Category Archives: Thoughts for the Week

Am I faithful…or fearful?

“He said to them, Why are you so timid and fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

Mark 4:40

 What does it mean to be faithful? I work in an organization where people have served 10…15…20…even 28 years! We have a reputation for becoming “lifers” here. This got me to thinking, will I be one? The answer is, IF God calls me to stay.  I pray I won’t stay simply out of convenience or in the name of faithfulness. It would be scary to leave, but I want to be faithful for the right reasons.

Senator Robert Byrd has been a Senator since January 3, 1959, serving the country for 40 years. Impressive.  Brett Favre quarterbacked from 1992 until 2008 when he retired, starting in 291 games. That’s faithfulness!  Still, when he returned to the field after his retirement, some of the zeal was gone, the spark and excitement that once was Brett Favre had dissipated. His faithfulness became painful to watch—I for one was ready for him to go quietly.  That’s the way it is!  Some people just don’t know when to quit. But sometimes they should! 

The ability to persevere is admirable; the inability to continue moving forward and embrace new seasons and new frontiers in life is not.  Sometimes we admire someone’s faithfulness, when in reality they are mostly fearful of letting go and taking a step toward something new. How can we tell if we are acting out of faithfulness or fear? This is really the question…

To begin with, true faithfulness should be grounded in faith. (Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?)  Faithfulness believes that God is going to do something as a result of our efforts. If we have lost this expectation, it could be we are holding on to what God did in the past, not looking forward to what He wants to do today and in the future. If somehow we believe the best is behind us, we may need to ask ourselves, am I remaining faithful for the right reasons?

Also, I believe faithfulness should produce fruit. If we are persevering in faith we should see new crops and fresh growth in everything we do. Psalms 1 says we: “will bring forth its fruit in its season, [our] leaf also shall not wither; And whatever [we do] shall prosper.” There must be fruit throughout our season of faithfulness.  If we can’t identify the fruit of our efforts, or see any recent growth, this could be a sign that our season to remain faithful is drawing to a close.  Perhaps God is trying to get your attention to ask you to pursue something entirely different with Him.

Another trait of true faithfulness is action. Faithfulness should not be just a passive, enduring existence. There may be times when you feel God has put you on the shelf for a season, and He holds you back from doing the one thing you feel called to do. He may even ask you to remain faithful when nothing is happening in your circumstances. However, this does not mean He requires nothing from you during the wait!  He asks us to give thanks at all times, to love our neighbors, to work heartily for Him, and to look for opportunities to bless those around us. We cannot use the idea of being faithful to excuse not doing all we can when we can.

I don’t want to confuse faithfulness with seniority. Does God really look at years of service the way we do, I wonder. Is pure faithfulness or “steadfastness” always the basis for spiritual promotion? I’m not sure.  At least not as we often define faithfulness. Perhaps he looks at our hearts to see why we have persevered, and if we are remaining faithful in what He called us to, not just what is comfortable and familiar to us.

These are tough questions I think. As a person who has worked in a ministry setting for just 13 years, I can tell you I recognize the difference in my own life. I have stuck with a ministry longer than I should have because I loved what I was doing. I loved reaching people, hearing how I was helping their lives. I saw fruit at every turn. BUT when God was done with it, I had to move on regardless of what strokes it gave me and how much I would miss it. Working in a ministry position is no different. Just because you can stay in a position, or have for many years, doesn’t mean that’s all God has for you.  When He starts tugging at your heart, don’t ignore Him in the name of faithfulness.  We can’t let our fear or comfort hinder the work God wants to do in our lives. Continue reading

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Ever wish you had an important ministry?

 Have you ever thought, “I wish I had a ministry?” Have you ever wished you could do something exciting like smuggling Bibles into China, rebuilding homes in New Orleans, traveling on missions trips to foreign countries, or spearheading that global evangelism outreach that no one has even thought of yet? As news headlines catch our attention, the end seems eminent; it seems we should be doing something!

For me, I’d like to just keep up with my current projects…and have the foresight to plan dinner. (That would be a global event in our home!) There are so many times when I feel that even though I’m doing all God’s called me to, it’s just not enough. Certainly there must be something bigger He wants me to do; not just care for my home and family, encourage others, love and pray for my family, live a life of compassion and being an example to others. Certainly there must be more…

I remember reading about Susannah Wesley and how each day she prayed, “Dear God, guide me. Help me do Thy will. Make my life count.” Did she have any idea that God was answering her prayer as she made dinner and taught her children to love God? Did she have any idea that her life and influence would touch nations and impact millions of lives? I doubt it. Read on: “Samuel Wesley, Susannah’s husband was certainly correct when he told her, ‘Some of the truly great people are the ones who were faithful in doing simple things.'” (Susannah Wesley by Charles Ludwig, page 89) It’s not about the vastness of our ministry; it’s about our faithfulness to it.

The often quoted verse says it so well, “Well done, you upright (honorable, admirable) and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little…” (Matthew 25:21 AMP). Be it caring for a sick child or parent, befriending a neighbor, serving our mates, maintaining a good attitude. Each of these by themselves may seem insignificant, yet they comprise the fullness of God’s will. Our faithfulness in even the small things can bring a big degree of satisfaction, and is all God really desires from us. Do you have a hard time accepting that? I know I do—at times. And then I get a note from a friend reminding me that God is pleased with me. That my faithfulness has not gone unnoticed. Wow.

Today I give you the same message! God is pleased with you. He’s not saying, “Why doesn’t she do more?” He’s saying, “Look how carefully she obeys me. Look how attentive she is to her home and family. Look how joyfully she cares for the little things I’ve given her to do.” Keep this in mind as you go about your day. Make time to be faithful in the little things, and never believe that they are insignificant or somehow not noticed by God! They are…

Is lack of caffeine the root of all evil?

Caffeine…like money…in and of itself is not a problem. But deprive someone long enough…and look out!

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to see the caffeine-deprived behaving badly? I have, many times! (Perhaps that’s a reflection of how often I’m visiting Starbucks…) Anyway, today I pulled into the parking lot ready for my Decaf Grande Misto. I was meandering along looking for a parking place, when all of a sudden I catch a glimpse of someone in my rear view riding my bumper. He was impatient and looked as if he was seriously considering passing me in the parking lot! Well, this startled me a little, so I hurried into a spot to get out of his way, and of course, we both got out of our cars at the same time.

Here was a young, successful, well-groomed, well-dressed man who’s manners didn’t match the package. I made eye contact and let him walk in front of me (he was obviously in a hurry). He did hold the door open for me in a very sheepish manner, to which I responded with a smile, “Why, thank you.” (What I should have said was “No, go ahead you obviously need this more than I do.” BUT I didn’t.) He proceeded to get in line in front of me. I just smiled thinking the whole time how embarrassed this man must be; to think that a cup of coffee would be more important than good manners.

Maybe it’s the mother in me, or a deep streak of naivete, but I was troubled by his behavior.  I suppose it wasn’t just the coffee that drove him; it was the selfishness that sometimes drives all of us. As Solomon once said, “An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment”(Proverbs 18:1 NIV). When we have our “sights” set on something, it is hard to remember good manners, good judgment, or even our own good intentions. We may get so caught up in the pursuit that we discount our behavior along the way.

I think this is the mindset Paul was talking about in I Timothy 6:10: “For the love of money is a root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have been led astray and have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many acute [mental] pangs” (AMP).  Money isn’t the evil…the LOVE of it is—the selfish pursuit and unreasonable desire that elevates our “craving” above all else. I think this truth applies to any self-led desire: money, food, possessions, control, glory and recognition, even caffeine. Now, I say that a little tongue in cheek, but the principle is sound. When we place a higher importance on “getting” any certain thing than walking with conviction and integrity, we risk more than just not getting our desires. We risk hurting our reputation, hindering our ability to influence, and having to answer for our bad behavior to God and others.

Philippians 2:3-4 instructs us, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others”(NKJV). In our pursuit of a good life, a good future, and a good cup of coffee, we must remember that those we meet along the way are much more important than the goal which we are pursuing. Each person, obstacle, or situation may very well be a test God has placed in your path. His purpose: To determine your reward.  The testing process may reveal the answers to the important questions:

Are you ready to handle the increase?

Is your attitude right?

Are you willing to live without it if need be?

Are you content with where you are in your pursuit of where you are going?

Patient…or passive?

Patient…or passive??

“Therefore I [am ready to] persevere and stand my ground with patience…”
II Timothy 2:10

I wonder sometimes if we really get the difference between these two words? Of course, it’s no shocker that I think patience can be highly over-rated. I’m not by nature a patient person.  But the truth is, I’m not really against patience—when it’s true patience. I am, however, against being passive claiming we are being patient. There are times we must push, confront, enter into conflict, face our fears, and take charge of our lives. Yet, often in the name of “Just be patient” we do none of the things we should.  This applies to so many areas of life: our health or healing, our finances, our jobs/careers, our relationships, our spiritual lives…even our futures.

 

This verse is interesting to me in that Paul is standing his ground with patience. He’s not doing nothing with patience; he’s not twiddling his thumbs or complaining with patience. He’s standing his ground.  So, there are times when our patience requires action. Seems incongruent doesn’t it? That’s the point! We have accepted this idea that a passive existence is somehow spiritual…that waiting on God means we have nothing to do with the outcome. In my own life, this is a dangerous mindset. When I sit back and passively wait on circumstances to change…on people to read my mind…on life (or God) to give me what I feel I deserve, I’m not actually waiting—I’m wasting time!  I’m afraid we spend too much time waiting and wishing.  We all have the power to accomplish great things, but the truth is: God expects us to participate and to live with passion and purpose—not passively waiting for things to be easy.

 

Read about Caleb in Joshua 14.  In verse 12, he demanded of Joshua: …”Give me this mountain….” That is not a passive sort of faith that takes what comes—but one that rises to the occasion and to the promises God has given us. I bet we all have areas of life that we have become passive in…maybe without even realizing it.  Take this encouragement to stir up your faith into action and believe for something bigger and better!

 

Let’s bring back the Thank You note…

Ok, before you think I am dumping a load of guilt on you–hear me out. I love receiving Thank You notes. I enjoy hearing what someone thought of my gift or my action that meant something to them. I know how appreciated and rare they are…still, I’m not so good at sending them!

I remember one year when the boys were very young, I got chewed out by a long-distance relative for not sending a Thank You note for something sent to our boys. I was very upset at the lack of grace and understanding this person showed me. I didn’t really know the rules back then! Plus, I don’t like when things like that are expected and then held up as a standard I somehow failed to achieve. This experience may have soured me on the simple joy of the Thank You note.

This being said, I think Thank You notes are great. Not as a social measure to judge others; but as a sincere gesture that lets someone know you don’t take them-or their gift or thoughtfulness–for granted. That’s a message I want to send and receive. So, as time-consuming or inconvenient as it may be, I am going to try to send more Thank You notes this year, starting with my friends and family who sent me things for Christmas. It’s a small way I can sow appreciation into their lives…and into mine!

What do you think of Thank You notes?

Taming the mind God gave me…

Have you ever wrestled with who you are? Do you find yourself apologizing tor those things that are second-nature to you that flow out of who you are without even thinking? Do you have peace with the way God made you?

 

I think this is a very important question! IF God never did anything else in your heart/life to change you…IF you never read another self-help book or attended another conference…WOULD YOU BE OKAY WITH WHO YOU ARE?  Because…God is!  He LOVES the way He made you.  He finely crafted every detail of your personality, your passions, your interests, whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, straight hair or curly. He put you together in a unique and awesome way. What a shame that we (I) spend so much time trying to change that!  In the midst of trying to change and grow—we lose sight of how good we really are.

 

I’m not talking about living a “flesh-driven life” here; I’m talking about accepting ourselves at the very core of who we are. It’s not an arrogant attitude that says I never have to grow or adapt. I’m talking about an attitude that accepts and LOVES who we are…to the point of using every gift and talent God has given us to serve others. No excuses, no lack of confidence or poor self-image.  Just an all out throwing ourselves into whatever God puts in front of us…fully cognizant of our weaknesses, where we may stumble, but wanting to do it anyway.

 

WOW. This is the “revelation” that our friend, Jon, at Stuff Christians Like got from God and wrote about in his post, Teaching yourself to breathe underwater.  And it opened my eyes to this struggle in my own life…and helped me see it a little more clearly. I believe it will help me live more freely, too!

 

Why waste time trying to tame the mind God gave me? A mind that literally overflows with thought and ideas spilling onto anyone I come in contact with…a heart that wants to help everyone and anyone do what they are doing better. Thoughts and words that at times have been mistaken for power-struggles or arrogance.  Yet, when other people misinterpret my words or actions and fail to see and accept me for who I am—does that mean I should believe them? No. I must get back to the root of who I am with God. He’s OK with me…he really is! He’s OK with you…He really is! He loves your quirks, your sense of humor, your heart for people. He knows how hard you try to please others and Him. He’s totally impressed with your style, your ideas, your motives. It’s sort of hard to swallow all this, isn’t it…

 

I guess that’s my point. We can—and should—totally agree with God Who says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. (Ps. 139)

 

How about you? What quirks in your life and personality are you trying to change?  Are you willing to accept and embrace those things and fling yourself into life in a fresh, new way?  I think you should…

The art of being misunderstood

How heart-wrenching it is to realize you have been deeply misunderstood…and that people are assuming the very worst about you. It’s like my least favorite thing!

Is it pride at my loss of reputation? Is it grief for the loss of communication or that the gift of reconciliation was tossed aside in the heat of the moment? 

I get that we all make rash judgments about people. Then we filter their words and actions through the filter of our own assumptions. I’m sure I have done this many times…as a parent, a daughter, a wife, a friend. Still, the sting of realizing that your heart is not understood…and even worse, that it’s being judged unfairly is so painful to me.

Am I guilty of not expressing myself well? Certainly. Do I make assumptions that others will know my heart based on who I am? Yes. A careless word or a fragmented thought can lead to much confusion and misinterpretation. How often I’ve learned this truth.  And how often I am reminded that hurt people hurt people… 

Lord, help me to speak the truth in love. Help me to embrace the vulnerability that comes with revealing my heart–and never shy away from this out of fear that I may be misunderstood.