Who’s Cheering You On?

When I was in high school, I was in the marching band. Each week in the fall we practiced hard and then on Friday night we had those few minutes of half-time to perform. We put our all into it and did the very best we could. It wasn’t always perfect. It really didn’t matter. We had bonded as a group and worked together to make it happen.

For me, one of the best parts was knowing that my mom and dad were in the stands watching. I knew they were proud of me and cheering me on no matter what. They didn’t care if we were out of step. They didn’t care if someone made a sour note. They didn’t even care if a squad got turned around and marched in the wrong direction for a moment.

They were there to support the band. They knew how hard we tried and they applauded our efforts. I could even hear my dad sometimes! He could be quite enthusiastic. He would cheer and whistle and I could hear him clearly above the crowd. He was always there in the stands, for me.

So, who cheers you on? Who is it that has your back when things get rough? You may think of a person like your spouse or your parent. It may be a close friend. But can I tell you something? There is One who is a friend who is closer than a mom or dad or spouse. He knows you. He sees you trying so hard to get it right. He applauds and cheers your victories.

Because He loves you.

“The LORD your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.” -Zephaniah 3:17(NASB)

 

Do You Feel Like You Can’t Measure Up?

This fall our women’s Bible study group began this study. We are now about halfway through and I can say that I already see a change in myself and the ladies at my table. It’s like we are taking a collective breath of fresh air. We are finding that we aren’t meant to keep striving to measure up to a standard we can’t even define. We are learning that we don’t have anything to prove to anybody. Not even God.

Jennie Allen gets right to the heart of what makes us tired. Not just physically tired, but soul tired. She addresses what we believe about being enough and helps us find peace in the fact that we will never be enough and we don’t have to be. Jesus is enough for all of us.

This study was created after Jennie wrote her book, Nothing to Prove. I would recommend reading the book as well as doing the Bible study.

The Truth is Stranger than Fiction

You’ve heard the saying, “Strange, but true.”  There are books, videos, and museums that serve up a continuous supply of strange things. All I need to do is mention a name… Ripply.  We have all heard of “Ripply’s Believe It or Not!” Robert Ripply was a man who traveled the world looking for the strangest he could find.

He was quoted as saying,

“I have traveled in 201 countries and the strangest thing I saw was man.”

He started his cartoons in 1918 and though he died in 1949, Ripply’s legacy of the strange and unexplainable goes on. That’s 100 years of finding weird things to print in books and display in their “Odditoriums.”

I would bet there is no display for the strangest thing that ever happened in all of history. No book that covers it… oh, wait. There IS a book that talks about this event.  It’s the Bible.

In Acts 17:18 we are told,  “And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”– because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection.” (NASB)

In this passage, they are referring to Paul. They thought what he was saying was strange. He was talking about Jesus!  It was the strangest story anyone had ever heard.

It’s still the strangest story. Who would sacrifice His own son to save a group of rebellious sinners?  Who would willingly die on a cross for people who didn’t even believe anything He said?

The Greek word for strange gives us the word PARADOX. A paradox refers to something beyond expectations.  It means something completely outlandish.

I think that is the perfect way to describe what Jesus did.

He came willingly at His Father’s request, to lay down His life for those who spit on him and turned their backs on him. He gave up His place in Heaven to come here and rescue us even though we didn’t believe we needed to be rescued. He loves us that much.

That is the strangest thing you will ever hear. Certainly stranger than fiction.

Do you believe it?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NASB)

 

God’s People Mover

Many years ago, a dear friend lost her young daughter in a terrible car accident. She also had her husband and three other children in the hospital. Although I was there in the aftermath to try to help any way I could, I couldn’t begin to imagine her grief. Her circumstances were beyond overwhelming.

As I prayed and asked God how He wanted to use me in this situation, he gave me a simple word picture. I knew I would share this with my friend but it didn’t seem like enough. I was obedient and shared with her this simple picture.

I said to her, “God knows you are overwhelmed. He wants you to picture yourself at a busy airport. You can see people frazzled and hurried, trying their best to get to their destination. You can also see people choose to get on the people movers, those moving walkways that take you where you need to go without you putting forth the effort. You must step on the moving floor and allow yourself to be taken along your way.”

I said that the Holy Spirit was like that walkway. God wanted her to picture herself stepping onto that walkway of the Holy Spirit and then allow Him to carry her through this most difficult season of her life.

At the time, I thought it was such a small thing. I just did what God said and trusted Him with the rest.

A few months ago, I had the privilege of spending time with my friend. We have lived many hours apart for a long time. As we talked, she mentioned that difficult time in her life and she remembered the story of the people movers. She also shared that God had allowed her to use that same word picture to comfort someone else who had suffered a loss.

Isn’t it amazing what something so simple can do? Perhaps you need reminding that the Holy Spirit is available and desires to carry you through whatever is hard in your life right now. Make the choice to hop on God’s people mover and let Him carry you too.

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)

“And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.” – Isaiah 42:16 (ESV)

 

Who is Your Comforter?

We all need comfort from time to time. Life is hard. Things happen.

Isn’t that why we end up defining an area of our life as our “comfort zone?” I frequently read articles or sections of books where the author encourages us to move out of our comfort zones.  We need to take risks, be courageous, try new things.

It’s a well-known fact that human beings seek safe places. Not just physically but emotionally as well. So we block off this area of our life and declare that it is our “comfort zone.” The place where we feel safe and where we have peace. Outside it could be dangerous, challenging… uncomfortable.

I want to suggest that the dangerous place is actually INSIDE our comfort zone. It’s where we have personally designed and defined what we need to feel safe. It’s where we have made our own rules.

Outside our comfort zone, we are at the mercy of the world, right?

Wrong. Outside our man-made comfort zone, the place where we’ve become our own comforter, is the place where we must call upon the Great Comforter. When we move outside the walls we’ve built to keep us safe, we are really moving into the place where we can receive true comfort. Everything else is artificial.

As long as we stay in our safe and secure fortress, we can never experience true comfort. God offers perfect comfort in every circumstance. How can I choose my own inadequate source of comfort when I could trade it for His just by stepping out of my comfort zone into His loving arms?

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”  – 2 Corinthians 1:3 (CSV)

How Sweet is the Spirit of the Lord

Have you ever worked with confectioner’s sugar?  We’ve always called it powdered sugar because it’s so refined that it makes a cloud as you work with it. It reminds me of my grandma’s bath powder. She kept it in a tin on her bathroom shelf and you could always tell when she used some because the room had a sweet scent after she finished.

There’s an even more interesting effect from powdered sugar.  As you work with it, opening the bag, spooning it into a measuring cup, and pouring it into the bowl you can stir up quite a cloud. And if you stir it too vigorously, you can make a real mess.  But if you happen to breathe in through your mouth while that cloud of sugar is in the air you can actually taste the sweetness.  The sugar goes everywhere and eventually settles on the surfaces nearby.  But while it’s being stirred up, you can taste it!

That is a perfect picture of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a believer in Christ. If you leave Him inside, sealed up tight, no one will even notice He is present. But if you open your heart to others and stir up the presence of the Holy Spirit, others around you will get a whiff of something wonderful. And as they draw closer, they’ll be able to taste the sweet presence of God’s Spirit in you.

Take time to stir up the gift inside you and you will be able to share it with those around you who are longing for a taste of life, hope, and love. They’ll come looking for the source of the sweetness they experience when they are near you. Let the Holy Spirit move in your life and others will be drawn to Him.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” – Psalm 34:8(NASB)

 

 

 

All Things to All People

There is a game we used to play on long road trips when I was young. It was an alphabet game we called, “going to the store.”  You had to list something you would buy at the store for each letter of the alphabet. The first player had “A” and the second had “B” and so on. The catch was you had to recite all the previous items before you added the next one. By the time you got to “K” the list was getting difficult to remember.

I often play a similar game with myself when I am walking somewhere alone. But instead of a list of items from the store, I list the attributes of God.  “A” is for awesome, “B” is for bountiful, “C” is for Creator, and so on.

Recently, God has prompted me to change the game a bit. Instead of focusing on who He is, it’s become about what He does for me.  Now when I begin the list looks something like this:

A – God provides armor
B – God provides beauty
C – God provides correction
D – God provides direction
E – God provides encouragement

As with any alphabet exercise, some letters are more difficult than others. And my memory isn’t what it used to be so I don’t recite all the previous items each time I add a new one. I do try to come up with different ones for the letters each time I do this though. But in the end, what I’m learning is that God is indeed, all things to all people. He is the only one who can meet every need we have. He is the only one who gives to us above and beyond everything we could ever imagine. He is the one who loves to bless us just because He can. And at the end of the game, I can’t help but be filled with gratitude that He would love me so much!

Next time you are out walking or exercising at the gym or just sitting in your house try starting your own list.  And when you finish with the list of His blessings, you can go on to the list of His attributes.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.” – 2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV)

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19 (ESV)

 

 

Too Busy to Notice

When was the last time you were engrossed in an activity and someone said something to you that you missed completely? I would guess not that long ago.

Or how about suddenly realizing that it’s almost dinner time but you haven’t made food because you were busy and didn’t notice the time? Or you nearly miss an appointment because you were too busy to look at the calendar?  I’m sure we could list dozens of examples of times we have been too busy to notice what was going on around us.

Last year, when my husband Randy received a diagnosis of end-stage liver failure, our busy lives came to a screeching halt. Everything we thought was so important immediately moved to the back of the line. It forced us to reevaluate what life needed to look like in this new season. And that made us become much more aware of what goes on around us. We learned to live intentionally. We learned to be in the moment instead of thinking about things down the road. When we slowed down, we saw things we’d missed.

We’ve seen this when we take long walks together. We talk about life and the future but we also savor the moments. We stop to watch the birds and the animals. These days are all gifts. We might not have had them and don’t know how many more we will have.  We always say there is no guarantee of tomorrow but now we live with that principle staring us in the face every day.

It has influenced how we do simple things too. Like the other day when I was out doing errands and needed to stop at Walmart for one thing on my list. It was looking like rain, (welcome to summer in Florida) so I parked in an area I don’t normally park in. I was closer to the building so I might avoid getting drenched.

As I left my car, I glanced down at what looked like someone’s credit card. I picked it up and turned it over. It was a gift card. Someone had probably spent the balance and then just dropped the card.  I carried it with me intending to drop it in the trash. Then I thought, maybe it was worth checking to see if there was a balance. So I stopped at the self-check station and ask the attendant if she’d check. She found that there was money left.  It was enough to pay for what I came for plus a few groceries.  I left the store having spent 87 cents for a bag full of items.

When I got back in my van I was grinning. I said out loud, “I know that was You, Lord!”  It was just a simple thing but something that wouldn’t have happened a year ago when I wasn’t paying close attention to life around me.

None of us knows how much time we have left here. We could go to be with the Lord at any moment.  If we want to make the best of the days we have, we must learn to live intentionally. We must slow down and take notice of life around us. God wants to bless our lives every day and we get so busy we miss it.

And, He wants to use in other’s lives every day and we miss that too.  Ask God to help you slow down and see what you’ve been missing.  You will be glad you did.

“And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” – Hebrews 13:16 (NIV)

The Road Home

I was trying to work on my Bible study plan and feeling like I didn’t even know where to start. Beside me was my open notebook. Blank pages just waiting for God to speak. On the other side was my Bible also open to nothing in particular.

I knew I was distracted by things in my head. I couldn’t seem to stop the steady stream of thoughts that flowed from one to the next without end. So many responsibilities, so many concerns, so many unanswered questions.

Then I looked up at the TV where I was playing restful music on Pandora.  The title of the album was “The Road Home.” At the time, I didn’t catch the artist’s name because I was immediately drawn to the photo. It was a picture of a country gravel road disappearing over a gentle hill. In the foreground was an old worn suitcase. The Lord spoke clearly to my spirit at that moment.

“Leave the heavy weight behind. Walk the road home without the burdens you have been carrying. They are heavy, unnecessary and not your concern. Sit the baggage down and move forward without it. Leave concerns over finances, health issues, relationships, feelings of rejection and inadequacy as well as concerns for your role in this new season of life. You don’t need to carry any of it. I’m more than strong enough to bear the load for you.”

How many times have I heard God ask this of me? How many times have I set that suitcase down only to go back and pick it up again?  And then cram even more stuff into it!

Maybe you can join me in this prayer.

“Lord, help me to leave it all and not look back. The road ahead, toward home, toward you, is so much to look forward to. Help me leave this beat up suitcase behind and begin to walk. Help me not look back.”

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)

But God…

Most of us have been on the receiving end of the word “but.” What I mean is, we have all had the experience where someone says something very nice and then undoes all the good intentions by following the statement with the word “but.” Usually what follows is a criticism or a qualifying statement of some kind that makes the original statement of very little value.

“You did a great job…but…”
“I appreciate your help…but…”
“I love you…but…”

Humans tend to use the word “but” in a negative sense most of the time. Probably the most frequent use is during an argument. I think sometimes people feel it’s necessary to keep things grounded in reality. After all, we can experience good in life but the overall consensus is that life is hard and we’d better just get used to it. No use candy-coating it.

God has a different idea about the word “but.” Just looking at one chapter of scripture, Romans 6, we will find that God’s “but” is something to shout about. I would invite you to read it for yourself.

These examples are from the NASB version.

Verse 11 – “Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, BUT alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Verse 13 – “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; BUT present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”

Verse 21- 22 – “Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. BUT now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.”

Verse 23 – “For the wages of sin is death, BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Yes, I will admit that life is sometimes hard…BUT GOD! He turns things around and makes something good out of all the negatives that we can come up with. And that is cause for rejoicing!