Are we living upside down during this time of crisis? This reminds me of a song my kids sang in elementary school. Jumping around the room they whole heartedly sang about God’s upside down kingdom. Our Kid’s Church pulsated with the words reminding our children that the last would be first (Matthew 19:30). My heart warmed as I heard them sing this at home and in the car. Proud to know they learned a complex cornerstone of God’s word from a simple song, I believed they lived it. Putting others first, loving one another, a directive Jesus exemplified for each of us, now feels more complex. As I’ve aged, I realize life is not that black and white.
In our current situation, it may feel difficult to recognize which way is up. As a nation we sacrifice for the physical wellbeing of our neighbors. Do you see we are loving our neighbors in this way? Yet, this isolation still feels sideways. This extroverted woman needs her people. I’m thankful for my husband and daughter who are here with me and for the technology that is connecting me with many of you. It is not enough but it will have to do.
Stretched to the extreme limits, our healthcare workers, grocery store employees, and other essential workers put their life on the line each day. I sit in my living room and feel the imbalance of our situation, should I do more? Doing more may contribute to the problem. Lord, we need Your wisdom in this time.
We don’t know the future but we do know the One who holds it. I believe that this will impact our lives, changing the trajectory if we allow the Lord to lead. Mourning will come to those that experience loss of loved ones, physical difficulties, economic stress and the apparent loss of dreams, especially in the young. We need to be there to help pick up the pieces. I am reminded to prepare our hearts and minds for the coming season.
Now is the time to stand on the foundation of our faith. Recognizing Jesus as this foundation, fully surrendered to His leadership, we will see farther and understand our direction of service. Trust HIM, Jesus is holding you in ways our finite minds cannot comprehend. Remember our Lord’s departing words in John 14:27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (NLT) The Holy Spirit comes to us as our advocate and teacher, when we accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. As new or seasoned believers, remember that Jesus will shepherd us as the Spirit advises and teaches us in each step we are to take. Simply ask to be willing, we follow the lead of our God.
Our perspective influences our truth. I hear you yelling at me as you read this, “but truth is absolute!” I agree but culture, whether liberal or conservative, Christian or otherwise influences our beliefs. Stay with me here, as fallible humans we make mistakes. That includes the information we take in and process. There is no need for teachers and preachers if we knew everything perfectly. The Holy Spirit teaches us daily, our job is to learn, understand and apply the wisdom we gain. If we don’t the Bible says we have hardened our hearts.
You won’t find the phrase “soft heart” in Scripture. A normal beating heart listens and learns when it is surrendered to God. When we give our heart to God, He renews it to flesh from its hardened state. (Ezekiel 36:26). Over and over we need to allow this softening process because each of us can get stuck in a hard place.
Recently my husband and I vacationed in Virginia with the sole purpose of visiting historical sites. We visited Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown and Fort Monroe. Each location whispered truth to us from the past, their residents became real people as we learned their stories. The cultures clashed when people from European, African, and Native American descent struggled to live life. Each came with a different view on life and each reflected the events of their day through that lens. Now it is relatively easy to look back and determine that truth of their existence. Slavery is bad, slaughtering of people that are different is wrong, yet building a new life in a new home is courageous.
My first ancestor along with his wife, baby, and man servant, landed at Jamestown in 1623 to begin life in the new world. He developed a tobacco plantation and he owned slaves. Processing this information as I walked the land of historic Jamestown was difficult. How can a person own another person? How did he justify it in his mind? The sobering thought seeps from my head to my heart, this was his acceptable truth at the time. People used Scripture to justify the owning of slaves, yet they ignored James 5:4 (NLT) “For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”
Am I accepting something because of the time and place I am living in? Do I use Scripture to justify any actions? We must each examine our truths and recognize what the justifications we make. Daily we must seek God for soft, healthy hearts that God renews.
History cries out to us to not make the same mistakes. “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance” Proverbs 1:5 (NLT) I hope you don’t see this as depressing but inspiring sifting information through the sieve of all of Scripture. God desires relationship with all people and we are called to love all people. Whatever your political bent recognize the face of the person on the other side, remember your identity and truth rests in Jesus, not in a voting record. Ignore the agenda, dodge the motive, and look for the heart beating life that reflects the image of God. No matter how hard their heart looks, don’t let it harden yours. Remember the words of John “Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words].” (1 John 3:18 AMP) We reflect the heart of Jesus when we love those around us.
Dear Lord: Help us to see our own heart as you do. Whatever is hardening our hearts soften it. Anything in this world that influences us away from you bring it to light. Our hearts belong to you. May we each reflect your love to the world around us. We love you Lord! In Jesus Name, AMEN
You don’t need perfect vision for your 2020 goals. Clarity is not found in a year or a number it is found in God’s will. Much of life is taking steps forward toward a goal then discovering it did something entirely different. Goals guide us but they don’t drive us. Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13:12 that we can’t see the complete picture only God can. “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (ESV) We peer into the mystery that is God and discern the best we can the steps He wants us to take.
Each year between Christmas and New Year’s Day, I listen to the Lord. What are your plans for me in the coming year? I get glimpses and impressions that I write down and these develop into ideas to pursue for the coming year. Goals are not set in stone. They are our interpretation of God’s direction for us. Look at these milestones in my life:
1. The year I became a mentor it was not a goal.
2. They year I agreed to lead a ministry it was not a goal.
3. The year I agreed to be ordained it was not a goal.
Each one of these events significantly impacted my life direction but all were initiated by the Holy Spirit through other people.
Yet, I know seeking direction is important. Last summer, after sitting all day at a car dealership- you know one of those times you think it will just be an hour or two – I headed home without hitting the home button on my GPS. I took side streets because of construction on the expressway. My car compass doesn’t work it kind of randomly spins, so I ignore it. Driving around a bend the Detroit Zoo sign appeared before me. Suddenly, I realized I drove the wrong direction, glancing at the error laden compass I knew that would be no help. I took a moment to get my bearings and sheepishly turned on my GPS. It took me an extra hour, but I made it home.
Scripture tells us revelation or vision gives us direction. (Proverbs 29:18). Without it we are discouraged and don’t move forward in our spiritual walk. We may head in the wrong direction, we need the Holy Spirit, our spiritual GPS to keep us moving toward home. Goals are important but not set in stone. God calls us to flexibility because He talks to us daily not just at the beginning of the year. He knows each of us, 1 Corinthians 8:3 (ESV) “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.” When we depend on the Lord’s guidance He will provide it. We may need to strain through our circumstances and the societal noise that blares around us but that small whisper is there. Isaiah proclaims this in Isaiah 41:13 “For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”(ESV)
Take time to set the goals. Write them down and reflect on them throughout the year. Your purposeful steps are lovingly guided. Allow Jesus to move in you and through you as you face 2020.
What if I told you your dreams still can come true? Does that surprise you? I don’t know your dreams; so how could I make such a statement? I know the dream maker and He always keeps His promises. Philippians 1:6 says “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Our expectations of fulfilled dreams and reality might be different.
Scripture tells of us of numerous fulfilled dreams. Elizabeth birthed John the Baptist at an old age. Fearful Gideon became a great warrior. The shepherd David became king. A nation received their Messiah.
- God’s timing is not always our timing. He is eternal and we are not. Waiting is hard so He provided the fruit of patience. I know, I don’t like that one either but we are to nurture it and let it grow.
- Remember we are part of God’s story not the reverse. God is the author and finisher of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2) We can’t dictate to Him the specifics of our part. We walk through the doors as they open, cooperating with God’s design.
- God often answers in ways we don’t expect. Our expectations of fulfilled dreams and reality might be different. Paul says we see imperfectly or partially (1 Corinthians 13:12). Holding our expectations loosely allows us to see God’s true plan for us.
We need to do our part. Fulfilling dreams may take hard work on our part. We need to learn what our God given talents are and develop skills necessary for this dream to occur. When was the last time you
learned new information related to your desired outcome? God’s Word does not change but culture does, learn how your dream fits in this current culture.
- We are Kingdom Builders. Your God inspired dream is implanted in you to draw others to God. Who you affect is more important than what you affect. God is in the relationship business and so are we.
Develop a vision of the plan God implanted in you long ago. Lean on the wisdom of Jesus to seek the knowledge to take the next step. Trust the Holy Spirit to direct the path to pursue this dream. Don’t give up my friend.
Shaming seems to be an American past time. A hobby if you will. We see it everywhere. Some of it is real and some of it is imagined. All if it is damaging to our souls.
A few years ago, I was heading north with a car load of teens. We were cruising along with the radio playing, the only car on the road. I crested a hill to find a police officer waiting for me. A
quick glance at my speedometer to see that yes I was driving way too fast. The police cruiser immediately turned his lights on and pulled me over. After serving the ticket, he informed me I
could erase the points by going to traffic school. Fine, I’ll do it. As the week went on I could not forgive myself. I repeated the following words,
“ You should have known better.”
“ Who do you think you are trying to get away with such a thing?”
“ What will people think of you when they find out?”
“ Traffic school. I can’t go to traffic school. They will know I’m a speeder!”
Of course it didn’t dawn on me that they were all speeders too. But that was beside the point. I was worried about what others thought. I was accusing myself of being less than others. I was
beating myself up beyond what was necessary. I was ashamed of myself.
I used a relatively light hearted example to show how easily we move into shame. Many are dealing with bigger issues but God does not expect anyone to live in shame. He does not look to
make bad people good, His goal is to make dead people alive.
Please understand that conviction or guilt is a good thing. We are to respond to the Holy Spirit when He pricks out conscious when we mess up. 1 John 1:9 informs us “if we confess our sins to
Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (NLT) When we are convicted we repent and we move on. We are to learn from our past failures but
we do not need to ruminate over on them.
Conviction rests on an action. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit which brings life but shame comes only from evil. Shame rests on who we are. Shame’s purpose is to lead us from pursuing
God to focusing on ourselves. Shame will lead to death of that area of our soul. Jesus came to give us abundant life. (John 10:10) With Jesus, there is no room for shame. It has to leave.
Hebrews 12:12 tells us that Jesus endured shame on the cross. He took our shame and through Him gave us the right to be called child of God. (John 1:12). With this promise we remember our
identity is wrapped up in what was done for us not what we do. He promises we can do nothing to lose this title. He will never reject us unless we choose to reject Him.
Exhausted my head hit the pillow yet my mind didn’t seem to get the memo. Thoughts raced through my brain. My children were leaving again. August into September brings transitions. Whether we are sending little ones off to school or our nest is emptying we can struggle. Our children are once again out of our watchful eye. Does that ever happen to you? You lie in bed and thoughts whirl around as if they have their own propulsion.
Will the other people be nice to him? Did she remember to pack everything? What if his new apartment isn’t as nice as the pictures? Ugh stop worrying. They will be fine. Scripture tells us to be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6). Thanks Apostle Paul now I’m anxious about being anxious. I know I’m not supposed to be worry yet here I go again. How do we combat these wayward thoughts?
It is important to define the difference between anxiety and fear. We use these words interchangeably but they are not the same. Fear occurs when we are in real danger. We are afraid in life threatening situations. We are afraid anytime a real crisis takes place. It is okay to feel afraid. It is not okay to live in fear. I wear a bracelet that says “Be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6) to remind me to face my fear and move forward.
Anxiety is something different. Anxiety is the fear of what might happen. It can even be defined as the fear of the future. It tangles the “what ifs” with the “might be” to create an unrealistic picture. Anxiety is never our friend. It is important to pause here and make sure you know it is okay to seek help for anxiety. Our mental health is important. Anxiety is controllable through prayer, counseling, and medication when needed. Do what you need to do to be healthy.
Worries are not to take up space in our heads. They are not allowed to have free rental space. That space is to be used for God’s word. Matthew 6:27 (NIV) “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” That answer would be NOPE. We are to trust Jesus with our thoughts. Psalm 9:10 (NIV) “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
Let’s look at Philippians 4:6 in detail. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done” (NLT).
1. Don’t worry.
2. Pray about everything. That literally means all things. Every detail matters to God and it is ok to share it with Him. He will listen.
3. Ask God to provide for you and those you love. This is your time to fight. Remember you are standing on the victory already provided for you. (Romans 8:37)
4. Thank Him. Gratitude is an amazing weapon against anxiety.
His promises will quiet the wayward thought. This takes practice. One of my favorite prayers is simple. “I trust you Jesus.” Sometimes it is on repeat until His peace surrounds me and fills me. Not because it takes repetition to get Him to answer but because I need to believe it myself.
Instead of worrying let’s turn it to a prayer of thanksgiving. She’s growing up so fast turns to thank you Lord she’s able to go to school. He’s leaving home becomes thank you he has this new adventure to follow his dream. They might not make it without me converts to thank you they are learning independence. Through God’s grace we can quiet those pesky thoughts and rest knowing God is in control.
It is not a one and done. This takes time and it is harder when life is difficult. We are allowed to feel fear and worry, we are not to stay there. If this is an ongoing issue remember you don’t have to live this way. Get help and live in freedom.
God is infinitely greater than everything. That is a huge statement. His power is boundless. Creativity was birthed in His being. God is the source, the beginning – the end. You know this. I know this. But do we live this way? In transforming into the woman He desires us to be we must rely on His power. He can turn a worrier into a wonder. Keep fighting my friend.
I didn’t think it would be a problem for me. An empty nest was much harder than I anticipated. I’m aging and not always gracefully. I had higher expectations of myself. Yet I felt a little used up.
I have gotten used to my kids not being here. Those college years were great transition years for them and for me. I like that our life’s pace has slowed. I appreciate that our time is in fact our time. No more parent meetings. No more performances or sporting events to attend. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy them. I did. But honestly, especially their high school years, their events dominated our calendar. We attended countless band concerts, orchestra performances, plays and musicals. We cheered on our youngest in every swim meet she swam in. We volunteered to make food, take tickets, chaperone trips, upload stats to the team website, and time races. We worked band festivals, sold concessions and the list continues. I would do it again in a heartbeat but I’m glad that season is finished. For the most part, my time is back to being my time.
So what do we do with this time? What is fun? What is interesting? What brings joy and satisfaction? These questions are harder to answer than I thought. I wish I had written down what I was yearning to do when we were knee deep in kid’s schedules. But those crazy years flew by. Was there time to make lists? If I had would I be able to find them now? Probably not! You may be better organized them me however. If you made a list don’t tell me.
Part of me can’t remember what I enjoyed 26 years ago. My before children days, were filled I’m sure. Of course I worked full time. I was taking graduate classes. We camped in the summer, sleeping in a small back packing tent when our backs were young and agile. That for sure isn’t going to happen now. If you know me you know my love for coffee. I can talk for hours.
So now, with time, I can rediscover recreation with other people. I like people. I want to share my time with them. After all, this life is all about relationships. Settle down my introverted friends. You too need friends. Whether we are together in a large group or sharing time one on one. I believe the key to finding fun is building relationships. These friends should be older, younger and just about the same age.
Are we up for adventures? What consists of adventures in the empty nest years? Is it spontaneous day trips? Is it planned dinners with friends? The most important act however, is just that. We have to stop talking about it and start doing it.
I suppose I define adventure a little differently now. I’m not looking for danger I’m looking for more than just fun. I’m looking for restoration. I’m seeking rejuvenation. I’m hungry for recreation that does what the true sense of the word means. Recreating my soul and spirit. Giving it new life in a new season. We rest in Him so that He is the source of our renewal. The empty nest isn’t the end of something it is the beginning. Recognize we, as older women, are recreated for a new purpose. Colossians 3:10 tells us that we are “Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.” (NLT) This is a daily process. He is continuing to make us new. Continuing to help us work out our salvation. He is far from done with us.
Mountain top experience
In November, I broke my foot. No dramatic story, I took a step, my sleeping foot twisted and I heard a pop. The pain overwhelmed me. “I don’t have time for this!” I mutter. It was the day after Thanksgiving. You know that crazy time of year. It is peak ministry season, great family time, and of course my job. How was I going to juggle an already busy season with this unexpected injury?
It had already been a difficult year, a dark year. Our circumstantial struggle drove us to cut our schedule to the bare minimum. Death of loved ones, our children moving away, and financial strain all contributed to our frustration. We put our head down and plodded through each day as best we could. Help was offered and gratefully received. Our struggle eased. It got better. We saw light in the darkness.
I was cleared to walk in February. Hobble is a better description. With each week, I felt the improvement. Bone strength increases with use. So I used it. Ice packs and ibuprofen became my best friends. It was not easy but it was better than living with that boot and scooter.
My foot was tested on our recent visit with our daughter in Seattle. She was excited to show us her city. She lives with hutzpah. It was her adventuresome spirit that took her across country to begin a new life. Her pioneering spirit would have conquered the Oregon Trail, had she been born in that era. I would have stayed east, unless encouraged or inspired – maybe.
Hopping from one tourist site to the next we walked a great deal. Although it wasn’t too painful my foot ached at the end of each day. Our last day we planned to hike in the Cascade Mountains. My husband really wanted to visit Wallace Falls State Park. The hike to the upper falls was four miles, one way! That meant four miles up and four miles back – down a mountain – on an already aching foot. I had a choice to make. Do I pamper the foot and miss out on the hike with my family? Or do I risk the pain and embrace the adventure? I took the risk and it was worth it.
Was it stupid? Maybe. Rest assured, I was cleared by my doctor to return to all activities. I wasn’t risking reinjuring the bone, just discomfort. As a bone heals, it can take up to a year for reformation to be complete. You can still feel a bump where it broke. So currently, there is too much bone for the area. Any swelling due to excessive use causes discomfort. Yes, we are to use wisdom but we also are to dismiss worry. Matthew 6:27 (NLT) declares “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
My foot did hurt more than it had in a while for an entire week. It doesn’t hurt today. So now I know my risk paid off. In looking for the fun, risking the possibility of discomfort, I found a day that I will treasure. Taking in magnificent creation that reflects our designer God is top of my list of time well spent. Doing this with my husband and adult children made it priceless. It is a day that I can remember on difficult days. It will inspire me for years to come as one of those golden days.
Are you in the midst of a survival season? Life ebbs and flows with beautiful and hard. Remember you are not walking alone. Jesus is with you walking beside you as you hobble along and when you dance with joy. He is our eternal hope.
Building A Legacy
I always knew I wanted to teach God’s word, but I didn’t know how to initiate that process. I prayed for opportunity. I was determined to allow the Holy Spirit to lead, but I was afraid any movement I made would be outside of God’s will. I will never forget the phone call that came on a bright June morning. Elizabeth was looking for women to mentor into Bible Study leadership. A wonderful teacher, she saw in me a glimpse of who I could become. She was wondering if I would be interesting in joining two other women in a year long process. After that year, the three of us would share the Bible Study leadership at our church. I didn’t hesitate to say yes—this is what I had waited for! As the year progressed, so did our friendship. Soon we were discussing more than Bible Study—we were sharing our lives.
But it wasn’t just knowledge she poured into me. Elizabeth knew me, and saw what I was good and what I was not-so-good at. She saw things I didn't see; she exposed flaws and encouraged gifts. Not only did she teach, but she listened. Introverted, she chose her words thoughtfully. I was the extrovert to her introvert, and often had ten times as many words as she did! But she listened closely to every one of them. She was a wonderful sounding board and I have learned much not only from her knowledge but also her technique.
“You realize I didn’t give you any advice,” Elizabeth would say with a chuckle. “I just had to wait until you heard what was in your head. You came to the conclusion without me.”
That may be true, but I needed help untangling that mess. I’m a verbal processor; I needed someone who loved me enough to patiently listen to all the details, all the bunny trails, and finally determine the conclusion. This is one of the tools I bring to the young women I know. I love them because I was loved. I pass on the legacy I was given.
Maybe you didn’t have an Elizabeth in your life—don’t let that stop you from being an Elizabeth for someone else! The potential is in you because you have Jesus in you. He is greater than your past. Put Him in the center of your relationships and watch Him work. You can do this. Be the woman you wished you had in your life.
I know, I know—I can hear your protest now: “But I don't have anything to offer!”
That’s not true. Discipleship is not about your accomplishments. You don't need an impressive resume or a string of letters behind your name to be a mentor. Discipleship is about sharing your struggles as well as your victories. Sharing life is more important than sharing advice. Availability plays a stronger role than teaching knowledge. You have wisdom to share but your confidence comes from your identity in Christ, not your achievements. You are fully equipped, and sharing you time tells others they are important. Sharing life—like Jesus did with His disciples— just takes availability.
Will you make yourself available?
Speaker, Author, founder Dragonfly Ministry