Reality Check

Mother’s Day is difficult for me. I enjoy all the well wishes and the gifts from my Husband and kids, but its  still difficult. It’s difficult because I lost my mom four years ago, and well, there’s just nobody to say Happy Mother’s Day to.  If you’re like me, and your mom has died, then you probably know what I mean. It’s easy to say it to strangers and friends, but when your Mom is gone, it’s not the same. There’s this missing part of you that can’t be replaced.

If your much younger and your Mom is still alive, then you probably won’t get it. I didn’t get it either. She was just Mom. The parent that knew what you were doing, when you wished she didn’t. The one who seemed to read your mind. But, also the one who called at the right moment when you needed it most. The one who hounded you to date and had the perfect person for you- make that her perfect person for you. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you have until its gone. I really understand that saying now.

The most enlightening and frustrating thing that I have learned is this; I now have a better appreciation for the difficulties she went through as a mom. While I was out conquering the world with my can do, don’t care attitude, she was missing me. While I tried to change the subject when she complained to me, she was trying to reach out to me and have me understand and needed a shoulder to cry on. When she said “Stop by when you can” she meant “Please visit me, I like spending time with you and I need your company, and I miss you”   Now that my adult kids are out of the house, I get it. I really get it. Why hadn’t I understood it before?

We all get busy with our own lives and think we will have time for everything- later. They’ll be time to visit our family later. Or, maybe we think we know better than our moms when we are younger. Yep, that was me on both counts. Now,  I see and understand her so much better. But, I can’t tell her that, at least for now, until I see her again. But, I can help you to get it, before I did.

Here’s a list for you to consider: Your mom probably has some good advice for you, she’s been through more than you think she has, she was once young too and faced the same or similar situations, she really didn’t know what she was doing and learned as she went, her parents disapproved of her choices too and didn’t understand her, she was once the young one with the can do attitude who wanted to conquer the world, her mom probably had the perfect person for her too, but then along came your dad, she likes you as a friend too, and she would do anything for you and wants you to ask her.

I can only hope that you will take time for you mom and listen to her. Time and experience has made her wiser. She’s fallen on her face a few times and picked herself up. She knelt by your bed and prayed with you and for you. And she probably stills prays for you. She wants the best for you and hopes you won’t make the same mistakes she did. She wants to protect you from the hurts and the cruelties of the world. She is worth listening to. And the reality of it is this; as she gets older she will need you more than you think you need her. Reality is, you both need each other for your whole life. -God Bless -Nancy

 

Live It

“Let it go, let it go….”   How many times have you heard that line from a famous Disney movie? Let’s be honest here, how many times have you sung those words? Now that I have that song stuck in your head, let me go on.

It’s just one of many phrases that I’m sure you have heard before. Just let it go, or it doesn’t really matter, or you gotta pick your battles- usually advice from older wiser parents, and the classic whatever is good for them is good for them and whatever is good for me is good for me, it just doesn’t matter. But, what if it does matter? This morning as I got up, I thought about whether what I did mattered. Like does it matter if  I write my paper for class. Does it matter what I believe? Does it matter what I do? And I believe I have an answer. Yes, it does. We need to start living life like we mean it. Intentionally. We have been bombarded with so many cliches and phrases to just let it go, don’t worry about it, let them do their thing, that I think we have applied it to our lives too much. I know I have.

We do need to care about things. The things that matter in our lives. Like social justice and what we believe. We need to be change makers and not just complacent Christians who take whatever is given to us to believe by others. We need to know for ourselves what we believe. We should change what needs changing and when we can’t make changes, we should speak up about the problems, to the ones in authority who can make changes. We should not be settlers.

I have realized that recently, I have been settling, and just letting things go too much and what has been robbed from me is my passion. And that is what challenged me this morning. Was I really living my life like I meant it? Am I being intentional? Being intentional is important as it can change lives and change history. Being passionate and caring about others and in what I believe matters.

Recently, thanks to my Aunt Betty, I learned about a distant relative of mine who lived in England in the 1600’s. She was locked up in a tower for speaking out against the church of England. She wasn’t beheaded, but I applaud her for her courage to not just let it go. She and several of my other relatives, boarded small wooden boats and left home, family and the life they knew to risk going to a place where they could raise their children with religious freedom. How many of us would do that today? But… It changed history. The people on that boat became the foundation of the United States. They must have believed in something better, and lived their lives like they meant it. No holding back, no settling, no compromising and just letting it go. I am thankful for their decision as I sit here now in a country where I can still worship freely.

Let me leave you with this verse from Ephesians 5:15- 17;”Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (NIV).   This whole chapter, chapter 5 of Ephesians, has much to say about intentional living as Paul was writing to the church at Ephesus. Ephesus was an interesting place, full of commerce, and tourist sites, including one of the seven wonders of the world, a temple to a 50 foot goddess. The Christians there could have gone with the flow, but they too had to make a choice to live like they meant it and be intentional or just settle. It was Paul who courageously set the model for them to follow as he caused riots and destroyed their marketing of goddess replicas for the tourists.

     So, my challenge for myself is to live like I mean it. I need to stand up and speak up more about what matters, because it DOES matter. May that be your challenge as well. -God Bless Nancy

 

Location, Location, Location

Where’s your there? Have you ever thought about that? Confused? Don’t worry, let me explain first and we’ll come back to that question in a minute. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day here in the south east part of the United States where I live. So, to enjoy this nice day of warm sunshine without any clouds in the sky, my husband and I went out for a coffee date. We went to our usual place that offers regular coupons allowing us to buy one coffee and get one free (we are very cheap with our dates!). It also has tables outside where customers might sit, talk, and enjoy their coffees on beautiful sunny days.

Coffee dates like this one are great times to talk with your spouse. You are away from home for a short time and free from distractions. On this beautiful sunny day we were out sharing the highs and lows of the past week. We also shared new challenges upcoming for our lives. I share this scene because I want to encourage you to do the same. Spending time talking, away from distractions is a benefit for relationships. Second, I wanted to share with you some of our conversation so that you might understand my question; “Where’s your there?”

As I was sharing my concerns with my husband, who by the way is a great listener, when we are away from the distractions at home, a subject came up. I recently had the opportunity to share some of my personal, educational, professional and ministry information on a website. My first thought when I saw this opportunity was “Wow, this is great” and “This could be a great opportunity for getting my self out there!” Immediately though, my second thought was “Is this where I want to be?” Is this organization the right one for me, that would represent what I believe in and am trying to promote?

Have you ever been the recipient of great advice that tells you “Just get out there!”or, “Put your name out there!” Maybe a coworker was encouraging you, or your best friend, or your mom. I admit I have said this many times to my own adult children. A few years ago there was even a marketing campaign for a cruise line that said “Get out there!”

I admit, I don’t always like the marketing and platform building done in ministry. It is common now days for ministries and churches to build marketing strategies and branding themselves. So, there are many who offer the advice to “Get your name out there” But, let me ask once again, “Where’s there?” I suspect that there is inhabited by they. I’m sure you’ve heard of they. “They say drinking coffee is good for you. They say drinking coffee is bad for you. They say this is in style.  They say this is out of style.They say you should go to college. They say you do not need a college degree” Have you ever thought who are they and why do they have so much to say? And just where is there that you’re suppose to be getting out to? That’s why I suspect there is where they live.

So, why did I have hesitation about putting my name out there? Well, I have often found that opportunities that do not give me peace are best avoided. It is the Holy Spirit giving me caution about what I am about to do. My husband and I often refer to it as the yellow or caution signal. Sometimes it is obvious and we refer to this as a red flag. But sometimes it is about questioning the there asking whether this is where God wants me to be. Other times it requires asking myself about my own motivations, like “Am I calling attention to myself or pointing others to God?” These two questions, coupled with prayer are essential to test whether something is from God and beneficial.

The Bible tells us we are to test things to see if they are from God. One example is found in 1 John 4:1 “Dear friends do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (New International Version Bible).  Paul, like John, offers this from Romans; “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will” (12:2, NIV).

The Bible also tells us that are works will be tested. This is where the motivation question, my second question, that I ask myself comes into play. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about this subject as well; “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will  be revealed by fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:12-13). If my motivation is solely for myself then it is like adding straw to the fire; it’s going to get burned up, in other words, its not going to last into eternity. It’s basically worthless.

So, in this combination of questions, the where and the motivation, helps me to decide if this is the there I want to be. So, let me ask you again; “Where’s your there?”  Is it a place where you will be in God’s will? Is it a place where you are pointing others to God, or just to yourself?  Location is important. God has something good for you and listening to Him will put you in the right place at His right time. We can get ( and give) great advice to help others grow and move past difficulties and “get out there”. Let’s make sure we know where the “there” is. Is it in God’s will, or somewhere else? -God Bless- Nancy

Brand Ambassador

So, looking for a job is tough. Sometimes it can be down right depressing and at other times it can be confusing. I have been casually looking for a job and check my inbox daily to see if anything has popped up. Sometimes I notice what sounds like an amazing job by its title, click on the link, and then find out its for something totally different than what I expected. Recently I saw a job posting for a brand ambassador. Wow, sounds impressive, right? I mean ambassador, that conjures up the idea of a dignitary from a foreign country or something. And branding, well when I hear that I think of advertising and the creative types who come up with all those catchy graphics and slogans. But, and I say a big but, what this job was involved handing out food samples at groceries stores. Yup, my big bubble of high expectations burst! Well, its a good job, don’t get me wrong, just not what I expected from the job title.

Have you ever been let down like that? When something sounded great in name, but in reality it was a big let down? A big disappointment? But, what about us? Have we ever been a disappointment to others? Were they expecting something else? I’m sure I can guess you answered yes to a few of those questions, but have you ever realized that as Christians we are brand ambassadors? We are the faces of Christ followers in the world. We are in the world as His ambassadors. Now,  have you ever thought about how you are representing the brand? When people think of the word Christian, do they think of you? And more importantly, is it in a good sense of the word?

See, the word Christian was not first used by Christians as a title or job description, but by the unbelieving world. It was a slanderous term. It is said that the first use of the word Christian was used at the church at Antioch and was a nick name created by the people of Antioch, not the Christians themselves. In fact, it was a large commercial city where persecuted Christians fled after the death of Stephen. The estimated population of the city was half a million people at the time. So, with such a large population and with fear of persecution on their minds, you would think the Christians would try to blend in, not stand out. But, they must have, for it is there where the first time the term “Christian” was mentioned. The first branding if you will. And the name has stuck since the early first century.

Why would the first believers want to stand out and get a ribbing for their nick name “Christians”? Well, that is what their job was. Not to blend in, but to stand out, to shine, not hide. In Matthew 15:14-16 Jesus tells His followers that they are the light of the world and they are to let that light shine. His exact words are: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (NIV).

We have the Good news, the light of the world to share and the hope to offer a world that is looking for hope and answers. I have to admit, I feel like I don’t always do that well. Sometimes I am not a very good brand ambassador, handing out hope and the Good news to all I meet. Sometimes I’m sure I have let others down and shown them something less than Christ, something that deserves being labeled a hypocrite or given a slanderous nick name like “Christian” as the people of Antioch did to the early believers there. But, I hope with Easter coming soon, we can all be challenged to remember who we are as Christ’s ambassadors and share the great news He is risen.As Christians we are not perfect, but that is exactly why we need a savior. Being a Christian is not about being perfect, but realizing we can never measure up to God’s standards, and must rely completely on Christ’s substitutionary death for us.We can’t earn our way to Heaven by our behavior or religious rituals or traditions,but only by putting our faith in Jesus Christ. “But because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive in Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved…..For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9, NIV).

This news is for everyone, not just a select group. And if you have received Christ as your savior, then you have been given a job. You are a brand ambassador for Christ. Unsure what this job entitles? Let me assure you its not always easy, but it is everything.For a complete job description consult God’s Word. Happy Easter and  God Bless You- Nancy

Hold On To Faith

“When everything is gone and all you have left is faith, hold on to faith” I wish I had said this, but no, it is actually is a line from a television series I am currently watching. Let me put it into context for you; one man presumably the son- although it hasn’t been revealed as such yet- is complaining to the older man (his father) that he has lost everything that mattered to him. To which the father replies he too has in the past lost everything that mattered to him, BUT. And this is where the line comes in, he learned that he did still have faith, and that is what sustained him while he was held prisoner for several years. he bent down to his son and encouraged him by telling him to hold on to faith.

So, maybe you think that’s just for cinematic effect, that’s not real life. But, let me assure you it is every bit real life. Recently, I heard about a family who’s son was involved in a car accident. The accident did not take his life, but has left him paralyzed. They are now preparing for his return home, but realizing their home needs quite a bit of modification before he can return such as a wheelchair ramp and the widening of doors. Although this family is no doubt thankful for the sparing of their son’s life, there is still loss and grief they must go through. Loss because their lives will not be as they had thought. They might have to give up on dreams they had for their son, or perhaps their own in order to provide care for him.

There are many kinds of losses in this life and not all involve the death of someone, although that is definitely a more difficult one to process and grieve. But, there are losses when we change jobs, move, watch our kids grow up and leave home. Friends change, relationships end, dreams die. These are all losses and at times they can feel as if we have lost everything.

Have you had losses like this? I would be more surprised if you haven’t. That is what this blog is about for me, changing times in life and how to handle them by living a life of faith. I really wish I could say I have all the answers to how to deal with losses, but I am still in this processing stage myself. That is why lines like the one I shared from the television series can stand out to me and be a helpful reminder to “Hold on to faith”

The Bible as well gives encouragement to our holding on to faith when all else seems to have left. Faith in God sustains us, builds us up, and keeps us going when we just want to give up. Maybe you have heard of this passage from Jeremiah 29:11; “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” Wow, so good, maybe you’ve even memorized this verse, own it on a plaque on your wall, or used for your graduation verse for high school. Well, do you want the good news or the bad news? At least this seems to be what God does with this passage in Jeremiah.

See, before you get too comfortable with this much quoted verse, maybe we should unpack the context of it and take a closer look at it, so we won’t misapply it. Jeremiah was a prophet and it was his job to tell those in charge what God was about to do. So we find this verse is a part of a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the elders and priests who had been captured and taken away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. So, you might say of the people he was writing to, they had lost everything. They had been kidnapped and sent to another country. Yeah that’s the bad news, but wait there’s more! In verse 28 God tells them they will be there for 70 years, and THEN when the seventy years it up, He will come get them. So, like I said there’s the good news and the bad news. The bad news; “You’ll be exiled for 70 years, but the good news, it’s all going to work out and I’m going to rescue you because I have a plan” So, while this verse is a good one to memorize, remember it’s original context next time. It was encouragement to sustain the people.  Just think about it, seventy years is a long time. Most of us would rather not have the seventy year wait. I know I wouldn’t. I would prefer only the good news, not the bad. We believe God has a plan, but we don’t anticipate the losses in life, the hardships in life, the waiting in life. So, when we find ourselves in those times, when it feels like we have lost everything, yet, we have faith. Faith sustains us, it is our hope and our anchor. Sometimes it is all we have and we have to cling to it for dear life, like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver thrown out to him. When all you have left is faith, hold on to faith. -God bless– Nancy

The Truth About Gratitude

The rain has been falling steadily this morning, so I have been taking my time to get ready for the day. Rainy days make me want to stay inside and enjoy a second cup of coffee in the morning. Growing up on a farm, I know the importance these Spring rains are for the crops. The rain loosens the soil and softens it, enabling the plow to carefully til the soil for the seeds to be planted. So, sometimes the rainy mornings are good for the soil of our own hearts as we can be willing to slow down and take our time before heading out for our day.

This morning was like that as I was watching a streaming program as I slowly enjoyed my second cup of coffee. The program I was watching provides a Bible teaching that has practical application for the everyday life. But, for this morning the programing was about the previous year’s(2018) outreaches that this ministry had been involved in. I have to admit that watching the recap of the natural disasters from last year, made me realize how soon I had forgotten about these. There seems to be so many of them so often, that I have become complacent about them.

But the real message I began to think about as I watched was how much outreach had been provided. Thousand of gallons of water, food and supplies were given. Hundreds of people were helping to load cars with these supplies after having unloaded large semi trucks of donated goods. Groups were carrying buckets full of supplies on foot to homes that could not be reached by car. Volunteers were sifting through the rubble of burned out homes to find valuables for the home owners who had lost everything to wildfires. Many of these teams spent time praying with the homeowners to encourage them and offer hope. So many people were helping in the video, it began to spring up a bit of guilt in me. I wished I had helped out too.

But, what also struck me as I watched was how this particular ministry is criticized because it is run by a woman. In the past I have heard many criticisms from fellow Christians such as she has had plastic surgery, owns a mansion and has a private jet. Or that she teaches prosperity. But the truth is there in what she does as a fellow Christian reaching out to those who are in need. No, this isn’t a plug for her either, but just a realization, that should we should all be challenged to do something for others. We might not have the financial means to give a thousand dollars to over seven hundred and fifty families who lost their homes to fire, but we can do something. It starts with a grateful heart.

But honestly, it’s not about being thankful for what we have, or that its not us that is being affected by a disaster. That’s really not the motivation that I am talking about. It’s the motivation that we should have towards what God has done in our lives. The gratitude that comes from realizing what Christ did on the cross for us, to save us from ourselves. To save us from being separated from Him forever, the thing we deserved, but He took instead in our place, defeating death, once for all. That’s the kind of gratitude we need to have. That is the motivation we need to help others.

Colossians 3:15-17 offers a look into what this attitude should be like; “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts toward God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (NIV).

It’s a long passage, but it offers us an idea of how we should be doing life. If we find ourselves faltering in being grateful and thankful, which according to the passage should be our attitude in what we say or do, it offers the direction to stay in the Word, letting it dwell in you. In other words, reading your Bible, keeps you grateful. Probably because you can be reminded just what you have to be grateful for. It has challenged me today to check my attitude. Have I been grateful lately? Not just thankful. Not just counting my blessings. Not just thankful for what I have. Gratitude isn’t about being thankful for the what in our lives, but the who, Christ, and what He did on the cross. Maybe this upcoming Easter season, we shouldn’t be celebrating new beginnings, but thanksgiving and gratitude, letting God’s Word soften the hardness of our complacent hearts, much like the Spring rains softens the soil, making it ready for planting. -God Bless -Nancy

a.) or b.)

When I first began college I was 48. By some, still young and by others too old to start my education. I did all of my classes online and despite new technology, I found that the tests were the same as when I was in High School, some decades ago. Online tests were either made up of multiple choice or true/ false. I’ve got to be honest; I like multiple choice. With a choice of four to five correct answers, the odds of being right are better than with true/false that only gives you a fifty percent chance of being right. Or being wrong. Multiple choice gives you the opportunity to eliminate the answers that are clearly wrong, or if you’re guessing, the most wrong possible answers. Yes, I admit, I did a lot of guessing.

I finished my undergrad degree in a little over five years and for me, I think that’s pretty good, since I attended part- time. Now I am in the early stages of graduate school/ seminary and I am once again facing the dreaded multiple choices.

But, I don’t mean the tests. I find myself, trying to decide what my next steps are. Do I stick with my degree plan, change degrees, stop school, stay in school, find a job, find a job in my undergrad field, write, or just go on vacation, and not have to decide? Whew!. See there’s the problem. I have made everything more complicated than it has to be.

Thankfully, I was able to be encouraged this week by another believer. If you’ve read my post last week, I shared how we need to inspire and encourage each other as believers. I was challenged by her to choose to believe. That might sound an oversimplification, but its the truth. We all need to CHOOSE to believe and not let our own fears, doubts and worries drive us to confusion and anxiety. Such confusion, worry, anxiety, doubt and fear never comes from God, but from our own thoughts fueled by the enemy.

How should we choose to believe then? In the simplest answer: by changing our thoughts. In Romans 12:2 there is the perfect instruction; “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God”. The best place to start this renewal is found in reading the Bible. From it, we can learn what pleases God and what He thinks about us and how He wants to help us. I am reminded that I need to choose to believe that God has a good plan for my life. I do not have to fear that somehow I might make a wrong choice and miss God’s will for my life. The world teaches us to be anxious about everything; to worry over money, careers, health, aging, status, but the Bible teaches us to trust God. I’ve realized my stress is coming from a place of fear, not faith. Of anxiety over making the wrong choice. You might be facing a similar situation, it seems like there are always multiple choices in life. So, here’s a easy way to remember what to do when you are overwhelmed; you can choose a.) Anxiety or b.) Believe. I’m going to choose b.) it’s the best answer. -God Bless- Nancy