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.*

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.  

change, devotional, healing, lessons learned, medical issues, midlife faith, reinventing

Behind the Mask of Health Mania

As we begin a new year, we often make goals or resolutions to improve our physical health—lose weight, exercise more, eat better, cook at home more, cut out sugar, etc. But we often forget about those goals before the end of the month. While there’s nothing wrong with improving our physical health and nothing wrong with making goals or resolutions, perhaps we’d be better served by focusing on the state of our souls.

It’s all too easy to hide the state of our souls behind the state of our physical bodies. Many overly health-conscious people hide the imperfections of their souls behind the perfection of their physical bodies. We obsess over counting points and steps while neglecting our daily devotions. (Just me? I thought not.) We preen in front of the dressing room mirrors while gossiping behind closed doors. 

While we are definitely called to take care of our physical bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6), we are not called to make idols of them. Sin takes a good thing and makes it the only thing; at the same time, Christians tend to take a worldly thing and give it a spiritual spin. 

For example, the premise of Daniel Fast is to eat just vegetables in order to lose weight; however, the actual reason Daniel chose to eat only vegetables was so as not to “defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank” (Daniel 1:8 ESV). As a result of following their convictions to remain pure, God gave them favor so that Daniel and his friends were “better in appearance and fatter in flesh” than their counterparts (Daniel 1:15 ESV). 

What we see here and in other Scriptures is that being what we would call overweight or fat meant having enough food to eat during biblical times. Obviously overeating is considered gluttonous, but as in all things, balance is the key.

Another biblical principle concerning our physical bodies that often gets taken to extremes is the concept of athletic training. The apostle Paul often uses the importance of physical training to emphasize the importance of spiritual training. For instance, he talks about how only one person will win a race even though many people will train and participate in it. So, we are encouraged to run in such a way as to win. Of course, the point is to run our spiritual race in such a way as to win an “imperishable” wreath or crown (1 Corinthians 9:25). 

Along with the extreme of doing our utmost to win the prize, what can happen when we idealize perfection too much? We put down those who can’t achieve it, and they somehow become less than. Instead of embracing all people and abilities as God’s unique creations, we revile them and leave them in our dust. 

So our aim should be working to become more Christlike instead of focusing only on physical fitness: “while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).

Another aspect of physical training taken to the extreme is exhaustion. Behind the mask of achievement and success lies a tired body with multiple invisible problems. We go and go and go while neglecting the rest our bodies need because our culture sees rest as laziness. But God designed us with a need for regular rest! Our need to be always on the go leads to drive-thru dinners several times a week that do not provide our bodies with the nourishment they need.

What’s the cure? When we’re so worn out that we don’t know what to do, Jesus invites us to exchange our burdens for his. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29 ESV).

In the end, it’s all about balance! When we’re tired or hungry or on a sugar high, we can’t focus on God. Let’s take off our masks of physical perfection and busyness, so we can focus on our spiritual well-being and ask God what our priorities should be.

Call to Action:

Read and reflect on these passages of Scripture in light of this week’s sermon.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 (ESV)—“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything. Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food – and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV)—”Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”
  • Ephesians 5:29 (ESV)—”For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
  • Hebrews 4:10 ESV)—“For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. In what ways do you find yourself masking your spiritual state behind your physical state?
  2. How have you taken a good thing and turned it into the only thing, which takes the focus off properly glorifying God with it?
  3. How can you create more balance in your physical priorities this week?
  4. How can you create more time for physical and spiritual rest in order to prioritize your relationships with God and your family?

*Note: This article was originally posted on my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sundays.

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

The Mask of False Happiness

As we wrap up 2020 (who’s breathing a sigh of relief with me?), it’s a good time to reflect on our emotional health. One of the masks we women tend to don frequently is the mask of false happiness. Now, there’s nothing wrong with faking it till you make it occasionally, but we’re not meant to live that way. We’re meant to live authentically, sharing our true selves with each other in community.

When we drop a bowl on the ceramic floor, and it shatters, what do we do with it? We toss it in the trash can, of course. When the Japanese break a piece of pottery, on the other hand, they repair it with gold (do they sell that kind of superglue in WalMart?) and proclaim that the piece is even more beautiful than it was originally. Their idea is that by embracing the brokenness and flaws, the piece becomes even stronger and more stunning. This is called kintsukuroi, which means “golden repair” or kintsugi, which is “golden joinery.” Wow! 

What if we treated people like that? What if we reframed our emotional scars—instead of judging ourselves as failing at the Christian life, how about we see our scars as battle wounds of winning warriors? What if we saw those made fragile by life’s circumstances and emotional upheavals as those who needed more care—not judgment and rejection?

Then, perhaps, we would be able to take off the masks of happiness and perfection that have become so a part of ourselves that we hardly recognize ourselves without them. With the rise in mental health issues and social media comparisons, we’ve all become quite adept at putting on a happy mask. But behind the mask of “fine” lies a multitude of “not fine.” Good news: God cares for the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).

What if, instead of hiding behind the mask of our fake smiles denoting a nonexistent, perfectly happy life, we put our authentic selves on display? Scary thought, I know. 

As noted by poet ee cummings, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

But here’s the thing. The emotional connections and emotional health we all long for do not lie behind the mask of perfection. They lie in wide-open authenticity. In order to be truly loved, one must be fully known. The reverse is also true; in order to truly love others, we must fully know them.

The other side of emotional health is what we believe about ourselves, which is largely based on how we talk to ourselves. So often, we talk to ourselves in ways we would never talk to a struggling friend. Instead, we need to pretend the woman (or man) in the mirror is a good friend across the table at our favorite cafe. 

What we think—about others and about ourselves—matters because out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NKJV). 

Instead of trash talking to and about ourselves, we need to remind ourselves of what is true and right and lovely. Instead of sowing discord in our own lives and in the lives of those around us, we need to reap the fruits of the Spirit by being as gentle and patient with ourselves as we are with treasured friends.

Remember what God says about us: we are his masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10)! Not practice pieces, not discarded, broken bowls. Masterpieces to be treasured!

When we can fully embrace God’s proclamation of value and worth about others and about ourselves, then our brokenness will become beautiful, and we would no longer feel the need to hide behind the mask of perfection and false happiness. We would embrace others and ourselves with the art of kintsugi. 

Call to Action:

Pray and Reflect on the following passages in light of this week’s sermon:

  • Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)—But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!”
  • Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)—For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”
  • Philippians 4:8 (NLT)—And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Questions for Reflection:

  1. What emotional masks have you been wearing lately and why?
  2. How can you embrace your emotions in order to become more comfortable with them and then be willing to share them (judiciously) with others?
  3. How can you make yourself a safe place for others to be their authentic selves?
  4. Make a list of your characteristics and thank God for making you the way you are—a masterpiece. 

*Note: This article was originally posted to my friend Tammy’s church blog, Beyond Sunday.

devotional, encouragement, holidays, midlife faith

Advent Week 4—LOVE

I’m pretty sure Mary did not have in mind to give birth to the Savior of the world in a dirty, dusty stable miles from home, but babies come when they are ready—or in this case, when God ordained that “the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6 KJV). She obediently followed Joseph from Narareth—and the comforts of home and family—to Bethlehem to fulfill the census orders of Caesar Augustus. 

As if the journey were not arduous enough, when the time came for her to give birth, the only place for her to lie down out of the elements was in a barn. I don’t know about y’all, but I had a hard enough time giving birth in a comfortable, sanitary hospital surrounded by doctors and nurses. Yet, Mary didn’t doubt God’s love for her, knowing that this birthing plan was all in God’s hands. 

We need love now more than ever. Not only do we need it in the world around us, but we also need it within our hearts. Sure, we may know intellectually that God loves us, but how long has it been since that knowledge traveled the endless 18 inches to our hearts? Yeah, me, too.

Let’s celebrate some good news this week as we approach the end of 2020. The fourth week of advent celebrates love, and the angels’ candle commemorates the hope fulfilled in Jesus’ first coming and our continued hope in His second coming.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
   
“Glory to God in the highest,
          and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:13-14

This is good news not just for 2,000 years ago, but through the ages. We see the evidence of God’s love for us from the wooden manger to the wooden cross, to the empty tomb, to the promise of the rapture of the saints. Only a sovereign, loving, and omniscient God could have planned and executed such a plan for redemption.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon  his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6

That’s what God’s love for us looks like. Mary’s response? “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

What does love look like for us in this season? Sometimes it’s telling someone a hard truth. Sometimes it’s keeping our opinions to ourselves. Sometimes it’s wearing a mask when we’d rather not. Sometimes it’s letting our kids grow up and make their own decisions without making a big deal. It’s always sharing the grace and peace of the real Reason for the Season.

What does love look like for you this season, friend? Let me know in the comments or drop me an email. Catch up on the rest of the series:

Read Advent Week 1: Hope

Read Advent Week 2: Peace

Read Advent Week 3: Joy