Archive | August 2012

The Life of our Dreams

Dreaming big has always been a part of my life. Many of us dream big but never really step out to make those dreams happen. Living our dreams means saying no to ourselves in many ways. To play big in life we have to continually push past our comfort zone.

Comfort zone has become little more than a buzz word these days, few people understand what it means to step out and be uncomfortable. It means stepping out and doing things when you truly have no idea what the outcome will be. It means setting a goal so big that it makes your palms sweat and your stomach queasy. It means learning to do things we thought we never wanted to. As many of you know I’ve recently embarked on an exciting new journey and into a life that is a little scary to me.

Just a few years ago, I had allowed life to beat me down. I planned to move to Florida and get a cushy little part-time job and fade into oblivion. Maybe I’d go to the beach once in awhile and go to church and maybe help out once in awhile, but really nothing more. I thought my husband would get a great job and I could lay low and be comfortable for the rest of my life.

God had different plans…boy did He ever! Long story short, my husband did get an awesome job, we got a small apartment and I was ready to settle into my simple little life. Then the rug came out from under us! My husband lost his job and was unable to find another one for a year and a half, we came close to becoming homeless and I came face to face with the reality that my life was not meant for my comfort. God allowed me to become broken and waited patiently for me to start asking what He wanted me to do with my life and let go of what I thought I wanted.

In February of this year, I embarked on a journey that started me dreaming again. God re-ignited the passion that I had long ago abandoned. He gave me a big goal and it scared me and excited me at the same time. It was to write a book and publish it in 90 days. I worked feverishly to reach this goal with little thought of what was going to come afterward. I thought I’d write my book and help people with very little personal risk. Then God made it clear that I was not going to stay in my safe little comfort zone, but I was going to be out in front of people sharing my story. The true desire He has placed in my heart is to have an impact on as many people as possible. Doing that is going to require stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things that don’t always excite me.

In order to change your life and the lives of others you have to be willing to do things that grow you and growing is painful. It means being willing to fail and to lay down our pride and realize it’s not about us. Having an impact on the world costs us our comfortable life. I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when He said in Luke 29:23 “…If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” We must be willing to do the little things every day and continue to die to ourselves in order to live the lives we were meant to live.

What dream have you put on the shelf in order to be comfortable?

Being Grateful on Purpose

In today’s world it can be so easy to look at what we don’t have and forget to be thankful for everything we do have. Several people in my life have gone to other countries and one of the things that they say when they come home is how little most of the people they’ve met have, but it seems the less they have the happier they are. We look at our country and see so much unhappiness. We have so many depressed, ungrateful people in our country. I’m including myself in this. I can easily find myself thinking about what others have that I don’t. It’s a constant struggle to be grateful for all that I have been given.

The last few months I’ve spent a lot of time pet sitting for people with very nice homes and I started to wish my family and I had a nicer place to live. God stepped in and has given me some perspective yet again. This morning He brought to my mind that just a few years ago we were living in someone’s basement after losing our home. We came to Florida with just what we could fit in our cars. We had no furniture and we were able to rent a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment for a very reasonable rate. My husband spent the first few months living here alone and sleeping on a sofa given to us by a very kind family.

The first few weeks I was here were so wonderful. We were so grateful to be living in such a beautiful place. We didn’t care that we didn’t have any furniture, or that we didn’t have all the latest gadgets that seem to be thought of as necessities in our society. It was easy to enjoy the simple pleasures of going to the beach and just taking a walk. I woke up thanking God every day that we were here and we had a roof over our heads.

Just three years later after struggling to find our way we are starting to get on our feet. We have an apartment full of furniture, we have cable and internet and food in the refrigerator and I find myself starting to become dissatisfied again. Why is it so easy to take the blessings we have for granted?

Our best weapon we have to combat ungratefulness is to be grateful on purpose. For the last year, I have made a practice of thanking God for everything that comes to my mind. The list was short at first and grew longer and longer each day. The days that I find myself being ungrateful are usually when I have neglected this practice.

Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-12 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.

What can you be grateful for today?

This entry was posted on August 29, 2012. 2 Comments

Keeping Our Commitments

There is an epidemic of lack of commitment in our world today. So many of us are good beginners, but not so good at finishing what we started. We start many things, like weight loss programs, bible studies, recovery programs, relationships, etc. Many times when things get difficult it’s so easy to abandon the commitments to the things that we started with such good intentions.

We break our commitments many times without giving it more than a passing thought. Several times I have been at the receiving end of a broken commitment. This can be very painful and it’s very easy to become resentful and judgmental of those who break their commitments to us. Recently, someone I care about very much broke a commitment to me. It’s been a daily struggle to keep myself from being resentful and lashing out in my resentment. There has been a strong desire to call this person out and let them know how much they have hurt me.

This morning God began to remind me of those commitments I have broken with others. There have been so many times that I have over-committed myself and then had to break many of the promises I’ve made as a result. I’ve learned that if people in my life are not keeping their commitments to me, many times there are areas where I am not keeping my commitments. The phrase you get what you give comes to mind.

Sometimes the commitments that get broken are the ones I make to myself. It can be very easy to break a commitment with ourselves, but this can have devastating consequences. When we constantly break our commitments, we lose our integrity, we give others permission to break their commitments with us, and we can become judgmental of others.

There are a few things we can do in order to be commitment keepers.

1)      Keep the commitments you make to yourself. If we keep commitments with ourselves we are showing others how important commitment is to us.

2)      Don’t over commit. Keep a schedule and be mindful of your personal energy level and prior commitments. This is one I struggle with the most because of my character defect of being a people pleaser.

3)      Don’t commit lightly. Before we make a commitment, we should think about what we are committing to and keep that firmly planted in our mind so that when it becomes difficult to keep our commitment we can remind ourselves of why we made it in the first place. Luke 14:28-30 “28 For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’

4)      Be determined to keep our promises. Once we have committed we need to stick with it if at all possible. If we commit to finish something, we need to make every effort to see it through, especially if we struggle in this area. People who have intimacy issues struggle in this area the most in relationships. They will usually go to a certain level in a relationship and quit when others become too close.

5)      Focus on ourselves and our commitments first. If we start with ourselves, we are leading by example and will have more of an impact on those around us.

 

When we become better commitment keepers ourselves, we give those around us permission to do the same.

 

What commitments are you struggling with keeping?

This entry was posted on August 27, 2012. 2 Comments

The Beauty of Helping Others

Helping others can be such a blessing, but when we reach out to help others only to have them turn away from us it can be very painful. We must learn to have patience with them as Jesus has patience with us. I’ve been helping a few people in recovery and watching them come to the verge of stepping into victory and then running in another direction. It can be excruciating when I focus on what I think their recovery should look like. We have to examine our motive for helping others. Is it for them to find recovery the way we think they should? Are we making it about us, or do we trust God to reach them the way only He can?

If we keep in our minds that God knows them so much better than we can possibly ever know them, then we will have patience and peace when they seem to go down a road that doesn’t make sense to us. It’s so easy to get resentful and discouraged because we want to see a specific outcome based on all the hard work we think we’ve done. We need to realize it’s not about us, but it’s all about us. It is about us in a sense because God works on us at the same time He’s working on the person He’s called us to reach out to. That’s how cool God is; He weaves a beautiful tapestry out of all the interactions we have with others. When we allow Him to work and focus on ourselves rather than others, He has free rein in their lives and we can have peace and abundant patience with them.

Have you ever had someone give you a gift only to get upset with the way you chose to use it? In many ways that’s what we do when we invest our time helping somebody only to get angry when they don’t appear to walk the journey we were expecting. They can actually become an idol in our hearts. We can get so wrapped up in what we have done that we forget it is God who is doing the work through us. We can do nothing without Him. He gives us the ability to meet others where they are. He gives us the discernment to know what they need to hear. If we lose that dependence on God we can actually make it easy for someone to fall backwards in their recovery. We must continue to be mindful to focus on ourselves and our own recovery and not on how someone else is choosing to walk out their recovery. Learning to control ourselves and how we react to others makes the experience so much better. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for everyone else’s choices; that would be terribly overwhelming.

I am so grateful to the Lord for being in control so I don’t have to be! Now I can stop making others recovery about me and release them to God so He can do what none of us can.

Who can you let go of today to bring more peace in your life?

Being a Blessing

Recently, there have been several circumstances in my life that have allowed me to bless others. One incident happened just last week. There was a need that came to my awareness and it was apparent almost immediately that my family should step in to lend a hand. Someone asked me if I had prayed about it and it dawned on me that many of us miss out on opportunities because we hesitate to be a blessing by using the excuse that we need to pray about it first. This does not mean that we shouldn’t pray on things before we do them, but we can get too wrapped up in trying to use our reasoning to figure things out rather than trusting that “tug” that was placed on our heart. Sometimes we know immediately what we should do and choose to fight ourselves or God over it. Many times this battle ends in us missing out on being able to be a blessing to another.

There are times when we need to check ourselves and be sure of our motive before we offer to be a blessing to another, but there are those times that our hesitation will cost us an opportunity. Do we really think that if we step out in faith to be a blessing to another that God is going to punish us in some way? Or more likely, are we considering what we will have to give up so that we may be a blessing to another? As Joyce Meyer says, “What about me?” Sometimes we need to count the cost, but many times we know all too clearly that we should step up and offer help regardless of the cost.

Maybe instead of thinking about what we have to sacrifice to help another we should consider the long-term blessings that come to us from the character building of giving to another when it means a sacrifice on our part.  We’ve all heard the saying “it’s better to give than receive”. Do we really understand what this truly means? Giving when it’s a sacrifice can be a truly amazing experience.  1 John 3:16-18 “16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 ‘Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth’.”

When we give without expecting something in return we are giving the way Jesus did. He gave us the free gift of salvation at tremendous cost to himself. He gave this gift freely and gave us the ability to choose to accept it or to reject it. That’s the beauty of true giving. We would all be much happier if we would learn to give as God gives to us.

Today, I choose to give freely to others. How about you?

This entry was posted on August 22, 2012. 2 Comments

Learning the Lesson of the Moment

Every day presents lessons for us to learn. Some can be painful if we choose to look at them in that way. They can be very painful if we choose to resist the lesson rather than embrace them and look for the good. Many of us are in the midst of lessons that are seemingly overwhelming to us. So many choose to look at their circumstances and pray or wish them away. This takes me back to Paul and his “thorn in the flesh”. He tells us that he asked God three times to take this “thorn in the flesh” away, but God finally told him “My grace is sufficient for you.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 “7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” So many of us read that, but don’t truly understand what it means. None of us knows what Paul was struggling with here, and that seems to be the point. God wanted us to understand that there were going to be some things in this life that we would struggle with that would not be taken away. Think about what a mess we would have in this world if we received everything we wanted in exactly the way we wanted it.

Remember Bruce Almighty. This was a controversial movie in some circles, but what impressed me about it was near the end when Morgan Freeman (who was playing God) asked Bruce, “Since when do people know what they want?” When Bruce was busy playing God, he decided to grant everyone’s prayer request with a “yes”. This resulted in mass chaos. Everyone got what they wanted and found out it really wasn’t what was best for them or others around them. Think about your children; if you would give them everything they wanted would that really be for their best. No, we must teach our children discipline, delayed gratification and many other lessons so that they grow up to be able to function and have a positive impact on the world around them. We are no different. We need to learn lessons daily to become who we were created to be.

Maybe instead of praying our circumstances away, we should start looking for the lesson that’s hidden there. If our prayers were always answered with a “yes” we would learn very little. We would be unable to be empathetic to others who were struggling with issues. We wouldn’t be able to relate to anyone that had any sort of obstacle or problem. God can use us so much more when we walk through things rather than being miraculously delivered from them all the time.

For several years I have struggled with my finances. I prayed for a long time that God would provide what we needed, not realizing that God wanted me to learn to rely and trust in Him as my provider. He wanted me to stop trusting in my abilities and trying to get my way and start trusting that He knew what was best for me. I remained stuck in this place becoming more and more resentful until one day I broke down and decided that I didn’t want my own way anymore. Doing things my way and not listening to anyone that God had placed in my life had gotten me into a world of trouble. My circumstances didn’t change, but I did. I started choosing to be grateful for all I had been given and stopped focusing on what I did not have. Today, my financial situation is consistently improving and I feel blessed every day that God didn’t give up on me.

What lesson are you struggling with today? Please share to show others that they are not alone, and so you can be supported with prayer.

Our True Identity

I posted this a little while ago, but it has been coming up again. There are many of us that find our identity in what we do rather than who we were created to be. Hope you all enjoy!

As I have continued to research identity I came across the story of Jesus changing Peter’s name from Simon to Peter.  John 1:42 “Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter). I never understood the significance of this until I realized Peter in the Greek means ‘rock’. If you study Peter’s life you start to realize he was anything but a rock. This was how Jesus saw him; who he was to become. That is how God sees us; He sees us as who we are becoming not who we are right now. When we surrender ourselves to him with all of our character defects, He can truly begin to change us into who He created us to be.

Another person that comes to mind concerning identity is Gideon. In the middle of his horrific circumstances the angel of the Lord chooses Gideon to deliver Israel. He calls Gideon a mighty warrior, and Gideon reminds God that he is the weakest of the weak. He even goes so far as to question whether God is really with him due to the circumstances that the children of Israel find themselves in. God saw who Gideon really was and not what Gideon or others thought He was.

Still another example is Moses, the man who murdered a man and then ran off and spent forty years in the wilderness hiding. God told him he would lead the Hebrews out of captivity in Egypt. God saw him as the leader that Moses couldn’t see himself being.

These are just a few examples of the many people in the Bible that God used to do great things. When I realize all this it makes it much easier to come under the authority He has placed over me, because I know that He will not allow anyone to stop what He has decided He will do. The key is to wait on His perfect timing. God is rarely early, but He is never late!

Did you ever notice that God tends to use people that others tend to disregard?

He seems to use people that society would discard, people who are humble and don’t think very much of themselves.

Are you ready to let go of your past and move forward into what God has for you?     

Please feel free to share your thoughts and pass this along to someone you know who could use some encouragement today.