Shift the Focus

A panicked shriek broke through the den of otherwise happy sounds bouncing off the gym walls. I turned to see two boys sprawled on the floor, one of them red-faced and screaming. As I walked toward them, one boy picked himself off the floor, shot a half-concerned half-confused look at the other one (still lying on the floor and screaming) and walked off.

I crouched down beside the boy on the floor. He was clutching one hand tightly in the other. He was so upset, he could barely make a sound although his head was thrown back, his mouth was open wide, and tears were streaming down his face. I gathered him in my arms. “Did you hurt your hand when you fell?”

“I…want…mommy!” He managed between gulps of air. I hugged him tightly and sat in a nearby chair. The rest of his classmates played jubilantly around us. (I teach a 4-year-old preschool class, and it was very cold and wet from a few rainy days in a row, so we had our play time inside our gym).

We sat on the chair together while he gasped for breath and cried. I rubbed his back. He continued to hold his hand so tightly the end of his fingers turned purple.

“Let me see your hand. Can you show me where it hurts?”

“I want mommy!” He insisted.

From what I could tell, nothing was terribly wrong with his hand. I didn’t see the accident, but I saw the two boys running at full speed around the gym earlier, so I assumed they’d somehow collided and fallen. This little guy had put his hand out to catch himself or maybe the other little guy landed on this one’s hand. Whatever happened, he worked himself into a tizzy about it.

We continued to sit. Me rubbing his back and him crying, although not as fiercely as before.

After a while, I noticed one of his classmates (the same little boy who’d gotten tangled up with him just a few moments earlier) skipping past us singing, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Valentine’s Day! Do-de-do. Do-de-do”.

Taking the opportunity to distract the upset kiddo in my lap, I said, “Did you hear what he’s singing? I think he made that up. Have you heard that song before?” I made an exaggerated confused face.

My friend in my lap giggled.

The classmate made another loop. Still skipping and singing his made-up Valentine’s Day song.

“That is so funny!” I grinned at my injured friend. “Listen. He’s STILL singing his made-up song!”

The little boy giggled again, this time with his eyes and his face 🙂

The singing boy caught on to the fact that we were listening to him. He skipped in a tighter circle around us and sang louder, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Happy Valentine’s Day! Do-de-do. Do-de-do”. He watched us watch him and giggled mischievously.

I sang along and bounced the little boy on my lap. He laughed loudly. His eyes were still wet, but his face was lit with a smile. He hopped from my lap and ran off with his friend, starting another lap around the gym.

Most anyone who has experience with children will tell you, if they’re upset, distraction is a good strategy. (If they aren’t seriously hurt, of course).

If you can get them to focus on another person (another kid playing and having a good time or doing something silly), many times, they’ll forget their minor scrap or bump or pouty attitude, and voila! They’re off playing again.

This is what God wants us to do when we get bogged down in our own lives – focus on someone else. He wants us to take our attention off ourselves and our circumstances and put other people and their needs first.

Image Credit: Knowing Jesus

When we focus on others, we forget about our own problems – just like my friend forgot about his hurt hand when he focused on the other little boy’s song. And that’s part of the point. So many verses tell us to love our neighbors, love our enemies, put others above ourselves, love because God loves and love because He told us to do so. (This is just a small taste of the verses that tell us to put others first). So there’s gotta be something to this logic, right?!

Image Credit: dailyverses.net

More importantly, putting others first puts God first. When we look to the interests of others before we look to our own, God is glorified. And that’s the WHOLE point.

Hearing God’s Voice

Did you know that Almighty God wants to have a relationship with you? It’s true. He wants to walk with you and talk with you. Actually, He already does, but if you aren’t familiar with His voice and how He reaches out to His children, you might miss His still, small voice.

Image Credit: pinimg.com

I’m not an expert, but I know He reaches out to me. I am much more familiar with His voice than I was a decade ago. I can point to specific experiences in my life when I know He led me in a certain direction toward something or away from something.

The first time I know for sure God was reaching out to me was when our older child was just a few months old. It happened over several months, so it wasn’t just one “conversation” if you will, but a series of little nudges from God. At that point, I wasn’t familiar with His voice, so although I knew something was going on, I didn’t know what it was or what to do about it. I only knew I had this wild idea to leave my full time job and be a work-from-home mom so I could be with my child. It took time and wise counsel to realize God was speaking to me.

As I gained more experience hearing from God and recognizing His voice, I realized sometimes He tells us no. Yes, you can go your own way and continue to do what you want, but that doesn’t mean God changes His mind. When God says no, He means no, and eventually, we have to learn to submit our lives. But life in His will is better than living in our own. I am definitely coming to understand and accept that.

If you are unfamiliar with God’s voice, I pray that some of the posts I’ve linked here will help you start to learn different ways you can experience God. These aren’t the only ways – I’ve had other types of encounters as well, but these are some of the most memorable ones for me.

As you learn God’s voice, you also learn to differentiate the enemy’s voice as well. I found this graphic that clearly illustrates some of the differences between God’s and Satan’s voices.

Image Credit: FortifyMyLife Blog

I pray you will seek Him. I pray you will listen to Him and talk to Him as well.

I pray you will learn to recognize and respond to His voice and submit to His will for your life.

Have you experienced a time when God reached out to you? What was it like? How did you know it was God? What was His message? What was your response? I would love to hear from you. You can leave a comment on the blog, on the Facebook thread, or email me at heather@heatherhooks.com

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

A Letter for My Friends Reading Servant Girl Stories

Dear Friend,

With much anticipation, we left 2020 behind and rushed forward into 2021. Many are so anxious for this year to be different…better than the one we ended a week ago.

What are some of your dreams for the new year? Your goals? Did you make resolutions?

My husband and I have been talking about family goals for 2021 like possible DIY projects in our home or maybe even refinancing. At work, our director and staff continue to make plans to reopen our preschool since closing in March 2020 because of the pandemic. On a personal level, I’ve been praying and journaling about my writing goals.

I am part of a writing community called Flourish Writers and will participate in their year-long Flourish Writers Academy. My goal is to get clarity on why God made me a writer and take action on a writing project that has been on my heart for several years.

May I ask for your help in this venture?

First, please pray for me to listen to God and to submit to His will for my writing and my life.

Also, I want to know more about my readers. There are certain things on my heart to write, but I want to serve my reader as well. I want to write the things you need to read as well.

Would you help me do this by answering some questions about yourself? I would really appreciate it. Please click on the link below to take a short survey. There are 9 questions that should take you 4 minutes or less to complete.

Click here to take the survey.

Finally, if you haven’t subscribed to Servant Girl Stories, would you consider doing so? Subscribers get email alerts each time a new blog post is published. On the homepage of the blog, click on the “Follow” button on the right side of the screen. Leave me your email address, and I’ll send you blog posts 🙂

Thank you for your prayers and for your support. I look forward to this new year and seeing how God is going to work in our lives.

With gratitude,

Heather

When the Fullness of Time Had Come (Repost)

{This was a post from last December, but the tone is of anticipation, eagerness, and encouragement. I wanted to share it again to remind you to wait on our faithful God to keep His promises}.

We are in the season of Advent now. You may have lighted some candles on your advent wreath at church or at home. You may also be doing an advent study this month.

Advent means the coming or arrival of something important. It is a time of anticipation. Eagerness. Excitement. Waiting.

Followers of Christ are waiting for Him to come again. We know He will. We have His Word to read; we can study and learn while we wait.

We have the Old Testament with the Mosaic law. The history of God’s chosen people. Prophecies pointing to Jesus.

We also have the New Testament detailing Jesus’ birth, life and ministry, His death, and His resurrection. The early church and the spread of the gospel.

Stop reading for a moment and do something for me. Grab your Bible and sit it on the table or on your lap. Now flip to the end of Malachi, the last book in the Old Testament. Hold the entire Old Testament in your hands, from Genesis to Malachi. Look at that group of pages in your hands.

Now flip all that over to the left side. What remains on the right is Matthew to Revelation – The New Testament. Hold that group of pages in your hand for a moment.

Lay the pages of the New Testament over to the right side. Your Bible should be lying open now. You’re looking at the end of the Old Testament on the left and the start of the New Testament on the right.

Did you know there were roughly 400 years between the recorded history of Malachi and the recorded history of Matthew? Imagine that as the gap you’re looking at in your Bible right now with the Old Testament on the left and the New Testament on the right. Some refer to this as “silent years” because God was silent during this time. He gave no inspired messages to His prophets. Why? What was happening? What was God doing? Why wasn’t He talking to His people?

One thing is clear as we look back on that period from our current standpoint: God was preparing events in history to get the world ready for the birth of His Son.

Galatians 4:4 says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”

When the fullness of time had come.

Many Israelites had been faithfully waiting. God had been working. At the time of the writing of Malachi, the Jews were under the rule of the Persian empire. When Matthew opens, Rome is the dominate power having conquered most of the civilized and known world at the time. What does that matter?

When the fullness of time had come.

With the Roman Empire came a common language – many of the people could understand the stories told about Jesus.

The Empire built a vast and well-maintained road system – the apostles could travel from place to place to share the Good News.

There was also common form of money in use and an established and far-reaching government and laws.

The world was ready for Jesus because of the influence of the Roman Empire – enemy of the Jews. Dominant over Jewish life. In His providence, God allowed Rome to prosper and spread, and then He used its infrastructure to tell about His son.

When the fullness of time had come.

God always does what He says He will do. He keeps His promises. He is working.

When the fullness of time had come.

Galatians4_4.jpg
Image Credit: Harper Collins Christian

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.

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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.

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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