Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An Unexpected Encounter

A series of events led to an unexpected encounter this afternoon.  

I’m in Las Vegas (a place I generally despise) with Mike as he attends a Western State’s Sheriff’s Conference. To my pleasant surprise, the conference is a couple of miles off of the strip in a beautiful resort and spa, which also happens to have an equine center and arena. (I was looking forward to watching a few horse events, but none are scheduled while we’re here. That disappointment is beside the point, entirely). 

As we filled the luggage for our trip, Mike held swim trunks in his hand and asked if I packed my swim suit.  “No,” I said, imagining the long trek through a smelly, smoke-filled casino to get to a pool area. I planned to visit the pool, of course, but in capris rather than a bathing suit.  

A few minutes after I gave my answer, our daughter posted a photo on Facebook. I can rarely resist the temptation to look when I receive that particular notification.  Opening the app, I saw a photo from Mike’s cousin. It showed her pedicured toes against the sparkling blue backdrop of a pool. “On second thought, I’m taking my suit,” I said to Mike.

This afternoon, I sat poolside in Vegas for nearly two hours of glorious sun, made possible only by immersing myself in the cool water a time or two. There were more children than I believe I’ve ever seen in this particular city, and no ridiculously skimpy attire in site. The unexpected family-friendly atmosphere was a comfortable setting to spend an afternoon in solitude.

For a Colorado girl just coming out of spring snow storms, the pool deck was rather hot and I eventually moved my towel and book to a lounger in the shade, adjacent to a beautiful hot tub area. A few steps in front of me, I noticed a man who sat in the jetted oasis. He had his back to me. I don’t know why he held my attention, but I watched as he lowered his face into his hands. His whole body began to shake as he sobbed. His grief seemed raw and I doubt he realized anyone was watching.

My heart went out to this man and I was deeply touched by his display of emotion. In all honesty, I wanted to go to him and ask if I could help in any way.  Approaching him would have felt inappropriate, and it's not hard to imagine that it could have risked personal safety. I quickly dismissed the idea and began to wonder about the cause of his grief. We’re in Las Vegas so I imagined that he’d lost a life-changing-sized bet or that his sin had become too heavy to bear. In a more grace-filled second, I wondered if he’d recently lost someone he loved.

It became one of those moments when I thought, “All I can do is pray,” knowing full well that prayer is far more significant than an “all I can do” type of activity. I prayed that this man would find God in his brokenness and that the Lord would provide great comfort for whatever he faced. I asked God to reveal the plan and purpose ordained for his life and to equip him for the next leg of his journey. 

I’ll never know the cause of the stranger’s grief, but today I tried to help him in the most powerful way possible. I realize my thoughts about his troubles were likely far off base but I rest in knowing that God understands every detail and will work all things together for good when this man surrenders to His will. 

Sometimes God’s ways are surprising and unexpected. Several pieces of an oddly-shaped puzzle fell into place today.  In a location I rarely visit and because of a split second decision to pack what I’d once decided to leave home, I was made aware of one man’s grief. May God be glorified through all that transpires from here, though I won’t know the results on this side of heaven.

Your Turn:

When have you helped a stranger?  How did that look?

Do you believe that prayer is the least we can do? Or is it, instead, a powerful tool?

Has God ever knit seemingly ordinary circumstances together in order to reveal something to you?

Continue the conversation by commenting below or visiting Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word
Psalm 119:28


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

We are More Than Our Mistakes

Naturally, I was running late. As hard as I try to avoid it, I’m generally 5-10 minutes behind schedule. This time, I was due at a gathering with some girlfriends at a quaint restaurant in Old Town. Thinking ahead, I knew that the parking situation could present a few challenges. (Parallel parking on Main Street in broad daylight sounds rather intimidating, if you ask me.) As I approached the cafe, my heart thrilled when I saw an open diagonal parking spot. I nabbed it without hesitation and hurried into the restaurant where a few of the ladies were already seated. 

We enjoyed a fabulous meal and the bliss of much-needed girl talk. When it was time to go, I exited through a back door, hoping the alley would lead me close to my gem of a parking spot. Approaching the street, I saw a car that seemed to block the alley. It wasn’t blatant, but the car was inappropriately close to the driving lane. Yes. You guessed it - the car blocking the alley was mine.  The open diagonal spot that I nearly danced about was not a parking space at all. I’d missed all the clues.

Faux pas happen daily.  Some are unavoidable, some we can skirt around, and still others are entirely preventable. It’s the cause of - and our reactions to - the errors that classify them into four distinct categories:

1) Innocent Mistakes.  These have no ill intent and happen before we have time to give them much thought. “Oh, I’m so sorry I stepped on your toe. I certainly didn’t mean to.”  Or - “Something startled me and I dropped the vase. What a messy accident.”  Innocent mistakes are generally fixed by a quick apology, sometimes by tidying up a mess, and moving on with our day.

2) Preventable Blunders.  My erroneous parking performance falls into this category. I didn’t mean to use an unmarked spot. The painted lines were severely faded and nearly invisible, but I should have had a better grasp of my surroundings. While I didn’t plan to park illegally, I could have avoided the situation and should have been more careful. Fixing a preventable blunder involves accepting responsibility for our actions, learning from our mistake and working to avoid a repeat performance. An apology and request for forgiveness may be in order. We must face any consequences (i.e. a parking ticket, which was gloriously absent from my windshield) with responsibility and humility.  

3) Careless Indiscretions. These often happen when we allow our emotions to get the best of us. We act on impulse,with poor judgment and say the wrong thing or act rashly. It’s not unusual to find that our reactions lead us to unkind or embarrassing situations. Once with a car full of friends, I was parking for a Christian women’s event. The parking attendant pointed me in a strange direction and before I knew it, I barked out some sarcastic remark.  It was completely impulsive and ridiculously embarrassing. A heartfelt apology was in order, but the situation didn’t lend itself, truly, for great recovery. I could only work out my heart issue with the Lord.  Obviously I haven’t forgotten it. When possible, (you know these steps by heart by now), an apology and request for forgiveness is warranted.  Words are extremely difficult to undo and these circumstances should receive great care and meekness.

4) Regrettable Choices.  We have control over our regrettable choices, whether or not we choose to recognize it.  A stressful job leads us to use repeated unkind words toward our spouse. Financial stress “makes” us withdraw from our work responsibilities because we’re so distracted. We neglect an important relationship for a myriad of reasons.  Regrettable choices are difficult to repair because our learned pattern of apologizing and asking for forgiveness are not enough. Our actions weren’t mistakes, they were choices that caused pain to others.  While we can express remorse, that’s not adequate to heal the wounds. It may take days, weeks, months, perhaps even years to reestablish trust and respect. Those two million dollar words (trust and respect) aren’t given freely, they must be earned and come with a high price and substantial sacrifice.  Without a willingness to invest in reconciliation, it will not likely come.

Each category of mistakes, be they choices or innocent accidents, are covered by the blood of Christ. Our most effective way to remedy each situation is to seek the Lord and His guidance and pray for His healing work of redemption.  Walking in obedience to God’s lead and working to right every wrong keeps us on the path to restoration. 

By God’s grace and mercy, we are not defined by our past mistakes. Our identity is firmly fixed on who we are in Him: redeemed, set free, and forgiven!  While we may remember our mistakes, we are not defined by them.  Praise His Holy Name!

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

Your Turn:

Do you remember a particular mistake as if it happened yesterday?  

What steps can you take toward repair or reconciliation over that situation?

Continue the conversation with a comment below, or by engaging on Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Friday, March 13, 2015

Faith Builders: May Mishaps Bring Blessings!

Thank you to Vicky McClure of Mount Airy, Maryland for sharing this short, sweet testimony!  

A Faith Story

John and I took our car into the shop for repair. The next day we went back to pick it up, paid the bill and were told the car is out front with the keys inside. 

We looked for the car and it was not there. A man from the dealership frantically searched the entire lot without success. The conclusion was, our car had been stolen. They refunded the $300+ for the repairs. 

We called our insurance company to report the stolen car. After several weeks we received a check for $1,300. Wow, that was the exact amount we needed to pay for one of our fees for our mission trip to Nicaragua! We had no idea where we were going to get that kind of money x 2 for our trip. God provided us the way, through a stolen car. Sometimes a mishap, turns into a great blessing! We also bought another car with a much lower monthly payment.

God is good, all the time, in mishaps and miracles!  He is God, Who provides for our every need.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19 (HCSB)

If you have a story that you believe will encourage other in their walk of faith, please share it here. We can't wait to hear how God is moving in your life!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Making the Most of the Moments

“Don’t wish your life away.” He said the words with lovingkindness, as if he were a wise sage with centuries of experience from which to draw his advice. I looked into the eyes, however, of a young man sharing heartfelt knowledge that was beyond his years.  

He’d interrupted the babbling nonsense of a teenage girl, dreaming aloud about her future. I’d described how I couldn’t wait to get my Master’s degree, earn a substantial income and spend all my money on material delight.  

He stopped me in my tracks. He helped me enjoy the gifts of the present instead of overlooking them to anticipate the future. 

Both he and his discerning counsel have stayed through decades of life together. I call upon his advice often, as unfolding a precious note kept safe in a close pocket. 

“Don’t wish your life away,” rang in my ears when… 

  • I wished to see college tests and hectic schedules in my rearview mirror
  • I eagerly anticipated our wedding day and felt up to my eyeballs in event planning
  • My babies cried for nourishment every 2 hours and I hungered for a full night’s sleep
  • Laundry piles grew taller than the washing machine
  • Toys - yes toys were everywhere
  • The thousandth showing of a princess movie blared from the television
  • I surrendered my own desires for sports schedules and school dances 
  • A few moments of peace were scarce and I could barely pull my thoughts together 

“Don’t wish your life away,” became my prompt to enjoy the journey. It was my reminder that every phase of life has wonderful blessings attached.  And each season passes far too quickly. It carried me through many challenges and specific points of frustration. The phrase served as my accountability to make the most of the moments rather than becoming disheartened by disruptions. 

With children now grown and independent, I miss the cuddles and intimacy of midnight feedings. I honestly do. 

I’ll never again accept the game ball after my son throws a no-hitter, or spend hour upon hour searching for the perfectly priced purse because my daughter had only $3 of her own money (believe it or not, we found the perfect one).

Sometimes I sit alone to watch those princess movies again. It’s a lot more fun to see them through the wonder of a child.

The blessed words came long ago, but I’m grateful for their longevity. It’s far too easy to feel consumed by the chaos of the moment and to wish for better (easier, calmer, more peaceful) times. It’s easy to long for the future. Instead of wishing our lives away, let’s remember to enjoy the journey and live in the moment. There’s always blessing in the now - sometimes we just have to search a little harder for it. 

Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? 
For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 
James 4:14(ESV)

Your Turn:

When have you been tempted to wish your life away?

What is it about this particular season of life that you wish would finish sooner rather than later?

Instead of dwelling on the negative, what are the blessings of this current season?  List them and place them in a visible location.  Express your gratitude to God every day.

Continue the conversation by posting your comments below, or visiting Facebook or Twitter!

Be Strengthened Today, by His Word,
Psalm 119:28


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

When Bondage Breaks

It was an ordinary morning of Bible study with an extraordinary outcome.  

Knee deep in the book of Esther, I found myself identifying with one of the most evil men in all of Scripture. That’s not comfortable insight from self-examination, let me tell you. 

I was face to face with Haman who, after the excitement of dining with the king and queen of Persia, lost his joy because one man didn’t behave as he’d hoped. Haman was on top of the world, thinking himself the greatest in the kingdom. But when Mordecai refused to pay him tribute, Haman’s gladness turned to rage in the blink of an eye. 

The story made me feel like I was studying my own life. I’ve experienced that same emotional roller coaster many times - a feeling of elation that comes crashing down in a split second when considering rejection from someone in particular.

I’ve tried, to no avail, to earn the favor of a specific person in my life for far too long. When I’m brutally honest I can name my desire for their approval as what it truly is: bondage. The decades-long quest for what I cannot gain is like hobbling chains. The shackles come from working to gain the approval of men and women. I’d much rather pursue the victorious freedom of working for the approval of God alone. I prefer to work for an audience of One, but I don’t always accomplish that goal. 

As I meditated on Scripture that morning in my study, resonating in my spirit were the words of Jesus as He asked the blind men,

“What do you want me to do for you?”  

I began to search my own heart and mind, asking “What do I really want? What would fix the situation?” I prayed through one thought after another, considering how I could break free from this prison that’s held me far too long.  

The troubling truth swallowed me like deep waters as I admitted before God that what I really wanted was an apology. I wanted to hear more than the shallow words, “I’m sorry,” but longed for a heartfelt, sober, humbling admission of guilt and plea for forgiveness.  

The Holy Spirit whispered to my heart, “So you want them to bow.” 

“Yes. Yes!” my spirit screamed. “That’s exactly what I want. I want to win this battle. I want to be right and to hear the acknowledgement that I warrant more than I’ve received.”  The realization gave my heart pause, because that’s exactly what makes me like Haman. This picture of my true self makes me shudder and turn my head when I look in the spiritual mirror. Ew.

Again the Holy Spirit whispered in a voice I could only feel and not hear, “Would that fix you?”

No, it would not fix me.  Because the problem had roots running far deeper than that. 

I knew this, but I couldn’t identify the root. I’m learning that I cannot accomplish spiritual things by striving in my flesh, so I asked the Lord to reveal the root problem. Obviously I’ve searched for it for years and can’t put my finger on it. How is it that they push my buttons when I haven’t seen or talked to them in years? Why does their approval hold such importance in my life? How is it - precisely - that they makes me feel? 

And the answer came. I allow them to make me feel unworthy and incapable of fulfilling my God-given duties. They pour hot coals onto my already smoldering insecurities. Because of their rejection, I believe consider me ill-suited as a wife, mother, author, speaker, coach, and other roles that God has assigned. If they feel that way, they can convince others of it too. In fact I’ve seen them use their influence to do just that. The looming threat is that they’ll convince those closest to me. And… what if they convince me?

In an instant, after years of striving, the Lord lifted the weight and allowed me to see the absurdity of the entire situation. I found a new measure of resolve. 

Why do I allow myself to cower under their scrutiny? I certainly don’t believe Mike is disappointed with me as a wife. Looking back through our marriage, I see that God has grown me into a strong and incredibly supportive spouse. I do not say that pridefully - God gets all the glory. The Lord has taken every moment of my entire life to prepare me - as only He can - to be the wife I am today.  Mike and I have walked through fire together and with the Lord’s help, we’ve seen great victory. We’ll face more struggles, but we’ll conquer them, too, with the Lord leading the way.  

I began to look at each of my roles in the same light and finally had to laugh. How many years have I wasted trying to please a person who would not be pleased? The energy, the exhaustion, and the baggage have all been a heavy burden to bear. 

Christ tells His followers in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

On that particular morning as I wrestled with a very ugly truth about myself, Jesus held my hand and placed my burden upon His kind and loving self. I feel freedom coming. Victory is in my sight as I stop striving to win the favor of others. I trust God will see me through to the final page of this chapter and I’m eager to embrace His best.

Be Strengthened Today, By His Word,
Psalm 119:28


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