When Satan Tries to Lie 2

It’s 3pm. I’m standing in the kitchen mentally scrolling through my to-do list and comparing it to how much time is left before I need to get Ethan from school. 

One of the tasks that should be done ASAP is meal prep – there is chicken to cut and marinate for tonight’s and tomorrow’s night’s dinner. 

There isn’t time.  You’ll have to do that after you get Ethan. The message in my keeps repeating.

I look at the clock again.  It’s 3:10. I need to cut the chicken.  But I tell myself again, You don’t have time for that. 

Quickly, I shook my head, grabbed the chicken, and started to work. Guess how long it took to get it done?

About 15 minutes!

Fifteen minutes to prepare the main course for two separate meals.

AND there was still about 5 minutes left before it was time to get Ethan!!!

When I realized how quickly I completed the task but how hard I fought to put it off, I thought, what the heck?  Why tell myself I didn’t have enough time when I had plenty? 

I also realized I have been repeating similar phrases for years: 

There isn’t enough time to do that.

You don’t have enough time.

You need to leave in a little bit.  No need in starting something you won’t get a chance to finish.

And it hit me.  Man! These were lies from the devil, the king of liars!  Satan will lie to us and try to lead us astray and distract us even with simple things. He doesn’t always try to tempt us to do big, bad, sinful things. He’ll lie to you about anything and everything.

When I buy this lie, rather than getting started on what needs to be done, I open Facebook or Instagram or check my email or whatever else…anything to fill that space…and many times it isn’t healthy or productive.  I’m not being efficient with my time.  I’m not being a good steward of the space God has given me.  Then, a chunk of time has gone by, and I honestly could have done the task that needed to be done. 

But, Satan convinced me that I didn’t have time.

Does this happen to you?

The same thing happened the next morning.  There was about 45 minutes before time to get in the shower.  When I thought through my to-do list, I remembered the introductory video series I needed to watch for Flourish Writers Academy

Guess what the first thing was that popped into my head?  You’re exactly right.  I thought, I don’t have time to do that before I take my shower.

But the video series was 30 minutes, and I had 45 minutes before I needed to get in the shower! (You can do that math, right?!)

(It didn’t occur to me yet how similar this incident was to the “chicken cutting incident” from the day before).

I sat there a minute longer and decided to try to squeeze in one or two of the videos in the series. 

Well, I ended up watching all the videos in the start-up intro series for the academy.  Every.single.one.of.them.

If I’d bought the lie that I didn’t have time to watch the videos, I probably would have wasted that 45 minutes.  Maybe I would have gone ahead and taken my shower.  But, it’s more likely that I would have checked my email or gotten on Facebook and gotten caught up watching some crazy movie clips or scrolling around and reading all the mean things people were saying to each other about the inauguration and getting all bent out of shape about it.  More than likely, I would have done something that wasn’t life-giving or wouldn’t help me prepare for my day.

Instead, I ignored that voice telling me I didn’t have time and watched the videos. 

You see, Satan wants to steal from us, to distract us.  One of the ways he steals from us is by convincing us that we don’t have time to do the things we need to do.  Many of the tasks we need to do honestly do not take a lot of time.  They could be checked off the list in 30 minutes.  15 minutes.  10 minutes even.

I want to learn, and I want to help you learn, to recognize Satan’s lies. 

He does not have your best interest in mind.  He doesn’t care what you end up doing with your time, but he wants you to get your priorities out of line. He doesn’t want you checking off your to-do list. Instead, he wants you to waste your time doing something meaningless so later you’ll feel rushed, frustrated, or stressed and snap at your children or your spouse, for example.

And, Satan isn’t picky about what it is you’re trying to accomplish.  It could be something to build your faith; it could relate to Jesus or it might not.  But, it could also be something your family needs you to do, something you need to do for work, an errand you need to run…or any number of things. 

The thing is, if Satan distracts you from your tasks and get on Instagram and see pictures of your friend’s kids dressed all cute in matching outfits, then you’re going to be upset because you can’t get your kids to take pictures like that.  Now you’re distracted.  Now your mind is off God and into comparison-mode, and comparison will steal your joy.

Or you see a post about what someone’s husband built her or bought her.  And you feel hurt and jealous and think, my husband never does anything like that for me.

There goes that joy. Right out the window.

Or you see all the pictures from a friend’s recent trip, and you can’t remember the last time you went anywhere…

Do you see where I am going with this?

It’s all a distraction.  It’s all lies.  It all sends you down the same dark path.

The best way I can think of to learn to detect and combat Satan is to know God.

People who are trained to spot counterfeit money don‘t spend much time studying counterfeit money.  They study real money.  They become experts at what the real thing looks like, what the paper feels like, and where watermarks are hidden. 

If you study the real thing, you recognize the real thing but you also learn to recognize the thing that is fake. 

That’s what I’d rather do.  I’d rather know God’s voice and know when something comes into my head that is different from God’s voice.  Then, I know – this isn’t God.  God isn’t going to say things like this to me.  God isn’t going to make me feel this way.  God isn’t going to lead me down this path. 

So, we can figure out we’re being lied to and take that thought captive and hold it against the truth. 

Let’s not do Satan’s job for him. 

But we also can’t blame everything on Satan. Some is our own doing.  He has gotten into our mind, yes, and a led us astray at first.  But then he backs off, once he’s convinced us that the lie is truth, and we do his job for him from then on.  We continue to do the things he’s put into our heads.  We’ve listened, bought into the lie and now we’re on autopilot telling ourselves we can’t do something we need to do because we don’t have time. 

How does Satan have you on auto-pilot?  What are the lies he’s taught you to tell yourself? 

What thoughts run through your head every day? What are the negative, unhealthy ones? They probably start with a phrase like “I can’t,” “I don’t,” or “I won’t”…

I can’t do that job.  I wouldn’t get hired.

I don’t know enough about this.

I won’t ever get a raise.

I don’t have enough friends.

I don’t have enough time.

I don’t have enough money.

My kid’s don’t ever act right.

Bring those into the light.  Call them out.  Name them what they are – lies from Satan meant to distract you from what’s true and what’s important.  Meant to keep you confused. Busy. Behind.  Tired. Frustrated. Stressed. Sad. Angry.

The next time you hear those negative thoughts in your head, start talking to Jesus.  Out loud.  Satan has to flee when he hears Jesus’ name.  So, start talking to Jesus.  Say His name and ask Him to expose the lie and replace it with truth from His word. 

You’ll be surprised at how quickly He answers.

Struggling Believer… I See You…I Am You…Together Let’s Discover What It Really Means to Be Servant Girls

So you believe in Jesus.

You know He was God’s Son, and you know He came to earth and lived among us as a man, as one of us. You know He taught about God and performed some miracles. You know He died on the Cross so the sins of those who believed could be forgiven. You know the tomb is empty because He rose and is in heaven with the Father. You believe. You’re a Christian, maybe even a member of a church somewhere.

But something is missing.

You aren’t growing. Or, you haven’t changed.

You took the big step: you believed.

But you don’t walk every day in what you believe.

You know stories about Him but haven’t experienced Him for yourself.

It is time to walk in what you say you believe. Every day. Be a servant girl. Live in it every day.

It is time to serve.

It is time to respond to the Good News, to God. To what He’s offering.

It is time to discover God’s will for your life and obey it.

It is time to recognize His voice and respond to it.

It is time for an intimate relationship.

It is time to pray and listen.

It is time to open your Bible.

It is time to live the every day details of who you say you are.

(I’m talking to myself, too).

Maybe you’re asking: How do I walk as a servant girl? How do I serve God? How do I respond?

I can’t answer those questions for you personally. God has to tell you that.

But I can tell you how to seek the answers.

I am learning to walk daily.

I am learning to recognize His voice.

I am learning to obey.

Image Credit: challies.com

I have to stop here because this is where Satan is telling me that I don’t do these things that I’m saying I do.

And he’s right. To a point.

I don’t do them every day, all day.

I get full of pride.

I get lazy.

I get distracted.

I get on the wrong path.

I am human, so I make mistakes and try to go my own way and do things in my own power.

But very soon God calls me back. I hear His voice. He shows me my sin. I repent and get back on the right path.

Yes, I still sin. Yes, I still make mistakes and get my eyes off God.

But I know His voice. I have a relationship with Him. We are always talking so it isn’t long before He gets me back where I should be. It isn’t long and I don’t go very far before He corrects me.

Because I know Him. I recognize His voice. I talk to Him and listen to Him.

I walk with Him. I read His word. I obey Him. I submit. I serve.

I want to share with you what He’s taught me about being a servant girl.

In 2021, I want to help you discover how to daily walk with God.

If you don’t already, please subscribe to Servant Girl Stories by clicking the “Follow” button at the top right corner of the blog’s homepage and leave your email address. New things are coming this year and further in the future, and I want to share them with you. As a whole, I hope to offer practical information, action steps, people to relate to and examples to follow as we learn to lead godly lives.

I’m looking forward to the journey.

Image Credit: A Bloomin’ Mum

Prayer of Affirmation

Lord, you have told me that you go behind me and before me and that you hem me in on all sides. You have assured me of salvation through your Son and of a relationship with you through your Spirit. You have shown me that I can always trust you. In these assurances from you, Lord, I am blessed. I will fix my mind on these things and receive your comfort. I will fix my mind on you and what you have already done and already given. I will yield to you. I will trust you. I will rest in you and be at peace.

Amen

Why We Suffer (Repost)

{The pandemic has me thinking a lot about suffering, especially its purpose; so I’m reposting this article I wrote in the spring}

It’s 1 in the afternoon.  My husband won’t be home for at least 3 more hours.  And the baby won’t.stop.crying.

He’s had a nap.  Been fed. Had a diaper change.

I’ve held him.  Bounced him.  Sung to him.  Put him down.  Picked him up again.  Everything I can think of.

But he won’t.stop.crying.

I remember a DVD the OBGYN gave me at a prenatal visit.  Something about “purple crying”.  The narrator explained that sometimes babies cry for no good reason – sometimes A LOT!  If you’ve done everything you know to do, and the baby is still crying, put the baby down in a safe place and walk away for a little while.

So, I lay him in his crib and go outside.  I slowly circle the outside of the house a few times to try and clear my head.

Each time I walk by his window, I hear him.  Still.crying.

That day is tattooed in my memory, but that baby is now in middle school.

EthanNewborn2009
Sleeping like a baby for his newborn picture in the hospital – January 2009

When I think of that day, I laugh.  Usually.  But it wasn’t humorous then.

What I didn’t understand as a new mama is that crying is the only way a baby is able to communicate.  To tell us there’s something wrong.

Why is that the only way, though?

And do they have to be so loud?  How is it that they change so quickly from content, cooing angels with their feet in their hands to irate, screaming banshees with their fists in tight balls?

Is there no other way to signal that they’re hungry or need a diaper change?  Surely God, in His wisdom, would have devised another way if there were one.  But, He didn’t.  So, there must not have been.

I mean, would I have kept the baby on a regular feeding schedule if he simply lay there sleeping peacefully or gazing contently at the ceiling fan?  Sure, I’d probably stare at him a lot, marveling at how cute he was.  But would it occur to me to feed him if he wasn’t causing a scene?  Possibly not.

The baby must do something to get someone’s attention.  To snap a caregiver out of her self-absorbed-ness.  To encourage a parent to…well, parent.

Hear me out…

This scene with my son came to mind recently when I read commentary on 1 Samuel chapters 16 and 17 from the English Standard Version Study Bible.  One sentence got my attention: “God trains David, through suffering, to lead his people”.

My immediate reaction: Wait? What?  Why use suffering?  Wouldn’t something else work?

To suffer is to undergo pain or distress.  To sustain injury.  It might involve anguish.  Suffering is…negative!

How does suffering  – which sounds negative – produce someone who will make a good king, parent, teacher, CEO, writer, leader…

Well, if I didn’t suffer, would I learn as much?  Would I pay attention as closely?  Would I even realize I was supposed to learn something?

If David hadn’t suffered, would he have become a great king?  Would he have been prepared to lead God’s people?

Maybe it is necessary to suffer because it drives us TO God.  As David suffered, he wrote songs that we continue to use to call out to God in our despair or to lift His name in praise.  David’s words have become prayers for millions.

When I struggled as a stay-at-home mom with an infant I couldn’t figure out, I cried.  A LOT.  And in my suffering, I turned back to GodWhom I had been ignoring for nearly a decade.

Would I have done that if everything had been all cute baby giggles?  It’s less likely.  If everything were going well, I wouldn’t have seen a need for God.  I would have thought, “I’m doing awesome at this mother stuff!” and gone about my business.

But people aren’t usually compelled to move or change if life is a bed of roses.

I have found that God uses suffering to move me.  To prompt me.  To inspire me.  To change me.  To point me back to Himself.  To cause me to seek Him.

When I think of it this way, I’m not as bothered by the fact that I will suffer in this life.  If that is the way God, in His sovereignty and providence, has designed life to be, then I will meet it head on and embrace what He teaches me.

*Crossway Books. (2011). Holy Bible: english standard version, study bible. Wheaton, IL.

Sin and Sausage Balls

They didn’t taste like my mom’s sausage balls. Not one bit. They didn’t even look like the ones I look forward to eating every Christmas.

I desperately wanted them to be like hers. I wanted to taste Christmas! I couldn’t figure it out! I followed the handwritten recipe on the 3-by-5 index card she gave me.

Or did I?

When I inspected the ingredients, I immediately realized my error.  I didn’t buy the exact kinds of ingredients she uses.

For “1 lb sausage,” she noted, “I use hot.”

Nope. I bought the regular flavor because I don’t like spicy food.

Beside “10 oz grated cheese,” she added, “I use sharp or extra sharp cheddar.”

You guessed it: I got regular cheddar because I don’t like the bite of sharp. {Insert eye roll here}

So, that explained why my sausage balls weren’t mama’s awesome, taste-like-Christmas sausage balls…because I decided to ignore the instructions and do things the way I wanted.  (How crazy was I to think the sausage balls would taste anything like hers if I didn’t make them exactly the same way she did?!)

Please tell me you’ve done this before, at least once or twice. I don’t want to be the only hard-headed one out here in the world, desperately trying to make things turn out the way they’re supposed to but all the while refusing to do things the way they’re supposed to be done.

Anybody?

How many times have you tried to go about things the way you wanted rather than the way you were directed?

Do you sometimes disregard instruction manuals and think, “I know a better way to do this?”

How often have you listened to sound advice but decided to go your own way just the same, thank you?

Do you do this to God, too, when He directs you?

I do.

When I do this – when you do this – it is the result of our pride: preferring our wants, our wishes, and our will rather than God’s will. And pride is a sin.

When I catch myself trying to go against God, trying to do what I want to do the way I want to do it, (when my pride gets in the way) God reminds me of Mary, quiet at Jesus’ feet as He taught, and of Martha, frantic in the kitchen preparing the meal.

I see Martha watching Mary out of the corner of her eye, wondering when Mary will get up and help, growing more frustrated by the moment.

I see Martha, but I hear my own voice (maybe you hear yours, too) demanding God’s help.  Complaining because something didn’t go like I wanted it to go.  Pleading with Him to give me the answer I want.

“But the Lord answered, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, ESV)

Mary chose to put the right thing first: her relationship with Jesus. She chose the worshipful posture of sitting at his feet and focusing on Him, on His will.  Martha had other things on her mind: her agenda, her checklist…her pride.

Does this sound familiar?  Have you, like me, found yourself in this position more times than you care to count?

Take heart, my friend. God knows we battle our pride every day, and he’s given us a remedy for the pain this causes.

Look at Luke 10:42 in the New Living Translation: “There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken from her”.

The one thing worth being concerned about is God’s will.  Mary figured it out and chose to submit to God’s will for her life.  Her choice ensured her salvation and freed her from the chains of her pride, her sin.  And, as Jesus said, that wouldn’t be taken from her.

God wants to take away the pain of giving in to our pride, too.  That happens when, like Mary, we submit ourselves to His will for our lives.  When we say, “Not my will, but yours, Lord.”

This is what we do when we accept His gift of salvation by believing in His Son, Jesus Christ and the power of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But it’s also something we have to do every day. We have to daily submit ourselves to His will for our lives. We must spend time in prayer with Him to learn to submit. We must spend time reading the Bible to learn to submit. We must talk with and learn from experienced Christians to learn to submit. Forgoing our own pride and submitting to God will not be easy because it isn’t natural, but it is “the one thing worth being concerned with.”

It seems trite to compare my arrogance in buying different ingredients to make my mom’s sausage balls to submitting to God’s will for my life, but the lesson is the same. 

It might seem like a stretch to compare the times you chose to ignore wise advice from a trusted believer to submitting to God’s will for your life, but the lesson is still the same.

We have to look past our wants and wishes and be obedient to God’s will for our lives.  We have to stop trying to use the ingredients we want to use rather than the ingredients the recipe calls for.  The sausage balls won’t ever turn out right if we’re too arrogant to use the right ingredients. 

Guided Prayer

Father,

I am grateful that you are in control rather than me.  I trust your will for my life.  Help me to choose the right thing.  Help me to put aside my sinful pride that wants to lead me away from you.  Teach me how to submit to you.  Give me the strength to do it every moment of every day.

Amen

Giving Thanks in Suffering

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” Philippians 1:29, NLT

Read that again below…

“For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him.” Philippians 1:29, NLT (emphasis added)

You’ve been given the privilege. You’ve been allowed to do something special or important. You’ve been given a gift.

The words “given” and “privilege” stick out in this verse because of what the verse says I’ve been given – the privilege of trusting in Christ (ok, so good, so far; I can do that), and the privilege of suffering for him.

Wait? What?!

I’ve been given the gift of suffering for Christ?!

This sounds backward and crazy. I don’t know many people who want to suffer much less anyone who’d consider it a gift or a privilege. Yet this verse makes it sound like something I should be thankful for the chance to do – to suffer for him.

Let there be thanksgiving…when you suffer?

This is a challenging concept (even for many experienced believers) to grasp that it is a privilege to suffer or that suffering is a gift from God, but we must remember that God’s kingdom is upside down.

It is difficult to explain why someone should be ok with suffering, or why someone might even welcome suffering.

I can’t explain it, honestly. I can only tell you that I have to pray about it each time I go through trials so that I can glorify God through the difficult situation.

You can pray about it, too, when you’re suffering. Talk to God and ask Him to help you understand it.

Even my friends who aren’t believers or who don’t have a close relationship with God can talk to Him. He hears you. He sees you, and He wants to walk and talk with you.

Image Credit: Thebookkeeper247.com

The Bible makes it clear, over and over in Scripture, that suffering is part of the life of one who follows Christ. The Bible even tells us that this suffering is a gift of God’s grace.

Image Credit: The Wicket Gate

Maybe you’re still wondering, Why is it a privilege?

There are several good answers to this question, but the one that comes to mind right now is simple: When we suffer, we experience what God’s Son experienced.

Believers say we want to be Christ-like, and part of that is being treated like the world treated Christ. If we live like Him, we’ll look like Him, and if we look like Him the world will respond to us the way it responded to Him…with misunderstanding, fear, hatred, abuse, and persecution…suffering.

When we suffer, especially when the suffering is in Jesus’ name, God gives us the opportunity to be a part of something Jesus went through. Our suffering is His gracious gift to us.

Image Credit: Faithprayers.org

What To Do When Someone is Ungrateful

Tell me if this has ever happened to you? You recognize a need in someone, you do something to meet that need, and then the person either doesn’t notice at all, notices but shows very little gratitude, or for some reason is extremely rude to you in response to what you did.

Let’s say you noticed a friend at work wasn’t having such an awesome day. So, when you went to lunch, you bought back a slice of cheesecake for her because you know it’s her favorite. She thanked you, took it from you quickly, gobbled it down, and that was all she said about it. And you think, “Wow! I thought I’d get a little more gratitude outta that.”

Or, let’s say she took one look at the cheesecake and burst into tears. She said she doesn’t want it because she’s trying to lose weight and you should have known she was on a diet. Now she’s angry at you!

Definitely not the response you wanted.

Or, your neighbor is recently widowed, and you noticed that her yard needed mowing. Her children don’t live around, she may or may not know how to operate her husband’s lawnmower, who knows? But you mowed her yard.

She either doesn’t say thank you at all, or she says a curt “thank you”, and nothing more.

I imagine we’ve all experienced something like this. We did something for someone because we saw they needed it. They didn’t ask, but we did it. And their response was little to no gratitude or even, God-forbid, they were rude in return.

{We obviously don’t do things just to get a “thank you”, and you never know what people are going through to cause them to react the way they do, but those are different posts for another day.}

What I’m talking about is, when you’re in the situation, when you’ve done the deed of service, and the gratitude doesn’t come, what do you do?

Let there be thanksgiving anyway.

Concentrate with thanks (I saw that phrase in some commentary in my English Standard Study Bible and thought it applied here).

Image Credit: brightontheday.com

Based on the 1 Thessalonians verse, we see that it is God’s will for us to be joyful, and I believe that concentrating with thanks will help us do that.

How do you concentrate with thanks?

In any situation when you feel hurt or angry, when you feel resentment, when you feel unnoticed, etc, think of Philippians 4:8.

Here’s how it works:

Step 1 is to memorize this verse.

Then, you’ll need to pray and ask God for help using what the verse teaches.

Next, you’ll need to train yourself to recognize when you need to use it. When you need it, go through each of the 8 words Paul to fix your thoughts on and analyze the situation to see if anything applies to you, the other people involved, or the situation in general.

Think about what is true in the situation. What is something that actually, truly occurred? Make sure you are only look at the facts.

Think about what is honorable about what happened. This means something that was noble, honest, or worthy of respect. Think about the character of the people involved. Were any of their characteristics deserving of respect? Think about when they may have shown integrity or ethical conduct. What about yourself in the situation? What did you do that was respectful? How did you shown integrity or conducted yourself ethically?

Think about what is just or right in the situation. Were the commands of God kept in any way? What was upright or virtuous.

Think about what is pure or holy. What was “without fault” in regards to the situation?

What was lovely (acceptable or pleasing)?

Think about anything that was commendable. (Commendable means of good report). What was admirable, gracious, what has value? Was anything spoken in good will to others? What was spoken in a kindly spirit?

Was there any excellence in the situation? Can you think of anything virtuous or of moral excellence?

Think about anything worthy of praise. Can you applaud or compliment something about the situation?

We’re going to say that, in Philippians 4:8, Paul was talking directly to us concerning situations just like I described involving your friend or your widowed neighbor.

If there’s anything excellent in the situation that you can think of, think about that. Take your mind off the negative things: the person was rude, the person wasn’t grateful, the person didn’t acknowledge what you did at all…take your mind off those things and literally walk through that verse, list all 8 words, and see if you can figure out something from the situation to apply.

In the situation where you took your friend a slice of cheesecake, what is lovely in that situation? What is true in that situation? What is just, excellent, commendable about her, yourself, or the situation in general?

Focus on that. Anytime you start to get aggravated again, as soon as you start to think bitter thoughts about her – “what a hussy! I can’t believe she acted that way over a slice of cheesecake” – stop that thought, take it captive, give it to the Holy Spirit, and then think back on the things that you found about the situation that were lovely.

You may not be able to think of something for all 8.

Ask God to show you the ones you can’t figure out.

But maybe there isn’t something for all 8 words. That’s ok. Being able to apply any of those words in the verse will help redirect your thoughts and help heal your heart.

Any time your mind goes back to the situation and you start to think hurtful things again, refocus on Philippians 4:8 and the words you could apply.

You’ll be concentrating with thanks using Philippians 4:8.

Let there be thanksgiving!

Let There Be Thanksgiving

God doesn’t require animal sacrifices anymore. No more rams without blemish. No more bulls for burnt offerings. No more blood sprinkled on the altar.

Thank goodness.

Now, believers show our devotion to God with our lives. We present ourselves to Him as living sacrifices.

Sounds scary, but there are no knives or fires involved here. I’m talking about the sacrifice of how we live our lives: what we do, what we say, even what we think since our Lord is omniscient.

We are to live godly lives that acknowledge Him, that show others we love, trust, and believe in Him.

Image Credit: Knowing-Jesus.com

I realize that talking about thankfulness and gratitude during the month of November may be cliche for some of you, but thanksgiving is exactly what we need right now.

Not the thanksgiving where you gather with family and eat all the turkey, dressing, gravy, and pumpkin pie you can hold. Although that thanksgiving is awesome, too. I pray you are able to safely gather with your family to observe your normal holiday traditions this year.

But, the thanksgiving I’m talking about is an attitude, a way of living year round…

Let there be thanksgiving!

Yes, I do know that I’m writing this in the year 2020, a year that is arguable the worst ever, at least in my lifetime.

Could anything good come out of 2020?

No and yes.

If you aren’t looking for something positive, you won’t see anything positive. I can almost guarantee it.

The power of positive thinking is a real and valuable tool.

More importantly, though, I’m talking about counting your blessings.

Here I go being cliche again! But even cliches have some truth to them.

Instead of “count your blessings,” I’ll say this – concentrate with a grateful heart on the things that are good no matter how few or how small.

Image Credit: Bible.com

If nothing else, thank God for giving you another breath today.

If you can’t even do that, pray and ask God to change your heart and help you to be thankful. Ask Him to show you something to be thankful for.

When you find something, say you’re thankful for it out loud.

Do you know what that does? It acknowledges the blessing from God. This is actually an act of worship of God, and worship pleases God.

Image Credit: Angela Schua

Plus, it will soften your heart.

It will help you see other things you can give thanks for.

When you think of more things that are good, thank God for them aloud, too.

Write them in a list and stick it on your fridge or bathroom mirror.

Notice how your heart feels? Are you smiling now?

Thank God for that.

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This is our sacrifice of praise. This is how we worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let there be thanksgiving!

How to Love God

I love LOVE! There, I said it.

I especially love the idea of romantic love – I have since I can remember. I am a hopeless romantic.

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But, since I surrendered my life to Christ, He has taught me that I don’t know anything about love. I thought it was something I was supposed to feel. An overwhelming, all-consuming emotion. It was supposed to make me happy and giddy and forever excited to see the person who was the object of my love.

While some of that isn’t totally inaccurate, it’s only one side of the story.

I have learned that a Christian’s love should focus on God above anyone or anything else; He is the primary object of our love.

We express our love for Him by being obedient to how He said to live and by demonstrating love to other people.

God is love; therefore, Christians are love.

Many would argue that Christians aren’t love. Some of the people you’ve met proclaiming to be Christians weren’t loving. I can’t and won’t dispute that. I’ve met plenty of people proclaiming to be Christians who didn’t act loving either. Heck! I proclaim to be a Christian but don’t always show love well.

God doesn’t call us to worry about those other people as much as He calls us to do better ourselves.

Loving others is our command, and we have to do better at it.

It seems like it would help if we focus on the right thing first: God.

How do we focus on God? How do we love God?

Scripture says we must be obedient to Him.

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Jesus tells us plainly in scripture that if we love him, we will keep him commandments. (John 14:15).

All.of.them.

Both practically – living them out – and conceptually – keeping our hearts and minds pure, too. (Matthew 5:27-28 gave an example of this).

Obviously, humans cannot do this on our own.

But it’s our purpose in life to keep our focus on God as much as we can. To pray to Him to help us focus on Him and to ask forgiveness when we don’t do it.

Be obedient.

Keep His commandments.

Live like He told us to live.

Pray.

Study the Bible.

Wait for His return.

Love other people.

This is what the Bible says about demonstrating our love for God.

But, exactly how do we do that?

I don’t know. We’ve got to talk to God it.

He’s given us the basics in His Word. He expects us to study it.

Then, we go to Him in prayer for the specifics – for how each individual person is to live out the commands.

It will look different for each person based on where you are in life right now.

He may ask you to be obedient by leaving a job.

by starting a job.

…by moving.

…by starting a ministry.

…by befriending someone.

…by trusting Him with your finances.

…by seeking Him about your relationships.

…by helping someone you don’t know.

by forgiving someone you don’t want to forgive.

by sacrificing your time for someone else.

…by spending more time in prayer and Bible study.

…by taking on a new responsibility at church.

…by stepping out of a responsibility at church.

Only through time in prayer with God can you discover how He has ordained that you should obey Him and show Him love. Spend that time with Him and with His Word and find out what He has for you to do.

How to Give Yourself Up For Others

My mom was an elementary school teacher. She started teaching after she graduated college, at 21, and retired when she was in her late 50s. She loved her students, and she was excellent at her job. It was most definitely her calling in life.

Once a teacher, always a teacher though, and she has worked with all 4 of her grandchildren during their early years. They are all avid readers and super-smart (I am biased, of course, since two of her 4 grandchildren are my children).

Currently, she plans lessons using the North Carolina standards for kindergarten so she can supplement what my younger nephew does in his one day of face-to-face learning and support him on the days he is at home.

My sister, my mom, and me at the beach this summer (July 2020)

“I planned more than he could possibly do in one day, like every teacher does when they lesson plan,” she told me this afternoon when she visited my children on the way home from keeping my nephew until his parents and older brother got home from school.

Between you and me, I am certain that this woman will teach, in some capacity, until the day she dies.

Years ago, after I started my own teaching job (my sister is a teacher, too, as are 4 of my mom’s nieces – I’m not saying my mom had something to do with all of that, but who’s to say she didn’t…) and saw how much time it took outside the classroom to plan lessons and score work, I realized something: I have little to no memories of mama creating lesson plans or grading students’ work. Obviously she did both, but I have few memories of it.

I asked her about it once. She told me that she did it after school before she came home or at night after my sister and I went to bed.

When we were awake, she gave her time to caring for her family – cooking, cleaning, helping with homework, doing things together as a family. Her work was secondary to us.

She gave herself up for us. In humility, she counted the needs of her husband and children as more significant than her own needs. She looked not only to her own interests but to ours as well.

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I had to live this out this past Monday. It was the first day of school, and our school district is doing what our governor calls “Plan B.” Students go to school one day a week for face-to-face learning with their teachers. The other four days of the week they learn virtually from home. The preschool where I worked the past two years closed in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic and elected not to reopen this fall, so I am home helping my children do their online learning. Monday, my children started 6th and 2nd grades on their computers.

It was hectic. Tedious. Frustrating.

We sat at our little round table in the kitchen and dove in. Both kids had their computers out. Although I had my own work to do to get my online class ready (I was able to pick up a course to teach online as an adjunct for a college), I knew better than to try to do anything. I knew that the day had to belong to my children.

I sat between them and literally went back and forth helping them figure out how to navigate their pages, find their assignments, learn how to do them, and submit them.

I wasn’t even upset. I knew it had to be done. The only way the first day of school had a chance to be anywhere near smooth or successful was for me to put aside what I wanted to do and focus on helping them get going.

It was painstaking. At times it was nerve wracking. But it was what had to be done. And it was what countless parents, grandparents, older siblings, aunts, uncles, close family friends, or nannies did on Monday and will continue to do until we get these kids settled into a routine of online learning so they can work more independently.

What we did – what we do on a daily basis for our children, our spouses, our co-workers, our friends, the person behind us in the checkout line at the store that we let skip us because they’re holding 5 items and we have a cart full – is a demonstration of love – agapao.

And this is how God instructed us to show love to each other.

Ephesians 5:2 – And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (ESV, emphasis added).

When we give ourselves up for other people, when we consider others’ needs and interests as more important than our own, when we outdo each other in showing honor, when we count others as more significant than ourselves, when we look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others, we show love to those people. We act out love. We love the way God loved – or as closely as we are able to in our humanness.

I’ve been studying the biblical concept of love and HOW to show love for over a month now. God has shown me things, and I pray that He will help me put what He’s taught me into practice. I don’t just want to talk about it; I want to live it and do it – even to the people who are hard to love.

Talk to God. Ask Him to show you how to love other people. Ask Him to show you ways to give yourself up for the people around you. Then, as soon as He shows you, act on it right away before the enemy can talk you out of it. It might be something big, or it might be something small. It might cost you money or time or energy, but God has promised to use our acts of love to soften hearts and bring people to Himself. And He promises a blessing on those who bless others.

What can you do to show love to someone today?

Wait…I Have to Love My Enemies?

Has this ever happened to you: Someone hurt your feelings? Talked about you behind your back? Someone was difficult to deal with? Made your life hard or unpleasant?

Of course. We’ve all experienced hurtful situations and challenging people. We may not think of these people literally as our enemies. I definitely don’t think of myself as having enemies. That word’s a little harsh. But we certainly don’t think fondly of people who have wronged us. I know I have people in my life who are difficult to love. They rub me the wrong way. Our personalities don’t mesh well.

However, Jesus was clear that believers must love our neighbor – anybody we come into contact with during the course of our day – and we must love our enemy – the people who have hurt us.

Lately, I’ve been interested in exactly HOW to love others. Does the Bible give me specific instructions on exactly what to do to show love to my neighbor and my enemy?

To find out, I went back to the verse that started this whole thing: Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (ESV).” And I studied the two Greek words for love used in the verse – agape and agapao. Agape is a noun: a thing, concept, or an idea. Agapao is a verb: something you do, an action.

Using the Blue Letter Bible app, I read through all the verses that used agapao and noted verses that gave explicit directions – something specific to do to show love. The first concrete instructions in the New Testament using the verb agapao were given by Jesus. In Matthew 5:44, he said, “But, I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (ESV – emphasis added).”

How do we love others? How do we love people who have done us wrong? Pray for them – all of them – the ones who wronged us, treated us poorly, talked about us behind our backs, don’t deserve our kindness…

Jesus told us to have a conversation with God about that person; that’s what prayer is anyway, a conversation with God.

Can you ask God to burn the bread they’re toasting for breakfast or to give that person a flat tire on the way to work?

NO 🙂

But, you can ask God to change him or her…to make that person into someone who acts kindly, stops spreading rumors, leaves your child along at school. All those requests are fine. In our conversations with God, we’re allowed to tell Him our hearts’ desire.

However, Scripture specifically instructs us to pray for our enemies’ salvation, to express thankfulness for those people, and to pray for their well-being (1 Peter 3:9).

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Sounds extremely difficult, right? When you’re upset with someone, the last thing you want to do is to pray for that person’s well-being! No! You want to call your best friend and tell him or her about who wronged you and how angry you are.

But, this has no place in the life of a Christ-follower. Jesus said we were to love the people who persecuted us. He also said, “do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27 ESV).”

The apostle Peter echoed this when he wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called that you may obtain a blessing (1 Peter 3:9 ESV).”

Do good to people who hate you? Bless people who have done evil to! Can you imagine?

The Greek word used for bless means “speak well of,” and this is what God calls us to do. Don’t repay gossip with gossip or cruel words with cruel words.

Instead, try to say something pleasant to or about that person. Or, maybe try what my grandmother and mother taught me: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Do you know what might happen in prayer with God when you talk to him about this person who is difficult to love? He might have some things to say to you as well. A conversation goes two ways, right? He may convict your heart to pray for that person’s soul and salvation. He may encourage you to overlook the offensive things that person has done and will do. He may command you to forgive. To continue to be kind no matter how you’re treated. To speak well of that person (or at least to keep your mouth shut).

So, in your prayer time with God, specifically about this difficult person, who is God actually changing?

You.

Crazy how that works, isn’t it.

I’m not saying the other person won’t also change as a result of your prayers. That is a likely outcome as well. But, God will definitely change you during your time in prayer with him.

Try it.

Right now, think of a person in your life who is difficult to deal with. Someone who has said something to you or about you or done somehting to you and upset you.

Stop right now and pray for that person. Ask God to speak to that person’s heart. Ask God to pursue that person for an intimate relationship like He (hopefully) has with you. Pray for that person’s soul and salvation. Pray for that person’s family. Job. Health.

Ask God to tell you other ways you could show kindness and love for that person and ask Him to give you the strength to do it.

Give God a chance to show you what He can do.

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Maybe this sounds unrealistic or oversimplified. And honestly, you won’t see the outcome you want from each “enemy” you pray for. But that doesn’t matter. It’s what Jesus taught, so it is what God expects. As His children, we should respond with obedience, no matter the outcome.