Dump Truck or Wheelbarrow?

When I was a little girl, I remember watching a television show where housewives would win a chance to enter a store with an empty grocery cart and have a certain amount of time to put whatever they wanted in the cart. I remember watching them run up and down the aisles throwing things in the cart as fast as they could. I imagined how much fun it would be to fill my cart with anything I wanted and as much as the cart would hold.

Of course, you were limited by the size of the cart. But imagine if you could bring your own container and fill it as full as you wanted with things from whatever store you chose. Or maybe you could fill it with money. Now wouldn’t that be nice!

What size container would you bring? A grocery sack? A wheelbarrow?  A dump truck?  You’d be crazy to choose a small container when there was no limit. Maybe you could bring a double-trailer semi truck. Now that would hold a lot!

The thing is—in the end, you would just have stuff. I think there would be a sort of letdown after it was all over. Sure, you now have a ton of stuff but when it’s gone, it’s still gone. When you’ve used it up, when you’ve spent the money, when you’ve exhausted your supply, it’s all over.

Now think about a different kind of opportunity.

God says that he has all that we need, all we have to do is ask. Now I’m not talking about tangible “stuff”, I’m talking about all the things God has promised to give us if we ask. There is a bounty of things God will give us if we will only allow the Holy Spirit to work in us. He promises to meet our physical needs but he also promises things like love, joy, and peace.

He waits for us to come to him and when we do, he fills our lives to overflowing with wonderful blessings. When you think about it, if the blessings of God are limitless we should bring the largest container we can find! When we go to God, why just bring a wheelbarrow?

You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance.”Psalm 65:11

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”Romans 15:13

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23 

Are You a Person of Influence?

What does it mean to be a person of influence?

I recently read an article that listed ten steps in a strategy to becoming a person of influence. Among the suggestions listed were to become more visible on social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter. Also suggested was writing a blog or e-books and seeking out speaking engagements.

These suggestions might work fine in the business world. But how can you become a person of influence where spiritual matters are concerned? What suggestions might work to influence the world for Christ? How can an average person ever hope to have influence that changes the world for the better?

Farther down the list I found a couple more suggestions. One was to start a movement around something you are passionate about. Well, this one is an easy one. We don’t have to start a movement, we’re already involved in one with firm foundations that began with twelve passionate men who took Jesus at His word and were faithful to share it.

Another useful recommendation said to become a subject matter expert. In the business world, that means to learn all you can about the subject you care about. Isn’t that what we’re called to do with the gospel? The purpose of God’s Word is to make us experts on the subject of His gift to humanity. We’re called to learn all we can about Jesus and His kingdom.

Finally, it was suggested we become super connectors. The article went on to explain that there is always someone we can introduce our friends and colleagues to in order to create a greater network. Business people are always looking for new contacts that will advance their business. This is a suggestion that rings true to the believer. We were created and commissioned to be super connectors! What better goal in life than to connect all of our friends to the one person who matters most to us? Jesus is waiting to be introduced to everyone you know.

What does it require to become a person of influence where Christ is concerned? Become a follower of Jesus, learn all you can about His plan and purpose by reading His Word and then determine to look for every opportunity to connect everyone you know to the One who already knows them by name.

Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.'”Matthew 16:24

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”2 Timothy 3:16

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” Daniel 12:3 

God Never Says “I’ll Be Right Back”

How many times have you been in a situation where something you need or someone else needs is in another room? Or how about when you’re cooking and suddenly realize you’re missing an ingredient and need to run to the store? Or what about when someone you love is sick or injured and they need your comfort but also need someone to go get something they need? And often, you may hear yourself say, “I’ll be right back.”

All these situations require you to leave where you are to go somewhere else. If your child is ill and wants you to hold them but needs medicine that is in another room, what do you do? If you’ve seen the children’s movie called The Incredibles, you will remember Elastigirl. She could sit with a sick child in their bed and stretch her arm all the way to the kitchen to get the medicine. Most mothers would love to have that ability.

Just because we can’t do anything like that, we make the mistake of believing no one can… including God. But unlike us, God can be in more than one place at a time. He is able to stay right there by your side and work in your circumstances at the same time.

God’s Word says, “The LORD is the one who will go before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.” – (CSV)

God is with you always. He will never say, “hold on, I’ll be right back.”

A Plan Half-baked

One day when my boys were young, we were making banana bread. Since it’s one of their favorite treats, they were having a hard time waiting the hour it took to bake. Their conversation went something like this.

Son #1: “Why does it take so long? Can’t we turn up the heat and make it cook faster?”

Son #2: “Hey! if we changed it from 350 to 700 it would cook in half the time.”

Son #1: (getting excited) “If we turned it up to 1000 degrees it would cook in only 20 minutes, right?”

Of course, we all got a good laugh out of it as we thought about this weird logic. We talked about how the bread would only be half-baked.  How the inside would be mush and the outside would be crispy and probably not an appetizing color. We talked about how it has to bake at the right temperature for the right amount of time if we want it to turn out perfect.

I think this is exactly what James is talking about when he says, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” –  James 1:2-4 (CSB)

If endurance means patience, we can see how the banana bread story really conveys what we do with God all the time. We can get impatient and want to speed things up. Learn the lessons faster so we can get on with it. But God knows exactly what conditions are best to bring us to that perfect result, lacking in nothing.

This same concept can be seen in so many other examples. Consider the amount of pressure needed to produce a diamond, or the temperature needed to refine gold, or even the time needed for paint to dry. The perfect result of all of those things depends on the correct conditions and time. There are no shortcuts.

Sometimes we really just want God to hurry up and finish. But if we follow the logic of the banana bread, do we really want Him to turn up the heat? And will we be thankful for the final product if we take short cuts?

Allow God to set the conditions that James talks about. The trials and the testing are God’s perfect recipe that if followed, will cause you to be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Where is God testing your faith in order to produce endurance in your life?

 

 

God’s Way or the Highway

When my husband and I take a road trip by ourselves we like to take the back roads, avoiding the interstates as much as possible. We meander through the countryside and are in no hurry to arrive at our destination. We enjoy the interesting scenery that isn’t visible from the freeway.

When we go to visit our grandchildren it’s a different story. We have no time for meandering, we have an agenda.  We are interested in only one thing and that’s seeing those adorable little faces that greet us after a full day of driving. We get there as quickly as we can, stopping only when absolutely necessary and then it’s a quick, no-nonsense stop and back in the car again.

Why do most people choose the interstates to get around? It’s because we have an agenda and we need to get there in a hurry. No time for delays of any kind. We hop on the freeway, set the cruise control, and zoom along. Sometimes when we go through large cities there can be eight or more lanes of traffic in each direction.  Everyone is on autopilot, getting in the zone, and flowing mindlessly with the traffic.

Have you ever taken a narrow, winding mountain road? There’s no zoning out or cruise control on this trip! You have to focus on the road as well as keep a close watch on the steep drop off on the side of the pavement. There isn’t much room to maneuver and little margin for error. But there are times when the road evens out and the scenery is breathtaking. And the little towns that come along every once in a while are often worth a stop to explore for a little while.

Matthew speaks of another narrow road.

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Matthew 7:13-14

The freeway is plenty wide and you have lots of company. The narrow way can be lonely and difficult at times. But how much you miss if you take the freeway with everyone else, all of them locked in with their cruise control and moving along without any concern for their surroundings.

The narrow road is more difficult to manage, it has ups and downs, it has tight, blind curves that make you slow down. But if you manage to stay on the road, you’ll have a much richer experience.

And isn’t it that way with life? God’s road may be narrow, and the gate a tight fit but the things He’ll show you will leave you speechless. And the people you’ll meet will change you forever. So slow down and take the byway instead of the highway. The scenery is worth it and the destination is beyond imagination.

Do You Want to Play the Glad Game?








Are you a Pollyanna? I am.

Pollyanna is a character of a classic children’s book by Eleanor  H. Porter. She is continually playing the “glad game.” In this game, she faces every circumstance with the belief that there must be something to be glad about if you look long enough. In the story, the adults get annoyed with her constantly optimistic view of life. In fact, that annoyance continues today. The dictionary actually has a definition for a Pollyanna.

Pollyanna: an excessively or blindly optimistic person. To be unreasonably or illogically optimistic.

But I think she had it right. One of the quotes from the book says, ” if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it SOME.” Now, I’ve never counted to see if she was right about there being eight hundred verses telling us to be glad. But do we really need that many?

Here are a few that should confirm His desire for us to be glad.

But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness.” – Psalm 68:3(ESV)

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” – Psalm 90:14(ESV)

Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD.” – Psalm 104:34(ESV)

So, I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind in the least if I’m called a Pollyanna. In these days that we’re living, it’s so easy to get discouraged. Reading the news, hearing what others are struggling with on a daily basis, how can we possibly be glad? It certainly looks excessive or unreasonable, even illogical to think that we could be glad in the midst of what’s going on around us every day. But God says we are to be glad. Why?

Because God is still on His throne.

For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.” – Psalm 92:4(ESV)

Me and My Shadow








shadowsIMG_3802

When my older boys were entering their teen years, we helped them find opportunities to shadow some men in the workplace. The purpose was for them to get an idea of what it was like to work in each career field. They spent the whole day following the man around like a shadow.

Have you ever considered your shadow? What does your shadow look like? It looks like you! It’s the silhouette of your body as it appears in front of the sun or another bright light. Your shadow moves and acts exactly as you do.

So consider for a moment that someone approaches you and asks if they can shadow you for a whole day to see what your life is about. Much like a career shadow, they would follow you around watching your actions. Watching how you interact with others. Watching how you make decisions. They would see how you handle stress, what choices you make regarding your health, and perhaps how you handle your money.

As a Christ-follower, you are made in His image. You’re supposed to reflect His character. So your shadow should look a little like Him, don’t you think?

So, the question is: If someone followed you around all day, would they know, without you telling them, that you have asked Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life? Could they tell from your actions that He is the most important person in your life? Could they tell by your interaction with others, that you exhibit His compassion for those you come in contact with every day?

If we were to shadow Jesus, we’d know exactly who we were following. If others shadow us, who would they see? Do we look more like Jesus or more like everybody else?

Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:6 (ESV)

 “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”1 Corinthians 11:1(ESV)

In the Silence You Can Hear Him

This post is from about 5 years ago. Some things are worth repeating.

I thought I was losing my mind. On several occasions, I have been lying in bed reading and heard music. Once I got up and went into the boys’ room to see if they could turn off their music for the night only to find that they didn’t have music playing. It was puzzling but I didn’t think too much of it. I’d go back to bed and put it out of my mind.

I have inner ear issues, so maybe I’m really not hearing anything, I would tell myself. Maybe it’s other normal house noises that I’m perceiving as musical. I’d just get it settled and then a few nights later I’d hear it again. I finally told my husband I was hearing music. He thought I must be imagining it. Maybe I was.

The only time I could hear it was at night when the house got quiet and I was finally still and ready to rest. This morning my husband heard it too and we finally solved the mystery. A few months ago I received a small television that belonged to my grandfather. We put it in our room along with a DVD player so we could watch movies once in a while when the boys were using the only other TV in the house. We also hooked up a set of computer speakers. As sometimes happens, the system is picking up radio waves and in the stillness at bedtime, I can hear the faint music coming through the speakers.

I’m not losing my mind after all! You can imagine how relieved I felt! But the Lord wasn’t done using this experience. He took this opportunity to remind me that this is what I have to do in my spirit. His voice is often like those radio waves. I have to shut off the noise of the world in order to hear Him. It isn’t because He can’t speak loudly. He could shout if He chose to. But He would rather I quiet myself and chose to turn away from the noise of life around me to give Him my full attention.

He has intimate things to say to me that are for me alone. He has things to tell you as well. He wants to speak to you in the voice that only you can hear. He wants to whisper to you how much He loves you and what wonderful things He has in store for you. We can hear Him best when we turn down the volume around us.

I listen carefully to what God the LORD is saying, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. But let them not return to their foolish ways.” Psalm 85:8 (NLT)

Facing the Trials

You’ve probably heard yourself say, at some time in your life, “that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” Or “that was a very difficult season (experience, situation, conversation, etc.)”

We all have hard times. Sometimes when we’re in the middle of a  particularly trying time, we can get discouraged about the future. Or maybe we see the changes in our world and know that life is getting more difficult for us and many others. We can begin to dread the future, thinking the hard times that are coming will be too much for us to handle. Whether it’s something tragic or a strong temptation, we know we will face more trials in the future. We know we aren’t done. We haven’t arrived. We’re still on the journey that marks the life of a follower of Christ.

But instead of becoming discouraged, we need to consider where we’ve been. There is a reason God told the Israelites to tell the story of His marvelous works in the Old Testament. We need to be reminded of what God has already brought us through in order to grow in our faith, in our belief that He is still faithful to complete the work He started in us.

How do you react when you face hard times? Maybe it’s the death of a loved one or having major surgery. Maybe it’s a painful divorce or a child who walks away from the family. Maybe it’s that difficult conversation that you never wanted to have. Any of those situations can cause us to be overwhelmed.

Can you think of an instance when you were overwhelmed by life but finally got to the end of the suffering? When you said, “that’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”? The key word in that sentence is the word done. It’s over, in the past and you made it through, even though it was hard. God was there.

He’s still there. Right beside you. Ready to take you through the next thing. Yes, there will be a “next thing” but God is already working on getting you through it even as he brings you to it. He already knows exactly how to equip you to handle anything that comes your way.

The reason we dread the future is that we aren’t there yet. We can’t see the way God has planned to get us through. Maybe we can see difficulty up ahead and we know we can’t possibly overcome it now. But when we get to it, we’ll be able to because God will take our hand and guide us through.

“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.’”Isaiah 41:13

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

The Sharpest Knife in the Drawer








Have you ever tried to cut a tomato with a dull knife? It can be a frustrating experience. When you are trying to prepare a meal, there is nothing more exasperating than working with a knife that needs sharpening. It’s inefficient. It slows you down. It simply cannot do the job it was designed to do without being sharpened once in a while.

Scripture tells us that we are like that dull knife. We need to be sharpened regularly. How does this happen? God designed us to sharpen each other.

It has been said that iron cannot sharpen iron because they are both the same substance so they are unable to sharpen each other. In order to be sharpened, one substance must be stronger than the other. Could it be that we take turns being strong depending on which of us needs sharpening in a given circumstance? I think so.

Do you have people who rub up against your life and sharpen you? I do. Those people are a vital part of my everyday life. They are necessary if I am to keep from becoming the dullest knife in the drawer. If I am to be useful for God’s kingdom, I have to be sharp. When metal rubs up against metal it also shines more. I need to be able to shine for others to see. I need to have a sharp and clean edge so I am useful to God.

To be sharpened in this way we must become vulnerable. We must allow someone to come close enough to touch our lives. We must be willing to feel a little uncomfortable when we experience a bit of friction as our edge is honed.

But it’s well worth it.  Find others who are willing to sharpen you when you need it. You will be made more useful to our Lord. You will be the knife he reaches for when he has a job to do because He knows you are one of the sharpest knives in the drawer.

“Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17(NASB)