Category Archives: parables

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

School House Rock, still rockin’ my world

immigrationA couple of weeks ago we attended my youngest son’s school play. They did a rendition of School House Rock where a new teacher was having some serious conversations about whether or not he could cut it as a teacher. Throughout the program the School House Rock songs were used to illustrate how much this teacher really knew and build up his confidence to start his first day. It was a wonderful production and my synopsis doesn’t really do it justice. However, one of the songs they played, truly brought a tear to my eye, not just because of the childhood memory it invoked, but because of how far we have fallen away from the very concept. To see a group of almost 100- 3rd graders from incredibly diverse cultural backgrounds holding hands, and singing The Great American Melting Pot, filled me with joy and sadness at the same time.

I don’t think I realized at that moment, how much the moment affected me until this morning. The drive to get three of my kiddos to their various schools each morning takes me about an hour. During the second half of that drive, we travel through an economically depressed neighborhood. The street is lined with mobile home parks, and at the time of the morning we drive through, it is also lined with children walking to school. There are children from Somali families taking refuge here, there are Hispanic, African and Dominican children walking to school in large groups; the older children keeping an eye on the younger children. Many of the parents are walking with them.

What struck me this morning were the smiling faces not just of the children but of the adults as well. Many of them wearing yellow crossing guard vests as they man the street corners where children will cross to get to school. They smile and wave as many of the cars pass by. Then there are those who take this street as it’s a cross between to major roadways. They are booking it down the road, way over the speed limit in their high end cars. They don’t like the crossing guards, they don’t like the school speed limit signs, they like to slam on their breaks and honk their horns…schools crossings are an inconvenience to their very busy and very important lives.

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” Romans 12:10

I think that we’ve forgotten, that unless you are a full blood native american, you too probably come from a refugee family. Somewhere in your background either distant or recent, someone came to The Great American Melting Pot to start a new life, for a better chance for your children, to escape tyranny and oppression, there are so many reasons why. When did we become so much more important, more valuable and more entitled than everyone else?

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35

This morning broke my heart! I felt nothing but love for the incredible people living in this city who, to some, are nothing more than a commute slowing bother. I applaud the courage it took to leave behind everything they knew, to start over, and work for something better for themselves, and their families. I am so grateful to be an American, my family came here, some on the Mayflower, to start a new life and to build something great, to be a better example for the world. Sometimes, I think we need a reminder of that. I’m a French, German, English, Irish and Native American Indian, American and I am so proud of that.

Christ called us to be disciples of ALL nations, not when it’s convenient, not when it’s safe, not when they look like us; ALL nations. How can we possibly be the people we are called to be if we are just rushing by at 55 mph in our cars with tinted windows, wearing our dark sunglasses, not making eye contact?

“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 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

As I write this, I am praying that it will be received in the spirit with which it was written. It is written in love, for everyone, love takes time, intent and compassion. Please, don’t lose sight of who we are called to be.

 

Peace killers – Anxiety

originalWhen the idea of this series first popped into my brain, I thought perhaps there was too much similarity around the issues of stress, fear and anxiety. These three emotions are often used synonymously (I think that’s a word). However, as I’ve read and researched, although they seem to elicit similar responses they are very different emotions. While stress is felt when we allow ourselves to feel the pressure of the world closing in on us, fear is when we experience eminent danger causing us to fight or flee. Anxiety is  a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It can be a nagging and dragging emotion that drains us of our energy, focus and even our ability to move forward.

Anxiety in our world today is so prevalent that it also has a psychiatric definition along with numerous medications to help you overcome your anxiety. Anxiety disorder is defined as “a nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.”

A state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, sound familiar? Do you spend large parts of your day trying to control all the circumstances around you and worrying that things won’t turn out as you hoped, then becoming fearful of the outcome of that disaster, and  allowing the expectations of everyone around to  crush you to the point you just don’t feel like you can breathe? Anxiety is absolutely debilitating!

Many years ago, like about 8, we were going through an adoption process. My youngest son and my oldest daughter were living in our home as foster children. Marcus was placed with us the day he was born and his older sister came sometime later. Both immediately became part of our family, I was actually surprised how well they fit in and how complete my family became with them now part of it.

That’s when it began. Every three months or so we had to go to court for an update. I would worry about obscure possible relatives showing up and claiming them, what if the Judge changed his/her mind, what if my lawyer didn’t think we should have them, what if, what if, what if. My brain was constantly filled with anxious thoughts about what might, could, possibly, imaginably, vaguely, happen. I would start calling our case worker asking questions about every ridiculous possibility and she would finally tell me, “yes Betsy, that could happen, but worrying about it won’t change anything.” 

The Bible can be very simple and direct, we however, have a tendency to complicate it. In Matthew 6, Christ is very clear about or propensity to worry. “Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?” Matthew 6:27

In Matthew 6 from 25 through 34 Christ acknowledges that worry (anxiety) is something that plagues us all. “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on it. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?…But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:31-34

Yes, I hear you, I wasn’t worrying about clothes or food. I was worrying about losing my children. But, I was worrying about possible (not probably) outcomes that I had no control over. I was spinning stories in my head and letting Satan live in my brain rent free!

God already knows the outcome, and better than that, His outcome is always going to be far better than one I could pull off. Not to mention my anxiety isn’t going to make a difference other than to have a negative impact on my health, relationships, walk with Jesus, and, and, and.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Marcus and Emily are a blessed part of our family. They were part of God’s plan for us all along, and my anxiety had nothing to do with it! Looking back I can see how allowing my worry to go unchecked and become a habit created so much tension that was unnecessary. It cast a constant, looming shadow across what should have been an exciting adventure and growth opportunity for my family. Luckily I serve a Sovereign and loving God whose Grace is sufficient. I don’t think I permanently scarred anyone!

Stress, fear and anxiety are NOT of God! At least, not in a perpetual ruin your day and darken your life kind of way. We are not meant to live in a constant state of any of these emotions. However, there is good news; Christ doesn’t want that for you either and He has provided relief in the form of the Holy Spirit.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8

If you ask God to help you find peace and freedom from stress, fear and anxiety He will be faithful to answer.

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”.

Peace Killers – Stress

47718-matthew-11-28.500w.tnI think we’ve all heard the stories of adrenaline empowered individuals who in situations of extreme stress are able to perform feats of superhuman strength and endurance without hesitation. Or those people who, for whatever reason, are able to remain calm and clear headed in situations when everyone else around them are loosing their cool? We wonder, how are they able to do that? I believe that our Sovereign God designed us that way; each individually with abilities that He would use at some point in our life. The Glory is all His.

Then there are those times, which we’ve all experienced, when the pressure of a certain situation or circumstance seems to be like the gravitational force of a rocket ship speeding toward space, we feel as though we’ll be crushed by the pressure.

The dictionary defines stress as, “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” It is often in these times that we lose sleep, don’t eat, overeat, drink, smoke, or partake in any number of unhealthy habits that in effect make the situation worse.

Stress is a peace killer. It can effectively take our eye off the prize and cause us to have acute tunnel vision. Everything is exacerbated when we are stressed, people seem meaner, the world colder, our finances more dire, our relationships more dysfunctional and our outlook, well ridiculously hind-sighted.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30

Spoiler alert #1…God doesn’t want you to be stressed.

He does allow you to walk thorough stressful situations, so that you might rely more on Him. So that you will look to Him for strength and guidance. God wants to refine and perfect you, so that you can be more like Him.

“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

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that the situations of stress that you find yourself in are caused by God, they are not. However, we do know that our Sovereign God can, does and will continue to work through those situations to perfect us for the work He has for us to do.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

Stress has become more and more of a hot topic lately. It’s the great conundrum of our society. Work more, be more, have more. We create stress with our endless and unquenchable need for more; more money, more fame or recognition, more authority, more power and more stuff. Here’s spoiler alert #2…none of these things once achieved will bring you peace, joy or happiness. Yet we work longer hours each day, longer weeks and pride ourselves on taking less vacation. While citizens from other countries enjoy longer lives, report more fulfilling relationships and are by in large healthier.

Research has shown us that stress is bad for your brain, your heart, your respiratory system. It can cause you to get a rash, lose sleep, impair your immune system and the list goes on. Final spoiler alert…does that sound like something our loving God wants for us?

Satan wants us over worked, unsatisfied and sick. His main goal in life is to take out as many people as he can, and we have given him the perfect weapon. (note emphasis on given)

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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 11:28-30

Stress does not have to rob your sleep, steal your peace and hinder your health. Cast your burdens on Christ and He will carry them, He will give you peace and rest. When you find yourself tossing and turning at night, with your mind racing, and unable to sleep; open your bible, listen to Godly music and pray.

“And 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

God is the keeper of the peace that passes all understanding, ask Him to show that to you, and He will answer.

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”.

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”.

 

 

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”.

 

Apostles Eternity War

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“Mom, I want to be spider man”, “mom can I be wonder woman?”, “mom, mom, can a girl be baby Groot?” This is what I hear on an almost weekly basis these days. My children are obsessed with super heroes. They love the idea of heroes; those who are willing to do whatever is necessary for the greater good, despite the personal pain and sacrifice they must inevitably endure. Several years ago, when my oldest son was 8-9 years old he was obsessed with Indiana Jones and dressed up as him for three years running. I still have the cloth whip he carried that plays the Indiana Jones Theme Song. Da da dum dum da da dum! Yea I play with it sometimes too…truth be told it’s in my office and my whole team gets a kick out of it.

He loved that Indiana Jones had a seemingly super power where his whip was concerned however, his real super power was actually that he was smart and cared about keeping people safe. I remember when we watched the last Indiana Jones movie together, Nik kept telling me, “Mom it will be ok the hero always wins.” Then there was the scene where Indiana got a bit of a beating and Nik covered his eyes and began to worry if Indiana would still be victorious…of course he was, and Nik looked at me beaming…”see I told you the hero always wins.” Such faith he had in his hero.

It’s funny how we crave the idea that there are those in the world who are willing to serve a greater purpose than themselves, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives for it. We believe that honor, and nobility are something to be admired and looked up to. It’s almost like we were born with the innate desire to seek out that which is greater than ourselves.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

Perhaps it not that surprising after-all. Being made in God’s image we have the ability through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to share in God’s divine nature. We are created to be like Him who is noble, loving, forgiving and full of mercy. It is natural then that we look for these ‘invisible qualities’ here on earth.

The question is, why do we feel the need to create imaginary and fantastical versions of heroes to worship, as opposed to worshiping the one who embodies everything we seek?

In Philippians 4:8 the apostle Paul writes, “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.”

Does this list of characteristics sound familiar; true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy? Is Paul describing Superman, Wonder Woman, Captain America, or Spiderman? The list of characters could go on and on, none of them exemplify all of these characteristics, all of them represent some. The one difference seems to be that each of our heroes is mortally flawed. Whether its pride or vanity or kryptonite or a relationship or greed, we imbue each of our heroes with characteristics that make them more like us. It’s easier to believe that a hero could exist if they weren’t perfect. So, we worship the flawed over the flawless. Is it because we want to make our heroes more like us, bringing us to a more equal footing? Or is it simply because we can truly comprehend flawlessness?

God is flawless, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent. He is perfect, He is love, He cannot make a mistake and will not cause harm. We can trust Him completely and be confident that He is who He says He is; always has been and always will be.

While heroes remind us of our innate desire to experience the divine in humanity, there is only one true source for that divinity, Jesus Christ. He is the one hero who embodied all that is divine. His flawlessness, purity, nobility is what we truly seek, Jesus was fully human and fully God. Why would we seek something less, why would we worship that which is flawed and broken when we have what is perfect.

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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