Bring Out the Best!

I was in a parking lot today and watched the drivers from two cars get in a honking battle.  They concluded their exchanges with middle fingers, yelling and mean looks.  I would suspect that perhaps these drivers have different sides to their personalities, such that they don’t go through their lives everyday with expletives, middle fingers and combative behaviors.

Just because someone is hostile or cranky with us doesn’t mean that we have to repay the same acrimony.  Indeed, such moments are opportunities to do a quick heart check on ourselves and choose better.  Furthermore, we can go the extra mile & look for constructive ways to bring out the best in people.  Here are some suggestions for your consideration:

  • encouragement, gratitude and polite words make a comfortable runway for others to be gracious
  • a soft answer turns away wrath – Prov 15;1
  • forgiveness is a decision to reflect God’s DNA in us, since we are liberally forgiven even more than we realize
  • what a person “deserves” is best left in God’s hands, since we are commanded by Jesus not to judge in Matt 7:1

Let’s endeavor to bring out the best throughout our daily exchanges!

Where Are You Looking?

When you’re driving and you look over your shoulder to check your blind spot, has your car ever veered to the side?  When I took driver’s ed, the instructor taught us that we need to be careful about keeping the car centered at the same time we would check our blind spot.  “Your car will often follow where you look.”

I’ve followed this advice mulitple times and reflected on the times when I let myself get distracted from a goal or destination with the subsequent collision or loss of direction.  So it always helps me to remember Hebrews 12:2 where it says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfector of our faith!”  Jesus is our goal, so let’s keep focusing on Him throughout each day!

Shock Value

There are many things that can be shocking, such as a precipitous drop in the stock market, unexpected news from a relative and sometimes, God does stuff that’s shocking.  It seems to me that most of us don’t like stuff that’s shocking, such that we stay away from this kind of thing or we insulate ourselves, to minimize the exposure.

And yet, sometimes, things that are shocking can help us to get out of a rut.  For example, I think Jesus was very shocking to the religious establishment in His day.  Indeed, He challenged not only their assumptions and traditions, but also their practices and daily interactions:

  • He ate with sinners.
  • He associated with tax collectors.
  • He kept company with the irresuptable.

All of these actions of Jesus were very shocking to various upstanding citizens.  And yet what is more importance than the shock value, is the reality that Jesus did all of these “crazy things”, from the premise and core motivation of genuine love.  Sometimes, genuine love is the essence of shock value 🙂

Have a happy weekend!

Anniversary Celebration!

My husband and I are celebrating 25 years of marriage this week & that’s a noteworthy achievement!  It’s noteworthy for lots of reasons such as:

  • lots of seasons and changes to navigate: doing hefty careers, an intense baby season, growing in our careers, raising teenagers & a few medical challenges along the road
  • distinct personalities:  we are very different in our personalities, so this requires us to give each other lots of grace, space & affirmation to be unique but complementary rather than combative
  • prickly insecurities:  just because we’re married doesn’t mean our individual insecurities don’t get triggered from time to time; so it’s helpful to recognize such weak spots & decide to nestle into genuine love 🙂

I’m definitely a better person from being married to Reece & there’s no doubt that God has helped us to grow in our relationship over the last 25 years!  Let’s remember that being a person who is growing in character, love and strength is a decision we make one day at a time!  And be certain to celebrate the milestones along the journey!

Who Is Different?

When I was growing up, my dad would take me to garage sales, art galleries, museums, estate sales, hospital visits, nursing homes, etc with an occassional stop at Arby’s for a jamocha shake & potatoe cakes – yum!!  So during my childhood, I was around lots of people who were very different than me.  It helped me a lot that my dad was very personable & never knew a stranger because I was realtively quiet & reflective.

As an adult, I also have the privilege of getting to meet lots of people from all walks of life.  I meet poor folk & prosperous folk, educated & uneducated people, polite & rude folk, insightful & obtuse . . . . Some people are alot like me & we see life from a similar perspective.  In contrast, I’m also around alot of people who are very different from me & I love this!!  What is wonderful about each person that I meet, is that they are deeply valuable, highly esteemed and massively loved by our Heavenly Father.  Let’s be intentional that we cultivate connections with people are different from us & make the committment to express genuine love regardless of our commonalities or differences!

Inadequate Meets Uber-Adequate!

There are times in my life where I am inadequate to meet the needs and demands of what’s happening around me.  In these times, I know that I’m not smart enough, not strong enough, don’t have the energy to match the demands, nor do I have the endurance to match the race stretched in front of me.  In these times, it’s tempting to get overwhelmed by the questions, the shortfalls, demands, inadequacies and scarcity I feel in my soul.  Such deficiency is often a universal human condition and maybe that’s by Divine Design.  Maybe God has always intended for us to never be enough, such that we must choose to reach outside of ourselves to find provisions beyond our finite resources.

Let’s be certain that we reach for God to participate in our lives every day and not just as a last resort!  Indeed, God is more than enough for our overflowing deficiencies!

When You Fail

I’ve never met a person who enjoys failing & most of us avoid stuff that has a high risk for failing.  But there are LOADS of people in the Bible who failed, took risks and some had tremendous successes – usually after they had overcome some significant failure hurdles.  Some examples would include:

  • Jacob’s son, Joseph:  failed with his brothers, but became 2nd in command to Pharoah in Egypt & rescued his family from famine
  • Jacob:  tricked his brother & father, but went on to become “Israel” and the founder of the Twelve Tribes
  • Saul / Paul:  gave hearty approval at Stephen’s martyrdom & became the largest contributing author to the New Testament in addition to founding the majority of early churches on two continents

When you fail, keep in mind some helpful perspectives:

  • failing is a verb, but failure is a noun:  one can change but the other is more permanent
  • the greatest lessons often come from failing more than succeeding
  • failing can the essential fertilizer for redemption
  • no failure is beyond God’s power & love to transform into beauty, resurrection, abundance and divine success!

Are You Distracted?

Do you ever struggle with distractions or competing priorities?  There are loads of things in our world that demand our attention, from the pop-ups that happen on our Facebook feed to the random text message advertising some random product.  So how do we deal with these distractions?  And what about competing priorities?  Here are some helpful thoughts that you could pass along to your friends / family as well 🙂

 

More Than Enough

“We only have two fish & five loaves of bread. It’s not enough for such a big crowd!!” These were the disciples’ words to Jesus about feeding a crowd of more than 5,000 people. And the observation is valid when we think about the provision in contrast to the need.

I see this mindset in many perspectives in my life. My needs for energy, time, resources, friendships, favor, wisdom, etc often seem to dwarf whatever provision may be available at the time. And as I read today about Jesus multiplying the fish and bread, I was challenged by this whole stark contrast between provision and need. I can belittle and grieve what is lacking or I can give Jesus whatever provision I have, let Him bless it and live in the resulting abundance.

In Jesus’ hands, little provisions can become multiplied abundance!

When God Doesn’t Make Sense

More than 50,000 soldiers dead all triggered by a concubine running away from her husband. I’m reading the last few chapters of Judges in the OT & these events leave me baffled & cold. They baffle me because even though Israel obeyed God’s directives, they still lost two battles and 40,000 soldiers died.

These events leave me cold because of the human ability to be barbaric: the concubines husband cut her up into 12 pieces and sent her body parts throughout the 12 Tribes of Israel. Clearly, this is a very dark time in Israel’s history.

And there are times / events in our lives when we don’t understand God. Why does an omnipotent God allow atrocities and deplorable behaviors? And how does
God’s loving character reconcile with His judgment? Making these questions get even more personal, why doesn’t God heal various ailments & terminal illness?

Or why does a cheater co-worker get the promotion & we get bypassed, again?

I’m grateful that God is abundantly able to handle our questions, doubts, fears, uncertainties & pain.

While we wrestle with these questions, or different ones, let’s stay in fellowship with God for the simple reason that He holds us together because of His infinite love for us!

Reconcile Rather Than Revile

“That’s DISGUSTING!!!”  Lots of people have this reaction when they begin to hear about the daily living of a sex worker in third world countries. I’m in Cambodia this week with our annual Saving Moses team trip & our nightcare work here (feel free to come w me next year).  I love to watch God change various perspectives about people & various hardships / experiences these women go through to say nothing about their babies & toddlers.  On a more immediate context, maybe you know people who are making bad decisions, going down an awful trajectory or compromising in unthinkable ways. 

Do we choose to revile or reconcile?  

Regardless of the decisions people make, we can shame & revile them or walk alongside & reconcile them. Jesus is a great example of reconciling rather than reviling 🙂

Good for the Soul

This morning I tried a new breakfast: quinoa, almonds, blueberries & maple syrup. It was ok for my first attempt & I know it’s better for me than bacon & a cheese omelette  so you m endeavoring to make healthy decisions. 

The same can be said for decisions we make about our souls. Here are a few decisions that are good for the soul:

  • Forgiveness:  keeps the grudge venom neutralized
  • Encouragement:  keeps us with positive thoughts about people
  • Gratitude: keeps us looking for good
  • Trust: keeps us actively declining worry & leaning on God

Keep making healthy choice for your body & soul!

Easy or Hard?

I like the “easy button” and easy for me includes: washing dishes, ironing, international travel, languages, grocery shopping, simple cooking and reading my Bible.  In contrast, I don’t like to do stuff that’s hard, which includes:  getting in shape, seeing suffering babies, recovering from jet lag and being gracious rather than snarky.

No doubt, you have your own lists of things that are easy and hard.  But just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done or we shouldn’t try to do it.  I say this because of my morning Bible reading in Philippians 2:7, where Paul says about Jesus, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”  This verse speaks to Jesus entering the human race, from start to finish, and experiencing human existence.  From my perspective, I would think that might have been difficult for Jesus to do – but He did it nonetheless.

If God asks you to do hard stuff, ask for divine Help and try!  Whethere something is hard or easy, let’s pre-decide to remain obedient and faithful to God!

Lite & Fluffy

I recently had the opportunity to wear fake eye lashes & after a few hours, my eye lids were tired & droopy. Obviously, if I were to wear fake eyelashes on a regular basis, I’d need to find some eye lid muscle building exercises so they could hold up the extra eye lash weight. Or maybe I just could wear EXTRA HEAVY mascara to  get the eye lid muscles more toned. 

But alas, I don’t feel a calling nor interest in wearing fake eye lashes on a consistent basis, so I’m not concerned about my eye lid muscles ,)

Sometimes, I think we get concerned about things that are possibly not all that important in the grand scheme of things.  So as you think about your week, I’m encouraging you to ask God for divine input & priorities for what’s important, medium important & not important. Let’s prayerfully keep our priorities aligned with God’s essentials & not get lost in stuff that unimportant ,)

Mind the Mouth

“Oooooos!”  I wish I had a dollar for every time I said something I wish I could’ve retracted. And then on the other side, there are also many times I wish I would’ve said something but didn’t. Too much talking or too little talking, each have their own shortfalls. So having discretion & wisdom with our words is massively helpful & constructive!  

Here are a few ideas that could be helpful with minding the mouth:

  • Affirmation – being encouraging is very helpful! 
  • Graceful truth – important investments that help us grow! 
  • Saying good – words that speak life rather than death express genuine love!

Let’s Be Guilty

Recently, I acquired a traffic ticket for not having a license plate on my front bumper. As much as I’d like to argue the stupidity of such a fine, an administrative detail to fund the tax base from trivial oversights, I’m guilty. So I paid the fine. 

Hopefully, you & I are guilty of more important things such as:

  • Sincere compliments,
  • inexplainable generosity,
  • gentle & constructive truth,
  • extravagant forgiveness,
  • supernatural patience &
  • divine wisdom

Take a quick moment now to text someone a sincere complement so that we’re both guilty of living out genuine love. 

And I now have a license plate on my front bumper 🙂

Pick a Side

I recently enjoyed watching the NCAA college basketball championship game & the most common question was, “Who are you cheering for? Which team do you want to win?”
In essence, which side are you on? As we walked into the arena, we were inundated with Michigan fans so I wasn’t too keen to shout out, “GO ‘NOVA!!!!” But I had definitely picked a side & cheered accordingly.
The same holds true for all of us in the narrative between what the enemy says in contrast to Holy Spirit’s narrative.
The enemy accuses, condemns, shames, deceives & is always trying hurt, kill & destroy us.
On the other side, Holy Spirit advocates, convicts, comforts, leads us into truth, makes us alive, confirms our true identity & continuously pours love into our soul.
So pick your side & actively select the narrative to which you’ll listen & entertain / converse with, keeping in mind the respective outcomes that go with each side 🙂

What Do You Think?

I’m learning that what I think is often more important than various experiences or events. If my thoughts are dark, if I’m feeling insecure, inadequate, uncertain or frumpy, then I tend to behave & interact from a darker place. On the contrast, when I’m hopeful, optimistic, bright, steady & confident, then my interactions are more positive & constructive, with a higher quality of internal resilience.
So maybe this is why Paul tells us in Phil 4:7-8, to let Jesus’ peace guard our hearts & mind, as well as instructing us about keeping our thoughts centered on gratitude, stuff that’s right, honorable, etc.
it’s important to think about our thoughts & appreciate that how we interact & engage is an interior decision more than an external response 🙂

#selah

Taking Risks

For some people, risk is like running through an amusement park in wild expectation of the thrills on the horizon.  For other people, risk is like running the gauntlet of would be gladiators, awaiting impending torture and possible death.  No matter how you see risk, walking in faith is risky because it’s the decision to do what’s unknown, uncomfortable and uncertain.  But the other side of faith can be worth the risk:

  • knowing Jesus better,
  • supernatural achievements,
  • stronger confidence in God,
  • experiences with God that don’t happen without faith

I can appreciate that risk is scary, but I invite you to join me on the faith journey that can be risky rather than the fear journey that can be constrictive.  And of course, let’s ask for wisdom along the journey so that our faith / risk isn’t foolish 🙂

 

Bitter or Better?

I want to choose better rather than bitter, but sometimes it’s not an easy choice. There are two occasions in the Bible that I specifically see the “bitter” problem:

  1. when Peter betrayed Jesus & he went away, weeping bitterly;
  2. when the water at Mara was bitter, the Israelites complained & Moses threw a log into the water making it sweet & drinkable.

So when I think about these “bitter events”, maybe they could’ve been better if the complaining & betrayal were eliminated.
I can see how that would be true for me when given the choice between bitter or better. When I complain less, I do better. And when I love Jesus even when it’s difficult, I’m better in my soul.
Something to think about for this wonderful Monday 🙂