Resolve Today

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Geno

 

I came into the living room where Shawn was sitting and plopped down on the couch in just enough time to see the last few exciting minutes of a women’s college basketball game during March Madness this year.

The University of Connecticut had just won the game, continuing their streak to well over 100 consecutive wins, and afterward a reporter was on hand to ask Coach Geno Auriemma the typical questions. This was one of them:

“What did your team do differently in preparing for this game in the finals?”

His answer is one I won’t forget.

“You practice every day like it’s the most important practice, and you play every game – no matter who you are playing, no matter where, no matter what time – like it’s the most important game. When the most important game comes up, you don’t have to change anything. You show up and you play the way you have the other 35 games.”

A great philosophy for basketball and a great philosophy for life.

It reminded me of Daniel.

In Daniel chapter 1, it starts off with the Israelites going through a time of correction, where God allowed them to be captured by other nations to let them realize how desperately they need Him. King Nebuchadnezzar snatched up Daniel and his friends first and sent them to his kingdom in Babylon.

There they would undergo some serious preparation – including getting their names changed, starting a new diet, learning a new language and literature, and going through three years of overall training.

The diet was something Daniel was not on board with. The food and wine they would be given went against the Jewish customs and laws given by God. And in verse 8, we see what he did.

“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.”

Daniel resolved. Daniel “decided firmly.” Long before he ever had to face a pit of lions, or help run a kingdom, or interpret dreams and relay visions, Daniel resolved to honor God. He resolved to be obedient.

If I resolve to believe in God, then it will be easier to dismiss those times of doubt when things get prickly and I am momentarily questioning everything, because I have already decided Whom I have believed in.

If I resolve now that I will be consistent with my moments with God, through prayer and reading my Bible, I will no longer use excuses about not finding the time.

If I resolve to be obedient to God no matter what – regardless of fear or the opinions of others – I don’t have to question whether I am going to follow through with what I feel Him calling me to do.

If I resolve early on how I live and what lines I will not cross, I won’t feel pressure when the pressure is on. This can be in relationships, friendships, how I treat my body, the things I will and will not watch or look at, etc.

If I resolve to treat others with love and compassion and kindness, no matter what, I won’t have to decide my reactions when the tension is high.

Pray about it. Ask God what He wants you to resolve to do today. It will be much better to do it now, than to wait until you’re facing a pit of lions tomorrow.

 

He sees you.

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Message on the sandI walked into the sanctuary a few songs into the worship service, and as my family and I found our seats, I joined in to sing lyrics that touch my heart and bolster my faith. “Jesus- who walks on the waters, who speaks to the sea, who stands in the fire beside me…”

I have things. Things going on that weigh on my mind. That keep me awake. Things that bring tears. You probably do too. We all do at times.

As I was singing these words, I’m asking myself – do I believe that He can walk right on top of water? Do I believe that Jesus was really able to stop scary waves with simply His voice? Do I believe that He was really right inside the flames with three guys who chose to stick with God no matter what? Do I believe He can fix my things?

Yes. I do.

But somehow there is still a nagging doubt and uncertainty. I know what it is though. There is a part of me that feels like I’m going to go unnoticed. Like when someone is stranded on a desert island and hears a plane overhead. She rushes to the edge of the water, flailing her arms feverishly, screaming and willing the pilot of the plane to glance her way. That’s me.

Feeling like God is somehow skipping over me, and seeing others while I’m barely hanging on, trying to hold my head above water – It’s how I felt, really without even realizing it until a couple of weeks ago.

We had a communion service at church, kind of “drop-in” style. An open 3-hour window where you and your family would stop by the church, and spend some time receiving the elements and praying. It was beautiful. And it was a new format for us, so we were a little unsure of what it would involve. And we felt a little rushed, because of other responsibilities.

So after we took communion, and I started to leave and return home to my sick kiddo, and Shawn went to do his church office stuff, I instead picked up my Bible and went back in the sanctuary to sit and search His word. I was desperate for something. I needed to hear something from Him.

I scrolled through some pages, and expected God to point me somewhere kind of obvious, like a verse saying how much God loves me or something. But God looked into part of my heart that I hadn’t even acknowledged yet, and pointed me right to a previously hi-lighted part of Luke 8:47…

“Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.”

Seeing that she could not go unnoticed.

This woman was trying to remain out of the picture. She had been sick for so many years, and in a way that was socially embarrassing and ostracizing for her. She saw Jesus walking by in the crowd and was desperate. He was the answer. She knew and had faith Jesus could help her, but didn’t want the attention.

But she could not go unnoticed.

It wasn’t even possible. Jesus saw her. He sees you. He sees me.

We aren’t unnoticed. We are dearly loved and seen.

My eyes filled with tears, seeing that God not only let me hear from Him, but in a way my insecure heart needed to hear most.

While I am very aware that God doesn’t always answer/fix things the way I think they need to be done, I am also aware He knows best. And if I know He can fix something, and He certainly sees me and knows the situation, I can trust Him.

If you are feeling unnoticed, know that you are not unnoticed by Jesus. ❤

Waiting on God and Chocolate Pudding 

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Shawn’s favorite dessert is chocolate pie. He occasionally gets it at Jim’s as a treat, and his mom makes it when we visit for Sunday dinner. I asked her for the recipe.
She told me about the pie crust, and about the whipped topping, but made sure I knew to get Cook and Serve chocolate pudding and not instant. 

Definitely not instant. 

I was surprised there even was another kind of pudding aside from instant. Why wait so long on something that can happen right now? 

I looked up the debate on instant vs. cooked. Here is what I found –

“The fundamental difference between cooked and instant pudding is the preparation. With cooked pudding, you must apply heat to the mixture on a stovetop. It must be brought to a boil, with constant stirring along the way, then cooled to set. This takes time…and energy. If you like hot pudding, great. If you don’t, be prepared to wait about 2 and a half hours.

“Here’s where the waiting pays off. The taste of the cooked pudding is much richer and more complex than the instant. It’s got a structure to the texture that isn’t limp or watery. It feels as though a much more substantial transformation has occurred in the cooked pudding than in the instant. It’s thick and slightly lumpy. It tastes like the real deal.” (www.nearof.com)

Turns out, all the work and waiting is worth it. 

In Luke chapter 1, Elizabeth and Zechariah figured out the worth of waiting too. All the years of longing for a baby of their own, and then after all hope was lost and her time had passed, Tada! A bouncing baby boy… One who would “make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (v. 17)
And the Israelites- waiting for the Messiah. All the years, since the Garden of Eden, waiting for things to be made right, and generation after generation, they waited. 

Until one night, some shepherds were doing their thing, and Tada! They got a VIP invitation to visit the Savior of the World. He is here. Emmanuel. All the waiting- worth every second.

And we wait now- we wait for Him to come back. We hear the scariness of the world and long for all things to be made right. And we pray for it to happen today. We want to see Him worshipped by all. But we wait.

We wait on our healing, wait for that restored relationship, we wait for direction. And it seems like it just might never happen. And then, Tada! It doesn’t always look like how we thought it would, but it’s perfect. 

If you’re in the middle of waiting on something, don’t give up. It’s worth it. We have a God who knows that what we need is something richer and more complex. Something that isn’t limp or watery. Some substantial transformation. The real deal. He won’t cheapen it to save some time. Trust Him, and hang on, dear friend. 

“As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me.”  

Micah 7:7

More than just words

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This post is rated PG-13, and also involves some political stuff – so if either of these will upset you, please feel free to skip it. I just felt a strong need to share.

I was 13. It’s one of those life-changing moments when you remember every detail, whether you want to or not. I was wearing my olive green sweater with oversized buttons and a tan skirt. I remember the exact seat I was sitting in. I wonder now if he remembers that he even did this to me. Was it even a big deal to him?

He touched me in a way that made me want to scream and run, but instead it was like I became mute and couldn’t make a single sound. But I was screaming on the inside. I remember begging on the inside for him to stop, please stop! Please someone, see this! Anyone! But no one did. Finally he quit, and we left the room and I didn’t speak of it until decades later.

I won’t lie, in a way I have felt guilty all these years because I didn’t say anything to point it out, to make him stop, to humiliate him and save myself from what happened. I don’t even know how it did happen. What made him think that would be okay? There was nothing I said or did that could have made him think I would be on board with that. Nothing. But he took a chance, and for decades I have suffered significantly from it.

Did he chat it up with other friends? Laugh it off? Feel proud of himself? Was this “locker room talk?”

The last few days, my newsfeed has been filled with Donald Trump and his comments from 2005. Google it (Donald Trump 2005 should get you there) if you have been without the television or internet for the past few days, because I don’t want to repeat them. But I was appalled. I intended to write this blog Sunday  night, but cried myself to sleep instead.

Hearing those words, and reading posts from other women who said they have experienced someone assault them and that the pain that is still with them, brought some serious emotions.

I can tell you that over the last few days whenever I heard, read, or saw a Facebook “like” or “share” by men (or women) who I have respected and trusted that support the idea that those were “only words,” or “locker room talk” and “who hasn’t said something like that or worse?” it physically hurt.

It feels like each of these people I respect were all standing in that room that day when that boy did what he wanted at my expense, cocking their head and telling me “it’s not that big a deal.”

So while I’m not saying this to sway your vote one way or another – your vote is your right – I am saying that what he said is a big deal. And it saddens me and hurts me deeply to hear people say that everyone says these kinds of things and worse (And as a side note, I must remind you that these weren’t words that Trump said in his early twenties, when he was young and naïve and stupid – he was 59 – like your grandfather or your dad).

Please think for just a minute right now about someone treating your wife, your daughter, or your sister the way Trump spoke of “Nancy” that day. Still just words? Still just “locker room talk?”

We are worth more than that.

And this part is for those who feel like it’s okay to accept or overlook words that are said, written, or shared – that it wasn‘t a big deal:

One of the few times I have tried having a yard sale, I remember putting the price on the Home Interior pictures from the ‘80s, and assuming they would sell. But for some reason, the few customers we had weren’t biting. They thought the price was too high. They wanted cheap. They didn’t really care about my things as much as I did, and weren’t willing to invest the way I thought my things deserved.

People will determine your value by the price you put on yourself. If you require respect and cherishing, people will see that you deserve it. And the ones not willing to give it won’t waste your time. But if you “clearance” yourself and show that you will take whatever, that’s what you will get.

I saw this image on my Facebook newsfeed. “If American women are so outraged at Trump’s use of naughty words, who in the hell bought 80 million copies of ‘50 Shades of Grey?’”

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I am not proud of this, but I will admit I bought a copy of that book when it came out. It was the choice of a book club I am in, and I excused it by saying it’s only fair. They read my book choices, so I can read theirs too. I deeply regret that $13. The book goes against every bit of how I think a woman should be treated. And yet I was reading it for entertainment. Stupid. And for that I am sorry.

I don’t see how I can say I want to be respected and valued and treasured and then tell society what I want is a purely physical relationship, and I want to be looked at as a sexual object.

We are sending mixed messages. We say we want respect and then we say we think it’s fun to imagine someone desiring us solely for our bodies and what we can do for them, whether we want to or not.

Do we really think being treated like the girl in 50 Shades is what we long for? Do we really want to value our men in a purely sexualized way, dancing on stage like in “Magic Mike?” (didn’t see that one – but it is just as unfair for women to devalue men. If we women don’t want it said about us, don’t say it about them. Please.) Are we okay with being portrayed strategically/barely-covered with another strategically/barely-covered woman trying to sell cheeseburgers or underwear? I’m saying that it is time we see our value and refuse to accept anything less than that.

Dear sister, you are worth it.

And if you don’t think anyone will ever value you for more, please know that you are wrong. I am certain people will, and more importantly, God does.

“Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you…” Isaiah 43:4a (ESV)

You are precious in God’s eyes, and honored, and loved. You are worth so much. Please don’t sell yourself short.

And don’t let anyone who tries to devalue you, and what you are worth, get away with it. And certainly don’t make excuses for them.

 

 

 

A God who gives you flowers

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Yesterday I was feeling a little overwhelmed about something and was trying not to let tears come. I went on the Wal-Mart to do my weekly shopping, and while I was passing through the produce, I stopped to look at the flowers. So pretty, and pretty cheap, and I almost  picked them up, but decided against it. It wasn’t necessary, there were other expenses this week, and I hadn’t finished the shopping yet. 

So I went on to FoodFair and then Kroger, where I was picking up a few balloons to make the house a little more festive for Noah’s birthday. 
The florist talked quite a bit while she was filling these things with helium- we chatted about Easter, about the weather, about her job, and flowers. 
After she finished with the balloons, she looked at me and handed me two beautiful bouquets of flowers, and said, “These are for you.”
It made my day. 
I am so thankful for a God who cares enough to give his girl some flowers, and for a florist who cared enough to play a part in it. ❤️ 

  

 

He gives us what we need

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On this evening, Jesus had just finished his last meal with his friends closest to Him – the ones who said yes and followed, the ones who watched Him, failed Him, and loved Him.

 

They all went to the Mount of Olives, and Jesus went to pray. And not just any prayer, but some emotion-filled words to his Father. He had shared with his disciples that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow, and now He was coming to the only One who could bring peace in the middle of the impending storm.

 

He asked God if there might be some other way. Some other way to save us all, other than his beating, his suffering, his death? Any other way?

 

Though nothing I’ve been through can compare with what Jesus went through, I will admit that there have been things God has wanted me to do – things I did not feel strong enough for – and in that moment, I wanted another way out. Something, anything.

 

Yet.

 

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 

In spite of the pain, ridicule, torture- He is on board. He isn’t backing out, though He could have. He loved us that much.

 

And if you are feeling there is something God is calling you to do, or something you are going through right now that just seems too much, run to the One who will provide you with what you need.

 

Jesus did.

 

And God gave Him what He needed.

 

“An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” -Luke 22:43

 

We were never meant to go through anything alone. God is there, providing. Don’t miss out on that. He is faithful, giving us strength when we are weakest.

 

Jesus got up from that prayer, and went on to do what He came here for. Thank You, Jesus, for your sacrifice, and thank You Father for your faithfulness.

 

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

 

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What I learned from Ash Wednesday

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Ash-Wednesday-crossLast week I attended my first Ash Wednesday service. Growing up in a protestant church all my life, I am not in the loop on many liturgical practices, but over the last few years I have had friends who participate in the Lenten season. Their experiences made me interested and curious, and one year Noah and I actually did practice “giving up” something during this time. But the Ash Wednesday service was still foreign to me.

I remember another friend of mine mentioning she wanted to go to one this year, and so I messaged her and found out the time and place, and gave it a go. It was beautiful.

A bunch of protestant churches in our community combined to have a service at lunch time. The church was one of the older, formal-looking churches on one of the main avenues in our city. I found my way inside, just in time, and got comfortable, right before I began to get uncomfortable.

But it wasn’t the ashes, or the local reporter snapping pictures, that had me unnerved. The service was lovely, with singing, and very clear instructions on when people would be standing, what they would be saying, and the words to the songs. A local minister spoke about  how the ashes remind us of our mortality, and of the cross, and the salvation offered to us. She said it reminds us of our anticipation of returning to dust, when we will be with Christ forever. It was precisely what I needed.

During the service however, there were passages of scripture read. And sometimes when I hear scripture read by someone else, it just comes at me in a new and different way. That’s what got me.

The scripture was from Isaiah 53:1-12 and 1 Peter 1:3-9. The scripture from Peter read, in part,

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Greatly rejoicing, even when suffering all kinds of trials? And there is a reason for these trials?

It is so hard for me to see the good in trials. 2015 was a kind of a tough year, and I anticipated 2016, excited to see what it would hold. We are on the upswing. But truthfully, it doesn’t feel like the upswing.

Many people around me are hurting deeply – some physically, some in all other sorts of ways. And my heart hurts as well – sometimes due to empathy and compassion, other times for selfish reasons.

I don’t want to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. I don’t want to go through a refining fire, and I don’t want that for my people. I like comfort, and I will work hard to avoid anything that takes that away. If I must go through something that I know will feel a little prickly, I dread it for days in advance. And during the reading of this Scripture, here is what I came to realize:

I have worshipped comfort instead of the Comforter.

After some tears and some soul-searching, I realized the root of my problem is putting too much stock in this life. Even in the scripture we just read, it says, “though now for a little while.” This life is so teeny-tiny compared to eternity; yet I find myself repeatedly looking at situations through eyes that only see the here and now. If I could learn to look at each circumstance in relation to forever, realizing what is happening now is only temporary, only for a little while, I could get my knickers out of a twist.

My comfort is not supposed to be my goal. Serving, loving, giving, caring – all the things that focus on others – my heart knows these are the most important. Sharing God with the hurting around me. But it is so easy for me to forget that, and focus on myself way too much.

For when we are sinking under the weight of the struggle, here a few tips that might help us:

1. When going through a hard time, accept the help and prayers that are offered. Sometimes it’s tempting to withdraw from people when difficult times happen, but don’t. God gave us the beautiful gift of community. If you have friends who will pray for you, or listen to you as you sort things out, you are blessed. Don’t waste that.

2. Look for the bigger picture – Is there some way this situation can point someone to Jesus? If so, it is worth it.

3. When I’m facing a tough situation, I need to look for the best way to let God work and be seen. If it’s through worshipping Him even in the dark and scary, then I will do it. If it is keeping an eye out for a lesson to learn and ways to grow my faith, then that’s what I need to do.

In Scripture, the apostle Paul, who suffered way more than I ever have, had this take on suffering:
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Good things can come from tough situations. Let’s look for them.