How to Fight Giants

A couple of weeks ago I posted a fiction piece that I wrote about giants. (See that post here.) A week after that I shared with you a few of the giants that I regularly fight in my life. (See that post here.) This week I would like to focus on a few methods for fighting the giants in your life.

We all are battling giants. Most of these we live with, without even thinking about it. Fear, anxiety, depression and selfishness are just a few of the giants that many of us regularly battle. Perhaps you have let the giants take over. Maybe they have moved into your life, unpacked their bags and decided to stay a while. Are you even aware of the giants that are claiming ownership to your space: physical, emotional and spiritual? Often, the first step to fighting against a giant is to acknowledge the “elephant in the room”.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Name Your Giants

I think it is essential to know what you are fighting. Sometimes we might name one thing, but in reality it is something else. For instance, you might think that the giant you are battling is depression, but in reality it is fear. Scrutinizing your feelings and the circumstances behind them can help to identify what the real giant aka problem is. Here is a list of questions you can ask that might help to identify what giants are hanging out at your place.

  1. When do I usually notice this feeling/giant (name the feeling - is it fear, sadness, frustration, anger, self-loathing, etc.)?

  2. How often does this feeling happen? Is it only once in a while, every day, only in certain seasons, and so on. I struggle with discouragement, but it is much more prominent during the winter months when there is less sunshine. You can see a previous post I did here on Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  3. Are there certain triggers that bring this feeling on or make this giant appear? For example, I struggle with fear, as I pointed out in my previous post. Things out of the norm will often produce a feeling of fear in me. It can be something mundane like going to the dentist, or it can be something fun like planning a trip where I have to fly.

I believe being able to recognize what giant you are fighting will enable you to have victory more often.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Study Your Giants

When dealing with any enemy or problem it is best to come at it with some sort of knowledge base. If you deal with anxiety read up on anxiety disorder. Don’t just read secular works, pick a few that are written from a Christian, Biblical perspective. Know what the root causes of anxiety are. Become more self aware, not to the point of becoming self absorbed, but to the point of understanding yourself and the people and circumstances around you, so that you know why you are feeling what you are feeling.

Until I finally read up on Seasonal Affective Disorder, I had no idea why I felt so overwhelmed and discouraged during the winter months. Obviously, we all get a little tired of the long winter with the cold, illness and unpredictable weather, but my fatigue was more so than usual and my desire to crawl into a warm hole with a fuzzy blanket was very real. Once I began to look into it, just reading a few online articles I realized that was, what affected me every winter. Knowing what it was and why it happened actually made me feel better. It also gave me access to resources to actually fight against this seasonal giant.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Fight Your Giants

Before I get to far into this portion of the post I want to clarify that not everyone is capable of fighting their giants without help. Depression can be so extreme that a person can’t even get out of bed, let alone raise a sword and fight. I am not a professional counselor or a licensed, practicing psychiatrist. These ideas are merely coming from my own experiences. I trust that if you feel your giants are too big to battle on your own that you will seek help, both medically and/or psychologically.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

1 - Pray. In our lives as Christians there is nothing more powerful or effective in fighting our giants than prayer. Prayer puts us in contact with the Almighty God and it is from Him that we receive the power, wisdom and tools for fighting our giants.

The Lord has heard my supplication, The Lord receives my prayer.
— Psalm 6:9 (NASB)
May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble! May the name of the God of Jacob set you securely on high!
— Psalm 20:1 (NASB)
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; Fight against those who fight against me.
— Psalm 35:1 (NASB)
Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; Set me securely on high away from those who rise up against me.
— Psalm 59:1 (NASB)

2 - Use scripture. God’s word is powerful. It is compared to a double edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12) Since the Bible is compared to a weapon, it would seem to make sense that we can use it as one. That being said, what does wielding the scripture as a sword look like? That depends on what giants you are battling.

Let me use my own giant called Fear as an example. I have learned over the course of my life that in order to counteract thinking that does not line up with God’s will for us, I have to got to the Bible and find the scriptures that deal with those thoughts. In the case of fear, these are a few of the arrows, I have in my quiver.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.
— I John 4:18 (NASB)
For God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7 (NET)

If God did not give me fear, then where is it coming from? You bet! From the same place the giants originate, Satan. We would have never known fear except that sin entered into the world. My ability to remember and recognize God’s word as truth, makes a big difference in how effective my weapons are going to be against the giants.

When I become afraid, I go back to the scripture. I quote it, I yell it, I stomp and I shout. My goal is to chase the giant out of my house. I tell him he is not welcome in my life and according to God’s word he has no hold over me. Whether your giant is fear or food, depression or discouragement, selfishness or sexual addictions, scripture is the weapon to ram through that beast’s beating heart!

 Pixabay

Pixabay

3 - Speak truth. In a world where truth has become a relative thing with no concrete foundation it may sound strange to say speak truth, when we are talking about battling giants. However, since as Christ followers we believe God’s word to be truth, then it makes sense to speak this truth and back it with scripture.

If you are being crushed by the giant called Worthless speak this truth,

“I am made in the image of God; Genesis 1.”

“I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Psalm 139.”

“I am loved with an everlasting love; Jeremiah 31.”

“I am chosen; I am royal; I am holy; I Peter 2:9.”

That is truth and that does not sound like a person who is worthless. That truth can help to chase those giants away.

I hope that reading this will give you hope. We all struggle with these giants that are constantly getting in the way of living a free life. I also hope these tips will give you some relief and some victory as you battle your giants.








Mulling It Over - Part 5

It is that time of month again, where I take a look at a particular portion of scripture and ruminate on it by tearing it apart verse by verse. For those of you who following me regularly you know I have been wading through 2 Timothy 2:20-26. The books of 1st and 2nd Timothy were written by Paul to Timothy a young pastor of a growing group of believers in the early church age. The books were written to encourage Timothy in the face of disgruntled church members. Not only were there members who looked down on Timothy because he was young, but there were members who were living a less than moral life style.

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Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

You can see my musings on the first four verses by clicking on each of the links. Week 1 - Verse 20, Week 2 - Verse 21, Week 3 - Verse 22, Week 4 - Verse 23. Today I'll be discussing Verse 24.

24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
— 2 Timothy 2:24 (NASB)

Before we look at the traits of a bondservant we should take a moment to define what a bond-servant was in the New Testament time period. Note the following quotes from an online article regarding the role of a bondservant. 

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Pixabay

The term “bondservant” in the New Testament (bond-servant or slave in some translations) is a translation of the Greek word doulos. Unlike perceptions of modern slavery, bondservant or doulos is a relatively broad term with a wider range of usage. In the time of the New Testament a bondservant could refer at times to someone who voluntarily served others. In most cases, however, the term referred to a person in a permanent role of service. A bondservant was considered the property of a Roman citizen, holding no right to leave his place of service.
— from an online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth. org
In many New Testament books, the word bondservant was used in reference to a person’s commitment to Jesus. Most of Paul’s letters begin by referring to himself as a servant of Christ Jesus. James and Jude, half-brothers of Jesus, both refer to themselves as Christ’s bondservants. The apostle Peter called himself a “servant and apostle”
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org
The importance of these New Testament authors referring to themselves as bondservants should not be overlooked. Despite proclaiming a message of freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, these writers were dedicated to Jesus as their one master. Further, their service to the Lord was not one they could consider leaving. Just as a bondservant was more than an employee who could leave for another job, these Christians were servants who could never leave their master for another.
— online article "What is a bondservant?..." compellingtruth.org

If you are a committed Christ follower, then you could say you are His bondservant. It is something I struggle to be, in all honesty. I want to be committed 100% to my Savior and yes my Master...I am not afraid to use that word. We live in a world where the idea of calling someone Lord or Master is not pleasant and truth be told, there is no master that is worthy of our life's commitment other than Jesus. However, there is a disconnect between saying I want to be a bondservant and actually being one. Let's see what the qualities are of one who calls Jesus Master.

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Pixabay

1. Not quarrelsome.

Okay! I am disqualified already. How about you? As a wife, do you ever find yourself quarreling with your spouse? I think most of you know what the word quarrel means. It is not just a matter of disagreeing with someone. We often disagree with our bosses, other employees, our parents and people we are following on social media, but we don't necessarily quarrel with them. When we quarrel we are trying to make our point, not only heard but adhered to. 

Why do you supposed Paul brought up this particular characteristic with Timothy? I personally do not believe Timothy was a quarrelsome chap. In fact, I think it was because people in his congregation were opinionated troublemakers that Paul encouraged Timothy...don't even go there. It won't get you any where. Just like we looked at last month to refuse ignorant and foolish speculations, so too, we should not allow ourselves to become participants in quarreling. 

I find this is incredibly hard with our significant others. We often feel, that we have a right to spew at them, because, after all we are married and they have to take the good with the bad. I hate to tell you ladies, as the Lord's bondservants we are not to be quarrelsome, end of discussion!

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Pixabay

2. Kind to all.

Does that mean everyone? Yes. Does that mean that person at work that I absolutely can't stand? Yes. Does that mean that teller at the bank who is always grumpy and scowling? Yes. Does that mean that person I thought was a friend that talked about me behind my back? Yes. 

Kindness is one of the fruits of the spirit. 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
— Galatians 5:22 (NASB)

What that means is we have the ability to be kind, all the time, to everyone. Once again, the fruit of the Spirit is His fruit. It grows in our lives as we become better and better at abiding in Christ. As His bondservant we must be kind to all. 

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Pixabay

3. Able to teach.

We could argue on this point that not everyone can be expected to teach, because not everyone has the gift of teaching. However, I would like to interject that we are all capable of teaching by example. You may not be gifted to stand in front of people and give a lecture like my husband is. You may not be good at leading a small group and explaining to others what a Bible passage means, but you can be an example of love and kindness to your children or your grand children. You might be able to teach a younger woman how to cook, take care of her first child or patch a hole in her husband's sock. The point is patience and willingness. We can all be teachers of this type by merely being willing to take the time to show others love and kindness. 

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Pixabay

4. Patient when wronged. 

This is right up there with not being quarrelsome in the hardness factor. We live in a society based on rights. If you hurt me, I have the right to seek retribution whether by payment or incarceration. I am not saying criminals should not be punished. However, there are times that we as the body of Christ are just as hard or harder on our own brothers and sisters when they have wronged us as the penal system is on a criminal. 

I am sure Timothy, as a young pastor had to endure a plethora of wrongs done against him by his own flock. Paul's advice to him is just as pertinent to us today. It is not easy to be hurt or wronged and then patient in the face of it. We want an instantaneous fix. We don't want to be mercy showers and wait for God to move in, not only the other person's life, but ours as well. God is on our side. He is just and merciful and we need to trust Him when faced with this sort of difficulty. It is never the case that only one person has been hurt. 

13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:13 (NASB)

If you feel a tad bit convicted after reading through these four characteristics of a bondservant of Christ, then know you are not alone. I am walking this journey with you. I am glad that He is long suffering and He keeps working on us, after all we call Him Master. 

I'm So Tired! Five Ways to Recharge Mentally.

Are you tired? I know I am. I know my husband is. I know many people who are intimately familiar with fatigue. What makes us so tired? Is it poor choices, like not eating well and not getting enough sleep? Maybe we are tired because we don't sleep, experiencing night after night being wide eyed and restless. Perhaps we are tired because of stress. Our jobs, families and difficulties can leave us feeling depressed and less energetic. Simply put, life is a problematic piece of the fatigue puzzle. 

The Apostle Paul was familiar with fatigue. 

4 but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,
5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger,
— 2 Corinthians 6:4-5 (NASB)
24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep.
26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;
27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28 Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.
— 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 (NASB)

With all of the things he went through don't you think he probably felt a bit tired? Yet, we don't hear Paul give up. The fatigue that becomes most difficult is the kind where you want to give up.

Before I offer a few suggestions on how to deal with this sort of fatigue, I want to say that it is very important to know where your fatigue is coming from. If you are dealing with illness, depression, anxiety or other major issues, please seek the advice of a trained physician and counselor. These people will help to diagnose your fatigue and help you manage it in a way that gives you better quality of life. 

For the rest of us tired people, I'm sure you have read the articles and seen the advice on how to  get a better night's rest. The kind of fatigue I want to speak to is that which is mental, more than physical. For mental fatigue, I think it is more important to find things that will recharge us, in addition to working on those things that will give us better physical rest. Here are a few suggestions to combat mental fatigue. 

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Pixabay

1. Unplug.

You've heard this many times, but it is worth saying again. Get off your cell phone, i-pad, computer and other electronic devices. Our brains are not wired to receive constant input. Our minds are in need of output as well, whether it be doing a cross word puzzle, trying to cook a meal or put an outfit together, our brains benefit from being used, rather than just soaking in information. 

All things are wearisome;
Man is not able to tell it.
The eye is not satisfied with seeing,
Nor is the ear filled with hearing.
— Ecclesiastes 1:8 (NASB)

Even before the invention of our electronic devices, Solomon knew that the eyes are not satisfied with seeing, nor are the ears filled with hearing. In other words, no matter how much information we look at or hear we still aren't going to know it all or be completely satisfied. God never intended that we find satisfaction and peace in anything other than Him. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

2. Unwind.

Find ways to unwind and relax. My husband and I both love the outdoors. Whether it is sitting out on our little patio on a lovely summer evening, going for a walk or camping. We find that reconnecting with the natural world around us, helps us to relax and bring our stress levels lower. 

Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
— Psalm 34:14 (NASB)

Unwinding is a way of seeking peace from the hectic life so many of us live. I believe that we are to seek peace, not only between people, but in our inner selves.

What do you like to do to unwind? Dancing, swimming, listening to music, reading a book are all healthy ways to reduce the mental stress and fatigue we so often feel. 

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Pixabay

3. Exercise.

I'm preaching to the choir here, ladies and gentlemen. It might seem counterintuitive to exercise when you feel tired, but for most forms of fatigue, including physical and mental, exercise actually helps your body to better cope with added stress and the challenges of daily life. Aerobic exercise helps to bring blood to all the places in your body that need it, especially your brain. Your brain also benefits from focusing on something other than the chaos around you. 

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
— 1 Corinthians 6:20 (NASB)
Pixabay - school

4. Do something different.

You have probably heard that it is important for our brains to learn new things. This gives our brains the ability to continue growing and developing rather than stagnating. Doing something new, learning a new hobby, taking a class are all ways we can keep our brains healthy. 

For me, having a blog has been a real brain stretcher. I am anything but techie and I have had to learn how to navigate the internet, copy links, edit and post photos (or at least post my daughter's amazing pics and others I grab off Pixabay), as well as do collaborations with retailers and more recently use a smart phone! Ha, ha. I have learned so much.

You certainly don't have to start a blog, but how about taking a class? Many communities offer classes for adults through their senior centers, zoos and even colleges have more affordable classes for older adults on history, philosophy and other interesting topics. 

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,
— Proverbs 1:5 (NASB)

Once again, it may seem like the wrong thing to do when you are already feeling mentally overwhelmed. The point is not to add more stress, but to give your brain new, different and exciting things to think about. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

5. Seek God.

This is probably the most important out of all of these points. Who better to give you peace and recharge your mental batteries than the one who created you? Seeking God through prayer, reading and meditating on scripture, worship and thanksgiving, will not only remove you temporarily from the craziness of life, but it will remind you of who is really in control and who has your back! 

The afflicted will eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever!
— Psalm 22:26 (NASB)

 

 

Mulling It Over - Part 4

Some time has passed since I worked on this passage in 2 Timothy, but I have the time, so I wanted to get back at it. If you remember we were taking a look at 2 Timothy 2:20-26. You can see the first three parts by clicking on each of the links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Here is the passage again as a refresher. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

Today's verse is quite pertinent in our society where social media dominates our time. Whether you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or some other form of social media there is no doubt that these communication avenues are powerful both in a positive and a negative way. 

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
— 2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB)

As you know, I like to tear the verse apart. 

But refuse...

I think most of you understand the meaning of the word refuse. Words such as decline, refuse, reject, and spurn, all refer to the act of turning away by not accepting, receiving or considering what is being offered. I like the idea of not even considering. How often do we think about accepting an offer?

How many of you get sales emails in your inbox? How many of those do you read? Of those, how many do you actually click on to look at? If you are like me, you often find yourself clicking over to a site to see what new merchandise they have, and what the current sales offer is. Of course, it doesn't end there. I'll often put a few items into my shopping cart before I finally exit the site. Other times, I actually buy the items I put in my cart. I didn't refuse the offer and actually it started with just a consideration of the offer.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Now lets move on to what it is we are to refuse, or even consider. 

...foolish and ignorant speculations...

I may get into trouble here, but I believe that a high percent of what is posted on many of these social media platforms are foolish and ignorant speculations. It is one thing to talk about what you did today, share an outfit or post a recipe you want to share, but when these platforms become soap boxes for preaching, arguing or spreading hate, I believe we have moved into the arena of foolish and ignorant speculations. 

Let me say at this point, I am not against having discussions about hard topics on social media platforms, but I believe as Christians we have to be extremely careful what we say and how we come across. Topics can quickly escalate from stating the facts to spewing hateful, emotion based opinions. When I think of what our Founding Fathers meant by Freedom of Speech, I do not know that they were thinking of photos sharing body parts or using explicatives like conjunctions to string sentences together. 

Let's take just a moment to look at the words foolish and ignorant.

     foolish - Webster's online dictionary uses phrases like - showing lack of good sense, absurd or       ridiculous, and marked by a loss of composure. 

     ignorant - Webster's defines this word in this way - destitute of knowledge or education, lacking comprehension, unaware, and uninformed.

Do we really want to look foolish and ignorant when we are putting ourselves out there on social media or any other communication platform. Whether you are having a discussion with friends at the local eatery, posting opinions on Facebook or writing a blog, use discretion when choosing your words. Remember words convey a message, both spoken and written. As Christ followers, we want our message to be one of hope, truth and love. 

Finally, 

...knowing that they produce quarrels. 

Isn't it amazing that Paul, who had no knowledge of social media, knew exactly the kinds of exchanges that could take place when we start rambling off our opinions and feelings without using forethought and caution? Obviously, the tendency towards volatile emotions and conversations has been around since Adam and Eve left the garden. We, by the sin nature into which were born, are protectors of our right to be right, even if we are wrong. 

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Pixabay

Why do you think Paul included these words in his letter to Timothy, who was a young man pastoring one of the early Christian churches? I believe it had to do with Paul's God given understanding of the outcome of such behaviors on the church. Dissension, arguments and quarrels will divide and destroy a church. They will divide and destroy a marriage, a family and yes, even a nation.

Let this verse be our standard when speaking or writing, for His glory and the encouragement of others.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
— Colossians 4:6 (NASB)

Living in the Valley

It has been a few weeks since I wrote a faith post. My husband and I went on a vacation to visit places and people in Wisconsin. It was an enjoyable trip, but I didn't have much time to write. While it is fun and important to get away, the reality is that we live in the ordinary moments of life much more often than in the extraordinary moments. Who doesn't want to live on the mountaintop, but most of us spend the majority of our time trudging through the valley bottom. 

Devil's Lake State Park

Let me say, the valley bottom is not the pristine, green grass, river filled valley. No, it is the valley that runs between two rugged, rocky cliffs and there is no water in sight for miles. Overhead the vultures are constantly circling, waiting for the valley dwellers to stumble and fall so they can begin to feed off their soon to be dead bodies. Not a pretty picture.

When you have no vision from God, no enthusiasm left in your life, and no one watching and encouraging you, it requires the grace of Almighty God to take the next step in your devotion to Him, in the reading and studying of His Word, in your family life, or in your duty to Him. It takes much more of the grace of God, and a much greater awareness of drawing upon Him, to take that next step, than it does to preach the gospel.
— Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest - March 6th

I love this thought from Oswald Chambers. He says it takes more grace and a more concentrated effort to draw on Him to take the next step in living the ordinary, mundane life, than to preach the gospel. What do you think? Do you agree? 

I have been finding life more and more challenging lately. My energy level is lower, I have physical issues that I never had to deal with before and I am continually reminded, not only of all the things I need to do, but also of all the things I have absolutely no control over. These factors all become part of life in the valley. Living here in the valley becomes a matter of trudging, not running, or skipping or even walking. Every once in a while, it becomes a crawl, a begging on hands and knees with the Master of this land to come and either let it end or bring about some sort of change. It was from this prostrate place that Oswald realized the thoughts he shared in the quote above. It truly does take the grace of the Almighty to take the next step.

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Pixabay

I know, without a doubt, that some of you are in this place. Just like me, you go to bed so exhausted, that you pray God will take you in your sleep, so that you don't have to get up in the morning. Some of you, don't sleep. He doesn't even give you that. But, you do get up in the morning and you start all over again...the walk, the stumble, the crawl. You feel like you could use time away, a retreat, but there is no retreat. You feel like you could use a good, long cry, but you know the tears won't change anything, besides you are too busy, too tired. You feel like you want to run away, to leave everyone and everything behind, just go somewhere and become someone different, but you know that is not the right thing to do and you are just too tired. Day after day, drudgery after drudgery. This is life in our valley.

BUT GOD!

No enthusiasm?

BUT GOD!

No one noticing?

BUT GOD!

No encouragement?

BUT GOD!

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses;
— 2 Corinthians 6:4 (NIV)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever.
— Psalm 121 (NASB)
Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
— Galatians 6:9 (NASB)

I know life can be overwhelming, but God is not overwhelmed by it. We've heard it before, but I need to hear it again. Peter walked on water, though the stormy waves raged all around, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. If you are down and out by life, look up. Jesus will always meet you exactly where you are at. 

Remember, we are all together in this valley. 

 

Divine Appointments

We live in a society of planners. Architects design and plan buildings. Engineers design and plan roads and parking lots. Fashion designers plan for the next season always thinking ahead to the next color palette or trend. Even those of us, who would not call ourselves true planners make dentist and doctor appointments, write up grocery lists and plan get togethers with friends. 

Pixabay - checklist

Jerry Jenkins, is the author of a myriad of books including the Left Behind Series and numerous biographies on people ranging from Hank Aaron, to Luis Pulau to Walter Payton. He even assisted Billy Graham with his autobiography, Just As I Am. Jerry also owns and runs The Jerry Jenkins Writer's Guild, of which I am in my second year of membership. I remember one of the first webinars I took from Jerry, where he talked about the difference between two types of writers; the panster and the outliner. Like Jerry himself and another big name author,  Stephen King, I am a panster.  I write my blog and my fiction by the seat of my pants. Where as an outliner has a plan or an outline they follow as they write. Neither one is better than the other, they are just different. There is also a hybrid of writers who combine the elements of both styles of writing. They come up with a loose outline, but fill in details by the seat of their pants. 

Pixabay - typewriter

When we talk about making plans versus living by the seat of our pants, we can see that there are good points and bad points to both ways of approaching life. Planners, usually, get more done, but they are often so rigid in their schedules that they have forgotten how to enjoy the moment. Those who live by the seat of their pants are usually more relaxed and easy going, but often have projects piling up, because they neglect to develop a plan on how to get them finished.

We as Christ followers can often be guilty of both, planning too much and not planning enough. When I was a young mom, trying to figure out marriage, family life and eventually home schooling, I was often impatient and frustrated because I looked at life as a list of things I had to accomplish. This mentality become more pronounced as I home schooled our daughters from kindergarten through high school. I became a list person, which is a planner, if you didn't know! I think it is amusing that I could be a panster as a writer but in every day life, I was a planner. I loved to get a new planner every year as I looked forward to a new year of home schooling. I still love planners, but I'm not quite as rigid in how I used them. 

Pixabay - planner

What does God say in His word about having plans? Let's take a look. 

Commit your works to the Lord And your plans will be established.
— Proverbs 16:3 (NASB)
The mind of man plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9 (NASB)
Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.
— Proverbs 19:21 (NASB)
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.
— Proverbs 21:5 (NASB)

Obviously, God inspired King Solomon, the author of Proverbs to pen these many verses about planning. It is normal and it is good to have a plan, whether you are talking about retirement or about next week's meals, planning can be beneficial in saving us time, money and frustration. 

Unfortunately, many of us have made plans that didn't work out. We have been disappointed by failed relationships, ruined vacations and the chaos of life that constantly seems to want to get in the way of our well thought out plans. The beauty of being a panster, when it comes to real life is a drastic reduction in stress and pain brought about by waylaid plans. 

A mindset that has recently come about in my own life, is that of divine appointments.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
— Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

If I really believe that God is sovereign, and I really believe that He is good, then I must also believe that every bump in the road and every plan that doesn't come to fruition, He already knows about and has a purpose for. How often have you had a plan for your day off and the day draws to a close and you didn't accomplish anything that you had planned? I see those hands our there! In addition to that, how many of you got frustrated because what you had planned got sabotaged by life....a child stays home from school sick, your mother needed your help with the garden, your teenagers and your spouse call saying that won't be home to eat that delicious meal you slaved to prepare....this is the reality of life. The question then becomes, am I supposed to stop planning? Do I just let life fly and go with the flow, like some sort of 1960's flower child, content to sit in the sun and listen to the music?

Pixabay - hippie

Like so many things we talk about, I think the key here is, balance. I think it is important to have plans, but we also need to allow God to do that thing that He does best...orchestrate our lives. Recognize that those speed bumps that come into life are allowed by Him. Everything that comes your way, even the little annoyance and inconveniences, have passed through Him. This is even more pertinent when we are talking about divine appointments. These are those interruptions to our plans that revolve around people. 

Sunday, my Grandson came down with a nasty virus. I am the primary care person when he is out of school, as my daughter, a single mom, has to work a full time job. He comes to my house, when he is home from school. Sunday, I had plans for Monday. I was going to get ahead on my blog, do some writing and try to tackle the laundry. It wasn't going to happen. In fact, here it is Wednesday and the poor guy is still running a low grade temp, so once again, he is home from school. You know what? It's okay. Did my plans get ruined? Not ruined, just adjusted. When I look at life as a series of divine appointments, not only do I have an easier time adjusting to the bumps, but I also keep my focus on the author and finisher of my faith. 

Whether you are a planner or a panster, allowing God to direct your life, day in and day out, gives you the capacity to be less frustrated and more in tune with exactly what He wants you to do. Next time you have a plan and it gets interrupted, ask yourself, could this be one of His divine appointments, then let Him meet you right there. 

Mulling It Over - Part 3

Once again we are walking slowly through a particular portion of scripture. I love to take a small piece, maybe a few chapters, one chapter or in this case, just a few verses and completely devour it, seeing what we can get out of His Word. I always find it fascinating that God can speak to us anew, even from a portion of scripture that we have read over and over. Just like this horse is chewing up that delectable grass, we too can enjoy the delights of God's word. 

 PIxabay

PIxabay

We are looking at 2 Timothy 2:20-26:

20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor.
21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.
22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,
26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:20-26 (NASB)

If you are just joining me today, you can go back and see the first two posts on: 2 Timothy 2:20 and 2 Timothy 2:21, by clicking on the links. Today we are chewing on verse 22.

22 Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
— 2 Timothy 2:22

This verse is pretty straight forward, but lets take a closer look.

Now flee...

Is there anything more able to get your adrenaline churning, than when someone yells, "Ruuuuuunnnnn"? Think about a few of the movies that have been on the big screen, Star Wars, Indian Jones. The Avengers, or how about the iconic Forrest Gump scene:

This is what Paul is telling us to do. Run as fast as you can away from those things that cause us to sin and turn away from God. We are to flee, like those monsters chasing us are going to eat us alive.

...from youthful lusts....

Paul was writing this letter to a young man, Timothy, who had become a pastor of one of the early churches. He encourages Timothy to flee those youthful lusts, or the things that so commonly grab our attention as young people: improper relationships, money, power, popularity and feeding our appetites are all things that constantly pull at us when we are young. It is sad that so many give in to these distractions, rather than waiting on God and allowing HIm to fill their every need. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Let me draw this out a bit further. I believe as mature Christians we can also be distracted by many things that are less than God's best for us. Think about the shows you watch, the food you eat, the things you buy. How many of these are done to fulfill our lust. Lust isn't just about sex. It is anything that takes precedent over our relationship with God. Am I saying you can't watch that show you love, or eat that cake or buy that dress? No, but we do need to allow God to monitor our actions and speak truth to us, if these types of things are becoming a problem. For some, moderation is easy, for others, myself included, not so much. Sometimes God has to rip things out of our lives to bring us into line with where He wants us to be. 

...and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace...

I decided to lump all of these characteristics together. These are four things we are to pursue. Behind us are the things we are to flee. In front of us is what we are to pursue. Righteousness or godliness, faith or belief, love and peace. We need to chase after these things as if they are rare butterflies that we are wanting to add to our collection.

 Pixabay

Pixabay

People who enjoy hobbies such as butterfly or bird watching, desire to see species which are rare or very rarely seen. It is their passion, just as a rock climber loves to scale mountains or an artist loves to paint or mold something out of clay. They have a passion about discovering or creating something new. In the same way we are to pursue these specific qualities We are to have a passion about pursuing God. He shouldn't be someone we occasionally think about, but a being we have a living and passionate relationship with. If we are pursuing the characteristics of righteousness, faith, love and peace we will be pursuing the author who created them.

...with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart.

Not only are we to pursue those characteristics, but we are to do it with others who call on the Lord with a pure heart. This seems to encourage us to be in a fellowship with other believers. My husband and I are between churches right now, but we both feel the need to get back into a regular fellowship. It is in the corporate worship and gathering together of like minded people, that we find accountability, stability and the sort of input that encourages growth in our relationship with Christ. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

That being said, let me say, I know what it is like to feel as though the church let you down. Or, to feel like an outsider because of circumstances you had no control over. I get it, and sometimes God will draw us out of the body, to walk a path through a valley, in which we are alone, but I do not believe He intends that we stay there. We need each other, even if only to aggravate each other enough to pursue God with even more passion! Ha, ha.

I hope you are enjoying this study of 2 Timothy 2 and I hope today you will examine your own life and see what God is trying to say to you. Is there something you need to flee? Do you need to have more passion in your pursuit of God, or like us, do you need to get back into a fellowship with other believers? Seek God for wisdom and help. He is always faithful.

Have a great day. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a song of David, and a prayer for help in trouble. What I love about the psalms of David are the parallels to my own emotional ups and downs. Let's dive in.

1 How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
2 How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
— Psalm 13:1-2 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Do you ever feel like David? Do you ever wonder where God is? Does it seem as though He has forgotten you or is hiding His face from you? Have you ever felt like you are the only person you can trust? Do you ever have days where all you can feel is sorrow, or maybe you feel nothing at all, simply numb? Have you felt as though a very real, but unseen enemy is out to get you? Or maybe your enemy is something or someone real, like cancer, a hard nosed boss or a bully. 

I have felt this way. The truth is, I think most of us have felt pretty much alone at some point or other in our lives. Sometimes, we carry burdens that we cannot share, which make us feel very alone and like the psalmist we cry out to God, "Where are you?"

3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
— Psalm 13:3-4 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

The psalmist asks God to consider his situation. David spent a good portion of his adult life running and hiding from his enemies. I'm pretty sure this song was born out of the frustration and exhaustion of not being able to live a normal life. 

You are probably familiar with the phrase, the new normal. Most often this phrase is used by someone who has encountered a major life change, either a job loss, loss of a loved one, physical limitation or other difficulty that makes life different than it used to be. I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I can't do that anymore. Now life is made up of looking at food labels, cutting my food in half so I don't eat too much and cutting out things I used to enjoy like donuts and ice cream. This is the new normal. 

I do not see anything wrong with asking God to consider us. We are His creation. Consider these verses:

Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!
— Luke 12:24 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
— Luke 12:27 (NASB)
 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

The one who has every hair on our heads numbered can most certainly be bothered to consider us, when we cry out to Him. 

I think the psalmist was also praying for wisdom, or maybe he was just asking God to help him stay awake and keep vigilant watch for his enemies, lest they overcome him and he sleep the sleep of death. Either way we can ask God for help, whether it be for wisdom, or for physical strength. 

1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
— Psalm 121:1-2 (NASB)
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5 (NASB)

The last section of Psalm 13 is the upward swing.

5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
— Psalm 13:5-6
 Pixabay

Pixabay

There are four actions the psalmist does at the end of this song.

1. He remembers. He is speaking in the past tense, remembering other times the Lord has been faithful.

2. He trusts. He trusted in the Lord's lovingkindness in the past, and no doubt, will do so again. 

3. He rejoices. His heart rejoices in the Lord's salvation. We can derive from this statement, the psalmist has seen the Lord's salvation before. 

4. He sings. What a beautiful ending to a song that starts out at a rather low point. He can sing, because the Lord has dealt bountifully with him. 

What does this mean for you and I? First, I believe it is okay to ask God the tough questions. Where are you, God? How long will you keep quiet and not answer me? How long am I going to have to suffer? When will your deliverance come? God knows our frame. He also knows we don't see the whole picture, so I truly believe He understands and has compassion when we come to Him with our ceaseless questioning. Think about the many times your children or grandchildren come to you asking, why or when? Do you yell at them and tell them to be quiet? (Well, maybe once in a while, ha, ha). More often we answer with kindness and love. 

Secondly, I believe it is also alright to let God know we are at the end of ourselves. Consider and answer me, Lord, is a cry for help and reassurance, not a fist raised in defiance. God knows we hurt, sometimes in the deepest places of our being. There are people who suffer physically with pain we can't even imagine. There are people who hurt mentally or emotionally because of what others have done to them or to their family members. God knows our innermost hurts and struggles. 

Finally, I think the key is to follow the psalmist's example and not stay in that mindset of discouragement. Like him we need to choose to remember what God has done for us. We need to trust in the God whose lovingkindness is everlasting. We can rejoice in His salvation. Not only has He saved us from sin through His son Jesus Christ, but He has saved us from difficulties we cannot begin to imagine. Lastly, sing! Sing like no one is listening. Sing to bring the house down. If it is an age old hymn sing it with gusto. If it is singing along to your favorite Christian band, turn up the volume. 

Following David in his pattern of questioning, admitting and rejoicing we will be able to overcome. 

Walking with the Psalmist

Last month I began a discussion on the first song in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament. While we do not know for sure who wrote this psalm, it is clear, by its inclusion in the Scripture, it is important. I explained that Psalm 1 describes two men, a righteous one and a wicked one. Last month I concentrated on the righteous man and found ten characteristics that a righteous man will have. This month, I want to look more closely at the wicked man.

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
But they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
6 For the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish.
— Psalm 1:1-6 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

What sort of characteristics describe the wicked man.

1. They are not like the righteous man.

Verse 4 begins with the phrase, "The wicked are not so." It would logically follow that all of the traits that were listed to describe the righteous man are not traits the wicked man has. In other words this man does not love God's word, they hang out with other's who do not love God's word and they are not firmly rooted in God's law. 

2. They are like chaff.

What exactly is chaff? In this Old Testament context the word chaff was used to describe the outer hulls of seeds and other debris separated from the seed when threshing grain. Before the age of huge farm machinery, threshing was a laborious task done by hand on a threshing floor. The stalks of grain were beaten with a piece of wood called a flail. Chaff is not useful for anything and was thrown away. 

It might seem to us, calling a person chaff, is rather mean, but these words were inspired by a holy and righteous God. The point was to give us a comparison with no doubt involved. Righteous is righteous and wicked is wicked. 

3. They are driven away by the wind.

I think we can derive two ideas from this. First of all, the chaff in the threshing process was often swept up to blow away in the wind. It was meant to be discarded, just as our modern combine separates the chaff from the seed out in the field. Have you ever driven by a field when the combine is working and noticed a cloud of dust flying up in the air? That is not just dirt!

The second idea that came to my mind is, often people who do not know God are driven to and fro by the changing winds of life. They try anything and everything to fill the emptiness that exists inside of them and they most often are looking out for their own interests willing to step on others to feel fulfilled.

Pixabay - judgment

4. The wicked will not stand in the judgment.

The idea of judgment has become the elephant in the room. No one wants to talk about judgment. No one wants to discuss the consequences of sin. How often do you hear a sermon about sin, hell or the anger of a righteous God? Not as often as we used to, I'd venture to say. While I think we need to show love, wait for the right opportunities and reply with gentleness, we also can't stop talking about the idea that God is a holy and perfect God and we are not. That was and still is the reason Jesus became a man, walked on this earth, died on a cross and rose again. If we stop talking about judgment we might as well stop talking about Jesus. 

Jesus Christ is who differentiates us from all other religions. It is His blood that covers a righteous man and it is only His blood that allows the righteous man to stand at the final judgment. The wicked man will not stand because he has not recognized Christ as the way, the truth and the life.

For us to say, "I don't believe in hell or a judgment," is like saying, "Seventeen people didn't get shot at a high school in Florida." Just because it is terrible, doesn't mean our ignoring it or wishing it away makes it any less a reality. 

5. The wicked will not stand in the assembly of the righteous. 

I am not sure in this case whether it is similar to the judgment, they won't be able to, because their wickedness separates them from the righteous, or if it has to do with their own desire. The wicked do not want to stand in the assembly of the righteous. We have churches closing their doors at an alarming rate. For further info on this Dr. Richard Krejcir of churchleadership.org wrote an eye opening article titled Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, wrote a book a few years ago titled Already Gone, which addresses the exodus of many young people from the church. If those who would be righteous aren't even staying in the assembly of the righteous, then the wicked certainly won't be drawn to the church. 

 St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

St. Albans Cathedral - England trip 2012

This is just my take on the verse. It is more likely that the wicked won't be able to stand in the assembly of the righteous because of their wickedness. 

6. The wicked will perish.

This isn't a pleasant thought. It might be easy to think of someone like Hitler perishing, because we could easily point out his wickedness, but the scripture is clear:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
— Romans 3:23 (NASB)
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 6:23 (NASB)
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;
— Romans 10:9 (NASB)

While the standing of the wicked man compared to the righteous man is not pleasant, there is hope. If you are a Christ follower, then you are already familiar with that hope. You are also in a position to help someone who doesn't have that hope. Live your life in Christ out loud, so all the world can see. I leave you with these verses, which I will feature next week on my Mulling It Over column.

23 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.
24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,
25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NASB)

Twoo Wuv!

Who can forget the iconic marriage scene from the Princess Bride?

If you have never seen this family friendly movie, be sure to check it out. It is everything we want in a romantic comedy...danger, sword fights, a beautiful couple and plenty of bad guys. It is one of those old fashion love stories where the couple truly lives, happily ever after.

Seeing as it is Valentine's Day, I thought it would be good to talk about twoo wuv, excuse me, I mean true love. Everyone is looking for true love. We all would like to find our soul mate, the one we instantly connect with and with whom we will always feel giddy and excited. Do you remember your first date? How about your first kiss? Weren't those magical memorable moments? And then one day you finally meet that special someone and you know they are the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. You date, get engaged, plan a wedding and get married. This is the beginning of your happily ever after....

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Fast forward five years. Who is this person you married and what did they do with that one you fell so madly and deeply in love with? They leave their clothes on the floor, whiskers in the bathroom sink, the toilet seat up, squeeze the toothpaste the in the middle, and when they finally think to replace the toilet paper roll, they put it on the wrong way. They don't help around the house and you could count on one hand how many diapers they have changed. What happened to true love and the happily ever after?

 Pixabay

Pixabay

The last two weeks, I wrote about The Real Romanceand Why is Love so Hard?  The first dealt with God's love for us and the second spoke more to our perspective on how trying to love in our own power is a very hard thing to do. I looked at 1 Corinthians 13 last week and I would like to take another look, in detail, at a few of those verses this week. Using these as a guide we can define what twoo wuv looks like. 

1. Twoo wuv is patient. 

Love is patient...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

Patience is a virtue, as the saying goes, and it is essential in a loving relationship. Patience will cover many of those things that might irritate in a marriage, such as toothpaste tubes and toilet paper placement. If something about your significant other is irritating you, take a deep breath and let it go. 

2. Twoo wuv is kind and is not jealous.

...love is kind and is not jealous;...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

I find it interesting that these two things are connected with a conjunction. Kindness is key in a loving relationship, just as is trust. I think it is very hard to be kind without the warm blanket of trust surrounding the relationship. There is no place for jealousy in a relationship. 

3. Twoo wuv does not brag and is not prideful. 

...love does not brag and is not arrogant,...
— I Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

My husband loves to talk about things he's done in the past, as well as when he does a good thing at work. When we were first married, I often thought this was a matter of boastfulness and pride. I have learned, however, that some families have a tradition of story telling, much like many cultures of the past sharing their conquests and victories. Oral tradition used to be the way to pass on a culture's identity and traditions. 

Bragging and arrogance often go hand in hand. When thrown into a relationship they soon become a source of bitterness and frustration. Let's face it, bragging and pride usually are self serving and being self serving in a marriage doesn't not epitomize true love. 

4. Twoo wuv does not act ugly.

...does not act unbecomingly...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I know all about acting ugly in a marriage. My hubby and I affectionately call our first year of marriage, "the year from hell." Yes indeed! I have always been an emotional person. While the years and menopause have done wonders to temper my emotions, the early years were not pretty. I always had mood swings when it was "that time of the month", but being on the birth control pill contributed to emotional rants that were extremely volatile. My poor spouse must have thought he had married an alien or that a demon had come in when I said the marriage vows and taken over my body. 

Allowing ourselves to be "ugly" to our spouses does not create an environment of trust, nor even one of desire. Acting unbecomingly does not foster true love. 

5. Twoo wuv isn't selfish. 

...it does not seek its own,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

We are all selfish by nature. The Bible, says none of us are righteous and we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That sin nature expresses itself in the form of selfishness. If you think about all the bad stuff that happens in a marriage and even in our world we can probably link most, if not all, back to selfishness. 

Selfishness is basically the act or mentality of looking out for ourselves. There is a lot of talk these days about self love, and that is important, however, if self love becomes such a focus that it hurts and offends others, then it becomes selfish love. There is no place in a marriage for this type of love. Unfortunately, so many of us start out marriage thinking about what I am going to get from this other person, rather than being confident in our place with Christ and being a loving and gracious servant. 

6. Twoo wuv doesn't hold a grudge. 

...is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,...
— I Corinthians 13:5 (NASB)

I put these two ideas as one because what causes a person to be provoked is probably going to be the same thing that causes that person to hold a grudge. The word provoke, according to Webster means to arouse a feeling or action, or to incite to anger. If true love is not provoked then it doesn't become angry at the object of its affection. How many times have you gotten angry at your spouse? My husband and I have had to learn this one the hard way, by doing it. Ha, ha. Truly, it is not funny. Provocation and holding a grudge are a death sentence in a marriage. Even if you stick it out, like we have, it is very damaging. 

My husband and I have been married for almost 31 years and we are just now beginning to repent and turn away from these unloving behaviors in our relationship. We have a long way to go, but true love is worth the effort. 

7. Twoo wuv rejoices in the right things.

...does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth...
— I Corinthians 13:6 (NASB)

 What exactly does this mean? Certainly, there are all sorts of ways we or our spouses can be unrighteous. The goal is to not condone the things that we do or that we see in each other that are wrong. God wants us to be righteous and truthful, and even more as a couple, since many of us are examples to our children and grandchildren. 

I have found more recently that both my spouse and I have issues with wrong thinking. Meaning, we do not see ourselves truthfully, as God sees us, but as we think the world sees us, or as we see ourselves as coming up short. This is not good for a marriage. We need to be encouraging one another with the truth as it is written in God's word and rejoice in that beautiful truth. 

8. Twoo wuv is the bomb!

...bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
— I Corinthians 13:7 (NASB)

I love the insistent language in these four actions....bears, believes, hopes and endures. Isn't that just beautiful? True love does all of these things. Each of us have our own burdens in life and many of those come out of our relationships with those we love. But true love is called to bear those things, believe in God being able to work in those situations, hope in things getting better, but enduring if they don't. 

Please don't misunderstand. I believe there are situations where a couple just can't work out their issues and divorce may be the only option. Situations of abuse and infidelity are extremely hard to overcome without a great deal of counsel, and in those, each person has to recognize the problem and be willing to get help. 

9. Twoo wuv doesn't fail.

Love never fails...
— I Corinthians 13:8 (NASB)

The final point is, true love will not fail. That is precisely why, this love must come from a source greater than I. God is that source. It is easy to love when life is exciting and smooth, but the whole point of this passage, was that life can be very difficult and love that only sticks around for the smooth and easy times is not true love. 

I hope and pray that you are experiencing twoo wuv in your relationships. If not, I hope that you know, the One who created and exists as true love will always be there for you, day in and day out. 

 

 

 

Why is Love so Hard?

It seems appropriate to write about love over these next couple of weeks as we approach Valentine's Day. Click on the link and you will see a few interesting facts about this day that comes around every February 14th. How do you celebrate Valentine's Day? Or maybe a better question to ask is , DO you celebrate Valentine's Day?

When I was a young women in my teens and early twenties, I was like anyone. I wanted to be noticed and thought of, especially on the day that had become a symbol of love and romance. We are creatures who desire relationships, whether the romantic kind or those that are purely platonic. We want to feel special to someone. We want to be remembered on those special occasions like birthdays and we want to feel that we have value. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

Last week I touched on the idea of, The Real Romance, being the one we have with the Almighty Creator. He alone, knows our deepest fears, hurts and desires. As much as our significant others care for us, they cannot fully know us like God does. That being said, this week, I wanted to look at love from our perspective. I don't know about you, but I think real love is hard!

If you are a Christ follower, then you are probably familiar with I Corinthians 13. This small chapter in the New Testament has become the defining essay on love. The Bible is full of passages and verses talking about love, from the love of God, to the love of man and all the complications in between. I'd like to break down the 13 verses in this passage into bite sized chunks and chew on them for a bit. 

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
— 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NASB)

This letter to the church at Corinth was written by the Apostle Paul. He begins this chapter with a series of actions that, during the time, were probably looked at as special manifestations of faith. Speaking in tongues, prophecy and knowledge, as well as sacrifice of possessions and self, were all looked at as being important actions for Christians to participate in. I am sure, that just as we look at people in our church who give large amounts of money, lead the worship team, work with children, evangelize or preach, as people who are doing good things for the sake of the gospel, the Christians in Paul's time felt similarly towards those who were visibly living out their faith. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

However, Paul adds a condition to each of the actions he has mentioned. Without love, every one of them is meaningless. That seems pretty harsh doesn't it. I mean, we all do things because it is expected, or because it has to be done. Does that mean, when I get to heaven, those things I did out of obligation or pressure will burn up in the fires of judgment? Let's look at the next section.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
— ! Corinthians 13:4-7 (NASB)

Paul goes on to give these amazing characteristics of love: patient, kind, not jealous....This list should certainly make us reexamine whether our love is up to this "gold" standard put forth in the scriptures. We can't really be expected to love others in this way, can we? I mean, who hasn't acted in an unbecoming way. I literally threw things when I got mad, when my children were younger. Not a very becoming example of love. When my spouse and I were at odds it was usually because we were seeking our own. With divorce rampant in our country the characteristic of love enduring all things, hardly seems a reality. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part;
10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.
13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
— I Corinthians 13:8-13 (NASB)

As we read on we are suddenly faced with the reality that everything we do is imperfect. The gifts that we have been given will cease. The knowledge that we have will be done away. It also tells us that we don't know everything there is to know. It goes on to say, "...but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away...." This phrase tells me two things. The first is that this life we are now living is not perfect. Ta, da! I bet you didn't know that (insert sarcasm here). The second is that the perfect is coming. Only Christ is perfect and it is only through Him and His shed blood that we enter into that ability to be perfect. 

Paul goes on to make two analogies:

1. The child becomes a man (or woman).

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

For those of you who have raised or are raising children, you get this. Children think on a different plain than adults do. They speak differently, think differently and reason differently. When we become adults we are expected to behave like adults, not children. That doesn't mean we don't get in touch with our inner child once in a while. This is especially important when you have grandchildren! 

2. The mirror versus reality.

 Photo credit  Rebecca Trumbull

Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

In this second analogy Paul talks about our reflection in a mirror as that which is dim. The reflection is not our real self, it is only an image of ourselves. A reflection is not the real deal. 

These two analogies remind us that we are just children and we don't know everything. Only God knows all. Only God is perfect. It doesn't matter how much we are doing. It doesn't matter what grandiose plans we have. If we are doing these things without the love of God, they are meaningless.

Why is love hard? Because we are trying to do it by reasoning as a child, "If I do this, I'll score points with God." We are looking in a dim mirror and thinking, "I look pretty darn good!" That knowledge and that reasoning are part of what make love hard. Our love is selfish and distorted. 

Only God's love is perfect. It is only by walking with Him in a close personal relationship that we will be able to live a life of true, selfless love. That is the love that will count for eternity.  

A Look Back at 2017 - My Favorite Faith Posts

I did this on my fashion page so I thought it would be good to do on my faith page as well. Since we are into a new year, I thought it would be fun to look back at my favorite posts from 2017. I picked one from each month. If you haven't read them and are interested, just click on the link below the picture. 

It is good to look back at where we have been, so we can get a better feel for where we need to go. As far as my faith posts are concerned, I want to keep writing and posting things that I hope will be an encouragement to you. We, as older women, are such a valuable part of society. We are capable, strong and worn, and that is just where God wants us to be. 

Here are my favorite faith posts from my blog from 2017.

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

I hope you enjoyed this look back at my favorite blog posts from 2017. As we move forward into 2018, I hope to grow my blog in various ways, while still being true to my belief and faith in Jesus Christ. 

If you have any suggestions or things you would like to see me talk about on the blog, please leave me a comment in the comments section or you can send me a message on Facebook. I appreciate all your input and support. I am looking forward to what this year will bring and hope you will join me on the blog! 

Thanksgiving Thoughts - Thinking About the Receiver

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a day filled with good food, family and friends, football and for many of us the beginning of our Christmas holidays. It was Abraham Lincoln, in 1863, who declared this fourth Thursday of November to be a day of giving thanks. Considering the Civil War was in full swing at that point, I find it intriguing that our 16th president felt compelled to put in place a regular day of giving thanks to God, for initially that is what it was. Perhaps in the midst of the carnage of one of our history's greatest internal wars, Lincoln realized how very lost we were without God and that a day of giving thanks would bring us back to center.

We have heard much on what being grateful does for the giver of thanks, but what about what it does for the receiver. I'd like to offer several possible thoughts.

I did include a few pics of some of the food I'll be serving today....for which I am thankful. Ha, ha. Photo credit Rebecca Trumbull

Thanksgiving food

1. Giving thanks blesses the receiver. Think about how you feel when someone takes the time to say thank you. Doesn't it make you feel good? Doesn't make you feel noticed? Doesn't it make you feel like all that work you did was worth it? I know for me when someone takes time to thank me, I feel up lifted. 

Wouldn't the same be true for God? Granted God does not have to be consoled or motivated like we as humans so often do, but the Bible, especially the Psalms talk about blessing the Lord. 

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
— Psalm 34:1 (NASB)
I will extol You, my God, O King, And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
— Psalm 145:1 (NASB)

I would include passages that talk about praising God, as those which bless Him as well. Just as we can be blessed by being thanked, God is lifted up when we give thanks to Him. 

Thanksgiving food

2. Giving thanks creates a connection with the receiver. When you give thanks to someone you are acknowledging their existence. You are telling them they are worth your time and your effort. You are connecting with them as a real, and important individual. Isn't that one of the reasons we labor to teach our kids to say thank you? We want them to acknowledge there is another person in the world besides themselves, whether it be their teacher, the fast food worker at McDonalds, the clerk at a store or their grandparents. 

When we give thanks to God we are creating a connection with Him. I know I have days where I feel disconnected from Him. It might be sin, it might be that I am not feeling well, it might be things that are bothering me, or it might just be the weather, but regardless of what caused the disconnect, as soon as I go to Him with thanksgiving and praise that connection is restored. This is the result of our choice to acknowledge, He exists and without Him we are nothing. 

for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children
— Acts 17:28 (NASB)
thanksgiving food

3. Giving thanks creates meaning and purpose. When I receive thanks from another it makes me feel good. It reminds me that I am important and that what I am doing has meaning and purpose. Many of us work jobs that we do not feel make a real difference in the world, but we must never underestimate the power of a life planted exactly where God wants it to be. I try to remember that working in retail. At times customers can be less than grateful, but I always feel my job is worthwhile when I hear a thank you, either from a customer, my boss or a fellow employee. 

Obviously we cannot give meaning or purpose to a holy, omniscient God, but when we thank Him we are acknowledging the meaning and purpose He has given to us. Every time I approach God with a humble attitude of gratitude I am reminded of the great love He has for us. 

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
— John 3:16 (NASB)

Today as you gather with people you care about,  remember not only to be thankful, but that your giving of thanks has an effect on the ones you give it too. 

Have a blessed day!

Mulling it Over - Part 4

After taking a month off, I thought it was time to get back to my Mulling it Over series. I have been scrutinizing the passage in Ephesians 6 on the armor of God. You can read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3, by clicking on the links. Thus far we have looked at verses 10-13. We have learned that we need to be strong in the Lord, and take up the full armor of God so that we are able to stand firm against the evil one. Today we finally start looking at the pieces of armor that Paul writes about in this passage. It is important to remember that Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to pen these words. Thus, these are the pieces that God deemed most important to put on.

Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
— Ephesians 6:14 (NASB)

Piece #1 - Truth

When we look at the verse it says to have our loins girded with truth. When I started thinking about this I had to look up the word loin. I mean we all have probably seen some version of Tarzan and know what a loin cloth is, but what exactly is Paul talking about in this verse. 

From a purely physical standpoint our loins are the area of our bodies from the lowest ribs to the hip bone. There are many important internal goings on in this area of the body. The most obvious is our sexual organs, but that is also the area our digestive tract resides. Think about a time when you've had cramps and diarrhea, or a time when you've endured the pain of a bladder infection or a yeast infection. We can feel pretty miserable when our loins are inflamed and not feeling well. The loins contain the organs that reproduce. Think how important this was in a day and age when having children was a sign of your wealth and blessing.

So, why did God include this piece in the armor and why the connection to truth? Keep in mind, these are just my ideas. There are many excellent Bible studies on the armor of God, by great authors and speakers like Priscilla Shirer - The Armor of God; Chip Ingram - The Invisible War and Joyce Meyer - Battlefield of the Mind. I would recommend all of these books for an in depth study on the whole concept of spiritual warfare. 

1. The vitals are vital. We cannot live without our internal organs. We have to be able to eat, digest, go to the bathroom and so on. It is also important to humanity that we be able to reproduce. It is important to our marriages that we have a healthy attitude towards sex and meeting our partners needs and desires. When any of these areas are off we are usually miserable. In the same way, there are areas of our spiritual lives that are vital to our well being. Prayer, reading God's word, fellowship, study, worship, and thanksgiving are all important to our continued growth and spiritual health. 

When any one of these areas is neglected we begin to suffer. What happens when you don't eat well? What is your marriage like when you have not had sex for a while? How do you feel when you have a lower GI bug? The same thing is true of our spiritual lives. If we aren't worshipping, studying God's word or praying we are going to feel it. 

2. Truth is our covering. Over the years I have heard this particular piece of armor referred to as the belt of truth. The picture Paul had in mind was that of a Roman soldier in full gear. 

 Pixabay

Pixabay

In the picture above you can see the belt that went around the waist. Attached to it were leather loin pieces, these particular ones are studded, that hung down and provided a little extra covering in that precious area. For us as Christ followers, truth is like that leather loin covering. Truth keeps us from getting hit in the vitals. 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
— John 14:6 (NASB)

If we believe what Jesus said, then we know that it is in having a relationship with Him that we can know truth. Some truths are evident to all. Mathematical equations like 2 + 2 = 4, or 3 x 6 = 18 are true facts. They can be observed. Truth can be found in the scientific realm. Scientists have observed that the earth is round and rotates around the sun. They can also observed chemical reactions that produce gases and color changes. But what about all those things that cannot be observed? Scientists derive theories, from things they observe, but that is what they are, theories. Physicist make conclusions from lengthy formulas about what's inside a black hole or how the big bang could have happened, but just as we have faith that God created the world, so too they have faith in their theories. 

Without truth, we are subject to the whims of the world....anyway the wind blows....truth gives us a standard of measure against which to compare our lives, our actions and our thoughts. Even if you do not believe in the claims of Jesus that He is the truth, you probably have some standard of measure by which you live your life. Many of you probably base it on what you call truth. For a good synopsis on truth see the following article Absolute Truth.

So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’
— John 8:31-32 (NASB)
 Pixabay

Pixabay

3. Truth is our Defense. Having truth available to us will enable us to fight the spiritual battles with more confidence. Knowing what God's word says and claiming those promises as we go through life, give us a tactical advantage over our enemy. When he comes us against us with lies, as you know he so often does, knowing the truth will protect you from doubt and place your feet on firm ground. I don't know about you, but if I am going into battle, I don't want my feet standing on a slippery slope of doubt and lies. I will place my feet on the solid rock of Jesus. 

 

 

Mulling it Over - Part 1

We struggle with life, just like everyone does, but we live with knowledge of a world beyond what our own eyes can see. A spiritual world where a real battle wages. This is a battle of good versus evil, more real than anything we might read in a Tolkien saga or the world of Harry Potter.

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