Looking for Him this Season

shepherd-on-the-search

We have had an unseasonably warm fall here in Minnesota, something that has been such a gift this year. So it has been hard for me to get in the “Holiday” mindset. Maybe it is the impending blizzard watch we are under for later in the week or the fact that every store is decorated for Christmas, but thoughts of Christmas were on my mind this morning.

I was remembering the times we spent at my grandparent’s home and how before we opened any gifts on Christmas Eve my grandpa would pause and read us the Christmas story. As a child, I was filled with the excitement and anticipation of what was in the packages under the tree …not of the miracle of Christ’s birth.

But my grandpa recognized something that I now understand more deeply myself…the season should be a celebration of the amazing gift God sent for all of humanity. 

I try and put myself in the place of those we read about in Luke 2. How must Mary have felt, carrying the Son of God inside her? What was the journey like that the wise men took to travel incredible distances to bring gifts to Jesus?

Or the shepherds, have you ever thought about the shepherds?

Typically the shepherd was kind of the low man on the totem poll. They spent their days and nights out in the field with sheep. And yet God sent His angels to the shepherds so that He could announce the coming Christ child.

Luke 2 paints a beautiful picture for us:

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”[d]

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

As a parent, I would love for my kids to see the wonder of Christmas in the birth of Christ and not just in the gifts laying under the tree.

With wish lists and toy guides and elf-on-the-shelf, often Christmas loses its focus on Christ pretty quickly.  So we have to be intentional during the Advent season to bring things back into a right focus.

One of the ways we will be doing that this season is with Dayspring’s Shepherd on the Search kit. In the kit is a book, a small shepherd doll and a box that creates a manger scene. The book tells the kids the journey the shepherd will be on throughout the month of December.

Inviting the kids to go on a journey of their own, each morning the kids will search for where the shepherd might be. His final destination is the stable on Christmas Eve. One of the things that I loved about this kit was that Dayspring has a website specifically dedicated to sharing ideas on how you can incorporate this kit in your day to day life.

This is a fun, yet focused way that you can incorporate the anticipation and celebration of Christ’s birth every day during the Advent season.

Dayspring also has a Christmas CD that features kids singing some of our favorite Christmas Carols! What a wonderful way to create a worshipful environment all season long!

The excitement of presents and new toys will always be something our kids will have, but my hope is that with a daily focus on the miracle of Jesus, we will help establish them a love for the true meaning of the Season.

What are some of the ways you keep Christ present in the Christmas season for your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas!

 

I was provided the Shepherd on the Search kit for free from Dayspring in exchange for my honest review. All stories and opinions are my own.

Love You More

3-crosses-love-you-more

Music has long been a point of heartfelt worship. I don’t get much time alone, but when I do and am in the car, I will crank up the music and belt out worship songs to my God.

Tonight was no exception. It had been a long day already because of the short night the before. Watching, like many of you, the election results come in and wondering at what was next. I finally gave in at about 11pm and went to bed for a few hours. Dominic came to bed a little after 2am with the news.

I knew that no matter what the results there would be people that I love affected. People that strongly supported her and were now dealing with fear, others that thought he was the only choice at a change and saw this as a victory.

I couldn’t sleep and spent the next hour in prayer. Prayer for both the candidates and their families. Prayers for our nation and for unity. I remember seeing something on Facebook awhile back that challenged those who shared negative posts about either side and asked how often we first stopped and prayed before we shared something negative.

I know that I am guilty. Guilty of making assumptions and not doing my own research. Guilty of seeing and believing the worst and not recognizing that person is a child of God just like I am. I no longer want to be part of the problem…but instead I committed to praying for unity and peace, acceptance and kindness, fairness and equality.

I had heard the song “Love You More” by Nicole Nordman many times before. A song about loving God more…sure we all want that don’t we? But tonight I was challenged by the words. How do I do that? How do I love God more?

You see, it isn’t just about me feeling love towards God for all He has done for me. I have LOTS of reasons to be grateful for who He is in my life, and of course I love Him for it. Tonight though I thought maybe, just maybe, it is being love to others that is the best way I can love God more.

Loving those friends that I don’t always agree with.

Taking time to really talk to the people I come in contact with in my community.

Being a light in what seems like a very dark world.

Finding ways to unite with others, to educate myself, and understand another’s point of view.

I love God more when I love well on His people.

I love God more when I pray for our leaders.

I love God more when I let go of judgements and disagreements and seek to find unity with my fellow man.

I don’t have any idea what will happen when the presidency changes hands. I don’t know what shape our country will be in 4 years from today when we are facing yet another election season. But I do know that I can make a difference, in the name of God, by being His representative here.

I want to share the words of Love You More here because I want you to see them. I love how she takes broken, sinful people from the Bible and marries that with God’s incredible love for us. God really has been loving us forever. Chance after second chance. Even when we have run away, blamed Him, cursed Him, crucified Him.

I know I won’t ever love with the unconditional love that God has for me. I am incapable of it. But with God’s grace and guidance I can be His love to others. I am committed to that tonight…won’t you join me?

Love You More – Nicole Nordman

You said, “go and sin no more …”
Though my eyes could not meet Yours
I started running the third time the rooster crowed

You threw a party just for me
Though I squandered everything
I was blinded in the middle of the road

Climbed up in a tree to see You
Swallowed by the sea to flee You
Sold You for a little silver and a kiss

Killed a man to love his woman
Burned a bridge back to Your garden
Hung beside You while you took Your final breath

You’ve been loving me since time began
You’re behind my every second chance

I love You
I’m trying to
Love You more

I’m ready
Please help me
Love You more

I keep thinking there’s a limit
Sure I must be getting near it
When I’ve used up every pardon and regret

But You promise there is freedom
Gathered up the broken pieces
Scattered them as far as East is from the West

You’ve been loving me since time began
You’re behind my every second chance

I love You
I’m trying to
Love You more
I’m ready
Please help me
Love You more

With all the sand that fills the hourglass
With every breath between my first and last

I love You
I’m trying to
Love You more
I’m ready
Please help me
Love You more

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The Unmaking

the-unmaking

Recently I had the opportunity to hear Nicole Nordman perform. She has a very powerful testimony and she shared about  how walking through some of the darkest moments of her life helped her to find God in a new way.

Then she sang this song called The Unmaking. It was incredibly powerful and as I have listened to it over and over again I have realized that this is where I am finding myself once again.

It is coming to that place where we are broken because we can’t manage life on our own. It’s the giving up of the lies we have believed, the things that have shaped us and kept us stuck. It is the letting go of the need to control and finally being ready to trust God with our lives.

The chorus of her song says it beautifully:

This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who You are
Before each beginning
There must be an ending
Sitting in the rubble
I can see the stars
This is the unmaking

I have walked some difficult roads over the past several years. Ones that were hard by my own doing. Through a lot of hard heart work I have come to that place where I am letting go of shame, embracing who God has made me to be. I am finding joy and contentment in where I am (especially with my writing here) and am letting go of the burden of jealousy and envy. Something that has tripped me up for far too long.

Just like the song says, I had to come to that place where I was completely unmade and yet because of my faith, I could trust that God had a plan for it all.

Freedom came from that refining. I wrote an entire 31 Days series that came as a result of that time in my life. I am so grateful that God met me there and I really thought that maybe I was done with my “trying” times for awhile.

But today I had a realization that I once again was going through a refining time.

I am inching closer to 42. When people told me that things would change once I turned 40, I didn’t really think it would happen to me. But (of course) it did happen and over the past almost 2 years I have gotten more physically weak, more tired and deal with back pain every day.

Something had to change. I was tired of making excuses and so I joined an accountability group that’s led by an amazing coach and started on my first round of the 21-day fix exercise program. Guys, it’s HARD. And this morning I shared the following in my accountability group….

“My husband and I were talking to our oldest son a year or so ago and joked that when you turn 40 all bets are off. It gets harder to keep off the weight, to exercise etc. We made up this acronym to describe ourselves. WOLFS. You would think it might mean something strong but no, it stood for Weak, Old, Lazy, Fat and Soft. That’s how I have viewed myself for the past year or more.

Back in 2012 he and I were doing the 30-day shred videos. I was stronger and more fit than I had ever been. I felt great about myself. Then my husband fell off a 15ft extension ladder and shattered his heel bone into 3 pieces. It was a major injury, changed his life. He lives with constant pain and will never run again. He has 10 screws and a plate holding his foot together. It was a miracle he didn’t break his back, leg etc.

Once that happened I felt guilty when I would go exercise because he physically couldn’t. For 4 months he couldn’t even walk on his leg. And so I quit. Once I stopped it was easy not to get back into it, to make excuses.

Today as I did the pilates fix I struggled. At one point I cried. I am so not flexible. I can’t even fully straighten my legs. I always have to follow Kat (the modified exercises) and I am so tired of being a WOLFS.

This is not only a physical battle for me but an emotional and spiritual one. I believe lies much faster than I do truths. I get discouraged and quit when it gets hard. This time I want something different. So while I am discouraged at how poorly I do on the exercises, I am determined to keep going. I am only 4 days into the actual program. But I have done at least 20 minutes of hard exercise 9 out of 11 days. That’s huge for me.

I can do this. Tomorrow I will get up and do the next cardio workout in the program. I will probably have to stop and my body will hurt, but I am getting stronger. And I will see results. I am holding on to that this morning.”

Sharing that truth felt like a weight lifted.

But laying on the floor this morning I realized that I was in that place of brokenness once again. I could stay there and feel sorry for myself, or I could commit to getting back up and working for my best health.

I don’t know where you are today, what needs rebuilding in your life, but I am guessing you are stronger than you realize. God has equipped you and will strengthen you and even in the rubble you can see the beauty…the hope that’s available.

If you are holding onto lies, I am praying you would ask God to reveal the truth. And remember that when we are at our “bottom”, the only place we can look is up. I encourage you to listen to the entire song The Unmaking…I hope it blesses you like it has me!

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31 Days of Fervent Prayer – Just the Beginning

Fervent Prayer

Well friends, what can I say? It has been a fun and challenging journey for the past 30 days. I hope more than anything that you have done some seeking on your own and discovered how important having a strong, fervent prayer life is.

I know it won’t always be easy. As we have learned, the enemy is constantly attacking us. He wants to see us broken, stressed, overwhelmed and as far from God as possible. If he can keep us busy enough, mad enough, distracted enough, selfish enough…he will do it. Anything to drive a wedge between us and the abundant life God has for us.

But we have a weapon. A powerful weapon that we can use to fight against these attacks and that is prayer!

So my biggest prayer here for you on this last day of October would be that this journey towards fervent prayer would just be the beginning.

Tomorrow will be another day to do battle. Another day to put on the armor so that you can withstand the fiery darts of the enemy. Another day to seek God in all things and to remain alert and aware of the enemy’s schemes.

I also hope that after this month you will have walked away changed. Maybe you have started a prayer journal and you are documenting the requests and the answers so that you don’t forget. Or perhaps you are getting on your knees and establishing a new routine before you start the day. Or you are writing out scripture on your prayer cards and hanging them in your prayer closet (or armoire).

If we have done the hard work of building a routine of fervent prayer we will see the results. No, not every prayer will be answered in the way that we might hope. But we will likely be more aware of all the ways that God is working.

After studying fervent prayer and all the ways the enemy comes at us, we are wiser. We can see more clearly and have learned to fight the battles with a power that only comes from God. We have full access to Him, may we never forget that!

So I encourage you to keep going. I think that reading and re-reading Fervent again and again will only reveal more. I have different things underlined and highlighted from each time I have been through it.

Yes, this is just the beginning.

We are stronger, smarter, suited up and ready to walk in the callings that God has for us.

We are ready to march around our walls and declare victory in God’s name! We have spouses, kids, parents, siblings and so many more who need our prayers. We need to take what we have learned and get to it!

Let this last day of the month be the beginning of a lifelong journey of fervent prayer!

Lord, we just thank You for all You have taught us through this journey. Thank you that we have such intimate access to You through prayer. Lord,  I know we will face challenges and disappointments in the coming weeks and months. Please guard our hearts and our minds. Give us Your strength so that we can go forward in Your name and Your power! Thank you for the transformations that have taken place over the past month. Stir our hearts that we would continue to seek to know You more! In Jesus Name, Amen!

31 Days of Fervent Prayer – Wisdom

Fervent Prayer

James 3: 13-18 13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Some heavy words to start our day today but man did they challenge me when I was looking at the chapter in Fervent on relationships.

One of the things I like to do as I am studying God’s Word is to read the passages in different versions of the Bible. The BibleGateway app is wonderful for things like this! I use an ESV Bible, but at times the Message Bible offers a more “plain language” view and it is particularly relevant here.

13-16 “Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here’s what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It’s the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn’t wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn’t wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn’t wisdom. It’s the furthest thing from wisdom—it’s animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you’re trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others’ throats.

17-18 Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.”

Whenever we are trying to look better than others, things fall apart. Can I get an Amen!

But when I stop and look at my own behavior in relationships, isn’t that what I find myself doing? The need to fit in, to belong, can often translate into a striving for success so that we appear like we have it all together. This can lead to pride.

Pride in my life is a bad thing!

I start puffing myself up, making myself look good and then I start to think “hey, I’ve got this life managed pretty well…” I stop praying, stop seeking God’s wisdom and start relying on my own. What is that saying? Pride comes before the fall?

Each and every time friends…each and every time!

I want to be remembered as someone who is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings. Isn’t that what we all want?! But I can’t do that and be fighting for my place at the top at the same time. I want people to see Jesus through me, in all areas of my life.

Priscilla said this, “The magnet that draws other people out of darkness toward the light and hope of Jesus Christ is so often not the A-B-C evangelism presentation they hear but the one they see – the recognizable change and difference in people who claim to be at peace with God themselves.” Fervent p.174

As we walk through the end of this journey of Fervent Prayer I hope that we would be stirred to seek God’s wisdom for our lives. That we would be humbled and gracious towards others. That we would be that light in a dark world. That we would daily seek God for the strength to do those things. Without prayer, without God’s help, I am a hot mess.

But through Him and because of Him I can build relationships with others, disagree and be respectful at the same time, offer compassion and mercy to those suffering around me. I can’t do these things on my own, I need God’s help. Today I am grateful that His work isn’t finished with me yet. That I have the opportunity to make a difference because He has made a difference in me.

Lord, we just thank and praise You for who You are. We ask Lord that You would pour out Your wisdom over us. Give us eyes to see Your will, hearts that seek to love others the way You loved us. This life is a gift, help us to be the kind of person that people will know, we are different because of You. May our lives bring You the glory and honor You deserve! In Jesus Name, Amen!

31 Days of Fervent Prayer – Peace and Unity

Fervent Prayer

“Together we are a mighty force. Satan knows that. And by remaining united, we let him feel that.” Fervent p.171

We are in the home stretch friends, can you believe it?! Priscilla addresses the final strategy when she looks at how the enemy can and does attack our relationships with others. And more specifically, our relationships with other Christians.

If you have spent any time online recently you have likely seen Christians on both ends of the spectrum. Especially in a presidential race…everyone has an opinion about who is best, or worst. Labels are thrown around and division can happen quickly!

This is right where the enemy wants us to be.

This fictional quote (not a real C.S. Lewis quote) was shared all over FB, and while it wasn’t actually in Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, it is an interesting look at how the enemy may work in situations such as these.

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration, and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself. Keep up the good work.  Uncle Screwtape

How easy it is to become divided from one another when we are focused on all the problems we believe are out there and refusing to see our part in it?!

We have been attending a wonderful church in a community close to ours since we moved to Minnesota. It can be hard to find a place to “belong” in a new town and it was so important for us to find a solid, biblical church. Even after the first week, we felt welcomed. It was a good fit.

But then something happened to me. I started focusing on what I thought everyone else was doing together. I began to feel that I (we) weren’t being included and the pity pot of “poor me” became by close companion. I thought “if only they’d invite us….this would finally feel like home.”

That became my focus week after week. But here’s the deal, I didn’t do anything about it either. I waited for the invitation, but never did the inviting myself. I craved community but didn’t want to do any work to cultivate it.

I felt jealous and I misjudged people. I made myself pretty unapproachable. I would come in, find a seat and not talk to anyone. I am an introvert by nature so some of it is who I am…but I made myself seem closed off when I put up my walls. And then I blamed others when I felt alone.

The enemy works on our insecurities.

I have long struggled to feel like I belong. And when I kept myself disengaged from community, expecting everyone else to just come to me…my feelings of rejection built. Rejection led to resentment and I have already shared what that can do in my heart!

Then one Sunday morning our pastor preached on community and something he said struck a chord with me. I had been waiting on others instead of looking for ways to offer the very community I was seeking to those around me.

Of course the enemy wants to see those in the church in disharmony! If he can cause a division, he wins. We must fight back with prayer!

Priscilla says this: “Prayer helps us stay focused on bigger things, on much more eternal things than the petty stuff that threatens to puff itself up beyond actual size and become some huge deal it doesn’t deserve to be. In prayer we experience the kind of hard-fought peace that unites us into an army of soldiers for Christ.” Fervent p.172

Are you feeling left out? Pray about it.

Are you struggling with the opinions of a fellow believer? Pray about it.

Seek God in all these areas, and with prayer we can ask for clarity. We can pray for direction and seek out our part in a specific matter. We can pray for courage to take some action that would foster positive change. We often don’t have the grace to handle these situations without God, so pray first. He will guide your steps!

1 Cor. 12:25 “…that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

1 John 3:18 “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Lord, we know the enemy seeks to draw us away from one another. To disrupt our sense of community and belonging among believers. Lord guide us, especially in our interactions with other believers. Help us to remain united, to be a light with one another. Let there be no place for disharmony and may we choose to always be in prayer for our relationships with one another. In Jesus Name, Amen!

31 Days of Fervent Prayer – Extending Grace

Fervent Prayer

Yesterday we talked about unforgiveness. And believe me when I say that I understand in a real way how difficult it can be to forgive someone, to let it go. But I have found in my own life that when I am unwilling to forgive, I am bound in chains.

Freedom comes from releasing the hurt to God, extending grace (even when it is undeserved) and giving up the “right” to punish someone for how they have hurt you.

Priscilla said this and it just hit home for me: “Genuine freedom and renewed fervency are waiting for you on the other side of forgiveness. And the forgiveness you don’t have any desire to give right now can be amazingly enabled through prayer. When galvanized with the living truth of God’s Word, fervent prayer is the bucket that can dip down into the reserves of God’s strength and pull up all the resolve you need for releasing other people from what they owe you.” Fervent p 161

With fervent prayer we can access God’s strength. With fervent prayer we can fight against the enemy who wants to see us angry, bitter and resentful. Knowing how poisonous resentment can be to us we have to find a way to remove it from our lives. Only God can change our hearts and our minds. Let Him take what is hurting and broken and restore it!

It can still be a struggle though, I get it! In those times I often have to look to God’s Word for the reminder about how grace was extended to me first. God set an example through the death and sacrifice of Jesus. A sinless God who took on my sins so that I could be free.

Ephesians 2:1-10 is a favorite passage of mine. Evidence of those “But God” moments and a reminder to treat others as He has treated me. And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

It is easy for me to sit and think of all the ways I have been slighted or hurt by others. It is much harder (because it requires humility) for me to be honest about the multitude of ways I have done the damage myself. I am not innocent either and if I want grace extended to me when I hurt someone…shouldn’t I be willing to do the same?

And here is something that jumped out at me when I was reading those verses in Ephesians that hasn’t impacted me before. God didn’t just send His Son to pay the penalty for my sins. That alone, that forgiveness, would have been enough.

But God, who is full of mercy and grace, chose to make us alive through Christ AND He says we will be raised up and seated with Him in the heavenly places so that He can show us his immeasurable riches. WOW!

God is overflowing with grace and love for us. How can we not do the same to those we come in contact with? When we spend time in prayer seeking to know God, asking for help in our weakness and praying for His grace to flow through us I think that the way we respond to hurt may be radically transformed.

Yes, we live in a sinful, fallen world and at times it is down right rotten to us. But when we access God’s power, through fervent prayer, we can bring light into the darkness.  

Lord, Your love overwhelms us. You pour out grace and mercy over us and yet at times we struggle with offering grace to those that have hurt us. Help us Lord to see others as You see them. May we remember the sacrifice that was made on our behalf and may we look to You for help in those times that showing mercy is difficult. Thank you for providing the ultimate example of what extending grace looks like. In Jesus Name, Amen.

31 Days of Fervent Prayer – Unforgiveness

Fervent Prayer

“Unforgiveness is a strategic design, craftily implemented by your enemy to outwit you, to cripple your effectiveness in prayer and your power to stand against him victoriously.” p153 Fervent.

I spent a lot of years stuck in the pit of unforgiveness.

Unable or unwilling to forgive those who have hurt me, resentment became a close companion. It was easy to point my fingers and blame. It became second nature to say “I wouldn’t feel this way if you hadn’t done xyz…”

Hate and anger would fester. I quickly came to that place where I was bitter all the time and I was unable to see the good in any situation. Have you ever found yourself there? Bitter, angry and resentful and stuck in unforgiveness?

I remember one morning, sitting in front of the mirror to get ready for work, and I looked at myself and didn’t recognize who was staring back at me. I felt dark and ugly inside and I needed help.

I have heard it said that resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

Oh how this was true in my life. The people, places or things that I was upset about weren’t hurting like I was inside. I suffered alone and thought my anger would “make them pay.” Instead, I was paying with my mental, spiritual and emotional health!

Let me share an example from my own life.

Years ago I started working at a bank. I didn’t know anything about banking and started as a teller. I quickly was promoted to the customer service phone banking center. A friend of mine at the time was looking for something new and I told her about some openings we had in our department. She applied and was hired.

Months later a “lead” position became available and this friend and I were the two people vying for the spot. She had become close friends with the department manager and spent time out of the office with her. We both went through the interviews and she was offered the job over me.

When I asked the manager why I didn’t get the job she said it was because she heard that I was looking for another job outside of the bank. They didn’t trust that I was reliable and would stay. Those things said about me were not true and I was so upset. I was sure that I knew who had told those lies, but it was too late, the decision had been made.

I felt hurt and betrayed. A friend had sold me out to advance her career. I immediately cut her from my life. I didn’t confront her to hear her side of the story. I believed she was the one who had said those things about me and in my mind our friendship was over.

Soon after I applied for and was hired for a different promotion within the bank. It was something that I couldn’t have applied for had I gotten the other promotion. Through that job I had the opportunity to advance in ways I had not planned or expected. In the long run, that no was a gift.

But despite that, I held onto the resentment.

I spoke poorly about her to others, I refused to let that betrayal go and acted rudely towards her if we came into contact with one another. I wanted her to hurt because she had hurt me.

Today I am just sad about how I handled everything. Honestly, I don’t know that our friendship could have been restored…but I certainly didn’t act in a Christ-like way. I had the chance to show grace and instead I spewed hatred. That isn’t how I want to be remembered.

Someone in my bible study shared that when you let someone off your “hook”, you are putting them on God’s hook instead. He sees all, He knows. But what if I missed an opportunity to be grace to someone who didn’t know God’s grace in a real and tangible way. That is my regret.

So today I use that situation as a reminder to me. I didn’t like the way I felt during those years. I don’t feel good when I am holding onto anger and resentment. Today when I am hurt by someone I try and pray for them.

It is hard to be angry at someone while praying a blessing over their life.

It doesn’t always mean that the relationship can be restored to the way it had been before the hurt…but it does mean that I am letting go and letting God handle the hurts. There is freedom in that.

Through prayer we can bring those hurts to God. He understands, He can bring peace into the darkest hearts. But we have to be willing to let go of our desire to hurt back. Easier said than done at times…I know! But again, it brings freedom and I think we all need that!

Lord, we come to you with our hurts. We know that You are a God who restores. Help us Lord to let go of resentments, to stop living in unforgiveness so that we can walk in freedom. We thank you Lord that you gave us the greatest example of grace. Help us to show grace to those that have hurt us as well. We know that often times we will only be able to do it in Your name and because of Your power! We need You moment by moment Lord! In Jesus Name, Amen!

31 Days of Fervent Prayer – Making Room for the “Better”

Fervent Prayer

Yesterday we looked at how our pressures/schedule can keep us overwhelmed, overworked and just too busy. And often this cycle can pull us away from God. So many of us get comfortable living this way that we don’t recognize the damage it can cause. I said that I often have worn “busy” as a badge of honor. I have begun to equate value to how busy I am, not realizing the sacrifices I am making to keep up.

But it is hard to say no.

It’s difficult to have an appropriate balance between our home/work/personal time when there are so many things vying for our attention. And if you struggle with the “need to please” like I do, you may find yourself wanting to do it all, and perfectly, at that.

We can run at this pace for a time and then often times, something has to give. That’s what happened for me. Our work schedule was running us ragged, I had said yes more than I had said no. Dominic was involved in an outside board within the community and I had a commitment with my women’s bible study at church.

All good things. Being involved in the community, good. Having the accountability of a bible study, good. Running a successful business, good. But there are times that God is calling us to something more, maybe even something better.

That happened to us earlier this fall. We were invited to participate in a leadership course of sorts with a few others from our church. It was a 40-week commitment. We knew from previous attendees that there was a lot of reading. A LOT. We would meet once a week for a few hours and then have homework that would need to be completed before the next meeting.

It was an opportunity to grow and learn, develop and define our understanding of God and it would challenge us to take our faith life to the next level. But to do so would require giving up some of the good things we were involved with. In looking at our schedules we knew that if we were going to give this class the time it needed, something had to give.

And so we stepped away from a few of our commitments. I really struggled with leaving my bible study. I love the women in that group. They were there and supported me in one of my hardest times last year. They encouraged me and without them (and God of course) this 31 Day series wouldn’t exist.

It was hard to give up something that I really enjoyed. But I also felt very called to this new class. It was a chance for Dominic and I to do something together. And we needed that too. I think that God rewards our obedience in tough decisions like this one.

This class, while tough and full of A LOT of reading (I am serious even for this book nerd, it’s a mountain of reading!) is growing and stretching me. To keep up with the homework I have set back the alarm again and am back to spending my early mornings learning about God. I am getting back into a routine that is filling me, not draining me.

But it started with recognizing and admitting that I can’t do it all. And that sometimes I have to give up good things to dive into the better things.

Is there something in your life that is keeping you from the best God has for you? Pray over that today and ask God to reveal areas that may need to be trimmed from your life so that you can fully walk in His plans for you!

Lord, so often we fill our days with good things, but we forget to stop and ask You if there are better things you might have for us. Help us to be brave in examining our schedules to see where changes are needed. Lord may we have humble hearts that long to seek You and do Your will.  In Jesus Name, Amen.

31 Days of Fervent Prayer – When Pressures = Slavery

Fervent Prayer

Every year in October we have a few weeks where our work schedule slows way down. The majority of our clients are farmers and so during this time of year they will be in the fields for harvest and we get a bit of a break.

This year it felt like a gift of time where we were finally able to breathe.

We have been running at full speed and at times it feels like too much. And this is just our work schedule, then we factor in our kids, our new bible study, time with extended family and it is a wonder that we can even find time to sleep.

Priscilla talks about the pressures we face in Strategy 8 of Fervent. When I read these words I felt that she was talking to me…“Ever notice how many of the pressures in your life resemble slavery?….Slaves don’t rest. Slaves just work.” p135

One of my biggest struggles has always been setting appropriate boundaries. Especially when it comes to our work schedule. Rules of customer service dictate that the client is always right and that translated into my rarely saying no. Fear sets in and I wonder if I say no to an over-full calendar if they will come back.

But trying to be everything for everyone can leave us harried and worn out.

And once again we are right where the enemy wants us.  “If I were your enemy, I’d make everything seem urgent, as if it’s all yours to handle. I’d bog down your calendar with so many expectations you couldn’t tell the difference between what’s important and what’s not….” p133

In those moments where I am so incredibly stressed by my workload/schedule, I am not at peace. And I really don’t have time or energy for God. I am a morning person, so getting up early to have some quiet time works for me. But earlier this year I was so exhausted that I started setting my alarm back in the morning. A half hour quickly became a full hour to sleep in. I wasn’t spending time in God’s Word. I wasn’t praying. I was barely hanging on.

I could tell a difference in my attitude towards those closest to me. I was easily irritated and short-tempered. I didn’t pause and pray. And while I wasn’t distant from God because I was angry at Him…I didn’t feel close to Him because I wasn’t spending any time fostering that relationship.

Tomorrow I will dive into this a little more and will be sharing how I recently had to give up on some good things to free up my schedule for some specific things God was calling me to.

Today I encourage you to take a look at your schedule. Are there things that bring you joy each day? Things that feel like a burden? Maybe there is something that has become a chain of slavery in your life. An expectation you have for yourself, or believe someone else has for you that is driving you for the wrong reasons. An inability to rest or to find time to be with God each day. Maybe there is something that needs to be changed so that you too can breathe again?

Get a list together and tomorrow we will talk more about how we can say no, and maybe even give up control so that we can have more peace in our days. I know God doesn’t want the yoke of slavery on us…but how often do we carry it anyways? I for one have had enough!

Lord, we so often wear “busy” like a badge of honor in our lives. But when we are too busy that we can’t even make time for You, we often find ourselves falling apart. Help us as we examine those areas in our lives that need cutting. Give us the courage to say no to the good things so that we can follow Your path and the best things that You have for our lives. In Jesus Name, Amen

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