sentences, our kids are friends, we vacation together. Did I mention over the long years of our relationship, we only lived in the same state for 2 years. We made our relationship a priority, we were intentional with our communication. Now 30 years later I can pick up the phone and have a conversation with her as if we lived next door and no time  had passed.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

If we make time for our family and friends, can’t we make time for God? I know it seems like a simple statement, however in application it’s not easy. We need to be willing to MAKE time for Him, real time, in a place where we can quiet our hearts and minds to focus on Him. Not so easy in today’s world. I am married (17 years), we have 4 children, I work full time at my day job and part-time at my church. MAKING time to be with Jesus can prove challenging in my schedule.

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. Luke 6:12

I am a morning person, I love getting up early and starting my day before the rest of the house is awake. This summer I challenged myself to give my first morning hour to God. I get up, go outside and sit in my backyard reading my Bible and praying. I can’t begin to tell you the difference it makes in my day. So much so that when I don’t make that time for God each day, it is so evident. I can feel it in my heart, thoughts and actions. Giving that time to God to build my relationship with Him, getting to know His Son Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit has made a tremendous difference.

Now when I listen to the words of others I am listening with my heart, His heart and speaking with His words though the power of the Holy Spirit. This is only possible as we make time to be with God each day, closing out mouths and listening with our hearts.

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

 

 

It’s not about the bread!

bradIn Matthew 4 we find Jesus being “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” We know that he fasted for forty days and nights, and that the bible clearly states (as I checked this against 5 different versions) that, “He was hungry.”  Forty days and forty nights, yea, he’d be hungry. He’d have a hunger inside of him that would literally make him sick, weak, faint and at this moment of weakness what should happen… The tempter came. “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Remember how hungry He must have been… his reply?

Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this part of scripture, but when I was reading it this weekend something struck me, one word, shall.

Just last night, I was having dinner with my parents at an Italian restaurant and of course there was bread, I love bread. Mom asked me, “would you like a piece of bread?” Of course I’d like a piece of bread, but you know man can not live on bread alone. Yup, that’s what I said. It’s what I’ve heard and I’m sure you’ve heard, lots of people say. “You know what the bible says…man can not live on bread alone.”

WAIT! The scripture says, man SHALL not live by bread alone. BIG DIFFERENCE FRIENDS! I thought to myself when I read this again last night… how did I miss it? So I went searching through every version of the Bible I have in my house, and do you know what I found? They all say the same thing.

King James: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

New International Version: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Revised Standard Version: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

New Living Translation: People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Mouth of God.

The Message: It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.

Yes, I am telling you that man can live on bread alone, it’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. Bread may feed our bodies but not our souls. Only the word that proceeds from the mouth of God can feed our souls, make us whole, bring freedom, forgiveness and salvation. Bread may keep your body alive but will not give you life.

One of the definitions of the word ‘shall’; expressing an instruction or command, “Man shall not live by bread alone”, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:2-3 where Moses is exhorting the people of Israel to remember how God cared for them in the desert for 40 years stating in verse 3, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your father know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

It’s not about the bread! It’s about living by the word of God. His promises are many and cover ALL our needs. We don’t need to focus on the immediate hungers of the flesh, we need to keep our eyes, hearts and hopes on him. Everything else is just a distraction and will keep us from fully living the life He has planned for us.

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

 

Threading the needle

Matthew 6“Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:24-25

I have often struggled with the thought that Jesus made something of a blanket statement about the wealthy, almost as if being blessed with wealth precludes you from going to heaven. One simple statement sums it up, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Growing up I did not ‘have’ a lot. We had a home and food and clothes and love and support, which to me made us rich. I never thought of us being a ‘have not’ until high school when I was exposed to those who had a whole lot more. They had more toys, ‘better’ clothes, nicer homes, fancier cars and money to pretty much do what they wanted, and they did…exactly what they wanted.

I was part of a graduating class of 162 students. From that class came the largest amount of college scholarships the school had ever seen. Want to know how many graduated from college? No you really don’t, it would make you sad. My graduating class was fraught with drugs, alcohol, divorce, divorce and more divorce, abuse, jail and suicide. The ‘haves’ did what they wanted to do. They had so much; potential, resources, optimism and support, but they weren’t happy. So they turned to what they thought would make them happy, which only made matters worse.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10

I love telling my children about how I grew up. About our wood burning stove and how my dad got up at 4am to get it going so the house was warm when we got up. About the garden where we grew our own veggies (No a spaghetti squash does NOT taste like spaghetti and yes I could tell the difference!) and swimming in the creek behind our house. I love telling the stories of the Christmas where we each, me and my two brothers got a hand made afghan that my mom had made her self, working on them at night after we went to sleep.

One day my oldest son, Nik commented, “it seems like even though you didn’t have a lot growing up that you had a great childhood.” He was right, I did. We didn’t focus on what we didn’t have, we enjoyed and cherished what we did, which made me so much more appreciative of what I have now.

The book of Matthew is full of so many wonderful truths, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21

In Matthew Jesus isn’t making a statement about those who have money but those who cherish it above all else.

“And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19:16-22

“…he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” His possessions (money) meant more to him than the poor, the widow and orphans. His money was more important to him than Jesus.

Being blessed with a good job, and resources is not a sin. Holding those above Christ and those Christ brings to you, is. He blesses us to bless others. As long as we keep money in it’s proper place (it ALL belongs to Him) and are obedient to His calling on our lives, whatever that may be, there is an eternity waiting for us by His side.

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

Doing Life Together…Be Nice!

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“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32

I was having a conversation this week with a friend and I said something. Something I immediately regret, regret to the point that it actually left a foul taste in my mouth. I couldn’t think of why I said it or where it came from, but there it was…ugliness in all its glory. After asking forgiveness for my words, I spent time thinking and praying about my heart and where that was rooted. I asked God to help me be more mindful of my heart and my words. Since then, I have been more aware of what I say and how I say it. Words have so much power.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.Proverbs 18:21

How many times a day do you find yourself in a situation where it almost seems natural to say something ugly? Whether it’s about a person, place or thing… James really stated it best when he said our tongue is a fire. “In the same way, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it boasts of great things. Consider how small a spark sets a great forest ablaze. The tongue also is a fire, a world of wickedness among the parts of the body. It pollutes the whole person, sets the course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” James 3:5-6

It has become so commonplace to speak ill of anything, that we don’t even realize we do it anymore. “That person really annoys me”, “I hate the food there it’s terrible”, “their customer service sucks”, seems harmless enough right? Who are we saying it too? Are we making a statement of our dissatisfaction or a direct judgement? In our culture where we hold so much pride in our freedom of speech, have we gone too far toward mainstreaming hatefulness?

Doing life together means we are all in the same boat. We are all supposed to be rowing together in the same direction with the same goal; celebrating God’s Kingdom here on this world and share His love, forgiveness and freedom with as many people as possible. If that’s true then how important is complaining about customer service or restaurant food you dislike?

This scripture from Ephesians states clearly that we are only to speak words which serve to build up the body and give grace to those who hear. We are to put away ALL bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice. We are to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, and forgiving as Christ is forgiving.

We have become so consumed with, ‘shooting straight’, ‘being candid’, ‘speaking our mind’, and ‘not holding anything back’, that we have forgotten how to express love, forgiveness, grace and kindness. Did you ever hear Jesus speak an angry word to anyone, call them a name or rebuke them in front of others, No! He came to build up not to tear down.

People are going to be frustrating, we’re not perfect…none of us! We all have good days and bad days and have survived all kinds of experiences. God loves us each equally, with our flaws, where we are. We need to do the same. If we are going to be The Church, we need to behave like it. We need to strive to not speak a word unless it serves to build up the body, edifies people, speaks kindness and shines a light on Jesus, not us.

We are the body, we are Christ’s Church. We are His example to the world, when we are tearing each other down, gossiping, bragging, belittling and being unkind, what kind of example are we setting?

Finding Jesus in everyone, and everything isn’t easy, and there are people out there that are harder to love than others. It doesn’t make them less deserving, less needful or less desirous of our love and kindness. Doing life together means that everyone deserves our best…everyone.

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

 

Be careful what you ask for…

downloadAnd I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:13-14.

I loved growing up in the 80’s. We had great music, awesome clothes, less than awesome hairstyles and the best movies ever! I know, I know,  what does this have to do with being careful what you ask for, well there is a saying that is quoted throughout one of my favorite moves, The Princess Bride these words are spoken by a poor young peasant to his beautiful young mistress. At a point early on in the movie she miraculously realizes that every time he responds to her requests with these words, “that what he is really saying, is I love you”, deep sigh. How romantic right? Yes teenage girls across the nation swooned and dreamed of their Wesley finding & rescuing them and falling madly in love.

The words spoken in this movie express more than just the romantic love we associate with these characters. These words express a willingness to sacrifice everything for each other. Walking away from what is secure, known and safe. Wesley will sacrifice his very life for the opportunity to be together…sound familiar? The love that Christ feels for us is such that He gave up everything…EVERYTHING, so that we would not be separated from Him. He left heaven, came to earth as a man, lowly and simple, sacrificed Himself in the most unimaginable way, so we could experience real relationship with the Father.

And if that weren’t enough, he promises to give us whatever we ask for in His name. He wants to give us exponentially more than we could ever comprehend. Jesus’ love is such that He sacrificed Himself to reunite us with the Father, but also such that He WANTS to give us every good thing, not everything we want, but every good thing.

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. James 1:17

His love is such that he won’t give us any less that what is the very best for us. We ask for what we want and His response is, “as you wish”. However,  just like when our children ask for a second helping of ice cream or an extra hour after curfew, we aren’t going to give them what we know is NOT in their best interest…no matter how much they beg and plead for it.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

Recently my prayers have been along the lines of, “God give me patience!”, or “Jesus make me more like you”, or my best one yet, “Lord give me your heart toward others”. These prayers, He loves, these prayers, He answers…sometimes in ways that aren’t comfortable or easy. You know what His answers have been, here are the children I gave you, now let’s stir them up into a frenzy…practice that patience. You want to see people, to love them as I do, go to where you are uncomfortable going, see how they live, see their struggles, now go and love them, right where they are.

He is answering my prayers by refining me, allowing me to enter into situations that will test my patience, bringing me into relationship with people who may stretch my comfort zone. Showing me how He sees the world and not allowing me to judge with my own eyes but to love with His. My heart has been broken, my eyes have seen what I cannot un-see, my patience has been tested to the point of breaking…I have grown.

I used to be afraid of these kinds of prayers, I would make them halfheartedly then wince at what I expected to be the ensuing pain of it all…it didn’t come. Oh don’t get me wrong, when you ask God to refine you, He will and it’s not always comfortable, but He isn’t out to hurt you or break you or beat you down. He wants you to grow strong and mature into the person He created you to be. He will never allow you to be pushed beyond a point you can bear.

“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

Scripture also tells us how God will work alongside us to help us on our journey toward becoming more like him.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:29-30

Never be afraid to ask God for anything. His answers will shock and amaze you, no prayer will go unanswered, sometimes the answer may be no, or not now or, OK hang on to your hat and see what I will do. No matter what you ask, expect an answer…always.

Consider it pure joy when losses are wins!

downloadIt’s one of those verses… we quote it, pastor quotes it, everyone quotes it. They quote it at you, to you, near you. Do we really know what it means?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Talk about what seems like the ultimate contradiction, “consider it joy…whenever you face trials”? Yea, cause when I’m facing trials, I’m going to be joyful…that’s gonna happen!

I was driving to the office a couple of months ago, like I do every day and I got a phone call. It was a good morning, kids got out the door on time, hitting green lights, coffee in hand, KLOVE on the radio, I was feeling it. Today, only good things were going to happen to me.

“Good morning, this is Betsy”, I answered the phone. On the line was a woman I had been working with on a very large project. To clarify, winning this grant would be the equivalent of my entire fiscal year’s revenue budget. We had been working together on this for months. Today was the day we would hear who won the grant. Only good things were going to happen today, I could feel it.

As I heard her voice, I could tell it was not the news I was hoping for. The disappointment was palpable in the sound of her words. I think she felt worse having to give me the bad news, than she did receiving it herself. I was stunned for a full 30-seconds, perhaps more because she pulled me out of the silence, “Betsy are you still there, did you hear what I said?” “Yes, sorry I heard you. I am so sorry, it was a great proposal and we can try again for the next cycle (in three years)” She agreed, and we talked about how much we enjoyed working together, we wished each other the best of luck and hung up.

So much for only good things happening huh? The projected represented an enormous amount of time and resources invested. As I pulled up to my first red light of the morning, this verse popped into my head. Thank you, Holy Spirit! In that moment, I had an opportunity to decide. I could mourn the loss, spend time (in my case hours if not days) spinning in my head about where I went wrong, what more I could have done, what more other people could have done. I could have looked for who to blame and been angry. Or I could take a moment to consider God’s greater plan for my life.

God was NOT trying to ruin my day. There was a reason we were not selected. It would have been a HUGE investment in time and resources, embarking down a road we’ve never been before. Could we have effectively executed the plan, living up to the expectations laid out in the proposal. Did I really have the time, along with my other responsibilities to lead the project? In that moment, I took a deep breath and felt an unexpected calm. In that moment, the second part of the scripture came to mind, “because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:3-4

I can think of a dozen reasons that I didn’t get the grant, but that doesn’t really matter. My getting the grant was not in God’s plan. I know that working outside of God’s plan for my life is disastrous. No, seriously been there done that, not going back! I was joyful in that moment that God is in control, that He has so much more for me than this one grant that served to exalt me in my career but not Him in His Glory.

The joy in this scripture that James talks about is Joy in the Lord. Not joy in our circumstances. God shows us His hands-on involvement in our lives through our circumstances, that is where our joy comes from, not in the circumstances themselves.

The storms of life will come, full force and try to knock us down. It is in those storms that God shows us His glory, His intimate involvement in our lives and His love for us, for our future and wellbeing. That is our joy! God knows and loves us, He wants what is best for us and use any and all means, (And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28) to achieve His purpose for our lives.

Next time, you feel knocked down by the circumstances, take joy in the knowledge that God is actively working through them to make you more like Him.

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

 

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I feel the need to take a break from my normal rants to share a burden I feel. Recently I read about a young pastor in California who committed suicide. He was in his 30’s I believe, a husband and father; a beautiful family photo accompanied the article. I was dumbfounded. How is this possible? How can a man, that man in the photo, a man who dedicated his life to serving God, chose to end his life?

I am well acquainted with the hardships and trials of this world; having lost both a husband in a tragic car accident and a daughter after a long and painful battle with cancer. You can’t go through life without experiencing some form of pain and loss; however I don’t believe it’s the pain and loss that is causing so many people in our world to choose to end their suffering…it’s the loneliness.

I get to work with a group of wonderful youth, and they have had more than their fair share of struggles. I watch in amazement as they pull themselves up and continue to move forward each day, it’s truly incredible the resilience they have. However, as they get older what I see is an increased sense of isolation. The more ‘connected’ they are, the less connected they feel. They have 438 friends on Facebook, 397 followers on Twitter and Instagram, but no one to pick up the phone and talk to when they need a listening ear. They post, text, snapchcat and tweet and dozens if not hundreds of people will give a thumbs up or a smiley face, but none are a familiar voice, hug, smile or shoulder.

As we continue to age and move into the ‘real world’ the isolation increases in corresponding measure to the pressures of life; succeed, make an impact, increase profits, and look like we walked off the cover of a fashion magazine. We need to have the right college degree, the right job, make enough money to drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, etc., etc., etc. Now this is not a middle class issue, at all socioeconomic levels of our country there’s an isolation factor. We don’t want our neighbors to know we can’t afford groceries or that our child struggles with an eating disorder. We don’t want the school to put us on the list for donated clothes or to know that we don’t have a cell phone.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

This concept that no matter who we are, or what we do, we’ll never be enough is driving our nation crazy, quite literally. I read recently that children of this generation (Millennial) experience the same level of mental stress as adults did in the 1950’s who were being institutionalized! WHAT!!!

The pressure we put ourselves and our children under is much higher than it’s ever been before. However, I still believe that it’s the isolation that causes us to break. Humans are social beings we crave interaction, intimacy and human contact. We seem to be missing these in our culture right now; in a world where we can instantaneously contact someone, send a message get an immediate response back; communication has become transactional not relational.

This vibrant young man reminded me of recent conversations I’ve had with several friends; some at church and some at work. Each of them have struggles that they don’t feel comfortable sharing. Some of them because of their position at work, some of them because they fear the reaction of those around them, and some because of the stigma attached. I myself struggle with several of these, all of which isolate me from most of the people in my life.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1Corinthians 12:26

I can’t tell you how many times I longed for a breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a friend just to share my thoughts with, and I know it’s not just me. I know there are literally millions of people in the world whose lives would be exponentially better because of a phone call, a drop by, or a surprise pumpkin spice latte (had to put that in there).

If each of us took just a few extra minutes during the day, let’s say 10, (everyone can find 10 minutes) to reach out to someone in our circle and let them know how important they are, that you are there for them, that they are loved and valued…you may be surprised at the result. You may be surprised to find one of your friends thanking you, because that was exactly what they needed to hear…you may be surprised to find you saved someone’s life.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …” Philippians 2:1-7

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

He is absolutely, absolute

absolutes“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8

God is not relative, He is and always has been relevant; yesterday, today and tomorrow. We don’t have to guess about which scriptures are true, which are relevant for today, which ones are for ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. The God we serve is bigger than our speculation, doubt and fear. He is absolutely, absolute.

Matthew 28:20 “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Romans 8:38-39 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Lamentations 3:22-23 “The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.”

John 4:14but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

I could go on and on but, I don’t think that I need to. God is who He says He is, He will keep the promises He makes, and will do the things He says He will.

I’ve been noticing with myself and my children that absolutes are something we throw out all the time. “I always tell the truth”, “I would never do that”, “I am faultless”, “the situation is ideal”, “It’s perfect” and of course my favorite from my children, “I need that!”

One day I was talking with my oldest son, I believe that he was 10 at the time and he told me he needed for me to buy him something; at that age it was more than likely Legos. Having heard him inform me more than once over the years of something he ‘needed’, I asked him to look up the meaning of the word. This is what he read, “to require something that is essential or something one must have to survive.” He looked at me with his sweet face and very quietly said, “I would like to have them mom?” From that point on, anytime one of his siblings requested that I purchase them something they ‘needed’, Nik would look them in the face and ask, “are you going to die if you don’t get it?” Hysterically enough, often the answer was yes, but again, story for another time, you get the picture.

Absolutes in our world have become so commonplace that they have lost their meaning. They have lost their meaning so much we feel compelled to add words to the absolutes to be more emphatic; “I promise to never ever do that again”, “I swear I will always do that from now on”, “I swear there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you”. It’s as if our word no longer holds any weight. So, then it doesn’t surprise me that in a world where absolutes mean absolutely nothing we have the same doubts of God. If our word doesn’t mean what it should and the word of the people around us doesn’t mean what it should, and we were created in God’s image then does His word mean anything?

James 5:12Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.”

Absolutes exist for a reason, they don’t need embellishment to convince us. God didn’t use fancy words to convince us what He said was true. He just did it, his actions are enough; He upholds every promise and follows through on every utterance;  you don’t have to guess with God, you can take Him at His word.

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

I challenge you for one day to listen to the words that come out of your mouth. What are you saying to your family, and friends, to your peers and co-workers; how often do you use absolutes in situations where it is unnecessary? How often do you say the words always, never, promise, swear; are you doing it because you think the people you’re speaking with don’t believe you… or are you saying it because you don’t believe you?

In either case, perhaps we need to take our lead from the Psalms, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer”. Psalm 19:14

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

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