“GOD JUST WANTS ME TO BE HAPPY” (WOW! Write On Wednesday takes @ 2 minutes to read)

166702_552665164755356_828459902_nIf we’ve heard this phrase once, we’ve heard it a million times. Usually it’s a husband or wife who wants out of their marriage. We have, however, heard it from people not happy in their jobs, their family, their church, their neighborhood, etc. You get the picture.

Joe and I have read the bible a number of times, and have yet to find where God talks about making us happy and/or where He even says it’s His responsibility to make us happy.

The only verse that comes close to something about God making us happy I found in Job 5:17, “Therefore happy is the man whom God corrects, so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” If you’re so inclined, reading to the end of that chapter is quite eye-opening. What this is telling me is that it’s through God’s correction and discipline that we will be “happy” (i.e. find happiness.)

So, I’m just curious. If we took out the word HAPPY and inserted the word HOLY to our various scenarios, sentences, and conversations, I wonder how it would sound. Gary Thomas, one of my favorite authors, has suggested in his writings that God’s real desire for us is to be holy. Holy doesn’t always equate to happiness, but it can lead to joy; joy in knowing that we are living well, serving well, acting well, etc.

So let’s try it and see how it sounds: Instead of “God wants me to be happy in life;” we would say, “God wants me to be holy in life.” “God wants me to be holy in my marriage.”  “God wants me to be holy at my workplace.” Wow! That sounds different! And how different our lives could be if we started doing this!

Perhaps we’ll all try this exercise the next time we feel we deserve something more, better, and/or exciting. Perhaps we’ll please God (make HIM happy!) by doing so!

 

MY EVIL TWIN (WOW! Write On Wednesday! Takes <2.5 minutes to read)

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Personally, I have only wonderful, happy, kind, sweet, lovely, and thoughtful words that make their way from my head and heart to my mouth. It’s my evil twin who seems to have some difficulties! Sometimes she says things she regrets; sometimes things just slip out – things she says she didn’t mean, and sometimes she wants to blame it on someone else for making her say things.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all blame someone else (like an evil twin) for saying the wrong things in the wrong way at the wrong time? I wish I had only happy, kind, and wonderful thoughts that then came out of my mouth, but the truth is I don’t, and I have no one to blame but myself when “those” words come out.

Shouldn’t it just be OK to “let it out” whenever we want to; just say what’s on our mind; give everyone a piece of what we’re thinking? While the bible says we can’t tame the tongue (James 3:8-9) it does matter what we say because when we put the shoe on the other foot and are at the end of harsh words, we don’t like it.

There is a solution! I’ve learned that:

  • The process of words coming out of my mouth start long before they actually make their way out
  • There’s a very short time from my thoughts to what is said!
  • In that short time from head and heart to mouth…God can and will work to get me to think, act, and talk in the right way.

God can use those few seconds (or milliseconds) for me to come to the right conclusion of what I need to say in a right way. But it takes practice. Here’s the drill I try to practice to “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.” (Col 4:6):

  • Take every thought captive. II Cor. 10:5b. “…and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” What does He want us to think about? Are these thoughts really what we should be dwelling on?
  •  Let the mind dwell on good and right things. (read Phil. 4:8)
  • Slow it down: thinking, acting and responding: “Let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” James 1:19
  • Take our walk with the Lord seriously. James 1: 22, “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” Don’t blame others; take responsibility.
  •  Don’t get even; make things right. 1 Peter 3: 9, “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.”
  • And when we mess up, confess it, and ask for forgiveness according to I John 1:8-9, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

It takes practice, but the more I practice, the less of my evil twin I see!

WHAT GETS FED – WILL GROW (WOW! Write On Wednesday: Takes < 2 min.to read.)

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These flowers are from my garden. I grew them. I watered them. And for a short time, they bloomed and yielded beautiful flowers to personally enjoy and give to others. I don’t have a particularly green thumb; admittedly it rained more than I watered them, but none the less, they got the nourishment they needed to grow.

On the other hand, I’ve been given indoor plants. They’ve died. I’ve been told they need to be watered. Real flowers and plants (as opposed to dried or artificial) take a lot of work. Bottom line: if I don’t feed them, they don’t grow. Feed them; they grow.

Similarly:

  • If I read my Bible, I will learn.
  • If I obey what I read in the Bible, I will grow in that wisdom.
  • If I eat too much I will gain weight.
  • If I constantly complain I will grow into a sour old woman.
  • If I feed the sin “that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1) it will grow.

The converse is true. What I don’t feed, won’t grow.

As Joe and I have the privilege to mentor others, we see a trend. Not necessarily a good trend. We see young (and old) married couples ending their marriages because they refuse to feed their relationship with healthy doses of caring, respect, and honesty. (These are the 3 ingredients that make a marriage healthy according to author/counselor/speaker Leslie Vernick.)  We see singles choosing (intentionally) to act upon their desires and lusts feeding the wrong things – emotions, physical pleasure, etc. Some even say, “God will use my sin someday to teach others.” Why not start now and become the learner who does what pleases God?

It sounds so simple and easy; but it’s not. It’s hard. We all have the tendencies to feed our sin, our desires, etc. but it takes purposeful decisions to feed the right things that will yield a flower garden rather than weeds. Still, some insist they’d rather grow, pick, and keep growing weeds; which like sin grows out of control and takes over if left unattended.

What are you feeding? What gets fed – will grow.

 

I SURRENDER vs. I QUIT (WOW! Write.On.Wednesday! Takes < 2 minutes to read.)

“You are like an oak but God is making you into a willow.” Not the words a young wife and mom would welcome hearing from their mother-in-law. But indeed, my mother-in-law (whom I loved) was right.

I have a strong constitution; I know what I believe and I stand firm in it, and I know in whom I believe. I have a clear sense of right and wrong/true and false, strong convictions, and deep love and devotion to family and friends with whom I share healthy relationships (mutually caring, honest and respectful). But I’m also very not perfect. My mother-in-law, others, and I recognize my strengths and limitations.

It’s easy to be strong, confident, bold, and firm when life is going the way you think it should or want it to, but when the hard and cold winds of life blow, it will be the oak branch most likely to snap. The willow will bend and bow.

In the process of “life” (embracing a son with special needs: cerebral palsy, mental challenges, epilepsy and who’ll always be with us, the death of 5 family members within 10 years, and various “life” situations) were stormy winds to help me learn to bow instead of break. I learned, in the midst of many life challenges that I needed to become more like the willow if I wanted to survive the storms. The willow surrenders to the wind; the oak gives up and quits.

Most people I’ve talked to don’t particularly like the storms of life, but seem to be thankful for them. Lessons learned get us through (not necessarily “over”) the challenges and heartache. It takes time, but we learn it’s better to bend and bow in surrender to the Lord than to snap and quit. And the interesting thing: we’re always being tested to see if we’ll surrender or quit.

Are you more like the oak or the willow?

 

 

HYPOCRITES (WOW! Write.On.Wednesday! takes < 2 minutes to read)

None of us is perfect; and I suppose to some extent we’re all hypocrites. If we had to be perfect to go to church, churches would be empty. Yet what keeps the Christians from being hypocritical is admitting our sin and then doing something about it. Doing something about it is called repentance – turning away from sin. The prodigal son in Luke 15 realized his wayward path, came home to ask his father’s forgiveness and changed his ways, even saying he’d serve the father as a hired hand. He was repentant, broken, sorry, and wanted to make things right.

Yet there are many sitting in the church pews week after week, who walk out the doors of church and away from God Monday through Saturday. When we recognize (whether we hear it from the pastor, a friend, a relative, or hearing God’s voice through His word) our sin, we need to seek the Lord for how to stop our sinful ways. To sit in church and listen to excellent teaching about how to follow Christ, the importance of being an example to others by doing what He’s asked, and then to put on a show of piety and holiness one day of the week before we go back to our blatant sin, is making a mockery of God. He is not pleased.

I know He forgives each of us, but when we ignore His word, when we ignore the instruction of others in our lives who care about us enough to confront us of our sin, when we continue in that sin, we become haughty hypocrites. It seems we think we can fool or hide from Him. We individually need to seek Him for the right way of living, the power to live an abundant and fruitful life being directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. We should put aside missions, soup kitchens, serving the poor, teaching Sunday School, and even sitting in church if we are doing these things to look holy to those around us, but have “another life” outside the church. Shame on us for thinking He won’t notice. Shame on us for thinking others won’t notice. Shame on us for thinking we can act one way and live in blatant sin. We need to ask Him to break our hearts so we will want to be restored to our Lord.

We don’t have to be hypocrites…we have a choice.

IS IT ABOUT MY SIN OR YOUR OPINION? (WOW! Write.On.Wednesday! Takes < 2 min. to read)

Not everyone agrees with everything we do. I’ve come to take things people say and put it through the filter of: “Is what they are saying to me about my sin or are they sharing their opinion?” That keeps me focused. I hear what they say and pray about it; if it’s a sin that I didn’t recognize or own up to then I need to do so. If it’s their opinion I seek the Lord for whether I need to heed their advice (perhaps they are His instrument to show me something I need to consider) or move on in what God has for me….then I rest. I can’t be burdened by others opinions – I’d be all over the place and not where I believe God wants me.

As unfortunate as it is, when we step out to do what God created us to do, we might be met with criticism – sadly sometimes from fellow Christians.  In our heart we set out to serve God by using the gifts He’s given and while there are many who will commend us there will be a handful of people who didn’t like something because it wasn’t their style, or preference, or the way they would do it.

I remember once writing someone a letter of encouragement to which the recipient said, “I didn’t think you were sincere in your letter.” It made me recognize and realize that we’re not called to serve God in a win or lose situation, but to use the gifts and talents He’s given whether we’re commended or criticized.

We can appreciate the opinions of others most of the time, but we must to remember that we can’t let everyone sway us with them.

Those are just my opinions…and now you can filter them.

Don’t Pray for Patience…. (WOW! Write.On.Wednesday! takes 2 minutes to read)

Early in my teaching career and as a new Christian, I made it a habit to pray for patience – especially because I was experiencing some challenges teaching high school aged kids. Interestingly, some of the tougher kids just kept getting testier….until one day:

My boyfriend (now my husband, Joe) gently stopped me as we were praying together when I asked for patience. He said, “When you pray for patience it’s like you’re asking the Lord to give you more challenges and struggles, which would lead to needing patience. Instead of praying for patience let’s pray for God to give you wisdom and understanding.”

Immediately I began praying for one particular student who was quite the trouble maker. As I prayed to better understand her and for wisdom in handling her misbehavior, the Lord began (through His word and through prayer) to show me the godly responses I needed with her. After a relatively short time, I recall her (and me) softening and eventually we developed a sweet relationship because I understood her background, her personality, and some of the reasons why she was acting like she did.

That observation and instruction from Joe changed part of my prayer life forever. Never have I prayed for ‘patience’ again, but for wisdom and understanding over these many years.

It has been interesting to watch the Lord give insight in many situations – from people I just didn’t care for, to helping people with their unending struggles, to dealing with challenges in my personal life, our marriage, to raising an adult child with special needs.

A few years later, when I had children in early elementary school years, I ran into this former student who was now, along with me, a mother to a child in the same school. She reflected with me how tough she was back in high school and said, “I don’t know what happened, but I remember it was really rough for a while and then we really liked each other.” I said, “It’s because I prayed to understand you.” She smiled, and as we talked a little further, I think we both understood and knew the source. Maybe that prayer focus I learned so many years ago changed her prayer life, too!

I DON’T WANT TO FIX IT! (WOW! Write.On.Wednesday! Takes @ 3 minutes to read)

“For nothing is hidden, except to be revealed; nor has anything been secret, but that it should come to light.”

Mark 4:22

Just like the hole in my ceiling from the ice and snow damage of the winter is obvious to others when they walk in my kitchen, so are the lumps of troubles, sins, and junk we sweep under the carpet of life. Everyone notices it. They walk in, see the imperfection and keep on talking. I think I know what they’re thinking. Something like, “Wow, I wonder if they’ll ever fix that hole in the ceiling (or lumps in the carpet). It seems like they don’t even notice it.” Well, they’d be right. I don’t notice it – it has become a fixture with which I’m comfortable. AND, I don’t want to fix it. The reason I don’t want to fix it is because I know the mess it will make. To fix my ceiling there will be dry wall dust laying on and sitting in every corner, cupboard, and cranny. How do I know that? I’ve been this route probably 4 other times: different homes; same scenario.

The carpet of life, and the troubles, sins, and junk we sweep under it is so much the same. While everyone else can clearly see the lumps and bumps, we continue to move past them like they don’t exist. WHY? We’ve become comfortable with them. We hide them well. It’s easier to leave the lumps there than it is to fix it. If we fix it that means we’ll be stirring up a lot of mess. It will take time to deal with the whole issue and everything and everyone involved before it’s properly back in working order.

Sadly, as we mentor others, we’ve noticed that point when a person we’re working with just wants to be happy in their sin-filled, junky, troubled life. It would take too much to fix it and why would one bother to fix it when they seem to be hiding it and controlling the outward appearance just fine (or so they think!). That’s the kicker, isn’t it? They think they’re hiding it, but most everyone sees it like a third eye on their face.

They’ve learned to manage their addiction, their lying, their adultery, their spending habits and debt, and all their junk by going to church, serving the community, going to work faithfully, etc. as they try to portray the essence of being a stellar Christian. The problem: they are the only ones who see themselves that way. Little by little the façade breaks down: first in their personal life, then with their spouse, then their family, then workers, friends, and the ripple affect continues. But guess what. They don’t care. They don’t want to make the effort to fix the mess.

There is a great danger in continuing to sweep things under the carpet.  The danger spots are so obvious one has learned to navigate them. It’s done so well that they hardly know they’re there, but others couldn’t miss them! Just one lift of that carpet and everything is exposed.

God does that to our hearts but he wants us to lift the carpet and ask Him how to deal with it all. He lets us know that He sees and knows everything. We might think we are protecting ourselves and our loved ones by sweeping things under the carpet, but nothing can be hidden from God.

We can either take the step to move forward in making things right or simply stay in our troubles, sin, and junk and say, “I don’t want to fix it.” What we think we hide will then affects everyone around us and the rest of us get to try to fix what someone else refused to.

REPENT: Just Do It! (WOW! Write.On.Wednesday! Blog takes 2.25 minutes to read)

Today is the National Day of Repentance. Tomorrow will follow with the National Day of Prayer.

Somehow I never knew about it until today. I’m thankful that I did just learn about it, because yesterday my friend Preston Lund shared something on FACEBOOK. Here are his words:

“What happened to repentance? It’s like ‘as long as I am honest about my sin issue it’s ok.’ I don’t think that’s true. I think repentance somehow activates God’s grace, the imparting of His power to overcome. When we repent with genuine contrition and mourning over sin, then it’s ok because we are working on it; God is working on it. But if you don’t care, God knows and He isn’t going to violate your will and demean His relationship with you. Repent. Just start trying however you can think to start trying. Call someone. Pray this prayer. “I want to want to want to be like You Jesus.” Don’t be prideful, and don’t let my hypocrisy stop you if you see me fail. Just call out now and be saved, be renewed, restore incredibly important fellowship with the God who gave you life, TWICE!!!!”

He understands that repenting is a missing piece of the puzzle of our Christianity and our responsibility as a believer. We miss fellowship with our Lord when we continue in sin and we miss being an example to others who are questioning, wondering, and maybe considering following Christ. We’re not perfect, but when we repent we at least show that we are serious about our relationship with God.

Last week I blogged: The Standard of Measure by Which We Appear to be Holy. Preston’s words embellish what I wrote about. We think we can fool God and man. We think we can “get away” with things, but we can’t. My husband Joe and I often meet with many couples whose marriages are failing. Usually they’re failing because of an affair, but that isn’t the real reason. Peel back the layers on the onion and you’ll find a very pungent odor. Peel back the layers of marriage and you’ll find the root sin of pride along with its other manifestations: selfishness, wanting to be happy at the expense of anyone else, pornography, lust, sexual addiction, selfishness, gluttony, anger, greed, jealousy, envy…..and I’m sure you can add many more to the list.

Let’s take a minute and ask the Lord to reveal our sin to us. THEN, repent of it. REPENT means to turn away from it. Walk away. Run away. BOLT! Don’t look back and don’t do it again. Stop toying with it. Stop playing with it. Stop being tempted by it. STOP IT. Ask those you’ve hurt to forgive you, and make amends to make things right. God has the glue to hold friendships, marriages, and life together. But we have to make the effort to correct our wrongs.

THE KEY: Take the first step and just do it.

THE STANDARD OF MEASURE BY WHICH WE APPEAR TO BE HOLY (WOW! Write.On.Wednesday! @ 2 min. to read)

Justification is proving oneself to be right or reasonable; pronouncing oneself free from guilt and blame (thank you, Mr. Webster) but I also heard it defined as “the standard of measure by which we appear to be holy.” It’s not a direct quote, but it’s my paraphrase as I heard it from Charles Stanley and quickly wrote down (as best as I could) a few weeks ago.

I’ve been mulling over that thought for weeks now. I love it. I hate it. It’s true.

Each of us, no matter what we do, whether it’s…

  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Helpful
  • Sinful
  • Enabling
  • Kind
  • Mean-spirited
  • Making a point
  • Sharing our “view”
  • In a relationship
  • Out of a relationship
  • __________

…..we will justify it to fit our needs, make us look better, and ultimately tell ourselves (as we try to convince others and God) that we are holy and really OK!

Isn’t it so true? Let’s look at a few fast examples:

  • People in bad relationships find all kinds of ways to make it right, make it sound right, make it look right….even though it looks, feels, and is wrong. (Everyone else can see it.)
  •  Parents not disciplining their typically able and developing children have every excuse for why they don’t deal with the misbehavior: my child is fussy, they’re tired, they’re having a bad day, we’re waiting for the diagnosis, I’m tired, I’ve had it, etc. (Everyone knows you’re just not doing what you know you should.)
  •  Choose one that applies: lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, enabling, committing adultery, slandering, gossiping, etc. We all put our own “spin” on why it’s right, OK, and sensible….and it’s usually due to the “other” person who’s made me do it – often because we feel our own needs aren’t being met fully and properly.(Watch carefully as brows furrow and eyebrows rise. It’s their look of utter shock as we think we’ve fooled them!)

AND….we all do it. Catch yourself. Then let’s be honest with our self and instead of justifying our actions, sins, mistakes, preferences, comforts, demands, etc. – own up to what is true, right and honorable. It would change us, our families, and our culture. It would mean we’re taking life and our self seriously. Dare we?