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Archive | God lessons

Do you ever “help” God work?

Our house was full during the Memorial Day weekend. All three of our grown kids were here. Plus two spouses, one fiance, and our 3-year-old grandson. It was fun. It was special. It was exhausting.

We cooked, we swam, we played games, we made homemade ice cream. And we taught Micah how to “play” dominoes. The first time around, he didn’t quite get the hang of it.

 


But the second time, he not only began to catch on, he was also amazed at the results.

 

The way Micah “helped” the dominoes fall reminded me of how I sometimes try to “help” God work in and around my life. Instead of allowing Him to work in His way and His timing, I try to force things to happen.

helping GodI’m not saying we don’t do anything, ever. Often there are steps of obedience God asks us to take. But there’s a difference between following God’s leading and hurrying out ahead of Him. Sometimes we get so tired of waiting or are so anxious to see things happen a certain way we rush forward, knocking down all the dominoes ourselves.

So here’s a challenge for all of us: Instead of running ahead of God to make things happen under our own power and will, let’s take our hands off and watch Him do what only He can do. The results will be far more amazing!

I’d love to hear about a time you allowed God to work in a situation and the results were amazing!

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Free Upgrade!

In the last month, I’ve spent 76 hours on planes. And I’m not exaggerating. I actually added it up just now. Those hours do not include the time sitting on the ground in airplanes or waiting in airports or traveling to and from airports. Those almost “two full work weeks” of hours are strictly in-the-air flying time. Makes me tired all over again just thinking about it.

On this last trip though, I discovered there’s a BIG difference between economy and business class. But before I tell you about that, let me set the stage.

I was invited to speak at a women’s retreat for a church in Stavanger, Norway. I invited my friend Lisa to accompany me. Lisa also led a workshop at the retreat and really blessed the ladies there! Both of us enjoyed our time with the ladies there so much. (Thank you North Sea Baptist Church!)

North Sea Baptist Church Retreat

Me and Lisa with Kelly and Joy from North Sea Baptist Church, Norway

The Norway trip came 5 days after a mission trip to Bangladesh and I was a little road weary before we even started this new journey. Lisa and I flew from Houston straight to London on the first leg of our trip. Soon after we boarded the British Airways plane and found our seats we began to notice things. For instance, we were offered water or juice while the plane was still boarding. When the really nice dinner came we had real glass, real utensils, and cloth napkins. None of this plastic or paper stuff. And we had a lot of leg room.

Unfortunately, we were practically over the UK before we realized that not everyone on the plane had it so nice. For about 9 hours we had been saying a lot of really nice things about British Airways. We completely missed the fact that hundreds of people in the section behind us had been suffering through leg cramps, plastic utensils, and less seat space. We didn’t even get to enjoy our “privileged position.”

North Sea

Me and Lisa in a strong North Sea wind!

Then the time came to head home. We went online and tried to snag seats again in Business Class without paying extra, but no luck. (We still have no idea how it happened going over.) During our entire 5-hour layover in London we complained to each other. “Ugh! We have to suffer through the long flight in economy.” “It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t know how the other half flew.” And so it went…

Then our group was called to board. Lisa handed her boarding pass to the agent on the left and I handed mine to the one on the right. Lefty said to Lisa: “Ma’am you’ve been upgraded.” As I was taking a breath to say “What?!”, Lisa selflessly told Lefty she was traveling with a friend. Lefty quickly responded, “Oh, she’s been upgraded too.”

We practically skipped down the jet way in anticipation of what lay ahead. Glorious leg room. Smaller, curtained-off section that kept the noise down. Almost personal attention from a flight attendant. Better food. Water before take-off. (I even had my own water bottle, but still, the lowly economy section didn’t get this.)

Lisa and I giggled like school girls as we settled into our spacious seats. We sipped our water and watched the poor economy passengers file by to their cramped quarters. We felt a little guilty. We had done absolutely nothing to get the nicer seats. We certainly didn’t deserve it. But we were thankful. When we blessed our beef tenderloin later, we would be certain to voice our gratitude to God.

Then I caught a glimpse of First Class. Their seats literally made into beds. They had this little cubicle surrounding their seat that gave them a lot of privacy. “Hmmm. I wonder what it would take to get in there.”

Have you ever noticed that sometimes the more you have the more you want? Or that “getting” sometimes fosters discontent? What are some ways we can practice and foster an ongoing attitude of gratitude?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This Proves God has a Sense of Humor

I had gotten into my pajamas, washed my face, and brushed my teeth, but I wasn’t quite ready to crawl into bed just yet. Then the lights went out. And when the lights go out in the country, it’s really dark.

I had only been back in my room at the Christian camp about ten minutes. It was the second night of a weekend ladies retreat where I spoke to a church group about God’s extraordinary grace. That night I shared how we are to be grace-givers. God wants us to be channels of His grace to others, not merely receptacles. Great truth, but also challenging. Apparently God decided I needed some practice.

God has a sense of humorI managed to locate my cell phone then used it’s light to find the number for the front desk. Assuming the whole unit was down, I reported a power outage for the K Building. Instead, the desk clerk said my key had been turned in. So, as per their policy, they had shut off the power to my room. What??

In moments like these I can picture God sitting on the edge of His throne. The Father turns to the Son and says, “Let’s see if she paid attention to what she told those ladies tonight. This should be good.”

I tried to calmly assure her that I was still in the room – and would remain in the room – all night. She apologized and said they would get the power right back on. I thanked her then waited in the dark.

No power means no lights or air conditioning. It began to get stuffy. After all, it was mid-September in southeast Texas and the humidity was about 125%. I checked the time on my cell phone. Five minutes had passed. I decided I would wait five more and then call again.

Five minutes later, still in the dark, I picked up the phone and dialed the front desk. I could feel the battle inside me. The graceless girl wanted to say “Just how long does it take to flip a switch?!” But the girl who had just told a room full of women not to let “any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths (Ephesians 4:29)” was praying that gracious words would flow.

Although I could have done worse, I also could have done better. Even a hint of irritation is not very gracious. And I know how I was feeling inside even if the desk clerk didn’t.

Not long after the second call the power returned and I finished getting ready for bed. As I settled in, God and I had a little “post-game” chat. I really do love that He gives us opportunities to apply what He’s teaching us.

After the retreat session the next morning, I returned to my room to gather my things, make the check out time, and head home. I opened the door and flipped the switch. Yes, you guessed it. No power. Oh well, no problem. I opened the curtains to let in the sunlight and smiled.

When was the last time God gave you the opportunity to be a grace giver? How did you do?

 

 

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If You were Verbed

I learned a new word during Sunday night’s Super Bowl game.

“Kaepernicking”

Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, has become a verb. “Kaepernicking” refers to the athlete’s iconic, celebratory, end-zone bicep kiss.  Although Kaepernick did not invent the upper arm lip press, he did make it famous.

Kaepernicking

“Kaepernicking” – Larry Brown Sports photo

Of course my favorite “verbed” athlete is Tim Tebow.  Call me sentimental, but I get emotional when I see pics of Tebowing high school students trending on Twitter. (By the way, “trending” is another “verbed” noun.)

Tim Tebow

“Tebowing” – Larry Brown Sports photo

The verb forms of Colin Kaepernick and Tim Tebow reveal what’s important to each of them.  The verbs show us something about the character of the Nouns.

According to Kaepernick, he started the bicep kiss in response to criticism over the highly visible tattoos on his arms. “Kaepernicking” visibly states that he has the freedom to express himself as he wishes.

“Tebowing” describes Tim Tebow’s practice of dropping down on one knee to thank God.  And he’s not shy about doing it in the middle of a NFL football game. “Tebowing” gives glory to God for the successes and failures.

What if you were “verbed?”

If what was important to you – your character, your priorities, the way you live your life – were summed up in one verb, what would it express?

I’ve been thinking about this since Sunday.  If “Kathying” began to trend, why would people do it?

I hope people would “Kathy” when they dug deep into God’s Word. Or when they shared the truth of His Word with others. Or when they slowed down to show God’s love to someone else. I would want “Kathying” to be a disciple of Christ in action.

To be honest though, “Kathying” might mean you sit at your desk in your pajamas until noon. Or that you visited Starbucks twice in one day.

Starbucks coffee

“Kathying?”

God’s desire for me – and for you – is that we look like His Son. So ultimately, “Kathying” or “Youing” should remind people of Jesus.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

What about you? What do you hope your verb would represent? In reality, what might your verb express?

 

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Fresh starts and second chances

I have a love/hate relationship with January 1st. I love the New Year because it represents a time of fresh starts, new commitments, and second chances. I hate the New Year because it usually reminds me I need to be more disciplined, give up something in which I’ve overindulged (chocolate and ice cream for instance), and generally get back on track in several areas.

I’m going to make a few of confessions as a way to confirm my “fresh starts.” Please feel free to hold me accountable. Are you ready? Here we go:

  • I have not been eating well the last few months. It started during our move from Midland to Houston in July. I’ve been pretty much eating what I want, when I want it. It’s not healthy and my jeans definitely know what I’ve been doing.
  • I slacked off in memorizing Scripture during the latter half of the year. I started 2011 off pretty well, but I allowed our move and a big deadline to push it to the back burner.
  • I sometimes allow email to distract me from the most important communication of the day. A couple of years ago God showed me that I should make my time with Him first priority. Email, Facebook, and household chores can often become black holes for my time. What I think is a “quick minute” turns into much longer.

Now, that I’ve opened up and made myself a little vulnerable I will also share with you my commitments to fresh starts.

  • I commit to healthy eating in 2012. I will not be legalistic; I will occasionally enjoy treats. But I will regularly feed my body with the good foods God gave us to eat – fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. Oh yeah, and not to excess!
  • I renew my commitment to Scripture memory. This month I will begin memorizing new passages from the book of Ephesians. I will also get back on track with regular review of previously memorized passages. (If you are interested in Scripture memory, check out the resources available on the free resources page.)
  • I also renew my commitment to make time with God my very first priority each day.

I am so thankful that God gives us chances to begin again. When we fall down, He picks us up and sets our feet back on the right path! And He also gives us each other for encouragement and accountability. That’s exactly why I shared all this with you – encouragement and accountability.

Have you made any commitments to fresh starts for 2012? Feel free to share!

 

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Where Thieves Break in and Steal

Yesterday, two men tried to break into our house while I was home. I had worked at my desk in the morning, so I didn’t shower until after lunch. I came out of the bathroom about 2:15. When I walked by the front door I noticed a four door pick-up truck parked on the circle drive right near the front door.

Thinking it was someone who had done some work around the house I stepped outside and walked toward the truck. A woman opened the back door of the vehicle. “Can I help you?” She stammered but didn’t answer me. About that time two young men hurried across the front yard from the back of the house. “Can I help you?” I directed toward the men. No answer. They kept heading toward the truck. So I repeated, “Can I help you?”

The driver paused by the door. “I was looking at your trees. I do tree work. Do you need any tree work?”  I told him we lost a pine tree to beetles over the summer and had to have it cut down. In the process we also had deadwood trimmed from an oak tree. We didn’t need any “tree work,” but “thank you.” He climbed in the driver’s seat and backed out of my circle drive.

The whole encounter was odd. I momentarily wondered if I should call the police or try to get the license plate number, but I hurried inside and locked the door. When my husband came home about 5:30, he walked in asking “What happened to the glass in the door into the garage?” Immediately I knew that the “odd encounter” was really a burglary attempt.

We called the sheriff’s office to file a report. The deputy that came to the house was nice but impressed on me the seriousness of what happened. They had probably rung the doorbell while I was drying my hair and thought no one was home. The woman was the lookout and notified the two men when I came outside. The deputy believed they had no intention of hurting me, but he also gave me some tips for practicing safety.

I felt a bit scared, angry, and indignant all at the same time. But mostly I felt grateful. I’ve been thanking God all day for my safety. And in the midst of it all, God has reminded me that even if they had taken everything in our house, none of that is really important. It’s all just “earthly treasure.” It has no lasting, eternal value. I should hold those things loosely anyway. The things of God are what matters most.

 19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.  Matthew 6:19-21, NLT

What earthly things are you holding too tightly? How can you instead “store up treasures” in heaven?

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A Skeptic and a Prayer Warrior

A hit and run accident in a Paris taxi confirmed the prayer warrior and revealed the skeptic. Sadly, I was the skeptic.

Last month I spent two weeks in Moldova teaching a class at the Moldova Bible Seminary. (Watch for more about this experience.) My friend Lisa traveled with me. On our way home we had the fun blessing of spending two days and three nights in Paris to do some sightseeing.

After landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport and picking up our bags at the carousel, we bought our museum passes and bus tickets at the tourism desk. The nice lady there warned us to make sure we used only official Paris taxis and pointed us toward the taxi stand.

Our taxi driver – who did speak a little English – loaded our bags and we got settled into the back seat for the ride into the city. About 20 minutes later, as we cruised down the four-lane highway, we felt a jolt and heard that ugly metal on metal sound. Lisa began to pray fully trusting God would protect and provide.

With rush-hour traffic continuing to pour past us, we stopped and our driver rolled his window down to talk to the offending driver. They decided to get the cars off to the shoulder and talk again. We limped across four lanes of traffic only to discover the other driver had simply gone on his merry way.

Our driver got out to access the damage. Back right quarter panel – smashed. Right rear tire – busted. He returned to the driver’s seat and announced he had to get off the highway and change the tire. He would call us another taxi. I began to pray, worried that this little drama could be an elaborate ruse to rob two naïve American tourists.

We thumped off the closest exit and pulled over to the side. The driver opened the trunk and deposited our luggage on the sidewalk. Seriously less than a minute later, we spot another taxi coming at us down the street and Lisa waves it over. “How convenient,” I think. “Wow, God sure answered our prayers quickly,” Lisa declared.

We show the new driver the address of our hotel and he loads our luggage. With every turn on an unknown Paris street I’m praying “Lord, protect us.” Lisa is praying, “Lord thank you for providing this second taxi.”

Later Lisa and I compared notes on the event. She told me what she had been thinking and I told her what I had been thinking. I felt a bit spiritually weak for not trusting God more. Why couldn’t I simply believe and obey Philippians 4:6?

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Philippians 4:6, NLT

I learned a good lesson that day. I really do need to trust God more. However, God’s faithfulness is also not a license to act foolishly. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples out on their first mission trip He warned them:

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.”  Matthew 10:16, NLT

God is faithful and can be trusted. It’s also a dangerous world. I’m sure there are people in Paris who do rob American tourists. So here’s what I believe to be a biblical conclusion to the matter: Pray about everything and trust God like my friend Lisa, but keep my eyes open and don’t act foolishly.

Are you a prayer warrior or a prayer skeptic? I would love to hear about a time when God proved Himself faithful to you.

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Blessings in the Midst of Change

Sarah, our second daughter, married Justin two weeks ago. Yes, there were a few tears. After all, my baby girl is all grown up. She has a husband and a home of her own. But joy and celebration filled the weekend, not sadness. (Just in case you’re interested, here’s a quick video!)

Sarah + Justin :: Coming Soon from CandleLight Films on Vimeo.

The Bride and her Parents

I heard several people ask my husband if it was hard to “give away” his daughter. His reply: “All her life I’ve been praying that God would provide a godly husband for Sarah and He has. We are thankful and excited about this new chapter in her life.” And I would add that we truly love Justin!

Sometimes the greatest of God’s blessings also brings change. A new son-in-law. A move to another city. A job change. An empty nest. I’m in the middle of all these things and more. I see God’s hand. I sense His activity. But leaving and changing and growing and stretching can still be painful.

God is faithful. He keeps His promises. He will finish the work He began in me. He will guide and strengthen and comfort and provide. My faith may be shaky at times, but the God in whom I place my faith is Rock-solid, unshakeable. In Him will I trust.

 

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Sock Balls for the Glory of God

My least favorite household chore is “unballing” balled-up, dirty, stinky gym socks before throwing them into the washing machine. “Sock balls” come in several varieties:

  1. Simple sock ball – These ankle-height socks are sweaty and perhaps tinged with dirt or mud around the top. Unpleasant to unball, but no surprises on opening.
  2. Confetti sock ball – These athletic socks have been worn to mow the grass, play baseball, or perform some other similarly dirty chore or leisure activity. Unballing this variety of sock ball unleashes a dusting of grass, dirt, mulch, or pea gravel all over the laundry room floor.
  3. Tube sock ball – These can be either “simple” or “confetti.” What makes these unique is that the length of the sock requires you to stick your hand in to the elbow to turn them right-side-out. Most unpleasant.

Both my husband and our son have been guilty of this heinous crime. My dear husband has lovingly worked to stop this thoughtless habit. He is much better, but he does occasionally place a “sock ball” into the laundry basket.

I mentioned this distasteful chore this morning while teaching a Bible study class on Colossians chapters 3 and 4. The response from the other women in the class left no room for doubt. Women in general dislike this disgusting chore. It was a perfect time to apply the Scripture.

 

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Col 3:17

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Col 3:23

One day, a couple of years ago, when I was doing laundry and complaining to myself about balled-up socks, God reminded me of these very passages. Although unballing sock balls is a dirty, thankless chore, doing it is a way to love and serve my family. Doing it without complaining gives glory to God.

I must admit that I still don’t always face sock balls with a smile. But each time I’m tempted to run them through the washer and dryer just like they are, God gently reminds me that I’m really unballing socks for Him.

What chore or task do you dislike or consider drudgery? How can completing it “as working for the Lord” help our attitude and actions?

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Tiny Sparks

Last Saturday, two wildfires burned 34 structures and more than 16,000 acres in Midland County where I live. Hundreds of additional homes were threatened and all their residents evacuated. At the height of the blaze, the fire was moving at a rate of thirty yards every second.

What caused such devastation? One fire is believed to have been started by sparks caused by scraps of metal falling out of a truck and hitting the road. The other? A cigarette tossed from a car.

Small things really. But this carelessness destroyed property, livelihoods, and forced hundreds of people from their homes. These simple, tiny sparks brought much heartache.

We can shake our heads at the unnecessary pain caused by thoughtless actions. But don’t we regularly do the same thing with our tongues. I know that I do. Sharp words spoken with no thought given to the hearers. Selfishness recklessly voiced. Biting words that cut to the quick and bruise gentle hearts.

James eloquently painted a picture of the power of our tongues.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself. James 3:5-6, NLT

Mankind has tamed many a wild animal, but the tongue cannot be tamed. The tongue – even one that praises God – still pours out bitter water that wounds and crushes. So what must we do? How does a Christian like me – who sometimes harms, but wants to heal – respond to the reality of her tongue? In chapter four, James gives us encouragement and advice for turning from our sin and turning to God:

So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor. James 4:7-10, NLT

Have you wounded someone and need to make it right? God can restore both your relationship with that person and with Him!

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