Bankrupt

Modern conveniences are great until they aren’t. Let me explain what I mean. I was discussing the issue of bank postings with my husband the other day after we had realized that our bank had made an error in which it posted a balance different from the one we had written down in our check book register- yes, I’m old school but I still write my expenses- debits- from my checking account down on paper. I realize there are many apps that will do the same, but trust me- sometimes apps can mess up.

It seems that banks can debit then remove debits from your checking account at random for what ever reason. If you are a bank person, I’m sure you understand all of this better than I do. But, if you just check your balance from your bank’s app, you’re likely to get an inaccurate balance at times. I know because I have had this happen. You check the balance and it gives you a false sense of financial security of the amount you have available so you might make a purchase. But, the amount is only a snap shot for that minute, for an hour later the amount changes and you might find yourself overdrawn. Please tell me that I am not alone in this. I know it happens to others as well. See, this is why I like the old school ways. I have had this happen with auto debits as well, They do not always post from your account on the specific day- even when you set them up that way- So, you find yourself at a loss to pay a bill. Bankrupt, so to speak.

As I write this post, it is the first day of Lent. A season in which we are to give up something so we can focus on Easter coming. A time to give up from our plenty, something simple like, candy or sweets, or meat or social media. We might feel good about our pursuit of giving up for a time, but sometimes it tends to look more like our New Year’s resolutions, if we are honest.

The first week we’re good, but in a little while, we might sneak in a candy bar, or a steak on a Friday. But, what is it we are seeking to do? Are we practicing some religious obligation? Or, are we really spending more time in prayer and reading of the Bible? Maybe we are trying to grow our faith, or feel closer to God, or just maybe we think it will make Him like us more if we concentrate on Him more and less on ourselves. But, does God need this from us? There simply isn’t enough of what we can give up that will make Him love us any more than He does now. Being closer to God means surrendering our lives to Him, not just our candy.

God doesn’t need us to give up candy. He needs us to give Him our lives and our hearts. No amount of money or good works or good deeds, even those done in His name will ever accomplish restoring the broken relationship between man and God- We simply do not have enough to pay. We are bankrupt when compared with what God requires to restore that broken relationship. The only payment that counts is death, and that is precisely the payment made by Jesus. He redeemed us, made the payment and rose to life to sit at God’s right hand, having accomplished His task. He gave it all for us. Our response is to accept it.

So, maybe this Lenten season, instead of giving up anything, we should focus on receiving God’s gift of salvation through Jesus. But, if you feel that you must give up anything, give up your sin debt, your anxiety, your worry, your problems, your desperate situations, your selfishness, your unforgiveness, your pain, your hurt, your plans, and cry out to God- who loves us so much that He gave us His Son. -God Bless You- Nancy

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Jn 3:16 ESV

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1, NIV

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13, NIV

The Love of a Mother

Right now as I write it is a few days away from Valentine’s Day. So, naturally there is an emphasis on love and showing love towards others- those special people in our lives whom we want to show our love for through cards, sweets, flowers, and gifts. It is even celebrated in school (still) with little valentine cards for classmates and parties with cupcakes and juice.

This talk of love has made me think about love. But, more specifically a mother’s love. See, I am a mamma bear when it comes to my kids- which yes, they are not really littles anymore! My youngest turns 23 in a few days, but, yes they are STILL my KIDS. If you aren’t familiar with bears, especially mamma bears- they are protective. There is a saying that you never get between a mother bear and her cubs in the wild. I’ve never tried this and haven’t seen a bear in the wild that close- so I can’t really say if this is true, but it is what I’m told.

So, as a mom it really hurts me when someone hurts my kids or says something bad about them- my mamma bear rises up in me and I feel hurt too. It is difficult to explain to guys- no offense- or those without kids of their own- the love I have for them is just strong, even as they are well into adulthood. There is this incredible bond that begins before they are even born. I love my husband, but at times if I am honest, this love for my kids is just as strong.

Maybe its the carrying them for nine months, or the realization when you hold them for the first time – that this little human is totally dependent on you that spurs you on to make the vow that you’re never going to let anyone hurt them.

Early on in our marriage my husband and I experienced infertility and thankfully, we were eventually able to conceive and have three awesome kids of our own. So, I really feel blessed to have been able to bring these little humans into the world. Maybe that’s why I feel even more love and thankfulness for them. I am blessed by God and fortunate to be their mom.

Over the years, I have heard criticism that hurt and pretty much all the time was unfounded, like the time someone told me to cut my daughter’s hair as a baby because she had too much! Or that one was fat for a baby, or one must be autistic, or another diabetic because he liked to drink water as an infant. There are certainly too many critics and experts on infants and children. There isn’t a shortage. But, through it all I had to vent a little to my husband and then move on to forgiving the critics. That is the difficult part. How do you forgive someone who hurts your little kid with their words? Or hurt you about your mothering?

Honestly, it is just like any other kind of hurt that requires forgiveness. We cannot hold on to grudges, and anger towards others, who like us are created in the image of God. We all have spoken critical words towards others at one time or another. Maybe we were hurting ourselves, or full of fear and anxiety and we lashed out without thinking. Sometimes our mouths can get ahead of our brains. Yikes! Been there done that!

God asks us to forgive those who have wronged us and even pray for our enemies. It is tough stuff, even for mamma bears like me. But, greater than a mother’s love for her children is God’s love for His. Not are all God’s children-only those who have called upon Him for salvation- but all are created by Him. All are known by Him before they take one breath here on earth. And He love all of them. The whole world. That’s not just the planet He talks about in John 3:16- but all the people- all His creation. If God can forgive us our wrongdoing against Him, surely we can too. Maybe the greater the love- the mamma bear kind of love, takes more effort to forgive those who hurt our children, but with God’s help we can do this.

This applies to us all, not just to moms and dads. We are all God’s creation, and we will hurt each other. But we can also love others and forgive others because we are made in God’s image.

So, this Valentine’s day, remember that God has so much love for the world that He sent His Son to redeem it. He protects and loves us, even more than a mamma bear- His love is perfect and greater than a mother’s love. He loves you!-God Bless- Nancy

Loving Yourself?

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – Psalm 139:14, NIV

So, I am a bit of an introvert. Well, I actually lean more towards an ambivert. If you haven’t heard of that it’s okay. I believe it is a new term for someone who can be both shy and outgoing, depending upon the circumstances. See, I can make small talk with perfect strangers if I decide to, but in a small group setting? Forgetta ’bout it. I stop talking. I get nervous about what to say next. I’m worried that what I say will be taken wrong, or just make things awkward. I’ve had that happen before. I have even been called snobbish for not talking much in groups. But, I have learned that being an introvert makes me a better listener and more observant of others who are introverts. I find people who are willing to talk, but are being ignored by the others at social settings. I am aware of those who are hurting in the room as well.

Recently, a conversation about being socially awkward came up, no, it wasn’t about me, but the other person. They were getting down on themselves for being introverted and shy at social gatherings. They felt left out and it made them sad, and lose hope of finding new friends. They believed people would not like them because they are quiet in social settings. Believe me, I can relate. I’ve felt that way before. It seems the world is geared towards the extroverts, who always seem to have a large group of friends. They are the life of the party, so to speak, whether it is at work, social gatherings, or even church. But, despite their popularity and their infinite amount of small talk, they might have problems with listening to others. Why? because they talk too much!

But, really, that’s okay too. We are all different. And that is a good thing. God has given us all a different personality. And we need to celebrate that and not try to be someone we are not. Sometimes, if we are being honest, we can get jealous of the personality of others. We want to be like them. Have their friends. Have their following. Have their job. Have their family. We start to believe the lie, that if we could just be different than ourselves, are life would be different. Better. We tend to default to seeing the grass greener on the other side of the fence. We might even try to change to be like the other person. If we are shy, we try to be outgoing. If we are an extrovert we might try to be quieter.

But, what if instead, we try to accept who God made us to be? There are parts of our personalities that are just genetics. And there are some that are learned through observed behavior. Either way, God can use our unique personalities for His glory. He’s okay with us loving ourselves. We are His creation. If we hate how He made us, it would seem like we are ungrateful towards Him. Or we think He makes mistakes. As the psalmist wrote we are fearfully AND wonderfully made. Do you consider yourself something wonderful? Do you consider yourself loved? Or even lovable? God says you are. And He says we are to love others. How? Are you ready for it?… as we love ourselves. (James 2:8, Mark 12:31, Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, Galatians 5:14,Luke 10:27, Matthew 19:19, Romans 13:9)

As you can see above, there are quite a few references to Jesus’ second greatest commandment. So, do you love yourself? Including your personality? It might be difficult to love others until we can love and come to terms with who God made us to be. Do you love who God made? Do you love you? I have heard that sometimes why we end up being so critical of others, is that we first are super critical of ourselves. Have you found that to be true? I find it in myself. I am my harshest critic. I expect perfection from myself and that spills over onto what I expect from others. I am getting better, thankfully with God’s grace, by understanding God’s grace and mercy shown to me. And that is a part of what it takes to love ourselves. Give ourselves some mercy and grace. If we keep comparing ourselves to others, we will always think we are not the best we can be and will have a difficult time accepting who God has made us to be. Instead, we need to stop the comparison trap, accept ourselves, give ourselves some grace when we fall short, and love ourselves. The, we can stop focusing on ourselves and really seek out those to love- the way Jesus’ commanded us to. God Bless- Nancy

Faithful and True

For the Word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does- Psalm 33:4

If you ask my kids or my husband about me they will probably tell you that I’m too hard on myself- Too critical- To quick to judge myself and find myself lacking.- Too concern with doing everything right- Too worried about what others think of me- Too uptight about making a mistake. I suspect I’m not the only one.

We too often try to keep up with others, or at least what we think others are doing- all those perfectly touched up social media lives and perfect Instagram photos. Have we lost sight of our real selves, in favor of trying to be who we see on our phones? Have we lost the uniqueness God has placed within us? Are we allowing ourselves to imitate others, like we post our tik tok videos? Can we allow ourselves to be real, open, vulnerable, and admit we are not perfect? Can we be original, instead of copies?

We make mistakes. We can fail. We can repeat our mistakes and fail many times. But that never lessens what God thinks of us. He knows we will fall short. He knows we try. More importantly He knows our hearts, our intentions. And yet He loves us. Many of you I’m sure have John 3:16 memorized, or at least have seen it at football games- that is back when football games had fans in the stands. God loved the world. But do we really get that He loves us? Personally? I’ve heard before that its a good idea to insert our name in place of the “world” when we recite this verse…. Try it. For God so love_______, that He gave His only Son for her/him, that if ____believes then ____will not perish but have eternal life.

I know, it might seem extra to you, but the point I want to remind you of today is that God is faithful. He loves you. Nothing will keep Him from being faithful. Nothing will stop God from loving you. He sent His Son for you. He knows you cannot measure up to His standards. That’s why He sent Jesus.

And He knows that trying to seem perfect, to try to live perfectly in an imperfect world, is impossible. Trying to be like someone else, is impossible. He created you to be you.

Believe me, I know how difficult it is to let yourself off the hook, off the endless futile cycle of trying to do everything perfectly. Just to be clear, I’m not saying we shouldn’t care about what we do and become lazy, but just that we need to realize since God understands that we cannot measure up and sent Jesus, then maybe we should try to extend more grace upon ourselves. To let ourselves make more mistakes, not intentionally, but just not deal with ourselves so harshly. We all have what is known as self- talk, how we talk to ourselves. Aligning this self- talk with what God’s Word says about us is so important. We have been fearfully and wonderfully made. He never makes mistakes- we are who we are because God created us that way. We are all just works in progress. Someday we will be finished, looking like Jesus, but until then, we will be ourselves, imperfections and all. God Bless- Nancy

Caution or fear

Life is full of challenges. Too many challenges some days, but overall its our attitude in facing these challenges  that can either hold us back or keep us moving forward. Recent days have demonstrated just how quickly life can change. Lives can be disrupted by a small crown like virus. For some it produces no more than the common cold, for others, a serious medical emergency. But all lives have been affected to be sure in some manner or another.

Yet, time continues to pass, whether that time passes while we sit indoors, or as we venture out to our jobs and schools. Circumstances change, locations change, but time is always moving forward.  We can latch onto this forward movement, or resist it and try to drag our heels.We can either find the good in our circumstances or look for the bad in our circumstances, but we cannot change the fact that even if our world seems to stop, life does not. We get older, and hopefully wiser, as we experience life. As the saying goes, time marches on.

I’ve recently been considering how I address the fears that have cropped up since the pandemic, and found that, I have been letting my emotions have first place. I am, by nature, a cautious person. I make sure not to pull out into traffic without looking carefully. In fact, during my driver’s test, that was the one complaint of the tester, I was too cautious! I will agree to that, I’d rather be safe than crash my car. But sometimes too much caution keeps me from enjoying my life. For example, I’m afraid of roller coasters that turn upside down. I love fast roller coasters- in fact the faster the better- but, I’m just too cautious to go upside down. I’m cautious. But, someday I imagine I will get the courage to face this fear and go on one of those crazy twisty, upside down terror rides.

As the days have passed since the beginning of this pandemic I have noticed there is great debate over the seriousness of the pandemic, some toss all caution to the wind, while others are fearful of everyone and avoid everybody. I admit, at first I was scared to death and followed every update on the news. But, then I began to read more about the disease and also a book that challenged my faith. It made me realize how I had allowed my natural caution to turn into fear and here I was with this question posed at me by the author of the book, “Am I afraid to die?” Wow, that’s heavy for anyone to read in a book about helping your thought life. Thanks? for that, I feel so much better now.  Seriously though,that really put things into perspective. I do believe God has given us all a healthy fear of death, so we will be cautious and not hurt ourselves. But, we can allow this fear to control us and manipulate us.

It’s a good question to ask yourself, what am I afraid of? Am I afraid of all the bad news I hear? Afraid of being rejected? Afraid or being hurt? Afraid of failing? Anyone of these fears are normal, but when moved past the level of cautious to downright fearful, we have a problem. It freezes us from moving forward.We close ourselves off to others, and to God. Difficulties will always face us as a planet. There will be more pandemics, more floods, more wildfires, more famines, more earthquakes, more hurricanes, more betrayals, more hurts, more financial problems, more sicknesses and diseases that claim too many lives too soon. But what matters is how we process all of this. We can be filled with fear and resign ourselves to believe that God is a God who doesn’t care what is going on down here, or we can quietly, take a deep breath, pray, seek God’s face and not His hand, and trust. That’s it. Trust. All of our fear and worry will not change the outcome. This planet will move forward.Time will move forward. All the circumstances that cause us fear will disappear as quickly as they came. In the meantime, trust. God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us. It is what I have banked my life on. God does not leave. God is with us even through this time of stress and anxiety. We can be cautious and wise, but not let fear get the better of us. God’s got this.

 

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