Weekend Challenge…

Happy Friday, everyone!  I’ve been thinking about this challenge for awhile and I woke up this morning with the perfect verse to go with it!  Are you ready for something amazing?!

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”  Proverbs 3:27 (NIV)

I also like the NLT translation of this verse which phrases it this way:

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it’s in your power to help them.”

We’ve all read this one before and many people also tie it in with Galatians 6:10 (ESV), which says:

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Did you notice the wording in these three Scripture references?  Go back and read them again.

  • All three talk about doing “good”, but they don’t list specific actions that we’re to do.  That means we have lots of options to consider! (Let’s think of something really difficult, ok?)
  • Proverbs 3:27 says that there are people out there who actually deserve for us to do good to them!  They are DUE for some blessing from us! (Some of them, in fact, might actually be OVER-due…oops!)
  • That NIV translation also lets us know that we have the power to act. (Doesn’t knowing that make you feel great? We actually have power!!  Let’s not waste it!!)
  • The New Living Translation of that verse brings in the idea that when we act, we’re also supposed to help people. (uh-oh.  That sounds like we’re going to actually have to DO something!)
  • Paul’s word to the Galatians is that we’re going to have some opportunities come our way–and we need to take advantage of them. (Good old Paul.)

So, what monumental task am I asking you to do this weekend?  Become an observer…and then, become an encourager. Become a reinforcer of good choices or behavior. Become someone who sees the good in those around you…and lets them know. Become a person of influence!

Oh, my goodness, what a tall order!  (well, yes…and no.)

Your challenge this weekend is to be a compliment-giver!  Is that all? No!  Of course not!  Here are your parameters:

  • You have to give at least 3 GENUINE compliments to people you see regularly in your life. (This does not include things like, “Well, I see you finally got a decent haircut.)
  • Work them into your conversations, send a card or email, leave a sticky note, or write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror–I’m not picky about how you deliver these blessings!
  • THEN extend your gaze outside your normal circle…and do the same thing for 3 people you don’t know that well. (Oh, my word!  Are you serious?!  Yes. This is your opportunity to bring a smile and a warm fuzzy to people you may never see again…unless, of course, they decide they want to become friends with someone who is so nice to strangers!)
  • And last, but not least:  No one can know you’re on assignment!  Smile and make it seem natural!  Have fun with it!  This is heady stuff!  In fact, you just might become addicted to this one and repeat it over and over and over…Who knows how many lives you can influence in just this simple thing?

cropped-heartGrace & Peace! (and a very happy weekend!)

Wardrobe malfunction

Happy Monday, everyone!  I used to have some subtle people in my life, but I’m not sure where they’ve all gone!  In their place, I’ve discovered people who will just flat out tell you that they are now waiting on another blog post! (Smile, Cindy!!)  Being the consummate people-pleaser that I am (HA!), here’s just a little bit of what’s been running through my head recently:

Unless you’ve moved within the last couple of years, it is easy to forget how much there is to do as you get settled into a new place.  The lists (yes, plural!) of things that need to happen, the scheduling of those things and the practical everyday life stuff can take over in ways that even this slightly-OCD-tendancied person had forgotten.  Long after the unpacking, there are all kinds of “move chores” that seem to crop up and get in the way of what you’d really planned to do…and, if you’re not careful, the list can become the focus instead of just the incidental chore.  I know this, because it happened to me.  I’ve managed to get things done and keep us on some sort of schedule…and along the way, I forgot something really important.

Three weeks ago, my pastor started a series on Spiritual Warfare based on Paul’s writings to the Ephesians (chapter 6, verses 10-17) and something amazing happened:  Once again, I realized that God was speaking directly to me.  Yes, I know, there are probably others in the church who think it was about them, but no.  It was for me.  (smile)

I know this because as soon as he began to speak that morning, I realized what had been missing!  I’d been creating my very own wardrobe malfunction!  I’d been forgetting to put on my spiritual armor before I started facing the day.  (And, yes! I did see some of you just roll your eyes, but trust me–this makes a huge difference!!!)

Oh, I hadn’t given up my faith or quit reading my Bible or even stopped praying!  In fact, I was quite proud of the fact that I was actually trying to step things up a bit now that we’ve gotten more settled.  (FYI: pride will get you EVERY time!)  My problem was that I had JUST been praying and JUST been reading my Bible and JUST been doing my life with all of my detailed to-do lists and I had forgotten that, while all of that is good stuff, it is only part of who I’ve been called to be.

I’m supposed to be a prayer warrior.  I’m supposed to actually make a difference in the world.  I’m supposed to do more than just go out in my own strength and the wealth of knowledge from YEARS of reading the Bible and teaching and being taught.  I’m supposed to get dressed for battle every single day and go fight the ones God puts in front of me…even when they are just ME and my lists.  I’m supposed to do more than just make do and get by.  I’ve been called to do more than just exist and get it done…and so have you.

Sunday before last, our pastor actually gave us homework!  We were to memorize the different parts of Spiritual armor and we were to memorize a verse of Scripture.  I expected it to be one of those verses in Ephesians, but I was wrong.  Instead, he pulled in another verse I’d read many times before, but had—for whatever reason!—not connected with the topic of Spiritual Warfare before and he tied it all together for me in a brand new way.

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  Romans 13:14

Did you get the first part of that verse? This is about more than just going to church and doing all the ‘churchy’ things that we get lost in at times!  This is about getting dressed to go do life in style!—in HIS style!  We are to do more than just leave our homes looking good on the outside!  We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and go do life like He would!

We’re supposed to be more than nice.  We’re supposed to stand up for what is right and speak truth and pray like we actually believe He’s listening and can DO something about it!  We have got to realize that when we face difficult things, it isn’t really about the crushing deadlines or the person who is getting in our face and causing us grief at that moment.  These are just real-life spiritual battles and we’d better be properly dressed for them!  Our responses to the challenges we face can do more than just diffuse tense situations!  They can make the people around us want to be like us…or be determined not to be.  The choice is ours: are we going to look like us or are we going to look like Him?

IF we choose to walk out this life in just what we can do for ourselves, we are lost.  If we have any hope of representing Him well, we must gear up for battle.  We must put on the Lord Jesus Christ and respond to the challenges and the opposition—and the blessings and the joys!—like HE would.

I’m getting dressed a bit differently these days and I must say, proper wardrobe makes all the difference in the world!

The first day of the rest of your life…

I had an epiphany yesterday.  Actually, that’s not all that unusual for me, since I regularly find myself learning (or re-learning!) things that I should have already known or perhaps used to know, but suddenly remembered for some strange reason.  So what was my revelation yesterday?

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

Wow, right?  I mean, really, could the “epiphany” have been any more clichéd?  Perhaps not, but it didn’t make it any less weighty for me.

I was standing in the kitchen, putting dishes into the washer and watching the hummingbirds swarm at the feeder when that incredible thought suddenly occurred.  It doesn’t sound any more momentous to you now than it did before, does it?  (grin)

Well, that’s ok.  It was plenty momentous for me.

On Saturday, my husband and I were having lunch together when he stopped to ask me a question:  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  He followed that little gem up with several others:  “Are you good with where you are in life?  Is there something else you’d like to be doing?  Would you like to take classes or go learn something new?  Are you fulfilled where you are or do you really want to do something different?”  Those questions—and others—created quite the conversation for us then, and I suppose, my mind just hasn’t let them all go yet. (And yes, I do realize how blessed I am to have that man in my life!)

Yes, there are new things I want to learn and, yes, there are other things I want to do, but I’m actually pretty happy with where I am right now.  When I was growing up never in a million years would I have expected to look at my life as it is right now and say that truthfully.  I was one of the lucky ones…the blessed ones.  I had a loving family and I did well in school.  My extended family was large and involved and encouraged me to believe I could do whatever I chose.  Naturally, the plan was to go an conquer the world.  College was a given.  A good career and—after a very long time and in my own timetable, of course—I would marry and have children of my own while continuing to work.  That wasn’t God’s plan, however, so …things are very different now.  Oh, I had most of that.  Right up to the children and continuing to work part. And I’m just fine with that…most days.  (I’m not too fond of the days I have to clean the bathrooms.)

Those are things that I had anticipated in the grander scheme of life, but my thought process yesterday was just a little bit different.  You see, since my husband took his new position back in November of last year, I’ve been living in a bit of a whirlwind.  Each task in front of me came with a much longer line of following tasks and a set of dated timelines to get them all accomplished.

While there is still plenty to do, I suddenly realized that there would be no more overnight guests for awhile, no major events to plan for, no more pressing deadlines–and I was truly standing in the first day of the rest of the way I want to live my life in this place…just for me…just for us…just for God.  What kinds of things would I need to keep doing?  What kinds of things should I begin to change?  What kind of a life do I want to build for myself here?

Sometimes we just go with the flow and we forget that the decisions about how we spend our allotment of days is actually important.  Those moments turn into years and the knowledge of that makes me view them more carefully these days.  In my quest to live out the quiet life described in I Thessalonians 4:11-12, and with Jim Elliott’s admonition to “be all there” resounding in my spirit, I found myself deliberating in a new way yesterday…and today, as well.

How about you?  Are you happy with the life you’ve made for yourself?  If not, what would you change—what WILL you change—to make it more like you desire?  Have you talked with God about it?  (For the best results, do this first!!) Have you discussed it with your closest loved ones to get their input?  If your answer is in the affirmative and you really do like the life you’re living right now, then how will you celebrate that and how can you help others around you to make the kind of life that they’re called to lead, as well?

Whatever your answer, don’t just blow past it.  Give this the thought it deserves and take the time to start being deliberate in your changes and in your current joys.  Share your dreams with those around you.  You may find more good company for your journey than you’d ever believe.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, too.  What will you do with it?

Spending the day

What are you doing today?

Is it work or play?  Is it easy or difficult?  Dull or exciting?  Laughter or tears…or both?  Or like most of us, “All of the above?”

I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot lately.  My “theme” for the year has been Jim Elliot’s quote:  “Wherever you are, be all there.” and that’s a lot harder sometimes than you’d think.

I’m a multi-tasker of the very first order and making a conscious choice to focus fully on whatever is right in front of me this year still feels foreign…even after more than 7 months of trying.

I’m getting better at it.  Little by little.  Day by day of practice…and yet sometimes I have to remind myself right moment by moment.

I’ve had a  house full of company around here lately and even in the midst of it all, I had to remind myself to “be all there” (and not run to the computer and blog about it right then!) so I wouldn’t waste a single second of it:  croquet on the side yard, card games on the back porch, amazing amounts of really great food, phone calls from those who couldn’t make it, the laughter ringing in the rafters and escaping to the yard, the quiet conversations late into the night or while waiting on others to wake up, the tears of shared heartbreak and the prayers of and for loved ones.  All that preciousness that we store up until we can all be together again–I didn’t want to miss even a moment of it.  God uses all of that to sustain us during the times it is more difficult to obtain and I wanted to revel in it and soak it all up like a sponge–wasting nothing, no matter how small.  Friendship.  Family.  Family of the heart.  Days of spirit-filling sustenance from God.  All from Him.

Today, this day that some of us will take for granted, will be someone’s wedding day, someone’s best day, someone’s worst day…and someone’s last day.  Wherever you find yourself, make the choice to be all there today.  There’s a reason you’re having the day you are–and (surprise, surprise!) it may not be all about you.  Someone else may need to see how you handle it.  They may need to see God at work in you today in the easy stuff and, more likely, in the hard stuff, too.

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

This is what I need today:  the ability to be aware of how precious each day really is and a heart of wisdom to “spend” it well…and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one.

Prayer:  Father God, please be with those who have lost today and feel that loss so keenly, with those who are uncertain of their next move and those who charge blindly–or deliberately!–into danger, with those who will choose to laugh in spite of their difficulties today and those who need to learn how to do so.  Be with those who celebrate the wondrous thing and those who will deal with the ponderous ones.  Show us YOU in each situation and help those around us to see You at work in us.  In short, give us You today and help us share You with the world.

Wading upstream through quicksand

Did you ever have one of those days when you were just pitiful?  I mean really, truly PITY FULL?

You know what I’m talking about:  maybe it’s that day that makes Alexander’s look like a walk in the park and what comes out of those around you—and even from yourself!—is SO much less than you know everyone is capable of giving?

Maybe it’s that day when no matter how hard you try, you’re left feeling like you got the short end of the pulley bone and all you ended up with was just the little bitty broken pieces…and the only possible polite response…because you were raised to be polite even in the face of all this less-ness…is to bite your tongue and say “thank you” as graciously as if you’d just been cut the biggest slice of your mama’s homemade apple pie?

Cutting people slack is a tough business some days.  It is not a job for spiritual sissies, let me tell you.  I think that’s why God took the initiative and started out showing us how it’s done.

For the record, it’s worse when you’re lying in bed at the end of that day with a stuffy nose and the dry heaves and God slips in and tells you to suck it up…

that there are worse things than your bad day…

and then He has to get to meddling and remind you that maybe—just maybe?—some of what you got handed today looks a little bit like what you’ve handed someone else at some point…

and then (as if that’s not enough) He reminds you that you’re still the most blessed person you know…

and that you’re loved…so much that He has made it possible for you to be with Him forever…

and that He’s placed these people around you for a reason:  to show them HIM and if they don’t pay attention during the easy days, then maybe some of them might just take notice when you don’t act the way they thought you would when they pushed those buttons ever so hard.

Well, tomorrow is another day, Scarlett, so pull yourself together and hang on tighter to the Word and go on out and live it like He’s taught you.  After all, more than likely, someone else is going to have that day tomorrow…and now you just might be better prepared to be the blessing in it instead of the cause of it.

Ask me how I know all of this.  Yes, go on and ask me.  (And you thought you were the only one.  HA!)

“WHATEVER happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”  Philippians 1:27 NIV (emphasis mine)

Comfortable?

Sometimes words just come to me.  They come at the strangest times and they rattle around in my spirit  and get past my focus and just sit there…way back there…in this weird little place at the back of my mind and just on the edge of my periphery and then… they just sit there.

That happened the other day while I was doing my quiet time.  I was just doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  I was spending some time in the Word and trying to get to know my God better, when all of the sudden, it happened again.  A single word… then, a phrase…and then a quick rush of sentences while I scrambled for the pen and the beautiful pad of sticky notes that I inherited the last time my friend Patty decided to do a house purge.

I scribbled the quick barrage of words all down and wondered if I should get up and blog about it right then, but—since I was actually doing my quiet time—I decided that I’d better finish that first.  I thought about it again when I was through, but the timing didn’t see quite right then, either, so I just waited.  You see, I’ve been there before.  I knew God was about to make a point…to me and possibly, to someone else, as well, but timing is always the key thing on these issues and I’ve learned to take my cues from God…since He seems to know best about these things.

Apparently, the time is now.  Just after 2 AM…it is very AM and I was awakened out of a sound sleep with the overwhelming sense of urgency to get up and write about this word:  comfortable.  Yes, I know.  It’s really funny, isn’t it, that God woke me out of a sound sleep all snuggled in with my big pillows and soft cotton sheets—the very definition of the word “comfortable”—to put these words on a screen in the middle of a time when I’d really rather be doing something else entirely.

(Again, I stress to you the irony and the exhibition of humor that my God has when He’s trying to get through to us.  God can be downright hysterical at times.  Did you hear it, too?  Yes, there it is.  I just heard Him chuckle…again.)

Anyway, back to my story.  I was sitting in my keeping room in my nice green chair that God gave to me on sale right after we bought this place and all of the sudden, there was this word.  Comfortable.  Well, yes, I was comfortable, thank you very much.  Comfortable.  What’s wrong with that?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing…unless…you’re being called to do or be something else at the moment.

I’ve asked God to help me be quiet enough to hear Him on these things and He does that, but the thing is, you see, that God’s quietness doesn’t mean inactivity.  It means that while He’s being quiet and you’re being quiet…well, He’s really most likely up to something that often isn’t very quiet at all.  It also means that when it is time to no longer be quiet… that He may begin nudging and pushing at the same time that you’re in the middle of something else.  It means that you may have to give up something comfortable to go do what He tells you to do…and it may not be comfortable for you…or someone else…at all.

Nothing about Jesus was comfortable.  He was never the center of easy living, but that doesn’t mean that He wasn’t full of peace.  His disciples weren’t living comfortable lives, either.  There were no regularly adoring crowds of people who lined up to invite Jesus and His crew to stay in their best guest room and send them away with a bunch of great leftovers.  No. To be near Him, to get to know Him, to participate in His work, they endured.  Just in case you were wondering?  It is still worth it to do so.

While you can find plenty of Bible verses that talk about comfort, you won’t find a single one that says we’re supposed to be comfortable.  In fact, it is just the opposite, and our problems can often increase when we decide to use comfort as our measure of what God is telling us to do.  That’s just plain wrong.  Never mistake comfort for God’s guidance.  There is no Scriptural basis for it.

To the contrary, God seems to delight in placing His people where the world can see them be uncomfortable.  Far from being sadistic, this actually results in us (His people) being drawn closer to Him because in the really uncomfortable times, we find our comfort in Him.  What happens next–when God shows up and uses us in and through our discomfort–may be the only way that those who see it happen know He is at work there because what shows up most in us then… is HIM.

Take for instance, my friends who are dealing with significant health issues right now.  While we pray for healing and hope for health, God is still at work there.  There are people praying and there are some of them that are seeing God up close and personal in a totally new way…all because some of God’s people are hurting and praying and praising Him anyway.  Lives are being changed…and I don’t just mean those who are in the center of the storm.

What about my missionary friends who gave up their lives and careers here in America—the land of ultimate comfort!—to minister in places far from family and friends because that’s just what God told them to do?  That doesn’t mean they’re not excited about it or even that they don’t like it.  To the contrary, I’ve been privileged to see their excitement and their passion for God and life in general increase because of the very changes that seemed so difficult in the beginning.  In fact, I’ve even got one friend who may have found that she’s actually more comfortable on the mission field abroad…and God sent her back home to America…at least for now.  Comfortable?  I don’t think so.

Those are bigger examples, so I’ll move it a little closer to home.  There are several people in my life who have recently (within the last two years) been called to radically different jobs than the ones they previously held.  It has meant changes in salary, odd schedules, longer drive times, relocations, learning totally different processes and people and, quite frankly, there have been times when each of them have wondered aloud—in my presence, so I know it to be true—if they actually made the right decision when they made these big changes.

Maybe none of this strikes a chord with you.  That’s ok.  Trust me, God will be making a point with you shortly.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you’ll pay close attention to the little things He brings to mind and I hope that you’ll take the time to be quiet before Him and really hear what He has to say just to you.  I hope you’re well and happy and yes, comfortable, wherever you are, but if not, don’t despair!  God is at work even in your difficulties and fortunately, His word does have something to say about that.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…”  2 Corinthians 1:3

Still savoring the day

 “No distance of place or lapse of time can less the friendship of those who are thoroughly persuaded of each other’s worth.” ~Robert Southey

I’m generally on the move for most of the day and the majority of my conversations are—since I typically work here alone at the house— usually just with God and the cats. While both God and the cats are really great listeners, the audible/verbal back and forth is typically a little different and not always readily understandable by other human ears. Yesterday was another story.

I spent most of yesterday sitting down and having a conversation…with a real, live person! (grin) We had a wonderful lunch at a local bistro and then retired to my keeping room where we talked and talked and talked for hours.   It was amazing to be able to look over and see this beloved face and hear her laugh without having to imagine the way her eyes crinkle and her smile lights up when she talks about her family or the way her eyes become serious when she talks about what God is asking her to do next.

I’ve learned not to take those things for granted, you see, because this was just the latest installment of a conversation that we started back in 1989. It was also the first time we’ve seen each other in almost 14 years. Yes, 14 years…of really regular contact through notes and phone calls and emails and texts, but no face-to-face time in all that time.

It didn’t slow us down a bit.

We hugged and laughed and ate and cooked and shared and prayed and it was absolutely wonderful. She stayed for supper and it was as normal as if she was always there…except that we actually ate at the table this time.

I loved every moment of our time together, but I think my favorite part was when we prayed together and she thanked God that this time we were able to actually hold hands while we did so. We’ve held hearts and secrets and prayer requests for so long now, that we are a part of each other whether we are near or far. We are bonded by our long-term friendship, our history and our faith in God and I am so grateful for the gift of yesterday. I am still savoring the time together even now.

Who do you need to touch base with again today? Pick up a phone, send a text or a card and let someone know that you value them. At the very least, say a prayer for them. Better yet? Pray with them, if you can!  It may be just what they need to make it through the rest of the week.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now…” Philippians 1:3-5