Category Archives: Relationship with Self

PRIDE

book-791884_640PRIDE! It’s that dirty little five-letter word that creeps into your heart, mind and soul and robs you of your self worth. Most of all, it is most often what blocks  our relationship with God. As I deepened my study of wisdom and began to realize it was all about our relationships, it was obvious that the first relationship that must be right in my life was my relationship with God.

Now I’m a Baptist preacher’s daughter and have sat in more pews and heard more sermons than most. I graduated from Bible college at the top of my class, have memorized chapters of Scripture (still not so good with quoting the references). I’ve worked in the church/Christian school, sung in the choir, taught Sunday School for over 50 years, led VBS, hosted missionaries, tithed, been somewhat faithful to prayer and Bible study (I’ve actually worn out a Bible or two), taken bus loads of teens on youth trips and summer camps (which ought to earn me some special reward in heaven), swatted mosquitoes at tent revivals, drunk gallons of sweet tea at church socials and made my share of covered dishes and pies. But when I came face to face with Proverbs 8:13 I had to take out my list of amazing accomplishments that I could wave before heaven and come face to face with the fact that none of that matters. Nope–none of it.

“To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

Instead what I saw was pride. Where had it come from? How had it crept in? As I began to look inside my heart I realized I had a lot of pride. Digging it out seemed hopeless–keeping it out impossible. But if a relationship with God was my true prize, then I had to get down to business with God. Over these past few years God has taken me on a journey to reveal just how much pride is in my heart. We have had to bring it out to the surface and I have had to repent of it. It’s worthless. Even worse–it’s what separates me from Him. He is what I desire. I can honestly say there has been no pride in this effort–it is very humbling. It has been very painful. How and when do we begin to take credit for what God is doing? When do we become self-sufficient instead of solely reliant upon Him? Oh, the deceiver has been busy in my life (and no doubt in yours) because He wants to separate us from our God and to hinder the blessings He has reserved for us.

God is teaching me how to boast and that my boast is found only in Him. Praise God He loves and forgives, He cleans and restores and He uses and rewards. So today I thank Him for His unfailing love (translated as loving kindness in several versions) toward me even though I am a sinner lost and undone. So I rest in and celebrate the fact that He doesn’t discard me because I’ve failed, but instead He has chosen to forgive me.  I praise God for His tender mercies and lovingkindness. I delight in Him and His attributes. Unworthy, yet He has set my feet on the solid rock (Psalm 40:2) and He alone is the lifter of my head (Psalms 3:3).

Jeremiah 9:23

This is what the Lord says:
“Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
    or the powerful boast in their power,
    or the rich boast in their riches.
But those who wish to boast
    should boast in this alone:
that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord
    who demonstrates unfailing love
    and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth,
and that I delight in these things.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!

What are you proud of? Be honest–make the list. . .give it to God and let His Spirit speak wisdom to your heart as you begin to recognize your pride.  Then join hands with Him as the Spirit begins to root out your pride.

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THE THRONE ROOM

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When I stand before God each morning in His throne room, it’s a time of transformation. You see, He knows everything about me so there’s no need for facades. I know that He knows (as do I) that I can do nothing apart from Him. So we take out my heart and take a good look at all that is in there: sin, covetousness, insecurity, hurts, frustrations, fear. . .and pride. All things He did not plant there. Things that cause me to act in ways that are not His ways. It becomes obvious that my time has been spent covering up what He and I know is there until I finally come clean before Him and ask His help at cleaning out my heart so He can create in me a new heart–one that mirrors His heart.

This week God has revealed the falseness of pride to me in a new way. So let’s look at some definitions of pride vs. humility. I found these definitions on Askville by Google.

Humility

Humility is true self-knowledge, the good with the bad. It is being able to be comfortable with who you actually are and not trying to pretend to be what you are not. It gives you pride when you have earned it by your talents and accomplishments and shame when you fall short. It accepts that you are far from perfect and keeps striving. It is honest.

False Pride

False pride is presenting yourself to others (and yourself) as something you are not – a man without flaws. Joe Cool, always in the know. The smartest guy in the crowd always and never in doubt. It is pride not earned-style over substance. Not honest.
False pride is trying to seem humble in order to gain the attention of others.

I found it interesting that shame is the result of false pride. Shame is sure to come because we are always going to fall short in our humanity. Oh how the deceiver wants us to believe the opposite is true. Oh the many tentacles of false pride that we each have that wrap themselves around our hearts. I once thought I could be a great wife and mother, church worker/Christian leader, employee–Not so. Even though I gave it my best shot, read the books and tried to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, I must come face-to-face with my inabilities–my miserable inabilities. In fact, in looking back it is obvious that the more I tried, the harder and longer I worked in my own strength, the more destruction I created. Oh, the deceitfulness of self.

So I find myself on my knees in the throne room.  There’s a movie coming out called WAR ROOM. I have such a room in my house. Mine’s not a closet–it’s a sunroom with lots of windows so I can look up to Him and walk into His throne room. And in the throne room God and I get down to business: my heart business. (And I never get up again until I’ve also bathed each of my family members in prayer–it’s the least I can do for I know I have been bathed in prayer by my parents and grandparents before me).

As I enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, I come boldly before the throne–because He is my Abba Father. Now I didn’t do anything to deserve this relationship or privilege except accept His offer of forgiveness. Sometimes I rush in with singing and joy, but more often than not it is with tears and heartache.

When I’m in the throne room, my false pride and self righteousness fall to the ground like a dirty garment waiting to be gathered and tossed away–it’s not even worth cleaning or recycling. Trust me, there’s no GoodWill that would want this garment. And in its place, He places on me a garment of His righteousness that envelopes me with:

*  True humility. The interesting thing is that even though I stand completely exposed, I don’t feel condemned.

*  True love. I know that He, if no one else, loves me just as I am.

* True acceptance. While others may condemn, when the One who is PERFECT loves you just as you are, there is acceptance.

* True encouragement. He doesn’t say “you can do better” but He says, “Let me show you the way.”

* True cleansing. We agree on some old attitudes and ideas that should be rooted out. We replace my false pride and failures with His vision and mission.

* True strength–strength to get up and to try again.

* True possibilities–can I correct the failures of the past? No. But I know that with Him all things are possible–even the remaking of me and the creating of a future I dream of. He can turn ashes into gold.

* True satisfaction. Most of all I become satisfied–satisfied that if He is the only one Who loves and accepts me, it is enough–more, MUCH, MUCH MORE, than enough.

In the throne room, I have found what I searched for–acceptance, love and reassurance. I can quit my searching for He has filled my longing heart. Before Him I am accepted with all the good, bad and ugly. Not that He is going to let me stay the way I walked in–He is making me new. And, oh how I need to be made new. It’s painful facing my failures, areas of false pride and wicked ways. . .ways that separate me from Him. But I want nothing more than a face-to-face relationship with Him. So if He is my all-in-all, I find I hate anything within me that might separate us. And I’m encouraged that He desires such a relationship with me for He gently points out the offending things in my heart and we agree they have to go. Oh, I didn’t get this right the first time, and I still stumble around on my journey…but He is quick to come beside me and help me. So I press on, for with Him, all things are possible.

The first step was to quit striving and come into the throne room. This took purposeful intent and agreement with God that there was work to be done in my heart. He’s waiting on you as well.

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JUST BREATHE

dentist-674654__180Yesterday, when I should have been posting a blog, I chose elective dental work. What was I thinking? At my recent cleaning, my dentist suggested we might consider replacing a crown because she was afraid it was aging and it would protect my tooth and possibly prevent a root canal if I was proactive in replacing it. FAT CHANCE OF THAT! So as much as I hate dental work (which is probably about as much as you hate it), I set the the appointment and actually showed up yesterday morning. The worst part of any dental procedure is the shot(s) to numb the pain. Let’s just say that we had to do five series of shots to get that tooth numb. And when the drilling and grinding was FINALLY all done, she squirts something on the tooth that made the nerve react even though it was really numb by that point. So pack it all up and ship me off to get a root canal. Exactly why did I elect to do this? Oh, it must have been that $1,100 in my bank account with no place to go.

Besides the many complications and frustrations of that day, the one thing that stuck out in my mind was when my dentist stopped everything and gave me lessons in breathing. “Carol, take a deep breath in and let it out–like this. In and out, in and out.” Now I’ve had many years of breathing experience so if things hadn’t been so dire, I’d have laughed at how crazy it is for a grown woman to need breathing lessons. And every minute or so she’d say, “Carol, you are not breathing again.” Well, what did she expect? Lessons or no lessons, it was a hold your breath and pray it all goes away kind of day.

How many times in my life have I held my breath or tucked my head back under my proverbial pillow in hopes that it would just all go away? It never did. The theory that “If I don’t think about it or look at it, maybe it’s not there” has never worked for me.  It’s always there. Life is just full of these difficult things that come at you like a curve ball when you least expect it–when you are trying to do all the right things. Once I realize it is there (and not likely to go away), I always rolled up my sleeves, put my head down and tunnel through. It’s truly like being in a tunnel where all the air is stale and so you hold your breath and just keep tunneling. Unfortunately, all that tunneling took a lot of effort and I forgot to breathe along the way. I focused so hard on the problem that I failed to ultimately see all the good around me. All I saw was the tunneling that needed to be done. And so as not to beat myself up too bad, someone needed to be tunneling. But maybe I could have taken a little break now and again just to breathe. . .just to enjoy life. . .just to enjoy those around me whom I cherish and adore.

So now that I’ve had lessons on how to breathe–that take it in and let it out effort–I’m going to try it in other parts of my life. Life is messy. It’s unpredictable. It can be painful. . .but if you breathe, it’s a lot easier to bear.

So take a breath today. Lay your burdens down for just a little while. . . and breathe. Breathe in His goodness. Exhale your tension and pain. Psalms 150:6 says, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” So tomorrow when I have the root canal, I’ll turn my thoughts to praise and try breathing.

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IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS

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There are many examples of God speaking to man through a dream. These dreams were about God’s plans; e.g., Abraham, Gideon, Joseph, the king of Egypt, Jacob and even the revelation to Mary & Joseph. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us God has a plan for each of us. In the case of those listed, God revealed His plans to them in a dream–but what about you and me? What are God’s dreams or plans for us? Can we just simply muster up our emotional and physical ability and carve out a dream and begin to pursue it until we make it a reality? Possibly. Certainly the dream it/achieve it model of thinking, planning and execution is alive and well. But these are man’s dreams for himself. How can you tell the difference between God’s plans for you and something you’ve carved out for yourself?

It will most likely be something that is not on your radar screen. It won’t be a plan that you would even consider and probably one you’d never ask for–it’s God’s plan, not yours. And God’s ways are never man’s ways. In the case of each of these individuals, God’s plan was way bigger than anything they could have dreamed up for themselves. It wasn’t anything on their bucket list.

It was also not anything they could set out to achieve on their own–God’s dreams are IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS for man. God-sized dreams require a God-sized power. They can be frightening and overwhelming for a mere mortal. I think Mary summed it up when the angel told her she was expecting a child and she responded, “How can this be?” (Luke 1:34)

When God shows you His plans, you are most likely going to be in disbelief . “Not me?” or “Why me?” seem to be the usual response. It may even be so frightening or overwhelming that you argue with God; e.g., Moses. We mere mortals don’t often sign up for God-sized things that are not in our power because we know we are bound to fail. It’s great to talk about depending on God and scary to actually do so. Can you just imagine Joshua’s misgivings about God’s battle plan for taking Jericho?

When God shows you His dream or plan for you, others aren’t going to believe you. When Joseph shared his dream with his brothers, it stirred up jealousy, hatred and revenge. It worked out better for those that held their dreams close to their heart as in the case of Mary, ” but Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart (Luke 2:19).” Can you just imagine the disbelief and derision she would have encountered if she had told her friends and family that an angel came to her in a dream and told her she had conceived of the Holy Spirit? If they got past the fact that she was trying to explain away a pregnancy and realized she thought she was giving birth to the Christ child, no doubt psych-therapy for narcissistic personality disorder was in her future.

What is God’s dream or plan for you? One thing each of these men or women had in common was that they walked and talked with God. You’re going to have to get in His presence if you want to know His plans for you. You will have to be willing to exchange your plans and agendas for His plan. You are going to need an extraordinary amount of faith–the kind of faith that conquers fear. There’s heart work ahead if you are going to prepared for the journey of a lifetime with the God of the Universe–the one who has all authority in heaven and in earth.

The story of these men and women in the Bible are stories of a God-sized plan in their lives. God has a plan for your life, too. Don’t get so caught up pursuing the things of this world that you miss the extraordinary opportunity to serve the Great I AM. When you lay down all your plans and dreams and show up in the throne room and say, “Here am I, use me,” you are ready to begin the journey with God as you pursue His plans for your life.

It’s your choice. He’s waiting and calling you.

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MEMORABLE or BLEACHABLE MOMENTS

IMG_3328 2Ah, yes. . .memories. They are like sweet perfume that fills the air, reaching into the deepest places of the subconscious, surrounding us with sensations and feelings–real and poignant, yet elusive. I rubbed one of those sayings you can buy in a tube onto my wall over the sofa–it says, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” And oh how true that is–MOMENTS–both good and bad. And it only takes a moment.

I remember the moment I met my husband for the first time, the first time he asked me out, our first kiss and saying “I do.” Moments forever etched in my mind. But I also remember crazy things–like getting lost and not being able to find our way back to a main road–oh, the frustration. I remember his disapproval when I squeezed the toothpaste right in the middle instead of from the bottom of the tube–his demanding I do this his way. (Now I tell you this as an example because we have long since laughed about this one–and have compromised by just buying two tubes). I remember and cherish holding my baby girl, but with equal clarity I remember watching as they lowered her casket into the ground–intense and unimaginable joy and grief wrapped together in my mind. I remember the birth of each of my children and the many joys of watching them grow up. . .and the call they’ve been in an accident or the disappointment when their love did not call them to obedience. MEMORIES. We’ve all got them. . .good and well, not so good. And just today I was struck by the memory of a dear friend–oh, the laughs we have shared. But overshadowing all that joy is the harsh reality that God has taken her home and there is emptiness in my heart–for me, but more so for her family. When I look in the rearview mirror of my life there are successes and failures, trials and rewards, laughter and tears, JOY & PAIN–wrapped together in my memories.

So which is it–the good or the bad? Unfortunately, life is a road with many twists and turns. There is joy, but there is also sadness and disappointment, success and failure, hopes and dreams yet discouragement. The measure of a man or woman is not the things that happen to them, but the way they deal with each circumstance that comes their way. Do you let your negative experiences become road blocks or do you power through toward your dreams and potential? Do you let a misunderstanding rob you of a relationship or do you rise above it and rebuild? Do you focus on your hurt feelings or do you seek understanding of others? Do you accept the things you cannot change and trust God in those difficult days of loss?

I like to think each of us is writing our story–a story that will be told on the big screen in heaven. Hollywood has portrayed some of the most vivid Biblical heroes on the cinema’s big screen, but throughout eternity we’ll have the opportunity to learn each of our stories from the one who sees our hearts and understands our motives. Many of the twists in the plot of our lives are of our own doing (both for good and bad). Sometimes the attitudes and actions of others interfere with the story line we have planned out in our mind. And sometimes God redirects us for His purposes. How do we respond? Do we respond in faith or fear? Humility and brokenness or pride and unforgiveness? If a scene doesn’t go so well on a movie set, they can “Cut” and redo the scene. Many times the cut scenes show up later as bloopers. But in life, there’s not much chance for a redo.

I find the presence of a camera on the reality TV shows to be interesting–they record everything. I’m thinking heaven’s cameras are exceptionally cool–advanced technology so to speak. They most surely record not only our actions but our heart motives. . .all to be played out on heaven’s big screen one day as God reveals our hearts and we are known as He knows us. Talk about a reality show. . .and we’ll have eternity to see them all.

In 1 Corinthians 13:12, Paul says “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (NKJ). This phrasing indicates that in eternity we shall know others as well as be known by others–truly known. Let’s just say God’s got a front row seat on all our moments and His camera lens is focused on our hearts. He sees the way we treat others and the motives of our hearts. The idea that there will be a day when we stand before the throne and the secrets of man’s heart will be revealed drives me to pursue holiness (Romans 2:16, Luke 2:35, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Matthew 10:26, I Corinthians 4:5, Proverbs 26:26). It motivates me to constantly be checking my heart motives. Romans 3 makes it very clear that we as mere mortals are filled with sin and do not seek God. . .and the final condemnation in verse 23–“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” And Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, no not one.” It seems we aren’t cast as either a hero or villain; we simply are portrayed as sinners with a foolish and wicked heart. Daily, moment by moment we make scene choices as we respond to the unfolding storyline of our lives.

So what’s the summary of the memorable moments of my life? of your life? Is it the good or the evil? Do you remember some hurt feeling and forget all the good yet cling to the hope that God will forgive your many failures? Matthew 6:12 has something to say about that. So if you are wanting to be the hero/heroine in your story, you need to check your heart. What chapter will you choose to write in your story today? Will it be a story of exceptional faith, unfailing love, undeserved forgiveness? Or will you choose to harbor hatred, revenge and unforgiveness.

It’s your story–and every day you are adding the moments. So as long as God gives you breath–choose carefully the memories you want to make in your story. If there’s a chapter that didn’t turn out the way you’d be pleased to have God play out before others, take the opportunity now to go back and rewrite a new ending to that chapter. I think CLOROX calls them “bleachable moments.” Certainly I can think of a couple I’d like to erase and try again. So here’s to second chances. Just remember, you have to give them as well as take them.

Take heart, focus on Him, let His love be revealed through you and keep writing your memorable moments. Make them God moments.

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Do you ask WHY? or WHY NOT?

photo-1433840496881-cbd845929862Perspective–it’s everything. We’ve all heard the saying about the glass–is it half full or half empty. And this analogy goes straight to the heart of the matter. It’s a vision problem–spiritual blindness. Your vision becomes blurred and all you see are dark shadows–no light illuminates the magnificence and splendor before you.

I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the most forward thinking people in this beautiful city/state/country. And I’ve also run into some very small minds along the way as well. I read a saying the other day that went something like this: “Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, but exceptional minds discuss ideas.” I’ve been in those idea rooms–they excite and invigorate. But without fail, even in those rooms there are two types of people:

Those who ask “WHY?”— They look at the world as it is and say “WHY?” They get bogged down in all the reasons why it might be difficult to make a change. They focus on the woes of the current paradigm and choose to bemoan the situation rather than change it. While they may not like the situation, they have become comfortable with the status quo (it’s what they know and understand) –the unknown frightens them.

Those who ask “WHY NOT?” — When they see a problem, they look for solutions. They share their ideas and garner support because of their enthusiasm for the new world they see. They are willing to work hard to make the changes necessary to enjoy the new paradigm. They are thought leaders. They are change makers. They ignore all the naysayers in the other group and press on.

Guess which group has to drag themselves out of bed and which group bounces up and out before the alarm even goes off. Guess which group is tired at the end of the day and which group can’t believe how fast the day flew by. Guess which group is happy and is looking forward to the future. Those in the first group talk about those in the second group. But those in the second group only talk about ideas that will carry forward their dreams to reality.

CHALLENGE: Next time you join a group, listen to the conversation. What are they talking about? Can you pick out who is part of which group? Which group are you in?

Jesus was a thought leader. He talked about a kingdom–the world as it should be, not as it was. Talk about a paradigm shift. And He was willing to sacrifice His own life so it could become a reality we could enjoy. One thing I’ve noticed about thought leaders and change makers–when they are present, hearts will be revealed. You see, not everyone can see anything except the reality they see with their current set of eyes. Not everyone is comfortable with change, so they will resist. They will not consider a move to a new paradigm until they are assured their position, power and finances will be secure in the new world. Certainly the Pharisees are a perfect example of men who were afraid to let go of the security they had built in their religious work even if it meant they could exchange it for God’s Kingdom. Small minded people are afraid of change and will attack a change leader. What’s your perspective–do you have an earthly viewpoint or a heavenly viewpoint? Are your eyes fixed on the Kingdom that is coming? Are you on board with Jesus’ kingdom work? Are you telling the Good News?

Don’t get caught up in the world and what it has to offer. The world is fading away but His Kingdom will live forever (I John 2:17). Invest your time and energy where it will matter (Matthew 24:35)–His Word will last forever. Get in the Book. . .get a glimpse of God’s plan. He didn’t look at you and me and our plight as we journeyed toward hell and outer darkness and say, “That’s sad.” He saw one possible way to save us and was on board with the plan no matter the cost. He got involved in creating change. The Gospels portray man’s reaction to this plan/new paradigm. What’s your reaction going to be? Are you going to be a thought leader, a change maker or are you satisfied with the status quo? The Kingdom is coming–set your sights on Him and get involved in building the Kingdom that is to come.

Isaiah 51:6: Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner; but my salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

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HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?

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This morning as I sat on my patio just enjoying the beauty of the morning, I looked around at what has become my sanctuary–my place to spend time with God, a place of prayer. My mind stepped back in time to the day we moved in. The patio door was boarded up because there were no stairs. There was no grass–only red clay and mud filled with building rubble–pieces of bricks, wood, nails–you name it. It was a minefield you’d avoid at all costs. I even kept the morning room blinds closed. Our time and energy had to be spent on getting the inside to a place we could call home.

But every day I’d get my coffee and sit and stare at this abyss and try to envision what it could be. What kind of trees, patio or deck, plants–where? As I turned my attention to the the yard, it seemed the first step would be to take care of the access issue–build stairs. So we hired someone to pour concrete steps. Buoyed by that success, we hired someone to scoop out the dirt for a patio the entire length of the house, which they piled up to the side of our plot for a patio.

And then. . . .my husband had to have by-pass surgery. My attention was totally turned to him and the back yard project seemed inconsequential. And so it sat for at least eighteen months–big pile of dirt, mud pit and all. Talk about an eyesore–this was it. Neighbors knew what we were dealing with, so I’m sure that’s the only reason the Homeowner’s Association didn’t come knocking on our door. I remember one friend saying something like, “My wife always comments on what a beautiful home you have when we drive by, but I can’t understand why your backyard is such a mess when your home is so beautiful.” Well, yeah!


Despite the setbacks and insurmountable task, we finally pressed on. We finished the patio project, the dirt was hauled off, grass seed was planted, weeds were pulled, flower beds were framed by stones and mulched, bushes and trees were planted. Patio furniture, an outdoor fireplace, grill and pots filled with colorful flowers slowly began to fill the space. Perennials were gathered and planted, fencing was installed and outdoor lighting was added. And did I mention the all out war on crab grass? This yard wasn’t anything that happened overnight–it took years. . .YEARS. But oh, it was so worth it. This last year we even added a raised vegetable garden. The next owners will never understand the love and care that went into making this sanctuary possible.

I Corinthians 3: 16:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

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No doubt when God looked at me as a nine-year old little girl who put my faith and trust in Him, He knew He had His work cut out if He was going to turn my heart into a place where He could enjoy abiding. There would be journeys we would need to take together, weeds to pull, seeds to sow, ornaments to add, resting places to create, blooms to plan, and  time. . .time for me to mature. At nine I got down by my bed each night, hands folded and said, “Now I lay me down to sleep. . .and, oh, please bless my mommy and daddy and sister.” And at mealtimes, we bowed our heads while dad blessed our food and we did attend Sunday School and church.  It wasn’t much of a relationship with God, but it was a beginning.

At 66, I can assure you He is still working on me. But as I look back, I realize all the work He’s been doing in my life. Trials brought faith and trust. Today, our relationship is so much deeper, so much stronger. It’s been tried and tested. I’ve failed; He’s been faithful. We’ve walked and talked together; shared joys and sorrows. And my time with Him is now a sanctuary–the most sacred of places in my heart–where He continues to build His abiding place in me. I don’t want to leave any place untouched by His hand. I want Him to have full access to each crevice of my heart. I want to join Him in pulling those weeds and crabgrass and in planting new seeds.

How does your heart’s garden grow? What’s the next project you and God must tackle? Have you been avoiding the work? Join Him in His work in your heart’s garden and in time, the beauty will be undeniable. As you abide in Him; He will abide in you–creating a sanctuary for you both to enjoy.

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Ephesians 3:16-19:

That according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,

may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,

that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

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WHO AM I?–Take the tests.

type-away-numero-dosSocial media is filled with apps that can analyze virtually everything about you. I can’t resist pushing the button and taking the test just to see what the results will be. Sometimes they are surprisingly accurate, and other times, well, simply ridiculous. But there are some wonderful tools that provide you with insights to how fearfully and wonderfully you are made. We are like snowflakes–each intricate, yet unique. Let’s just say our thumb prints aren’t the only things that are “just ours.”

So why would you want to take these tests? Well, the more you know about you, the more you’ll understand why you respond to things and people the way you do. You’ll be able to understand the way you process information, what you were created to do (or not do), what your conflict style might be, how you give and interpret love. It will give you insights that will let you step back and say, “I’m normal–for me.” Just as importantly, you’ll begin to understand all those others in your life. They aren’t like you–they are normal for THEM. If you begin to understand their differences, you might just find that there is a lot to celebrate vs. criticize about them. You’ll have a whole new set of lenses through which you can more clearly see yourself and others. This new perspective will help you focus on the good things about those in your life, and isn’t that what God tells us to do (Philippians 4:8). You can focus on all the negative attributes you think you or someone else may possess, or you choose to see them with love and acceptance and understanding. You see, each of us was formed by our Creator before we were placed in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). He specifically designed each of us. Not even one of us is a throw-away. Now you might look at me and say, “She’s just not like everyone else–she’s not a keeper.” But God. . .oh, but God looks at me and says, “Yep, she’s perfect just the way I made her. I can use her. I have a job for her that only she can do.”

Some of the tools I have used and/or found helpful include:

Myers-Briggs Personality Testing.  You can learn about this test on line at www.myersbrigg.org. At this writing the cost for the assessment and a personal profile is about $50. You can search for free versions if you want to satisfy your curiosity without spending the money for a professional analysis at this point. Many companies use this tool to help their employees understand themselves and others. Remember, as you age and further your education and experiences, your preferences may change.

The Enneagram. You can learn about this tool at www.enneagram.com. Click on the tab called ‘The Enneagram” and watch the videos about each type. I was introduced to this test through a book given to me by a coworker. I found it fascinating and easier to understand than Myers-Briggs. You can search for tests and charts. One free quiz is at www.9types.com. You’ll want to take the test and then review information about your type. I was particularly fascinated by The Diagrams (you’ll see a tab for this and the ability to click on your type). Basically each of us has a healthy cycle and an unhealthy cycle caused by our basic fear. I’m a 3–the Motivator or the Achiever–just think of the Energizer Bunny. My type’s fear is rejection. We’ll leave a relationship rather than take a chance on being rejected–just too painful. The chart shows that by investing time and resources into self improvement, I lose my fear of being unworthy/someone others would reject. This is a great test to take as a team/family and sit down and talk openly about yourself with each other. It’s amazing what can happen when you are accepted and understood for who you are–given permission to be the best you that you can be rather than being criticized.

Deb Potts wrote a book “Making Peace with Prickly People.” She has a workbook which you can download for free on her website. She reminds us that to God we are all prickly people and only because of His love and mercy can we make peace with the prickly people in our lives. You’ll enjoy analyzing the things that come between you and your prickly person and gain insights into how to build a bridge to better relationships.

The Card Sort. Human resource departments use this type of career/skill analysis to figure out what you are or are not so good at. Simply search for card sort + career development and explore some of the tools available to help you understand what you were designed to do. When I took the test it was plain to see I was good at moving people and ideas, but not so good at anything mechanical or with my hands. So if it’s broke, I’m not your gal.

Spiritual Gifts Assessment. I took this test years ago and my spiritual gift was administration. Over the years this strength has remained strong but God has added to my gifts the gift of teaching and hospitality. I took my test through my church but you can also find them on line.

Communication Style. I took a class on this at a local university–best money and time I ever spent. It helped me to learn to analyze others (and myself) by our communications. We cannot change others but we can change our communication style so they can hear what we are saying. Each of us needs something different when we need to make a decision. How much and what type of information should you provide your boss about a project, the raise you think you deserve–understanding their communication style will give you an edge.

Conflict Style. I teach conflict management to men transitioning from recovery. It is the most fun class and the insights the men glean from this exercise help them to see where they might be causing conflict. It also opens their eyes to the fact that each style and each person has a unique perspective necessary for the good of the team.

Love Language. Each person has their own language of love. What triggers you to feel you are loved? How do you express love? Not everyone is like you so if you want to show your love to someone, you need to understand their love language as well as your own.

The list of tests you can take goes on and on. So take a little break from Instagram and Facebook and search for tools and tests that will help you analyze who God made you to be. Then start the conversation in your workplace, home, small group/Bible study.  Ask others what they see in you. Ask God to help you understand who He made you to be.

If you’ve found a particular test effective, please share it with us. I’d love to hear about any insights you gain from your efforts.

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WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?

QrXgXMhCSouyhU7idq7g_IMG_8402Acts 9 fascinates me–Jesus just totally confuses Ananias and me. God calls  Ananias, a disciple (a man passionate about following Jesus), and asks him to go to Paul, a persecutor of the faithful. In all honesty, Paul was to the first church what Hitler was to the Jews. As the story unfolds, when God tells Ananias to go to Paul, this passionate, faithful and trusting disciple of Jesus says, “Whoa, what are you thinking? I’ve heard from many about this man–he persecutes saints. Have you heard how he persecuted the saints in Jerusalem? Well, here the chief priests have given him authority to bind anyone who calls on your name.” In essence he’s saying, “Lord, something about this doesn’t add up. Why me? Why him? This doesn’t seem to be a good idea. I’m scared.” God immediately replies,“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” Now can’t you see Ananias scratching his head over this announcement. Why didn’t God just call Ananias, a faithful disciple to carry His name? Why Paul–the persecutor of the saints? Can anyone give me a high five on this one? And so Ananias laid down his fears and doubts and, because of his passion to follow Christ, went to Paul.

Let’s just say God’s ways are not man’s ways–and that’s probably the understatement–not just of the day, but of eternity. Somehow God looked at Paul’s heart and saw something you and I (and Ananias) didn’t see. He saw zeal–passion. Paul was a Jew among Jews. Philippians 3:4-8 outlines his Hebrew heritage. This is a man who did things at full throttle. He didn’t just talk about those pesky Christians, he hunted them down and persecuted/killed them. He declares in regard to legalistic righteousness of the law, he was faultless–a stickler for the particulars. And he was quite proud of his lineage and efforts to get this religious thing just right–it was his passion/the beat of his heart. And then he met Jesus in all His glory, and everything changed. All that passion, all that desire to do all he could–and to do it perfectly, got a new direction. He got up from his knees and began to run the race to receive the prize of the high calling of Jesus Christ. Zeal–PASSION–Paul had it and God knew it. He created Paul for this task and God called him and used him. 

Where’s your passion? What accomplishments are you proud of? If you walked into the throne room today holding forth these things, how might the Master take them and redirect your passion? God called you by name and gave you a purpose before He formed you in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). That’s where your passion comes from–the task God gifted you to do. As God created the recipe for you, He said, “Hmmm, what shall we use this one for? Let’s see–(s)he’ll need these skills and abilities, these personal qualities, this type of personality, these tender spaces in his/her heart–oh, and an extra big portion of passion to get the job done.” But like Paul, in our own strength we take all our passion and zeal and misdirect it. But God. . .He will reveal Himself to you. He is faithful to continue to call you to the fields that are already white unto harvest. Get into His presence and get on board with your calling–your passion.

In I Timothy 1:5 Paul humbly declares he is the worst of sinners and unworthy to be called an apostle. Nonetheless, he had been chosen by God and we all know the rest of the story. When you get on board with your calling, you won’t have to worry about failure for the great and mighty and all-powerful God is going to speed you on the journey He designed for you. It won’t be necessarily easy–Paul had a few rough patches along the way. But those rough patches just spurred his passion even more. You and I are conversing about God via this blog because Paul was faithful to carry the message God gave Him. He was true to His passion and calling.

Ananias was sent to Paul. Scary? Oh, yeah. But can you just imagine being the man responsible for the discipling of Paul. . .the Apostle Paul? It’s like being the person who led Billy Graham to the Lord. All those converted souls through all these centuries who are now in the Kingdom are fruit accruing to Ananias’ credit because he used his passion for following Jesus to go to Paul. What if he had said no to his passion and decided to just stay home and talk to those in the village that day? God knew who to send to Paul–he knew Ananias’ passion would  trump his fears and he would go.

Has God given you a passion? A message? A recipient for the Good News? Is He calling you? Say yes, because when your passion meets His plan–get ready for an explosion of Biblical proportions.

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God, please help me find unconditional grace & mercy in my heart.

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PSALM 145:8 The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.

Oh how I love this beautiful description of my Savior. These attributes invite me to draw closer to Him. Even though a sinner, in the presence of one filled with grace, mercy and compassion, I feel wanted, loved and safe. I’m given the opportunity for a second chance.

Now I have to be honest here and tell you I don’t always find my heart is full of these things. In fact, sometimes my heart is closed and hard. Why? When I’m hurt I withdraw and hide–push others away lest they hurt me again. I’ve had to find a place on my knees where God and I take out my heart and examine it. As I compare my heart to these words about His heart in Psalm 145, I find my heart does not always mirror His. And after all the grace and mercy He has given to me, how can I give anything less to others? But it’s hard. It must be hard for the Savior, too. When we reject His love, His plan, His sacrifice, His Word, etc., how is He not so wounded that He looks at us and says, “Enough of you.” But instead, He invites us to come to Him, admit our failures and experience His forgiveness, grace and mercy–made possible because of His compassion–His love. Love is the game changer of the heart. So I have to reach deep inside and find the love that is there and allow it to refill my heart’s reservoir of grace and mercy.

 

Question: “What is the difference between mercy and grace?”

Mercy is God’s attribute that does not punish us even though we deserve it; Grace is God granting us a blessing even though we are undeserving. By mercy I’m delivered from the punishment I deserve. Through His grace I’m granted favor and a home in heaven I do not deserve. The key word here is undeserved. Grace and mercy are not deserved. They specifically come into play when deliverance, forgiveness and blessing are undeserved. Not only are they undeserved, we cannot buy them–they must be given. So if I’m ever going to show grace and mercy, there has to be an undeserving recipient.

It’s easy to show love to someone who loves you, enjoys being with you, lavishes their affection and attention on you, believes in you and celebrates you. But when someone rejects you, talks about you and is critical of you, let’s just say it is anything but easy to respond with grace and mercy–they don’t deserve it. Clenched teeth and caustic retorts probably aren’t going to cut it if I’m supposed to mirror God’s grace and mercy.

Being a visual person, I need a picture of what grace and mercy look like?

GRACE: When I think of grace I think of Princess Diana. She was beautiful and always smiling, doing good deeds, kind–even to the media. She seemed to exude love through her eyes, her smile and her touch. It’s hard to imagine her angry. I think our Lord was like that. People were drawn to Him, they had confidence He would heal them even though they had done nothing to deserve it. They pressed on Him even as they did her. If we want to gather people to us, we must be people of great grace.

MERCY: When I think of someone who is merciful, I think of a judge I watched recently.  A wide variety of individuals presented themselves before Him. You have to know this man sits on this bench day in and day out. He’s heard case after case. My guess is he’s heard it all. In his place I would become impatient. I would tend to prejudge many of these individuals based on dress, demeanor, attitude, educational level (or lack thereof) or state of incarceration. And heaven forbid you end up in my courtroom more than once. No doubt I’d give them a Judge Judy tongue lashing for not learning the first time. Now that may make for great television but is not a picture of mercy. This judge, however, had an amazing demeanor. He even treated the man brought to him in chains with dignity and respect–both in his tone and choice of words. He honored each person and their rights. I was mesmerized just watching him. He was full of mercy and justice was safe in his hands. No doubt Jesus was like that. Whether it was a blind man, a woman with an issue of blood, a leper, a cripple . . . Jesus treated them with dignity and mercy and then He added a heap of grace on top–He healed them.

The only time we see Jesus acting in anger was when He overturned the money changers’ tables–those who were crooks pursuing their own selfish agendas under the guise of religion–in God’s house. So, yes there is a time when grace, mercy and compassion should be set aside. Jesus did so to preserve the sanctity of His Father’s house. He said the Father’s house was to be a house of prayer–a place where all could come and commune with the Father. You could come in just as you are with all your faults, failures, fears and frustrations and find grace and mercy. Likewise our homes should be a place where love invites each family member to come in just as they are–to share their thoughts, needs, hurts, frustrations, victories or failures, knowing they will be heard and find acceptance, understanding and encouragement. Love reigns supreme in the Father’s house. Don’t taint the Father’s house with your personal agendas, bad attitudes or critical spirit. It will be met with intolerance. But when you come to the Father’s house in humility, desiring relationship, asking for grace and mercy–it will be given.

It comes back once again to the heart of the individual. If our hearts are humble, and we come to Him seeking a relationship, He runs to meet us with open arms, prepared to set a table full of mercy, grace and compassion. God has definitely taken me up short and reminded me of His expectation of the way I show His loving and compassionate heart of grace and mercy to others–even though undeserved. So today I ask God to fill my heart’s cup with His love from which flows grace and mercy. Praise God He hasn’t given up on me yet.

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