Tag Archive | focus

Be Available

“At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?'” Mark 5:30

 

woman driving a car and looking at watch

©DepositPhotos/Syda_Productions

I have a long list of things I want to do. I have a long list of things others would like me to do. I have a long list of things I should do. And, of course, I long list of things I have to do.

It’s easy to get caught up in the lists. I am, after all a list maker. I like to write it all down and check it off so that I know I’ve really accomplished something each day.

When my children were young and at home, my list consisted more of “have to’s” than “want to’s.” Choices seemed easier just because there weren’t really that many. But as my girls have grown up and have become more independent, I have more time on my hands.

There was a season when time was what I wanted. I could sit and read, garden, take a nap, all the fun and relaxing things that didn’t seem to happen often enough with children. But as seasons have changed, I’ve realized that they may not need me in the same ways, they still need me … and so do others.

Our relationships matter not because requirements and expectations matter, but because it’s how we know we matter. What I do can make a difference in the life of someone else. This all sounds nice doesn’t it? But there are a few things we need to deal with and understand for us to really be willing to be available to others.

  1. It’s going to take some time. Jesus was on His way to see and help one person when another person came to Him. There will be interruptions. Now, I’m most likely not going to be stopped as I walk down the street, but I might get a phone call or text message that requires some immediate attention in order to really meet the need of the person reaching out. If I’m going to be available I’m going to have to stop and push pause on my list so I can answer or reply in the most timely manner possible.
  2. It’s going to take some discipline. And if I am going to answer or reply, maybe even show up when I can, I’m going to need to be aware of the time. Jesus was available in meeting the need of the woman, but He didn’t stay too long. He didn’t change the plans He has already made to go somewhere else. There are times when urgent matters need to be worked through in a timely matter so that you can get on with the other things that are also important. Discipline may also call for us to not over-schedule ourselves. Every time you are in a hurry rushing from one thing to the next, you are less likely to stop for someone else in the process. We miss divine appointments when we see the list or the clock before the person.
  3. It’s going to take some energy. Jesus noticed that power went out from Him when the woman touched His cloak. People take energy. We have to be willing to exert some energy. People need us to be intentionally present, not just sitting back and passively participating in the relationship. Jesus was always going off alone for time with His Father. He was filled and refreshed so He had what He needed for others. How we care for our relationship with God will directly impact our ability to care for our relationships with others.
  4. It’s going to get personal. Jesus stopped and asked, “Who?” You can easily do something for someone as another check box on your list. But the “who” behind the check mark is really what it’s all about. There will be quick, brief encounters with people. Names might not even be exchanged. But I wonder, should they be? Should we thank someone by name, notice them by name, and take a moment to step into their story in a more personal way? Who we are matters. If it’s not personal, what is it?

Something to Consider…

I’ve often thought of my flexible schedule as a positive aspect of my ability to be available, but what I’ve done is let it disrupt my ability to be disciplined. Overall I end up being less effective. How can discipline and flexibility work together to create space to be available for others when needed?

There are times when I think of people and the first thought is, “They are so much work!” What I mean is they are draining. They suck the energy right out of me. The truth is that I’m not prepared to give people my best. And if I’m at my best, then I can give them something better as well. What activities or behaviors increase your energy and ability to be effective and which decrease it? What activities or habits do you need to change so you can be at your best in order to give others your best?

How often does the “who” matter in determining your willingness to stop and be available? Jesus came for the entire world, each individual “who.” How can you let His love be the goal regardless of the “who?”

Jesus: The Real Deal

704630_443730492347160_1248831165_oI just saw an article titled Santa Claus: The Great Imposter. And while I didn’t read it, the title brought me to Scripture within seconds. As my husband knows, one thought leads to another, and to another and so on. So here goes…

  1. Who is he a substitute for? Jesus
  1. Why would he be a substitute for Him? Because people believe they know the story of a real man who did kind and thoughtful things for children (people) and they want to be like him. We can put him on a pedestal as a great example. And while we can say that in a way Jesus did the same thing, He (Jesus) requires something of us that Santa Claus (St Nicholas) doesn’t: Submission. We can do things that are like Santa Claus such as give gifts and be jolly, but he doesn’t set a standard of how we are to live our lives otherwise. Fun is as far as Christmas needs to go.
  1. Very quickly, my mind was brought to Scripture.

“What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:12-13

“For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere human beings?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” 1 Corinthians 3:4-5

When we choose to imitate Santa Claus, whether we believe he was a real human being or an ideal picture of a generous grandfather figure, we imitate a man who was a mere human being or even less, a thought or idea. We may be imitating someone who was possibly a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, but still just a person like you and me. In truth, we should be worshiping, celebrating and imitating the true Lord and Savior. This means our service does not stop at a Christmas gift or meal for the sake of being nice and thoughtful, but continues through to the purpose and message of the Gospel.

God gave us the greatest gift ever given: His Son Jesus Christ who came to die for our sins and be raised to new life, so that we could be made right with God and enjoy eternal life with Him. At Christmas, we celebrate the beginning of God’s plan of reconciliation becoming a reality. We worship Him and Him alone. We submit our lives to Him out of reverence for who He is, not just the nice things He’s done.

God has been growing me through the season and celebration of Christmas. Every year I remove more of the Santa figures and ornaments I’ve had in our house. Some are fancy, some are sweet. Some have fond memories tied to them as gifts from various people in my life. It can be hard to remove things that seem harmless on the surface, maybe even good. But when I make someone else the center of a celebration that belongs to God, I set up a false idol – an imposter. Jesus Christ is the real deal and is worthy of my sole attention.

Who will you celebrate this Christmas? Where will your attention be focused? Will you settle for and spread the lies of an imposter or will you rejoice in and share the truth of the Savior? Christmas focused on Santa falls short of the glory of God shown through His Son, Jesus Christ.

 

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

PCH Front Cover

Something New

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

© DepositPhotos/ Anetlanda

Lately, I’ve been struggling in the area of discipline. Well, truth be told, I’ve been struggling for a long, long time. Most people who know me would never know or probably believe this to be true. I get things done on time, I appear to be organized and I carry a lot of information around in my head.

Honestly though, I procrastinate. And when I procrastinate, I lose control of my schedule.

I recently took a personality test and one of the statements made about me in my results was that if I say I will do something, I will. People know that and they count on it. I had to laugh a little when I read it because in the sixth grade, when we went around the room and had to say something about ourselves that made us unique, this was the very thing I said about myself. “If I say I will do something, I will.”

The problem I find is that I’m the one I cheat when I procrastinate. Because I feel such a deep commitment to others, an accountability to follow through, I will easily let go of the things I know I should do and have even said to myself that I would do. I don’t feel the same accountability to myself that I do others.

And so I lack discipline. Complete discipline. True discipline.

And worse, I cheat God because sometimes those things I need to do for myself are things He wants me to do for myself. They are things that He wants me to do for Him simply because He says so. They are things that may make a difference somewhere else along the line. As I take time to invest in myself, I’m investing in my future with Him, becoming who He created me to be.

I tend to make decisions based on what’s easy in the moment, convenient for my “rushed” schedule, or seems to be too much work and could interfere with commitments to others. I hold myself more accountable to people than to God.

But what God has been showing me lately, offering me, is a new way of doing things.

A new way to see things.

A new way to make decisions.

A new way to live.

With Him.

In Him.

When God sent Jesus as a babe in the manger born of a virgin, He was doing something new. He was making a new way to Himself.

“’The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,’ declares the Lord.” Jeremiah 31:31-32a

And,

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

As well as,

(In Christ) “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Therefore…” Ephesians 4:22-25a

Therefore.

We don’t simply add Jesus to our way of doing things. We stop doing what we did before we knew Him and we start doing what He shows us to do. We repent, change our thinking, and do what He moves us to do.

I think of life with Christ as more of “T” intersection than a fork in the road. There is a path you can clearly stay on, the one going straight ahead, or you can choose to go a whole new direction. You don’t veer one way or another; you intentionally choose a different path.

And you can’t take a little of this path and a little of that path and fudge your way. That doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure I’ve tried it and I don’t recommend it. It will drive you crazy, maybe literally.

But instead, there is a choice to make: Do I stay on the road I’m on or do I choose a new way?

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the paths of the world will intersect with your new path many, many times and each time, you will have to choose. Will you do what’s easy, convenient and expected or will you choose to be set apart in Christ, doing what’s hard, requiring effort and may even go against the grain of everyone around you? Will you give up what you’ve always done and who you’ve always said you were (who others say you are) and let Jesus renew, restore and redefine who you are in Him.

What new thing is God doing in your life? What new thing is God asking you to do in your relationship with Him? How might this new thing display a heart set on and committed to Him, to world that needs to know Him?

God remembered His people and did something new. Now, it’s your turn.

 

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

PCH Front Cover

Summer Days, Winter Nights

conceptI’m sitting here on this beautiful summer day thinking about Christmas. Why? Because that’s just how fast time seems to pass.

Life is busy. In Minnesota, summers are busier. We have three, maybe four months to enjoy the warm temps, warm water, and not have to layer up just to get the mail. We cram weekends “up north” into our schedules, do everything we can to get to “the lake.” In some ways normal life seems to stop and our outdoor summer life kicks in. Now, don’t get me wrong. We like our winters, too. Just not that many of us like them as much as summer.

I lived in southern California for 18 short months and it wasn’t like that there. Summer or school year, so much of it seemed the same. There seemed to be a natural flow from one time of the year to the next with no dramatic shifts. I love the seasons of Minnesota, but there was something quite peaceful about our So Cal life.

So as summer begins to draw to an end (August begins this weekend, school the end of the month) and our summer thinking turns to fall activities, winter will be here before we know it. The changing of the seasons works that way. Different times in our lives distinctly marked out by the weather.

And if we’re not careful, we let our lives be directed and guided by what’s going on around us rather than by Who is in us. We let our actions be determined by the season we are in, rather than by the One we belong to.

Christmas is one such time when the ways of the world can quickly overshadow what we say is truly important to us. We make decisions because of what’s expected rather than because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We act as if this holiday is all about us when others don’t respond to or hold the holiday in the same regard as we do whether they are friends, family or complete strangers.

We forget that it’s all about Christ. We act in a way that doesn’t accurately represent who He is to a lost world. We expect others to conform to our way of thinking when we ourselves, those who claim to know Christ, have not conformed to His way of thinking. We have higher expectations of those who don’t know Christ than we have for ourselves.

Jesus had something to say about this:

“Jesus replied, ‘And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.'” Luke 11:46

And He says something about Himself:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

We can’t expect a world to come to us to find Jesus if we are doing all the same things they are. We can’t expect a world to come to know Jesus if we make it hard for them see and know His gentle and humble heart.

So what’s the answer?

We keep Christ at the center of our hearts, lives and activities. We find our joy, peace and strength in Him. And we remember that He came as a gentle and humble baby, not for His own benefit, but for ours and for others.

Our hearts need to be open to His leading at all times, but it seems like we need to be more aware of what’s truly in our hearts when the spotlight shines on us more brightly…like at Christmas. What will your heart tell others about Jesus? What will others learn about Jesus because of your words and actions? Choose to make this Christmas different. Choose to prepare your heart for the coming Christ so that the world may know and believe.

Something to Consider…

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason

Being intentional in our relationship with Jesus is necessary at all times. It’s easy to think that just because we are involved in ministry, work for or go to school in a Christian environment, or we are in a season that is focused on Jesus, we will have a heart set on Him in all we do. The world creeps in and we can be easily distracted .

What steps will you take this Christmas to be intentional in your relationship with Jesus? He is gentle and His burden is light. Help others know Him this way.

Prepare Your Heart for Christ: The Christmas Reason available now!

A Wise Leader (Part 1)

© Depositphotos.com/ robertprzybysz

© Depositphotos.com/
robertprzybysz

This is a multi-part blog based on my experience of learning to ask for, receive and accept feedback.

Love and truth form a good leader; sound leadership is founded on loving integrity. Proverbs 20:28 (The Message)

I’m involved in a two-year leadership program at my church. It’s been both challenging and rewarding as we learn about leadership characteristics, church history and movements, and ultimately, what it means to be a Christ follower leading with a servant’s heart. We also break into smaller discipleship groups and talk specifically about what God is doing in our lives, how He’s teaching, loving and caring for us, as well as using us to show His love and compassion to others. Each week we set ourselves aside and soak up what the speaker has to say, what God wants us to hear and how we can move more freely in what He wants us to do. It’s truly a great opportunity to come alongside others who want to be living fully in God’s presence specifically in an area of leadership, wherever that may be.

Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31 (NIV)

A few weeks ago we heard a talk about feedback versus criticism (delivered by my wonderful husband, Craig, by the way). I admit this has been a very difficult place for me. I hear through the lens of criticism most of the time. I’ve realized over the last two years that I do not trust many people and even those I trust most, I am still hesitant with in certain situations and with certain topics. I don’t expect others to think the best of me. I also expect to be sacrificed for the sake of others.

God’s love, and the way we are to love each other, is a sacrificial love. It’s a love that gives, serves and even dies for another. But this sacrificial love requires a willingness on the part of the one sacrificing. It is a choice to put yourself in front of an issue and take a stand understanding the risk versus someone taking a step back or no step at all and putting you out in front to take the brunt of the problem.

What I’ve come to understand and am learning to accept is that God is my protection regardless if I’m “sacrificed” by my own choice or the decision of others. Regardless of what comes at me or what I’m thrown into, God has my back. He loves me unconditionally and I am safe, accepted, protected, and loved simply because I trust Him to do so. He is the One through whom all blessings flow, all good things come and He will never leave me to figure things out on my own. He’s in it with me. I just need to trust and obey.

So, back to the point of my message … feedback and criticism.

We were tasked with sending out a review to people who are over, under and next to us. In other words, those who we answer to in our work or volunteering, those we work or serve alongside and those who answer to us in some role or have experienced us as leaders. This can include at work, at church, in ministry, volunteering, family and even friends. (i.e., my husband and I are part of a small group and we’ve organized many functions together. They know how I operate in a group setting working together to accomplish a common goal.)

After I sent the survey, the first thing I did was make a list of every negative thing people could say so that nothing would surprise me. This way, maybe it wouldn’t hurt so bad to actually hear what a failure I’ve been. The next thing was to go through the list of rated questions and rate myself. I don’t know that I would actually recommend doing either of these things, but it’s just the truth of what I did at the time.

We received our responses this week. In my next blogs I’d like to share a few things I learned about myself and others through this process. For now, I wonder if you’d be willing to consider a few questions yourself.

Something to Consider…

  1. Do you understand the difference between feedback and criticism? Here is a simple definition of each:

Criticism – to find or point out fault

Feedback – to give evaluative or corrective information

Criticism tells you what you did wrong. Feedback helps you move forward. In The 360 Degree Leader, John Maxwell addresses this topic. I highly encourage you to check out this book if you are interested in growing as a leader.

  1. How well do you do at giving and receiving feedback? Do you dread hearing what others have to say about your quality of work or your ability to respond and interact with others? Or do you welcome counsel and advice about how to improve your skills both practically and relationally?
  2. How might God want to grow you in this area? How might God want to use you to help others grow in this area?

 

Come … Willingly

© Depositphotos.com/Madrabothair

© Depositphotos.com/ Madrabothair

 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9a

We have a rule in our house. We actually have several, but this is one we’ve actually been able to hold to pretty consistently. It’s even been used in settings outside our home with others.

If you volunteer someone else to do a job, you are the one who will do it.

Why? Because volunteering requires a willingness and when you volunteer another instead of volunteering yourself, you impose your will on another. You say, “I don’t think I should have to do it. I think you should do it.” And when they don’t, judgment creeps in.

Jesus didn’t sit behind His followers and say, “Pick up your cross and do as I tell you.”

Rather,

“He (Jesus) called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Mark 8:34

And,

“I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” John 13:15

Jesus says He will not volunteer you for anything, but if you are willing, here is what is required. He will not volunteer you for anything He is unwilling to do, but as His follower, He will ask you … no, no, He will expect you to do what He has already done.

We have a choice.

Jesus knows we are not perfect, yet here are His ground rules:

  1. Deny yourself.
  2. Take up your cross.
  3. Follow me (Jesus).
  4. Do as I (Jesus) have done.

Jesus has accomplished His purpose of reconciling the world to God. We don’t need to do this. It is finished!

However, as His ambassadors in this world, this is the message we spread. Jesus has paid the price for our sins and set us free to live His way. If we are unwilling to “do”, we’ve stopped short of accomplishing our purposes for God.

We don’t wait for God to show us who to love; we love those we are with. Our expectations of what others should be doing dictates what we ourselves believe is right.

Jesus invites you to come. Will you?

Something to Consider…

Jesus will not volunteer you for the life He wants to give you, but He has set the perfect example and He invites you to come willingly. What is He currently inviting you to come and join with Him in doing?

What expectations do you have of others, yet you yourself are unwilling to do? As you seek God’s kingdom in your own life, let Jesus be your example. When you choose to follow Him, you will be less concerned with what others are doing or not doing because you will be doing what He is doing.

Why Do I…

W“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Sometimes, I imagine conversations with others. I’m not sure if it’s a writer thing, an introvert thing or just a strange habit, but it happens.

I’ve been struggling with the “why” of what I do. Everyone has reasons for what they do. Reasons that to them, make what they do worth doing.

There are a lot of really good things that I can be doing, but each day I need to choose certain good things over others. It helps when I see the end result of my work or receive feedback and appreciation for what I’ve done. There are also times I just need to do the good thing because it’s the right thing in the moment.

So I imagined someone specific asking me why I blog. This is what I said:

I believe God has laid it on my heart to share with others what He’s sharing with me. He teaches me about Himself every day. He shows me things about myself as well. Ultimately it’s all about my relationship with Him. And He has given me an opportunity and desire to share those things with others.

God knows us and loves us and He wants us know and love Him as well. He has really good things for us.

For example, there was this time when my dog was just a few years old. He was a bit temperamental and we were working with Him to help Him learn to trust us. One day, I just stopped and said to Him, “Why don’t you just listen to me? I give you everything you need. You have food to eat and a warm place to sleep. I play with you and take you for walks. I am happy to just be with you. I don’t want to have to put you in your kennel because you’re not doing what I tell you to do. Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

And I stopped and heard God ask me, “Don’t you know I just want to love you?”

He has provided everything I need. He enjoys me simply because I am me. There is joy in our time together. He doesn’t look to give me consequences, but sometimes He has to. He just wants to love me. And that love requires a response.

And that’s why I write:  God loves me. And in order to experience His love, I need to be in a relationship with Him. That’s how we each experience His love – in relationship with Him. Which means we need to acknowledge Him, look to Him and trust Him.

I hope what I write encourages others to do that, to turn to Him and trust Him. I hope others don’t just know they are loved but experience His love in real ways every day.

I didn’t really consider His response in my imaginary conversation, but I realized it was again, a message worth sharing.

God loves you and wants you to know Him.

Something to Consider…

How has God shown His love for you?

Today, how will you respond to His love for you?

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a

Fight or Flight? (Part 2)

woman in field - yellow dress

This is the second part in a four-part series.

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

As I mentioned in Part 1, in those areas of my life in which I felt I had authority, I would suffer uncontrollable rage when there was a problem.

At the time, my only real area of authority was in the lives of my children. Unfortunately, they bore the brunt of my anger, specifically my oldest daughter. I expected my home to be the one place I was in control. What I said is what everyone did…except they didn’t.

Each task someone added to my already overloaded schedule, every poor decision that needed to result in a fix or consequence, and every request that came with an expectation that I would, of course, meet it was suffocating.

I also assumed a role of authority in my marriage even though it wasn’t mine to have. When we were in a public arena, I would unleash on my husband in a very controlled, but demeaning tone. My statements were short and accusatory.

Each time I felt I was losing control, my anger put me back in control. I knew this was wrong. I didn’t like how it felt during or after the confrontation. I would sometimes apologize later, but the words I spoke and my attitude had already left its mark.

“It (love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5

My anger looked after my own comfort and convenience, it built on each mistake others made and it sought to prove that the issues were their fault, not mine.

But God in His mercy showed me how my anger would not bring about His righteousness in the situation or my heart.

While the truth is the actions and decisions of others are not my fault and not in my control, how I respond to them through my actions is my responsibility. I was not to exhibit control, but self-control. There is a difference. Control focuses on the actions of others while self-control focuses on my own actions in response to God’s love and righteousness.

God began to show me that using self-control was more about my response to love others in the midst of the problem than solving the problem itself.

As I slowed down and let myself listen to not only my daughter, but to God, I was able to see the work He wanted to do and was already doing in her life. As God took my eyes off myself and put them back on Himself, He was able to shift my perspective and understanding of who was really in control.

Ultimately, I was fighting God. I was fighting His truth that I was not in control and that I did not need to prove myself, my value, or my worth to anyone. I did not need to display my authority through anger, but I could serve others, myself, and God better with a spirit of love and self-control.

Something to Consider…

Do you think if others could just get it right, your life would be easier? Does your anger win out when you feel like you don’t have control or need to prove something? In what specific situations and with which specific people does this happen?

God is ultimately in control of everything. Jesus who has absolute authority and power did not strike back in anger, but let His love lead His way. He knows you make mistakes and loves you anyway. God’s righteous anger acknowledges that what is going on is not right and Jesus is the solution that makes things right. Through Jesus Christ, God has made a way for the problem of sin to be removed from our lives so we can be made right with Him. Every relationship problem has a solution when we have the desire and make the decision to love first.

How can a perspective shift change how you relate to and love others? How might self-control help you slow down and listen and in turn lead to a life of love?

Practice and Experience Change

Butterfly“Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:9 (The Message)

I’ve been co-leading a morning women’s group with a friend and have been thinking about some of our first lessons and topics of discussion. I’ve found it can be so easy to read, talk about and consider various verses that are meant to help us understand what God really wants for us. We are to put into practice all we have learned, seen, heard and come to understand. But I wonder, do we really or rarely apply them to our lives?

Our very first discussion was on Philippians 4:8 and what we think about. We recently talked about self-control, one of the traits of the fruit of the Spirit. Self-control is the turning to God in all situations and decisions. It is the giving up of our excuses, justifications and blame games and allowing Him to lead us knowing He is in control of everything.

So when we who have the Holy Spirit living inside us say we can’t stop thinking about something that is troublesome or worrisome, ugly, evil or hateful, we choose to rely on ourselves rather than God and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us make the change.

My oldest daughter has a friend who had said some very mean and ugly things to her. She accused her and condemned her based on information from a third-party.

My daughter is relationship oriented. She loves friendships! Always has. As a toddler, nothing made her more excited than seeing a friend outside playing and knowing she was able to go out and join the fun. A friend constituted anyone her same size! Sleepovers, play dates and outings were her source of enjoyment. As a teenager, she didn’t have as many friends, but she was very loyal and mindful of all her friends.

So when this particular friend decided to act out on what she heard rather than talking to her and expressing her concern, I was quite upset and put out. I wanted to lash out at this girl…and her mother. I replayed over and over in my mind the messages my daughter had received and all the things I could say or do in response. I was consumed for a time with very angry and bitter thoughts. It carried over into conversations affecting the tone I used with others. As I realized how this was hindering my joy and relationships, I knew my thoughts needed to change.

Philippians 4:8 came to mind and I realized that nothing going through my mind was lovely, excellent or praiseworthy. It may or may not be true, but I didn’t even know the whole story at that point and was making judgments based on partial information just as this friend had done to my daughter. That wasn’t just or noble.

I began to thank God for the relationship I have with my daughter and that she chose to talk with me about the problem. I prayed the truth would be revealed and her reputation restored. I praised God who can heal any wound and reconcile any relationship. My thoughts changed and so did my heart.

While there were still problems and issues to work through, eventually this friendship was restored. There was understanding, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation.

This is the ultimate goal in everything we believe about our loving Father in heaven. We come to know and understand the truth of who He is, what He did, why He did it and just how much He loves us. We acknowledge our part in the problem with a desire to turn from our old ways. We accept His forgiveness and move forward with God confident in our restored and reconciled relationship with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2

We can choose to set our minds on the things of this world or on the Creator of this world. We can concentrate on the problem or trust in the One who knows the solution. We can sit in our bitterness and resentment or we can allow God to replace it with His love and kindness. We can call out every issue we have with every person or we can be grateful that God, who is always right and just in His actions, did not hold our mistakes, or even our intentional disobedience against us.

Something to consider…

Do you have a heaviness of heart? Do you replay your troubles over and over in your mind? What thoughts do you need to replace with His truth and righteousness? He can lighten your load and change your thoughts.

Do you have deep wounds from broken relationships? Does it feel like there is just no way anything good can come of it? Jesus can change your thinking, change your perspective and give you hope that changes your heart.

What Do You Think On?

View of Geiranger Fjord from the mountains in Norway“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 (ESV)

It didn’t take long after I woke up Monday morning for my mind to start thinking about all I had to do. And it wasn’t just about what I had to do that day; it was my whole week right in front of me.

My mom told me that when she found out she was pregnant with me (she and my dad already had six kids between the two of them) all she could think was that there was going to be another pile of laundry. Maybe you’ve picked up on the fact that I was not planned and when I think of this story, it’s easy to assume I was more of a burden than a bundle of joy, but that’s not true.  I am loved and have always known it; but as an adult, I now have a very clear idea of what she was feeling.

I have piles everywhere! There is no order to the piles; there is no order to the placement of the piles. The piles never really seem to go down. Just as I remove and check off some items, more gets thrown on top. My mom had no idea how she was going to do more and provide more without being more. She couldn’t see an end to the piles or the process. I feel this same way at times: scattered, helpless and overwhelmed with no end in sight.

While my piles are not physical piles of clothes, toys or dishes; they are the things that weigh on my mind, take my time and cause me to invest myself sometimes at levels that I am consumed with love, sorrow, joy and regret all at the same time. When I am on top of things, dealing with one specific pile, things are good. But it’s the running between the piles, back and forth with no clarity or plan where I struggle.

The valley: the place I need God to meet me, settle my heart, bring focus and clarity to my mind and walk me from pile to pile, mountain top to mountain top in His time, in His way.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to stop, but I do truly love what I do! Everything I get to do centers on what I believe God wants me doing. So why are the piles so overwhelming? Why does it appear that there no order when God is all about order – planning, preparation and purpose fulfilled?

Because my thoughts go to what I can’t do in my own power, what will happen if I don’t get through my piles and what other people will think of me and my efforts or lack thereof. And that’s the kicker…what others will think of my lack of ability to perform at a high enough standard to meet their expectations.

I haven’t even talked to anyone for them to tell me their expectations, if they even have any, and I’ve already assumed the worst about them and myself!

Regardless of whether you run your own business, work for a Fortune 500 company or stay at home with the kids, there’s stuff to get done! But according to Philippians 4:4, I’m not supposed to rejoice in meeting the expectations of others. I’m supposed to rejoice in the Lord – always! He is with me in everything I do and He alone brings peace to my mind, heart, and soul. When I rely on Him to help me work through it, rejoicing and thanking Him each step of the way, I will be doing what He expects of me. I will be moving forward in His power, plan and purpose for my life.

Something to Consider…

How does what you think about determine your ability to rejoice and be thankful?

Do you experience peace? Do you turn to something or someone other than God to fill the gaps between the piles?

What are your piles? Are there some that can go? Which are your priorities? Which ones are God’s priority for you?

Seek Him today in the valley between the piles. Thank Him today on the mountain top of progress. Rejoice in Him always!