Everyday Can Be A Lesson

Why does it sometimes take us so long to remember to ask the Lord for help? Or is it just me?  The other night I was trying to put a new song I had downloaded onto my iPod.  The computer was telling me there were issues with the iPod and I needed to scan it.  OK, that doesn’t sound bad. Scan away.  Then, it told me there were problems found that needed to be fixed, did I want to fix them?  I thought sure, why not.  

Well, next thing I know it had deleted every single song from my iPod.  It was empty. Several hundred songs erased.  In seconds. To make a long story short, try as I might I couldn’t get my playlist back on there. The only option it gave me was to let them choose the music to add to my iPod.  They did but then my Christmas music was all mixed in with my other music. Can I tell you I was more than frustrated spending all that time trying to just get my music back the way I had it.   I loudly expressed my displeasure with iTunes and with Apple in general!

Fast forward to the next afternoon.  I thought to myself, OK, what do I have to lose?  I will go up and try one more time to  get it right.  As I was walking to the computer I found myself starting to mutter and call the iPod names before I had even started.  Suddenly, I realized what I was doing.  I stopped right then and there, said a  prayer and asked the Holy Spirit to help me and give me wisdom as to how to fix this problem.  And guess what? It took a few try’s but I got it!   Thank You Lord!

You may be thinking that with all that goes on in our lives and in this world my little issue was not an earth-shattering problem. And you’d be right, it wasn’t.  But it was important to me.  I love my music.  When I’m out in the kitchen cooking or cleaning I have my praise music on.  When something’s bothering me; I put my music on.  The Lord is so good.  He cares about us even in the seemingly small details of our lives.  I often wonder if He is sitting there just waiting for me to ask Him for His help.  Ask for His wisdom.  Take my problems to Him, whatever they may be, before I try and fix them myself.  

I love Psalm 46:1 ” God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”  Ever-present.  Always there. So why do I sometimes forget to turn to Him first?  Or to open my mouth and ask for His help.  To speak His Word over the situations in my life and other’s.  To speak life and blessing’s not curses.  

I have found that when the Lord does help me like that it does make it easier to remember to go to Him first the next time.  It helps to further build that trusting relationship between us.  And of course I always tell Him how very grateful I am for all He does.  mercy

I’m also thankful to the Lord that He is patient with me even when He has to keep reminding me of the same lessons.   I started this blog yesterday after fixing my iPod. Then  today I had a guy and his son come over to take a piece of furniture out of my upstairs.  I did remember my lesson and I prayed beforehand and prayed for their safety while they were lifting.  I prayed they would have wisdom to be able to figure out how to get it around the corner at the bottom of the stairs. Yet, after a while when they were still having problems I found myself in the kitchen mumbling and murmuring and calling that piece of furniture names.  I had remembered part of the lesson from the day before but; once again I had to repent for my words and lack of faith.  Praise God He still loves me enough to  keep giving me those gentle reminders!

Oh, just in case you’re wondering, they did finally take the whole thing apart and got it down the stairs.  As to the iPod and iTunes….well, hopefully it will keep working because I still find it to be one of the most user unfriendly programs I have encountered!  Speaking kindly about them might be a lesson for another day!

Proverbs 31 Woman

Over the years I have heard so many women bemoan the fact that they don’t even come close to being like the Proverbs 31 woman.  I have to say she does set the bar pretty high.  She takes excellent care of her household.  Does well with her own business.  She takes care of the poor and is honored and praised by her husband and children.  What a woman.  What an example.  What a tough act to follow.  

Let’s fast forward a number of centuries and see the  example of womanhood that the world holds up to us as what they think should be today’s modern woman.  If you were to believe certain celebrities and things we see glorified in the media, the music industry, and Hollywood we get a quite different opinion of what  a woman should be.  

According to our current culture the more profane and vulgar a woman is somehow that is supposed to make her more powerful.   More influential. More popular.  Young women and little girls are shown that there’s no need for modesty as they see their idols on stage wearing next to nothing, while sometimes  making gestures that are  crude to say the least.  Yet, according to the world, that is what is supposed to be progress for womanhood.  

Those women who do dress modestly, profess their love of God and country and refuse to participate in the profanity or refuse to perform in things that would  dishonor the Lord are often mocked and criticized.  Even our First Lady was called nasty names for saying the Lord’s Prayer before a meeting. Talk about an upside down world.  

Thankfully, I don’t believe that is an accurate representation of the majority of women in this country.  There are many women out there today young and old and everywhere in between who see through that nonsense.  Who have a moral compass.   Women who work hard to make sure their daughters and  are not influenced to believe that this behavior is normal and something they should strive for. Women who daily seek to do the best they can without compromising what they believe in.  

I am so grateful to the many women I have in my life today and those I had in my past, who were and are great examples.  Women whose goal is not to glorify themselves, or to put themselves first but to  be a servant.  To help others and offer a hand in love and friendship.  To offer encouragement when needed and to speak the truth in love when that is what was needed.  To put the needs of their families and friends before their own.    

My mom would be someone who probably didn’t even realize she was influencing me.  I don’t recall ever sitting down and talking about a lot of things.  Yet, she taught me morals by being moral, by setting a good example.  Honesty.  Respect.  Helping those who were in need.  Hospitality- her door was always open.  She taught me what it means to be a strong woman-even in the face of adversity.  All of that was taught by example while she was just going about her everyday life.

I don’t think many of us realize, especially if we profess to be a Christian how often people are watching us.  Our actions speak so much louder than our words.  Are we walking the walk, or just talking the talk?  We have the ability to help change peoples lives by being a godly example.  By making it possible for them to see Jesus in us by the way we conduct ourselves, and live our lives.  Sometimes without ever speaking a word to them.

And to those sisters who are still dismayed that you don’t live up to the example of the Proverbs 31 woman, give yourself a break.  We are not supposed to compare ourselves to anyone including that well known woman.  I’m not sure if she was  a real woman or just an example of a virtuous wife.  But why do we think we are supposed to do the same things she did?   We may not have maidservants or plant vineyards or get up while it is still night to provide food for our household.  But I’ve seen some of your schedules and the things you do for your families and you could give her a run for her money!

Many of us if we compared ourselves to the Proverbs 31 woman, looked first at all the tasks she accomplished. Or at least I did.  Honestly, if we were going to try and emulate her, shouldn’t it be more important to look at other aspects of her life besides  her businesses and her household duties?

What about things like, “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”  Verses 11-12.  Or, “she extends her hand to the poor” Verse 20.  Then there’s Verses’s 25-26 “Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come.  She opens her mouth with wisdom,  And on her tongue is the law of kindness.”  That’s the kind of woman I would like to be.  

We all have different lives and different things the Lord has called us to do.  Not all are called to business.  Not all have households to take care of.  We can be good examples while  diligently working as unto the Lord in whatever He has called us to do.  I believe our character while we are about our business is more important to the Lord than adding more tasks just because we think we should or we think  it looks good on our resume.  

Be who the Lord made you to be. And don’t let anyone else tell you who you’re supposed to be.  You are beautiful to the Lord just as you are.  One of a kind.

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Decisions, Decisions

 

Are you one of those people who makes decisions quickly and easily?  Or are you like me who when it comes to big decisions I can  have a hard time.  Especially those decisions where you want to be absolutely sure it’s the right decision according to God’s plan, not just what seems easiest.  It can feel like a tennis match with all the back and forth, back and forth day by day.  

Don’t you just love those times when you know which direction you are supposed to head?  You’re moving forward,you have a plan, it’s feeling good.   You might not know all the details; but at least you know the first step or the general direction in which you should go.

Then of course there are also those times we  can feel as if we are in a holding pattern.  We know there is something the Lord has for us to do, but He hasn’t revealed to us what it is yet.  It can be hard and frustrating to be in that place. Waiting is not something that most of us enjoy.  It’s in those times that we really need to exercise our faith.  God has the perfect time and season for what is next in our lives.  We just need to learn to rest in Him, while we are waiting on Him, to show us our next step.  

Sometimes we also have times when we think we are standing, just waiting on the Lord. But that might not always be true.   A friend said to me the other day, you’re not waiting on the Lord, He’s waiting on you. She might have a point.   There may be times when the Lord has already shown us the next step to take and we haven’t taken it yet.  Maybe its something we don’t really want to do and so we tell ourselves, surely that wasn’t the Lord, that must have been my own mind,or the enemy, or whatever excuse we use.  Perhaps He’s prompting us to take a step of faith and let something go so we can move on to our next thing, but we are so afraid that if we let it go we will be left with nothing, so we just hang onto that thing all the more.  Or, we are so afraid of taking a wrong step that we take no steps at all.  

 

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It helps to remember that the Lord is not hiding things from us. To remember that our part is to stand in faith and believe, and not rush in and try to make things happen before their time.  While we are doing our part, God is working everything out on our behalf so that when He reveals to us the next step, we can walk into God’s perfect plan, not our own.

Another helpful thing to remember is Isaiah 50:7 “For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”   The scripture says the Lord God will help me and therefore I shall not be confounded.  Another opportunity to exercise faith.  If the Word says I shall not be confounded, then I can have faith that the Lord will show me the right way to go when I have a decision to make.  Sometimes, I think we make it a lot harder than has to be.  Do we honestly think that if we make one wrong step  the Lord can’t get us back to where we are supposed to be?  

There’s something about that phrase “set your face like flint” that reminds me of Clint Eastwood or Leroy Jethro Gibbs.  That unflinching, icy stare they have, that you know means they have no intention of giving up.  No matter what anyone says, or what  circumstances may come, you know they are not moved. That’s how we need to be.  Determined.  Persevering. Our face set.  Trusting the Lord, waiting for our instructions.  Having done all to stand; stand therefore.  And while we are standing, we can also be listening, so when the Lord gives us an instruction we can be ready to move.   

And in all that we do as long as we follow  Proverbs 3:5-6 we know we will end up where we need to be, and in the right time.   “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”

Hold Fast To That Which You Have

I was thinking about that line of scripture  (Revelation 3:11),the other morning as I was going back and looking at journal entries I have written over the past few years.  

What really surprised me, was how many things I had forgotten.  Things the Lord had shown me that I had not held fast.  Important things. Things I didn’t think I would forget.  Some, I had even walked in for a while, until other things pushed them out of my mind.  Maybe it was the cares of this world.  Or, maybe at times it was  just the opposite. Have you ever noticed that when things are going along well,  we can tend to let go of things we have learned, because we think we don’t need them at that  particular time? 

Whatever it may be that causes us to  let those things go , it can put us in a dangerous position.  We can forget to keep watch over our territory. Suddenly we might notice that things are not going so well.  We realize that we haven’t kept our armor on. (Ephesians 6:10-18).  We haven’t been wielding our shield of faith and some of those fiery darts may have gotten into our lives. Perhaps we weren’t wielding the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God; but instead we may have been speaking negative things over our lives.   

Or maybe we become aware we aren’t where we want to be with God. We have gone along not paying attention to what’s happening, then it could be we notice that  we have things in our body that need healing.  Or we are having difficulties in relationships with friends, family or co-workers.  We may think these things happen “all of a sudden”.  In truth, many of these things happen little by little, over a period of time so we don’t notice until it becomes a problem.  

Sometimes my pastor will take some time and go back and preach on basic subjects.  He tells us he does this  because we have a “leaking problem”.  Things that we know or once knew can tend to “leak” out of our remembrance.  Just like the things in my notebooks did to me.  

The dictionary gives us a couple of definitions of what it means to hold fast.  The first definition says it means “to remain tightly secured”. The  second definition says it means  “to continue to believe in or adhere to an idea or principle.”  Maybe its the continuing part that we most need to work on.

There are many places in the Bible where we are told to “hold fast”.  Hebrews 10:23 tells us to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering”.  1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to ” examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;  Hebrews 3:6 tells us to “hold fast our confidence”. Reminders that our part is to not let go.

Even as we are still learning we  need to remember to hold fast to all that we already have.  All that we already know, all that we have learned.    The enemy is always looking for ways to steal the Word from us.  Our job is to make sure we don’t let him.  And isn’t it easier when we are staying on top of things then when we have to start all over again with what we know to do?

One thing is sure.  We need to have daily manna from the Lord.  Reading the Word every day can help us in remembering to hold onto those important things.  That in itself is a habit we need to hold on to.  I know from my own past experience that when you don’t keep up with reading the Word, and too many days go by, each day gets easier and easier to just let it slide until you realize weeks or even months may have gone by.  

When I stand before the Lord I want to make sure that I have held fast to everything that needed to be held  onto and let go of everything that needed to be let go of!

I’m very grateful to the Lord for the times He gently reminds me that I’ve let things slide.  Like any good Father, He wants to keep His child from being hurt or making mistakes.  I’ll take a reminder or correction any day over consequences that could happen if I continue on the way I was.  Wouldn’t most of us?

 

If You’re Going To Give Away A Piece of Your Mind…

Why not give away a piece someone would actually like to have?  You know how when someone says that they are going to give you a piece of their mind, it’s generally not going to be a piece you want.  

Seriously though.  I know a lot of us probably have a few people in mind, who we would love to say a few choice words to on occasion.  Maybe you already have.  Hopefully, you bit your tongue and didn’t follow through!  

  It can be really hard to just keep your mouth shut and opinions to yourself.   Why is it we so often think we need to prove that we are right?  Or get in the last word.  Or we think,  well,  I’m going to tell that person why I’m right, and why I think they are wrong.  Because that usually goes so well, right?

We are told in Titus 3:9 “ But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. ”  Most of us know that if we are discussing something with someone, who has a very different opinion  about a subject than we do, no one is going to win the argument.  It is unprofitable and useless.  Neither of us is going to change the others mind, and in some cases, if we’re not careful, we can end up losing relationships.

James 1:19 says “My dear brothers and sisters, be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”  That can be really tough to do sometimes.  Some people don’t take time to listen, and then they get angry before they even know what they’re  angry about.  At times, we might be those people. Attempting to follow that scripture  when we are  in our own strength, can be quite a challenge.  But, if we are taking the time to be slow to speak we can use that time to quickly ask the Lord how He would have us respond to whatever the situation is.  His response will very likely be different from what we may want to say.  

Facebook or social media can also be dangerous ground.  You post something that someone doesn’t like, and boom, in minutes you feel like you’re  body slammed to the ground by people expressing their thoughts to your post. Often, they respond in a way that they wouldn’t,  if they were face to face with you.   I’m sure some of us have been guilty of doing that to some degree at one point or another.  

Many times I’ve wanted to respond to something someone said, or did.   I’ve had it typed out, ready to hit send, but then I have to pause, and ask myself a few questions.  Is it helpful?  Is it gossip?  Do I know it to be true?  Will someone be hurt?  And most important,  would Jesus approve of what I wrote?  Most of the time I resist the urge to post because I know its  something I should not say.  

It can be easier to practice self control with the written word, than when we are in a face to face discussion with someone.  You can delete what you write, but once you’ve said something, it can’t be taken back.   I’ve found that if you know you are going to see those people who have very different opinions than you, it can be helpful to purpose ahead of time to avoid issues that cause arguments.  If they bring up those subjects, just smile. Change the subject.   Refuse to engage in arguing at all.  

Let’s face it.  While telling someone off or “giving them a piece of your mind” can feel really good in the short term, we  know its not worth it in the long run.  Sooner or later that remorse will kick in, because you really did know better than to react in anger.  And if it was a friend or family member, or a work associate, you know you will have to go back and make things right between you.  Otherwise, these are the kinds of things that can cause rifts for months or years or even longer.  

Though in our flesh we think it feels good to lash out and get into that verbal sparring match, we know that the Bible has nothing good to say about angry, quarrelsome people.  Ecclesiastes 7:9 tells us “Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.”

That’s not to say that there aren’t times we need to speak the truth to someone.  Or that we should never speak what’s on our mind.  Especially if the Lord gives us something he wants us to speak out and share, we should be prepared to do it.  It’s the way we speak, and our attitude towards those we are speaking to that I’m talking about.  

 How about if we just hang onto those pieces of our minds?  Those are the kind of pieces no one else really wants to be given anyway!

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Search Your Heart

My church, as well as many others across the country, is taking some time at the beginning of the year, to participate in a 21 day Daniel fast.   For those who don’t know, it is named after a fast talked about in the book of  Daniel, chapter 10:2-3.  The purpose of the fast, for many of us anyway, is to set time aside at the beginning of the year to seek to get closer to God.  To allow Him into our lives to show us things that may be hindering us.  Perhaps to bring things to light that we may have hidden away or buried for years.  To seek to find out if our life is going in the direction He wants it to go, so we can make a course correction if it’s not.  

There are those who regularly take time to examine their lives, and ask the Lord to show them areas where they need change, or perhaps areas where forgiveness is needed for things done to us or by us long ago.  For some this is a new process.  I had been a Christian many years before I ever heard of taking time to do this.  

I remember many years ago I was having a hard time dealing with some family issues.  I read a couple books at the time, that were about things like forgiveness, judgement and generational issues with families.  After reading those books, and talking to some friends, I realized I needed to start on this journey.  Both books talked about this process being like the layers of an onion.  You take care of one layer and then when you peel it back there are more layers underneath.

With the help of a friend I started walking through some of these layers.  Forgiving people in my life from things of the past, and also asking forgiveness from those I may have hurt.  I remember taking a walk one day, shortly after peeling back some of those layers, and actually feeling almost disappointed as I thought to myself, well, that was quick, I guess I’m done.  Because, deep down although I did feel better having done what I did, I still felt like I was not nearly as close to God as I wanted and I felt like there was a barrier between us still.  I knew I didn’t want to be done if I was still struggling with these things.  

 As I’m sure you can imagine, though I might have thought I had finished the process, I was really just beginning.  After all these years it is still an ongoing process. This should be something we do on a regular basis until the end of our life here on earth.  We will never finish being perfected until the end.  And obviously, the more years you have been alive the more stuff you have to deal with.  

God is so good. When we give the Lord permission  to “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;  And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” like the Psalmist did in Psalm 139:23-24, He will.  And He does it in such a kind and loving way.  If He were to tell us all at once, everything we needed to hear, or to change, we would be overwhelmed.  He’s a gentleman and He waits till we are ready to ask Him to help us.  

Anytime the Lord has revealed something to me, and helped me overcome it, it has felt like a burden has been lifted from me.  It can be painful while you are going through the process, but the end result is so worth it.  

Why then do we sometimes find it so hard to just get still and ask the Lord the hard questions about our lives?  Often it is out of fear.  We are afraid to deal with those things that have been hidden so long.  We are afraid to ask the Lord to show us what we may be doing wrong.  We are afraid of change and we are afraid it could be painful.  So we stuff it down a little further and pretend all is well.  

The Lord already knows everything about us anyway.  He doesn’t want to bring these things out to harm us or shame us.  He knows that the enemy would rather let these things lie in darkness and not be dealt with.  He knows that often these are the chains that have kept us bound.  He wants us to be free from anything that keeps us from being close to Him.

In Isaiah 61:1 Isaiah was prophesying about Jesus. He said ““The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, Because the Lord has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”  The Lord does not want any of His children to be in bondage.  

There have been a lot of books written on these subjects.  By people a lot smarter than me.  Here’s the thing.  You don’t need to read a lot of books or take a college class to get started.  You can start right where you are at.  All you need is a heart open to the Lord.  A longing to know Him more and get closer to Him.  An openness to be willing to change, if He tells you something to change.  To forgive if He shows you you need to forgive.  And to be willing to repent if He shows you something you did, or are doing that is not pleasing to Him.  He loves you so much.  He’s just waiting for you to turn to Him.  

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Questions

I was thinking this morning about a question we need to ask ourselves from time to time.  Are we the same person to our families, and those close to us, as we are to people we  work with, or go to church with, or our neighbors or friends?  Do we respond the same way to all?  

Let’s face it.  Most of us have times when we may be grumpy.  And we all get angry sometimes or perhaps even snippy or sarcastic. Or, maybe its just me. Not good ways to react.  But, in this case I’m not talking about the occasional grumpiness or bad mood.  I’m talking about the way we treat others on a day to day basis.  

Are we the kind of person that shows one side of us to people we interact with outside our home, and then  when we come home we show the side where people are afraid to even talk to us?  Do we treat our bosses and fellow employees with respect, crack jokes and show concern for people, then come home and act surly and growl at others who don’t jump to meet our every need?  

I would hope that most of us are not like that.  In fact, shouldn’t we  be kinder and more loving to those we are close to?  After all, they are the ones that generally put up with us, and our sometimes bad moods, and hopefully, love us in spite of our faults.  It should matter more to us what they think of us, than what those at work or school or church think of us.  

Here’s another question.  Do those we love know that we love them, and that they are important to us? Do we make it a priority to tell them or to show them?  If something were to happen, could you be at peace knowing that all was well between you?  So often you hear of family members and friends who get into fights and arguments and don’t talk for years and decades.  In some cases they never resolve their issues before one of them dies.  How tragic is that?  

I have been in the place of having a family member die unexpectedly.  In my case we had had some months of a somewhat strained relationship.  I’m so very grateful to the Lord that we were able to work that out before she died.  Loss is hard enough on its own.  We don’t need guilt on top of it because we didn’t take the time to show our love or to resolve our differences.  

How many agree with me that whether its the way we treat others, or the way that they treat us, relationships can be one of the most challenging things in our Christian walk.  If we are doing it right, and walking in love as we are called to do, that is.  

My Pastor was teaching on love this morning.  He made the comment that walking in love is the best way to have relationships.  For himself he uses 1 Corinthians 13:5 as a guide to how he is doing in his love walk.  “ It (love) is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].

That can  be very challenging sometimes right?  Such as times when we are treated unfairly at work, or our family does not act the way that we think they should or we have that neighbors dog that barks and barks for hours on end.  Do we respond in love?  Or do we get angry, touchy or resentful?  Hmm.  I would love to say I have mastered this one, but I have a ways to go yet.  

To quote my pastor once more, he said “we can either respond in the flesh or from our spirit.  Your spirit rules you only when you choose love.”

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The good news is, if we have failed at this in the past, we can repent, move on and start fresh.  All we need to do is remember to choose love.

Oh, one last thing.  If you are one of those people who has been holding a grudge against someone and you have a broken relationship, do yourself a favor.  Let this be the year that you take advice from Ephesians 4:32 “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”  I promise, no matter how it turns out, you will be so glad you did.