Category Archives: freedom

Listen with Jesus ears

dtv4yo0w0am4ovmGod holds up my life?

Driving home after a bowling trip with my two youngest, my son made a random statement while looking out the window, “God holds up my life”. I quickly replied, “yes, son He does.”

I’m not sure why he felt prompted to make that simple statement, but it got me to thinking. How often do we hear statements from people, but don’t really listen to them? My son just made a profound statement and I thought it was cute.

I remember a time when my oldest daughter, who was then all of 4-years old, tell me that she wanted to accept Jesus as her Lord. I smiled down at her and said, “that’s wonderful Alex, we can talk about it more when we get home.” We were at a youth rally, I was serving at that time as the youth pastor and trying to corral 12 teenagers. My pastor walked up to me and simply stated, “are you going to take her down to pray or am I going too?” Yup, I assumed she was just repeating something she’d heard someone else say, but when my daughter got down to alter she sat in a circle with a few other younger children and led them (didn’t follow them, lead them) in the sinners prayer.

Our children are an incredible source of inspiration, they have amazing discernment and they speak the truth…always, even when we really don’t want to hear it.

Jesus knew how special children were when He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.Matthew 19:14

I am amazed on an almost daily basis by what comes out of my children’s mouths; both solicited and unsolicited.

This week during Friday Night’s at Tucson Central; our youth were reading John 3:16-18. Of course we all know this as the most popular verse in the bible. We learn it almost as early as we learn how to say Amen and or interrupt the pastors sermon at the most inopportune time.

I asked the youth to try and explain to me why this verse is so popular. I got all kinds of answers ranging from; it’s short, it’s easy and it’s written everywhere to it’s cool and Pastor say’s it a lot; then my 14 year old son says, “it explains the whole gospel”. WHAT!!!

It was yet another wake up call or at the very least get the wax out of your ears. We are surrounded by people who ‘get it’, we constantly read scripture and yet miss so much. Are we really listening or in our straining to hear God are we failing to hear the tree falling in the forest.

I want to be open to all that God has for me. That means that I need to be open to all He says to me. Sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks to me through my children, through strangers sleeping on the sidewalk, through scripture and even through individuals who make us uncomfortable or we don’t particularly want to listen too. The thing is, if we want to hear God we need to be prepared for his voice to come from anyone, anywhere at anytime.

Jesus didn’t just listen to the people around them, He  heard them with ears full of love and compassion and mercy. Several times, even Jesus was surprised by what He heard.

“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”  Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.  For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.” Matthew 8:5-13

I want to listen with expectation of how the Holy Spirit is going to speak to me today, I hope you do too.

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”.

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”.

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”.

 

Doing Life Together…Helping Others

Philippians 2“Keep a close watch on all you do and think. Stay true to what is right and God will bless you and use you to help others.” 1 Timothy 4:16

These words from Paul to Timothy ring true for each of us. Keep a close watch on all you do and think, and then stay true to what is right. If we do this God will bless us and use us to help others…wow.

I shared earlier how important it is to keep our thoughts focused on what is good. We can’t let our sinful nature take up residence in our thoughts and never leave. Our thoughts often hold us hostage to the point that we are paralyzed, rendered useless not only to ourselves but to others. We are so caught up in our own issues and troubles that we stop looking around us.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

I suffer from night terrors. (Now that’s an awesome way to start a blog.) It’s not something that I like to share as they make me feel like a helpless child unable to overcome my silly fears. They started the summer before I began my freshman year of high school. It was during the summer and my father was traveling quite a bit. The anticipation of which would throw me totally out of whack. My dad made me feel safe, secure and basically untouchable. When he wasn’t there, I was a wreck.

This particular summer my night terrors began. I couldn’t sleep alone, I would sneak down the hall to my parents room and sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed. When my dad was away I would sleep with my mom. The thought of being alone in my room would cause me such anxiety that I would physically shake in fear. This went on all summer and finally my parents had to draw a line. I was terrified, I cried, shook, had a hard time breathing but they were standing firm. This couldn’t go on. I sat on my bed wrapped in several blankets with the light on…I grabbed a book to take my mind off and started to read. Yup…I took my mind off  of my fears and anxieties, and started to read. I read till I fell asleep.

Fast forward A LOT of years to present day. Now as a grown up with my oldest starting high school, guess what happened…yup night terrors. I will wake up in a sweat shaking in fear about anything and everything. Did you ever realize how much worse things seem in the dark, when you’re tired and uncertain. It has been awful! I felt like I was tired all the time, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t function. I was trying to fall asleep with the TV on hoping that the light and distraction would help. Sometimes it did, often it did not.

About a month ago, while I was lying awake in my bed, trying to pray myself out of this ridiculous fear, I remembered something one of the youth had said about something going on in their life that was causing them anxiety. So, I began to pray for them, that they would feel God’s peace and love. That led me to the struggles of another one of my youth, then a friend I had prayed for at church and a woman in my small group. The more I prayed for OTHERS the more Christ’s peace rested in me.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

I truly wish I could express the experience! Focusing on someone else brought me peace and freedom like nothing I had experienced before. I was allowing my anxieties, and the fears in my head to holding me hostage. The moment I turned away from MY fears and toward the Holy Spirit’s leading I was rescued from my anxiety. Now whenever I find my thoughts creeping to places that they shouldn’t, or old fears creeping in, I focus on others, specifically I pray. I listen to who the Spirit brings to my heart and I lift them up. The fears fade and Christ’s peace fills my heart.

It may not be this way for everyone. Each of us have a call on our lives. I know many people who have been called to minister to the poor, sit by a bedside in a hospital, work with individuals struggling with addiction, or evangelizing on the streets. In each of these I recognize a similar peace that comes from an altered focus. A shift of perspective from oneself to others.

Doing life together means that we are constantly and consistently holding each other up. We are seeking out opportunities to put others before ourselves, to come along side and link arms and move forward together. We weren’t created to exist on a desert island, we were created to be in community, working together to share the good news and to glorify God.

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.

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

Don’t let them live rent free

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“Do not conform to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what Gods’ will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

It was an ordinary day, my alarm clock went off at 5:00 am, I hit snooze, (I can actually hit snooze 3 times and still get out the door on time). I get up, feed the dog, go into the boy’s room and turn on the light then the girl’s room, making sure everyone’s eyes are open and they are moving out of bed before heading to the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.

I continue to keep my cadre of kiddos moving so we can get out of the house on time. During all this activity, as I keep myself and the family moving you would never guess that something ugly has taken up residence in my mind…and I’m letting it live there…rent free.

How often do we allow thoughts in our head to take up residence and literally consume our brain to the point that our thoughts spin out of control and eventually take us with them? Perhaps it’s something that happened during the day that you haven’t been able to get past, or a conversation you had with your spouse, or the flirtatious comment from a coworker that you can’t seem to stop replaying in your head. In my case it was something that I took to heart, that probably wasn’t meant the way I took it, but it made me doubt myself, question every action I had taken. So I second guess every decision, replay conversations in my head, how should I have said this or done that. Before you know it, not only are you questioning that interaction but every subsequent one. You begin to question yourself, your value, your very viability…sound familiar?

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.  Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.  “In your anger do not sin” Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Ephesians 4:22-27

When we allow (and yes, it is a choice, we do allow it) our minds to be consumed by worldly thoughts and cares we are not following Gods will for our lives. Not to mention, we are giving Satan the reins.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-44

This is NOT how Christ wants us to live! He wants us to live free from the thoughts that enslave our lives and hold us hostage to the past, to sin, and to death. However, we seem all too willing to allow these thoughts to take up residence in our minds and control our lives. They are the thoughts that tell us we aren’t good enough, that we aren’t loved, that we are beyond grace, and that we’ve fallen too far for God to redeem. Guess what, they are LIES!

While talking with my son and some of his friends at church, one of them asked me, “how can you tell if it’s God talking to you and not the devil?” It’s actually a question I get asked a lot. A very wise man once told me that the best way to know God’s voice is to know God’s word. The Bible tells us that God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our ability, and will always provide us a way out, (1 Corinthians 10:13). It also tells us that we need to focus our thoughts on higher and nobler things, (Philippians 4:8).

It’s not just a matter of keeping broken thoughts out of our minds but filling it with whole thoughts. Thoughts that are uplifting, holy and pleasing to God. “Well gee Betsy what does that look like?” Well I’ll tell ya, when we focus our thoughts on the gifts God has given us, our lives, our families, the many blessings and promises He has made, who He is and His love for us, then there is no room for doubt, lies and shame.

I have found that in those times when my mind is bombarded with doubts, that focusing on who God is, and who I am in Him, works as the best eviction notice.

” For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27

Knowing God’s word helps me to recognize His voice. Being able to recognize His voice enables me to know when it’s Him in my thoughts. Christ wants us to know Him, to recognize His presence in our lives. He wants residence in our hearts and minds, and He paid the price to be there.

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

 

 

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”.

 

Don’t Be Roadkill!

squirrel-in-the-road.jpg“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

A friend of mine shared a story with me a few years ago that has stuck with me. At the time we were discussing some of our students and how they seem to get stuck and not able to move forward toward their goal. I kept commenting that even though they can see the path, because that path is new and unfamiliar they are more likely to do an about face and return to the familiar at the first sign of difficulty, it was maddening to see so many not achieve their goals when they were so close.

He told me a story about a little ambitious squirrel. One day he was standing by the side of the road looking off into the distance, he was hungry you see as there wasn’t much food on his side of the road. As he gazed across the vast paved expanse, he saw a huge tree full of acorns. It was like looking at the promised land…and yes, the grass really was greener.

So, this squirrel started across the road, he kept his eyes on the tree, on the acorns and steadily, he began making his way. Just when he had almost reached the other side, he heard a sound, and saw some lights in the distance, he paused and looked around, he took his eyes off the tree, off the acorns, and began looking back toward where he came. The noise got louder, and he got scared, and started to doubt his decision and his direction. He stood in the road paralyzed not knowing what to do as the sound got louder and the lights got brighter… should he continue on his path toward the unknown or should he quickly return to the familiar? The noise gets louder and louder and the lights brighter and brighter, the confused squirrel begins to wonder why he’s in the road, why he risked this danger, what was he thinking and quickly he begins to run back the way he came, without realizing how close he was to safety.

He runs frantically back across the road…but alas the distance is too great, and the squirrel doesn’t make it to safety before the car reaches him.

Moving toward the new is difficult, scary and just about anything in life coming at us can cause us to doubt. We must keep our eyes focused on Christ if we want to succeed. If we do that, if we put Him first then we will reach our destination.

Serious words…often they seem easier said than done.

Jesus asked us to put off the old, to stop living in the past, to move toward something new, to move toward Him. The Apostle Paul tells us, “throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.” Ephesians 4:22-24

So then, why do we keep reverting back to our old ways, doing what we’ve always done instead of moving toward Christ and all the love and freedom and healing He has to offer?

The million-dollar question right?

Short answer FEAR, I found an acronym that sums it up pretty well; False Evidence Appearing Real. We too easily listen to the lies of; it’s too hard, too far, I’m not good enough, I don’t deserve love, grace, forgiveness. The real evidence, the truth, is that Christ came to earth while we were still sinners to save us and reconcile us to God. Thankfully He didn’t wait until we were perfect, holy and healed (like that was going to happen without him). He came for you, me, everyone; that is the real evidence. Christ came to seek and save the lost, broken, sinful, disinherited, mournful, disenchanted and displaced. He came for each of us.

We don’t have to be scared, we don’t have to FEAR, we only need to have faith that God is who He says He is, not who we think He is. He keeps his promises, always and forever. All too often we give up and lose hope right as we approach the finish line, missing out on God’s blessing and favor.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Remember the squirrel, if he had just kept his eyes on the tree, kept moving forward, not only would he have made it to safety, he would have received all the abundance of blessing that was waiting for him.

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

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