No More Hiding Behind Closed Doors

I feel exposed this week. No, I’m not referring to exposing myself in skimpy, inappropriate clothing, but I feel exposed just the same. You see, I decided to finally upgrade my kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Thankfully, the cabinets are in great shape, so I’m not having to knock them out and start over. I’m just painting them a different color to bring a more modern updated look instead of the builder’s look from 1990. (Actually, I’m not painting them. I’m hiring someone to do all the work for me.)

Garage Workshop

Garage Workshop

I didn’t think this was going to be difficult. How hard could it be to just repaint the cabinets? I soon discovered there’s more to this than I had originally thought. They have to take the cabinet doors off, clean them, sand them, prime them, prime them again, and then paint them (I’m not sure if it will be one or two coats).  They’ve set up my garage as the workshop for this project.

I’ve learned several spiritual lessons from this scenario. First, I had to empty out all my drawers. And even though I didn’t have to empty my cabinets, I decided I wanted to straighten things up a bit before they took the doors off. Oh, my. . . I was shocked at how much “stuff” I have accumulated over the years. My first thoughts were, Why didn’t I clean and purge a little at a time instead of letting things build up and then be overwhelmed by how much “stuff” was there?

In the same way, we need to keep short accounts with God every day and not let sins accumulate as we ignore or put off dealing with them till a later day. When that later day comes, it’s overwhelming because we’ve let the sins accumulate and it’s too much to deal with all at one time.

I learned a second lesson when I walked into my kitchen after work yesterday. All the cabinet doors were off, and everything that had once been behind those cabinet doors was now open and exposed for all to see. I actually saw things I didn’t know were there until the doors were off. I had forgotten about them.

Exposed for all to see

Exposed for all to see

This morning I was thinking how this is true of the way God sees us. We may try to hide things in our lives “behind closed doors,” thinking no one will see them because they’re hidden. But God sees everything in our lives. There are no “cabinet doors” hiding things from God. I am exposed. I can’t hide anything from Him. I can’t hide my thoughts, my pride, my selfishness, my insecurities. . .

Hebrews 4:13 reiterates this: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” He sees it all. It was a good reminder to me this week that God knows me inside and out. He wants me to be honest with Him about what’s going on inside and not try to hide things. He knows and He wants me to acknowledge to Him what’s behind my “doors.” He sees my inmost being. And to be honest, I’m glad. It frees me up to accept His love and mercy and grace.

Has God taught you some spiritual lessons from the process of remodeling your home? I’d love to hear from you.

Settling for Status Quo?

Mt. Shavino

Mt. Shavino

Several years ago, I climbed Mt. Shavino, a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado, with a group from my church. After only 45 minutes, I was ready to quit, but my climbing buddies wouldn’t let me. They kept spurring me on and wouldn’t listen to my reasons why I needed to quit.

After four hours of hard climbing, we reached a boulder field, and I was content to stay there. In my mind, it wasn’t the summit, but it was good enough for me. After all, my legs hurt, my feet were bleeding from blisters, and it was incredibly difficult to breathe in the high altitude. I was content to sit on the side of the mountain and wait for them to come back down. But they wouldn’t let me settle for less than the summit.

Boulder Field

Boulder Field

I kept going but had serious doubts I would ever make it to the top, and I couldn’t have done it alone. Every time I wanted to quit, someone would come alongside me and give me words of encouragement: Come on. Just put one foot in front of the other. One step at a time. Keep going. Eat an apple. Stay focused on the end result. You’ve come too far to quit now. 

Six hours after we began that climb, all of us arrived at our destination on the summit of Mt. Shavino. It was a team effort. Without the strong helping the weak, several of us wouldn’t have made it.

Reaching the Summit

Reaching the Summit

As I sat on top of that mountain, I was in awe of the beauty of the view below us. Was it worth it? Absolutely! Every pain, every ache, every blister, every gasp for air.

But I almost gave up before I got to the final destination. I almost convinced myself, this is good enough. . . I’m tired. . . I’ve seen enough. . . I don’t have to go to the top. . . it’s not worth the pain and effort. . . It’s ok to play it safe and not take any risks.

Thankfully, my climbing buddies wouldn’t let me settle for status quo, sitting on the side of the mountain while they went on to experience the full beauty of that mountain.

I’ve often thought how that parallels the Christian life. It gets tough at times, and I don’t want to be stretched. I’m hurting. I’m tired. I don’t want to take any risks. And I find myself being content to just stay where I am and settle for status quo instead of pushing through the challenges and pain and pressing on to the end result of what God has in store for me.

I’m glad I didn’t settle for the side of the mountain instead of the magnificent view I experienced at the top. In the same way, I don’t want to settle for status quo and miss out on all that God has for me if I will just keep pressing on to the “summit.”

Let’s spur one another on and not settle for status quo in the Christian life. The end result will be worth it.

Wasting Time or Relaxing?

Time wasters

I’ve been thinking lately about how I spend my time. As my days seem to be filled to the max, and deadlines loom, how do I get everything done that needs to be done? I had to stop and acknowledge some time wasters and evaluate how I’m spending my time.

Some of the time wasters in my life are:

1. Social media – predominantly Facebook

facebook image

However, let me preface that by saying I see the value in Facebook. I fought it for years and said I’d never have a Facebook account, but I succumbed to the temptation, and I’m glad I did. Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with special friends from my past, disciples, disciplers, coworkers in ministry, people I grew up with, people I served overseas with, extended family. I had lost touch with many of these people, and Facebook has allowed me to reconnect and have a glimpse into their lives. I cherish that and love knowing how to pray for people, and what is going on in their lives. I have prayed for them as they’ve lost loved ones and celebrated babies being born. So I see the value in Facebook.

But, I also see how it can consume my time when I allow it to. For instance, I can spend an hour without realizing it looking at the news feed and watching numerous shared videos or reading blogs that get my interest. These are not bad things in and of themselves, but when they begin to dominate my time and take me away from things of higher priority, then it becomes a time waster. The key is to limit my time on social media and not let it take me away from more important things.

2. TV food network

I don’t watch much TV, but I do enjoy certain shows: 24, the Food Network, HGTV, competition shows, and of course, LSU football. Again, I don’t think it’s wrong to watch TV. I sometimes need to turn my brain off at night and just enjoy watching how to cook gourmet meals or remodel a home. But where it becomes a time waster is when I choose to watch TV instead of getting higher priority tasks done. I consider getting to watch a program as a reward for getting my important things done first. (That’s why I love having a DVR so I can record and watch later.)

3. Games Words with Friends

I admit I love to play games. Sudoku, Words with Friends, Jumbline 2. I like to rationalize that this is valuable time spent exercising my brain, and it is. But before I know it, I am caught up in the “just one more game” cycle. It’s not bad to relax and enjoy using my brain in a fun way, but again, when it begins to consume my time and take me away from accomplishing tasks of higher priority, then it’s a hindrance and time waster.

I have to make sure that my priorities are in order and that these time wasters don’t prevent me from getting my priorities done each day. I can enjoy these things, but I need to be on guard against letting them dominate my time and distracting me from what’s most important.

Now it’s your turn. What do you consider to be some time-wasters? How have you handled them?

Don’t Worry. Pray!

manpraying2Prayer is vital for growth in the Christian life. It is our way to communicate with God, expressing our heart to Him and listening to Him. Prayer reminds me of my dependence on Him and my need for Him. I acknowledge I need Him and can’t do life on my own when I turn to God in prayer.

I was spending time recently in Philippians 4:6-7 and God showed me some principles of prayer from this passage. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

 

1. Don’t be anxious about anything. God knows what He’s doing, and being worried or anxious about it is not going to change it. My natural tendency is to worry about things out of my control, but God doesn’t want me to be anxious about anything. Instead, He wants me to look to Him.

2. Pray about everything. There is nothing too great or too small to pray about. Take everything to Him in prayer and let God address your prayers in His way and in His timing.

3. Always include thanksgiving in your prayers. Give thanks even when you don’t understand what God is doing. Give thanks even when it seems as if God is not answering your prayers. He is working things out according to His purpose. We can thank Him that He is in control of everything going on.

4. Tell God what you want. Be honest with Him, share what’s on your heart, but leave those things in the open palm of your hand, trusting Him to answer according to His bigger plan and purpose.

5. Embrace the peace that results from prayer. God doesn’t promise to answer every prayer the way we want Him to, but He promises peace as we come to Him and pour out our hearts.

Don’t neglect the power of prayer. Yes, God knows what is on our hearts before we come to Him, but by coming to Him, we acknowledge our dependence on Him. The next time you find yourself anxious or worried about something, turn to Him in prayer. Experience His peace which surpasses all comprehension.

A Lesson Taught By My Cat

PeytonI’m beginning to see that the word of the year for me is trust. I have been going through life lessons in which God wants me to trust Him. I don’t understand why He orchestrates the details of life as He does, but He never asked me to understand. He asks me to trust Him.

He gave me a visual of that lesson today with my cat Peyton. For the past year, I have been giving her fluids at home for her renal insufficiency. That requires sticking a needle in the scruff of her neck weekly and letting cold fluid drip into her little body. She hates it and cries while I do it. I whisper in her ear that I love her, and the only reason I’m doing it is because I love her and want to make her better. But she can’t understand.

As soon as I finish, she runs away and hides, upset that I would put her through such agony. The last time I took her to the vet and did blood work, he said she is now in end-stage renal failure. And because she hides from me as a result of giving her fluids at home, he recommended that I stop the home fluids so she will trust me in these final weeks/months.

Whenever I get out of my chair, she immediately runs away and hides for a few minutes until she realizes I’m not going to scoop her up and stick the needle in her neck. I began to wonder if she’d ever trust me again.

Today, I got up to do something  and I noticed she didn’t run away. “Peyton, you trust me. Finally.” Then it hit me. As much as it gave me pleasure to see Peyton trust me, how much more it must please God to see us trust Him.

I’m not where I need to be in the area of trusting God, but I want to give Him the joy of seeing me trust Him even when I don’t understand what He’s doing. He knows why, and He whispers in my ear, “I love you. Trust me.”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose trust is the LORD.” Jeremiah 17:7

 

Life and Death

the crossI’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. No, I’m not being morbid. But in the past two years, I have attended quite a few funerals and visitations for those who have gone home to be with the Lord. Some of these are parents of friends – parents who lived a long life. However, I’ve also attended funerals this past year of friends who were in the prime of their lives and were effectively serving the Lord.

I have found myself asking, Why, Lord? Why do you take some people home early in their lives and allow others to linger on this earth long after their quality of life has vanished (like my 98-year-old mom). But God reminds me, it’s not for me to question. He wants me to trust His hand and His timing.

So how are we to live in light of the uncertainty of life and death?

1. Be certain of your eternal destiny. 

  • 1 John 5:13 — “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.”
  • We won’t fear death if we know where we will spend eternity. Be certain of your eternal destiny.

2. Rest in His sovereignty.

  • Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 – “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven – a time to give birth, and a time to die. . .”
  • God knows and has ordained the day of our birth and the day of our death and every day in between. It’s all part of His sovereign plan for our lives. We can wrestle with it or rest in it.

3. Live each day as if it were our last on this earth.

  • Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.”
  • Don’t assume tomorrow will come. Live with a sense of urgency, not complacency.

4. Use our days on this earth wisely.

  • Ephesians 5:15 – “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time. . .”
  • Don’t waste your days.

As I watch my mom in this chapter of her life, I have asked the Lord why He doesn’t take her home and free her from this earthly body that has worn out. She has said she is ready. I don’t know why, but I know my God, and that is enough.

 

Impossible. Difficult. Done.

Hudson Taylor faced many hard situations in his endeavor to win China for Christ. He counted three phases in most great tasks undertaken for God – impossible, difficult, done.

Art ClassMonday night I attended an art class, which is completely out of my comfort zone. I am not artistic or creative and it stretches me to use that part of my brain. But I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and do something that would challenge me in a new way.

As we began the class, there were moments I listened to the instructor and thought, “There’s no way I can do that. It’s impossible.” But I picked up the brush, dabbed it in paint, and gently touched the canvas with it. My attitude slowly, but surely, changed from “it’s impossible” to “it’s not impossible; just difficult.” And I kept painting.

I tried fixing my mistakes and asked for feedback from my instructor and fellow classmates. I actually begin to enjoy the process instead of being so tense and overwhelmed by the task at hand. Finally, I finished the painting and proudly signed my name in the bottom corner.

I loved the end result. Was it perfect? No. Would it ever be sought after by art buyers? No. But I was holding a finished product that a few hours earlier I had thought was impossible.

Impossible. Difficult. Done. I could have quit in the “impossible” stage – put down my brush and surrendered to the thoughts, “There is no way I can do that.” But I didn’t, thanks to the group of girls around me and the instructor. They spurred me on and gave me confidence and encouragement. “You can do this! That looks good. Keep going! You’re almost done.” I wouldn’t have finished had I been doing it alone.

The Christian life is going to have challenges and situations that will stretch us and take us out of our comfort zones. The situation will seem impossible at first, but if we step out in faith and move forward, we will eventually see that it’s not impossible, just difficult. We keep going and trust God’s leading, and finally, we will be able to say, done.

How does God want to stretch you today? Is He asking you to do something that will take you out of your comfort zone? Step out in faith. Walk through Hudson Taylor’s three phases of difficult tasks: Impossible. Difficult. Done. The end result will be worth it.

Art class product cropped

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Balancing the Seesaw of Life

SeesawWhen I was a kid, we had a home-made seesaw in our backyard, and my brothers and I, along with friends, would often play on it. The objective was to balance the ends so that you could have an enjoyable up and down experience. However, sometimes the objective was to stay on the ground and keep the other person stuck in the air. You always wanted to be the one safely on the ground, and not the one stranded in the air with no control or means to get down.

Life is like a seesaw. There are two ever-present realities before us—the all-powerful, sovereign God and our overwhelming circumstances. You will notice that in most of the psalms, the psalmist seesaws between the two. He expresses the weight of his circumstances, but he turns to God, sometimes back and forth within a psalm.

When we keep our focus on our all-powerful, sovereign God and put our trust in Him, we are grounded in Him and the security He provides for us. We are safe. When we focus on our circumstances and let them overwhelm us, we get thrown up in the air, and we put ourselves in danger spiritually. When we’re focusing on God and His sovereignty, we come back to safety.

To be honest, life is hard. Relationships can make it hard; health issues, marital issues, financial issues, children issues, job issues, ministry issues. All can make life hard. How do we get through those hard seasons when circumstances are overwhelming? How do we tilt the seesaw toward safety and security in God?

One word: Trust. Trust God in all seasons of life – the delightful ones and the difficult ones. It’s easy to say, but I will be the first to admit, it’s hard to do.

How are you doing on the seesaw of life? Are you dangerously dangling in the air with no stability because you’re focusing on your hard circumstances, or are you securely grounded because you’re trusting God and keeping your eyes on Him?

 

Growling at God

Today I have asked my friend Mandy Lawrence to guest post. I recently finished her book Wisdom from Wilbur and thoroughly enjoyed it – couldn’t put it down. It made me laugh, but it also convicted me as I could see myself in those lessons taught by a small dachshund named Wilbur. Below is an excerpt from Mandy’s book. I encourage you to pick up a copy and let Wilbur show you some things about your relationship with God. 

Wisdom From WilburMy feelings were hurt and my “feathers were ruffled” by my dachshund’s threatening growl!

“Grrrrrrrr,” Wilbur continued as I tried to get the small, well-chewed rawhide bone out of the clenches of his teeth. I had no choice but to do this since he once nearly choked on a bone fragment. But this was a first. My sweet Wilbur had never growled at me before. So I was rather upset, especially since was the one who gave him the bone to enjoy in the first place.

I soon realized that I shouldn’t hold anything against Wilbur because I, too, have been guilty of “growling” many times when I had no right to. When I was young, I would sulk when my parents grounded me from privileges that I normally enjoyed at their expense, and I’ve often grumbled at God when He allowed something or someone to be taken from me. Sound familiar?

The biblical figure Job comes to mind when I consider my tendency to “growl.” In just one day, Job lost his livestock, his servants, and all of his children. Yet, the first chapter of Job tells us this:

“…he fell to the ground in worship and said: ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised’” (Job 1:20-21, NIV).

What an incredible man! Job’s philosophy was rather simple. He realized that nothing he lost ever truly belonged to him since God was the One who gave him everything he had. Though hard to swallow, this is true for all of us. God didn’t have to give us anything, not even our very lives.

If you’re familiar with the way Job’s story ends, you know that God eventually rewarded him for his suffering and outstanding faithfulness, blessing him with twice as much as he had before (Job 42:10-12). It’s important for us to remember that God will always work things out for our good, too, if we are devoted to Him (Romans 8:28). One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:18, NIV: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

In other words, we may suffer many losses here on earth, but our eternal rewards for doing so will far outweigh our trials and heartaches.

When we consider the hope we have in Christ, we are better equipped to surrender our “bones” to the Master. We are more willing to allow God to be God in our lives and accept that for reasons known only unto Him, He gives and takes away.

Let’s try our best not to “growl” when things don’t go our way. Instead, let’s trust that our loving, all-knowing Master always knows what is best for us and that He will reward us when we faithfully surrender our will to His.

 

Mandy Lawrence Mandy Lawrence is a wife, hospice nurse, and dog-lover who is passionate about the Gospel. She has been a registered nurse for over 12 years, but she considers her “true calling” to be sharing God’s message of love and hope through her writing. Mandy lives in North Carolina with her husband, Shane, and their dachshund, Wilbur. You can buy her book on her website www.wisdomfromwilbur.com or on amazon.com

 

My Anxious Thoughts …

Insomnia

I had trouble going to sleep last night because I couldn’t turn off my anxious thoughts. Thoughts like: How am I ever going to get this done in time? What am I going to do if this happens? I don’t know what to do in this situation.
What if . . . ? You can probably add your own anxious thoughts to that list.

This morning as I was journaling in my quiet time with the Lord, God led me to Psalm 94:19: “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your consolations delight my soul.” Every time anxious thoughts overwhelm me, I have a choice. I can give them to God and let His consolations delight my soul in the midst of the anxious thoughts or I can fret about them, lose sleep, and worry.

“Your consolations delight my soul.” God’s consolations are His words. Some of His consolations that give me peace in the midst of anxious thoughts are:

Psalm 138:3: “On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul.”

Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me.”

Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.”

1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”

As I begin to meditate on His words, I find myself starting to relax and breathe a sigh of relief. Lord, it’s in your hands. You will take care of me.

What are your anxious thoughts today? What verses would you add to this list of consolations?