Monday, January 25, 2016

Words, Words, Words

I've been on the receiving end of some very hurtful words over the few months which reminded me of a post I wrote six years ago and since I am a little overwhelmed at the moment, I decided to share again this important insight. Enjoy!

I have been thinking a lot about words this week. So often, we hear that words are meaningless and that without action to back them up, they are empty, nothing but a waste of time and breath. I disagree. Let me introduce you to one of Satan’s greatest and most effective deceptions – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me!” How many times have we chanted this mantra as children trying to convince ourselves and the bullies in our lives that what they say doesn’t hurt us? How many times as adults have we told our children that the nasty things other children say are just meaningless words in an attempt to protect them and bring a smile to their faces again? The truth is that mean words can and do hurt. I know a woman who survived an abusive marriage who says that if she had to pick between verbal and physical abuse, she would pick physical because those hurts eventually heal.

Conversely, words of kindness and edification are like a healing salve to the hurting heart. My life proves it. Much of the abuse I’ve lived through has been verbal. Many people in my life who by the nature of our relationship should have been encouraging, helping me to build my self-esteem instead degraded me with their hate-filled words. Thirteen years ago, God brought me into a place filled with people who have been consistently and patiently encouraging and comforting to me. They’ve helped me to build the esteem and confidence every person needs to face the sometimes-harsh realities of life all with their kind words and a few hugs.

This week I decided to concentrate on the words that I say – not just to keep the unkind words from escaping my mouth, but also to look for opportunities to uplift those around me with a word of kindness or encouragement. There were the multitudes of people in the service industry, the bagger at the grocery store, the waitress at a local restaurant, the bank teller… Then there are the people I work with and my family. There were many people for me to say a heartfelt “thank you” to and those who needed to hear that they are appreciated and loved. Some needed to hear that they were doing a good job and some needed to hear that they have value. I couldn’t believe how many people I found this week that needed to hear “you’re okay!” Words are powerful and what I realized this week is that the joy and confidence that positive words bring do not confine themselves to the person being spoken to but also extends to the person who is speaking. The more kind and encouraging words that I was able to impart, the happier and more fulfilled I became. Praise God for the wonderful blessing that He gave in and through me this week.

Words are powerful. Use them well.

Monday, January 18, 2016

I Am Certain

In Philippians, Paul writes: I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Phi. 1:6, NLT) There is something so comforting in those first three words:  I am certain. There is absolutely no doubt in Paul’s mind whatsoever, even as he was imprisoned in Rome, that God would and will finish that which he started—the redemption and reconciliation of mankind to himself.

God will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal—God himself, by his own power, lowered himself into humanity, lived among us and allowed us to violently end his human life so that he could defeat the death we invited in with our sin. He defeated death for us and offers us life with him. STOP. Let’s read that again. God will stop at nothing to accomplish his goal—God himself, by his own power, lowered himself into humanity, lived among us and allowed us to violently end his human life so that he could defeat the death we invited in with our sin. He defeated death for us and offers us life with him. The power and ability to do what he did then and continues to do towards our reconciliation is incomprehensible and unimaginable. Let’s not just gloss over it like he was gluing together a broken vase. The work he is doing to bring us back to him is intricate and delicate for we are both stronger than we know and more fragile than we would ever choose to admit. There is work to be done and it must be done with precision of God’s steady hand and ultimate craftsmanship.

Knowing that God will not stop until I am the woman he created me to be both scares me and brings me great joy. It scares me because the unknown and change lie ahead of me. I don’t like change (though I am getting used to it) and the very thought of the unknown sometimes make my blood rush in with anxiety through my body and takes my breath away. It brings me joy because I know for certain that he loves me and will always be with me. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the closer he gets to completing his work in me, the more intimate and full our relationship will be.

So what’s my part in all of this? To let him. God’s goal of reconciliation requires that I choose of my own freewill to be reconciled to him. That’s my only job. To say yes. Yes to him. Yes to his sovereignty in my life. My job is to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of my faith. (Heb. 12:2a, NIV) I am his apprentice watching my teacher, learning the art of living a godly life copying what I see him do until it becomes a part of who I am. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hidden in Plain Sight

January can become a lonely month for people. God often reminds us that we are never alone but we are too busy focusing on the quiet that we miss the gentle whisperings of our Father's love. This reminded me of a blog I posted six years ago so I thought I'd share it again. Enjoy!

Recently I heard a very inspiring sermon about God being hidden in plain sight. The preacher told a story of a special card that he had put in a “safe place” where he would always be able to find it and then, as you would guess, promptly forgot where he put it. He knew he didn’t lose it and was sure it was in his home somewhere and yet after months of searching, he still had been unable to find it. Then one day, as he was sitting in his chair in his home office, he spied the card, which all those months before, he had tucked in the corner of a picture frame hanging on the wall. After all the searching, there it was, hiding in plain sight the whole time. He then went on to say that God is like that special card – right there in front of us the whole time, but we don’t see him. He said that God is in the ordinary moments of our lives, but we too often overlook him and credit coincidence or luck instead of recognizing the “God”incidences and blessings in each day. This week, I decided to ask God to help me see Him “hiding in plain sight.”

As is common for a single person, I often feel alone, and being an introvert, enjoy it most of the time. However, last week - “alone” morphed into loneliness. Imagine my surprise this week when the “God”incidences and blessings the Lord opened my eyes to were repetitive reminders that I am loved and that I matter. From friends who, without coaxing, stopped by to say hello and stayed awhile to the unexpected email from someone in my church family letting me know he was thinking about me. There was the lovely unexpected card I received from a family member that I will keep on my bulletin board in front of my computer always and the phone call from a woman from the church I work at who just wanted to thank me for doing what I do. There are the phone calls from my brother that let me know he’s thinking about me and the best friend who is planning her visit to town this weekend. Then there were the unexpected moments where God shared his love for others in my actions – in the squeezing of the hand of a woman I was praying for, in welcoming a shy newcomer, and in being supportive to the friend who needed a shoulder to cry on.

As God continued to reveal himself to me in those ordinary moments, his joy and peace overcame my loneliness. This week has truly been a blessing. As I reflect on it, I can’t help but think about the preacher’s story. He had searched high and low for that card, but it was not his efforts that led him to find it. I think that this week’s lesson was not that God is hidden in plain sight in the ordinary moments of my life, but that if I want to see God in those moments, I need to ask him, and rely on him alone, to reveal himself to me that I might know the love and peace that comes only from God.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Planning Ahead - Sailing by the Star of the Savior

Sailing by the Star of the Savior
A new year. 
A fresh start. 
The coming year 
is nothing but possibilities. 
Uncharted seas full of adventure. 
But what star shall I follow?
And where will it take me?
Only last month I followed a star
to Bethlehem,
to the manger
and gazed in awe upon the Savior,
upon the face of God 
as He slept 
in a basinet of fresh hay
cushioning Him as it 
crinkled and cracked 
beneath the newborn babe.
His lullaby— 
the mooooo of the cow
and baaaaaa of the sheep.
He is the light
by which I choose to sail
through the unknown future,
through life’s stormy seas,
and crystal clear waters.
I will follow His star 
through ashes and suppers,
through the darkest of Fridays
and joyous of Sundays!
Through fiery Spirit-filled celebrations
and endless repetitious days
of ordinary hours
culminating in a table of gratitude.
I will follow His star back to Bethlehem anew.
I will follow the light of my Savior!
Will you?