I have been on diets many times in my life. Sometimes it works for a minute, most often it doesn’t. Not the diet’s fault, but mine for not sticking with it. Once I lost 20 pounds, ate a Dorito and never looked back until gaining 40 more pounds. But somehow God has given me a big serving of self-discipline (it was previously one of those fruit basket gifts I had left untouched), and I have managed to let go of 40 pounds.
Before, when I had started a short-lived New Year’s diet, or a random, spur-of-the-moment weight loss plan that I only stuck with for a few minutes, no one bothered ask what I was trying, because they couldn’t tell I was trying anything. But this time, I have had several people ask what I’m doing to lose the weight, because they saw a change in me that was effective. Something was making a difference and they were looking for something that might make a difference for them.
It got me to thinking about my relationship with God. Am I letting Him change me enough that people can tell? Are people intrigued and wanting that kind of change in their own lives? Or have they not noticed a difference?
Jesus tends to make a difference if we’ll let Him.
In Acts chapter 2, the disciples had just received the Holy Spirit and immediately began sharing their faith unafraid. They shared it in chapter 2. They shared the message of Jesus in chapter 3 after healing a man who couldn’t walk. They shared His message in chapter 4 while in jail. These guys had courage. One of these guys was Peter, who you will remember denied even knowing Jesus the night before His crucifixion for fear of what would happen to him.
Something changed. Something was different, and people wanted in on it. Thousands of people were believing in Christ because of what they were seeing and hearing. And these new people were changing too. They were meeting together, they were united, they took care of each other, they selflessly gave away their stuff in case someone else needed something.
In Acts chapter 4, verse 13, even the religious leaders were unsure of how to react. But what they did know was this –
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
Let’s not settle with living good enough. “I prayed enough, probably more than that person. I read my Bible enough, likely as much as this person.” I want to do better than good enough. I’ve don’t that long enough. Let’s decide today to live our lives so in tune with and committed to Jesus, that people will take note that we have been with Him. We can live it out in our attitudes, in our kindness, in our courage. In our actions and our reactions, we can ask ourselves, “How can I let other people see Jesus through this?”
And let’s get ready to share Him.
The day before Christmas break we sat in our classroom, and I watched as the sixth- grade girls began to open their gifts from our teacher. I looked at my package. The shape of my present looked different. I was the only fifth grade girl, and wanted to fit in with the older girls. As they began to open their presents, I saw it was cute socks that teens were wearing at that time.
At that moment, I couldn’t think of anything else that I would rather have than those socks. I didn’t want to open my gift quite yet, holding on to the hope that just maybe what I had in my package was the same thing. As I separated the paper and tape, I saw the doll. My heart sank. I wanted to fit in, by having what they had.
It’s not the first time that I wanted someone else’s gift.
I have looked at people with talents and abilities that I have wanted and felt like I didn’t measure up. Whatever gifts I have seem not cool enough, or not as good as someone else’s.
I listen to people speak in public, and wonder how in the world they do it… I would love to have that gift. Listening to people sing, play the piano, see others’ organizational skills, hospitality, leadership ability… So many gifts I would love to have, especially when I notice other people with them. Not only am I reminded that I don’t have them, but I question the very ones I have been given. I start to feel like I don’t measure up, and that maybe I’m not that great at the gifts I have anyway.
*Side note – I’m pretty sure Satan loves this. He sneaks his way into our head through that tiny crack of comparison, and suddenly has access to much more. While he is in there, he wrecks the place. He fills it with wads of doubt, and boxes of envy, and bags of insecurity – all for me to sort through and unpack for a long time afterward. He is really good at this.
If I can shine some light on them, I would be able to see that those boxes and bags and wads have no place here, and there is nothing in them worth sorting through. Everything must go. That light comes from prayer and reading God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, here is what I read –
“You are Christs’ body – that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your part mean anything… But it’s obvious by now, isn’t it, that Christs’ church is a complete Body and not a gigantic unidimensional Part? It’s not all Apostle, not all Prophet, not all Miracle Worker, not all Healer, not all Prayer in Tongues, not all Interpreter of Tongues. And yet some of you keep competing for so-called ‘important’ parts.” 1 Corinthians 12:27, 31 (Message)
“God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is. Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful…” 1 Corinthians 12:6,7 (Message)
My gifts aren’t shabby. Yours aren’t either. When we quit comparing, and focus on the reason for having the gifts in the first place, we can see the beauty. We can see how we can all work together to “show who God is.” It really is wonderful.
To be honest, I really loved the doll. It was a good gift for me. I just had to take my eyes off everyone else’s gift to see how great mine was.
I was about to ship my only son off on a plane to spend a week with his friend, and I was savoring every minute of the three-hour car ride to the airport. Snacks, music, sunshine – it was perfect.
I had been this route before, but I was taking in all the scenery. The trees were especially beautiful that day, and there were times the early morning rays of sunshine spread out over the hills in front of us and made me want to stop for pictures.
Wide, open fields and big older homes had me wondering about the people who lived there and what they might do with their days. Do they farm? Do they have other jobs and have to come home and tend to all the gardening themselves?
And there was conversation. I love getting to talk to him. The older my son gets I realize how quickly we are cruising to the end of the time I get to spend with him like this.
The one thing I did not realize, however, is how quickly we were cruising through Circleville.
The lights behind me let me know it was probably faster than it should have been. And the kind officer who asked for my license and registration confirmed it by telling me I had been going 72 in a 60. I received my first speeding ticket in all of my driving years. And I deserved it. I do the crime, I do the time (well, pay the fine, I guess).
He also asked me if I had realized what the speed limit was, and I honestly said no, because it turns out I had not paid any attention to it.
I was looking at the beautiful sunshine, and the trees, and the houses, and occasionally the road, but had only noticed a speed limit sign a couple of times the entire trip.
What I was paying attention to was lovely, but I was focused on the wrong thing.
And it’s certainly not the first time I’ve done that.
I can get so distracted by things in life, sometimes things that aren’t a bit good for me, and oftentimes things that seem harmless. But if they are taking my attention from what I should be focused on, I need to be reminded.
Life is busy, and there are a thousand things that need our attention. But the most important part of our days is without a doubt our time with God. When we keep our eyes focused on Him, we are less likely to mess it all up, and Satan is less likely to distract us from how God is wanting to use us while we are here. And boy is he good at it. He will distract us with busyness and he will distract us with sin. He will distract with frustrations and disagreements. He distracts with dangling an imitation of what you really need right in front of your face. Don’t let him. Focus on God. He has what you need.
“Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
1 Peter 5:8
Let’s make it a priority – keep our time with God above everything else. And use cruise control in Circleville.
I have been in a total of two strip clubs in my lifetime, both for work; not as a dancer, but as a reporter wanting to do a story.
One club that ultimately was willing to participate in the story had me stop in on a Thursday night, during operating hours. When I finally gathered enough courage to walk in, I took note of what I saw as I waited on the young women who would be speaking with me. Most of the club was dark, with neons and spotlights highlighting the parts of the room they wanted visitors to focus on – the bar and the dancers. Loud music, a party kind of feel. Kind of what I expected.
I was able to get the story and talk to two sweet girls who I am hoping by now really were able to get their education from Ashland Community College and begin a new career.
The other club I had stopped in was a different scenario altogether. It was a small, lesser-known club on Route 60, and I stopped by during lunchtime to see if any of the dancers would be willing to share their story. Lunchtime isn’t a busy shift for exotic dancers so the only person there when I walked in was a cleaning lady. Turns out, she and the owner both assumed I was from the health department (not relevant to this story, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it – was it that I and my grey turtleneck sweater gave off a sense of purity that would clearly say I wasn’t there to do anything worldly, or was it that I gave an overall feel of a health inspector rather than a dancer? For some reason I felt slightly insulted…)
No dancers were there at the time, so I talked with the cleaning person for a few minutes, and left my business card, but I also gave a quick look around the room with the lights on. No music, just some wooden tables scattered around the room, with chairs haphazardly placed as if they themselves were in a game of freeze tag and were paused in precarious positions. A tiny stage. Floors sticky with spilled alcohol from the night before. It looked old, and cheap. Nothing fun or classy about it.
Things sure look different with the lights on.
I was thinking about how Satan can use all his trickery, making sin look so beautiful and cool and fun, and then what we are left with is the music-off, lights-on version, the real version. The one that shows the damage and the grossness and the emptiness. I have been there.
Satan sees what we are longing for, and presents us with a fraud, something that seems almost like what we are looking for, and in the dark, amid the spotlights and the loud music, you think you might have found it. But eventually the lights come on. Whatever it was that seemed like the answer is now revealed for what it truly is, and we are left with guilt and shame.
We are looking for our answers in the wrong places. We want to find fulfillment and purpose and meaning in another person, or in our job or in our money. But none of that is where it is. All of those things can only be found in God. He is where we are fulfilled, where we find our purpose, where our lives have meaning.
It’s important to keep your eyes on Him, so you aren’t tricked into searching for those things somewhere else.
In the Bible, in 2 Kings, chapter 6, starting at verse 8, the prophet Elisha is passing along messages from God, warning the King when he is about to be attacked by the Arameans. This ticks the king off royally (see what I did there? J ) and he says he is going to capture Elisha. The Arameans surrounded the city where Elisha was staying during the night. When his servant woke up in the morning and saw them all, he freaked out a little, but Elisha was completely chill. He could see what the servant could not. So He prayed to God, asking Him to let the servant see what he saw.
“And Elisha prayed, ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” 2 Kings 6:17
What was really there was an army of God, ready to protect Elisha, and Elisha wanted his servant to see it.
I have certainly been unable, and I have had people I love unable, to see things for what they are. And while the situations are kind of opposite, my prayer is the same as Elisha, I have prayed for their eyes to be opened. To see things as they really are. If only they could see what the sin will look like with the lights on, if they could see Satan as the mastermind behind it, they would run for their lives. But in the dark, fixated on what we think we need, we are tricked. Snookered. Lured in and left with emptiness.
If you have seen this firsthand, and fell for it, as most of us have, I pray that you will find healing and redemption in God. He is really good at what He does. He has done it for me.
If you have people in your life that you see headed that direction, pray hard for their eyes to be opened. The God of Elisha is still the same God today.
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.
I 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. ❤
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.”