Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.Psalm 32:1-2
The air was musty as I sat in the balcony of the old theater, turned church. I had heard the pastor speak before, but tonight was different.
He confessed how he and his wife had struggled to remain pure in their dating years—while he was on staff at another church. He explained they had come clean to the Lord but they’d never revealed their sin to that congregation. They now felt the need to confess their past sin to this church.
You could hear a pin drop and the furnace thumping below in an effort to warm the old building. I listened attentively from my vantage point, impressed by his courage to reveal this hidden part of his life.
After the pastor finished his confession, he asked the crowd to forgive him.
As impacting as this was, something else happened that night that I will never forget.
The pastor said something to this effect, “In a group this size, I am sure there are others who have secret sins also. We want to provide an opportunity for you to confess those things to the Lord and also to those gathered here, if that is needed. I am going to open the mic up and, if you feel led, you can come and confess those things. This is a safe place to share.”
No one came, at first…
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I try not to: Fall on my sword Fall from grace Fall flat
I think this is why perception is important. If I can look good to others, in a way, it confirms – I can look good to myself.
A few weeks ago, I went to large church gathering. I walked in. There were tables. There were people. There were open seats and there was me, trying to figure out which one to choose. I looked for people who looked like me – or, who I figured were better than me.
I wanted to be where they were.
Because, by being with them, I feel better about me. In some way, their great standing proved mine.
Do you fall into this trap too?
Wanting to know important people?
Wanting to be an influencer of wisdom?
Gravitating towards those with knowledge and know-how?
Trying to look your best, to feel your best?
Speaking words that will make you look good?
Aiming to appear better than you are?
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 5:3
Recently, my kids and I trekked out to the mountain. We wanted to check out the hummingbird display.
I was intrigued by these things. They flap their wings 80 times a second. Talk about trying!!! These things work hard. They know how to shoot left, right, up down, sideways and zig-zagged, like no bird I have ever seen.
They know how to get where they need to go. They know how to move to places of value (namely, right next to the feeder).
They also know how to protect. One hummingbird protects her food like an armed guard, blocking the path of any other bird who is getting too close.
When I block out different people, I block out humility. When I block out a new experience to safe-keep myself, I block God from getting close.I block humility from feeding me wisdom. I block love from moving in, and instead, I stay unchanged.
By not risking, I am missing the greater gift.
“When you are invited, take the lowest place…” Jo. 14:10
To take the lower seat is to choose to sit deep into the humility of Christ. It is the choice to stay so close to him, that you no longer have to stay close to everything you were or should be. Those things become casualties.
Instead, you walk up to scary and sit down with it, giving space for his miraculous to be worked in. You let go of the idea that there is a lofty place you’re not invited to, because you, suddenly, don’t want that anyway. It is to become so comfortable with the lowly, the downtrodden and the debased, that all you can do is count your blessings. You praise. Joy is crystallized.
It looks hardly like the perfect image of you – and this is the point.
The low seat can look like your own personal Calvary Road: A change of voice, a letting go of critiques, a grand welcome to the awkward, a wave goodbye to the need to be in charge or a will to pursue hard relationship…every seat looks different. But, the commonality is it saves you -and others. Some might call it surrender, or dying to yourself, I call it become it coming alive because you are no longer tethered – to man, you’re used, by God, as redeemer – to man.
Did you know that when the baby hummingbird actually leaves the nest, the mom is smaller than baby? I can’t help but think, this is how we should live – getting smaller and smaller while those around us get bigger and bigger.
Until, the day, the biggest one of all – invites us to the seat where we can feed unrestrained, where we can almost get fat in love. Where he, our friend, the one we spent our life relying on, invites us to dine – fully and lavishly. And we do.
“…Take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ (Lu. 14:10)
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Everywhere I have been there has always seemed to be an “in” club. There has always been an exclusive group of women who have it better than me.
When I was in middle school, I can remember all the girls faces. They pulled together like a band of linked BFF necklaces. They were unbreakable, together and unified. I was not part of it.
While they laughed, skipped and played – I always hoped to be seen.
While they hung out at one area of the pool – I was on the other.
While they whispered funny jokes – I wondered if they were talking about me?
I was left out.
Even growing up, I keep on seeing these “in” clubs…
At work, there was the “powerful group”, they were always a pay-grade and title above.
Around town, there are social classes. You either have the goods – or you don’t.
In writing, there is the “made-author” group, these are normally the untouchable women via email or social media because they have “people” who take care of that.
No matter what club it is, one thing remains the same:
They are in the light, I am in the dark.
They are center stage, I am in the back row, breaking my neck to see.
They are fun-and-games, big lights and cameras, I am alone. They are loving life, I am just trying to figure out how to see the action.
I am in the back row and they are in the front.
They have the best seat, I have the worst.
In a way, I feel victimized. I feel left with no decision, just left out.
Have you ever felt this way? Excluded?
But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you,‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. Jo. 14:10
What if God has placed us in the lower seat,
because he can best use and grow us there?
What if, over time, that exact seat is what gives us a freeing view of life only observable from that vantage point?
I can’t help but notice that those sitting in the lower seat, he refers to as “friend.” In a low seat, you almost can’t help but grow in relationship with God. You call on him. You need him. What if we were to see our seats differently?
Because, God says, what we consider our detested seat,
soon enough will become – our honored seat.
I don’t want to hate what he loves.
I can’t help but think of how he grows a person as they sit down low and in the center of “abandoned”…
He looks at them and says:
You don’t need other people, you just need me. You don’t need status, you just need my righteousness. You don’t need looks, wealth, intellect or ability, you just need my purity. I didn’t seat you high, because where I can best mold you and make you is when you are low. Then, I can dig my hands in deep and let them recreate the best you, the you that is truly made in my image. So, keep not your eyes on things or fads, that will come and go, but keep your eyes on me, for I will last forever. And, forever we will go. I love you child and in my club, you will forever reside.
The lower we go, the higher our view of God.
We must decide.
Will we spend our life crying that we sit low, or will we spend it in peace,
as we remember that God never fails to bring his loved ones high, in due time?
Whether on earth or in heaven, at the proper time, we will be exalted.
We will be exalted to glories unexplainable,
to words unspeakable,
to life unknowable,
to hope unbreakable,
to peace unfathomable,
to community unparalleled,
to love unsurpassed.
And we will know, we have just uncovered the seat that has been waiting for us all along.
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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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Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105
I love the picture presented here of a path. It’s not a room filled with light or the light as bright as the noonday. It’s just enough light for the path ahead. God’s Word is the source of light.
You may have your own dark cloud that looms directly overhead causing everything to seem dull and difficult to see. Darkness comes in many forms. For me it can be ignited by circumstances beyond my control, fear of the future and discouragement that quickly turns into depression. You may not have a cloud of fear and feelings like me, but your darkness may manifest itself in the form of shattered dreams, prayers yet to be answered or circumstances that make you wonder if God has completely forgotten about you.
As I think about my dark clouds and the light I know I need and desperately desire, God is drawing me near. When I allow His light to brighten my path, my thoughts are transformed and I remember the familiar essence of His light.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17
I had been a Christian for seventeen years at the time my fourteen-year-old son Jacob and five others were killed while on a missionary trip in Mexico.
Over the next eight years I demanded an explanation. I wanted to trust God again. They say trust is earned, could God re-earn my trust? Is that a fair question to ask? It eventually occurred to me that there’d be no one better to trust than the One who died for me—no one had invested more.
I decided to return to the place I first met God, I opened my bible and let Him reason with me through His Word. I found that pride was standing in the way of my healing. The only way out of this bitter downward spiral would be to admit that God was blameless and release the resentment held against Him. It was after humbly laying my broken heart at His feet that God revealed Himself in a way that healed my broken spirit. I finally was able to form these words, “Lord, this isn’t the life I would have chosen, but I’ll receive it. Please teach me from it.”
I found God again. He had been waiting there at the core of all my pain. I discovered something else—pain and joy could coexist within me. I could experience the sting of Jake’s death yet at the very same time feel the joy of the Lord without having to pretend I was OK with what happened. You see, I’m not OK with it; I’m not going to be OK with it. I loved Jacob and losing him hurt. The truth is there’s no explanation for his death this side of heaven that will ever satisfy me. Jacob is irreplaceable in my life—but so is Jesus Christ and I couldn’t afford to lose them both.
I used to pride myself on the lists I could make and accomplish.
If I didn’t finish the whole list, no one saw the list, even the things I’d done. I’d sulk and be surly to my family, which was an expression of how I felt worthless inside.
God’s Word says the following about me, oh and by the way…I can do nothing to earn it! I am the apple of His eye, I am a Saint, I am redeemed and forgiven (Hallelujah!), I am free from condemnation, I am established, anointed and sealed by God, and most of all I am complete in Christ!
What broke me free from worthlessness, list making, and achievement-based love was confession and then choosing to believe God.
I have made a reference of scriptures identifying who I am as a new creation in Christ. I try to read them every day to ingrain into my heart so I have a new go-to thought for when Satan tries to tempt me to think the old thoughts.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul. Psalm 94: 19
How might the pain, hurt and fear I’ve experienced since a little child be worked into something good?
As a child, I started trusting the actions and words of brokenness above the actions and words of God in my life. Idolizing the love and acceptance of humans exacerbated the fear within me. And with anxiety multiplying within me, the inherent fear that I would never be good enough, I lent into my own prideful self-control to numb it away. I sought to deny the existence of the fear by striving to perform, to be the best possible student, lover, wife, mother and friend.
Fleeing from fear gave me a semblance of control, but also festered an anger and exhaustion within me because no matter how hard I tried, I could never live up to the perfection I strived after. And so the fear would rear its ugly head repeatedly and I’d turn to anger to stifle it, anger at myself boiling within me and compounding the exhaustion from my attempts at perfection.
If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you’ll lose it, but if you let that life go, you’ll get life on God’s terms. Luke 17: 33 (The Message)
I am choosing to trust that just as His Word promises He WILL go before me (Deuteronomy 31:8), preparing the path (Isaiah 43) and working ALL things together for my good (Romans 8: 28).
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. Isaiah 11:3-4
Do we imagine Jesus sees through the same judgmental lens we do?
He doesn’t. He couldn’t.
Jesus looks past our outward self. Past our lazy or selfish actions. He doesn’t hear the harsh words we spoke in fear and anger. He doesn’t seek out the dirty windows of our situation, glorying in the smears of our circumstances.
Jesus’ eyes look upon us in love, His ears hear the cries of our heart because he isn’t fooled by outward appearances.
He’s not fooled by my surface niceness that overlies a judgmental heart. He’s not fooled by the outward actions that hide a broken heart.
Jesus sees and hears our inward selves. There is no hiding or pretence around him.
Have you had to make a choice that you knew was right but that you thought you would regret? I have. Over and over again.
Recently, I turned down a job offer. For a position I’ve prayed for for years. With enough hours to bolster our bank account. Every bit of knowledge I have dictated that I ought to find a way to make t work, that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for. The Lord told me no. When I said yes to Him and no to the offer, I thought I would regret it soon.
Romans 8:27-28 tells us that “He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” (MSG)
God erases regret because regret is about my way –and when that slate is clean…
He makes beautiful works of art that are better than anything I could ever dream.
Today I’m glad I turned down that job. I’m so glad we didn’t get the cat then with all the housing turmoil we later unexpectedly experienced (and the dog we were able to get eventually instead!)
I’m glad that money has kept us at times from making decisions to do things more “typically” because we’ve had some amazing relationships out of it. I’m glad for some of my worst moments because without some of the mistakes and brokenness I’ve regretted, I would never have let people into my heart as far as I have.
Each of us gets a bit overgrown at times. We settle into our habits, our routines. We relax into the momentary mundane. It happens. God knows that in order for us to continually be growing and maturing, He needs to prune away the dead, unfruitful leaves and limbs.
He needs to carefully trim the excess, the residue that weighs us down and prevents us from growing, from becoming, from thriving.
Pruning isn’t a punishment. Pruning is an act of love. God loves you. He celebrates you. He longs for you to experience the fullness of your identity. He delights in His handiwork. He declares you beautiful. Whole. Complete.
In John 15:2 (NIV) Scripture says, He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.
James 1:2-4 (NIV) tells us to, 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.
“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and strength…”
I continued to repeat my mish mash verse. In the chemo chair, waiting for lab results, watching my kids giggle, receiving a meal from a friend, fighting nausea, popping pills.
“You are my rock and salvation, my fortress and strength” Ps 62:1-2
Little by little the fears started to loosen their grip and trusting the Lord seemed easier. I found that when we allow God into our pain, He loves to sit with us, hold us, rub our backs and remind us who we are.
At my weakest, when the emotional and physical pain dragged me into the slimy pit, clambering onto God’ rock was impossible unless I clung to God’s promises.
Repeating God’s promises defeats the enemy, sparks hope in our bellies and throws fuel on the fire of faith. With that flicker of hope fanning the flames of faith we are able to trust God with anything. And I mean ANYTHING.
Because when you’re diagnosed with rectal cancer the bottom falls out of your world and then, I’m afraid to say that, the world falls out of your bottom. Laughter and God’s promises really are the best medicine.
The problem is that when we lose our job, when relationships end, when our home goes under foreclosure, when the money we take home dwindles and when our past haunts our future – we begin to question ourselves.
We feel like damaged goods, valueless.
We feel insecure and vulnerable.
However, when we base our worth on who God says we are, everything around us can shake, yet we’re able to stand firm. With an identity in Christ, we’re able to tear down strongholds and strip away labels.
It’s not who you are but whose you are. It’s not what you did but what He did.
Who were are derives from who God says we are, not society.
The Bible says we are, “fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm, 139:14)
The Bible says we are, “chosen, holy and blameless before God.” (Ephesians 1:4)
The Bible says we are, “an incredible work of art.” (Ephesians 2:10)
When we grab hold of truth, we no longer face an identity crisis. Instead, we’ll see an identity breakthrough.
When Jesus found the disciples failing in their nightlong fishing trip, He could have told them to take up their nets and follow Him to a new, bountiful area of the sea.
They moved their nets, only seven feet across the width of the boat, and cast it on the other side. And as their weary hands obeyed the Master, the bounty came forth.
Do you feel discouraged today, my friend?
Is it the same boat, the same spot, the same fishing technique, over and over again for months, perhaps years?
Remember: If you are in the center of God’s will, walking in obedience with Him, you are where God wants you to be. The circumstances you are in may be uncomfortable, and you may be ready to move on to a better fishing spot. However, unless the Master calls you to move from where you are… Remain…
He is working a fruit eternal in your life. He is molding you as you cast your net over and over again. He is strengthening you as you choose to trust Him, even though you are tired and weary.
And when you feel too tired to go on, remember this: It is the Master Himself, who, after your toilsome, disheartening failures, keeps calling out to you:
And let me tell you, it was the most beautiful Christmas season I can remember in a long time.
God provides for His own. It is pointless to get up early, work hard, and go to bed late anxiously laboring for food to eat; for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping. Psalm 127:2 Voice
I gave up my belief that taking time to rest was being lazy. I thought I’d see if what others said was true… that I would still be able to get everything done in time–and probably more–if I took time to rest.
I can’t sit here and say it was easy, because it wasn’t. I battled my entrenched habits and pretenses. But, the desire for God to have His way in me was greater than the desire to strive for the perfect holiday, and end up being sick again.
The Eternal, the Everlasting God, The Creator of the whole world, never gets tired or weary. His wisdom is beyond understanding. God strengthens the weary and gives vitality to those worn down by age and care. Young people will get tired; strapping young men will stumble and fall. But those who trust in the Eternal One will regain their strength. They will soar on wings as eagles. They will run—never winded, never weary. They will walk—never tired,never faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 Voice
We may think we don’t have time to rest, but truly, we can’t afford not to.
I am delighted to welcome a new regular contributor, Angela Nazworth. She is not only a friend, who I adore, but an eloquent writer who always teaches me a lesson about God’s goodness. I hope you relish in her words the same way I do. Welcome Angela!
My hair has issues. Or perhaps the more honest statement to make would be for me to write that I have issues with my hair. I always have. Not even when I was five and my golden locks rivaled those of Rupunzel did I like my mane. Oh, I liked the length, and when it was properly curled and styled I pretended to be a princess, but I did not like the tangles. Even less did I enjoy the pain and aggravation caused by the untangling process.
My mom, being the one who had to listen to my whining protests, decided that my long hair had to go. This decision was made when I was in the fourth-grade, and it was one with which I agreed.
There was a downside. It was the year of the mullet. Not only is the mullet an eye sore, it’s a lot of work. My hair still easily knotted in the back and a brush was no longer the sole implement required to style my baby fine tresses. Each morning my mom had to stand over me with a hot curling iron to make the top portion of my head look more feminine, which in 1984 meant high and fluffy.
Fast-forward 30 years and you will still find me complaining about my hair. I have dyed it various shades. In my attempts for the perfect color, my hair has been green, pastel orange, purple, gray, and pink. All unintended. I have also tried myriad styles: short and bobbed, long and spiral permed, short and spiral permed, pixie, etc.
Once, as I sat in the salon chair of a former stylist eagerly waiting for her to transform me into a super model with just a few clips from her scissors, (I tend to have high expectations) she said the most peculiar thing to me.
“You are so lucky to have straight, fine hair.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said with surprise. “I wouldn’t wish this hair on anyone, plus what is with my crazy hair line in the back that grows upward and that hideous cowlick?”
“It’s much better than having hair like mine,” she bemoaned. “It’s so thick and coarse.”
I looked at her long, voluminous, perfectly coiffed blonde hair and giggled.
“This is too funny,” I said. “You have my dream hair!”
“Well, I guess we all want what we don’t have,” she replied.
How true that is. For sheep, the grass is always greener on the other side. For women, the hair is always prettier on the other head!
Moreover, it doesn’t stop with hairstyles. I will be perfectly happy with my blog’s design until I see the makeover another writer’s site recently got and then, suddenly, I determine that my online space needs spiffing up. I will feel content in my house until I overhear the sales rep at Home Depot tell another customer that “Aqua Chiffon,” is the most popular color for living room walls and I realize that I don’t even have anything close to that shade anywhere in my home.
It’s easy for me to brush off this cycle of comparison as innocent, human nature, but in reality it’s unhealthy and emotionally dangerous. Disparaging what belongs to me opens the gates of envy, coveting, and bitterness. Focus shifts from God and His goodness to selfish desires and I begin to lose sight of blessings that surround me. When I’m in the mode of comparison, discontentment and want, the vision of my heart blurs and I open myself up to being more susceptible to commit other sins in the name of pride.
Why is it so much easier for me to want something I cannot have than to thank my savior for the many gifts I possess?
My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving.
Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything. – Colossians 2:6-10
So while the grass may appear greener, hair prettier, furniture grander, homes bigger, and figures thinner … I now try extra hard to not be so interested in the proverbial other side. I am going to focus on how to make my inside look more like Jesus and foster a spirit of thankfulness for all He has given me.
What about you? Please use the comment section to share something about your life for which you are thankful and no longer desire to change.
Angela Nazworth is a flawed and forgiven recovering perfection who writes mostly about the beauty of grace, faith, friendship, vulnerability and community at angelanazworth.com. She is a wife and a mother of two, who manages philanthropic communications for a nonprofit, national healthcare association. Angela’s also an encourager, a lover of good books, coffee, girl’s night out, sunshine, and waterfalls. She believes the creator of the universe is both the author of and lead character in her life story. With every experience she learns more about who she is in Him … and takes another step on her journey to love others better. You can also chat with Angela via Twitter.
My dad said that if I got a tattoo or was a cheerleader he wouldn’t pay for college.
Years after I graduated, I almost caved and got a tattoo, but backed out at the last minute. It was going to say something like, “Follow the Way of Love”.
I didn’t exactly avoid the cheerleading thing though—cheering for others is something that naturally springs forth from within.
No, I don’t cheer on the sidelines for sporting events—except when our kids are playing soccer, then my husband and I are completely obnoxious and embarrassing, we’re so competitive!
But I do cheer for others as they pursue their dreams. I love to inspire others to take the next steps and to jump higher. I enjoy celebrating like a fool when a writing friend gets a book deal or a speaking friend gets an invitation to a national conference.
I am genuinely happy for my friends when they succeed, and I would do a back handspring for them, if I could—I tried to master one in gymnastics but never did get the hang of it.
But here’s the thing, when I see others sailing through the air—reaching new heights—it’s easy to feel left behind, grounded and insecure.
Recently, I confided in a few friends about how I was feeling as I saw others soar. It was embarrassing to admit that I was having a 38 year old temper tantrum—this first-born over-achiever doesn’t like to be left-out or passed by.
One of these friends prayed that God would give me clarity in my mission so that, regardless of what others are doing, I will feel peace pursuing the things that He has put in my heart (thanks Kelly!).
So I prayed this prayer. And you know what I felt like He said? Help others be successful.
I’m not going to lie, this was not really what I wanted to hear! It was, and is, such a pride-buster to my striving and driving self.
And maybe that’s exactly the point.
God knows what I need and that truly, deep down, I want to be more like Him than be liked by the masses—it’s buried down deep in there somewhere.
I read this the other day and it hit home, right in the epicenter of my success-driven self,
That’ll shut you up—or at least me up—as it speaks to the heart of the matter.
Do I want to climb the ladder or am I willing to hold the ladder for others?
Do I want the accolades, the fame and the win, or will I stoop, support and assist in order to hoist others to the heights that He has prepared for them?
Are you sure God? So basically You want me to be a cheerleader, so that others have a greater chance at V-I-C-T-O-R-Y? This is hard on my pride God, but I trust that You know what is best. And, thank You, for wiring me to cheer and come alongside others. It hurts sometimes as I’m stretched and bruised but it is a privilege. Forgive my unbecoming greed for gain and help me to be committed to holding the ladder so that others can climb.
Follow the way of love. I didn’t tattoo it on my foot, but He wants to write it on my heart and help me walk it out.
Jesus stooped down—from His royal throne—to come to earth and be the ladder between us and God.
Jesus made a way for us by serving, sacrificing and surrendering so that we could be restored to a right relationship with Father God, if we choose to believe and make Him Lord.
He offered Himself—holding nothing back—out of Love for us. Oh, how I fall short of this kind of love.
May we make Jesus famous in our lives as we bend to exalt Him.
May we trust Him with our dreams and let His Spirit lead each step of the way. May we care more about connecting with Jesus and being known by Him than we are about gaining connections to be known by others.
May we celebrate well when God brings others success—and maybe even learn how to do a back-handspring too.
Katie M. Reid is a tightly wound woman, of the recovering perfectionist variety, who fumbles to receive and extend grace in everyday moments. She delights in her hubby, four children and their life in ministry. Through her writing, singing, speaking and photography she encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life. Connect with Katie at katiemreid.com
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I turned from the swing and saw him standing there, fresh cut flowers in hand and a smile on his face.
“I’m sorry. I woke up on the wrong side of the bed.”
I embedded my face in his chest and wrapped my arms around him. An apology and flowers weren’t what I was expecting, but I was grateful for both. I breathed in the soft, earthy scent of the lilies and took them inside.
He wasn’t sleeping well, and I knew the early wake up call from our son didn’t help. We’d exchanged some harsh words and tones that morning, and our day hadn’t gotten off to a good start.
Butinstead of trying to justify himself that afternoon and push the issue, he chose to extend love and grace. He chose humility.
As I stood over the kitchen counter, trimming the stems and arranging the buds in a tall vase, I thought about my husband’s actions. How much better would our relationships be if we chose to grace over our need to be right?
So often, I feel like I’ve lost my ability to breathe if I can’t get someone to see things my way. But the longer I’m married and the more I work to build strong, thriving relationships, the more I see it’s often the way we respond to conflict which makes us grow.
Can you imagine how boring life would be if everyone thought exactly the same way you did? Many times I think it would make things easier, but it is our differences which stretch and grow us.
As often as I find myself in the world of black and white, there is much grey. There are areas where we have to let the Spirit give us discernment and wisdom.
When I dig into the word, it does not tell me how the wise person is the one who asserts her view of every situation and proclaims it as the ultimate truth.
No, James speaks of a different kind of wisdom.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in humility that comes from wisdom.” James 3:13 NIV
Wisdom is shown through humility and service, not the loudness of our voice.
A wise pastor once told me Jesus didn’t go through his earthly ministry proclaiming, “You’re wrong, you’re wrong, you’re wrong, and follow me.” Although there were times, such with the Pharisees, when Jesus pointed out the immorality of people’s actions, he spent much more time healing the sick, binding up the brokenhearted, and leading by example.
There will be times when conflict is necessary and we must speak the truth in love, many disputes are best handled with a simple apology. Even if you are not the person in the wrong, sometimes God calls us to put aside our pride and put the relationship first.
When my husband left work one Tuesday afternoon, he chose humility. He exemplified the very nature of Christ, and chose grace over his need to be right.
And as his wife and someone who often picks the wrong path, I am inspired to follow his example.
I pray God will fill me with his Spirit, so I can extend grace in my time of need.
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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 see that ugly side of me, the side I normally try to hide from the camera.
The Kelly who wants to be someone.
The Kelly who wants adoration, affirmation and appreciation.
The Kelly who needs to be seen and loved.
It normally appears in a crutched moment of inadequacy where I require dose of feel-better medicine to get me feeling good about myself again.
In these moments, I start believing:
Greatness and prominence trump Christ’s gift of significance. That no one notices humility, but they notice desirability. That recognition is fuel and that submission is old school.
I am learning I have to keep an eye on the thermometer of my heart, because when the its-about-me heat starts to rise, my heart grows cold, love freezes over and I lose track of the one I love most.
Me. Myself. I.
How am I seen? What will I do?
What will I build? Am I as good?
Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth. Genesis 11:4
To make a name.
Is that what I want?
Because, I full well know, it is only about one name: The name above all names, the alpha and omega, the lion and the lamb, the great I AM, the hope of glory, the Savior of the world, the beginning and the end. It all starts and ends with him.
At days end, my name will be worth nothing and his will be worth everything.
At days end, accomplishments will fade and all that will remain is love.
At days end, stages vanish. The great stage of godliness, purity and humility will be all that endures.
Anything done in my name will be a signature destined for a shredder upon my final days, but anything done in his name will last forever.
Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. Ps. 127:1
Without Jesus, my best words are babble. If it’s not spoken in the dialect of love, it’s spoken in the dialect of stupidity.
It’s like speaking worthless syllables of a tribal language to a two-year old – they are destined to be edited, obliterated or forgotten. They just speak confusion.
Therefore its name was called Babel (close to Hebew word confusing), because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. Gen. 11:9
Am I babbling in futility or am I loving in humility?
Am I striving by my efforts or am I receiving love through his?
Everyone loses when agendas move away from the foundation of Jesus. Love is averted. Unity is destroyed. Life-change is missed. People get hurt.
Heaven is missed.
I don’t wan’t to miss that glimpse, not even one slice of heaven – of goodness. I want the whole pie! I want to be so doused in the sweetness of heaven that I have no teeth left and I don’t even care.
If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 1 Cor. 3:14-15
May our eyes soak in the height of the mercy showered on us. May we embrace a vagabond hearts to become traveling temples of God. May we not see any service as meaningless, but ask Christ if he agrees with this mentality when we begin to.
With Jesus, no person is too low, no place off-limits, no heights untouchable, but if it is not done with him, it is done for self.
Jesus, let every ounce of us be poured out for every ounce of your blood – your love.
A job well done.May the person end up loving you more. An amazing ministry time.No pride, just deep praise for the great God at work. An awesome business opportunity.May more know Christ. A financial outpouring of blessings.A means to bring an end to someone’s captivity. An outstanding compliment. A way to point to the glory that is God.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Cor. 13:3
If we can’t do it in love, we may as well be doing nothing. Lord, let our love mean something!
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Do you want to be blessed? Maybe life has kicked you while you’re down and you need a pick-me-up. Or, maybe nothing exciting has happened in your life for a while? Or maybe you feel you deserve something good.
We all want blessings. And, we serve a God who delights in giving good things. He loves us like a father. He wants to bestow his love & his gift. It doesn’t get much better than being blessed by the Lord.
But, if we want to be blessed, we are wise to take a look at our part in the process. What are values that the Lord loves to bless…Read the rest of my post on Abby McDonald’s blog, Fearfully Made Mom.
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