Timely reminders

I woke up Saturday morning and groaned. That knotted muscle that I thought was finally eased had tightened up again overnight. Neither knotted muscles nor groaning is my normal thing. (Thank you, God!) In fact, I usually wake up and talk to God first thing, but with our travels and getting back into the swing of routine at home, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t started up that way for several days, so after I stopped the groaning, I apologized to God and hobbled for the heating pad. I had a two hour meeting at the church later in the morning to help us share Jesus with others, tax prep paperwork all over the dining room table with a looming appointment, more upcoming travel, and I still needed to work on my Bible study before I could lead on Tuesday. I was WAY behind with more stuff headed my way, and I have to say this: I was not in the mood to share ANYthing with ANYone right then, much less Jesus. Oh, how I wish I could say I was more spiritual than that, but I just flat-out told God all of that as I asked Him to PLEASE change my attitude before that meeting.

As I reached for the bag with my study materials, I tugged on the handles (trapped under a heavy bowl without my knowledge) and out spilled fruit and snacks…all over the floor. Oranges rolled in every direction. This would require bending and that would be painful.

I just cried.

I  was hurting. I was mad.  I was behind and totally unspiritual. It was all my fault…and margin was nowhere to be found.

Thankfully, my husband was nearby and came to my rescue. He picked up all the oranges, got me settled on the heating pad, brought me juice, offered breakfast, and then left me to recover.

As I settled into his big chair, I had to start somewhere, so I prayed again. This time for a friend who was leading a women’s ministry retreat at her church using the same study our ladies had just finished: BREATHE, by Priscilla Shirer. As I texted my friend, I prayed for ALL of us to breathe God in so deeply that we have no choice but to breathe Him back out to those around us. I knew for certain that I needed that for myself!

I physically concentrated on breathing in and breathing out as I prayed. And then…the margin came…mainly because God showed up in the middle of my mess and my messy prayers and began again the work of peace for my soul.

I opened my study materials and the first thing I was asked to do was read Psalm 107 out loud. I turned to it and read.

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.”  Psalm 107:1-2 

More margin. More peace. More reminders about the goodness of my God and how he has redeemed me.

That word “redeemed” is something special. It means “bought back; recovered with a price.” We had studied it in depth last year and the lessons learned then flooded over me again.

My God loves me! He loves you! He loves us so much that He chose to pay the highest price so that we could all spend eternity with Him! The joy of that made everything else unimportant right then. I had to share it or explode…so I wrote this blog post to share it with You! (Because no one else was there at the time and I was sticking with that hot pad!) I knew this wouldn’t be published for a day or so and that you might not get to it for a bit, but I am still confident that the timing will be right when you finally read it. Maybe it will come when you’re in the middle of a meeting or a muddle. Perhaps it will come in on a day when all is going well, but you’ll still need to be reminded or know someone who needs to be reminded: God is good. He loves us–right in the middle of whatever we’re dealing with! He is with us. If we breathe Him in and breathe Him out, the margins begin to suddenly get larger automatically because He can’t be constrained by our circumstances.

God sent my reminder on time. I’m counting on Him to do the same for you.

Grace and peace!

 

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Make a good day!

Earlier today I chose brightly colored vegetables to the tune of “Your Mama Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock and Roll.” Bible study was over for the day and I had been privileged to spend some time afterward in a discussion about theology, doctrine, and obedience. I was ready to get home and fix a sandwich for lunch.

As I unloaded my items onto the moving conveyor belt, my checkout lady commented on my necklace. I told her I had made it and she and another checker who was acting as a bagger began asking questions about how I did it.

As she handed me my receipt, my cheerful checker said, “Make a nice day!” We all chuckled as she laughingly stammered out her explanation that she was still thinking about me making jewelry out of broken china while still trying to wish me a nice day.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all our verbal blunders still held such profound truth?

Make a nice day. Yes, we can choose to do just that. I pondered it again as I drove home and waited for the men who were cleaning up the debris from a recent power company cleanup to allow me into my driveway. I set about putting up my groceries and making my peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Home at last. Simple goodness. On to the next thing.

Minutes ago I headed out to check the mail and view the freshly cleaned area…and actually teared up a bit to see only a small twisted stump where a favorite young tree once stood. It had survived a transplanting from MS in 2014, multiple hot summer suns, several winter storms, and the whirring blade of two previous cleanups only to fall pray to an apparently overzealous cleanup crew.

IMG_20180206_173549941I wrestled the remaining portion from the ground and carried it behind the house where I re-potted it in a large vacant planter. I went inside to do some research and, based on what I found, I am hopeful for an eventual recovery. It will take time to replace the nearly 4′ of growth, but maybe, with care, it can be done.

I could choose to be angry and call to make a fuss. Who knows? They might even try to do something about it, but I’ve decided to apply some margin for others here, as well. Although I’m definitely annoyed, I’m working hard to apply the truth that I can MAKE a good day even when frustrated by what feels like a thoughtless and unnecessary act. Better yet, I’m bolstered by the hope that I can live up to the name given to this particular type of tree, a smoke tree called, believe it or not…”Grace”…because I’m also called to live up to what Jesus did for me a long, long time ago…on a tree.

(Insert very wry grin here.)

God surely does use the strangest things to teach us, doesn’t He? ( FYI: I may still need another Grace-tree…just saying…I’m officially on the lookout…)

 “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.” 2 Peter 1:2 (NIV)

GRACE and Peace, every one! Grace and Peace!

 

God-nudges

God has been nudging me about my schedule for awhile now. I’ve largely ignored most of it and continued blithely or, actually, rather ignorantly onward…to my own peril. I knew that a great majority of what I was involved in was actually God’s doing, so I kept up the pace and chose to believe that my service was all worship and all at His behest.

I was right. I was also very wrong.

Oh, don’t mistake my meaning! I WAS doing what he called me to do…and some of what some others thought I should…or, maybe, what I thought they thought I should be doing, and what I thought would be the proper Christian thing, and what made it more convenient for some people, and many things I’m TOTALLY equipped to do, and…and…and…He continued to equip me for the work. Good things happened as a result. A lot of things got accomplished…some of them, I was even supposed to do. (insert VERY wry grin here!)

None of it was bad. Most of it wasn’t even that difficult. That’s what made it so easy to say “yes” in the first place! There was just a lot of it. AND, did you notice all the “I” words in that paragraph above. Yes. Me, too. It is possible to do good things selfishly even when that isn’t your intent. Saying “yes” can make you look good or get you praise and gratitude. Even when those things aren’t your primary motivation, they can still become powerfully addictive incentives.

Anyway, I recently ran out of steam. Physically, I just crashed and I believe God allowed that on purpose. The enforced break in routine helped me stop long enough to start seeing His fingerprints, and remembering His nudges, and commit myself to be still and listen. He’s been doing a lot of talking to me about this topic as I’ve been recovering and I’m absolutely certain He’s not through teaching me. That means you’ll be hearing more about this as I keep listening and learning and applying.

Please hear me when I say that God was gracious and kind in His nudging. Even the physical crash and resulting time of illness wasn’t as nearly as bad as it could have been. God is GOOD. Every single day. He is also extremely patient because He allowed me to keep going at a pace not His own for several years before I finally began to see how He was keeping and empowering and blessing me even in the midst of my ignorant insistence about doing it all for Him. I took those first five words of Philippians 4:13 as a personal mandate. Go ahead. Go look it up again. I’m not posting it here because I want you to go read it out loud to yourself–or, at the very least, quote it back to yourself if you have it memorized.

Grace is REAL, y’all! Seriously real.

It turns out that God, in HIS goodness has a plan for our good–and sometimes, it doesn’t look like what we expect. I think I might have written about that here before. (The eye roll here is a given.) Even writing this post now makes me chuckle with God about how He has continued to gently nudge and the number of times I continued to misinterpret so many of those messages as being for “someone else.”

His plan for us as individuals may look quite a bit different, but then, again, WE look different. We ARE different. I share my lessons–and mistakes!–here so you can learn from it and I’d love to hear what God is teaching you, as well. This is how we each become people of influence.

It is my prayer that whether it be your own schedule or any other topic God is dealing with YOU about, that you’ll choose to pay closer attention and be obedient faster than I.

This has been your free and friendly nudge from me…or, maybe, from Him. (grin)

What’s He saying to YOU today?

Grace and Peace!

Beauty regimen

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

I found a graphic on Pinterest awhile back and haven’t been able to shake it. My mama had a saying: “Beauty is as beauty does.”  (I’d guess all the mamas I knew while I was growing up had that saying!) It took me quite awhile to fully appreciate the truth of it, but these days seems more on-target than ever.

In this world where we are more likely to share our lives online with more people than we actually see in person, our lines of right and wrong, our filters for kindness and civility,  and our boundaries of what is real and what is virtual have a taken quite a hit.

Freedom of speech is such a precious gift! What a shame that we’ve used it to cheapen ourselves by sharing our deepest hurts and joys along side photos of what we’re having for supper and attacking others for having the temerity to use that shared freedom of expression to disagree with our political opinions. It makes all of those things seem equally important…and they are most definitely not.

Earlier this month, those of us in the United States celebrated our nation’s independence. The formation of a single nation created specifically to harness the power of each individual’s right to think for themselves and express those thoughts and beliefs without fear of reprisal:  That’s an anomaly in this world…and an important one. Using the very freedom of expression granted to us by the first amendment of our Constitution to denigrate others with opposing viewpoints instead of using that power to educate, encourage, or entice them to see the merits of your own seems to indicate a lack of character–and that is far more damaging to our society than we can afford. Why wound and belittle when you could bridge gaps and find common ground for a common good? Why not become a person of influence for unity rather than one who divides and derides? We don’t have to agree on everything to cooperate on a lot of things!

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. In fact, there are days I relish it. I’ve even been known to argue the side of the opposition just for the fun of it. The ability to see both sides of an issue helps me make better choices and it helps me to pray more specifically as I seek to do what God wants me to do.

More than ever I find that He asks me to speak words of encouragement. He asks me to look for the positive. Sometimes, He just asks me to be silent and extend grace…and grace is never easy…except when you’ve found that you’ve needed so much of it yourself.

I love the black and white of an issue and I love “being right” (who doesn’t?!) and I love that we have been gifted with both words and the ability to share our thoughts. This is not about being silent when we need to defend. I wonder about this though…and I think I want to be beautiful.

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Day 2–NCC2016

Well, yesterday was a real treat for me! I kept hearing from people who have decided to join us in the NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER challenge and I have loved hearing the stories of those they’ve asked to come along, as well.

One sweet friend laughingly told me that she had made it “about 20 minutes!” into her day before she caught herself! Another texted and told me that one of her friends had just done “sober October” and wasn’t sure they could manage a NO COMPLAIN NOVEMBER right on the heels of that one. (HA! Good for YOU, person I do not know, and how fabulous!) I also received notice that one of my friends is on a very “technical” jury case right now but is “determined not to complain tomorrow.” I love it! Soldier on, sweet people!!

Along with the experiences of Day 1, I’ve also learned that among the many who are attempting this is a returning group from last year–of PRISON NURSES!! Ok, y’all, if THEY can do this, so can we!! From homeschooling mamas, retirees, theatrical professors, public school educators, nurses, accountants, and  engineers  to Bible study aficionados and children, this challenge is for EVERYONE!

Several of my friends suddenly noticed the TIMING of this challenge takes us into the election next week…and they are already cringing. (Don’t even think God wasn’t entertained by this, too! grin) Another sent out the following, “Well, so far, NCN hasn’t been too tough, but I’m fixing to leave the house and mingle with society…fingers crossed and prayed up.” (hilariously true)

My favorite communication, however, arrived late in the day. It was a text that simply said, “Define complaining.”

Y’all I seriously laughed out loud!! As I shared it with some of my line, however, I received confirmation that, perhaps that IS needed, so here it is according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the “simple definition” is:

  • to say or write that you are unhappy, sick, uncomfortable, etc., or that you do not like something

  • : to say (something that expresses annoyance or unhappiness)

while their definition for students says:

 

  to express grief, pain, or discontent :  find fault

The Becky-version of complaining adds a little bit more to the pile: to find fault in a negative manner, stating more than the obvious, “throwing shade”, continuing to restate a particular issue, having a bad attitude…even if silent.

Well. I may have just lost some people with that one. (laughter) Certainly, we will all have situations where we will need to make statements about things that need to be better over the next month. It might be a health issue, a broken piece of equipment, or an action or attitude being portrayed in our presence. Such things DO need to be handled, but they do not need to be belabored. State your case and move on. Illustrate your ability to use language succinctly the first time and extend the grace of moving on after you do so.

You can do this! YOU can! And, if necessary, you can also illustrate the concept of self-forgiveness and start again. That’s a lesson we can all use, as well.

Grace & Peace! (and NO COMPLAINTS!)

 

Kicking off the heels…

I used to love wearing high heels. I can close my eyes and still smell the brand new leather as I opened the box…oh my…wow…yes, moment of silence for that. And, since we have LONG since established my little bit of OCD-ness, I can admit that opening closet doors to see all the boxes lined up with their labels facing outward…

(Ok, I got a little lost there for a moment. Suffice it to say that I loved that image.)

Image. That says something to me about the heels, as well. As a teenager, they said I was growing up. As a college student, they said it was time to dance. As a young professional, they said I was making it on my own. Quite the talkative things, my shoes…and they always came with a lot of attitude–some of it good and some of it not so much.

After I got married, my husband was surprised to learn that he had to move a whole refrigerator box full of shoes to our new home. Work, church, and in between, I had at least several pair to choose from and I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I had other styles, too, of course, but the heels always made me feel special…almost like social armor, which really isn’t often necessary when you’re almost 6′ tall and know who you are. (grin) Well, maybe I just thought I knew some things back then.

I pared down over time. Styles changed. Life changed. I bought more flats, wedges, tennis shoes, and fewer heels, though I always kept a few in the back of my closet. In fact, I’ve had three pair that have survived the multiple purges over the past several years as I’ve gone from acquisition mode to the search for space and the peace of “less.” At first, I stopped wearing heels after I took a tumble down some stairs and needed some recovery time. After that, I just never went back to them. I found other options that suited me…and weren’t as perilous.

That’s not all that’s changed over the years. You know, Saul’s armor didn’t fit David…and not because it was too large, but because they had different battle styles. That’s true of me, as well, now. I’m still me, of course, but my life is different and my current battles aren’t the same ones I used to fight. That means some wardrobe changes are in order. I’ve decided I no longer need to hold on to things that don’t fit the life I’m living now, so I’m finally letting go of those last three pair of heels…and a whole lot of other things like attitudes and life strategies that haven’t always served me well. I’m a lot less rigid these days, a lot less judgmental, and I’m a lot more at peace. I find I laugh more–mostly at myself!–and I like me a whole lot better, too–and that is really saying something. (Ha!) I’m free to be ME: the one GOD knows and loves, and I can rest in that a lot more than I used to. I find I’m less concerned about any images that might be held in other places when I focus on HIS image of who I am. I’m more grateful for little things and I’m more aware of my gifts and limitations without being hampered by either thought. God is good and I am His. It is enough.

Oh, by the way, I tried those 3 pair of shoes on and I loved the way they looked. I almost put them right back in the closet! They felt ok on my feet and I found I could still walk in them just fine…for a little while. Then I tried on a few other styles–and my back gave an almost audible sigh of relief and my feet did, too. There are better things out there for me than the things I once held onto “just in case”, you know…so I’m making room for the now and finding that memories take up less room in the closet. So, out go the heels–gorgeous as they are –along with a pair of Keds and 2 pair of flats! Today, you’re more likely to find me in tennis shoes and they suit me just fine…in fact, it’s a lot easier to kick up my heels than ever before.

Question of the day:  What are YOU holding onto that you need to let go? Make room for the life GOD wants for you now. You just might be amazed at how great it can be!

 

 

His face

 “The Lord bless you

and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.”  Numbers 6:24-26

I ended my last post with these verses. They haven’t ended it with me, yet. They keep showing up and rolling around in my brain like some wonderful gift. I keep thinking about those words:  “his face” and they kind of melt me.

It’s considered cross -cultural, I think, that when you’ve been abandoned or disavowed or just disapproved that the symbolism for those who feel you’ve outstayed your welcome is that they turn their back on you. Sometimes that’s just figurative. Other times, it actually happens physically.

These verses show the other side. They’re beneficent, encouraging, hopeful, and personal. They are grace. They are life-giving. They are possible.

No matter where you are today or what you’ve done before, these words are for you. God wants a personal relationship with you! He WANTS to turn His face toward you and be gracious to you. He WANTS to give you peace–peace that lasts forever, not just until the next crisis arrives.

That means you’ll have to look at Him, too, of course. It means you’ll have to see past all of the misconceptions and half-truths and preconceived notions passed as fact by those who don’t really want to do the work of getting to know Him. It means you’ll need to dig deep. It means you’ll have to go to the Source and ask Him to come in. He can do that. He will do that…if you ask.

It isn’t complicated. It does have to be deliberate. You have to choose it–NO ONE just falls haphazardly, or by heritage, or by just being a good person–into a personal relationship with God. It is simple, however. You’ll need to acknowledge the vast gap between who you are and the perfection that is Him. You’ll have to recognize that you can’t make up the difference on your own. You’ll have to see yourself for what you are: someone with sin (and if you’re like me, a lot of it)…someone who has missed the mark…repeatedly. You just have to ask Him to get rid of that sin and make you whole again.

Be ready, though. Asking this isn’t temporary. It will change you. Completely. Forever. He will rock your world in ways you can’t currently imagine…and it will be amazing.

It’s worth it. HE is worth it. The peace is worth it.

These verses are more than just an ancient blessing. They are prophetic. When you ask God to come into your life and be in charge, these words will leap to life and this will happen:

  •  The Lord bless you–with a new heart and a clean soul!

  • and keep you–forever! Never alone again. Always in His care!

  • the Lord make his face shine on you–able to know the Almighty and experience His pleasure in you! He values you! He loves you! He made you on purpose, so He’s already on your side!

  • and be gracious to you–grace = unmerited (unearned!) favor! Who couldn’t use more of that?

  • the Lord turn his face toward you–He will let you see Him! He will be personal with you! He will choose to have a relationship with you that will surpass anything you’ve ever experienced.

  • and give you peace–long past this holiday season. His peace is for a lifetime…and our world needs this now, more than ever. It can start with you today. Just ask.