Wednesday, April 7, 2010
I smiled when I read "Believe God and don't listen to anything else." I smiled because I had this picture in my mind of a little girl getting teased who has put her fingers in her ears and repeats "I can't hear you. I can't hear. I can't hear you"
There are many thoughts we hear inside our mind every day. These thoughts, or voices, can range from mild self-dissatisfaction to severe self-hatred and self-condemnation that can produce depression and suicidal thoughts. Regardless of how subtle or how obvious the messages, their intent is to convince us we “are a failure with no purpose, value, gifts, or abilities.”
Let's learn to effectively ignore all the voices that tell us we can't do this or that or we're not this or that. And if we have to, let's stick our fingers in our ears and repeat, “I can't hear you. I can't hear you. I can't hear you.”
Saturday, April 3, 2010
As I ponder the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus this year, I realize I have missed something. I’ve missed the day in between the Passion and the Resurrection. All these years, I have missed what this day can tell us. This day speaks to us about the trust Jesus had in His Father. Jesus trusted His Father to not leave Him in that grave. Jesus said, “I’ll die for the sins of all mankind. And I will trust You, Father, to not leave me dead in that grave. I will trust You to give me life and raise me from the dead.” Jesus had to trust God.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
As I anticipate Easter Sunday, I meditate tonight on the very human side of Jesus. The Bible tells of the Passover meal Jesus shared with His disciples and that after the meal, He went to a garden to pray. Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew He would be arrested, tortured, then nailed to a cross and die. His prayer was a request to His Heavenly Father to come up with a different plan. Jesus was so overwhelmed that the Scriptures tell us His sweat had blood in it. He was experiencing so much anguish that the capillaries and blood vessels in His face broke mixing blood with His sweat. Yet, even though He was the Son of God, no alternate plan was discussed or offered.
In this garden experience, we see Jesus suffering in ways we suffer. Sometimes there are things ahead of us we know we will face and we ask God to do His God thing and change the circumstances for us. Yet, like with Jesus, He does not grant us our request. Instead, He strengthens us for what is ahead.
I see Jesus wrestling in prayer with God the way I sometimes wrestle with Him. I see Jesus asking for something else than what God has planned and I do this quite often. I see Jesus in agony over what He wants yet chooses to obey God in spite of His pain. Sometimes I am in agony because I want God to decide something different for me. Jesus knows exactly what we are going through because He has been through the same thing.
The writer of the book of Hebrews writes about how Jesus is the perfect Savior for us because He knows what it is like to be human. He has experienced the human experience and He knows what we go through to live life on planet earth. I am extremely comforted that Jesus knows what it is like to be me. He knows how weak my humanity can be. He knows what it is like to feel the war that goes on inside me when I want what I want and it’s different than what God wants.
The good news for all of us is that we are never alone. For those who know Jesus as their Savior, they have a constant Lord , Savior, Deliverer, and Healer Who is always there. For those who have not yet accepted Jesus as Savior, He is there waiting for the invitation to be in a relationship. He longs to give us the strength that His Father gave Him so that we can live in a way that pleases God.
Thank You, Jesus, so much for loving us and dying for us. You give us life and healing and hope and we love You. Amen.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Despite the fact that giving makes me happy, there are times when giving is a challenge. It’s a challenge because some people won’t receive what I want to give. Many years ago I felt led to give a woman $25. It was not a pre-planned act of generosity. I saw this woman picking up aluminum cans on the side of the road. As I drove past her, I felt compelled to turn around and give her the $25 I had in my pocket. I turned around at the next opportunity, drove to where she was, parked the car, got out and walked up to her and offered her my $25. The look on her face was priceless. I could sense she wanted the money and couldn’t believe it was being offered to her. But just as quickly as the look of awe on her face appeared it disappeared. She said she could not take my money and had no clue why I was offering it to her. A boldness came over me and I just told her the truth. I told her I was a Christian and when I drove by her I felt that she could use this money and I needed to turn around and give it to her. I told her that I think Jesus wanted to bless her and was showing His love for her. She literally took two steps back and said, “I cannot take your money.” I sensed there was no use in arguing with her so I left putting my money back in my pocket as I walked to my car. I have wondered about this incident many times. I wonder what kind of blessing this woman missed out on that extended far beyond the $25. I also wondered if I had missed a blessing because she refused my gift and I was not able to give.
Since that time, I have encountered some people whom I’ve had to convince to take what I want to give them. They say they “don’t need the gift” (whatever it might be) or they “have the money and can pay” or I “don’t need to be doing that.” I even know some people who have told me they don’t want to take anything because it is better to give than to receive. My question back to them is this: if everyone wants to give and no one wants to receive, how can any giving be accomplished? Ironically enough, some of these same people have some issues with the fact that they don’t believe God has honored their giving. I try to offer a shift in thinking by asking them this question: Is it possible God has been trying to honor your giving but you don’t let Him because you are refusing to receive the gifts people are offering to you?
We need to be giving people for our own sake because of the way giving blesses our own soul. We also need to be a giving people for the sake of others and how our giving can meet their needs and sometimes meet the desire of their hearts. In turn, we also need to be receiving people. As people who know how to receive, we end up being blessed and being a blessing. We are blessed because God is supplying us with something that we didn’t deserve or earn. We are a blessing because we allowed a person the opportunity to give. This person in turn will be honored for his/her act of giving.
Giving does not happen without receiving. Be a giver and a receiver and experience the joy and happiness of being a blessing and of being blessed.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
The Bible reveals that God gives abilities and talents to each one of us. These abilities and talents are often called gifts. The gifts God gives us can include talents for music, communication, encouragement, organization, mercy, giving, teaching, helping, and many more. God gives us these gifts to help others. Your gifts have a specific purpose and are unique to you. God wants you to use your gifts to show your love for Him and for others. You can experience great joy along with a sense of fulfillment when you know how God has gifted you and you use those gifts to help others.
Do you know what your gifts are? More often than not, your gifts are tied directly to the things that help make you feel alive and happy about what you are doing. For example, do you absolutely love hosting people in your home or organizing the office parties at work? If so, you may have the gift of hospitality. Are you a single person and are able to control the natural human needs for physical and emotional intimacy with a member of the opposite sex? If so, you may have the God-given gift of celibacy like the apostle Paul had. What about making things? Do you love making craft items or building things? If so, you may have the gift of craftsmanship. Whatever your gifts, find out what they are and use them to help others and to bring glory and honor to God. In the process, you will find that you, too, are blessed because God will give you a sense of peace and fulfillment that you cannot get anywhere else.
If you have never taken a spiritual gifts assessment, I encourage you to take one to find out what your spiritual gifts might be. Once you know what they are, you can ask God to show you opportunities in which you can use them. If you have taken a spiritual gifts assessment before but it has been a long time since, I encourage you to take one again. Why? Because being reminded of what our gifts our can be self-encouraging. The reminder helps us to engage a greater focus on helping others in areas that we are gifted in.
There are many spiritual gift assessments that you can complete. Try this one for starters at http://www.kodachrome.org/spiritgift. It is written simply and clearly and provides an easy-to-understand description of the various gifts identified in the assessment.
Friday, January 1, 2010
Another year has gone by and a new one has begun. Like most people, I engage in the annual ritual of reflecting on whether or not I accomplished my goals from last new year’s resolution then create new ones for the coming year. Like most people, I do not accomplish the majority of my goals and roll them over to the list of goals for the coming year. I reluctantly confess that some of these goals have been rolled over from year to year to year for decades.
As I desperately fought the feeling of being a failure while going through reflecting and goal-setting, an Albert Einstein quote and Thomas Edison story came to mind. Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results. As I reflected on the previous year and set goals for the new year I realized that my life is proof that Einstein’s definition of insanity is a fact, maybe even a cosmic truth! I also realize that if I do not want to be in the same place twelve months from now, I need to…I have to do things differently.
The first thing I have to do differently is replace a failure mentality with a lessons-learned mentality. Thomas Edison worked for years to develop the light bulb. His biography reports that after he discovered one theory that did not work, he immediately developed another and tested that theory. When that theory proved to be unsuccessful, he replaced it with another, then another, then another. He repeated this process until he succeeded. Edison went through thousands of attempts before creating the light bulb. The story goes that Edison said he did not view his unsuccesful attempts at failures. He viewed them as lessons learned and took that knowledge into the next attempt. I want to think like Mr. Edison. I want to stay so committed to a belief and a dream that I will not let an unsuccessful attempt (or thousands of unsuccessful attempts) create or perpetuate a failure mentality. Instead of continuing to do the same thing over and over, I want to try something different and keep trying until I find what works.
What about you? What are you still trying to accomplish by doing the same things over and over? Do you need to start with an attitude adjustment like I do? Or have you already adjusted your attitude and now you need to change your behavior? Whichever one it is, let’s stop the insanity this year and do things differently.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Why is this? Why does the most hope-filled and joyful holiday of the year seem to trigger anything from a sense of melancholy to intense feelings of grief and loneliness? Could it be that the enemy of our soul might try to distract us from the true meaning of Christmas?
Jesus was born as the hope of the world. The Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of the Son of God Who chose to enter into human history by living as a man and dying for our sins. Being forgiven of our sins and escaping their penalty is a message of great hope. It is a message and a story that the devil will do everything he can to stop. Two thousand years have gone by, yet the story of a child born in a barn with angels announcing His birth is still told. I believe the devil knows he cannot stop the telling of the story so he uses other tactics like conflict, loneliness, and grief to distract us. He also uses depression and sickness among other things. The goal? To get us to doubt God’s love and goodness toward us so that we will not believe in the Son that was born to us, the One Who can save us and speak hope, peace, and love to our hearts.
I don’t know about you, but I experienced many painful emotions this holiday season. In spite of these emotions, I made sure I focused on the hope and love that only God can give. I refused to doubt God’s love and goodness toward me even in the midst of grief and loneliness. You know what happened? God provided comfort for me in many ways right in the middle of the grief and loneliness. God was so creative. He blessed me with the opportunity to have a new Christmas tree for a room in my house where I have wanted to put one for ten years, a father who put lights up on the outside of my house, a daughter and new son-in-law who filled my stocking when they came to visit on Christmas Day, and a friend who let me cry on her shoulder (literally!) when I was hurting too much to keep it inside.
Christmas truly is the season of love and hope. And if the season triggered despair, discouragement, depression, grief, loneliness, or any other painful emotion for you, hold on tightly to hope anyway and trust God’s love more than you ever have before.