For years, I treated my china like an ancient heirloom. I didn’t want to use the plates. They were better preserved in a box than used in a kitchen where they may get scratched, chipped or broken. Until, one day, I decided, what good is a gift if you’re afraid to use it?
Now, they’re on a higher shelf. Less often used, but more easily accessed. Anyway, today, I started packing up the house (yes, we are moving!). And, as I pulled down a stack of Waterford plates from the high shelf, one broke. Bam!
Immediately, I had that sink-down-in-my-chest feeling. Then, my daughter said, “It’s okay, Mommy.” Two-seconds later, my son said, “Yes, mom. It’s just one piece.”
Amen! They were right!
I picked up the pieces and threw them away, with joy. Why? Because grace gave me peace.
One well-timed word of grace changes everything. It tells someone, “You don’t have to be perfect.” It silences anxiety. It breaks self-reproach. It offers perspective.
How do you extend grace to others?
I am not the world’s best grace-giver. I get really irritated when my kids intentionally do something I told them not to. But, if I’ve done one little thing right it’s to say — when something breaks — “It’s okay, be kind to yourself.”
Some of you need to say that to yourself, “It’s okay. I can be kind to myself.”
When you make a mistake. “It’s okay. I can be kind to myself.”
When you drop the casserole. “It’s okay. I can be kind to myself.”
When you say the words you didn’t intend to say. “It’s okay. I can be kind to myself.”
Let yourself off the hook once in a while. Why? Because Jesus didn’t die to condemn you; He died to save you.
Sure, you can learn along the way from what you do wrong. But, receive as much grace towards yourself as you give to others. This will bless you. It is a blessing well-earned for you by Christ.
While cleaning the kitchen, I had to stop and acknowledge all the screaming and arguing surrounding me.
“Madison,” I said, “those people on TV sure are screaming loud at each other. They’re so angry!”
My 6-year old daughter looked over at me and said, “I know, Mommy, it’s in the hands of God — but, they’re trying to figure it out.”
It’s like they are trying to take it right out of God’s hands — to handle it with their mind. That’s funny.
But, I wonder, how much are we just like these people — “figuring-out” what God’s already working out? Screaming-it-out, worrying, agonizing, figuring, postulating, regurgitating? Tirelessly and endlessly circling the same block? Grabbing away from God what He’s working on? Worrying rather than trusting His amazing end?
If it is all in God’s hands; let’s leave it there.
“I will lay waste the mountains and hills
and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into islands
and dry up the pools.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.
But those who trust in idols,
who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’
will be turned back in utter shame.” (Is. 42:15-17)
Our mind can be an idol when it trumps trust in God.
Prayer: Father, we lean on you. We trust you. Even with the things that feel out of control, too scary, too much. . .even with these, we trust you. Help us not to grab out of your hand — through worry, anxiety, manipulation, knowledge or passive-aggressive behaviors — what you are handling. May we bring peace in the darkness and hope in our every day, despite our circumstances. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
A bit back, on Facebook, my friend posted something like this: “God loves me unconditionally. I am His. He is love. I will always be loved by Him. Even on my worst day, I am loved by Him.”
Then, I saw her picture below the post. I stopped. Her face looked nothing like her; it was altered. Instead of seeing her normal shaped face, it was longer. Instead of her regular complexion, her face was lightened, substantially. Instead of seeing her eyes, filled with the reflection of Christ’s love, I saw large Barbie-doll-altered eyes that seemed to seek something. . .
Something in me sank.
Everyone was replying that she looked beautiful. But was it her they were affirming, or someone else?
I suppose my issue her is not her, it’s me. I’ve been where she is and done what she’s done. I’ve altered myself to seek approval. Changed my persona. Shown the world what they wanted. I’ve relied on man’s affirmations, not God’s unconditional love. Yet, the funny thing is — I never really accepted people’s comments. Why?
I knew what they were affirming was — fake, altered, forced.
Today, I’m coming to learn, more and more: God loves me for me. Even when my hair is frizzy, when my humidity makes it puff up like a balloon, when my eyes have a pile-up of mascara under them, when I sing off-key or when I fall on my face — God loves me still. . .
I never have to improve or prove myself to Jesus. God always loves and wants me still…
He likely looks at me and thinks, “I love that girl so much. She is so beautiful. Look at how I made her. She is mine. I want her.”
I wonder if He smiles?
In light of God’s acceptance — no upgrades, no make-up, no touch-ups, no filters, no enhancements, no lighting — are vitally needed. This is powerful. Sure, we may add things, because there is also freedom and fun, but we no longer rely on it as if it is our worth. We return to the love of God; we dwell there.
He loves me. He loves me. He loves me. Eternally. He loves me.
“I praise (God) because (God made me) fearfully and wonderfully; (His) works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)
Prayer: God, I realize some people may hate themselves, their features, their inadequacies, their weakness. Father? I want to praise you for these very things. I love what makes my sisters different, unique and “themselves”. Even more, I am fully aware that I have a larger-than-normal nose. Today, I join hands with my readers to say, I give thanks to you today for this very nose. It’s how you created me. I thank you that, if I am to look for the good, I suppose. . . it gives some prominence to my face (I’m laughing). I also thank you that you look upon me and just love me, want me, and accept me. Always. May every sister here see the good in how you created her. May she feel your love, acceptance, and affection today. May she release what she can’t accept, let go of what is burdening her and give thanks for what you created, just right. Thank you that we can all rest in your love. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Most wisdom says, “Take time and think things through. Be thoughtful about your decision. Take it slow.” Yet, there is one time when you should throw caution to the wind: it’s when you know God is calling you to do something.
The other night my husband and I, sat on our bed. Somewhat unintentionally we entered a difficult situation. The more we talked, the more we knew God was calling us to radically change some things. The more we thought things through the more we realized it would require a complete change of approach. The more we pressed into the details the more we realized that to sit around doing the same thing would be sin.
Grr…I am not sure about all of this God.
“Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (Ja. 4:17)
Jesus didn’t call His disciples casually; He calls them immediately.
“One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.
A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.” (Mt. 5:18-22 NLT)
Following Jesus doesn’t mean we stay where we are and cling to stuff. It doesn’t mean we count all the reasons why — we can’t. As difficult as it feels, it means that we drop everything and go where He is going. And, trust me, I know this isn’t always easy.
Where is Jesus calling you to come or go?
To a more unforced rhythm of life? To greater patience? To a job change? To help in a service project you have been putting off? To listen more to your husband? To walk down a new road and find new friends? To reach out to a neighbor? To call that family member? To meet with Jesus more in the morning? To forgive. To let go of your worry about a child?
Frankly, I am going to speak a bit loudly to you today to say. . .
“Follow Him. Do not hold back. If you believe by faith it is Him, act immediately. It will be the best decision of your life. You are a “follower” of Christ, after all. So follow. Sure, there is a time for counselors. Indeed, reach out to them as God calls you to. But, beware of using people as a crutch to stay where you are — when you know God what wants you to do.”
And, friend? I know this may not feel easy, but, may I assure you? God is good. It may take time for you to see it, but you will look back and understand. It may feel like you are losing everything. But, God is good. It may feel like you are leaving everything behind. But, God is good. Always.
Radical obedience yields radical results. It often is the breakthrough we’ve been searching for: Greater purpose, passion, and peace that kills apathy, boredom, and complacency. This is good. Abundant life is not out of reach.
Just a while ago, I had a speaking event at a church. I was so amazed at how God seemed to be working in the women’s hearts. I felt excited. I felt sure life-change was happening — for God was at work. But, after the event was done, after I was off-stage I turned to the woman’s pastor and asked, “What do you think? Do you think I did a good job?”
Immediately, after the words came out of my mouth, the weight of conviction hit me.
Did God do the work, or did I? What does it matter — her thoughts, if I did — God’s work? And, what I am performing for — man’s approval or do I serve from the position of already-being approved?
Jesus said, “Your approval or disapproval means nothing to me for I know you do not have God’s love within you.” (Jo. 5:41 NLT)
Another translation says, “I do not accept glory from human beings…” (NIV)
If Jesus did not accept or need “glory from human beings”, then why do I?
Jesus said 1 chapter earlier, “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God…” (Jo. 4:34)
Where does my nourishment come from? What about yours?
Does it come from — the faces people make? The way you are acknowledged? How you are perceived? What people say about you to others? The opportunities given to you by man? Pay? The praise you get? The criticism that comes your way?
True freedom is unhinged by man’s response, reaction or rewards. It does all for Jesus, thanks to Jesus and trusts Jesus’ reward.
Do you know what it is to appear happy on the outside, but to feel crushed on the inside?
For a couple of months, there’s been a deep, deep longing in me. A quiet call to God. A sometimes-scream to God. A desire that I want to be met. A dream I deeply want to happen. Yet, despite my all-out prayers, it felt like God slammed a door in my face say, “No! No! No!” Time passed, and — nothing. Nothing happened. Nothing gave-way. Nada. No way. No how. Dead air.
Many of us have been praying. Some of you have been praying for years for that one thing. Some of you have shed tears and sweat over that person. Some of you have tried to push forward with it anyway. Some of you live in defeat. Doubt. Despair. Rejection because you’re the only one who this is happening to. You now feel alone. Self-reproach creeps up on you.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick…” (Prov. 13:12)
During church the other day, God opened my eyes to something profound. It shifted my heart: Never would I withhold something from my kid with the intention of hurting them. That’s not what good parents do. The only time I withhold something from a kid is to give them something better in the end. I don’t give them sweets all the time, because I want them to have good health. I say they can’t watch TV, because I desire they do homework so they can have opportunities in life. I don’t allow them to get together with that one friend, because I know that friend would lead them down the wrong road. My end-goal is always — their benefit, joy, growth, life, increase, learning…
If I’m a good mom in that regard, how much more does God say no — for our benefit?
It’s as if He says: No, not this person. I have someone better for you. No, not right now. I am going to blow your mind 1 year later because everything will come together in a way you couldn’t have imagined. No, I am still developing the gifting so you can carry out the blessing.
God’s “No!” in the right now is not our defeat but our coming-blessing.
What do we do in the meantime?
ONE. Pray differently. If the prayer you’ve prayed on repeat is hitting a brick wall, try pivoting 2-steps and praying from a different angle. Example: If you’ve been asking for the other person to change, try asking for you to see them through different eyes.
TWO. Take some new steps. Rather than trying to knock over this brick wall, try to walk around it. Ask God for different ways he may want you to move. Ask him to show you the actions He wants you to take in the here and now.
THREE. Learn. Ask God what you need to grasp from this time period. Delays are divine set-ups to learn. If you ask Him, if you seek Him, if you keep knocking — the door will be opened unto you. Do not despise wisdom that can lead you to the back-door that can ultimately take you to a better place than where you were demanding you go.
Do the same thing — get the same result.
Try a new thing — watch God do something new.
“…but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (Prov. 13:12)
I want to pray that your every longing is fulfilled because I intimately know how hard it is to wait, to wonder, to hope, to wish, to desire and to deeply long to see something change. I feel your pain, the sadness, the isolation. . .
Prayer: God, waiting is tough. It’s rough. It feels horrible sometimes. I am asking from the bottom of my heart, for every reader, that you bust through the roadblocks, issues, and hardships they face. I am asking that you bring swift-rescue. My hope and desire is that you honor all the new steps toward you (which I truly believe you will) and that wonderful stories pile up — of your faithfulness, your glory and your breakthrough-power from this very blog post. I ask for extraordinary moves by you. You are every answer we need. You are all the direction we crave. You are the love we need to give and to receive to conquer all. Come and do what you do in every single house, for every reader, within every family, for every daughter through this post. I ask you to powerfully move in every situation. I ask you to break down walls, both in us and around us. I ask you to come like the wind and to do a new thing in our life. I ask for abundant trees of life to grow and for longings to be fulfilled. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
“For the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart.” (1 Sam. 13:14 NLT)
David is named a man after God’s own heart. Can you even imagine? I want to be a woman after God’s own heart, which is why I love investigating the Psalms. Here, I can see how David thought, spoke, and moved forward.
Psalm 71 was written by David or Asaph, who transcribed David’s words. Within this Psalm, we see a clear strategy to victory that is common in many of David’s Psalms. . .
One: David knows it is not sinful to declare God’s power to save; it is biblical. He declares, proclaims and reminds himself of God’s might, power and provision to save often.
David writes, God “will restore my life again.” (Ps. 71:20)
God “will again bring me up from the depths of the earth.” (Ps. 71:20)
God “will increase my honor.” (Ps. 71:21)
God “will comfort me again.” (Ps. 71:21)
Proclaim truth, until you start to own it. Until you start to believe God can rescue — even you!
Two: While David waits for God to move, He also moves towards God.
“My mouth is filled with your praise.” (Ps. 71:8) “(I am) declaring your splendor all day long.” (Ps. 71:8)
“I will tell everyone about your righteousness. All day long I will proclaim your saving power,” (Ps. 71:15)
“Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.” (Ps. 71:18)
We keep declaring, speaking, thinking upon, proclaiming, telling others about God — until the predicament, person, or problem changes course under His mighty hand. We don’t do it because we have to have some sort of outcome, but simply because we love Him and trust Him. Here, we see results. We get new eyes to see. We come to find, maybe it was less about Him changing ‘them’ and more about Him ‘changing us’.
Either way, we hope in His help and trust it is coming. We move our mouth in praise, for the good thing He is doing is at work in us and around us.
“But I will keep on hoping for your help;
I will praise you more and more.” (Ps. 71:14)
Have you ever had a fever so bad even the coldest levels A/C can’t seem to taper? That was me, on this particular morning.
In the car, I was burning a hole through the seat. I was SO hot. Burning hot.
My husband turned the air. I turned it back on. He turned it off. I turned it on. I couldn’t cool.
We speeding down the highway. Why? Because we were headed to church. Have I told you all before, I don’t like to miss church? Come Sunday, I’ll be there. Come thinking of worshipping God, I can’t miss it. Come time to check the kids in, so I can have “my time” with my King, ain’t no one messing with that!
“Should we really go?” My husband said as we headed down the highway.
“Of course we should,” I answered.
But, should we? I don’t want to get anyone else sick. And, the kids are sniffling in the back.
When religious stuff turns into duty, more than a blessing, there’s wisdom in questioning it.
Jesus didn’t die so we ‘have to’ prove our self to Him. He already proved everything on the cross. With this, we are wise to question our motives.
If keeping your quiet time with Jesus is stressful because “you have to do it” or because “you haven’t done it in weeks” — you are wise to question it. If you are bringing dinner over to that woman’s house because you know everyone else is doing it and because you feel it is the “good-Christian thing to do” — you are wise to question it. If you are saying yes to everyone because you feel bad if you say no — you are wise to question it.
God doesn’t desire manufactured, look-good-on-the-surface religion as much as he desires our heart.
“So practice and obey whatever they (religious leaders) tell you, but don’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden.
“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. (Mt. 23:3-5)
Where do you feel obligated to ‘put on a show’ for God or man?
If you can’t do it with an authentic heart for Jesus, don’t bother doing it (I say this directly to my heart right now too). And, if you feel you ‘have to’ do it a certain way, try it a new way today. Rather than demanding you spend an hour with Jesus, just meet Him in the little places (as you drive, doing dishes, folding laundry, etc.). If you normally take pride in bringing that woman dinner, because everyone else is — just give her a ring to talk. Do it differently. Shake things up. Go the opposite way of obligation, duty, and appearances.
I told my husband to re-route our course. Instead of going to church, we spent time together as a family and talked about Jesus. I actually felt we had some tremendously important conversations for our family. It wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t change our pattern a bit if we weren’t flexible.
I was the first one up in the morning — and that’s probably the exact reason why it happened like this. . .
While every other light in the place was off, I was outside in the dark navigating my way to a door. After spending some time in the morning air with just me and God, I needed coffee. I desperately needed coffee. Black.
Yet, as I walked down the long dark path, I hit something. Ick! Nasty! Grr! I hit straight into a spider web. All tangled up, I felt shocked. There are hundreds of people who walk this path a day, and yet, I hit the web?!
The first person to walk a new path usually hits the web.
As quickly as this thought came to mind, it encouraged me. I am the first morning walker. I am walking a new path — both literally and figuratively in my life. More awakened within me.
So often, I think I hit hardship because: 1. I’ve done bad 2. God is trying to teach me a lesson 3. I am off track.
But, what if the snag, the attack, and the icky stuff — isn’t because we’re off-track but because we’re right on track? And because we’re adventuring somewhere new with God?
I was headed just the right direction to that coffee pot. The only thing was: I was traveling an area where people hadn’t recently traveled before.
For some of you, you’re traveling a new path. You are choosing to respond to your husband in a new way. You are aiming to not gossip at work. You are making time to sit down with God. You are making strides in your prayer time. You are understanding things about God like you never have before. I want you to understand — the attack you are experiencing (the distraction, the people coming against, the discouragement, the little snags), are likely not because you are doing things wrong, but mostly because you are doing things right.
Do not be discouraged. Instead, be encouraged. You are on the right track. Keep going.
You are hitting a web because you are heading the right way. The web is there because you are heading down a much-untravelled path. This terrifies the enemy.
The thought of your progress — terrifies the enemy.
The thought of you loving God more — terrifies the enemy.
The thought of you understanding how much God loves you — terrifies the enemy.
The thought of you breaking through with power — terrifies the enemy.
At this point, be less concerned with what the enemy is doing and be much assured about what God is doing — in and through you. It is good. God has this. He will carry you through. A web may annoy for a moment but quickly cast it off. Dust yourself off, carry on.
A few days ago, I watched an athlete in a TV interview. What struck me was not his confidence, but his lack thereof. He seemed unsure, insecure and hesitant. This is not common to champions. It seemed odd. Rather than saying something like, “I’m going to go out there and give it my all,” he spoke something like, “well, I am just going out there. . . and. . . we’ll see.”
I was intrigued by his words. I wanted to know how he was going to fare at the big athletic event that was coming up. I was pretty sure, he’d already counted himself out. I kept my eyes on the event. Sure enough, not much later, he got hurt and was out of the event.
Sadly, it wasn’t his athletic power or prowess that made him lose, but his mindset.
How often are we already defeated, before we even start?
Lately, I’ve been working on a project. If I’m honest with myself, my heart hasn’t been in it. I guess, underneath it all — I don’t want to fail and have bad results. I don’t want it to appear I didn’t do a great job at my work. I don’t want people to think bad things about me. I don’t want to try hard and then lose belief in my self.
“The timing isn’t right.”
“I don’t have the resources like I did last time.”
“I don’t feel good about how it is shaping up.”
“God probably is not calling me to do this.”
What excuses are you making — to not see through something you’ve promised to do?
Often, the Lord positions us to awkwardly trust Him rather than casually continuing our own way. We may see it as a position of: lack. But, God knows, it is a position of: power.
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Ps. 127:1)
We build. It’s our construct.
He builds. It’s an impenetrable, unwavering, fortress, not easily tumbled down.
Which construct has a firmer foundation?
When God constructs, feelings, end results, people’s opinions, and outcomes don’t matter. When God constructs, we always get built up. It seems he’s coming to fix a window until He says, “Oh no, it goes much deeper than this — I have to get behind your walls.”
This is why sometimes outcomes don’t turn out as we expect. Because our good Father goes behind facades to build a sturdy house, rather than a feeble one. And, it is all for our good. For your good.
What are you building — a house of sticks? Or, one of materials that will last?
As we entrust our heart, our attitude, our will, and emotions to Him, He will build a construct that will not be tossed, thrown out or torn down — and that will endure all the way to and through heaven.