Monthly Archives: July 2015

TIME TRAVEL

photo-1430760814266-9c81759e5e55Yesterday I set out to visit a former coworker in the hospital who had hip replacement surgery the day before and stopped to pick up some flowers for her on the way. As usual, I was in a rush. My husband was with me and he was going to wait in the car while I visited with my friend. I swept into the lobby which had undergone a recent renovation and asked the gal at the desk for direction to the elevators and, of course about that time, I saw them on my own and rushed to catch the lift. I punched the three for the third floor, but as elevators have a way of doing, it stopped on the second floor. As the doors opened, I stepped off assuming that was my destination. And suddenly I’d stepped back in time about 15 years. I stood frozen, my chest felt full, tears pressed against my eyelids and ran down my cheeks. You see, the last time I was in this particular hospital, my mom was a patient on the second floor–third room on the left. While the lobby was new and unfamiliar, this floor was untouched. It’s a rehabilitation hospital and she was there for about three weeks recovering from a hip fracture. If only I could walk to that third room on the left and my mom would be there. I found a vacant hallway where I could lean against the wall and try to regain my composure and come back to the present and ultimately head to my third floor destination.

As I lay in bed last night my mind kept going back to that hallway. I so wanted to go to that third room on the left. What would it be like to talk to mom? Our paths have taken different directions these many years since her passing. Would we laugh at the wrinkles and pounds that have joined my journey? She’d love to see pictures of the kids and grandkids and we’d have so much to share–videos of Lorelei and tales of the children’s successes and adventures. Would she be excited about my book? I know she would love to hear about what I’ve learned about God, but no doubt she would be the one with the real knowledge of who God is. She would have so much to tell me and I’d want to hear every word. I know she’s happy there with dad where they are without pain and they are enjoying the fellowship of so many loved ones. But I miss them; I miss our times together. I took them for granted. Per my usual rushing, no doubt I didn’t realize the treasure of each moment spent in their presence. Who would have thought those high pressure days of trying to juggle a job, a home life and deal with all the issues of mom being in the hospital would bring such poignant and sweet memories? I’m so grateful we had a good relationship. Oh we had the typical mother/daughter differences in viewpoint on many topics, but there was love and commitment, acceptance and encouragement. We enjoyed many years as coworkers where I got to know my parents as adults and to share in their passions and pursuits–this was a particular blessing that not all children are given. We became friends and I respected them for who they were as individuals and as contributors to society apart from just being my mom and dad.

As I look back on those days she was in that hospital, I realized I’d rushed in after work each day to grab her laundry and deliver clean clothes, a book she wanted, the crocheting needle she thought might be helpful with her current craft project, etc. There were hugs and kisses, questions about her day and mine. And again I rushed off so I could get home, fix dinner for the family and do her laundry so I could get up and do it all again the next day. Busy. If I could truly go back in time, I’d pick up chicken or pizza so I could grab some extra minutes just to be with her.

I can’t go back, but I can slow down and enjoy the precious minutes that I take for granted with loved ones. Looking back, it was the simple pleasures–a shared meal, a talk on the sofa, our playing a piano/organ duet, a cup of coffee, a shopping excursion, a stop at her favorite–Taco Bell. I took all of those moments for granted. Today they are my precious memories.

So today, I’m slowing down. I’m savoring the every day kind of moments with family and friends. Moments in time that I’m sure will travel with me over the years to come.

 

 

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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SIRI, WHICH WAY SHOULD I GO?

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Have you ever been lost and just couldn’t find your way? I am the biggest fan of GPS and love my cell phone and SIRI–she has gotten me out of a mess more times than I want to admit. Unfortunately, I need an app for those times when I feel lost in a relationship. What’s wrong? How can I fix it? Where do we go from here? It feels like a dead end.

I have a friend who endured a bitter divorce. The relationship left her deeply wounded and filled with self-doubt. For years she carried a crushing hurt and pain that scarred her heart. It was a painful dead end and there seemed to be no way out. Then suddenly, after some 15 years, God intervened and literally overnight doors opened, respect and understanding were offered, healing began. She and her ex found a way to become partners for the sake of their children. It was as if all that hurt, bitterness and misunderstanding just went “poof” into thin air. Gone. And in its place were mutual respect and good communication lines. Healing. Restoration. I was in awe; she was in shock. That’s my God at work. When the enemy has taken enough territory, He says, “Move back!” And the enemy has to flee.

Have you ever had a relationship where you loved deeply, nothing was wrong with the other person from your viewpoint. Then suddenly, from nowhere, it seems they have a boatload of problems with you they’ve never mentioned before? Do you have relationships where it is obvious there is a problem but it is impossible to put your finger on what it is or where it came from? That’s the enemy at work. He’s a master at planting seeds of doubt and hurt. The problem I have in these situations is I usually take matters into my own hands and try to fix things. Let me assure you I, nor you, are a match for the chaos Satan can weave. Inevitably things get worse–much worse. It has taken me years to be able to see the difference between something I did and need to make amends for and something Satan is weaving that I cannot undo–I simply get all caught up in the web. Fortunately, I’m learning.

When the disciples sailed across the river and the storm began to blow, Jesus was resting below. They began to try to deal with the crisis in their own strength: bailing water, tossing things overboard. I’ll give them credit for trying, but the problem was they were no match for the storm. You and I are no match for the storms of life that Satan can stir up. They woke Jesus and suggested He come help them bail water…get on board with their plans. But His ways were so much higher. He just stopped the wind and waves. DONE! How many times do I get embroiled in a crisis and try to bail my way out of it. I come to Jesus and suggest He should wake up and help me with my very good plan. And He says, “I have power. . .did you forget that I can stop this?” You see, I don’t need a bucket. I don’t need to try. I need to have faith in the One who loved me and gave Himself for me. I need to believe that in His time, given His power, He will stop the storm and blue skies will come again. My work is to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). He will do this and receive the praise. In John 6:28-29, the disciples asked Jesus, “So what must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe in him whom he has sent.” Do you lean on your understanding or in all your ways do you acknowledge Him, knowing He will direct your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6)? Whatever burden you are bearing or crisis you are facing, it didn’t take God by surprise. He has a plan and the power to execute it. Just get in His presence and trust Him to calm the storm. I lean on the fact God is not the author of confusion, so when things feel confusing and frustrating and I can’t figure them out, I begin to realize this is the enemy is at work. I can’t win; I’m no match for him. So I call on my Abba Father, the Almighty God, who loves me . . .and I wait.

Patience is hard, but God says if I wait on Him, my strength will be renewed and I will soar like an eagle (Isaiah 40:31). I’ve not had a great track record of waiting. I’m more likely to rush in with my bucket and start bailing water. But I’m learning that the hard work of waiting is the work of believing on Him. It’s the exact right step–it’s called FAITH.

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ENTITLEMENT–A Relationship Killer (Part 3-Friends & Coworkers)

photo-1429277158984-614d155e0017Relationships involve unspoken contracts. As relationships deepen, sometimes we feel the need to put our expectations on paper. For example, you may meet and fall in love with the mate of your dreams. But when the relationship deepens, one party, or maybe even both, may want a pre-nuptial contract signed and in place before the vows are said. Employers and employees most often will sign legal documents outlining the expectations of the relationship. These documents clarify what a good relationship will look like and what will happen if the relationship doesn’t play out as expected. For most of us, however, we muddle through life and our various relationships without clearly defined expectations. We have to mentally perceive the other’s expectations/needs and then clarify our position should we not feel inclined to meet their expectations. And while you may start out in lock-step, time and circumstances weigh differently on each of us. Obviously, there’s lots of room for misunderstanding and hurt in our informal relationships.

We all have varied backgrounds and experiences through which we filter our conversations and relationships. If you’ve been hurt in an area, you’ll be more sensitive and leave the other person in the relationship wondering what triggered you to back away. The root of any misunderstanding is most likely a difference in values. For example, if you go into business with a friend, you may feel the friendship and time together in the venture is the top priority and you would not consider any opportunity that would come between you and your friend. Your partner however, while deeply committed to the relationship, may place profit and opportunity above the relationship–after all, it’s business. It’s easy to see how the slight difference in your values can undermine the relationship. At work, one team member may value getting the job done completely and on time, while their coworker has three other projects that are of a higher priority to them, so the team project doesn’t receive the value expected.

There is a lot of room for disappointment, hurt and misunderstanding flying around us in each and every relationship. . .with each and every interaction. While you may not put your expectations on paper, it is probably best to create an atmosphere where each party can articulate their expectations and values. Especially in a business setting, it is usually helpful to have periodic relationship check ups. Questions to answer might include: “How are things going from your perspective?” “Do you have any concerns about your workload or time constraints?” “Do you feel you are being heard?” “Are your needs being met?” This time should be approached as an open forum where each party can bring concerns forward without penalty. After all, the only thing each of us can own is our feelings. . .but it is very hard for the other party to know how we feel if we don’t tell them. There were no mind-reading classes offered at any grade level.

Some of the things we feel entitled to in our relationships include:

Possessions: At work, you may be assigned equipment from specific furniture, technology to even basic office supplies like pencils and staplers. These become YOUR possessions even if they are owned by the company. If someone borrows your stapler because theirs is jammed, and then they forget to return it, you’ll feel your entitlement begin to rise as you search for your stapler. Depending on your frustration in the effort, you’ll no doubt confront the other party and let them know of your frustration. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement. Your neighbor may borrow a tool and forget to return it for six months, while you fume and wonder if you should march next door and retrieve it. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

Time: We all have 24 hours in a day, but each of us views time in different ways. In some cultures, time is considered exact; in others it is relative. I’ve been part of business meetings where we set a time for a team to meet and inevitably the same persons are late every time. The frustrating thing is they don’t even pick up on the fact they are late and kept ten people waiting 15 minutes. That’s 2 1/2  hours of wasted time. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

Meal preparation is an exact science. You work hard to get everything done at the right time so it will all be at the right temperature when you are ready to serve it, but your guest(s) consistently arrive late making everyone else wait while the beautiful meal you fixed begins to fade. Your anxiety and frustrations rise. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

Space: Your coworker comes in and just sits in your office talking to you for long periods of time when  you need to get work done. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

Moms, I know this is about friends and coworkers, but thought you’d like this one.  Your teen trashes his room (a room that is part of your well-kept home). Your frustration level with your teenager is at an all time high. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

Opportunity: You just got passed over for a promotion or raise. Maybe your coworker got to go with the boss to the annual conference and you had to stay home and man the office. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

Maybe you felt your sibling got a bigger or better gift for their birthday than you did. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

Self: We all feel we have rights to our own bodies. There’s a limit to what we will allow. Certainly no one has the right to abuse us physically or sexually. We also allow people only so much opportunity for hurting us emotionally. Those who seem to always find fault with us can find themselves outside of our circle of welcome friends and family members. After all, you are a package deal–you come with all your great attributes, and probably a few quirks. . .but you are you. We expect others to accept us for who we are, not for who they want to make us into. Yep, you’ve got an entitlement.

By now you realize you have a lot of entitlements you never even considered. And, they aren’t all bad. They are the lines you draw with your relationships. The problem isn’t having them–they protect your values. However, you must become a master at communicating your needs and expectations to others. Hopefully, they will return the favor so you can understand where their sensitivities may lie.  Good relationships take in to account the needs of both parties. Unfortunately, we can cop the attitude that “they should just know they hurt me.” Well, many times that may be true. But in many situations your feelings and the reasons for them may not be as apparent to others as you may think. Rather than walk away from the relationship, take the time to clarify your needs and feelings with the hope that others will understand and clarify their needs and intentions.

Is there any time when you should just walk away? Sure. If someone shows repeatedly that they do not respect you, it is probably time to just move on. When it is clearly evident that your values are juxtaposed to someone else’s values, it’s probably time to move on. Be careful about cutting important people from your life. And never do so until you have articulated your feelings to that person. Now make sure you do not share all the things you don’t like about them–that is criticism and won’t be effective–you’ll be sure to damage the relationship.

CONVERSATION STRATEGIES

Share your feelings, your expectations, your values–not their mistakes. Don’t harbor your hurt feelings–they will harden your heart. Sample phrasing:  “I feel _________ when you __________ because_____________.”  For example:

“Joe, this morning I felt frustrated because I spent 15 minutes looking for my stapler. I’m more than happy for you to use mine if you need it, even if I’m not here. But I would appreciate it if you would return it when you are done.”

“Sam, when I get ready to use a tool, it becomes overwhelming and wastes time if it is not where I think I left it. I often forget when I’ve loaned you a piece of equipment and spend two days trying to remember what on earth I’ve done with it. So, I’ve created a sign out sheet to help me remember when I’ve loaned something out. And, once you are finished with it, it would be great if you could return it.”

“Team, time is money. It is important when we set a meeting time that all parties honor that time as being an exact time. This means you would need to arrive in time to park, enter the building and get through security so you can be in the meeting room ready to begin promptly at our agreed upon time. Please honor your team mates by respecting their time.”

“Mary, as you know, meal preparation can be an exact science and I want to make sure everything is hot and perfect for you. Would you be able to be here no later than 6:00? I’ll plan to serve some appetizers and we can be seated for dinner by 6:30. I love to cook and don’t mind working hard, but it is important to me that I am able to serve it hot and on time.”

“Sue, I’d love nothing better than spending the afternoon with you, but unfortunately I have a very demanding work load this afternoon. What say we schedule lunch this week so we can catch up.”

“John, I know you are often sleeping til the last minute and so your bed may not get made or your clothes into the laundry before you rush off to catch the bus. But I expect the following:  no food in your room (we don’t want bugs), by noon on Saturday your sheets and dirty clothes will be in the laundry bin, and by Sunday morning your room will shine (at least this once during the week). And don’t forget our housekeeper comes every other Thursday so I’ll expect you to have your room picked up and surfaces cleaned off so she can do her job. If you do not keep your part of this deal, I’ll be coming in to clean your room in a timely way and items that are not put away will be confiscated. You may redeem them for $1.00 per item to be deducted from your allowance.”

“Boss, I was happy to stay home and take care of the office this year; however, just hearing about how wonderful the conference was made me wish I could have been there. I hope you’ll put me on the list for next year.”

“Linda, it seems we are not communicating well and you are an important person to me. I often walk away from our time together feeling like I share my life with you, but you do not share your feelings and life with me. Have I done something to make you feel I’m not interested in your life?”

Good communication. It has to start with you sharing your feelings. Both parties have them. . .and the better each party is at sharing their feelings, the better the relationship will be. I leave you with one caution. Take care of relationship business in a timely way. If someone does something that doesn’t sit well, deal with it within a 24-hour period. If you let it fester, it gets worse. If you let things pile up, they become insurmountable. The other person will never understand why you held on to a hurt for two years–they may not even remember the incident. And no one will be able to deal with a long list of things you have added up against them, especially if you dump them on them without warning. If you discuss things as they happen, it is simply clarifying your values, calibrating the relationship–you’ll learn and they will learn and the gears of your relationship will continue to run well. If someone is important to you, talk to them–often.

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