Letting Go

I see you, Mom, running around making breakfast and packing lunches, throwing your hair into a messy bun and your legs into your leggings as you sigh when you see your reflection in the mirror. You remember when life was less hurried and …easier. When you had time for things like manicures and lunches with friends. When your kitchen was always clean and tidy. Now, your manicures are replaced with stubby, “sensible” nails and what is a clean kitchen, again? And here it comes: the feeling that you have failed. That you are “less than” for not “doing it all.” Can I tell you, friend, that is a lie from the enemy? You see, we were never meant to do it all – simultaneously. In the game of life with work and kids and husbands, something’s gotta give. It is a false assumption to believe otherwise. We feel guilty for not having as much time for friends or not keeping a spicnspan house, but we need to accept the fact that time – and our energy – are finite now. No one gave us a memo between “no kids” and “having kids” that things would change drastically & some things would HAVE to be let go. It is not a failure, it is REQUIRED. Gone are the days of endless time and energy, those things are now valuable and limited. You HAVE to make hard choices now (manicure or nap, spotless kitchen or help kids with homework). Now is the time for LETTING GO. You no longer have time for EVERYONE, so select 2 main friends. You can no longer be perfect, so be present. Here, sister, is your “guilt free” certificate! From now on, when you see the dishes piled up think “Wow! I made a better choice to get a nap.” Or when you start to feel guilty for not going out as much, think, “Wow! I spent time with those who really matter!” We have to change our personal dialogue to rid ourselves of the false guilt the enemy loves to send our way. Letting go. It’s now part of the game.

Unwanted Blessing

The Israelites had been wandering in the wilderness when they complained of hunger. “At least in Egypt we had meat and grapes,” they wailed, forgetting it was at the cost of enslavement. Hearing their cry, God sent something new, something different, something unexpected. “And God …. fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know…” (Deut. 8:3) Here we see that, despite the complaints, God harkened to their pleas and sent manna. But notice: it was not what they expected. The actual word “manna” literally means, “What is it?” In their distress, they cried for meat…but they got manna. They were sent an unwanted blessing. But isn’t that how it goes, sometimes? We cry out to God and He responds to our cries, but not the way we expected … or wanted. It is confusing and sometimes, admittedly, disappointing. We get a used car instead of a Corvette, love instead of passion or maybe roast instead of cake. Does this negate the blessing? No! But it is in these moments where we must trust God’s hand. Note, also, it says they were sent a blessing that neither they nor their parents or grandparents knew. God is like that. Sometimes we’ll be praying for one thing and God sends another. And if we aren’t careful, we won’t see it for what it is: a blessing. //We see later that manna was actually the “bread of the angels, (sent) in abundance” (Psalm 78:25). So, while the people are confused, God is sending them not only something to meet their needs, but something HEAVENLY. IN ABUNDANCE. How many times have we ignored God’s blessing because it wasn’t what WE wanted? Or expected? Or knew? In times like these, let’s pray that God opens our eyes to the provisions He sends – even if they aren’t what we expect – and praise Him for what we don’t understand. We must always trust His heart when we do not understand His hand.

Strange Signs

There’s a strange phenomenon people hardly notice as they walk through forests in the South: bent trees. As a child, we used to play on these trees, enjoying their low proximity. But recently I learned of their importance.

The trees were actually MADE this way, on purpose, by human hands. Native American hands, to be specific. They made the trees to point to important things (usually water or elk hunting grounds). So, as you are walking the bent tree marks the way to let you know something important is in THAT DIRECTION. Similarly, the Bible acts as our trees, pointing the way we should go, telling us of the important things that are to come. There are even “bent tree” phrases like “He who has an ear, let him hear” (meaning, “Listen up!”) to specifically highlight something of the utmost importance. But, like only finding the trees in the forest, you will only find these nuggets of wisdom in the Bible. We would be wise to study them so we, too, will know which way to go.

Choose your Hard

There’s a quote going around facebook called, “Choose your hard.” It goes something like, “Marriage is hard. Divorce is hard. Choose your hard. Living on a budget is hard. Bankruptcy is hard. Choose your hard…” I like the concept because it’s true. No matter what you choose, it’s gonna be hard so choose your hard wisely. I was recently reading in 2 Samuel where God stopped a plague at the threshing floor ofAraunah the Jebusite. David decides to buy the land and sacrifice an offering to God of thankfulness. Araunah tells King David he will happily give him the land, but David says, “ No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God that which cost me nothing.” It made me think of the “choose your hard” mantra: sacrifice will cost you. Sin will cost you. But only one redeems you. Choose your cost. Sure, it seems hard to sacrifice things we want to do sometimes, but the cost of sin is far more hard and will take more from us than we ever thought or dreamed of. Both cost. Choose wisely.

A New Day

President Obama angered many when he said we were no longer a Christian nation, but his words served as a catalyst for thought: Are we still a Christian nation? The answer? Yes. But we are no longer the majority. For generations, we have been blessed to live in a country where the majority of people at least claimed the same religion as us, and we became blessed. But we also became complacent. We became used to the (false?) idea that those who followed our traditions also shared our faith. We believed our faith would always be accepted, if not revered. We were the majority.

Not anymore. There has been a culture shift, but no one gave Christians the memo. Almost overnight, sins went from “frowned upon” to “publicly celebrated.” Many Christians are walking around, confused and angry, and wanting things to stay the same. It is understandable when an environment changes without warning to have such a response, but we must do it in the right manner. So, how do we live if we are no longer the majority?

Let’s look back to the first century. Here, also, is a time where Christians were not the majority. They stood out. Everything they did differently was noticed and scrutinized. They had it worse, but they also had a platform. Simply by being different, they preached. Their lives alone either spoke of the glory and hope of God or showed confusion and depression. Whatever they did was magnified – simply because they were not the majority.

They also used the law to their advantage. The apostle Paul was both a Christian and Roman and had special protections as a Roman citizen. Many times, he was able to use the law to get out of a bind. He did not abstain from politics, but used it to his advantage to protect his ability to share the Gospel. Many people in the Bible lived in pagan times. It seems the holy people of old espoused the phrase, “We are in the world, but not of it.” Unlike us, they did not expect to be respected or even liked. They even expected persecution.

While it is right to, like Paul, use the law of the land to protect faith and freedoms, it is important to do it in a Christian way. Now, more than ever, we will be “seen” because of our differences. Traditionally, people are leery of “different.” It is imperative that, like the Christians of old, we wear the name of Christ honorably and lovingly. While we should use all the laws available to protect and defend our freedoms, we should not have the expectancy that the outcome will be as it has been. This is an adjustment time. While we may lose many of the niceties we have previously enjoyed, the negatives (being a minority) also come with blessings (being noticed). We should be prepared to let our lights shine like they never have, because they will be noticed as never before. It is a new day. Let’s shine as never before!

Power of Praying Friends

Raise your hands above your head and hold them there for 5 minutes. Now try 15. Difficult, isn’t it? Such is the predicament Moses found himself. In Exodus 17, the Israelites are in battle with the Amalekites. Moses ascends a mountain and when his hands raise the Staff, the Israelites win the battle, but when he lowers his Staff, they begin to lose. Luckily, Moses took Aaron and Hur with him. They provided him a rock to sit on and held the staff for him so his hands could merely hang, lessening the burden. In another time, Job’s friends offend God so much that God wouldn’t her their prayers, but God WOULD hear Job intercede for them and forgive them. Yet another time, we see King David’s servant refer to Bathsheba as “Uriah’s wife” (a term never used for women in ancient times). In each case we see the value of godly friends. Sometimes, our burden needs lightening. Other times, we need intercession. And every so often, we need a close comrade to remind us what is what! I can tell you from personal experience, it is sometimes the darkest times in our lives when we don’t have the strength to pray for ourselves. It is at these times we would do well to have Christian friends interceding for us, lightening our load before the Father. If you do not have close, godly friends ask the Lord to bring them to you. We all need accountability, intercession and help!

Forged in Fire

Recently we were at Dollywood and saw beautiful pottery in blue, green and brown hues. On a sign, they had displayed the directions for making the pottery. “After the master craftsman forms the piece, it is shelved to dry for 5 – 7 days. First firing begins at 1900° for 16 hours. This brings out all impurities. After dipping in glaze, the second firing is 2400 degrees! This brings out all the special colors. This makes our pottery microwave, oven and dishwasher safe.” The Bible says that God is the potter and we are the clay, but I never realized all that entailed. It’s interesting that the clay has to be placed in extreme heat to rid it of all impurities. Similarly, trials and tribulations serve to rid us of our impurities. Also, much like our trials, the second firing is much hotter, but necessary to bring out the true essence of the colors and make it durable and strong. Thank you Lord for knowing just how to mold and shape us!

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Benefit of Suffering

So many times we ask “Why?” during times a trial. We think that if we know the “why” the burden will be more bearable, somehow. We read of Job’s extreme tribulation and all he suffered, from the loss of his children to his possessions and, finally, his health. He wondered “why.” He even got to talk to God about his situation. And do you know what God told him? Nothing. He actually even said (essentially), “Who do you think you are? I don’t owe you any explanation.” Ouch. But in Romans 8:17 we are given a hint of the purpose in suffering. “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” God is not a genie, existing only to hear of our needs and issues. No. God desires RELATIONSHIP with us. Relationship is a two-way street. This life exists not just so God can know how we feel, but also so that we may know the very feelings of God. As life experiences unfold, they allow us to feel the devotion, pain and suffering of the Savior, from rejection to denying the flesh for the sake of God’s will. They are lessons hard won, but lead us to a closer walk and relationship with Him, so that we may share in His glory!