Inspire

What inspires you? Or maybe I should say who inspires you? If you’ve been a Christian for some time you might answer this question with “The Bible of course!” But aside from a typical Sunday school answer, let’s consider other ways we can be inspired: from each other.

Recently I visited my sister in law in her new home. As she showed my husband and I around the house, she pointed out all the improvements she had done. She had painted the walls, added tiles to her bathroom and kitchen and decorated each room carefully. She and my brother in law had recently moved in and she was taking the time she had while looking for a new job to decorate her home.  After seeing their home, I left inspired. I began to think of what changes I could make in my own home. My husband and I moved into our current home about eight months ago and we really haven’t done much to change what was already in the house. In our last home, we did many projects and updates in anticipation of downsizing and selling it. So, we were tired of doing projects and updates and our new home looks much the same as when we moved in.

Sometimes it takes a visit to a friend’s house to get inspired for change. Or, to a local home improvement store to get inspired for changes in our homes, but what inspires your faith? Do you ever find yourself just going through the motions in your faith life? It’s just the same old thing? Well, aside from reading the Bible which IS a great place to start to read about others who have gone before us and learn and be inspired from them; we can find faith inspiration from one another. An example of this is found in Hebrews.

The Book of Hebrews was written for a group of believers who needed inspiration. They had been recent converts from Judaism and needed to understand that their new beliefs were on track and that they could continue on hoping in Christ, even if their circumstances seemed difficult. The author of Hebrews writes; “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV). It wasn’t just the author of Hebrews job to inspire and encourage, but he was asking the Hebrews to encourage each other. To spur each other, to inspire each other if you will.

So, maybe we should ask ourselves, “How are we inspiring others?”  instead of asking ourselves why we are bored in our faith. Sometimes we need to take the focus off ourselves and how we are feeling and examine how we are influencing and inspiring others. My sister in law might not have realized how she was inspiring me, but she did. As Christians, we need each other to grow and be encouraged in our faith. Be sure to share your ideas, your stories, and your own inspiration with others. You never know just how they might have needed to be encouraged today. God Bless- Nancy

Setbacks

Some of the best ideas I get when deciding what to write in this blog come from my family. Just last night my Husband made a very good observation; we have a bike seat but no bike and pillows but no bed. Let me explain what he meant. See a couple weeks ago I ordered an exercise bike. Nothing fancy, just something to help my husband get back in shape. Oh, and me too! After reading all the reviews online I decided that we also needed a gel seat thingy to go on the bike. Well, the gel seat arrived, but the bike never did. They lost it. Just how do you lose a 76 pound box with two day shipping is beyond me. Oh well, so we have a seat and no bike.

Later that same week we ordered a new mattress and yesterday the delivery company called and said they have the pillows, but the mattress wasn’t loaded on the truck. So…. I will have pillows but no bed. The mattress will be delivered sometime later in the week, but until then its just the pillows.. And the bike seat.   Have you ever had something like this happen? We make our plans and purchase our items, but then there is a setback. A wait. How do you handle the wait?

I have had many setbacks over my years on this planet. Some turned out to be really good, like issues with infertility. We now have three grown children, but I recall the times when everyone I know was getting pregnant. It was tough. To wait. The biggest thing I have learned is that no matter how upset or angry I might get when things do not turn out the way I want when I want them to is it doesn’t change a thing.

I have also learned that people can make mistakes with orders and getting upset and angry at the other person, whether it is a store or a delivery company, doesn’t do much good. For one thing, it doesn’t make a lost bike reappear, or a mattress suddenly load itself on a truck. It doesn’t change my mood either. But, showing grace towards others can. We all can make mistakes, so wouldn’t it be nice if someone would extend some grace towards us when we mess up? And how we handle the wait when we have a setback is what God is trying to help us with. To grow us up, so we won’t get upset over the little things in life. He is helping us to learn to trust Him.

If you have felt like learning to wait and trusting God is difficult, you’re not alone. King David wrote about trusting God in the Psalms. It is a good book of the Bible to read when you’re struggling. It has helped me. In Psalm 20:7 David writes, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of our Lord our God” (NIV). Sounds good huh? But then keep reading to chapter 22 when David cries out to God and exclaims “Oh my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer” (vs. 2, NIV). So, what’s up with that? Well, what you’ll find is David’s heartfelt conversation with God in prayer and praise. He complains at times out of his desperation, but then remembers how God has been there for him in the past and ends up praising God for His goodness.

See, sometimes we want to believe all those people in the Bible were so perfect and so spiritual without major problems or setbacks, but in reality they are like us. Or we are like them, if you will. As you read the Bible you will discover that the people God worked through were not the mighty spiritual giants, but just people like us. The ones that make mistakes and the ones who have setbacks. The ones without bikes for our seats or beds for our pillows. The ones who have to learn to trust Him and not ourselves. God Bless -Nancy

Easy Faith?

There was something about Mary. No, she wasn’t in a movie by that title. She wasn’t famous or rich. She didn’t drive a nice car or even wear nice clothes. But, she always looked nice and showed up to her work on time. I remember she would wear a zip front polyester blouse with a floral design. Her pants, also of polyester, would be of whatever color matched the flowers in her blouse. She drove an old car and made sure we always had the most delicious molasses oatmeal cookies after school. No, Mary wasn’t my Mom, but an older lady who took care of my brothers and I while my Mom worked alongside my Dad on our farm. She picked us up from school, helped my Mom make meals, and took care of everything my Mom couldn’t while she was driving trucks or tractors with my Dad.

So, what was it about Mary? She suffered from severe asthma. She often would have to sit down in the middle of work and grab her inhaler and catch her breath. Even when she felt her worse, she would still take the time to walk to the barn to find my Dad to relay a telephone message. (there weren’t cell phones back then!) I used to feel bad for her when my two older brothers would dial the home phone from an upstairs line and she would run to pick it up downstairs, only to find they had hung up when she answered. This usually sparked an asthma attack. Yet, she kept loving on us as young children. Why? It wasn’t because she had an easy life. She had lost her husband to death by alcohol, had no children of her own, lived alone, and had asthma. Mary had faith.

Faith was what kept her going and kept her attitude in check. I didn’t become a Christian until I was 13 so I didn’t understand anything about faith or God when I was young. But, as a young child I saw it in her. I saw her attitude of selflessness,of loving, forgiving and serving others even when it was difficult for her, even painful for her. She attended Mass at her church faithfully and she gave of her small earnings. I witnessed faith in action in her life.

What is faith to you? Is it the definition found in Hebrews 11:1? “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (NIV). Or does it describe your particular religion or denomination? Is it found in weekly church attendance, or does it describe your belief IN a God? If you read all of Hebrews 11, you’ll find quite a list of people who had faith. It’s often called the “Hall of Faith”, but few ever bother to read all of the chapter down to verses 35b- 40, that begins “There were others” This a contrasting statement and  an introduction to look at the others, the ones who didn’t have everything work out perfectly with faith. The ones who were tortured, chained, killed. poor. Yeah those ones. So, why would the writer of the Book of Hebrews put that there at the end of the wonderful story of faith that recalls all the good things that happened to those who had faith? Because that is the real side of faith. Faith isn’t believing in it is believing. Romans 4:3 says “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness”(NIV). Abraham didn’t just believe in a God, but he believed God. That is he believed what God said, even when things looked difficult or impossible. That isn’t easy. It’s not easy faith. It is hard faith.

My youngest, Chris, who is a sophomore in college and an aspiring filmmaker, has taught me quite a bit about film making. I credit him for telling me about the hard faith film genre. Maybe you havn’t heard about it either, but it is starting to get recognition in Hollywood with films like “Generational Sins” by Third Brother Films. I haven’t seen it yet, so this isn’t an endorsement, but just to let you know that hard faith is a thing. It does not wrap up the Christian life in an easy package.  It depicts reality, not just what we want reality to be. It is not wishful thinking.  It is the difficult faith like the faith of those in Hebrews- the “other” ones at the end of the chapter. It is the hard faith of real life. it is life in all its ugliness, imperfectness and unanswered questions. It is the faith found in a woman named Mary, who demonstrated it in front of a family who at the time didn’t have a faith in God. She never got healed of her asthma, never got rich, and eventually grew old and passed away. But, she like the “others” of Hebrews now have something better. And though she didn’t receive greatness here, she made a big impact on a young girl, who would later write about her. That is real faith, not that you believe in God and what He can or could do in your life, but that you believe God. Trust Him, that He’s got this, even when life is hard and difficult. When people aren’t healed and storms cut lives short. Faith is what can keep our attitudes in check and is what others can see demonstrated in us and through us as Christians. Don’t show just an easy faith, show them what faith is like when things aren’t going your way. When you find yourself as one of the “others” of Hebrews 11. That’s my challenge for you for this week. -God Bless -Nancy

Adequate

So allergy season has begun in the southeastern part of the United States where I live. How do I know? I am feeling the physical effects of the yellow pollen covering the ground. Just like the foggy layer on my car’s windshield, my head seems to be in a fog as well. My throat scratches, my eye blurs, my nose stuffs, and my head hurts. Yay for Spring! Actually, I really love Spring; it is my favorite season. Everything feels fresh and new and I enjoy planting flowers and planning for the summer ahead. I remember my Mom used to plant a large vegetable garden and in early Spring she would draw a map of her proposed garden, designing each row according to the size and shape of the plants she would have. I like to do the same, so I guess in that way I take after her.

Yesterday I was standing in my driveway, when I noticed all the weeds that had popped up in the small flower bed alongside. I was already feeling bad, but thought to myself, “Maybe I can build up immunity to allergies if I just expose myself to them more.” So I decided to spend the afternoon weeding out said flowerbed, despite my headache, stuffy nose and scratchy throat. It was great until after dinner, when I felt worse. So much for the immunity theory. I can tell you it doesn’t work. So around 7:30 p.m. I faced a dilemma: go out for a walk as I usually do in the evening, pushing through my allergies, or just put on my jammies and go to bed early. What would you do? Are you someone who pushes through no matter what, or do you realize you have to stop and rest sometimes?

I’m sure you’ve seen so many commercials that advocate just pushing through everything. No pain no gain, just do it, winners never quit, let nothing hold you back, pain is fear leaving, etc. Yeah, those are great and there is a time to push past the pain and struggle. There is even the Christian motto; I can do all things. Which is so often used for exercise and sports themes, we begin to think we really can do everything, and that we MUST do everything. But, what some people don’t realize is that the Apostle Paul wasn’t talking about sports at all in this passage. He was talking about contentedness, and about Christ’s strength, not his own. In fact, he was actually talking about money.

If you’re not familiar with the passage, here it is from Philippians 4:13; “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (NIV). Some Bible versions, such as the English Standard Version, ESV, substitutes the “this” with “things”. But what is the “this”  Paul is referring to? Well, it’s not about lifting weights, running marathons, or going for walks. In verses 10 through 12 he explains he had learned to be content whether he has money or is poor, and whether he has eaten or is hungry. See, when Paul wrote this letter to a church in the city of Philippi, he was in jail and he was thanking the church for sending him money and encouragement. And he was reminding them he could only do this (be content) with Christ’s strength, not his own. He had learned that only through Christ’s strength, could he trust in God’s provision.

By the world’s standards Paul would have seemed like a failure, like he didn’t measure up. He had planted many churches, yet here he was in jail and was talking about not having money and even of being without food. We can assume there may have been times when he didn’t have a place to live. He did freelance work as a tentmaker. So, in the passage he is admitting, he had at times been inadequate and lacked money and food. He also mentions he had learned to be content (verse 12). It must have been a process to go through these times of supply and lack so that he realized he could only be content if he relied on Christ. It wasn’t about self-motivation at all.  You have to wonder if Paul would have “learned” to be content, had he not had shortcomings in his finances. It’s easier to trust God when everything is going our way. So, this brings me back to my dilemma.

I’m sure you have times when you realized, you didn’t measure up. You felt inadequate. When everyone around you is doing great and everything’s going their way. And here you are, not quite up to the standards, struggling. Maybe even like Paul, you’re struggling with finances or even health problems. You reflect on the times you had plenty and the times you had food or felt great. And that is the secret to finding contentedness, remembering those good times. In fact Paul uses the word “secret” in verse 12; “I have learned the secret of being content”. It is not pushing through, but realizing God’s provision. It is not about doing everything with an attitude I am going to do this because I can if I just try hard enough. It is about recognizing how to be content when you can’t do everything. The secret is relying on Christ for strength to find peace and contentedness despite the circumstances we find ourselves in. And sometimes it is about just putting on your jammies instead of going for a walk. Allergy season will pass. God Bless- Nancy

ForGIVEness Stew

About a year after my Mom died, I gave my Dad a small crock pot for Christmas. At the time he lived alone and was learning how to cook for himself for the first time after their fifty plus years of marriage. Oh, he had begun to cook a little, while my Mom had been hospitalized and also when she was in rehab at the nursing home, but it was more of hotdogs, chicken nuggets and trips to McDonald’s for his diet. So, I thought if he could make food that would be healthier and just as easy as grabbing fast food, it would be better for him. It took awhile before he actually opened the box and tried out the crock pot. But as he did, he began to tell me how awesome it was. Recently, he explained to me in detail how to carefully layer each vegetable and to lay the pieces of stew meat on top and to pour over the top a can of stew seasoning. He discussed the brands and types of carrots and potatoes he used. It has been quite the transformation for him as he now can talk about cooking with me. He has become quite the chef now.

I love my crock pot too. It is fun to add all the ingredients into one pot, plug it in and just let it cook away. When its time to eat, all you have to do is turn it off , lift off the cover and serve the food. Other than prepping the vegetables and such, there’s not much work to it. It just cooks away. Stewing everything to perfection. But, as my dad has learned, the kind of stew you get depends upon what you put in the crock pot. If my Dad chose to add spoiled carrots or potatoes with those black moldy spots, I’m sure he wouldn’t think the crock pot was so awesome. Knowing my Dad as I do, he probably would have thrown out the crock pot, or given it to my brother. He wouldn’t use it again. Of course, he wouldn’t add spoiled vegetables, but when it comes to life that’s what we do, so to speak, sometimes, especially in relationships.

If you’ve been on this planet for very long, then you have had plenty of experience with being hurt by others. It happens. We are all imperfect people. And most of the time people do not intend to hurt us, it happens often because of miscommunication, lack of communication and misunderstanding. I’ve talked about that before, but this time I was thinking of how we can let those little hurts stew in our lives, until they become bigger and bigger, until we are the proud owners of  unforgiveness stew. And guess what? We are the ones who have to eat it. And it tastes bad, like eating the spoiled carrots, moldy potatoes, etc. The solution to holding onto to unforgiveness is to forgive, right? Well, that is true. The Bible is clear about that.

Matthew 18:21-22 is a classic example often given when dealing with forgiving others. Peter asks Jesus, how many times do I Have to forgive my brother, answer: seven times, seventy times seven, or in other words, alot. Until you’ve forgotten what you were mad about. But there is also something else we can do: change what we are adding to the crock pot. What do I mean? Well, most of what we stew about when we are mad at someone else for what they have done to us, has nothing to do with our current problem. We keep thinking about all the bad stuff they have done before to us. All the unresolved issues of the past, or all the things we think they do wrong on any given day. All the criticisms we can think up, and we add them all to the stew we are making. Before long we have created an ugly stew.

Instead, my challenge to you is to follow the advice Paul gives in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things” (NIV). I have had to do this many times, and not just in times when I would rather stew. It works to change how you perceive things. Take time and look up each word carefully in a dictionary. The word noble for example means to possess high qualities. So, can you think of the other’s person’s high qualities? It might not be easy, but they’re probably not the slugs you think they are at this moment. Think of the times they did something special for you. Think about the qualities you admire about them.Focusing on the good and true things, replaces all the ugly thoughts you might be having. And when you begin to find the good things, add them to your crock pot. What you will end up with is not an awful tasting stew, but a delicious one that you can share together; a restored and forgiven relationship. And be sure to talk. Too many times we begin to stew because we haven’t talked together. The other person hasn’t intentionally hurt you and are probably unaware of how you are feeling. Confrontation is not easy to start, but the results are a clearer picture of the situation. But until you can sit down and talk, try Philippians 4:8 and begin to change your thinking about the other person. And pray. A whole lot. It can move mountains, diffuse anger, and prepares your heart to give the best gift you can give yourself and the other person; forgiveness. God Bless- Nancy

 

 

You Are Not Forgotten

As she was talking I noticed the soft flow of tears from the corner of her eyes. It was not an ugly cry, just a slow leak of tears to wet her cheeks. Why was she crying? She had just lost a loved one and was recounting how she was feeling. Sad, angry, hurting, but calm and peaceful. Why? She knew her loved one was in Heaven and it gave her peace and hope, but she admitted she has moments of anger and frustration.

I have been in her shoes before, when my mom passed four years ago. It hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I still get angry and overwhelmed with sadness. Grief is a process and takes time to go through. It is not an overnight process. It takes time to heal, but in all of it, God is there. It doesn’t always seem like He is, but He is. So, today I just wanted to offer a word to encourage you. I know many people have hurts that they are processing through. The world is a hurting place. We feel hurt. We hurt others. Others hurt us. We live in a difficult world full of hurting things. Things like death, disease, injury, financial problems, breakups, divorces, abuse, accidents, job losses, failures. The world is continuing on a downward spiral until Christ’s return. Now that I’ve bummed you out even more, let me now offer encouragement.

So, how do we deal with all this hurt? Does God even care? Sometimes we might not think He does. Like He’s just walked away from His creation and said, “Well, there you go, figure it all out, I’m going on vacation, see you later when I return.”  Sadly, some believe this is how God created the universe, that He just started the evolution process and walked away. But, this faulty theology is not the truth. God created the universe and all creatures, even you, and He is very much involved with it.

And He is involved in our lives, even when it doesn’t seem that way. He promises to be with us. In Matthew 28: 20 Jesus says,  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (NIV).  In Joshua 1:5 God promised Joshua “I will never leave you or forsake you” (NIV). If you’ve read the book of Joshua before, then you’ll know that God said this before Joshua was to lead a group of rebellious people to the promise land of Israel. It was not just an easy trip. It had its challenges. There were battles to be fought and people died.  In chapter 5 God asked Joshua to have all the men circumcised. We can only imagine what the guys must have been thinking about Joshua. They probably were not very excited about that. And not to mention the pain involved.  It must have hurt. In chapter 7, Joshua had to deal with the defeat at Ai, because one person disobeyed the direct command not to take the spoils for themselves. People were killed because of one man’s selfishness and Joshua had to deal with it. And he doubted God too, even asking God why “Did you bring us here to the promised land only to destroy us?”. You can read this for yourselves in chapter 7:6-12. Joshua had heard directly from God, but he found himself hurting, confused and doubting God’s intentions. Later, after the disobedience had been dealt with, God gave Joshua victory in defeating Ai. We can read it now and see how it all worked out. Chapter 7 was a problem, chapter 8 we find the outcome. It would be nice if we could fast forward our lives, or turn the pages ahead to see how every difficulty was going to work out, But. well we can’t. I could go on about the Book of Joshua and how God was with him, but I just wanted to point our that God was still with Joshua, even in the difficult stuff. He does the same for us today. He hasn’t changed.

Do I have all the answers as to why we face hurts and challenges in this world when God could take them away? No. We could drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out the whys all the time. But, let me challenge you today, as I have to remind myself on a daily basis; God is for you. He has not forgotten you. He is with you. ALL THE TIME. Even in the bad stuff, the hurting stuff. Sometimes you just have to hold on to God’s promises with white knuckles, when everything in you wants to doubt and throw away your hope. Hang in there, YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN. Believe it, repeat it out loud, even through the tears or anger. God is for you. He loves you. He’s invested in you at great cost to Him (Jn. 3:16). God Bless You- Nancy

Choosing…..

Okay, I admit I did it again. It was too easy. There it was, glaring back in the glowing blue light of technology. I tried to scroll past, but found myself scrolling back up to what I had quickly passed by. It was one of those unexpected things in my otherwise boring routine day, but…. I did it… I fell for it….. the old comparison trap of social media. So there I was staring at the details of another person’s life and their new awesome job. But what made it so different than all the other posts? It was MY job, or I mean my DREAM job. The one I would like, or so I thought. But how did they get it? It wasn’t even someone I really know, just a friend of a friend of a friend who hit like or something. So, why did it bother me? I scrolled past the post again and saw another post below in the feed. It was an invite for me  for something. And I kept scrolling. So there I was still stewing in my thoughts, my terrible critical and fault finding thoughts. If you have never been jealous of others and found yourself critical, then well, I applaud you. You probably won’t understand my ramblings on this post. But, I’m just trying to be real here. I’m not perfect, just growing in faith and walking it out everyday. So, if you’re tempted like me at times, you’ll probably relate to the feelings of jealousy and even indignation when we see others getting what we want, what we deserve (according to us), and we might even hear our own thoughts tell us “It isn’t right, it’s not fair!, WE are the ones who should be getting this blessing from God!.” Of course we know these thoughts aren’t great or even biblical, but we think them anyway. Why? Well, for one we are humans living in a fallen world. But second, it’s because we are trying to follow somebody else script. What do I mean?

Well, we all have this idea of what we think our lives should look like. We might even have role models we look up to or have even mentors. We look at their lives and decide, that we too want to do what they do. So we create a script for our lives that we think we can follow. And by following it, we too will arrive at the same place they have with the perfect job, perfect ministry, perfect family, perfect car, perfect house, perfect body, perfect gear, etc. Of course, if you’re my age, over time you realize that life happens and our perfectly written script adjusts over time. But what bothers us the most, is when someone takes a line of OUR script. We feel robbed when they get it and we don’t. But the real problem here is not them, it’s us. The script we carefully crafted, as it turns out, wasn’t really ours, but theirs. God has created us uniquely and individually. We are not like others. We are different. And different is okay. It is good. We have to choose to accept ourselves and the life God has given US.

It all begins with our thinking and what we choose to think. 2 Corinthians 10 :5 tells the reader to “Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (NIV). Thankfully, we can do this and we do this probably without realizing it. There is a part of our brains that acts as a kind of holding tank, where we choose to either accept the thought or reject the thought that is coming into our minds. When we accept a thought it becomes a part of our mind and we can build upon it and grow it into a larger thought. It’s really pretty fascinating how powerful our minds are. We are the jail keepers, if you will, to decide what we are thinking about.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about how we think and making choices. Many of you may have seen the familiar Joshua 24:15 verse on plaques. “As for me and my house…” Well, right before Joshua’s famous proclamation he says,  “Choose this day whom YOU will serve”(NIV). The Israelites gathered before Joshua had to choose for THEMSELVES whether they would follow idols or follow God. It wasn’t just about Joshua’s choice, he put the ball in their court, and they had to choose what they would do. Follow God or follow idols.

The last example I can think of to relate to choice is found in Matthew 14: 22-31. The story of Peter walking on the water. Peter was brave and left the boat to walk towards Jesus, who was out there walking on the water. Peter was doing great until he started looking more at the waves and the wind and less on Jesus. So he began to sink in a panic and Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter before he sunk. When Peter is safely back on the boat, Jesus asks him why did you doubt? Why did you have so little faith?  Tough questions no doubt. So, as I was looking up this passage I noticed something new. The NIV version says it like this, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid” (vs. 30). So, how do you SEE the wind? We see its affects, but not the wind itself. Peter was looking at the effects of the wind and took his focus off of Jesus. And he got scared. He put his attention on the wrong thing.

Which brings me back to my own focus and attention. As I continued my scrolling that day, I went back to that little insignificant invite and hit accept. I realized, that this was my script to follow, to chose what God had given me. Not someone else’s choice, but my choice.Not someone else’s script, but mine. The dream job I thought was my dream job, wan’t really meant for me, it was meant for them. I was too busy looking at the wind, to see Jesus. My challenge to you today, is this: Are you looking at the wind? Or staying focused on Jesus? It’s your choice. God Bless- Nancy