I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve said something and then heard my 25-year-old son say, “Filter, Mom!” In truth, remembering to filter what goes on in my head before it comes out of my mouth has always been a struggle for me. I tend to speak much more than I should in some situations and then not say enough in others. Often I’ve missed the blessing of hearing what others are saying in both instances.
However, besides the obvious fact that I miss things, what is the ultimate responsibility I have in my words? Are there consequences far greater than what I may or may not miss? (more…)
I can almost say for certain that there is someone in your life that is abrasive, irritating, competitive, judgemental, controlling, annoying or just plain mean. Yeah, you know the one I’m talking about. You cringe at the thought of just being in their presence.
It might be a colleague, a family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school, maybe someone at the gym or all of the above. Wherever you are, inevitably there they are.
No matter how hard you try to avoid them, you round the corner and THERE THEY ARE! Alarms are going off inside your head! You try desperately to contain your panic, but it’s hard when you instinctively want to turn and run! Instead, you awkwardly manage to expel a series of words that don’t quite sound the same way you thought they would in your head. You feel like a babbling idiot and by the expression on their face they are in agreement.
A sad truth in all of this, is that it isn’t just the colleague, the family member, the parent of a student at your child’s school or even the person at the gym. It’s us… Christian women at church on Sunday morning, at our bible study, in our small group, even at our children’s youth group functions.
Why is this? One reason… Satan! He wants nothing more than for us to focus on his deception and by this creating a division within us; distracting us from the opportunity to see the beauty of Christ in others and in ourselves. Whether we are the cause or the effect of the irritation we focus on the negative in either scenario. We fail to understand the purpose of the irritation and discomfort. If somehow we could just learn to respond in grace, truth, love and total acceptance of one another we would find peace.
As I ponder this, I am reminded of one of God’s amazing creatures the oyster, and the beautiful pearl that He designed for it to create. By definition, pearls form out of the oyster’s natural reaction to protect itself from the irritant. As the sand or parasite works it’s way into the oyster, it’s defense is to coat the irritant with a substance called nacre (the brilliant substance that gives pearls their beauty, luster, strength and resilience). This nacre is deposited layer upon layer as a protective barrier until a lustrous pearl is formed.
It is only in Jesus that we will find this natural beauty within us.
It cannot be cultured or imitated. The process takes time but understanding the value of what it will produce helps us to look to Jesus. Remember that:
In all things the greatest of these is love.
What Satan intends for evil, God intends for good… and it is miraculously happening at the same time. Hold tight to this, believe it and trust in Him.
We have the choice to respond in defense and avoidance of the irritation of others or embrace and accept the opportunity to see the beautiful pearl that can only be produced when we allow the Holy Spirit to be our protective barrier that not only coats and protects us but transforms our irritation into a strong, brilliantly beautiful pearl that is genuine and unique.Complete with the capacity to respond in grace, truth and love; and gives us the ability to find
the peace and acceptance that each of us so badly longs for.
Have you ever met one of those people who is the epitome of freedom? They don’t care what other people think and don’t seem to be phased by what happens to them, but continue to go forward with almost reckless abandon? I’m not one of those people. I would like to be, but I am far from their level of freedom. I have a comfort zone, a routine, to which I have grown accustomed and like to maintain. Interestingly enough, the most free people I know are those who are very close to God, intimately tuned into his voice, and actively seeking his face. The most free people I know have trusted God through good and bad, displaying an awe-inspiring amount of faith. Trusting God is great in theory, until he asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. So, what do you do when his direction or instruction flies in the face of your instincts?
All of our favorite Bible characters navigated through this same internal struggle. Let’s look at Moses. God told him that he would be used to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. What a ridiculous notion! Then, after they had been rescued from their oppressors, God sustained his people through miracles as they wandered about in the desert. God’s instructions to Moses were ridiculous, but he obeyed, why? It wasn’t because he was being forced or coerced into submission. Moses obeyed because he knew God. He knew His voice and character, making obedience a no-brainer. So why do we struggle so often with following God’s instructions?
I want you to think about a time when God has told you to do something. It could be going and speaking to someone, forgiving someone who hurt you, quitting something or starting something new, or a thousand other things. Do you have yours in mind? I have mine. Now, how does that instruction or direction make you feel? Now, that’s a strange question coming from me, I’m not one to talk about feelings often, but I’m learning that there’s value to this type of self-assessment. I think two of the main responses can be: fear or freedom. I think your reaction depends wholly on your perspective. Let me say it another way, your response to obedience reveals your view of God.
The Bible says that God is love, it’s not that he can love or he loves well, but he is the very definition of love. The Bible also says that perfect Love casts out all fear, meaning that fear cannot exist in the same space as perfect love. When a frightening directive is given by God and your focus is on the directive and yourself (i.e. a selfish perspective), the natural result is fear. But when you focus on the one giving the command, it can be a freeing experience.
Most of the time, I take the selfish road, as I am a very selfish individual. But the interesting thing is that this perspective always leads to my detriment. By focusing on myself and how God’s word effects me it causes me to operate in a place of fear. But, when I change my perspective and focus on God, my response changes. When I know that God loves me and is always looking out for me I can trust that his directions are indeed good. I can know that He wants good things for me and will work things together for my benefit and not to my destruction.
I don’t know what you’re facing right now, but I know that God is good. Every time I have entered into a period of transition or stepped into something scary, God has pulled through and, despite all the bumps in the road, I’ve come out better on the other side. And I believe he will do the same for you. If you’re frighted by that next step He’s telling you to take, know that you’re not alone. It’s okay to react with fear, but you can’t stay there. When fear begins to creep in, whispering in your ear to run away or hide, change your perspective and focus on the One who is speaking to you and leading you.
I’m not writing this because I have mastered this or because I have this all figured out. I’m writing this because I’m in the middle of it right now. What God is telling me to do scares me and I have to daily, sometimes hourly, shift my focus to the Lord and off my situation. I’m asking you to join me on this faith walk as we continue to move toward God and away from ourselves.
A simple shift in perspective can change everything. I’m willing to humble myself and change my thinking, are you?
Sarah was raised in Tucson, Arizona, but now lives in Dallas, Texas. She currently works a 9-5 job, but in her spare time she loves to write, paint, draw, and sing. More importantly, she wants to help people receive hope when they feel like they have none.
Sarah: “I believe every number has a name, every name has a story, and every story is worthy of being shared.”
Sarah’s Blog: workinprogressblog.co
Have you ever run away from something, and I don’t mean something that might threaten your life? I mean, has there been a time in your life when you ran because you didn’t want what was in front of you, so you did a 180 and took off like lightening in the opposite direction?
Most of us, if we’ve lived for any length of time, can remember at least one of those times, maybe even more than one. As Christians, that running most likely involved running from God. Not too many believers would say that in some way at some time they didn’t run from what God was telling them to do. After all, there is a little Jonah in all of us.
Abraham Kuyper, the journalist, once wrote,
“Our heart is continually inclined to rebel against the Lord our God. So ready to rebel, that O, so gladly, were it but for a single day, we would take from His hands the reins of His supreme rule, imagining that we would manage things far better and direct them far more effectively than God.”
What do we do when we find ourselves running? What do we do when we see someone else running?
If it’s us who’s running, chances are that we don’t even see it. But if it’s someone that we simply know, either from church or just an acquaintance, we may be tempted to sit in judgment, as if it’s simply their weak constitution or their lax moral integrity that might cause such a detour. We might simply shake our heads in feigned remorse, thinking, “What is he thinking? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
If it’s a loved one, maybe a child or a spouse or sibling, the pain can be almost immobilizing. Suddenly all memories of our own course changes are almost non-existent, and the only things we can think are, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
I don’t know….can we?
Let me remind you of how Jonah did. In Jonah 1:1, we read:
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah…
That means that God literally let Jonah know exactly what He was thinking.
Then in verse 2, God said to Jonah,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
This was not what Jonah expected. After all, he was the Lord’s prophet. He was supposed to go and direct his prophecies to the nation of Israel. He wasn’t supposed to go to Israel’s enemies and prophesy so that they might be saved. What in the world was God thinking?
Maybe we should think of this in terms that are closer to home. Maybe the little Jonah in you might sound more like:
“God doesn’t want me in this marriage! He wants me happy, and I’m not happy here! What is God thinking?”
Or maybe this:
“God wouldn’t want me to miss out on a better lifestyle. He says that I will get the desires of my heart, and my heart desires that car or that dress or that house (that I can’t afford). He wouldn’t keep me from it, would He? What is God thinking?”
Or maybe our child’s little Jonah says this:
The little Jonah in all of us might say slightly different words, but it’s pretty much the same thing. All of us have listened to the little Jonah some time or another, and we all run for exactly the same reason that Jonah ran. Verse 3 says,
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
The truth is that this running isn’t literally from God, since we, as His children, are always and forever His and in His loving care. However, what we can and do run from is what the literal translation says is the “face of the Lord.” Jonah was trying to get as far away from where he would be confronted with all that God is. When we run, we run from the same thing, which generally means we run from the church or our church family or anything else that might remind us of who God is.
There is a reason that many have called Satan the “travel agent of distraction.” If he can get us away from the “presence of God” or the “face of God,” then he can also deceive us into thinking that we can get away from it, which consequently keeps us from healing and love and peace. Warren Wiersbe wrote in his book, Be Amazed,
“It’s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf. You might be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep. However, God in his providence was preparing for Jonah a great fall.”
But the good news is that God always provides a fish, doesn’t He? He always provides exactly the right storm at exactly the right time so that even though we may be distracted temporarily, we are never permanently lost.
Jesus said in John 6:39,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me.
If you are running from the face of God today—refusing to go to church, avoiding your Christian friends, finding every excuse in the book for not getting involved with your believing family—genuinely reflect on the little Jonah in you. God will not lose you, but I can promise you that it is no fun in the belly of the fish! Bow before the throne of the One who will never leave you nor forsake you and come home. Unless it is God you are running toward, you’re headed for the storm.
And if it is a loved one who is running from God’s loving face, take heart and never lose hope. The promise that Jesus gave in John applies to every one of His children. The fish is coming. Keep praying and keep your eyes fixed upward. God will bring him home.
After all, there is a little Jonah is all of us, but there is a great God who owns our hearts!
To read more from Dr. Deb Waterbury, visit debwaterbury.com
Easter. Let’s put all those controversies aside about whether or not we should hunt eggs or have a bunny or whatever else people want to argue about and talk about how lonely those hunts can be. The kiddos might be hunting wildly for those multi-colored eggs, but look around when that’s happening. What you will invariably see are men and women standing alone or even in little bunches, smiling as if they are enjoying the afternoon, but what they are really doing is wishing that someone…anyone…would notice how utterly miserable they truly are. Of course, some are having fun, but some absolutely are not. The kicker is that pretty much no one notices whether they are or not, and they certainly aren’t telling.
Why is that?
It’s kind of funny that we live in such a streamlined society where everybody is connected to everybody, and yet for the most part, we are utterly and completely alone. Even conversations at tables in restaurants these days are neglected in favor of checking your Facebook status or email or texts or Twitter. I’ve sat and watched two people sit together for dinner and never even look at one another, their attentions fully given to whatever handheld device they own at the time. It’s never been more hazardous than now to walk down the street for fear of any number of passersby running right into you because they’re looking down at their phone instead of where they are walking.
This plague, though commonplace in mainstream society, has unfortunately permeated our Christian lives, as well. Some of us may live in extremely populated areas, but for some reason we feel nothing but loneliness and isolation from those around us who share the most amazing gift of all time—Jesus!
I have often traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe, this time of year so that I can speak at Easter conferences, and I am always overwhelmed with the words so many of the women there speak to me. Had they not been speaking Shona, the native language of most of Zimbabwe, the words they were saying would have been exactly the same words I’ve heard over and over again here in America: “I’m so lonely.”
It’s not that they are alone. Few of us are ever alone, but the pain of loneliness is rampant among Christians.
How very sad that is.
So I began to ask myself why that is the case. Why are members of an eternal family, truly those who are now the bride of Christ, suffering from such a condition? I mean, I can almost understand how unbelievers might feel lonely. After all, what do they share with others but a constant desire to figure out how to be happy or content or joyful? We, however, have been given the key to such things, and we share that key with millions of other people, many of whom live right in our neighborhoods. If not there, at least there are those with whom we attend church or bible study.
Why are so many of us, all over the world, still so lonely?
I’m convinced that it’s not loneliness that has plagued our existences, but isolation. Most of us have a tendency to isolate ourselves, either in our sadness or our sin. We might reveal some things, but for the most part, we live under the misapprehension that our suffering or our sin is somehow more extreme or more dire than anyone else’s. Either that or we delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t want to burden anyone else with our problems, so we keep them to ourselves, simmering just beneath the surface of the smiles we paste on in public.
Consequently, many of us who have reason for the most joy experience pain that is both unnecessary and unwarranted, which is just the way Satan wants it. If he can convince us of this lie, then what we should be presenting to the unsaved world—peace and joy that surpasses all understanding—is buried beneath a mountain of misery that lives inside of our heads.
This is precisely why we are to be who God intended His children to be, and that is relational. We are to belong to a body of believers, not so that we fill a square in the account journal of our sanctification, but so that we can build one another up, hold one another accountable, and fellowship together. We need our brothers and sisters and we need to seek them out. Living inside of our own heads is exactly what Satan wants because there is no relationship there.
My heart hurt for the women of Zimbabwe, just like my heart hurts for every man and woman I meet who suffers from this plague. It hurt so much that the focus of my work has streamlined to one of building discipleship and relational connection between believers all over the world. This is a plague that should not be, and all of us must do what we can to extinguish it however we can.
What can you do to either break out of this isolation or help others to do so? I pray that all of us seriously consider the ramifications of a body of believers who segregate themselves from every other part of the body in horrible isolation. Move toward relationship with your brothers and sisters. After all, heaven isn’t going to be a lonely place. God meant for us to seek relationship with each other and the beauty that comes with that while we are here on earth.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony….Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:12-16)
March 1, 2015 11:35 am
Message from my friend, Daniel:
“Joy, call me ASAP.”
I tried. No answer. I tried again, and still no answer.
I knew in an instant something had happened to my husband, Brent, or else he would have been the one calling me. I was praying my son, Blake, was safe.
The few minutes that went by seemed like hours, but finally I was able to talk to Daniel. There had been an accident at the Imperial Sand Dunes where they had gone camping for the long weekend. A bunch of them, including my husband and son, had gone, and five of them were in our sand car. My husband was driving, my son in the passenger seat and our friend, Daniel, and two other adults were in the back seats. They had been going up and down Test Hill.
If you have driven to San Diego on I-8 about 20 miles west of Yuma, you’ve seen it. It is the big sand hill just north of the interstate with the American Canal running along the base. Trips up and down the hill had been done hundreds of times throughout past trips. This trip, the third time down the hill and as they were making a U-turn to go back up, they lost control. The front wheel of the car caught in the sand and sent them flipping up into the air and over a large berm. They crashed down hard and rolled into the canal at the bottom of the hill. The water was about 20 feet deep.
Daniel said everyone in the car was able to get out, except my husband. They had tried to swim back down to the car, but the current was too swift, and they were not able to reach the car. I was praying he was able to get out of his seat belts and had just been washed down the canal in the strong current and was holding on to the edge somewhere.
I was in a panic on the phone. My daughter watched me. She was frightened and confused. I had to get there as soon as possible. It was a three and a half hour drive. I was ready to go, but I wasn’t in the position to drive myself and my daughter. I was able to contact friends to take me, and my daughter was able to stay with my best friend. It was a very long drive. I got a call about half way there that they had pulled the car out of the water, and my husband was still strapped in his seat. He had drowned.
I was numb. My only goal now was to be there for my son. Just as we were nearing the turnoff, I saw the severely mangled car on a trailer on the highway going the opposite direction.
Finally I was able to be with my son, and thankfully he was physically uninjured with the exception of a few bruises. They didn’t want him to see the car being pulled out of the water so they had taken him away from the crash site. He was in the RV. As I walked in, he ran to me. He was crying and scared. I held him, and I had to tell him his daddy was dead. His fear turned to anger. How could God let this happen? He threw his bible down. I told him it was okay to be angry. God has big shoulders and could take it.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
The ride home was even longer and extremely painful. We arrived home and I now had to tell my daughter her daddy was dead. The only peace I had during this was knowing that Brent knew Jesus and he was in heaven.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Brent was kind and loving. He was a good father. My children’s earthly father was gone, but their Heavenly Father, has been, and will continue to be there for them.
Up until the morning of March 1, 2015, my story consisted of being a wife and a mom to an 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a pharmacist. The list goes on, but just like that, in an instant, “wife” was swapped out for “widow.” I was a widow?!
We all have a story and this was NOT how MY story was supposed to go! Instantaneously and violently the pages of the story I had written had been ripped out and replaced. My story, as I believed at that point in time, was rewritten as a horror story, a horror story filled with body-trembling fear, chest-crushing anxiety, disbelief by the minute, extreme anger and any other terrible emotion imaginable.
Several days after the accident my son and I were talking. I asked him what he remembered. Did he remember being in the water and how he got out? It was just assumed that my husband had helped him, but if my husband were able to help Blake, I believe he would have gotten out also. Blake said he remembers the wheel breaking off, the car flipping and landing in the water. Then he said he tried to lean forward and wasn’t able to move. The car has five point harnesses which aren’t necessarily easy to get out of in a calm situation, let alone under water after a crash. He said he just wanted to go to sleep. He looked up and could see the sun shining down through the water. He said he prayed for God to help him get out of the seat belt. He leaned forward again and was able to get free and swim to the surface. He was wearing shoes and a heavy jacket so that made it difficult to swim. God immediately answered his prayer for help to get out of that car.
As I look at the original message from Daniel, for only the second time since it was sent, I am now two years into the pages of my “new” story. But is it really a “new” story? Perhaps to me it is, but as far as God is concerned, it isn’t. My story was already written specifically for me by Him. He knew exactly what was going to happen that March morning, every day before and every day after. We all have a story given to us by God and He trusts us with those stories.
God allowed the accident to happen. My faith and trust in God was great before the accident, but they have grown exponentially since. Looking back on it, I can recall specific situations before the accident where God was preparing me for this part of my story. People say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I believe this statement is true as long as you allow Him in so that He can help you handle it. I could not have survived any of this on my own.
This journey has been anything but easy. There has been extensive pain throughout, both seen and unseen, but with His presence there has been unexplainable peace, answered prayers, major growth, multiple lessons and blessings experienced. He has a plan for my story, and I will continue to trust His plan with all my heart.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“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