The Advantage of Bumpers
Today as I was thinking about life and such, God brought this picture to my mind.
Bowling has gutters and if we aren’t careful or skilled, the ball will end up in the gutter. However, someone came up with this wise idea to put up bumpers in order to guide the ball to where it needs to go (for those of us less skilled at bowling).
Often in life, we can foolishly end up in the gutter and miss the mark completely. However, God put wisdom in place to guide us to where we need to go. James tells us that we don’t have to do anything special to receive that wisdom except ASK!
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
We only need to ask God for wisdom and he will generously give it to us without finding fault!
We have the opportunity to live with wisdom to get us going in God’s direction, and help us make that mark. We cannot do it on our own, we just need to ASK GOD!
Will you ask Him today?
Trust Without Borders
Last year, around this time, I was in my last semester of undergrad and thus still had to attend weekly chapels. I remember going to a worship chapel where we sang the song Oceans. As one of the top Christian songs in the past few years, this song was a favorite in chapel, on the radio and on everyone’s playlists. After a while though, the words lost their meaning. On that particular day, however, I realized afresh what the words meant.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior”
I knew what I was singing, but thought for a second at the weight of my words. Did I really just sing that I wanted God to take me to deeper waters? What would that look like? And was that even something I really wanted to be asking God?
This past year, God has brought me to and through some of those deeper waters. My 22nd year has been one of the hardest yet. The trials of a broken relationship and a wounded friendship took me deeper than my feet could ever wander. At times I didn’t know if I could emotionally, spiritually, and mentally survive. However, because I ran to His presence, the deeper communion I have experienced with God and this sense of unity with His Spirit makes it more than worth it. Through it all, the joy that I have is unexplainable. Even though I may still sometimes hurt, that hurt reminds me of how deep God has taken me. How he has allowed me to walk on the water, making me stronger, and let me experience the fullness of his presence.
While my heart may have been unsure when I uttered the prayer of that song, God heard the words of my lips and knew what it would take to make my faith stronger.
This summer, when I thought I had experienced the deepest of the depths, I had no idea that more was in store. While I am writing this now, I don’t know if I have seen the last of the depths. In fact, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that there are still deeper waters ahead.
In John 16:33, Jesus says, “In this world you will have trouble…”
I can be confident that there are deeper waters to come. BUT Jesus is not finished when he says that. He ends the statement with:
“…But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Our faith can be made stronger in those deeper waters. We know that we can endure because we already know Jesus has overcome!
The trust and experience of deepened faith developed through trials is both painful and beautiful.
May we continue to be led by the Spirit, and our faith be made stronger.
Today was deep cleaning day for my bathroom. It had been quite a while because, hey, I’m busy and who else every uses my bathroom besides me, right? Yeah, we’ll just say it was long overdue. Apparently our apartment has hard water because you can see it all over the drains and there is a ring around the toilet where the water sits. Disgusting, I know.
(looked a little something like this)
So I did the whole bleach thing and scrubbed my heart out. Although I got a good amount of it with the first try, there were still those deeper stains that had been there the longest. I let the bleach sit for 10 minutes to really sink into those stains.
I probably scrubbed that toilet for a good 15 minutes and there are still some little spots of hard water stains. So frustrating to leave the toilet knowing that I did not get it all, though those spots may be virtually invisible to the person who just happens to glance in there. AND it did look a whole lot better than what it looked like before. For some reason I could not be fully satisfied. Even now, I go back and think to myself, if only I scrubbed harder or longer, or just didn’t let it sit that long in the first place, it would be all clean!
This process reminds me of Jesus and how he cleanses and purifies us. While we may be considered 100% righteous, because we are justified by his blood, we still have to undergo this process called sanctification. Sometimes the stains are easily removed with a little bleach and the swipe of the brush, and others are tougher and require more attention and time to really scour away. Nonetheless, I know I look a whole lot better than I did before.
BUT… what about that little thing that I can’t seem to get rid of? That little imperfection that always seems to come out at the worst time possible? That daily battle that reminds me just how human I am? Why can’t I seem to get rid of those things and be wholly perfect?
I forget about how far I come and instead of saying “WOW! Look at how far God has brought me!” I think, wow, there’s that little grimy stain, still staring at me, and I can’t seem to scrub hard enough to remove it.
Tonight, we had family night at our church. We celebrated the victory we have in Christ and made the decision to not live with the victim mentality, but to live in the reality of victory because 1 Corinthians 15:57 says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Instead of saying “why?” we can say “wow!” and live in awe of all that God has done and is doing in us and around us and through us. We can live with an expectation of victory because we serve a victorious God.
Thank you Jesus for the victory that I have in YOU! May I never forget what you say is true. Recently I’ve felt a little displaced, so please remind me of you unending grace. When all I am says why me? Why now? Please give me the strength to instead say WOW! When I think all is lost-at first glance, now I know to do the victory dance!
Recently my mom told me a story of when she was on a bike ride and a bird kept flying in front of her and landing. Right as she thought she was about to run it over, it would fly a little further in front and do the same thing. It made her think of that definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. Of course, she had enough wisdom at the time to immediately check herself to see if she was falling into that same trap.
Sometimes God does that. He gives us examples of our very own pitfalls, but we will miss it if …
a)we aren’t paying attention, or
b) we aren’t willing to humble ourselves and check our motives to look at the reality of some of the choices in our lives.
I can think of two instances in the Bible where God uses nature to paint a picture of how we are to live our lives.
The Ant: Proverbs 6:6-8
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief, officer, or ruler,
8 she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
The Birds & the Lilies: Matt. 6:26-30
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
While walking this evening, I almost forgot to pay attention. As I turned around to go back from where I had come, I noticed a doe and her two deer babies. I was able to stand and marvel at the wonders of his handiwork, and as I walked further, found two more deer grazing by the lake.
Are you paying attention?
What does God have to show you that you are too busy staring at your phone to recognize?
Will you take the time to be present and pay attention today?
Discipline and Creating New Habits- Part 2
Discipline is hard. Lately I have been experiencing the grueling realities, but also some of the surprising blessings. Also, I have been too enveloped in becoming more disciplined and developing other habits, that my habit of blogging was pushed aside. Balance is also hard.
Nonetheless, I will press on because I know it is worth it!
In part 1 of this series, I discussed Hebrews 11 and 12, and just the other day, I had to reread the words again. I have been reading through the Bible, and am currently in the first half of the Old Testament. As I read Hebrews 11, it was amazing to read the highlights of everything I have just been reading for the past couple weeks. I also noticed something at the end of Hebrews 11 that I had not noticed before.
These, though commended by God for their great faith, did not receive what was promised. That promise has awaited us, who receive the better thing that God has provided in these last days, so that with us, our forebears might finally see the promise completed. Hebrews 11:39-40
Our great acts of faith, that belief in something not yet seen (vs. 1), may still be unseen in our lifetime. Our goals and dreams of something better may not be accomplished in our lifetime. Thankfully, we know that God is the one ultimately working in us and through us, and he will complete his good work. At the same time, we have been created with a longing for eternity, and some of the things we set our sights on will not be accomplished until we reach that completeness in Christ. Here on this earth, we will never be fully mature and complete. However, in this life here and now, we can still prepare for that eternity. If we hold eternal values and seek eternal goals, we possess that eternal mindset. Sometimes, however, our values that we hold and the values that we want to hold do not always align.
Understand your values and set your goals accordingly.
Recently, I got a chance to meet with a friend while I was in Chicago. She discussed how important it was in a marriage relationship to know and understand your values because it helps your spouse better understand why you do things the way you do.
I think the same could be with our goals, passions, and desires. When we can understand our values, we are better equipped to know why we have the passions that we do, and set goals according to both of those, using values in conjunction with our passion and strengths. Sometimes, the values we hold are not always the values we want to hold. We can set goals to create habits to form ideal values within our lives, that were not there before.
You can find a list of 400 value words here, or you can look up another list.
While it may take some time to go through the list, you will gain a better understanding of yourself and might learn some new words in the process. At first glance, you may find about 20 words that you may think are your values. Now whittle that down to five. Those are your five current values, and ask yourself if that matches up with what you want to value or what you would like to think you value. This requires us to take an honest look at ourselves, with our current habits (including money-spending habits and time-spending habits) and see if all of the things we are currently doing matches with what we currently value.
In the last post, I ended with Hebrews 12:12-13, and today I will end with it again, but for a different reason.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Aligning your goals and habits to match with your desired or intended values helps you on your way to straightening your paths. One step in front of the other, and we will do this together!
This post was originally part of a two-part series, which will now be a three-part series. I would love to hear of the steps you are taking to create new habits in your life to align with your desired values! You can comment on this post or you can email me at email@example.com.
Discipline and Creating New Habits -Part 1
Summer is a time where many of us have that little bit of extra time in our schedule to do with as we please. For me, that means I finally get around to all of the things I have been wanting to do, but simply did not have enough time for during the rest of the year. AKA Goals, aspirations, book lists, exercise habits, eating habits, money budgeting, the list is endless. It seems like every day I find another thing to add to my summer goal list. The hard part, however, is actually creating the time and space to accomplish those things and do what you want to do. Life happens, you get tired and want to veg on the couch or sleep in that extra five minutes, and before you know it, the summer is over and it is back to a packed schedule and shorter days.
This summer, I am stepping up and not letting the long days pass me by. But, I did not realize how hard it is to form new habits. Sleep seems so much more vital in the morning than when I set my alarm the night before, and it seems so much easier to watch a quick show on Netflix (or maybe two, or three) than to read a couple chapters of that book, or my Bible.
Thankfully, quite a long time ago, I wrote this verse on a notecard and placed it on my wall. Normally I walk right past it, but today I paused and read it over again and thanked God for his sovereign timing and wisdom.
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
I would encourage you to read Hebrews 11 and 12 in their entirety to fully understand the context and direction of the entire passage. Chapter 11 speaks of all the great people throughout the history of the Bible and chapter 12 goes on to encourage those in the present day to not give up. Now the content of this particular passage in chapter 12 discusses discipline as discipline in the form of hardship or similar to that of a father disciplining his child. Discipline is a part of training a child in the way he or she should go, meaning it is not always an act when the child misbehaves or makes a mistake, but a constant presence guiding and directing the path of that child to help him or her learn and grow to one day become a mature adult.
Sometimes God can give us the direction or desire and it is up to us to obey and take those steps of forming the habits that will set us up for success in what he wants to do in us and through us.
How are we able to do this?
Verses 2 and 3 tell us to look at the life of Jesus for our example of someone who did not give up and lived a life devoted and disciplined, because his eyes were focused on the joy set before him.
What is the result?
Like verse 11 above says, discipline produces a harvest of righteousness and peace.
Maybe the discipline you are experiencing is in the form of a trial, or maybe it is in the form of creating new habits to take you to the next level in your relationship with God or his call on your life. Whatever it may be, I encourage you to keep pressing on and take a look at the two verses following verse 11:
Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
Hebrews 12:12-13 (NIV)
The discipline, that leveling of the paths for your feet, is worth it, the harvest of righteousness and peace is coming!
…to be continued…
This blog post is one of a two-part series about discipline and creating new habits.
Not All That Glitters is Gold
Las Vegas, the glittering, wild and lively city. Full of billboards promising fun times and streets teaming with people looking for something. Casinos promising some big money, with people dumping their own money in to buy the dream. The strip looks like you can travel the world in a day, from Egypt to an Excalibur castle, New York to Paris, and Italy.
But, like much of the city, it is all illusions and empty promises. Thus the saying rings true,
“All that glitters is not gold.” -Shakespeare
While my recent visit to Las Vegas was full of fun sightseeing, attractions, shows, and food, I was left knowing there is more in store.
People packed on the strip, everyone trying to sell you something, promising something. Everyone is looking to make a buck, and if you’re lucky, you may walk out with a few left. If you don’t spend it all on gambling, the food, shopping, and entertainment will surely get you.
Nonetheless, in the midst of it all, as we were walking down the strip one afternoon, I heard a Christian song playing from one of the restaurants. I’m not sure who was playing it, or how long it was played, and I do not even remember the song, but I got the message. I received that glimpse of God’s love and mercy for “sin city.” His desire to redeem it and bring it from death to life.
Thanks God for your little glimpse of hope, that pure gold of your truth and love in the midst of the world.
Right as we were walking to our last brunch before leaving, the song “back to life, back to reality” came on and I couldn’t help but laugh and think to myself, yes, and I am glad to be going home, because, as much fun as it was, my life and reality are so much better than these past few days in Vegas.
I have a community that is committed to being better together, united by a common goal and purpose, determined to change the world. I have a family who loves and cares for me and encourages me to live out my purpose each day. Jesus has given me eternal life to which this life cannot compare and a purpose for while I am here on earth. I’ve found something of true value, pure gold, and when you can find that, when your reality is better than fantasy travels, it is golden.
Wisdom and trials
James is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Over the years, I have had the privilege of doing a few in depth studies on the book, which have only grown my love.
Recently, I was given a copy of the Voice translation of the Bible and decided to read James.
One part in particular really stood out to me in a way that I had never been able to read it before. On asking for wisdom in chapter 1, this is what we are to do:
The key is that your request be anchored by your single minded commitment to God. Those who depend on their own judgment are like those lost on the seas, carried away by any wave or picked up by any wind. Those adrift on their own wisdom shouldn’t assume the Lord will rescue them or bring them anything. The splinter of divided loyalty shatters your compass and leaves you dizzy and confused.
I italicized the last sentence because that point screams loud and clear, that if you are not all in, if you are riding the fence, trying to please all parties, you will only be left dizzy and confused. In the verses before, James speaks of how trials produce patience in us, and make us more mature. We have the opportunity to ask God for wisdom and he will give to anyone who asks. BUT, the key is the single-minded commitment to God. God often uses our trials to get us to that point of complete surrender.
James is not my favorite book because I love trials–I’m not sure if anyone loves them. However, I do love what trials produce. Maturity and completeness, patience and other godly characteristics that would not be there had it not been for a trial.
That is why I am thankful for James, and I am thankful for trials. Because I am reminded to look at the complete picture and the end result, not just the moments of pain or sorrow.
This Tuesday Morning.
On this Tuesday morning,
I sip my tea and pray,
Thanking God for living
And giving me a brand new day.
Yesterday’s mistakes and tomorrow’s uncertainties,
Will find no place here.
They are not today’s emergencies.
They will not cause me fear.
I can simply be because He simply is!
He is fully mine and I am fully His!