Let Go

Last time I shared with you the need to press on and how that looks sometimes. People won’t always believe in what you are trying to do. There will be obstacles to moving forward. We took at look at Philippians 3:12. This week I have been reminded that sometimes we need to let go of things in the past that hold us back. Paul wrote to the Philippians about all his religious standings and experiences that should have given him confidence and something to boast about, but he chose not to rest on these laurels for he felt he had not arrived at a place of maturity or perfection. In verse 13 he tells them “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (NIV).

I bring that up because its a great verse, but one not to be taken out of context. Paul was forgetting those things that gave him tremendous credibility among the Jew and Gentile believers. What I have been challenged to do this week is to leave behind and forget the ugly things of life. The mistakes I’ve made in the past, the unkind words or actions of others, you know THOSE things. If you are like me, you are much harder on yourself than on others. And if you’re like me it is easy to remember when someone has hurt you. It is easy to hold on to unforgiveness and to let others know how you’ve been wronged. The more you repeat it, the more difficult it is to forget it and move on. The same is true of ourselves. The more we think about our shortcomings and mistakes of the past, the more they will bother us and steal our confidence for the future. It is true we can’t change the past, but we can live for the future.Every day is a new day to get up and move forward. Paul compares it to straining or reaching, like a runner towards the finish line. For my football fans, think of it as stretching the ball across the end zone with all you’ve got, while being pummeled by twenty other players. You got this, just let go and move forward. – God Bless -Nancy

Handling The Press

What do you think of when you hear the word press? Probing news reporters asking pointed questions trying to trip up or incriminate a politician? Or maybe you picture the paparazzi trying to catch a scandalous photo of the Hollywood celeb. We’ve all seen the tabloid pictures staring at us at the grocery store check out lines. There is always a picture of a celebrity donning a hat and sunglasses out an about in public without hair and makeup done to perfection. They are usually trying to avoid having their photo taken.

But, the press I want to discuss today is the press necessary to keep moving forward. Not long ago I heard a message on the subject of Paul’s pressing on as found in the Book of Philippians. When Paul wrote this letter to the church he had established there ten years prior, he himself was in prison in Rome. He had gotten word that the church he had planted there was still meeting and growing. They had, however been facing opposition, but not from where you would have thought-the secular world. Instead it was from fellow believers who were attempting to make the new believers follow the customs of the Jewish synagogue. Paul’s letter to the church was to encourage them and use his own life as an example for them. Paul wrote “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Philippians 3:12b, NIV). He had explained his standing as a firm Jewish leader prior to his conversion and how now he considered it rubbish. He left that all behind and much like a runner in a race he was pushing himself toward the finish line.

Without an object to press against there would be no effort, no pressure required. For Christians today as in Paul’s day, there will always be a pressing on needed. We will all experience opposition in our faith walk. And unfortunately, that will sometimes come from others in the church. What kept Paul looking forward? Many scholars believe he had experienced a near-death or death experience in which he saw Heaven. We know form the Book of Acts, that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him. He had seen the future and was certain of it, so the momentary discomforts and sufferings were not as difficult. They still required pressing against, but he kept his focus on the goal, on the finish line.

We likewise can keep our eyes on the goal and keep pressing forward whenever we face pressure. There will always be naysayers, trying to discourage us or trying to get us to change our goals to become more like their’s, but we can handle the press, when we keep our focus on Jesus and what he has called us to do. But, just like diamonds that only form when lumps of carbon are put under pressure, we too can become diamonds for God as we press on.-God Bless-Nancy

 

Giving An Apt Answer In An App World

If you’re like me you some times forget people’s names. I mean not people you don’t know that well, but people you see frequently. Or maybe its a street name or the name of a restaurant. It’s right there on the tip of your tongue, but it just slips your mind for a minute. Then later, usually later in the day, at some random moment it comes to you. You might even say it out loud. And then give yourself a hard time for not remembering it sooner. What you needed was the right reply, the suitable answer, at the right time. What you need is an apt answer. What does apt mean? Suitable and at the proper time. It’s not a word that we hear often, but fits well with today’s blog.

Sometimes the challenge of moving forward in life is that we get stuck. We can even get down on ourselves for being stuck. I often find myself feeling stuck as I navigate from stay at home mom to college grad looking for a job. And from a home filled with kids to an empty nest. Everything is different. Everything is new. It’s not bad, just different. Yesterday was a day like that. Different, new and causing me some anxious thoughts until someone spoke an apt word( the right word at the right time). It was unexpected, but I knew as she spoke it, that it was for me and had been a God moment. What’s a God moment? It’s when you know God has planned something and shown His glory, His goodness, His mercy and even His love in our lives. Yesterday was that moment for me. The right words at the right time. An apt answer.Sometimes we just don’t know what the next step in the journey looks like. It is easy to get stuck, feel unsure of ourselves and looking for the right answer, It can feel like looking for that misplaced name. And then God uses someone to speak an apt word into our lives.

We all need a friend who will give us a word of encouragement, the right word at the right time. In our rushed and hurried world though that doesn’t always happen. We are too busy staring at our phones, tablets and computers, to see the needs around us. And if we are looking for help we search for an app to guide us to the right answer, instead another person. Let me challenge you today to look for that person in your life who needs a word of encouragement. Maybe its someone whom you don’t know well, but from the look on their face, they could use a smile, a compliment, or even a word of appreciation. You could make a huge difference in their day. Proverbs offers this great verse; “A man finds joy in giving an apt reply- and how good is a timely reply” (Pr. 15:23, NIV).  We all need a timely word and according to the verse we will find joy in giving it. God Bless- Nancy

Be Like Him

I’m a little bit late on writing this blog this week. I am one of those affected by an oncoming hurricane on the east coast. I have been thinking about the subject I would write about this week and I think I’ve found a topic; being transformed into the image of Christ and what that might look like in our daily lives. Two verses came to mind this week; the first is from the Book of Matthew; “When He saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because  they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a Shepherd” (Mt. 9:36, NIV). In this context Jesus had been visiting towns and teaching the good news and healing many and yet He was met with opposition from the religious Pharisees. The point I would like to point to is the compassion of Jesus. Few would argue with Jesus being compassionate. In fact, even those who aren’t Christians some times refer to Jesus as a compassionate person, a good role model to others and offering practical moral teaching. Those of us who are believers, know Him as more as we have felt His compassion upon us.

The second passage that comes to mind is from the Book of Nehemiah. “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of Heaven” (Nehemiah 1:4, NIV) Why was Nehemiah weeping? Well he had asked  the news from Jerusalem, his home town. The report was bad. Everything had been destroyed when the people had been forced into exile into Babylon. Reports were coming in from those who had stayed in Israel and had not been a part of the mass exile.The wall surrounding the city was destroyed. It affected Nehemiah greatly. He took it personally although he was miles away, living in Babylon and serving as cup bearer for the king Artexerxes.

So, here we can see two examples of compassion for others that we can follow today. With many natural disasters and man made tragedies such as attacks and shootings, we have the opportunity to have compassion on others. Others need to know we care about them particularly when they have had disaster or tragedy strike them. What can we do? Nehemiah prayed and Nehemiah informed the King of the disaster of his home country.  The result? The king allowed Nehemiah to return home and provided the funds and supplies to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.  We can do the same. We can pray, we can tell others and we can offer to supply aid. What we don’t want to do as we grow and move forward in out walk of faith is to fail to develop compassion on others. To grow hardened to tragedies or scoff others’ concern or worries. Sometimes we do that. There are so many tragic stories in the news and easy access to stories and news both fake and real on social media, I think we have become too good at dismissing the misfortune of others. Jesus had compassion on others. Nehemiah wept and prayed and fasted. He had a good job in a royal household, he didn’t really need to concern himself with the problems miles away. Yet he did. He took it personal. He made it personal. So did Jesus. He left Heaven and took on human form with all its limitations. He loved us. He had compassion on us. As we have opportunity let us do the same towards others. -God Bless -Nancy

Lighthouses and Labor Day, So What’s the Connection?

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me explain the connection. Is there really any connection? Probably not. But both provided for me a great reflection of the church in America. First of all, please don’t bash me for my opinion of churches. It’s merely my observation and how God has been speaking to me about the subject.  Yesterday was the first Monday of September when Labor Day is celebrated as a national holiday in the United States. It recognizes the labors and hard work of the American Worker and provides a day off from their labors. Banks are closed, no postal deliveries are made, schools are closed. Most people are off work, so they take in those last minute summer pastimes, like going to the lake, camping, picnicking and beach going. My husband was off work as well, so we decided to visit one of the beaches nearby. Of course, so did everyone else in the four surrounding states! Needless to say, we kept driving along the beach road, looking for a parking spot. This beach in particular has strict rules for where you can and can’t park. Believe me we know now, after receiving the gift of a parking ticket the first year we visited. So, we drove and drove and kept on driving, much farther than we had anticipated, until the road suddenly ended at a convenient turn around spot with a gated road. No, this was not a gated community, which had sprung up and taken the best beach access, but it was the beginning of a road to access a light house. There was a parking spot free along the roadside, so we decided to stop and walk to the lighthouse.

We were familiar with this lighthouse having spotting it from another beach along the coast, but we were never sure of how to access it. Well, let me explain, there actually is no way to access the lighthouse without swimming to it. It basically sits in the middle of the water probably a half mile or so off the beach. But…. it didn’t always. At one time it sat on the land and could be accessed by car. So, what happened? Erosion. Over time the land eroded and storm after storm probably aided in that erosion. There are multiple efforts to save and preserve the lighthouse and money boxes for donations are found as you pass the gates, that now prevent car traffic. It is eery to walk on the road and come up to an empty parking lot. There were plenty of people there yesterday enjoying the beach, after walking their way in, but sadly no way to really get close to the lighthouse. My husband and I have visited other lighthouses up and down the coast of the United States and even one in Cozumel, Mexico. All were accessible, and if you are in great shape you can climb up to the top.

So, what does this have to do with church? Well, I was thinking about what to write today to share with you about rest, Labor Day, etc. and the verse that came to  mind is from the Book of Matthew,“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28, NIV). These are Jesus’ own words as He was talking to the crowd gathered. Some of you might have heard this before. It sounds great, Jesus wants me to rest, take it easy, you know not got worried about stuff. Maybe it will motivate me when I’ve feeling stressed out or over- worked. Well, kinda, but not exactly. See what Jesus was talking about is resting from religious burdens.  The Pharisees were like church managers in those days, and they were hung up about everyone following the Laws of God perfectly, that they sought to come up with 600 more to add to the originals. Yes, 600 just to clarify what a person could do on their Sabbath Day, which was the day God had given them for rest. Today, Christians rest on Sunday. But, do they? Recently I attended a gathering of believers and as I sat there, I began to sense an uneasiness. As I looked around, everything seemed okay, perfect even. But, that’s when I realized that was the problem. I have seen it in other get- togethers  in Christian circles. We all look perfect. From the outside anyway. We all look the same. Wait a minute, aren’t we supposed to be reaching the lost, you know the ones who aren’t in Christian circles and attendees in church services. Jesus, met people where they were and their lives were changed. Not on the outside, but the inside. You see, we who are believers are supposed to be changed into the image of Christ, but I don’t believe that means outside. Urban renewal has been popular for several years. Often the word “gentrification” comes up when talking about the renewal of old neighborhoods. It’s great to see old buildings reclaimed and houses fixed, but sadly, many of the original neighbors, can’t afford to live in these new homes. It’s out of their price range. Sadly, I see the same thing happening in the Western church culture. We try to fit people in to the church mold, remodeling the outside, but not really promoting inward change. We have created a hidden set of Sabbath day rules in regards to what we wear, how we should talk, how we should worship. But God looks at our hearts, not our outside appearances. Let me be clear though, I am only talking about church customs, not the Bible. We are to adhere to God’s Word. What I mean to say is we are called to shine the light of Christ, like that lighthouse I visited. But, have we walled ourselves off too much? Are we throwing money into the church to save it? But yet it still remains inaccessible to those who need it the most. Those who are being thrown by the storms of life and are drowning in despair? The church needs to consider whether our hidden customs are keeping people out. Are dresses and suits more holy than ripped jeans? Are Sunday services more anointed than Saturday night services? Is the King James Bible the only real Bible? Are men the only ones God calls? I know all these issues have been addressed before, but I just wanted to share what is on my heart. Jesus labored on the cross for all. We can enter His rest when we put our trust in Him as Savior. We do not need to make keeping the religious laws an entrance exams for those who want to trust Him too. Especially when there are just about customs and culture.Jesus is our rest from trying to be good enough or look good enough in church circles. As someone has once said, Jesus died to give us a relationship, not a religion. God Bless- Nancy

Trusting God When We Don’t Want To

I have a confession to make. I’m not crazy about some Bible verses. You know, the convicting ones. The ones that divide marrow and joints, that  “Judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12, NIV). The particular verse I’m thinking of is Proverbs 3:5-6; “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (NIV). If you’ve been in Christian circles for a bit, I’m sure you’ve heard this verse before. It shows up on cute little plaques and magnets in Christian book stores, and is often quoted at graduations as advice for the new graduate. It sounds sweet, simple and easy to understand and follow. I mean we all know Solomon, who wrote the Book of Proverbs, was the wisest man in the world, so why should this passage bother me? Well, I’m a planner and I figure-it-out- er. If you are like me, you overthink everything. You figure out everything. You speculate about everything until your brain hurts. You’re a fixer, a solution finder. The whole world depends on you. If this describes you, you might be a mom like me. The mom who over packs for family vacations, squeezing every little item that might be needed in case of injury, sickness, accident, trip delay, hunger, thirst- I think you get the picture.
But, over the years God has tripped me up with all my planning and figuring out for every contingency. Just when I think everything is going as planned and is all figured out, bam! something I hadn’t planned happens. Then I am left scrambling to figure out what to do and how to react, or why did this happen?  It is usually about this same time I will be reminded of Proverbs 3: 5-6. Maybe from a sermon or the verse of the day on the radio. But there it is “trust in God, don’t lean on your own understanding. Uggh! then comes the guilt over leaning on my own understanding.
     So, I’d like to offer this hope for all of you fixers out there and planners. God has a way of helping us to understand His Word through practical application and experience. I’ve learned to pause and trust God when I’m overwhelmed by my thoughts of figuring it all out. It has taken time, but God is patient, He never leaves us as we were, but changes us overtime to become all He has for us, transforming us into the likeness of Jesus.(2. Cor. 3:18)

Recently, my husband and I moved to a new home. We are on the verge of being empty nesters with our youngest in his sophomore year of college. So, we decided to sell our large two story four bedroom house for the smaller bungalow with the master bedroom downstairs. Our house sold within 24 hours of going live on the market. Wow! So we had been looking to build a new home with all the bells and whistles, fresh clean, new. But.. we couldn’t find a good fit for us, we went to every open house, checked out new home communities and it was getting stressful. But the stress was just beginning. We stopped at our current home with our real estate agent, and took a quick look. It wasn’t even on our list to tour for the day. It was the last house to see and we were just driving by when our agent saw the for sale sign on the lawn. We returned home later that afternoon and decided the home we toured might be a good buy, so we quickly put in an offer. It really wasn’t what we “thought” we wanted as it was not new. I had promised myself I wouldn’t compromise on my desire for a brand new build. So here I was putting an offer on a older home. Yikes! Of course after the offer was accepted I began to second guess myself. What had we done? My husband and I pray about all decisions and we prayed for God’s direction and if He wanted us to continue, then the doors would remain open. We trusted God would lead us. But to be honest I woke up on many early mornings and panicked. What we were doing? This can’t be right. Maybe we made a mistake. I wanted a brand new house this time. The purchasing process continued and then it was time to move in. And little by little I began to understand this house, was the one I was looking for. It had all the bells and whistles as a former model home. It was perfectly set on a pond lot with a long driveway- just what we were looking for in a newer home. The appliances were upgraded and not builder grade. I could go on, but I’m sure I would bore you. So, I’ll just say, God had it under control. He knew what we needed better than we did. I was looking at the outside, not really understanding what I thought I needed. When God began to show me this, He reminded me of Proverbs 3:5-6. I am slowly learning to trust God, follow His opportunities and let Him direct my paths. I’m a slow learner- definitely a work in progress. But aren’t we all? We are not perfect nor have we arrived. We can’t figure it all out. As much as I try- I need to relax and trust God. This applies to this next stage of life for my husband and I. This is unknown territory to us as we become empty- nesters. But I know God’s got this! I don’t have to figure it out! -God Bless -Nancy

 

 

Stop the World! It’s Moving Too Fast!

Well, it’s that time of year again when many Moms and Dads send their children off to school. Some parents might welcome the peace, quiet and stability of the school year. But, most will admit that first day can be rough. I remember the tears shed when it was time for each of my kids to go to their first day of kindergarten. The tears showed up again as I dropped off the same kids as college freshmen. Life was moving fast and I wanted it to stop! Just for a moment, so I could savor and enjoy their company. Even now my youngest will be going back for his sophomore year of college. I’m sure there will be a tear shed on the three hour drive back home. I remember him in kindergarten, in what seems like a day ago. College graduation will come again too soon and he will be off to live his own life where ever it takes him, like his sister and brother before him.  I now find myself going back to kindergarten with my daughter, but this time with her as the teacher! I find myself excited for her and I enjoy helping her shop for classroom supplies.

I wish I could remember how many older women would offer the same advice for me as a young mom” Enjoy them now, because they grow up so fast” It was all the time! I respected their advice, but somehow, I didn’t want to accept that fact. I wanted to hold my kids forever and let life slow down. How about you? Do you ever feel like life is just too much change and growth? Do you ever just want it to slow down? It would be nice, but deep down we know we must accept the fact that it doesn’t slow down. Change is hard. We discussed before over coming fear and trusting God for strength to try new things. But how do we respond when we are forced to change? What then? Life is full of change and much of it is not from our own choosing. Kids grow up, move away, jobs change, friendships change, and people leave us. We cannot avoid life changes. They are scary, but just like facing fears, we can handle and accept life changes with God’s grace. It’s important to look forward in times of change and look for the good in them. Every time one of my kids- I mean adults- leaves to further their education or enter the workforce, I remind myself they are going to fulfill what God has called them to do. Every time there is change of people or places I must leave, I trust God has a good plan and I will meet new people and make new friends. Romans 8:28 is often quoted, but is a very good reminder during times of change: “And we know in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purposes” When we are shaken by change, we must turn to the one who never changes, God. God does not change and neither does His Word, the Bible. We can find comfort from reading the Bible and direction for us to go. Psalm 119: 105 says ” Your word is a lamp for my feat, a light on my path” (NIV) So, when you face change, the best place is to go to God’s Word. Change isn’t easy, but you can do it! Allow yourself to grieve what has been lost, and take comfort from God as He works everything in a wonderful new direction for our good. God Bless- Nancy