Have you ever looked closely at a knitted sweater or scarf? The rows are so intertwined that you have trouble following a single strand of yarn. Each row connects to the row before it in a complex pattern that holds it all together.
I believe that God desires us to be like that sweater, knitted together so thoroughly that our lives are inseparable. He desires that we are one in spirit with Him and with one another. He wants us to be so connected that we share our victories and our struggles. We are much stronger together than alone.
But this knitting together requires that we learn to trust each other with our lives. We cannot come alongside each other if we have walls built to protect ourselves. We have to be vulnerable and pliable. You cannot knit with stiff yarn!
The knitting of hearts also requires communication and the sharing of our time and talents. We get so busy with the details of our daily activities that we don’t take the time to invest in the lives of those God has put in our path.
Relationships are the only thing we can take with us to heaven. Why not spend some time today knitting a few of your own?
“I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.” Colossians 2:2 (NLT)
Picture with me a large wooden rain barrel. In the old cartoons when a farmer was trying to protect his chickens from a fox he would take his shot gun and send the buckshot flying. Predictably, the barrel would take a hit and would be riddled with holes from which the contents would leak in every direction.
Does that sometimes describe your own life? Does it seem like your peace and joy are leaking out in all directions and you can’t seem to get filled up and stay that way? You can’t possibly manage to plug all those leaks. There is no way to keep the contents inside with all those holes!
But God has a solution. He tells us to be thankful.
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.”– Psalm 100:4(NASB)
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.”– Colossians 3:15(NASB)
“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting.” – Psalm 106:1(NASB)
Each time you offer thanksgiving to the Lord, it’s like putting a cork in one of those leaky holes. Grab a bucketful and start plugging those holes. Soon you will experience the Lord’s peace and joy beyond measure!
Are you ever frustrated? Maybe the better question is: Have you been frustrated yet today?
We all deal with frustration. Things don’t go the way we want them to go. Other people don’t behave the way we want them to behave. Everything seems to take 10 times longer than it should and we don’t have time for that!
My biggest frustration seems to be related to technology. I don’t care how many times my husband or one of my sons patiently tells me the steps to accomplish a task on the computer or on my phone I just can’t seem to remember what to do next. I get frustrated and they most certainly must get frustrated with me because they have to keep telling me things over and over again. They have been heard to joke about how all Mom has to do is touch an electronic device and it develops some sort of glitch or malfunction.
There are other things that frustrate me too. Sometimes I get frustrated that I still struggle with having to learn the same lessons over and over again. The Apostle Paul understood this problem when he said in Romans 7:15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. That sounds like frustration to me.
A while back, I participated in a homeschool lesson with the grandkids. The lesson was about frustration. We talked about the story of Joni Eareckson Tada who as a young girl was injured in a swimming accident and was paralyzed. She has spent nearly 50 years in a wheelchair. She learned to paint holding the brush between her teeth.
Part of our lesson was to try to draw a butterfly while holding the pencil with our teeth. Not an easy task. It took patience as I tried to make the pencil go in the direction I wanted it to. The pencil seemed to have a mind of its own! I was actually quite surprised to see that the picture could at least be identified as a butterfly even though it was a very crude likeness. At one point one of the kids asked if they were doing it right. We talked about how there is no “right” way to do art. If there were, then all artists work would look the same. It got me to thinking about how that applies to other areas of life as well. Perhaps always aiming for perfect is part of the reason we can get so frustrated in the first place.
The word frustration comes from a Latin word meaning “in vain, or to disappoint.” It’s something we all deal with nearly every day. Like the Apostle Paul, we can get frustrated with ourselves and perhaps wonder if things will ever change.
But God gives us encouragement in His Word. Here are some verses to turn to when you feel frustrated.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galatians 6:9
So you thought you heard God. Clearly. You thought the steps you took were the right ones. You tried to be faithful to what you believed He’d said. But now you look at where you are and wonder if you missed God completely.
This isn’t how it was supposed to turn out. Maybe you heard wrong in the beginning. Should you retrace your steps and see what went wrong? Probably not.
A while back I wrote a piece called Keep Moving Forward. I talked about not looking back at mistakes or when times looked better than they seem now. While facing up to your mistakes and being willing to make changes is a good thing, sometimes the outcome is out of your hands no matter what you do.
When things don’t turn out as you’d hoped, you have to make a decision. You can’t change other people and you can’t change things that have already happened. But you can learn from your experiences and move on. You can change yourself.
In my life, I’ve had to come to terms with more than one situation that I thought was a sure thing. Each time I knew it would be difficult but I was sure that God’s power and grace would help it turn out well. In some cases it didn’t turn out well at all. In fact, it went horribly wrong and looked like it might not even be salvageable. So what do we do in those situations? We need to keep moving forward, not wish for a do over, not wish away all the problems we are facing.
To move forward we need to do a couple of things. We need to remember that God is still able to work in ANY situation. God never wastes any of our experiences. He uses each one to help us grow into who He planned us to become. If I look at how God wants to change me instead of how bad things seem, I remain pliable in God’s hands.
Second, we need to reevaluate what’s important. Sometimes the thing I wanted to work so badly wasn’t the end result God had in mind in the first place. What’s important is that He ultimately gets the glory. Sometimes that means walking away from things we thought were really important, choosing instead to let God set the priorities. There is only one priority, really. The Lord and His perfect plan.
So, today I am reminded that when things get tough and aren’t going the way I would like, I need to surrender my will to God’s will. He knows the best ending to every story. I want to allow Him to write mine.
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:36
Have you ever heard someone say “I was born in the wrong era?” I must confess, I have said this. I have made this comment because I sometimes have a yearning for a simpler life. For me, the ideal would have been around the turn of the century. Not the last one, the one before. The Victorian Era with all the beautiful dresses, the lazy Sunday afternoons along the riverbank complete with meaningful conversations. A slower life, with fewer distractions. That’s when I should have been born. It suits my personality better.
Actually, if I would look honestly at that era, I would see that it had its own set of challenges. It wasn’t just sunny days and beautiful people. If I had lived in that day, it’s likely that one or more of my sons would have served in WWI or died of the influenza. From a distance, life in another time might look easier, simpler. But no time in history was without problems and difficulties.
And that brings up the real question. Why was I born in this era? Why am I alive at this very moment?
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”– Ephesians 2:10(ESV)
If the things God designed me to do for Him were prepared beforehand then it sounds like I was meant to be on earth at exactly this time.
“Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” – Psalm 139:16 (ESV)
God knew when he created each of us just what we were ordained to do. He already had our days planned out for us so that we would accomplish what He designed us to do. He told Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5) that He had appointed him as a prophet to the nations while Jeremiah was still in his mother’s womb.
So why are we tempted to long for a different life? Maybe it’s not a different era, but a different set of circumstances that we could have in this life. Maybe a different location, maybe a different family, or maybe a different set of skills or abilities.
It’s easy to focus on the difficulties of living in the 21st century. We face things that seem so much harder than those who have lived before us faced. We long for less stress and more time. But it is all an illusion. Each generation has been prepared and equipped by God to accomplish His works in the circumstances where they find themselves.
We were ordained to be living right now. We have a purpose to fulfill in these days and God determined that we were the generation to do this work. What we have is today. This day, to bloom right where God has planted us, to be faithful to Him in this time that He has ordained for us.
What can you do today to further God’s kingdom? What can you do today to bring Him glory?
I love the story of the Samaritan woman (John 4). Jesus spoke so clearly to her about her sin and because she received His words, her life was changed. She left her old life and went into the city to tell others about Jesus.
There are three things that make her life an example of what our walk with the Lord should look like.
She listened to Jesus with an open heart. She didn’t make a zillion excuses or blame someone else for her sin.
She made the choice to turn from her old way of life and to believe that she could be different.
She told the story.
It doesn’t matter where you are when Jesus finds you, only that you choose the new life He offers and then tell others about it!
“From that city many of the Samaritans believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.”” – John 4:39(ESV)
I think we can agree that we are living in a season of tremendous change. Our culture is changing, our daily lives are changing, sometimes so fast we can barely keep up. Change is hard, but can be good. Nothing ever stays the same except God. He never changes, but He wants to change us. We know it’s good for us—we need to grow. We can’t stay the same. God has a better plan for us than what we can see from where we are at this moment. The only way to get there is to allow Him to change us. What does this mean for me as an individual?
Once I accept the fact that God wants me to change, I have to settle another issue. I don’t have to change by myself. I don’t have to work harder to be perfect. I don’t have to set a zillion goals and struggle to meet them in order to please the Lord.
God says we can come to Him just as we are and HE will do the changing. He will set the goals and direct our steps. We don’t have to do some sort of extreme makeover in order for God to accept us. He already knows all about us and loves us just as we are.
BUT, He loves us so much, He can’t bear to see us stay as we are. He has so much more in store for us if we will just allow Him to mold us and make us into the people He created us to be!
Even as the world is changing around us every minute, we can allow God to continue to work in us and change our hearts. It actually makes adjusting to the changes around us much easier as we let Him work on us from the inside out.
Heavenly Father, here I am with all my weaknesses and imperfections. Today I yield to You and ask that You make the changes You know are necessary. I will trust you with the final product because You designed me in the first place.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.“ – 2 Corinthians 5:17(ESV)
No one would argue that the past year has been difficult. Everyone knows that life has been a mess for many people. Most of us are tired and ready to be done with the mess. Many of us are discouraged or at the very least, disappointed in how things have gone for the past year.
My 2020 has been full of difficulties. We have dealt with broken relationships, health issues, and financial challenges, and those were unrelated to COVID-19 arriving on the scene. We have had our share of issues with COVID too. My folks are still recovering from having the virus a month ago. My father-in-law passed in early December after a stroke, and we couldn’t travel to Ohio for the funeral because it is just too risky right now. We have been to church only a handful of times in the past 12 months. We feel isolated and wonder how much longer this can go on.
And yet, right in the middle of all of this, I have this sense of peace. I can be driving to the grocery store and suddenly feel overwhelmed with thankfulness for the life God has given me. I start grinning and telling God how grateful I am for His blessings and His love for us. How is that even possible with all the difficulties we have been dealing with? I sometimes start to feel guilty for having such a positive outlook while so many are struggling and hurting. Don’t I have any sense of compassion at all? Am I just living in denial concerning all the hardships?
I’ve been thinking about this for a while and finally read something that flipped a switch in my understanding. I have no reason to feel guilty. I am not lacking in compassion. What I am experiencing is not denial… it’s JOY!
Do you know how I can find joy in the middle of all this mess? It’s because joy is not based on my circumstances and it’s not something I can muster up on my one. It comes directly from the Holy Spirit. He provides the joy. All I have to do is embrace it.
My circumstances–YOUR circumstances, no matter how difficult, do not change the character of God. He is still good. He is still compassionate. He is still faithful… the list can go on and on. He isn’t any different whether our life is perfect or a total mess.
But we do have a choice to make. We can keep looking at our circumstances and allowing them to guide our view of God or we can look at the character of our God and allow that to influence how we view our circumstances.
The choice is yours.
“And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord. – Psalm 27:6 (ESV)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. – Romans 15:13(ESV)
Would you rather be the driver or the passenger? Do you feel more comfortable when you are in the drivers seat? Most people will say they feel more in control if they are driving.
How about when you are in an airplane. Would you rather be the pilot or the passenger? What’s that? You don’t know how to fly a plane? So you would definitely rather be the passenger in this case.
Why is it that we can trust the pilot of a plane more than we can trust someone else who is driving a car? Perhaps it’s because we know we can’t fly the plane better than the pilot, but we think that we just might be able to drive the car better than someone else. So we become a backseat driver, giving directions to the one in control of the vehicle.
From a spiritual perspective, we know we should allow God to be in the driver’s seat but we often try to take control of things. Why is it that we can’t seem to think of Him more as we do the airplane pilot and not as the car driver? How have we convinced ourselves that we are better able to manage our lives than God is? If we truly believe that God is able to do all He has promised to do, then we can trust Him to get us to our final destination unharmed.
There is an extra blessing that comes with allowing God to drive. While He is managing the journey, we are free to relax and enjoy the scenery. He has made a beautiful world, He has given us each an amazing life, but if we spend all our time trying to tell God how to drive, we miss the breath-taking beauty all around us.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
“How great is your goodness that you have stored up for those who fear you and accomplished in the sight of everyone for those who take refuge in you.” – Psalm 31:19 (CSV)
Have you ever purchased the perfect gift for someone and been so excited to give it to them that you could hardly wait? Maybe a new bike for your child or that new tool your husband has been wanting.
In the early years of our marriage I bought my husband a new circular saw for Christmas. I was so excited, for I knew it was just what he wanted and he would not expect it. It would be the perfect surprise.
A few days before Christmas he started playing the guessing game. “What did you get me for Christmas?” Of course I wouldn’t think of telling him. He proceeded to guess and blurted out “a circular saw!” I had been so sure he’d never guess that I wasn’t prepared and my face gave me away. I was so mad at him it’s a wonder he got that saw at all!
Scripture says God has some surprises for us that we will never guess.
“but just as it is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’ “ – 1 Corinthians 2:9
Our Heavenly Father is so excited to show us what he has for us. But there’s more!
Think back to a time when you have had some wonderful news to share with your spouse or a friend. Maybe you said “listen, I can’t wait to tell you!” or “I have the most wonderful news!”
Take a look at Jeremiah 33:3, which says, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
The Lord has incredible things to tell us if we will only stop to listen. He is patiently waiting to show us what He has created for us and He has such wonderful things to tell us that He waits in great anticipation. He waits for us to come near and say, “Show me, Father! Tell me, Lord! I want to see and hear all that You have to share.”
Take some time today to ask Him. You will be blessed and you will also bring joy to your Father’s heart because He longs to share what He has prepared for you.