Wednesday, April 28, 2010

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

Wow, the past couple of weeks, God has really been tugging at my heart to make some drastic changes. All for good, but my selfish heart is really acting like an undisciplined child over some of it. It’s our nature, I know that. What’s tough is that when I look at the teaching in Scripture, it makes perfect sense. I find myself taking it in and thinking “yes!” But, putting some things into practice and even deeper, allowing them to really transform my heart, well sometimes that’s just a tall order.

I’ve always had a pretty fiery personality. I get pretty excited over things. In the same vein, when I get upset over something, I have a tendency to really let it get to me and that can turn into some not-so-pretty attributes.

This is an area that I have been praying over for a long time. But I’ve noticed recently that He is really challenging me to surrender this to Him. And, this week, he used it to teach me a valuable lesson in my marriage. Arguing within the framework of marriage, in my opinion, is just weird. Sure, it’s going to happen. But when you’re arguing with the person you are closest to on this earth, it can rip open vulnerabilities and turn ugly if both of you are not careful. Frankly, arguing caused a lot of pain and heartache (mostly mine) in the early years of our marriage. I honestly think I really didn’t know “how” to argue. At least not in a manner that focused on the issue and not the emotion. I’m certain my husband would agree.

Without going into a lot of detail, we had an argument and some reckless, piercing words were said. I’ll be honest, this encounter left me in tears. But the interesting part was that instead of stomping off and getting angry, I cried out to Jesus to show me where I needed to forgive and ask for forgiveness. Boy, he did. Not 24 hours earlier, I had been listening to a message on “Risky Hope for your Marriage” from our church. And oh how that message came back to me in waves. But, it also led me back to the Scripture, which gave me areas to pray about and see what I could do differently. I also found truths to offer to my husband. By reaching out with truth from the Bible, we quickly resolved the issue, and more importantly, repented and offered each other forgiveness.

I don’t think you can just learn that by yourself. God has to be involved, and at the heart of it or it just won’t work. I’ve never quoted Scripture to resolve an argument before. I can promise it won’t be the last time that happens.

This journey is challenging. But when little victories like this come along, I’m filled with praise because I know that it’s Him at work in me. That brings me joy and peace knowing that with Him, there is nothing I cannot face.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1.

God’s love for His children is so overwhelming. In listening to a message/podcast, this verse was discussed in great detail. The speaker challenged us to think about how great the Father’s love is for us. Being called His child – His daughter is such a powerful concept.

Thinking more about it and about how He made me and wired me just amazes me even more. If I stop and think about the overabundance of blessings in my life, I can’t help but be driven to my knees and to a place of profound gratitude.

A year ago this weekend I prayed for Him to reveal my purpose and His plan for me. He responded immediately, whispering into my soul with Jeremiah 29:11 and telling me to help Him write His story. Really? Me? Oh yes. He has provided the guidance, the words and the mechanism to draw others to Him. I am humbled and grateful that He chose to give me the gifts He did and is using them to touch lives. Honestly, what He’s done in mine and my family’s life the past year has been beyond our wildest dreams.

And as I sit here and ponder the past year, what lies ahead and what He has in store for the future, I’m feeling pretty lavished on – as the verse says. Oh, we’ve had trials and challenges, but the underlying current is an abundance of grace and the peace of knowing that nothing we go through is without purpose or His presence right in the middle of it. We can and do lean on Him for our strength and comfort and He’s always there.

Our gratitude tends to be in the visible and immediate – when a door opens, an opportunity lands in our laps, we meet the right person and the right time or something nothing short of a miracle just “happens.” But more than the opened doors and opportunities, people and places He’s intersected my life with is the redemptive power of His love. That is a love that is beyond comprehension or repayment. That He loves me enough to call me His is really lavishing on me more than enough. Everything else is His grace and my humble gratitude.

Monday, April 12, 2010

“No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” 1John 4:12

Interestingly, I am writing this on 4/12/10, on flight 412 from LAX to DEN. I just thought it was kind of an amazing thing how God uses cues to help clue me in to what He’s working on in me. Just as I was about to board this flight, I realized the number and date irony. Not to mention, it also happens to be my birthday. Okay, enough with the oddities.

After I boarded the plane, I thought perhaps God was using this no-such-thing as-a-coincidence moment to point out something to me. So, I started thumbing through the Scriptures, reading every 4:12 I found. When I reached 1John, I found that I had previously highlighted this verse and it collided in my heart with another verse I was reading earlier today, Romans 12:2, which says “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When I was reading the verse in Romans today, it was part of a Bible study and it challenged us to take a look inside ourselves and start to peel off the layers we build up to cover up the ties that bind us and keep us from a full and intimate relationship with God. It was not an easy thing to begin doing. In fact, it was pretty uncomfortable to be truthful. We all have past hurts, regrets, disappointments and struggles that can prevent us from fully living the life God intends for us. Identifying them and trusting that God can free us from those chains are important steps. As I said, I’m peeling off layers, praying I’ll get to a place where I can be totally free in Him. What’s wonderful is that even when I know I’ve still got a long way to go, I can look back and see how far I’ve come, and rejoice!

After starting to work on that self-examination earlier in the day, the word transformed really began to stand out in my heart. God is transforming me and it is an incredible process. And then, there was the flight number/date/birthday Scripture journey. As I read through 1John 4:12 several time, I began to settle in on the “love” statements in it. Love is a feeling, an action, a decision and, with God, an EVENT! One small word can mean so very much. Loving one another takes on the decision and feeling piece – I can choose love and I feel great emotions when I love. Loving others opens up my heart to tap into why they are the way they are. I can relate to them on another level and begin to look at them with eyes that perhaps, ever-so-slightly mirror those of Jesus. When that is our choice, and if we’ve chosen the gift of saving grace, God is living in us, gently shaping and guiding our will to be His. That is when the action happens, transformation begins and, from there, the cycle perpetuates.

The more I chose love, the more transformed to be like Jesus I can become. And that just continues as I mature in my faith journey. What a beautiful gift that is. That is just about the best birthday present I could ask for. Jesus, thank you for your Word. Thank you for leading us to places that help us to seek your will and better know your heart as you take up residence in us and change us to be more like you.

Friday, April 9, 2010

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

My heart is so full of joy, I could almost burst. As I find myself with time to focus today, God is pressing upon my heart the need to stop, breathe Him in, reflect and praise Him for the intricate pattern He is weaving through my life and the lives of my family. Honestly, it’s almost beyond words.

About a year and a half ago, my husband was laid off from his sales rep job. At the time, it was pretty devastating. We are a two-income family out of necessity, not choice. Faced with only a few months of severance and a collapsing job market, I went to my knees. And you know what happened? God poured into us. He provided resources and opportunity to help us make it several months without a lot of struggle. But then, he took it up a notch. That provision allowed Steve to find his true purpose and passion. His baseball knowledge, and his ability to share that knowledge through teaching, is a true gift. His dream of starting a baseball academy to prepare young men for life lessons, and perhaps the next level of their own baseball careers, began to take shape. Time and time again, God placed in his path the right people, met his needs and opened doors. I like to say He moved mountains, because He really did.

Its been just over a year since the epiphany moment when God made it abundantly clear this was where Steve needed to be. We stand on the cusp of seeing it in action as three teams take to the fields to begin tournament play. Hours of instruction, practice, patience, scrimping and scraping together the funds and commitment are about to bear fruit. I’ve never been more proud of my husband and I’ve never been more grateful to our Heavenly Father.

Amazingly, this isn’t all! God is working a downright miracle in my life as well. He has brought several friends and family members along side of me as I pursue a path to listen to the whisper in my heart to do more to “help God write His story.” Those words echoed in my spirit nearly a year ago as I pondered my own purpose and path. And, just like in Steve’s case, God has brought into my life friends who bless me, lift me up and encourage me to press on.

In just a few short weeks, nearly 70% of the funds I need to attend a Christian speakers/writers conference have been generously donated by friends and family. I’m confident and expectant that God will provide the rest of the funds and that door will open. From there, I’m surrendered to His will and His timing. I’m learning to listen more and respond in faith. I’m never disappointed when I do, so I know that this time God is knitting together something amazing and I’m humbled and grateful He wants me to be a part of it.

Let me encourage anyone reading this. God will pour into you as well. We are no different than the next person – that is the beauty of God’s amazing grace. It is available for all of us and if we’re willing to surrender to Him, we will be blown away by what He will do. In Jesus’ own words, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Amen and Praise God!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

“The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.” Proverbs 15:2

This is such a difficult lesson for me, but it’s obvious to me that it is one that the Spirit is pushing me to work on. For years, I was a hothead; snapping a curt response or flying off the handle at really little things of no consequence. I noticed when my kids came along that my episodes were more frequent. Not a great place to be. Definitely not where I wanted to be nor the kind of example I wanted to be setting.

It has taken years of prayer, practice and patience – none of which I made a regular habit back then – to make even the slightest bit of progress. But, I’m thrilled to say that with Heavenly help, I have made progress. Notable progress, which encourages me to press on and keep pushing forward to make even more progress.

In our Bible study group, we were discussing the story of Jezebel, very likely one of the least likable ladies in history. The lesson took us into James 3, where we discussed the importance of a guarded tongue. Wooh, that struck a nerve, I tell you! James 3:9 says “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.” Ouch. How many times has that been me? Too many.

There is hope – there is progress and there is the gift of another day. With a new day comes another opportunity to guard my tongue, pray, breathe, pause, carefully approach my responses in those situations where I’m tempted to resort to my old ways. In a span of only a few days, there were several instances when I was able to (with God’s grace) let things go, breathe in and out while saying Jesus’ name and just let things go without any incident. And you know what, I am a more responsive, obedient Christian when that is my perspective. That’s when I start to think about why a person is doing or saying something where I would respond inappropriately – rather than getting angry or hurt, I see them as a fragile child that God loves as much as He loves me and that changes everything.

I came home and studied through James 3 and then went into the other noted verses, from the Psalms and Proverbs – where today’s title passage settled in and grabbed a hold of my heart. And God reminded me that when we pause to look back on the progress we’ve made, we should rejoice in that moment. So, I did. As a woman, it’s so easy to beat myself up of a lack of progress focus on the 1 (or 2 or more) times when I don’t respond the way I know I should and want to. But I know that without the grace of God every day, I cannot do anything. And when I cling to Him and keep him front and center, everything goes in a whole different direction than if I were trying to paddle alone.