Stand Up & Stand Out OR Stand Down & Stand In – Which were you created for?

On Sunday our pastor talked about Narcissus. Remember him? He was that hunter guy from Greek mythology who was known for his ‘beauty’. He loved himself so much he couldn’t love anyone else. One day he was lured to a pool of water where he saw his own reflection and was so enamored by his own looks that he somehow died. Over the years I’ve heard a few versions of the story about how Narcissus died, but every story ends in death by self-absorption.

I couldn’t help wondering about where the line is drawn between narcissism, which is excessive love of self, and the balanced love of self we learn from scripture. The line is blurred and there is no distinctive white on one side and black on the other. In his message our pastor used 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 to help us understand the truth of how God says we are to think about ourselves. He said there are small things and there are big things. Small things are the opinions that others have of us while the big thing is what God thinks of us.  Well, not the collective us, but the individual us – as in me.

Those thoughts spiraled through my mind all night because I wondered, “What does God think of me?” Because of the work I do, I’m constantly exposed to social media. I’m on Facebook. LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and when I write a book review, they are published on Amazon, Goodreads, and at Bizcatalyst360. I’m sure you could find my name showing up in other places, like this blog. Is that OK with God? Daily, I’m urged to put myself out there, take risks, be more. I’m told, “You have to promote yourself.” But is that what God says he expects of me? Please don’t get me wrong. There are over 7 billion people in the world, people from every angle converging on every platform clamoring, to be noticed. Millions were created to be noticed, we can’t all be participants of civilization content to blend into the background. Some are called to stand up and stand out while others are called to stand down and stand in.

I’ve been criticized and told that I’m a complete failure at selling myself. But I’ve  had a lot of practice getting to know me and I can say with some assurance I’m in the stand in category. I was born to stand in for others. God calls it helping and I can show you in 1 Peter 4:11 that standing down and standing in is a gift. “If you have the gift of speaking, preach God’s message. If you have the gift of helping others, do it with the strength that God supplies. Everything should be done in a way that will bring honor to God because of Jesus Christ.” People with the gift of speaking are of the stand up and stand out variety, I on the other hand am the stand down and stand in helper.

Taking our pastor’s sincere message to heart though I found my Bible the next morning and started doing some self-examination. I realized in this blog I often use the words me, my, and I.  Could that suggest narcissism? When I use my own experiences to encourage others, it’s not to impress upon anyone that I have it all figured out, it’s not to imply that I’ve reached some lofty level of achievement or that I’ve arrived. My motives are to help others understand that despite how complicated their circumstances, God can work them out; to share a glimmer of hope when life feels hopeless. Through scripture my intent is like the story Paul told in Acts 2:25-26” What David said are really the words of Jesus, “I always see the Lord near me, and I will not be afraid with him at my right side. Because of this, my heart will be glad, my words will be joyful, and I will live in hope.”

Having joy and living in hope will never come from a prideful heart – a heart described as soul-empty. This contrast is made clear in the Message translation of Habakkuk 2:4 “Look at that man, bloated by self-importance— full of himself but soul-empty. But the person in right standing before God through loyal and steady believing is fully alive, really alive.” Soul-empty. Even the sound of it is demoralizing. Think about it. Self-importance is the same as self-defeating. Which would you rather be, full of hope or soul-empty?

God urges us to be humble; not self-deprecating, not humiliated, but humble. C.S. Lewis said “Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Ephesians 4:2 says “Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other.” When God looks at me and when he sees my heart, I want his seal of approval on my motives. What motivates me? Hebrews 10:24 describes what my heart desires “We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things.” Am I always successful? Not always. I have this human factor that breeds imperfection. I could be a complete washout by human standards, but God knows my heart and it’s his opinion that matters.

Millions of people want to be superior, need to feel superior and that means they have to care what the other 7 billion people think of them. My concern is what one God says about me. What does the Lord require of me? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8. If that’s your goal too, Galatians 6:9 promises “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Peace: The Music of the Soul

On August 31, 2013 I was trampled by a horse and nearly lost my life. On August 30, 2013 just 24 hours earlier, I posted these thoughts. These are still my thoughts, feelings, emotions … the music of my soul.

“The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you. “ I was hooking up an old TV and testing to make sure I got all the wires plugged into their right sockets (yellow to yellow, red to red – you know – rocket science) When the picture and sound arrived at the same time, a man with a slight southern accent was saying those words. “The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you. “ I remember hearing those words in years past, but I don’t remember them resonating so strongly.  Do you know what I’m thinking?  Here’s one thought Psalms 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God.” I am too often caught up in the blur and noise that defines ‘my life’ I forget that to hear God, I have to be still and spend real quiet time with him.

A friend and I were relating surprising ways that God provides direction and confirmation when we are walking in his will. Decisions we make affect not just today but all our tomorrows too and when things don’t go right, we second guess our choices and our courage falters. When everything goes right, it’s easy to feel like we’re on the right path and trust God to keep leading.  We readily embrace his promises.  We believe no truer words were spoken than what David wrote in Psalm 145:13 “The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does.”

Then circumstances change; an unexpected expense, appliances just stop working, a relationship breaks down, and all that we were so confident of last week is suddenly questionable. Where is our trust then? I know just how you feel. I walk that path with you. My inner peace thunders toward turbulence.  In those times I have to remind myself to trust God in the dark for what he promised in the light. Feelings are fickle. If you don’t believe me, you can put that statement to the test yourself. Carry a little notebook with you for just one day and keep track of your emotions and how you feel at various times throughout the day.  You will see your feelings run a marathon of ‘feelings’ up and down the keyboard all day.  High, low, major, minor, flat, sharp – all music of the soul.  Although feelings can help direct our thoughts and actions, we can’t trust them as concrete evidence that we are on the right track or not.  This is probably far outside what this scripture means, but I think we do need to remember that God’s promises are true even when we struggle.  Psalm 119:140 “My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” Trust God in the dark for what he promised in the light.

Life is a precarious roller coaster ride.  Things don’t always go according to plan.  Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  There is a passage that tells us that in Mark 4:19 “the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”

One thing to keep in mind always is that all good things come from God.  James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  Let’s end here today – have a productive day blessed with all good things.   John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tk60wodA_4k

God’s tender mercy … guides our feet to peace

Here’s something you might not already know. Ready? When I get you up in the morning, it is totally Biblical. Seriously! Well it’s not me, personally, who God says should be getting you up, but here’s a newsflash for you. In Luke 1:78-79 God tells us clearly his intent to get us up every morning and set us on the right path. Look what the Bible says. “Because of our God’s tender mercy the dawn will break upon us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Because of God’s tender mercy the dawn will break … to guide our feet into the way of peace.

In one day we can go through a circus of emotions, events, situations, and relationships. One minute we are filled with confidence and the next we are paralyzed by fear of the ‘what-ifs’.  We know all about the verse in 2 Timothy 1:7 that’s all about fear. “For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” We can let that verse permeate our conscious being, but the cloud doesn’t leave. I’ve heard the word fear is used 365 times in the Bible. Maybe that’s because God knew we would have issues with fear every day. Well if that’s the case, we can all take comfort in realizing we are not alone in our fear. One thing I’ve come to recognize is that fear is at the root of a whole slew of emotions and it gets in the way of everything good that God is trying to produce in me and from me. Isaiah 41 over and over gets in our faces and says ‘Do not fear”. Just stop it! If we dig into why we feel like we’re in the dark about something, it might be fear. Listen, the same God who wrote these words in Isaiah 41:13 is the same God today. He can’t say it any plainer than this “For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Maybe instead of fear, you feel sort of lost without a compass. Oh boy! I’ve sure been there with you. That fork in the road doesn’t have 2 prongs, it’s got more like 5 and they all look right. If they don’t look right, they at least look like a possibility. There is no easy answer for those forks in the road except if you aren’t clear on which choices are right for you, stop and pray – until you know the path that God is clearing for you to take. rugged terrainI think David felt lost – a lot. Have you ever seen a picture of the shepherd’s pasture? It was not a manicured lawn surrounded by a split rail fence. Let’s remember, when we feel lost, that we are precious to God and he doesn’t want us to feel lost. Psalm 100:3 says “Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

Today we begin a new week. I want to start strong, don’t you? God says he will strengthen us if we are committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” What is on your agenda today and as you anticipate the week ahead? Remember Luke 1:78 “Because of God’s tender mercy the dawn will break … to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Ready team? Let’s get out there.

Photo credit:  123rf.com

 

Being intentional is great … but putting people first is greater.

I woke up this morning with all the best intentions. By 6:30 am I was at my desk ‘catching up’ on a few things and everything deteriorated after that. Ever have a day when everything went right? Yeh, me either. But you know what? It’s not quite 10:00 am – and while I have lost approximately 2 hours of ‘intention’ as stated on my list, to the land of no return, I’ve made some encouraging connections with people I care about. David begins Psalm 36:10 this way “Continue your love to those who know you,” You know that list of intentions? It’s still right where I can see it.
Remember that James guy in the Bible? He was pretty smart and I’m thinking he had days like this. Look what he has to say in James 1:25 “But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” Intent is sort of like law isn’t it? And James 1:5 says “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” Don’t we all want to be wise in the actions and decisions we make?
Isaiah 1:17 starts out with “Learn to do right.” I’m on it. How about you? What is right for you this moment, this day? Our tomorrows are the result of our todays. Right?
Let’s get busy and enjoy this Saturday because isn’t it true that Ecclesiastes 8:15 encourages us to enjoy our days “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.” One of my mottoes is “Treat yourself to joy everyday.”
Yesterday I shared this song with my friend Amber-Lee and her sweet daughter Isabella Rose. I’m singing it to myself right now and if you’re going through an ultra scattered day this song’s for you too. God does not expect perfection of us. All he wants is our hearts and to be willing to let him fill our hearts with good things so we can grow to be more like his son Jesus.I don’t know about you, but He’s Still Working On Me to Make Me What I Ought to Be.

 

What’s your life of choice? The merry-go-round or the roller coaster?

Two months ago, we said good bye to 2014 and as I reflected on the year, I was thinking, “This was a pretty good year. Finally, no hospitalizations, no real trauma, life is good.” I don’t think I was smug or proud; just thankful for 12 months of relative calm with only a few spins along the way to keep me focused on who is really in charge, God who controls all things. So far 2015 has not been a cookie cutter of the pivotal year 2013. Maybe your experiences have left you calling out to God too, like I have done in the past. I admit it.  I’ve sometimes even yelled at God.  “Do you see me here, God? I’m sure you have me mixed up with someone else. I’m not your girl that likes the roller coaster, God. I’m the one who likes merry-go-rounds.” And God reminds me, gently that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:19

As I descend the pinnacle of the ride, and things coast to a level platform, I catch my breath and look around – whew! Still here, and thankful that despite the frustrating circumstance and emotional pain, I’ve gained a slightly stronger faith muscle. During the time of trial, I have to remind myself of 1 Peter 5:8 – “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” The enemy of my soul wants to destroy my faith; the enemy of your soul wants to do the same to anyone who has faith in God.

I was reading Job awhile back, because I know from Bible stories that Job went through impossible trials – he lost everything. Do I know what it means to lose everything? No, and I pray against that fear of loss every day of my life.  Literally – every day. In Job, even his wife told him to curse God and die.  Really? I love this – Job 2:8-10 – “Job’s wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.”  In all he went through, Job’s faith and his integrity was unfaltering.  Job knew God could change things. He admitted in Job 42:2 – “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” But Job didn’t lose hope or faith.

So what about our lives today? God is still God. The Bible says He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 3:18  God is able to do amazingly above all we ask or think.  Ephesians 3:20. When trials come, it’s so easy to ask, whatever happened to all things happening for our good?  Does it say somewhere that good will come out of our circumstances?  Even those that cause us grief? Well, yes; in fact we can go there now and read Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” When we read about the good to come, do we also append the part about ‘loving God and recognizing that we are called to a purpose’? Sometimes I forget that God allows bad things to happen because it is His way of working out His purpose in me.

My job is to be faithful, and not lose hope. If you’re going through trials and your days are so dark it’s hard to find your way out, I encourage you to go toward the light. John 8:12 says “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Don’t let the enemy of your soul wind the battle.  Satan is a thief whose only goals are to rob you of joy, persuade you to lose faith, and give up on God.  John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Are we ready for today? Let’s do this together!

Jeremy Camp says – There Will Be A Day

 

Windows has installed new updates

I was gone last weekend – no computer, technology limited to my cell phone, and lots of snow –mounds of it, in fact. We were at our cabin in the north where life runs at a slightly slower pace. It was quiet and restful; a rare and coveted occasion, I know. Our cabin is somewhere written into the pages of my ‘thankful list’.  If you’ve been reading these posts for a while, you’ve heard all about ‘the list’. When we go to what I call ‘my haven’ I think of this verse in Isaiah 40:31 “They who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” We don’t set an alarm clock at the cabin and the sun rises before we have to.  I’m an early riser, so I’m up early – stealing those quiet moments to read and reflect.

Back home, I waited until this morning to turn all my technology devices back on. A message “Windows has installed new updates.” flashed on the screen and I had to laugh. “Windows has installed new updates.” After only one day of tranquility, how closely I could identify with that message! When I’m at the cabin, I often use those times to write cards. Because there are reasons to add scripture to the message, I keep a well-marked up and highlighted Bible close by. 2 Corinthians 13:11 instructs us to “… encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Who doesn’t want the God of love and peace to be with us?

“Windows has installed new updates.” How simple that sounds! In fact if I look at the logs of what was changed in this manmade, inert object, there are sometimes many lines indicating significant changes. This is not unlike the changes God wants to make in my life – and especially the springboard for my life. God tells me not to just overwrite the thoughts and actions that are there, but to totally replace them.  Romans 12:2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? I love technology. Through it we have opportunities that couldn’t have existed 1000 years ago; or in many cases, even 10 years ago.  But the basic issues of life are unaffected by technology. They are heart issues, attitude issues, and technology won’t fix those. If we get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself. We’ve heard over and over again “Change your attitude, change your life.”  Unfortunately it takes time to effect a lasting changed.  Just like we expect technology to change things in an instant, we expect to change our attitude and life in an instant, and when it doesn’t, we wonder why it didn’t happen.

Stick with it.  It’s no mistake that God wrote these words in Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Protect your heart and your thoughts while you’re learning to form new attitudes and moving forward with those ‘updates’ in life. A good place to start is here, like David in Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Renew, update, replace, just start.

If I get the inside right, the rest will take care of itself. Right?

“Windows has installed new updates.” With God on our side, we have a fresh spirit installed in us every time we call on Him. Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

Amy Grant wonders why do we try so hard.

 

Everyone wants to be on the right track. Could it be as simple as 1 thing?

A few years ago – well probably more than a few years ago, there was a movie that made a statement “1 thing” . Does anyone remember it? Billy Crystal was questioning his life, maybe because he was overworked and unfulfilled, living on the outer edge of mid- life, headed for old age. He was searching for something to fill him up and solve the dilemma of what had become of his life. He dragged his family to a dude ranch, where he was certain living the spartan life of a pioneer would forever answer his unrelenting question, “What happened to my life? What is my purpose.” I think the man on the white horse who answered him was Jack Palance, and the answer was “one thing”. Remembering how he rode up with his leather gloved hand held high, then raised his index finger, squinted his eyes tight and groused “1 thing.” With that one statement, he was saying, “You’re searching for one thing, your unique path, the calling designed for you alone and you are the only person it fits.” Through the years I’ve thought a lot about that statement. I’ve forgotten almost every detail about the storyline but not the admonishment to search for the 1 thing that will bring fulfillment.

It isn’t one thing, a solitary skill, an isolated occupation, or one avenue of experience. I think the 1 Thing is recognizing that we live full lives with a cafeteria of choices, and we have to accept where we are, realize we can’t change what’s past, but have the power to adjust our course when we don’t like the scenery up ahead. Today is the middle of the week; closing in on the end of a month. There is no magic in a new month or even a new year, but there is a new day that picks up where yesterday left off and continues the course we are on. At each decision point of any day is where we can begin to adjust our course in pursuit of that 1 thing, the life we were meant to live. We don’t need a new week to get back on track with our dreams. Vowing to give up a bad habit or destructive practice should never wait for another future time; we can decide right now commit to making tomorrow a little better than today while seeking the life God meant for us to have.

Decide now, not the tomorrow that never comes; the course adjustment will take time to germinate and graft itself day by day into your life until it’s part of your 1 thing, your vision. Prayerfully consider what your 1 Thing is and ask God to keep you on course.
Then be patient and stay the course.

Psalm 25:10 The ways of The Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of His covenant.

Psalm 4:3 Know that The Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him.

Psalm 39:7 Now Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

John 12:26 “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant will also be. My Father will honor the ones who serve me,” – Jesus

Jeremiah 29:11 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.