Strength or Weakness?

In the past, I’ve taken lots of pride in being a highly independent person.  As any wise person knows, pride goes before a fall, both literally & metaphorically.  So when I’ve thought that being independent was a strength, I’m growing to appreciate that it can also be a weakness.  I’m learning that independence becomes a weakness when I separate myself from people, when I don’t ask for help, when I don’t allow others to contribute in teamwork and improvements.  Unfortunately, I’ve had to fall down, fail and face inadequacy to accept the reality that my independence isn’t a strength as much as it can be a weakness for me.

I’m being vulnerable with this lesson because there’s a good chance that you might have a few things that you consider to be strengths.  It’s possible that these perceived strengths could be weaknesses for you, maybe.  Consider some examples:

  • Is external beauty a strength at the expense of cultivating interior beauty?  Of course these don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but it’s a good question to consider in both ways of interior & exterior beauty.
  • Is dependence a strength when cultivating one’s internal fortitude is dismissed?
  • Is discipline a strength when it accentuates achievement at the expense of intimacy or people connection?
  • Is Bible knowledge or proper theology a strength without God’s love to soften our words, actions and attitudes?

Sometimes we can lean on our strengths so much that they can become weaknesses without realizing it!  Let’s keep Paul’s words about boasting in weakness from 2 Corinthians 11:30 as a central theme in our daily living!  “If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness.”

Stay Focused

What you focus on is where you go. I learned this with great intensity when I took a lesson for downhill mountain bike riding. In a particularly harrowing part of the trail, our instructor kept yelling, “LOOK PAST THE CURVE!!!” A few of my classmates didn’t listen to the instructor & they hardcore crashed, flipping over the handlebars. What the instructor was yelling didn’t make sense to me, but I decided to do what he said, nonetheless. When I followed the instructions, my bike followed my focus.
Lots of times, it’s easy to focus on emergencies, crises, worries, etc. When we obsess with struggles & uncertainties, it’s easy to crash in the curve because our focus gets off of Jesus. Let’s be sure that we keep our focus & thoughts on Jesus, the author & perfectos of our faith – Hebrews 12:2!

Eating an Elephant

Do you ever struggle with big projects? Sometimes things can seem overwhelming when they’re massive in size & scope. It’s easy for me to get under the water when I have big projects that I have to complete, but it helps me to think about big projects in small bites. So I always say, “start with the toenails when you have to eat an elephant.”

David did this when he was facing Goliath. When Saul asked David about killing the giant, David replied, “I’ve killed a lion & a bear, so God will help me with this giant!”
Here are a few helpful thoughts to eat an elephant / accomplish big projects:

  1. Look at a small & do-able part of the big project & start there
  2. Pay attention to your thoughts so they don’t get overwhelmed with the size of what needs to be accomplished
  3. When you get into the project, come up to periscope depth from time to time to celebrate progress
  4. Remind yourself of your precious accomplishments to be encouraged!

Can Gory Be Glory?

In many ways, gory seems to be the antonym of glory and I don’t commonly associate these words together besides the rhyming sound they make.  But there’s a stark and startling place where these words converge into one place and that would be Jesus when He was crucified.

If you saw the movie by Mel Gibson, “The Passion of the Christ”, it showed with disturbing clarity the gory nature of Jesus’ death on the cross.  I’ll never forget how deeply moved I was to the core of my soul when I saw this movie the first time.  As I watched, I found myself repeatedly thinking, “please stop, that’s enough!”  And at the end of the movie, I was entirely unraveled because I couldn’t escape the reality that Jesus endured this excrutiating experience entirely on the pure motivation of genuine love, full stop.

Jesus was glorified in the gory mess of human suffering, sin and sacrifice.  And this continues to give me the assurance that Jesus can redeem human gore and transform it into divine glory, a truth that we would be wise to ponder throughout this weekend 🙂

Hot Topic: Successful Outcomes!!

” . . . . and the Lord brought about a great victory.” 2Samuel 23:12
I read this morning about some dude, Shammah, defending a field of lentils. Initially, a lentil field doesn’t sound like something to get really upset about, let alone turn into a major military engagement. But alas, Shammah picked the lentil field & that was his “line in the sand.” This verse also says that Shammah took his stand in the field, defended it & struck down the Philistines. After Shammah’s three actions, taking his stand, defending the field & striking the Philistines, God gave him a great victory.
It seems like we often want to know that God will give us a great victory before we make the commitment to a lentil field or put out the effort to fight for something.
Sometimes I think that God waits for us to be fully engaged & committed before giving us a great victory.
Might there be a few areas in your life to which you could increase your commitment so that God would provide a great victory? This is something worth considering today!

Same But Different

“You’re not going to North Korea are you?” I was driving my kids to school this morning & made a phone call to another ministry about some cool opportunities in North Korea. My kids immediately asked this question when I hung up & I assured them that I’m not going there this year. But it still sounds like an incredible opportunity to me!

Alas, not everyone thinks like I do & that’s altogether fantastic! Seems to me that God has uniquely created us for distinct purposes & designs. Some people are attracted to stable, predictable & familiar. Some folk have a little wanderlust in their souls. Some of us are pioneers & more than a little maverick-y. But each follower of Jesus has valid contributions to make to His kingdom!
Just because I’m different than you doesn’t make me superior or inferior any more than you are superior or inferior to me! Let’s remember that we are essential parts of one Body & we desperately need each other to fulfill our unique & divine purposes! I’m celebrating you today!!

Do You Have Enough?

Commercials on tv & the web make it seem like we never have enough. From these marketing efforts, it seems like we don’t have enough status, popularity, image, health, time, etc. I think we often believe these distortions, even subconsciously, or such marketers would try different tactics. But their sales efforts don’t really satisfy that “enough” chasm in our souls.

So what makes us full? What satisfies? What truly fulfills us?

I don’t think anyone or anything will ultimately satisfy us because of how we are created by God. Indeed, it’s been my experience that I’m the most fulfilled & richly satisfied when I’m attentive to the Holy Spirit. And being aware that the Holy Spirit is always with me let’s me live in a healthy equanimity that nothing human can provide. The Holy Spirit is enough for me.

Way Better!!

My husband & I use different routes for driving our kids to their various activities. Normally, I think my way is better: faster, less traffic, etc. Today, I see that I’m wrong. The route he uses is far superior to my way & I could’ve learned this much sooner had I not been so obstinate.

This seems to ring true between the Holy Spirit & me as well. How many times have I stayed glued to my methods & plans only to learn the hard way that the Holy Spirit always has better ways than me. Let’s live in the reality of Isaiah 55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.
God’s ways are always the upgrade!!

Mix It Up!

What are you planning for your vacation this year? Are you going to do the regular stuff: pools, driving, sunburns, etc? Why not try something new?
Here’s a cool idea: come with me to Cambodia & make a vacation that you’ll never FORGET! I’m taking a small group with Saving Moses to help with our nightcare work in Phnom Penh. The cool stuff you’ll get to do includes:

  • experiencing a new & incredible culture,
  • meet babies & toddlers who will steal you heart,
  • do some cleaning, painting & renovating with our centers,
  • meet Jesus in the faces of desperate people

Let’s make your vacation this year something fresh, unique & possibly life changing!!

Here’s how to get started: LETS GO!!

Space is really limited, so apply fast before we fill up!

Turkish Get-Ups

This is a picture my friend took last week when I was showing her how to do a Turkish get-up in the local coffee shop. The purposes of this exercise is to improve ability, strengthen the shoulder & probably make a person look super silly. I say this because whenever I do them, I feel not just a little goofy.

Sometimes, our spiritual development can feel to our flesh like a Turkish get-up. Growing spiritually doesn’t always make our flesh feel comfortable & svelte. But growing spiritually helps us to go through life’s ups & downs with more agility & this also helps to strengthen our core self, grounding us in prayer & the Bible.

Don’t minimize the importance of doing the daily disciplines of prayer & Bible time that foster spiritual growth!

What Do You Repeat?

Do you have mindless habits? All of us have things that we do without giving much thought to them, such as brushing our teeth, driving home, morning routines, etc. It can be really helpful to have these kind of routines, but sometimes they’re counterproductive.

For example, in Luke 10, Martha & Mary had Jesus come to their house for dinner. Based on Martha’s behavior in other stories in the Gospels, it seems like she fell into the routine of cooking, serving & being busy with getting stuff done. All of these things aren’t inherently wicked, but if we allow our routines to sabotage our fellowship with Jesus, then they become more of a hindrance than a help.
Let’s always remember that Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 to seek His kingdom first & we’ll have what we need! Let’s be sure our routines reinforce our intimacy with Jesus rather than distract us in mindless disconnect 🙂

Broken Trust

Everyone has experienced the pain that comes from broken trust – it’s the pits. I’ve been reading about King David in 2Samuel & how he was betrayed by his son, Absalom. On top of Davids son breaking his trust, Davids main counselor, Ahithophel defected to Absalom to advise him – a double whammy.

So what to do with broken trust?
Some key takeaways would be:

  • Forgiveness – this is a non-negotiable
  • Destination – don’t get quagmired in the pain, look forward & keep going; David didn’t hang around to wallow in the betrayal
  • Friendships – just because someone betrays be careful that you don’t pull away from everyone; David’s friend Hushai was essential to helping David stay alive!

Fear or Unfamiliar?

Do things that you’re unfamiliar with make you scared? I don’t think this is an uncommon experience for most people. On the other side, I think that we should sometimes be scared of the familiar or at least uncomfortable. I say this for lots of reasons. Being familiar & comfortable can:

  • create an illusion of safety & stability
  • lull us into taking stuff for granted
  • tempt us to rely on our own wisdom rather than trusting God

Let’s be careful that staying familiar keeps us from following God, growing & looking forward!

Love to Understand

“What’s wrong with her?” I was recently walking through the largest brothel in Bangledesh & noticed a lady sitting on a bench & she was crying. I immediately sat next to her & put my arm around her, feeling her sadness pouring out of her. Some people with me asked her in the Bengali language what was wrong & there was a brief dialogue where she said why she was crying in seemingly few words. I continued to hold this young lady, absorbing her pain & she began to cry heaps more.

She was crying because she was homesick for her parents who live in a different district & she had been working in this brothel for more than a year.

I could continue explaining more & more details of her life to help you, my reader, understand why she was crying.
But let’s be careful that we don’t qualify our love on understanding first. Indeed, I sincerely don’t think we begin to understand until we decide first to love.

If you truly want to begin understanding someone, decide that you will love them & you’ll find that you begin to understand them more & more!

Love Is Light

There’s plenty of darkness in our world & lots of that darkness comes from letting hate & apathy into our hearts. For example, my friend was telling me about a brothel in Bangladesh where the underage workers are forced to take bovine steroids to force their bodies to develop & be more appealing to clients. Obviously, the steroids have very negative results on these girls’ bodies to say nothing about the babies born & toddlers raised in this environment. Truly, brothels like the one I described are dark & deplorable.

Enter nightcare with Saving Moses. In Cambodia, we have four nightcare centers where we look after the babies & toddlers of prostitutes while they work. These sex workers have no way to look after their babies or toddlers while they work, so our centers are essential to the nurture, upbringing & worldview for these lovely treasures! Jesus talks about caring for Him when we look after “the least of these” in Matthew 24.

Be sure to watch my blog over the next week as I visit Bangledesh to bring love & light to the least of these!

Liability or Strength?

What are your strengths?  Do you ever feel like your strengths are also your greatest liabilities?

I have a friend who says that I fire & then aim, or I leap & then look.  It’s true.  I tend to jump in with both feet & then cry about what I’ve gotten myself into.  I admire the people who are more methodical and take things a step at a time & I’ve sincerely tried to do this better.  But alas, I’m still learning, still.

In my thinking, this “all in” mindset has been a significant liability for me & I’ve berated myself repeatedly about not learning from my mistakes.  Except last night, I had a wonderful epiphany.

This “all in” strategy serves me really well in walking with God because I’m not half-hearted & I’m quick to turn up the heat if I feel like I’m being luke warm.

All of us are fearfully & wonderfully made!  We have definite strengths & with God’s help, the downside of these strength can be continually worked on so that we grow!   The enemy of our soul would have us minimize the gifts that God has given us, causing us to be less than the full person of God’s design!

Let’s be thankful that God made us with such careful & creative design, while remaining committed to the continual pruning and sculpting the Holy Spirit does with us every day!  You are AWESOME!

#heavenlyhelpmoment

Redeeming Messups!

I’ve been reading about King David in 2 Samuel lately & this morning I was struck by the severity of his shortfall with Bathsheba.  There are a boatload of things he did wrong in that scenario:

  • should’ve been out fighting with Joab, but he stayed home
  • secretly watched a naked woman bathing
  • continued his interest in her by inquiring her name
  • brought her to his palace
  • slept with her, knowing she was married
  • tricked Uriah, her husband
  • sent Uriah to be killed in battle

Bathsheba became pregnant after sleeping with David, their son was born sick and died after seven days.  This story is an epic tragedy full of death, pain, suffering, selfishness, deception and loads more!  It seems to me that nothing good could come out this whole mess, ever, never and in no way.

Enter Solomon.

Solomon was considered one of Israel’s greatest kings!  He built the temple in Jerusalem, wrote two books of the Bible and was one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Solomon was the son of Bathsheba and King David, after the baby died who was conceived from David’s sin.

Let’s remember that there’s no weakness or failure in our lives that God cannot redeem & make into something entirely glorious!

Hot Topic: Sometimes No

I really like to tell my kids, “Yes!” I like to tell them yes to eating salad, working out, studying, reading good books & hanging out with constructive friends. All of these get a hearty “yes and AMEN!” from me. But alas, they don’t always ask me for these kinds of things.

Sometimes they ask me:

  • to eat cake when it would be better to have some beets.
  • to sleep in when they need to go to school.
  • to hang out with a shady person when it would be better to do their homework.

Sometimes we ask God for stuff that’s not good for us & we often don’t like God’s answer. We can even deny that God is answering our prayers when we don’t like the answer. But alas, God answers prayer even when we don’t like the answer! Let’s trust that when God says no, it’s in our best interest & there’s a better plan or answer than what we’ve been requesting!

Saying Goodbye

The Bible has lots of “goodbyes”:

  • Paul on the beach saying goodbye to the Ephesian Church,
  • Jesus telling His disciples goodbye before the cross,
  • David saying goodbye to Jonathon

Goodbye’s are necessary for Hello’s. It seems to me that we often allow things that should stay in the “goodbye” compartment seep into new opportunities & sometimes undermine a new beginning.  So we would be wise to take some moments to reflect on this past year & take an inventory of the things to which we need to say goodbye. Perhaps it’s time to say goodbye to some conversations that have been unhealthy. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to some dysfunctional eating or spending habits. And maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the lies from the devil that we’ve entertained though various mental conversations.

Before we can heartily welcome 2017, let’s be certain that we’ve made the necessary goodbyes to stuff from 2016 & the past!

Feel free to pass this along to any friends or family that could find this helpful & let’s set up 2017 to be STELLAR!!

Still Present

Another Christmas has concluded & we will soon close the chapter on 2016. Sometimes it’s difficult to say goodbye & sometimes we say with great enthusiasm, “Good riddance!”
No matter what your perspective is on the goodbyes for this year & season, let’s keep in mind that Jesus is always with us, so we never have to say goodbye to Jesus! But maybe we should say goodbye to a few things for 2017:

  • Would Jesus have you say goodbye to some habits that encumber your walk with Him?
  • Would Jesus have us say goodbye to the not so deep walk we had with Him in 2016 to grow deeper & closer with Him in 2017?
  • Would Jesus have us say goodbye to some disorderly priorities that perpetuate unhealthy mindsets & dysfunctional behaviors?

Let’s remember that Jesus is God’s greatest present to us & that He’s always present with us! With the Holy Spirit’s help, let’s determine to be present with Jesus in 2017 more than we were this year!