Archive | September 2016

Three Ways of Giving and Receiving Help

 

bookshelf-photoI am a “people helper.”  I enjoy helping people understand how their thoughts, emotions, and behaviors affect one another; I love to help them identify destructive emotional patterns. I feel excited when I can help them find the courage and grace they need to develop healthy emotional patterns.  I like to help people discover and develop their unique talents and abilities. I delight in the uniqueness of each individual. And I love to help others grow in their knowledge of God and develop a trusting relationship with Jesus.

I, also, enjoy finding ways that I can do these things more effectively. This week, I’ve been thinking about three ways that we can help  one other. We can tell them what to do. We can do something for them; we can work with them.

Last week, a friend spent two hours helping me sort through my piles of books and organize my book shelves. She told me what to do; she did things for me; and she worked with me.

The first thing she did was to tell me what I needed to do—take all the books off the shelves, find some boxes for the discards, and sort the books into categories. I thought that I had already placed them in categories, but I had not made any labels. So she made some for me and put them on the shelves. When I saw them there, I realized why they were important.

With no labels to guide me when I was returning a book to my shelf, my habit had been to randomly create a space and insert the book into it.  So there wasn’t much order. It was frustrating. Working with me, Stephanie showed me how the books could be arranged in a way that would be helpful for me, and I could find books quickly. Now, if I put books back where they belong, I wouldn’t have to hunt for them.

When we got through with our project, we had eight shelves of books neatly organized into categories. It was beautiful. Looking at it made me feel peaceful.

God uses all three methods to help us accomplish the tasks he’s given us. The result, when we accept is help is a beautiful, organized, and peaceful life.

In giving Moses the Ten Commandments, he told us what to do. The people who received these commandments believed that they could follow them. Although some of them succeeded to a degree, all of them failed in one way or another. Only one person—Jesus Christ—has perfectly kept these commandments.

In sending Jesus to earth, God did for them (and for us) what they (and we) could not do. After living a perfect life, he died on a cross, securing the power for us to do what God-the-Father told us to do.

In sending the Holy Spirit, he now works with us so that our lives become progressively beautiful, organized, and peaceful. By having him as our helper and friend, we can accomplish the things God has called us to do. And more importantly, we can become transformed, so that we reflect his glory.

If these are your desires, here are some questions to think about:

  • Do you think of God, primarily, as someone who tells you what to do, someone who does things for you, or someone who works with you?
  • In which of these ways do you most need God’s help, today?
  • In which of these ways do you most desire God’s help, today?

Here are some action steps:

  • Write down what you will do in order to receive God’s help in the way that you most need it.
  • Share what you have written with a trusted friend and/or make a comment to this post.

Whatever your answer(s) are, here is God’s promise:  “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8 NLT).

 

This entry was posted on September 29, 2016. 6 Comments

Just Stay Awhile

Today’s post is by my friend Crystal Holt, who’s a worship leader at New Hope Community Church. She is what Jesus (in the Gospel of John) called a “true worshiper”–one who worships him in spirit and in truth. I hope that you will listen to her gentle exhortation.


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While I was getting my two-year-old son, Peter, ready for nap, he exclaimed, “More Jesus loves me! More Jesus loves me!” We had been singing his favorite song, “Jesus Loves Me,” and he was hungry for more. We sang the chorus again. His face gleamed–he was completely full, totally satisfied in that moment. As I laid him in his bed for nap, I prayed with him, thanking God for Peter’s love of singing about Jesus. As I prayed, I noticed a small tug of envy in my heart.

I could still see Peter’s radiant smile as he said, “More Jesus loves me!” I could still see that look of absolute contentment and joy as we sang together.  And I thought to myself, “Wow, I wish I longed for more of Jesus like that.” The precious, simple love that children exude is unmatchable. I in that moment, I longed to be like a child—like Peter, just wanting more and more of Jesus.

A few weeks ago I was casually walking outside in my backyard, holding my six month old son, Joshua. I began to pray and for the first time in awhile, I said, “Lord, I want to listen to what you’re saying, help me to hear your voice.” Shortly after that, the Lord began to speak. It’s amazing how eager the Lord is to speak to us, if only we would truly listen. One of the things I felt the Lord impress strongly on my heart was this statement: “Busy, busy people–too busy to pray, too busy to hear my voice, too busy to follow my will, too busy for Me.”

I knew immediately the Holy Spirit was referring to Christians. The Lord continued to speak about how we are so wrapped up in our own concerns that the Lord’s concerns are no longer priority. We’re simply too busy for His agenda–ours is too consuming! Of course, this also described my life as a Christian very well.

Finally I said, “So Lord, what can we do?” I felt the Holy Spirit impress on my heart this word: “Dwell.” Just dwell. Stay here in my presence. Enjoy Me. Don’t be in such a hurry to be done with Me. Don’t treat me like a check box on your “to-do” list. Dwell with Me. I was reminded of a gospel song I used to listen to.

The song is about being in God’s presence. In between verses that the choir is singing, the artist says in an exasperated tone: “Now that we’re in the presence of God, let’s just stay here. Just dwell! Just stay awhile!” It was as if he was saying: “don’t be in such a hurry to walk away–just enjoy the presence of God! Delight in Him. Just stay here a little longer!”

So, as I walked around outside, I hesitantly decided I would pray a little longer, I would stay a little longer. I felt my prayer time was reasonably sufficient, but it would have been pretty pathetic if I‘d rejoiced that God had spoken to me, yet hadn’t applied what God was saying in that moment!

So I tried it. I stayed a little longer. And it was fantastic. Rich. Such a sweet, filling time with God. I felt a sense of purpose, joy, excitement. I began to sing and worship in song. I began to intercede for the lost. I prayed for needs around me. I thanked God for His character. And it was good.

I wish I could say I now live my life every day in this way, dwelling and savoring His presence all day. But I haven’t. However, I am growing more and more in my hunger to do so. And I have had similar moments of just enjoying God since. I’m reminded more and more by the Holy Spirit to just dwell. Lord, help me to obey when I hear your voice.

I’ve learned that I can stay and dwell in His presence while doing very ordinary things. While sitting on the floor and playing with my kids, while walking around outside, while doing the dishes, while driving in the car. I can enjoy and savor God anywhere. Long gone are the days when I had three hours of solitude to sing to God and read my Bible. With very young children, I’ve learned to improvise and be less legalistic about “quiet time.” God is more concerned with me abiding in Him all day than he is in me spending an hour with Him and leaving Him behind for the rest of the day.

Disconnecting from the Internet, my phone, my iPad, etc. helps me to be more in tune with God. Neglecting all the emails, phone calls and texts allows me to be more still, less preoccupied with transient things and more available to enjoy Godand my family.

It’s actually very freeing to be disconnected. Obviously, we need to eventually check our phones, emails, etc. But it doesn’t need to be every three minutes. Like my husband says in regards to disconnecting, “We’re not really that important.” What if, instead of being constantly connected and reachable to others, we were constantly connected and reachable to God? Ouch. I’m feeling convicted…

So Lord, help us to be like children, exclaiming, “More Jesus loves me!” Help us to have a passion, desire and longing to just savor and enjoy the glory and beauty of your presence. Help us to have a desire to just be still, and listen to your voice. Let us dwell, remind us to “just stay awhile.” Thank you in advance for the honor and privilege of allowing us to enjoy your glorious presence. In Jesus name, Amen.

This entry was posted on September 22, 2016. 9 Comments

When We Can’t Put the “Puzzle” Together . . .

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I have two, 100-piece jigsaw puzzles that I enjoyed putting together with my grandchildren when they were younger. Alphabet ABC’s and numbers (1-10) are printed along the top and sides of each puzzle. It took only a few minutes for my husband and me to put them together, but it took much longer for our grandchildren to do it.

Remembering their excitement and enthusiasm about finding the place where a piece belonged is a happy memory. Mixed in with their “Oh, I found a piece!” exclamations of joy were a few “This is too hard; I can’t do it!” complaints. These were often followed by a “Will you help me, Grandma?” request.

Even when our grandchildren are not with us, my husband and I enjoy putting jigsaw puzzles together. Generally, when we purchase a new puzzle, we find that all of the pieces have been included. But invariably, we can’t find one of the edge pieces and one of us says, “This piece is missing!” or “They forgot to put this piece in the box.” The “missing piece” is usually found among the five or six unplaced puzzle pieces left on the table when the puzzle is essentially put together.

100-piece jigsaw puzzles no longer interest my grandchildren.  Being in adolescence, they will soon be faced with more complicated puzzles—puzzles of life that will require higher skills, knowledge, and insight. How will they put these puzzles together? What will they do and how will they feel when they can’t find a piece? I hope they will not give up. I hope they will keep on searching.  I hope that they will ask for help from those who can see how the pieces correctly fit together.

If we remain in the place of familiarity, we will not grow. Perhaps that’s why, when we think that we have everything figured out in life, something unexpected happens. Life (or perhaps God) sends us a bigger and more complicated puzzle. We can’t figure out how to put it together.  We feel discouraged, disappointed, and frustrated.

That’s the way I’ve been feeling this week.  In a puzzle of life that I’ve been working on, some pieces seem to be missing. Others don’t fit into the picture that I’ve been imagining. I believe that for some of life’s puzzles, we won’t see the finished picture or understand how all of the pieces fit together until we reach heaven. I wish that were not true—yet, that’s where faith comes in.

Like children, we can become impatient when a puzzle does not fit together in our way or according to our timetable, but God has his own timetable. Our ability to figure out the puzzle and our speed in doing so is not very important to him. What happens within us while we are working on the puzzle is more important than how fast or how well we put it together. Puzzles can be trust builders, if we choose to make them so.

In this place of confusion, I’m choosing to be content that God, the designer of this puzzle, knows the perfect place for each piece. I’m also choosing to believe that when I see the completed puzzle, it will be more beautiful that any picture that I could have imagined.

If you are stuck in confusion, disappointment, or anger because a puzzle in your life is not fitting together in the time or way that you’ve been wanting it to, I hope that you will choose to make your puzzle a trust-builder. I hope that you will hang on to this promise: “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them” (Romans 8:28 ).

 

This entry was posted on September 15, 2016. 10 Comments

Giving Up Our “If You Happen To” and Other Unclear Messages

sailboat-1“I’m going to take the sailboat out,” my husband said. “If you happen to see me, you could take a picture.”

“Okay,” I said.

He walked out the door and I continued ironing my shirt. Then, I paused and thought about it. If I happen to see him . . . well, I won’t happen to see him, unless I watch for him. But I think he wants me to take a picture. Why didn’t he say so!

Realizing that it would only take a few minutes to take that photo and wanting to do it for myself as well as him, I hurried upstairs, grabbed my camera, and walked to the edge of the lake. I arrived at the perfect time and got several good photos of my husband in the sailboat.

When he got back to the house, I discussed our communication, explaining that his statement—if you happen to see me, could you take a picture—was indirect and unclear. Although, I automatically interpreted it in my mind to mean that he wanted me to take a picture, it would have taken less energy and process time if he’d made a simple request such as, I’m taking the sailboat out; will you please watch me and take a picture?

This might sound picky. I can get picky. But most of the time I don’t correct my husband’s wording of a sentence. I did so in this instance partially because I wanted an illustration about indirect and unclear communication—something many of us commonly use.

Why do we use indirect communication, making general statements instead of specific ones? And what makes this unhelpful or frustrating? Why do we do it might be related to our culture. In some cultures, being direct is considered rude. It could be rude, for example, if we make a request without the courtesy of saying “Please”, or if we speak in an angry tone of voice.

Other reasons for our use of indirect communication might be 1) we are afraid to ask for what we want 2) we believe that it’s not “right” to ask for things or 3) we don’t want to admit to our real desires. I’m not doing to discuss reasons for these beliefs, but they’re not based on Christian principles. They arise out of guilt or fear or shame.

  • Faith is God’s answer to guilt.
  • Love is God’s solution for fear.
  • Hope is God’s promise for shame.

Believing his promises and feeling secure in his love frees us to speak openly and directly in our communication with one another.

Most of the time, my husband is direct in his communication. He clearly tells me what he wants. Most of the time, I give it to him.

This entry was posted on September 8, 2016. 2 Comments

How I Stop My Crazy, Headless Chicken Behavior

I grew up on a small mid-western farm. Along with a variety of animals—beautiful Guernsey milk-cows, a mischievous goat (not a long-term resident), fat, black pigs, and for awhile, a few sheep, we raised chickens. My father took good care of all of his animals and birds, providing them with clean living quarters, under-the-blue-sky-and-sunshine spaces to move, clean water, and nutritious food. The chickens were a primary source of our food; we never lacked for fresh eggs, and Sunday dinner was usually roast chicken.

My mother knew how to wield an ax and butcher a chicken. She did it—in what I assume was the most merciful way that she knew how to—by quickly chopping off its head. Occasionally, for a very brief time, a headless chicken would stagger around in unfocused directions. Seeing this, was perhaps the origin of one of my father’s common expressions—she (or he) is running around like a chicken with its head cut off!

He used it to describe anxious people who looked confused and seemingly lacked direction, yet frantically kept on working. Finally, after exhausting themselves, they stopped their fruitless activity. There are days when my behavior matches my father’s expression. I behave like a  crazy, headless chicken and fall into bed feeling frustrated and exhausted.

Jesus used another illustration to describe this kind of fruitless activity—one that’s probably less offensive to those of you who are chicken lovers. (I’m sorry, if I’ve offended you.) He called himself the vine and he referred to us, his followers, as branches. I like the following paraphrase of his words: “When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing” (John 15:5 MSG).

What do headless chickens and being separated from an intimate relational connection with Jesus have in common? This: Headless chickens cannot think straight and neither can we, when we separate our thinking from God. Our activities result in what Jesus calls “nothing” (John 15:4 NKJV).

One dictionary definition of the word nothing is nonexistent. When we, who call ourselves Christians, separate our thinking from God, our activities result in nothing. They will cease to exist. But this is not what God desires for us. His promise, when we embrace his thinking and design our plans around his purposes, is an abundant harvest of fruit—good-tasting fruit that will last.

Unfortunately, I run around can a lot longer—disconnected from Jesus, than a chicken can—disconnected from its head.  I can sit a long time at my computer typing out words and coming up with very few productive sentences before I realize that I’m disconnected. I’ve disconnected from Jesus and I’m empty-headed.

How can all of us stop running around like headless chickens, stay connected with Jesus’ thinking, and therefore, be confident that our activity and hard work will produce meaningful and lasting results? Here are five practical suggestions, with illustrations from my life:

  • Connect your mind with God’s thoughts. Every day, make time to read Scripture; pray for understanding, meditate on it, and write out whatever words stand out to you. (This is my verse for today: “Send out your bread upon the waters,for after many days you will get it back “(Ec. 11:1 NRSV).
  • Write down the application for your life: (For me, the application of the above verse is this: When I’m doing the activities God has given me, yet not seeing much fruit, I must not get discouraged and quit. Eventually, I will reap a harvest.)
  • Copy that verse and keep it in a place where you will see it so that you can refer to it throughout the day. (I find my verse on Bible Gateway and copy it into a Word doc. I keep it open on my computer for the day. Sometimes, I also copy it on an index card and post it on my refrigerator.)
  • Schedule “Time-out with Jesus” breaks throughout your day. (For breaks in my writing this week, I scheduled times to move and sing or listen to songs of praise.)
  • Pay attention to the messages from your mind, body, and soul, because disconnection from Jesus affects every part of you. Notice how well your mind is functioning, what your emotions are, and what your body feels like. (When my muscles ache, my thinking has slowed down, and I feel irritated, I know I’ve been sitting too long at my computer and need to take a break.)

I hope these suggestions and illustrations are helpful to you. Please comment and, if you want to, share things that you do to keep your thinking connected with Jesus—so that you don’t wander off into crazy, headless chicken behavior.

 

This entry was posted on September 1, 2016. 2 Comments