Sunday, October 11, 2020

Sticks and Stones....

Ephesians 4:29 NIV Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Words are a powerful thing and today I was reminded how our words can build someone up or tear them down.

I was at our local grocery store this afternoon when I was checking out and the young lady bagging my groceries was not giving her kindest attitude! I mean my items were taking a beating My first instinct was to say something snippy to her about damaging my items, but then I had to stop and think of what might have caused this much aggression to my items. (You see I have worked retail most of my life and still do sometimes on the weekends and summers.) COVID has given a new meaning to working retail. I mean people can be ugly about all these new rules! I get it, it never gives us reason to not give our best to a customer, but we are all human and our bad day turns someone else's day into a bad day. Anyway, I thought I will just pray for these two girls checking me out and bagging my groceries and try to make their day a little bit better. To my joy and excitement, both of them seemed to relax some as I talked and my groceries took less of a beating:) 

I then decided to celebrate my outing with a coffee. Well, these two ladies were also over their day! Their slumped shoulders, facial expressions, and attitudes were all sure signs they were done. I again said a small prayer and tried not to match their tone or feel defeated that everyone seemed to not be happy to help me today. This time it didn't work. My smile or have a great evening wasn't met with anything other than the announcement of my order and a swift turn to the next customer. I know it sounds crazy but I left feeling defeated that I didn't seem to make these girls' day any better. (This is where a side note is necessary: I shop here almost weekly and buy coffee more often than I should. This is not the normal behavior of these employees.) I said a prayer for them as I loaded my groceries into my car. As I turned on the car Zach Williams and Dolly Parton were singing "There Was Jesus." I sat in the parking lot for a moment taking in the words of the song and realized Jesus was there and working even if I couldn't see Him at that moment. It made me think about things going on around me that I can't see.

You see it is sometimes easier to meet animosity with animosity or kindness with kindness, but it takes grace and prayer to meet animosity with kindness. It is a skill I have to pray about often. I am not one to be ugly, but I am human and when I am paying for a service I want a good experience. I have to be reminded that sometimes the animosity I am receiving has nothing to do with me and I am given a chance to allow God to work through me if I just stop and ask Him to take over. We are human and our natural instinct is to lash out when someone lashes out at us or doesn't meet our kindness with their kindness. Sometimes the hidden picture is not for us to know, but we can always leave a situation better than we found it. I am not saying it is easy in fact I don't think it is possible without God taking over and that takes discipline. We must stop and ask God to intervene.

We are living in a time where many are fearful, in fact, downright terrified. We are facing an unknown and for many people, that is asking them to do what they feel is impossible, Trusting God. Let's face it that is a VERY difficult task no matter your relationship with God. But what if you are in a good place today, a place where you are feeling confident in your life? Can't you share that with others? Because tomorrow you may be the one needing to be reassured. I know my emotions have been a roller coaster for the past 8 months! 

This experience reminded me of a saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me! THAT IS A BIG FAT LIE!!! I know because I have spent a good portion of my adult life allowing words to destroy me. My experience has allowed me to be mindful of my words. Do I fail? Yes, too often, but I pray for God's words and His wisdom. Today was a reminder to be kinder. To be more understanding. To give love even if I don't receive it. To leave the place better than I found it. Will I always see the immediate response? No! Sometimes I will never know how my response affected a person, but that is not for me to know. God is working through us if we only allow Him to. Can I hope that my positive words can help a person having a bad day have a better day? You bet! It may even mean the customer behind me gets a smile or cheerful greeting. It is called a ripple effect.

Can I challenge you to look around you today, tomorrow, this week, this month, or anytime you are given a chance to give love and give it abundantly? Ask God to work through you. We can't do it by ourselves, but our words have the power to change lives!

Proverbs 16:24 NIV
Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

With Great Love,

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Faith or Fear? Part 2

Psalm 27:14 Trust in the Lord. Have faith, do not despair. Trust in the Lord. (GNT)

I have patiently waited weeks, months, for God to place on my heart a new post. I sat here this evening emotionally drained. Fighting the enemy is a tough business even when God is standing in front of you because as always I tend to try to trade places with Him several times throughout the battle (old habits are hard to breakšŸ˜©).

We heard whispers weeks ago about possible travel delays from the infamous coronavirus. Hannes was instructed to email spring break travel plans to the academy. We talked about it, prayed about it, and thought nothing else of it. The next week the voice wasn't a whisper anymore. We were now hearing loud and clear the possibility that travel may or may not be approved. We began to pray for God's will in the situation, understanding we were placing our trust in His hands and accepting His answer. Then this week the text felt more like a shout, so loud I think I lost my hearing for a moment. UAE was closing down all schools for four weeks and all travel in and out of the country was restricted. We were being forced to act obediently on our promise to God and accept His will.

As much as I had promised myself I would be strong for him if we received this news, I failed miserably. I tried so hard to say something, to respond, but tears were flowing down my face and my throat had closed tight. If I tried to talk I am sure it would have been something between a loud croak and shrill cry. He knows me well, and knew I needed a minute to recover from the news. As we began to talk and problem solve we were reminded of our prayers. Our trust in our Father. Trusting His will and accepting it.

Our conversation turned from self-pity to our blessings. We are blessed to be in the situation we are in.  We could have never met and then we would have never experienced all the happiness we have enjoyed. The blessing of the wonderful job he has in the UAE. Our good health, our faith in God, our love for one another. The list went on and on.

Our conversation then turned to the devastation this virus has already caused so many.  Hannes had read earlier that day of an airline in the UK that folded. Thousands of employees were without a job. We thought of the lives lost from the virus and the ones yet to come. We were reminded of the economic impact this virus will have on millions. As we concluded our conversation we agreed we didn't understand any of this, but we trusted God and had to remain faithful and trust Him.

Well, the enemy does NOT like that kind of talk. The enemy doesn't like it when we choose God over fear. He doesn't like it when we choose God over anger. When the enemy sees us turning to God he immediately begins to plot and plan an attack against us.

I sat here today allowing the enemy to attack me. Allowing the enemy to celebrate his successes. All the while begging God to take it from me and yet trying to do it myself!! I told you I am hard-headed!

Finally, I picked up the book we are reading in our Bible study group, Goliath Must Fall by Louie Giglio. I found the chapter we had finished on fear and began reading my highlighted parts again. God knew I would need this later and placed on my heart when I read it to highlight it. Louie states in his chapter on fear:
               "Once we identify the culprit and admit that our unrest is tied to this person or circumstance,  we can off-load those cares to God. We can figuratively place them in our heavenly Father's hands, and we can trust them to his sovereign care. We don't minimize the situation: we maximize our view of the only One we can totally trust. We don't simply deny the problem we are threatened by; we relocate it to the hands of the only One who can manage it well. And we leave it there as we close our eyes to sleep."

Wow! If I could rewrite that again I would just for effect! Powerful!! I don't have to minimize the situation. I just need to trust the only One who can take care of it. The story only gets better though! I was finishing my chapter on comfort and this jumps out at me: "We remember faith thrives in discomfort." Come again? I thought to myself, I need to read that again. How can this be so? I need to be in discomfort to have faith. I sat for a moment and thought about this statement. It makes sense. When we are content and happy we don't need faith to trust. Then Louie continues by stating in Hebrews chapter 11:1 To have faith is the be sure of the things we hope for, and to be certain of the things we cannot see. (GNT) He says this process is never comfortable. That's true, as humans we want to see the future. We want to know our path. We want to be in control.

I sat here for over an hour in silence just listening to the Lord today. Not really understanding any of this chaos. I can say I haven't watched any news or googled any information. I have no control over the circumstance. I can't make it go away or change the outcome, but I can pray and trust my Heavenly Father. I can know He has not brought me through this desert of my past to leave me deserted. His plans are bigger than I could possibly imagine or hope for. I will trust him and place my faith in Him.

Friend, I don't know what fear you are facing today. Sickness, loss of a job, a marriage, a family member, or a friend, but I do know God has us and He will take care of us. He will comfort us in the chaos. I don't have all the answers and I never will. I just want to trust Him and have faith in the things I cannot see. Our road won't always be easy and smooth, but Hebrews 11:1 is a beautiful reminder of what it looks like to step out in faith and trust our Father. Praying in the uncertain times you will place your faith in Him and not allow the enemy to overpower you with fear.

Friday, January 3, 2020

In Times of Adversity

2 Peter 1:3-8 Good News Translation (GNT)

God's Call and Choice

God's divine power has given us everything we need to live a truly religious life through our knowledge of the one who called us to share in his own[a] glory and goodness. In this way he has given us the very great and precious gifts he promised, so that by means of these gifts you may escape from the destructive lust that is in the world, and may come to share the divine nature. For this very reason do your best to add goodness to your faith; to your goodness add knowledge; to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add endurance; to your endurance add godliness; to your godliness add Christian affection, and to your Christian affection add love. These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We are going to face adversity. We are going to face hills and valleys. We will face the enemy, usually when we least expect it, but this verse in 2 Peter truly sums up how we should face it; with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, Christian affection, and love. Wow! I don't know about you, but I fail often! (at more than one of these and on some days all of these) If I have goodness and knowledge during adversity, I may lack endurance or love. If I have self-control and Christian affection I may lack knowledge or godliness. I have learned none of these are possible without God. I have also learned from a year of reflection, counseling, and immersing myself in God's word I must be disciplined when it comes to facing adversity. You may be asking am I saying I need to be punished and the answer is no. The other form of discipline (having self-control produced by training; in this case training the mind). In the classroom, we teach using mindset training and it works. In order to be disciplined, we must practice our mindset. For me, that has meant stopping and reflecting on God's word before reacting. James 1:19 says, "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." (NIV)

I have practiced just the opposite of this rule most of my life. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE to talk. There isn't anything wrong with being social, but I have learned I enjoy listening much more and learning. In my past when faced with adversity I was quick to speak, but not listen. I am not one to get angry, but just like anyone when I do it's never good. I have always been one to wear my feelings on my sleeve, take things personally, be the first to get involved in an altercation to try and mend the situation, over-explain my point of view or a situation. None of these traits make life easy and usually always got me into trouble somehow.

I have faced much adversity in the past 25 years. All of it I can say was allowed or caused by me. I didn't take time to listen to God or truth be known I felt I could "help" God or "fix" the problem myself. UGHHHH!!! What a long journey to learning a very valuable lesson!! Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger (in my case get involved or get my feelings hurt). I took a break from my blog because I needed time to reflect and listen to God. The beginning of this post was written in October, but I felt with every fiber of my being that God was telling me to save the draft and walk away. I did just that and now have so much more clarity. At the time the adversity was much too personal for me to write about. I know God knew I would make it personal and that is not the intention of this blog, ever!

Life isn't easy. NO one has the easy road ALL of the time. Oh, our social media posts want us to believe we do, but we all know that we only share our highlights, leaving the lowlights in the closet praying no one opens that door. I have said before those should not be aired out on social media, but find Godly people to walk you through difficult times. I am blessed by my prayer warriors daily. Before trusting God and having others pray for me I stressed until I made myself sick worrying about what others thought of me. Knowing when I decided to share this blog I would run head-on into adversity, knowing when I decided to share my personal life I would run into adversity, knowing when I shared my finances I would run into adversity. I didn't know the outcome of any of these events, but I knew God would be there and He would love me and pick me up when I couldn't go anymore. 2019 was not an easy year, but a learning year and boy did I learn!!

If you are like me and have faced adversity or maybe some of you are facing it now, I want to tell you God will get you through and He will teach you if you will let Him. Rest assured we will face adversity and being equipped will help us to get through it.

My takeaways from 2019:

  1.  Always turn to God, for everything! 
  2. Understand we are human and we make mistakes. Ask for forgiveness and learn from those mistakes.
  3. Realize not everyone is going to like you and that's ok. (Boy that was a biggie for me)
  4. Not my circus, not my monkeys! (One of my favs from a coworker and it took me years to adopt this saying. I apply it to circumstances that aren't any of my business (like gossip or someone complaining about something or someone else). My life has been much simpler not sticking my nose where it doesn't belong. 
  5. Realizing I'm the only one that knows the truth about my life (and God) and that is all that matters. 
  6. Pray harder for those that hurt you because it is true that hurt people, hurt people.
  7. Love like today is your very last day and find the good in life. Even when it seems there isn't any left.
  8. Forgive others, even when they don't ask for forgiveness and pray for them.
  9. Enjoy life to its fullest making memories! Spend as much time with those you love. We don't know when God will choose to bring us home. 
  10. Strive every minute (heck every second) of every day to live with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, Christian affection, and love. The Bible says, "These are the qualities you need, and if you have them in abundance, they will make you active and effective in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Praying in 2020 I can practice what I have learned. I am sure I will forget some of these lessons and have to be retaught again and again. I am only human. I am challenging myself and you (if you want to take the challenge) to build up those around you, not allowing others to steal your joy, and most importantly spend more time listening to God. He will speak to you through devotionals, Bible studies, pastors, sermons, and, my favorite, through mere strangers when you are least expecting it:) I don't know about you, but I can't wait to see what God has in store for me this year! I know with Him ALL things are possible!!