change, devotional, encouragement, lessons learned, midlife faith

Walk the Talk

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

“Sure, I’d love to help!” Not really, but I don’t want to sound rude.

“Yes, I have plenty of time to work on that last-minute project!” I’m going to have to work overtime now because I’m swamped. Ugh.

“I’m so sorry I hurt your feelings.” Why are you so thin skinned? 

“I’m sorry you’re going through a hard time.” Suck it up, buttercup, like the rest of us.

How often do we say things we don’t really mean? It’s easy to give lip service to many people and many things without meaning it. 

But in Romans 10, Paul makes clear that we cannot just give lip service to God. We’ve got to believe with our hearts. We’ve got to put hands and feet on our words.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Romans 10:9-10 ESV

So, what does it actually look like to not only say it, but also to believe it? It looks a lot like evangelizing those around us. Not all Christians are called to go overseas as missionaries, but we are all called to tell those around us about the Gospel. Here’s what the apostle Paul has to say about those who spread the Good News of Jesus Christ: 

As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

Romans 10:15 ESV

Truly believing looks a lot like the Christians in the book of James, who are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. We need to bridle our tongues and not show partiality as we do good works (James 2-3).

But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

James 2:18 ESV

Sincere belief also looks a lot like the fruit of the Spirit. A dead plant does not produce flowers. A dead tree does not produce fruit. Likewise, someone who has not received the new life that is a result of salvation may try to sound like a Christian but will not have the heart of a believer. Our walk should match our talk.

So when our walk matches our talk, we can truly sing, like the old chorus, How beautiful the hands … and feet of the body of Christ. We then become like a radiant bride, waiting for our Savior, the bridegroom.

It’s not always easy, but we have been given—by the bridegroom Himself—all the help we need to match our hearts with our mouths.

Scriptures for Reflection:

  • Romans 10 (get the whole context)
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • Colossians 3:1-4
  • James 2:14-24

Questions for Reflection:

  1. Have you ever said something you didn’t mean? What was the result?
  2. Who can you talk to about the Gospel this week?
  3. How can you cultivate the fruit of the Spirit this week? Choose one to focus on.
  4. How can you tangibly help someone in need this week?

**This article also appears on the Beyond Sunday Blog.**

about me, devotional, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith, When a Woman Finds Her Voice

Embrace the Grace

Growing up in church, I thought all pastors’ families were supposed to be perfect. At least, that was what was to be portrayed. They were always smiling, always serving, always hospitable, and the children were always obedient (insert adult eye roll). 

And I don’t know how I acquired the false idea that some sins were worse than others, but somehow in my legalistic private school education, the list of sins started with short skirts and ended with girls who got kicked out for, well, you know what.

But somewhere between collecting demerits for too-big earrings and my second divorce—as the pastor’s daughter, no less—I figured out that short skirts aren’t a mortal sin—and neither is divorce, or speeding, or yelling at your kids occasionally, or having a ring around the bathtub. 

During that journey, though, Satan had a field day, making my sense of shame and guilt bow my chin to my chest. 

The devil suggests to people that they cannot change; God will not help them. They are helpless slaves to sin and its consequences. Romans 6 says instead, “No, you are free.” Romans 7 says, “The Law can neither save nor sanctify you.” Romans 8 says, “The Holy Spirit does enable you to walk in a manner pleasing to God, so you can be a conqueror.”

After we are freed from the bondage of slavery to sin, nothing can separate us from God’s love for us (Romans 8:37–39). God’s love is not conditional; He doesn’t look at the length of our skirts to determine the height or depth of His love for us.

A few years ago, my dad (the aforementioned pastor) noticed that I always seemed to be carrying around a sense of shame and heaviness for my current life situation (being divorced is no picnic, in case you were wondering). He reassured me that he did not see me through the lens of a divorced woman, or a woman who’d been fired from a job, or a woman who could never live up to some other imaginary standards. He just saw me as his beloved daughter. Period.

I feel the same way about my daughter. She is living far, far from God although she professed His name for many years when she was young. However, my love for my daughter is not based on whether she goes to church or plays DnD on Sundays.

So, how do we get from hanging our heads in shame because we were formerly slaves to living like the beloved children of the King of kings that we are?

We must learn to reframe the shame! First we face it, then we grace it. Remember, the opinions of others don’t matter. We will always be too much or not enough for some people, and that’s ok. Through the grace of God and Christ’s suffering, we are accepted the way we are!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:1 ESV

Boom. Mic drop. That’s the whole sermon, right there. 

Romans 8:15 tells us that we have not been delivered from slavery to fall back into fear! We are to embrace the grace we’ve been given; otherwise, we’re throwing God’s gift back in His face. 

While feelings are, indeed, powerful, they are not what’s real. They may indicate that we’ve got some emotional baggage to unload, but they should not dictate our actions and our thoughts. We might just need to spend some time aligning our emotions with God’s truths. 

So, go live like the conqueror you are! Use your freedom to point others to Jesus. 

Read and Reflect:
Romans 8—read the whole context for this week’s message
Ephesians 2:8–9
Colossians 2:6–23

Think and Pray

  1. Are you stuck in a cycle of shame and guilt from which you need to be set free?
  2. Why is it often more difficult to receive grace for yourself than it is to extend grace to others?
  3. How do your feelings get in the way of your acting like a child of the King?
  4. What would it mean for you to actually live like a beloved child of the King of kings instead of a servant in the dungeon?

**This article also appears on the Beyond Sunday Blog.**

devotional, encouragement

Would You Rather?

Have you ever heard kids playing the “Would you rather” game? As if tacos or pizza isn’t a hard enough choice, you get questions like “Would you rather die first or last in a group?” Um, I’d like to stay alive, thanks! 

“Would you rather have your flight delayed by eight hours or lose your luggage?”

“Would you rather be 4’5” or 7’7”? “

“Would you rather spend two weeks stuck in a psychiatric hospital or stuck in an airport?”

“Would you rather have the details of your financial life or your love life be made public?”

Every time I hear choices like that, I say, “Neither!” They all sound so unappealing, and I just can’t figure out the point of the game.

In Romans 6, Paul presents us with a list of either/or choices. But the good news is that these choices are much more palatable! 

Would you rather live like you’re dead or alive? Would you rather live under law or grace? Would you rather live as a slave or free? Would you rather live as unrighteous or righteous?

Yep, me, too! I’ll take the second choice every time! More good news: After we receive Jesus, we already have everything we need to live a holy life. We’re positionally sanctified, and with the Holy Spirit in residence in our bodies, we can live as though we are justified—because we are!

In this doctrinally rich letter to the Romans, Paul encourages them—and us—to live a life worthy of our calling:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?

Romans 6:1 ESV

So, our dilemma is that we ARE free, and we ARE alive, yet so often we CHOOSE to live as though we were still in darkness! What’s up with that? Even the apostle Paul faced the same dilemma: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15 ESV).

For further encouragement, Paul’s parting words in this chapter are our well-known reminder of the consequences of our choices:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

Because we have been symbolically buried and raised to new life in Christ, sin no longer has the same power over us that it once did. Are we still tempted to sin? Yep! But we should not be held captive to it.

So what’s the answer? 

That’s what Romans chapter 6 is all about. It’s a reminder that we are to live up to our calling and our standing in Jesus Christ. As Jesus also reminded us, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Luke 16:13 ESV).

Remember that Bob Dylan song, “Gotta Serve Somebody”? Our actions speak louder than our words about whom we are serving. The truth is, we ARE serving someone. Who will it be?

Because we have been set free from sin, we need to live like it! It’s not impossible or unreasonable. We can choose to live a holy life—with God’s help.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.

Romans 6:22 ESV

Pray and Reflect

  • Romans 6—Read and reflect on the full context.
  • Galatians 5:13–26
  • Ephesians 2:1–10

Questions for Reflection

  • How have you been tempted to go along with the crowd and made sinful choices as a result?
  • If you’re married, how would your spouse feel if you went out and acted as if you were single? How does God feel when you act as if you’re still dead under the Law?
  • What sin(s) do you need to repent of that are keeping you from living a life fully devoted to God?

*Content also featured on the Beyond Sunday Blog.*

devotional, encouragement, holidays, midlife faith

Come and See … Then Go and Tell!

You know the deflated feeling after a much-anticipated holiday or event has passed. You’ve planned, cleaned, and cooked for weeks, and all of a sudden, all that’s left are dirty dishes and a stray toy peeking out from under the couch. Posting the pictures to social media helps us relive the highlights, but even the likes and comments can’t bring back the euphoria of the moment.

The same thing happened to the disciples. They had traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. Then they had watched their beloved rabbi die and puzzled over thinking that he had been the Messiah. Deflated, they traveled back to Emmaus, their hometown. 

As they were discussing the traumatic events of the previous week, a stranger drew up to walk with them. This stranger joined their conversation and reiterated everything they knew (or thought they knew) about the prophecies of the Messiah, yet they still did not recognize Him. 

By the time they recognized Him, He had vanished from their sight again. That recognition refueled their passion, and they rushed back to Jerusalem to be with Jesus’ other disciples. They then received the Great Commission to go and tell:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:19-20 ESV

Days later, the Holy Spirit breathed a fresh fire of evangelism into the hearts of these (and many other) disciples: 

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting .

Acts 2:1-2 ESV

The church was birthed from the excitement of these Christians going and telling others about Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection. And it’s still going strong 2,000 years later.

Did you catch the two main factors here? The disciples were all together in community. They weren’t off scrolling through social media from their separate sofas. And they were ready to receive power from the Holy Spirit. They were waiting expectantly for Jesus to fulfill His promise of sending them a Helper. 

So, how can we keep the excitement and commitment of Easter going strong long after the chocolate bunnies have been consumed? We need to keep ourselves plugged into our Power Source by staying in community with other believers and by receiving encouragement and instruction from the Bible regularly.

Then we need to go and tell others about Jesus. Just like we can’t resist posting our family photos of beautiful new outfits, fun egg hunts, and spectacular meal presentations on social media, we should also want to share the best, most fantastic news ever: Jesus is alive, and He STILL MAKES A DIFFERENCE! 

It’s easy to come and see. We do that every day on social media. It’s harder to go and tell. That’s when our true commitment to the Gospel will be needed. Are you ready? Go and tell!

Pray and reflect on the following Scripture passages

Psalm 79:13
Luke 24:13-35
Acts 13:1-12 

Reflection Questions

  1. How can you stay plugged into a community during a time when actual gatherings are limited, making it more difficult?
  2. How can you intentionally focus on your true Power Source (God, through His Word) this week?
  3. What can you do to regain your sense of passion and purpose in fulfilling the Great Commission yourself? 
  4. How can you go and tell right where you are?

*Also published on the Beyond Sunday Blog.

anxiety, devotional, encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

Everyone Loves a Road Trip

Everyone loves a good road trip—the freedom of the open road, escaping the everyday chores staring us in the face at home, and the novelty of experiencing new places. Sometimes the destination is unknown and everything about the trip becomes a chance to explore new vistas along the way. Or kids bounce up and down in anticipation of Grandma’s homemade cookies. And even teenagers can be roused from their phone screens when driving through the gates at Carowinds. 

Everyone loves a good road trip—until the toddler pukes on her carseat, or the engine light comes on miles from home, or the alternator dies on a dark and stormy night with babies in the backseat (and no cell phone—true stories, all!). 

Life is a little like a road trip. We anticipate that it’ll be smooth sailing when we say “I do.” Then he lashes out every night after work as she cowers in the bathroom hoping he won’t break the door down again. 

We anticipate retiring from the perfect job—only to get fired unfairly a few years later. We feel sure that the cancer diagnosis won’t be fatal. But it is.

So, what are we supposed to do when the journey of life takes us down bumpy back roads  that don’t show up on our GPS?

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 121:1-2

Psalm 121 reminds us to look UP to our creator, keeper, and protector. When we realize how completely God loves us and longs to meet our every need, we can surrender to his care and rest in his protection. God is our:

Creator—v. 1-2

God is in control. He’s omnipotent and omniscient. Not only did he create the entire universe, but he also created each of us—intimately and uniquely. As Psalm 139:16 reminds us, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” 

God cares enough about us to be involved on a personal level with every detail of our lives. When I’m in the rain on the side of the road with babies and no cell phone, he’s got a plan. When I’ve been rejected by other people, I’m comforted to know I’m not alone.

Keeper—v. 3-6

Even when we’re on slippery slopes of bad decisions or glaring engine lights, he will keep us secure. He never sleeps or turns his eyes away from us. God’s power is greater than any evil we may face during the day (or night).

Not only does he keep our feet from slipping, but he also keeps us under his shade. We won’t be scorched when the rumors fly faster than a peregrine, nor will we be alone and helpless when evil screams at us for hours during the night (literally and audibly).

Protector—v. 7-8

God is always on guard. There’s nowhere we can go that he doesn’t know, as noted in Psalm 139:7, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” Not only does God go with us, but he also has preordained every step we take. He’s got the bigger picture all laid out for our good (Romans 8:28). 

While we may struggle in knowing why we got fired from a good job, he’s already lined up the perfect job. When we’re confused by a response from a church leader, he already knows how it’s going to bring glory to him through our lives. Hang in there, friend, and rest surrendered in God’s care. Remember, “God is just as present in the journey as in the destination” (Guzik).

devotional, encouragement, grief, healing, midlife faith

The Ultimate Victory of Jesus

*This is a guest post by my friend Kim Findlay. Find her blog, books, and Bible studies on her website. *

Their steps were heavy with grief as they walked toward the tomb early that morning. Silence hung in the air between them, reminding them of their sorrow.

How could he be gone? Shock still gripped them as memories of his death plagued them—the tang of his blood lingering in the air; his body slack on the cross held up only by those dreaded nails—the gash in his side.

Mary winced as the memory of the banging hammer echoed through her heart. The hammer that struck the nails tore through his hands, his hands. Oh, how she’d wanted to grab that hammer away and tell them to stop! Hot tears fell down her cheeks as she pressed on toward the tomb.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, her heart cried. He wasn’t supposed to die! She tried to remember the words he spoke during their time together, but there was nothing. Nothing but the horror of seeing him cry out in those final moments breath filled his lungs.

“Eli, Eli,” he’d cried, “lama sabachthani? Why have you abandoned me?”

She wanted to cry with him—Yahweh, what is happening? Why did he die? It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Fast Forward to Today

Have you ever wondered that? Has death ever stared at you through the eyes of someone you love? 

I have. In 2005, my daughter died from injuries she sustained in a fire that also destroyed our home. She was five years old. 

I remember crying out to God in those earliest days of grief when the pain was raw and the tears were deep. I cried and wondered and railed against the reality of sorrow that slammed into my life . . . it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Jesus told us this. The night before he died, Jesus sat with his disciples at the last supper, imparting final words and encouragement. Then, in John 16:33, he says, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Flashback

Just as they made it to the tomb, the ground began to shake! As if the events of the past couple of days hadn’t been enough, the very foundation they stood on trembled! The women watched as the guards shook with fear. The stone that covered the tomb began to move.

What was happening?

An angel sat on the stone, brilliant and white. They looked at one another, hearts beating fast. “Don’t be afraid,” the angel said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. But he isn’t here! He has risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.”

The women drew near to see where his body was lying —the tomb was empty! Their hearts, once filled with grief, felt as they’d explode with joy! They spun on their feet and ran from the grave. They had to tell the disciples what the angel said.

Jesus was alive?

They looked at each other as they hurried along. And then . . . they saw him. Jesus! They fell at his feet in worship. Jesus was alive! (Matthew 28:1-10)

Fast Forward

Yes, trials and sorrows are expected here in the land of the living. Heartbreak and loss, while painful, shouldn’t shock us. They are a part of life this side of heaven, but those hardships are not the end of our story.

Consider Jesus’ words again. This verse isn’t only about embracing the reality of trials and sorrows in this world. Too often, we spend time looking at the broken pieces of our lives, praying and hoping those broken pieces will somehow be made right again that we miss a glorious truth from Jesus himself—He is victorious!

Let me declare that again—Jesus is victorious! He conquered sin and death!

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:55-57


This passage isn’t a mere calling out of suffering; it declares an ultimate truth. Yes, there will be suffering, but Jesus is greater! Death does not have the final say. He is bigger! Jesus is victorious!

Did you catch that? Jesus declares victory over it all! Sin and death. Loss and sorrow. Pain and separation. What a difference it makes when we face the trials of today. Yes, life is hard, and it hurts but those feelings, and these circumstances don’t win. Jesus does.

Pray and Reflect

  • John 16:33
  • 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
  • Philippians 2:7-11
  • Isaiah 9:6-7

Think and Journal

  • What sorrow do you carry today that needs Jesus’ healing touch?
  • How does knowing God promised a Savior in Isaiah bring you comfort today?
  • How does Jesus’ victory over death help us when we grieve the death of someone we love?
  • How does knowing Jesus is victorious change the way you approach sorrow or hardship?

*This article first appeared on the Beyond Sunday blog.*

Uncategorized

Toward a More Simple Life

Simplicity in Wants 

Marie Kondo and her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing have sparked a recent minimalist and simplistic lifestyle movement. In my own house, one of my daughters went from being a hoarder to a donator, and while researching and praying through this post, I collected several garbage bags worth of items to donate from my closet. (Yikes! Didn’t realize I had that much stuff!)

While the idea of a capsule wardrobe and a decluttered linen closet is appealing, this bibliophile can’t fathom a home without overflowing bookshelves. 

But does the Bible care how many pairs of shoes we own? Or how many sets of dishes we stack in our china cabinet? I don’t think so. But what God does care about is whether we’re good stewards of what he’s blessed us with and whether we’re distracted by unnecessary stuff or busyness. 

Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

1 Corinthians 4:2

Here’s the thing, friends. God gives us what we NEED! Not always what we want, but what we need. All we need is to “dwell in the land” and pursue faithfulness (Psalm 37:3). God has placed us where we are. Our job is to be faithful. That’s it! Anything more is just the icing on the cake.

When we have more than we need, we can live generously and bless others. When we aren’t striving to get more stuff, then we don’t have to work ourselves to the bone.

Simplicity in Work

When we talk about working (or volunteering), we’ve got to talk about our overstuffed schedules, too! Even good things can become burdens if they’re causing us to be exhausted on a regular basis or if they’re distracting us for the best and most important things—our individual time with God, time with our families, and needed time for physical and emotional rest. We cannot serve God from a place of emptiness and exhaustion. We can’t serve others well from that place either. 

As we progress toward midlife, we become physically and mentally less able to multitask, take on extra commitments, and go-go-go all the time. We still think we can care for our families, work a full-time job, volunteer for an endless array of activities at church, and a host of other good things. 

News flash: we can’t. It’s time to take a prayerful look at our calendars, consult with our families/significant others, and focus WELL on the most important things in life. We want to do well what we need to and do things from a place of rest, not stress.

So what are we supposed to focus on? 

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act …
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Psalm 37:6-7

That’s what we’re supposed to be doing! That’s it! Trust in God to take care of us and to dispose of our enemies in his time (not ours). 

Simplicity in Worth

All of this striving to have more, do more, and be more leads to a feeling of not enough. Ask me how I know. We are not designed for that! God made us enough, so we don’t have to BE anymore than we already are. God did all the work of salvation, so we don’t have to DO more (Ephesians 2:8-9). HE is enough. And when we can internalize that, we’ll be free to worship him the way he designed us to. 

But the meek [humble, gentle] shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

Psalm 37:11

The idea of meekness or humility here is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less. When we have a proper appreciation for who God is, we will know who he created us to be. When we focus on worship, we’ll focus less on worry because we’ll have more peace. (Yes, I know it’s not a guaranteed formula, and I am way too familiar with chemical imbalances and such. That’s not the focus here).

Simplicity in worship

The crux of the matter is the reason we’re seeking a more minimalist lifestyle. Simplicity is not a decent goal in and of itself, but only for the purpose of pursuing God. An uncluttered life enables us to focus on the main thing—knowing God. Then we will have all that we want.

Delight yourself in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:4

Lest we get caught in the trap of thinking we’ll be upgrading our houses and cars if we only ask God for it, take a look at C.H. Spurgeon’s thoughts on this verse: “Do not think first of the desires of thy heart, but think first of delighting thyself in thy God. If thou hast accepted him as thy Lord, he is thine; so delight in him, and then he will give thee the desires of thy heart.” 

As I’m smack dab in middle age, I’ve come to realize that my life is to be a testimony to others of God’s faithfulness in my life. That’s exactly where David found himself when writing this psalm. 

I have been young, and now am old,
    yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken.

Psalm 37:25

Will our lives ever be trouble free? No, we’re not guaranteed that in the Bible. But as we strive to keep the main thing the main thing in our lives, we can show others the beauty of the simplicity of the Gospel.

What about you, friend? What do you need to simplify in your own life in order to focus more on pursuing God? Drop me a line, and let me know!

change, devotional, divorce, encouragement, grief, healing, midlife faith, reinventing

Satisfaction Is in the Sanctuary

I used to be a complainer. I mean, like really. In spite of the sign I still (as an empty nester) have in my house that says No Whining. I complained to fellow worship team members about having to get up so early on a Sunday morning. (And totally missed the irony of that.) I complained about having to grade papers all weekend long. I complained about making dinner every night for my family. I complained about having to clean my big house.

And then I lost it. All of it.

During that really dark time, I felt a lot like Asaph and his confusion in Psalm 73 over the seeming prosperity of the wicked. I thought I had done everything right, but all of a sudden everything was wrong, and it seemed like the wicked were prospering.

For I was envious of the arrogant
    when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

Psalm 73:3

For sure, comparison and complaining are contentment killers! But does that mean we can’t go to God with our hurts and disappointments? Of course not! Throughout the Psalms, we see David (and here Asaph) expressing his disappointment and envy with the prosperity of his enemies. 

And that right there is the key: he went straight to God with his complaints. He didn’t post a litany of problems on social media. He didn’t verbally attack his enemies in prayer meeting by disguising it as a prayer request. He went straight to the Source of life for comfort and reassurance.

The other things Asaph did in this psalm were to recognize God’s goodness to Israel right up front and his own sinful feelings and reactions. We always need to remember God’s goodness toward us. Owning our feelings and confessing them as needed brings us contentment in our relationship with Christ.

When we own our feelings as not the truth, we realize that God is God, and we are not. We may never know this side of Heaven why someone else prospers, and we don’t, or why we’re the ones struggling with our marriage, kids, finances, or whatever when we thought we did everything right. 

Life is not a formula! And we don’t have the full picture of God’s plan, which is probably a good thing. But we do know that God will eventually work all things for our good. 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

As much as I want to know all of the whys of my difficult decade, I’ve had to release that desire. God hasn’t told me why, and I have to be ok with that. Honestly, letting go of my demands was releasing in so many ways. It left me free to focus on the good things that have come out of that time, which has led to a greater satisfaction with my Lord and with my life than I had before. 

But when I thought how to understand this,
    it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
    then I discerned their end.

Psalm 73:16-17

When Asaph gave up on questioning why and turned to worshiping God instead, he realized that the wicked would receive justice—in God’s timing. He realized that all of those things we strive after are temporary. They can be swept away in a moment. The only things that truly matter in life are found in God’s presence.

But for me it is good to be near God;
    I have made the Lord God my refuge,
    that I may tell of all your works.

Psalm 73:28

And in regaining my life—though devoid of many people and things I once considered necessities—I discovered that in Christ I had everything I needed. And He is all I need.

Friend, I pray you never have to experience devastating losses in order to appreciate what you have. How can you instead cultivate a heart of gratitude this next week? Drop me a line, and let me know your plan, so I can pray for you.  

encouragement, healing, lessons learned, midlife faith

Sticky and Sweet: Church Relationships

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” Although Charles Dickens was referring to mid 19th-century England, I suspect many of us could say the same about our relationships within the organized church.

We all know that the church should be a refuge, a hospital for sinners and the weary, yet we are sometimes met by stabbing saints instead of singing saints. Looking for sweet fellowship, we often get mired down in the stickiness of life.

One thing I’ve discovered is that there are no perfect churches; however, we can’t equate God’s church with God’s character. The church is people, and people aren’t perfect. 

But don’t give in to the temptation to give up on church completely just because of a few bad experiences. It’s tempting. Trust me, I know. So, why should we keep attending church even when we’re doubting?

God desires us to be sanctified. Part of that ongoing process involves the church. I think we sometimes forget that. God calls us to be holy as he is holy, but it’s a process. 

The purpose of the church body is to help and encourage each other, not to rip each other to shreds. 

A dishonest [wo]man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.

Proverbs 16:28

Looking for some guidelines on how to make sure you’re acting like a model church member? Look no further than the apostle Paul’s epistles to the New Testament churches. You’ll discover that there really is nothing new under the sun! Here’s a synopsis of the high points: 

  • Worry about yourself first. Don’t criticize others, especially those in leadership. 
  • Major on the majors (doctrine, right treatment of people) and minor on the minors (don’t let your contentiousness over the color of the carpet drive someone away from the church—true story). 
  • Don’t cover up sin or abuse, but tread carefully and biblically when dealing with it. I have so much more to say on this topic, but that’s for another time.
  • Be kind. Be loving. 
  • Be involved. Don’t criticize the way people do things unless you’re willing to jump in and help. And even then hold your tongue.
  • Instead of focusing on the splinter in your sister’s eye, focus on the log in yours (Matthew 7:1-4). Focus on building up your fellow saints instead. Your local church body will be better for it.
  • Filter your words before they fly out of your mouth or off your fingertips. 
  • Don’t participate in gossip. While no one will deny that there are problems in the church, and church leaders are falling like flies, gossip only makes it worse. And don’t try to disguise your juicy news as a prayer request. We’re onto you, sister!

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

Ephesians 4:29

Let’s focus on the sweetness of fellowship with believing sisters in the church. What’s one thing you can focus on this week to help foster positive relationships within the body of Christ? Leave me a comment (or email me back) and let me know!

encouragement, midlife faith

Friends Are the Flowers of Life

Here are a few verses to reinforce the  concepts of true friendship. I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I need to do an attitude check to make sure I’m being a good friend! 

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends. ~ Proverbs 17:9

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. ~ Proverbs 17:17

Iron sharpens iron, and one (wo)man sharpens another. ~ Proverbs 27:17

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. ~ Proverbs 27:9

Obviously these are not the only valuable components or verses needed for friendships, but they’re a good start. What would you add? Drop me a line or a comment and let me know!