The morning was full of potential. I got up on time, didn’t check social media, and made the kids breakfast.
Then, after dropping my son off at the bus stop, I checked my email. And everything went downhill.
The intent of the message was positive. My reaction to it was not.
This successful blogger wanted to let me in on all of the secrets to success. And I’m sure deep down somewhere that I craved this knowledge.
But what I saw? The numbers. How many readers visited her site. How much income she brought in each month. It was though these stats represented some invisible gate-keeper and I was stuck on the outside, pushing a door that wouldn’t budge.
Comparison turns our vision into opposition. It turns our joy into jealousy.
As I sat there that Tuesday morning basking in self-pity, and knew I needed an attitude adjustment. And do you know what’s beautiful about asking God to change your attitude?
He always answers.
Sometimes he asks us to take a good long look at ourselves. Other times he sends a word of encouragement through a friend or family member. But he never fails to deliver.
On this particular weekend in mid-winter, he drew my attention to my kids. Particularly my oldest son.
My firstborn delights in new responsibilities, no matter how small. You can give him the house key to open the side door as you labor up the steps with groceries, and he will skip to complete the task.
But more than that, he does it with love. Which is something I forgot in my moment of temporary insanity and comparison.
As my son grows older, my husband and I increase his jobs around the house. He takes care of the pets and helps clean up around the house, and we reward him for his efforts. But we don’t start him off with a huge list of chores to do. Nor do we trust him things we know are beyond his ability.
If we look at scripture, God follows the same pattern. When we first read of God’s call on David he is out in the middle of a field, tending sheep. When the angel of the Lord appears to Moses, he is tending the flock as well.
The Lord is pleased when we take the same care with the small as we do with the big. As a matter of fact, the Word tells us he “rejoices” in it.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zechariah 4:10 NLT
Friends, God does not see our work in the same way we do. And aren’t you glad? With each step you take to glorify his name and make him known, he is honored. He rejoices over you.
The absolute best words we could expect to hear from God on the other side of this life are, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Not, “Congrats on all the followers you had on Twitter,” or “That was a really solid platform you spent all those years building.”
It’s his platform, not ours. Let’s remember that even in the small, he is always faithful.
Even when we misstep.
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Abby McDonald is a writer who can’t contain the lavish love of a God who relentlessly pursues her, even during her darkest times. When she’s not chasing her two little boys around, she loves hiking, photography, and consuming copious amounts of coffee with friends.
I can’t believe I am saying this. With this admission, it seems like stadiums of people might stand up and boo me. It feels like there should be a grand coronation with a broken crown, for me, the mom who stinks the most. And here is why (and boy, do I hate to admit this): I hate playing with my kids.
There you have it.
Give me games, give me coloring, give me a purpose, but give me a room and a little one dreaming of pretend games – and I am lost.
I know, I hate me too; I see the other moms.
I am not like them: the ones who get on the floor for hours, aching back and all, the ones who are 110% in at the park and the ones who crafting all day long.
These women, they make me look bad; they point out the truth: I am not enough.
Are you hearing the voice of not enough too?
Not enough at work? Not enough with your family?
Not enough with your friends? Not enough of anything?
I could see “not enough” every time I looked into that innocent face. I could see it in his eyes – I was letting him down. Every look at him seemed to speak, Kelly:
You are a failure mom. Your kids won’t love you. You are not enough. You will always stink.
If we aren’t careful, our failure will attempt to define our future.
This thought made me sit upright at the prospect of something deeper a nugget: If our thoughts are trying to kill relationship, rather than build relationship, they probably are not from God. This truth hit me like a lightbulb.
Then, I started to think:
Evil wants to make our perceived failure into our destined future. It wants to hand us an eternal label that says, “Unstable and liable to fail.” It wants to rip apart our families with the lie, that things can’t change.
It is at work to tell us, “You stink and can’t ever be better.”
This message always leads us to do one of three things:
1. Give up because we know how worthless we are.
2. Get mad at others because we feel angry that they are making us be this way.
3. Overdo it by being too involved, controlling or overbearing.
That evening, I decided to take a step back from my truth, the truth I didn’t like to play. I looked at it for what it is: I don’t like pretend, I do like the zoo. I don’t like pretend, I do like cooking. I don’t like pretend, but I do do fun things.
The fact that I don’t like pretend does not equal the fact that my son doesn’t love me. LIE!
It does not equal the fact that I am bad mom. LIE!
It does not equal a standing of doomed mother. LIE!
Relieving myself of the pressure, left me room to consider. It left room for me to love myself and him without getting burned. Stepping back leaves room for God to starve the bad and to feed in the good.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Jo. 15:13
Jesus laid down his life for me. I have a little one that I can lay my life down for too.
I can sometimes do what I don’t like, I can play pretend, because I love him. I love him so much. I love with big and bold and wide open love. And, with Christ, we can do things we don’t like, even if we fail, even if we end up eventually yelling, “Get in the car. We are making an emergency trip to the library.” Even then, we are okay.
The love of Christ leave us, always, more than okay; it can’t go anywhere on the children of God. It always sees, always cares and always endures.
Shame has no place in the center of love.
Shame can’t exist in the presence of patience.
Shame can’t grow amidst self-forgiveness.
And, so we look at ourselves and say, “If Christ can love me like this, I guess I can love me too.” For, how can we really love, if we don’t have a base of love to work from?
‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31
If I find his love in me, Christ’s love will work through me.
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Occasionally, you know you met someone with a heart of gold – this is how I feel about Gwen Smith. Her all-in pursuit of Jesus, her authentic spirit and her ability to instantly connect, as both a teacher and a girlfriend, is a gift that is so unique to her. I have gotten a chance to deep dive into her new book, “I Want It All” and her words have helped me grab hold of the fullness of God’s extraordinary that he has uniquely carved out for me. Thanks Gwen.
I am delighted to welcome Gwen Smith to Purposeful Faith. I hope you will too.
The book of Esther shows us what our lives can look like when we trust in the sovereignty of God and expect Him to be powerful in the midst of desperate circumstances that could cause us to cower in fear. God positioned this young Hebrew girl to be queen of Persia so that she could rise up in His strength and courage when her people, the Jews, faced imminent death. She fasted and humbled herself before the Lord through prayer. And though it was risky to the point of death, she went to the king and courageously spoke up on behalf of the Jews. The result? God used Esther to save her people from genocide.
I want to be brave like that. I want to live with so much God courage that I don’t go soft when life gets hard. So I take note of what Esther did. She didn’t cave in to fear; instead, she fixed her focus on God and His power to save her and His people. She fasted and prayed and asked for Him to intervene.
Like Queen Esther, we can live with great expectations of God because He loves to do amazing things through average people— people with worries and warts and weaknesses, like you and me. If we want it all, we need to be women who stand firm when our emotions threaten to overwhelm us and courageously believe God for big things.
So… how CAN we stand firm in faith like Esther
did when our knees knock?
The first step to standing firm in faith is to know Him.
Generally speaking, I don’t trust someone I don’t know. Plain and simple. I’m guessing you don’t either.
God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about the importance of our knowing Him:
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he under- stands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer. 9:23–24 ESV)
The apostle Peter also wrote about the importance of knowing God. At the beginning of his first letter, he stated that the grace, peace, and power we need are connected to our knowledge of Christ:
Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Pet. 1:2–3)
How can you know God? Read your Bible, study His character, and remember the ways He has delivered in the past. Such things are Faith 101. When you are overwhelmed by life, don’t shy away from God. Don’t isolate: investigate. Look to Him. Explore His goodness.
I learned recently about the familiar “trust God” verses in Proverbs 3. You know them. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (vv. 5–6 ESV).
The second part never made sense to me. I wondered, Why would my acknowledging God motivate Him to make my paths straight? In the New Testament, even the demons acknowledged that Jesus was the Son of God, so why would my acknowledging Him make my paths straight?
I looked up the root word and found a gold mine. The Hebrew word for “acknowledge” is yada’,1 the primitive root of which means “to know.” It means “to understand, to grasp or ascertain; especially to be familiar or acquainted with.” So, “in all of your ways acknowledge him” really means this: in all of your ways yada’ Him; in all of your ways know Him and seek to understand Him; be familiar with Him; be acquainted with Him, and He will make your paths straight.
The key to a straight path, the key to trusting God when doubt shoves me off balance is way less about my circumstances and way more about my God.
When we’re intimately familiar with God, when we don’t just know about Him but really know Him, the most crooked roads we travel are made straight. Not because life is easy. Sifting through emotions like anger, depression, hopelessness, insecurity, and so on is hard stuff! But because when we know God, we know all of this as well:
His STRENGTH that is accessible in our weakness
His COMFORT that meets us as we mourn
His MERCY that withholds the punishment our depravity readily deserves
His PEACE that defies our unrest
His JOY that kisses the cheeks of our sorrow
His COURAGE that makes our weary hearts brave and casts away fears
His REDEMPTION that reworks our brokenness into beauty
His LOVE that binds us to eternity and delights over us with singing
Even when the one-two punches come and feelings are frazzled, I can confidently trust God by faith. Not because I understand all the circumstances, or even like them, but because I know Him. And because I know Him, I can trust that He will provide all I need to process pains, heal from wounds, and move forward in strength, grace, and peace.
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Smith is quick to say that she is not saying more is better. More may include setbacks, more may include being misunderstood and discouraged, and more may include suffering. But more also means knowing God more deeply, even in the midst of pain. The deepest question behind this search for more from God is this: Do I trust Jesus? Smith helps readers explore this question in light of disappointment and unmet expectations in life.
Gwen Smith is an author and volleyball enthusiast who lives in sunny North Carolina and has been married to her college honey, Brad, for 23 years. They are tired parents to three tall, competitive-sport-playing teens who keep them on their toes and on their knees. Her online friends meet at GwenSmith.net to connect and be encouraged, and her goal is to help women think big thoughts about God and be inspired to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. Gwen’s new book, I Want It All, (David C. Cook) released on March 1, 2016. She speaks, leads worship, and eats potato chips at women’s events everywhere, and she is a cofounder of the conference and devotional ministry Girlfriends in God.
CHANCE TO WIN: Bloggers & readers, Gwen will be selecting one of you at random to win her books and music. Support Gwen today:
Lord, I don’t want to go through life thinking wrongs are normal.
I don’t want to go about striving, thinking that I am thriving.
I don’t want to do anything, thinking you won’t help me.
I don’t want to waste my life, thinking that you’re average.
I don’t want to take my hurts and brush them under the carpet.
When we let the piles of wrong build up inside,
they end up cover our eyes,
and blind us from the most majestic view – of you.
We follow a shadow of darkness and box God’s power to a limited distance.
No more God! I want to hear your voice.
No more going through motions! I want to see your face.
No more trying to do better! I want to hand everything over to you.
So here it goes:
Lord, I am sorry. I am sorry I pursue self over selfless. I am sorry that so often I make my needs King. I am sorry that I try to Lord over people. I am sorry that I don’t trust you in the gap of the unknown. I am sorry that I miss so many pre-set opportunities for faith, because I allow myself to sit in the agonies of fear. I am sorry that my pride makes me think I need to pry doors open. I am sorry that I listen to the voice of victimhood instead of your voice, the sound of eternal victory.
I am sorry that rather than living by your very Word, I have been living by rushed standards of this world. I am sorry that my mind is quick to dwell on nothingness rather than the vastness of you. I am sorry that I first see how you won’t be there for me, rather than how you will. I am sorry that I determine where I should be, rather than just being in you. I am sorry that I forget to thank you for all your little and unseen protections. I am sorry for how I have believed you won’t come through, when you promise you will.
Will you forgive me? For I want all of you. I don’t want to settle for a half-way God, a marginal interpretation of your love, I want the full deal. I want the whole kit and caboodle. I ask you to restore trust and to rebuild my life in ways that are exceedingly abundantly greater than I could even ask think or imagine.
God, I know when all I need is you,
I get everything I really need (Ps. 37:4).
This is truth; you are all I need.
You are all the answers to my greatest questions.
You are the sustainer to my very breathe.
You are the pipeline to my wildest dreams.
You are the beginning of life change that doesn’t cease.
You won’t ever fall from high.
Your throne won’t ever break.
Your power won’t ever cease.
Your mercy won’t fail to work. Your grace can’t possibly give up.
You bring me high as I let you carry me.
You pursue my heart every waking hour.
You lead me to repentance so I can walk in complete assurance.
You give me power, even when I feel week. You strengthen me in the face of opposition.
There is not a day you are not for me.
There is not a week you aren’t working on my behalf.
There is not a month you will turn the other way when I mess up. And there is not a year that you will not delight over me with singing.
For you are love,
and your love is mine.
You are salvation,
and salvation is here, it waits for me – literally every hour, every milli-second even, of every day.
I want to turn into it,
I want to miss it no longer, for in many ways following Jesus, is about returning back, again and again.
It is a life dedicated to a grand return.
A return like hurt child runs to her daddy;
So I will run to your arms,
and you will lift me up,
and then I will know, there is nothing that can ever remove me from your love (Ro. 8:38).
I will know that you and me, we are once again united and such a bond like this – it can never be broken.
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Something inside me was brewing. I could hear the voices. I could sense the excitement. It was all around me. I wanted to jump in, I wanted to participate; but, all I could do was stand and stare. Like a frozen spectator, the reflection of the gym class mirror gripped me. Giggles. Smiles. Connections.
Loneliness. Wishes. Sadness.
The were living everything I wanted, the everything I was somehow was not a part of. I was the lone wolf.
I stood smack dab in the middle of the class, but knew I much more belonged on planet Jupiter.
Every inch of me felt vulnerable, “Will they notice that no one is talking with me?”
Every ounce felt embarrassed, “Why don’t I have a friend here too?” Every bit of me wondered, “Do I look okay?”
Everything in me, made me feel like I was reliving yesterday…
Playgrounds are places where kids play, except for when you are me. Then they are places where you sit out. They are places where you are left behind. They are places where you watch from the safety of a curb, from a position of arms crossed or from a nurses office for safe keeping, because what you know is: on these grounds everything you believe about yourself is being determined.
1. I must not be likable.
2. I have some weird gene that excludes me.
3. I think differently.
I reached out my hand to be friends with one of the girls. I tried; I tried so hard to extend myself beyond myself. I looked in her eyes – and she looked back too. There was hope!
Then, her friend walked by, reached out for her arm and said, “Don’t be friends with her.”
Said and done – from that point on everyone acted cold. Standing on that field, playing whatever sports game we where playing, a little piece of determination and a little piece of resolution was lost. I kicked softly and felt horribly. And walked home solemnly figuring there was something wrong with me.
I wonder if Jesus ever felt like me?
A moral, good and righteous odd-ball-out kind of kid?
Without sin, yet having to dwell in sin (Heb. 4:15)?
Immersed in a world of pain, when he was used to the wealth of paradise?
Hated by those he loved and shamed by those he came to save?
Might those he loved felt awkward and restrained near him in sight of his greatness, his perfection?
And what about when Jesus was about to head to the cross? No one could understand his grief. No one could fathom the far depths of his love. No one could walk in the shoes that would cleanse the whole world with righteousness. No one could understand what it feels like to be “forsaken” (Mt. 27:46).
Surely, I am not nearly like Jesus, but I think Jesus might have felt a little like me – alone. Not understood. Weary.
Pushing Into Jesus
When I step back from all this – to look at Jesus and myself, I start to see something emerge.
What strikes me is: How often am I like those who stood around Jesus – just a little scared of him?
How often do I believe Jesus looks at me and says, “Her, no…. you don’t want to be friends with her”
and then he grabs all his love and walks out the door?
When we feel like Jesus is ready to abandon us,
we become hyper-aware that the world will too.
Deflect his love and you will deflect all love. Intersect with Jesus’ love and you’ll be resurrected by it.
Do you ever feel unable to receive the fullness of God’s love?
5 Ways to Tell if You are a Love-Deflecter:
1. You feel guilty beyond guilty when you make a mistake. You can’t get over it.
2. You sometimes fall trapped to believing: God is too big and too mighty to hear your small prayers – or answer them.
3. When you close your eyes and imagine meeting Jesus in heaven, you see him squinty eyed as he greets you.
4. You figure a way out of trials, verses letting God’s love hold you through them.
5. The past makes you think he runs from your past too.
There is no ounce of shame, that disqualifies you from the power of his name.
There is no ounce of shame, that disqualifies me from the power of his name. Say it aloud if you need to.
Jesus knows our pain and loves us the same.
He felt pain and won the game.
He knows our cries – and cries with us.
He bring us to the sinking point of love,
found at the foot of the cross.
Where the past has bounds,
but the future is boundless,
where pain exists,
but where love swallows its power.
Where life is made new again,
and past handicaps become moot.
Where the compassion goes on and on and on, and where small kids are made whole again.
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I almost died once, actually not even once, three times to be specific. After nearly dying that often, it gets someone thinking…
After having a gas tank nearly explode on you, you inhale and start thinking, life is fragile.
After almost having a tree land directly on you, you look up and start thinking there’s a reason God hasn’t taken you yet.
After doing vehicular twirls on an interstate, you start thinking God has some things prepared by offering another hour on earth.
Not to be deathly morbid,
but aren’t we all just a hair away from dying?
We are either dead or alive. Can’t be both.
And with all this death talk, it gets me contemplating the difference:
Death is numbing yourself.
It’s blinding self.
Making things all about self.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ro. 6:23
But death never represents real life.
Present life is like:
Stripping ones self,
Or removing the sandpaper edges that rub people raw,
Or the fragmented wood planks that stick out of hardened eyes,
Or softening the 20-inch layers of callous that keep love buried.
We don’t nearly equate these kinds of things with life. Because sometimes life breaks us, shreds us and leaves us in torn strips.
Yet, to be stripped is to become equipped with new life.
As the scales fall, new and supple skin emerges. It is pure, soft, pliable and empowered with complete nourishment to hike the trail headed to the far sunset of God’s predestined calling.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do. Eph. 2:10
It is called abundant life.
Not abundant health.
No abundant wealth.
Not abundant shoes.
Not abundant amusement.
Not abundant pleasure.
Not abundant power.
Not abundant smarts.
Not abundant gratification.
Abundant life, means you go through the fire of removing self
to find the Spirit
who remakes you in the wake of big waves,
and big callings.
It means you fall away from self to land softly in Christ’s open arms.
It means you retreat from your instant inclinations to find retreat in God’s quiet persuasions.
It means you find acceptance in Christ instead of annoyance at self in the face of big errors.
It means you walk untouchable as you proceed to heaven – as a bride, undefined, reserved, whole, sealed and renewed.
It means you know you have more than enough, even if, by the worlds standards you have hardly enough.
It’s life. It’s vision. It’s truth. It’s Hope. It’s discovery and recovery, learning and becoming, traveling and sitting all the same.
It’s more than you ever dreamed of, but all the same, exactly what you never imagined. It is pain, but it is always gain. It is joy, but earned through pain. Real pain. Loud pain. Crying pain. Nailed pain. Tortured pain. Ridiculed pain. Cross-ridden, Christ endured pain that signifies our safe return. A return that proves all will one day be okay, even if the worst does happen.
Because death is really life.
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This sneaky sin. . . let me just tell you something. It’s under the radar, it’s pulling the covers over your eyes and it’s having a field day in your life – and, likely, you don’t even realize it.
For many of you, you actually think it helps you. You actually think you are better off, smarter, more capable and resourceful for pulling this little trick out of your bag of hats.
Do you know what I am talking about yet? (Clue: it is man’s greatest downfall)
Here’s how it looks in my life:
It makes me a super-speed, crazed, mess cleaner.
It transforms me into a female Dyson; I develop routes and measures to ensure every crevice is “handled.”
It levies the weight of the world on my shoulder and tells me, “You can handle it.”
It shuns advice, instruction and wisdom.
It tells people you better get on my highway, turn left and then arrive on time, or else.
It pushes me towards ambition and drive, without concern for the little guys.
It places one hand over God’s mouth, so I can speak just a little big louder than him.
It passes along the unsaid message, “Stay back God, I’ve got this.”
When I consider why I do it, much of it boils down to this:
If I am not controlling the world, it seems the world is controlling me. If I don’t use my ammo, I become the target. If I am just standing there, I risk getting run over.
Add that to the fact that the world hands out a bunch of cliched garbage (like this), and you can see how one can start acting like a maniacal lunatic:
“If you don’t make a way, you’ll have no way.” “Fend for yourself.” “Eat or be eaten.” “Get ahead.” “Get a leg up.” “Work harder.” “Reach for the stars.” “Figure it out.” “Watch your back.” “Don’t give up.”
Self-sufficiency, otherwise known as pride, is gangrene to a body of Christ. It takes his blood, oxygen and flow and blocks it in a way where his mighty providence is dead. We flow by our own accord, our own merits and our own will. So, naturally, our limbs of love, of reliance and of hope, they die. They wither away. For, we have no need for them. We don’t use them. You see, we exchanged God’s sufficiency, for our self-sufficiency and then, we lose.
If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. Jo. 15:6
Limbless, lifeless and loveless we stand, duped. We stand as tall temples of places where hope is not required, where need is useless and where one bows down only to self. The incense of stink rises and fills the air near those around us.
What we can produce by self,
is nothing in comparison to light scent of love
that is always ours to inhale.
It is not a mantra, a self-help phrase or a lift-me-up status that says, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” -A.A. Milne from Winnie the Pooh
It’s nothing like this. Because that kind of statement is a lie – it is poo from Pooh. The truth is, we are worse off than we think we are. We are weaker than we admit and we are a whole lot less wise than we walk around pretending to be.
Even more, we are wasteful without his purpose and lacking without his cause. Apart from Christ we can do nothing (Jo. 15:5).
But, here is the thing: with him, we can do everything.
I can do all things through Christ[a] who strengthens me. Phil. 4:13
When we get to the end of self, we get to the start of life. It is an exchange.
We hand over our ways. He gives us his. In the empty, he fills. In the wanting, he restores. In the empty, he sits. In the cant’s, he can. The dreams, he makes. For the low, he lifts. The unseen, he sees. The marginal, he magnifies. The insecure, he holds. The offering, he transforms.
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Mt. 16:24-25
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Hey, little child of God, I have something to tell you, so listen up.
Happiness is over there. Do you see it? Go ahead, suck in what it could be. Feel it. Relish in it. Why not? Don’t you deserve it – for all you have suffered?Aren’t you tired of being stuck?
I mean, look at you! You idiot!
You marginal fool, why aren’t you doing anything, something, to change everything?
You are stuck in a church that is not ideal.
You are stuck in a house you don’t want to be in.
You are stuck with a family who doesn’t get you.
You are stuck with a job that is horrible.
You are stuck with friends that don’t really care.
You are stuck in a life that constrains.
You are stuck with kids who are unruly and disobedient.
You are stuck with a spouse who irritates.
You are stuck with a body that is ugly.
You are stuck with health issues that you can’t beat.
You are stuck with pressures and problems.
You are stuck being overweight.
Look at you, your life is horrible. I think, I really think, you should have so much more.
Psst…did you know? It doesn’t have to stay this way…you can do things about it. Now listen up before your whole life is ruined, before all the marbles are dumped on your head and before you find yourself in a burnt heap of ashes, here is my charge for you:
1. Take control.What God hasn’t stepped in to do, you can do. Those he hasn’t changed, force them to change. Drive your power in.
2. Seek happy at all costs.If something doesn’t make you happy, flee from it to find frolicking fun elsewhere. You only live once, you don’t want to sit around missing out. Fulfill your desires and feel good.
3. Remind yourself of all you don’t have.
“You dumb idiot. While everyone else is getting ahead, you are falling backwards. Do something about it. It’s not like you are that good of a Christian anyway; you always mess up. You failure. Give up.”
Speak like this to yourself and you will be bound to get somewhere.
4. If you can’t get what you want, find another way to make yourself feel good.
Drugs, sex, alcohol, shopping, porn, controlling, demoralizing, taunting, instigating, stealing, worry, abusing – it doesn’t really matter – just fill your deep need to numb the real belief you are unloved, uncared for and shipwrecked. The moment of controlled power will feel intoxicating.
5. Put yourself first. You are the only one who can fulfill your deep needs. You have to fight hard to get what you want. Defend yourself, arm yourself, distance yourself and put up an armored stronghold around your body. You are a walking fortress; keep it that way or you will be ruined. Shoot, if necessary.
Other quick tips:
– Keep your eyes on what you see before you; make a snap judgement and abide by feelings.
– Don’t let the word “patience” fool; God really isn’t working for you.
– Don’t serve anything, or anyone, that doesn’t lead to success.
– There’s no one who can come through – like you can.
– You’ll miss out if you don’t grab the world’s cup tightly – and suck it up.
– Put yourself first, no one else will take care of you.
– Get super wise and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
– Mock those who are poor in spirit, “Weaklings!”
– Doubt “hope” and stick with “despair” and you’ll fill up with indulgences of the world, for sure.
– Embrace shades of grey and blurred lines between good and evil – you can rationalize things that way.
With this, applause to you! Cheers for you! Great glory to your work! Great progress to your name! Great power to your charge! Great impact to your step! You will do it; you will find pleasure in all you ever wanted, in the enticements and in the lure of your eye.
You know you want it.
So, step in, grab it and bite –
it is the best apple you will ever eat, even it it makes your blood run cold, even if 10 minutes after you feel nauseated, even if the shame adds thirty layers of chains to your hide, even if you trap yourself into a box you can’t seem to claw your chained way out of, at least you will have joy for a moment, ecstasy for a minute and rule for an hour.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. Jo. 10:10
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Frustrated, I pumped harder, as if each New Year push on the elliptical would propel me into progress, as if it would really get me somewhere. The only thing it seemed to propel me into, however, was pressure. Pressure from words like: Must. Move. Forward. Must. Make. Difference. Must. Do. Well.
Sure, I wanted to do things for God, but somehow I lost God in the process.
It seemed God took off in the dense woods that laid in the window before me. I pumped faster, but man-made machines and ambitious routines, never have effectively lassoed God’s heart. I stayed lost.
Where did you go, God?
I didn’t know.
Sometimes it appears God leaves those who miss his perfectly placed bread crumbs – those who start looking left and right, only to unknowingly trample on his love lying on the center of the path. Those who get diverted by moving wind, shadows, scary branches, prickly vines and oncoming clouds.
It appears the more lost we get, the more lost we become.
What do you do when your steps have landed you into the density of vanity, superficiality and absurdity,
therefore making drivability back to your great God nearly impossible?
This is what I considered as I huffed and puffed.
God, I need you.
God, please help me.
Lord, there is none like you.
I have brought myself far, by looking at far off things,
far off people
and far of progress that you did not yet claim for me.
Reset my eyes, my mind, my being. Like a magnet that cannot be deterred from you. Like a body double that lives inside you. Like a duplicate of your being. Like a child on a parental leash. Clone my desires to be of your genetic makeup.
For I know you use those who serve low, that reach deep and lay down to lift another higher.
I know that you delight in the adult who picks the unconnected, unwanted and unmerited kid’s table – and then serves them.
I know it is not progress you care about but the process of sitting at your feet, where we hold your feet like jewels, and then cleanse them with unrestrained
I-will-do-anything-for-you, I-have-no-place-to-be – adoration.
For then, we go out in the world and clean the wretched filth off those we detest and despise –
except for one thing, we start not to detest and despise them so much anymore,
for it is in pure that pure is forged. Lord, it is your purity we are after. White as snow. Innocent as a dove. Undefiled as a baby’s first breath. Unrestrained by the contamination of the world. Moving as holy. Being in you.
Not“outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside [being] full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27), no God, not like that. Instead, may I be outwardly appearing available, lowly and humble AND inside full of giving, loving, gentleness, kindness, patience, authenticity, defenselessness and purity.
My pumping continued on the elliptical, but in that moment, I let my shoulders soften. I let my arms rest a little, for each movement was starting to feel owned, controlled and in place by one above my own motions.
And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 Jo. 3:3
When we fix our eyes on the purity of Jesus,
purity gets fixed within ourself.
My eyes gazed ahead, into the unknown density of forest, but now, just a little more, knew where I was driving towards – purity. This meant, I would keep watch for the breadcrumbs, follow his trail and get low so he could be high.
And then the amazing happened!
As fast as a flash of lightening, God seemed to flash purity, as if to show I was on the right path. Even though my eyes couldn’t believe it, even though I was surrounded by a hundred moving pieces of steel gym equipment, even though the forest ahead looked dark and daunting, still…a dog, burst onto the scene. White. Snow White. Pure. Free. Playful. Beckoning. Moving. Inviting. Gesturing. Delighting. Knowing his way. Sure of his being. Calling me to follow.
I nodded inside and said, “Lord, more than anything, I want to follow.” And I decided, to push into him.
Prayer for Purity:
Lord, make me pure. Make my insides so sincere that even the smallest fragment of defect cannot exist. Make me so clean that even the smallest particle of dirt would be out of place. Make me so brilliant that only you have a home in the temple of sacred. Make my heart go after not things of high, but places of low. May I drive hard after the uncared for people and places, rather than the lofty spaces and places. May I see the one who feels unseen. May I love the one who the world does not love. May I pursue the heart that is rendered yours. May I be the girl who you know will answer. May I strike a chord in the center of love. May I find a way when all ways seem lost. May I give a hand to the person in need. May I give myself when I have nothing left. And may I find you when I find myself in distress. May you search me out as one belonging to you. May you lend me your kingdom, knowing I’ll do good by you. May I keep it well. May I see your life. And, always, everyday, may I be content – in you, the owner of eternal life. Amen.
Until it breaks down at it’s core and the serial killer of joy, (aka your trial) comes back to haunt you again.
Ever noticed that what hit you yesterday,
still threatens to come after you today?
Same vein, different day, but all the same pain.
It threatens to hurt you like it did.
It threatens to arrive when you least expect.
It threatens you with the same feelings of yesterday.
It threatens you into fearing like you once did.
It threatens to pop right out of your bushes, saying “Now is the time to hit!”
Then you hear the smallest rustle of the bushes makes you think, “I am doomed.”
A resemblance to his tactics of yesterday make you cower, “I can’t.”
The scars of past cut deep, making you say, “Why me?”
Why does God allow our beaten evil to return?
Why doesn’t he annihilate them and say, “You can never touch my child again”?
Paul said, Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 2 Cor. 12:7
7 Likely Reasons Why God is Allowing your Trial
1. To keep you humble.
Pride goes before the fall (Prov. 16:8). If Paul had fallen, Christianity would not have risen. If Christianity did not rise, it easily could have meant our demise.
2. To keep you in training.
Olympic runners aren’t built without sprinting through walls, forging through exhaustion and getting up again when they want to quit. It is in the pain that we find our greatest spiritual gains – to become more and more like Christ.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Ja. 1:2-3
3. To gift you with the grace of God.
It often takes the face of crisis to see the smile of God’s grace over you. It is here you learn to stop saying things like, “I oughta”, “Why can’t I?” and “I should have”. Instead a quiet and gentle prodding arises within; it is one that begins to know “with God, all is possible”, “no weapon forged against me shall prosper” and “I am a work in progress and I will get there”.
4. To make you start thinking spiritually, not carnally.
When you have nothing left, you start to see all that is left – and all that matters – God. Sometimes the stripping, is much more about clothing you with Spirit things than it is about hurting your earthly things and body.
Strip yourselves of your former nature.… And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude]. Eph. 4:22-23 (AMP)
5. To show you growth.
When you hit bad, you can start to see the forming of your good. Meaning, you see how less anxious you are, how less worried you feel and how much more you know God will take care of you. It becomes a cause for praise.
6. To change things in your unseen.
We forget that while we are living our song, God is conducting a blaring orchestra with moving instruments around us. All rise up to sing, “Glory to God on the highest and peace to his people on earth”! Our sound may play odd, but in the grand scheme of his leading, all things are working together just as he wants them to. Things are being accomplished. People are being reached. Lives are changing. We just don’t know what he knows.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Is. 55:8
7. To develop you into eternal gold, not rotting dollar bills.
When delivered, what emerges from the rot of a once selfish body? Praise. Glory. Honor. Things that are worthy, valuable and eternal.
These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 1 Pet. 1:7
God uses what is coming to get you, not to ruin you, but to make you.
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