Posted in My Thoughts

Overwhelmed

If you follow me on social media at all, you’ve seen that the past few days I’ve posted some pictures and updates about my upcoming move. Tomorrow is that day. This week I’ve been taking smaller items and boxes that can fit in my car to the house, and tomorrow (Saturday, December 9th) all my furniture and anything else that has not been moved there will be taken to my new house, and I will officially begin living there.

This week, the idea of the move has been overwhelming. A few days ago I was unpacking dishes and putting them in the cabinets in the kitchen, and I sent a text to a friend about how there is more cabinet space than dishes I have to fill them…the space is overwhelming. As I’ve moved things to the house and made decisions on what furniture would go into what room, I felt so overwhelmed with how much space this house has…and how little furniture I have to fill it. Last Sunday my kids and I had our first meal in the house, we prayed to thank God for blessing us with this house, and then they picked their rooms and made signs for their doors. It was a great day, and very overwhelming.

It is all overwhelming because for 2 years I’ve lived in small spaces. I briefly had a small 1 bedroom apartment, and the rest of the time I’ve lived with different people who allowed me to stay in  a room in their house. I’ve grown accustomed to having very little furniture and living in a small space. When my kids came to stay with me, they would all sleep in the same room, because it was the only room I had for them. And now, this house I’m moving into has a kitchen with more cabinets than I can fill, more rooms than I have furniture for, and enough bedrooms that the kids can have their own rooms (Hope and Kate chose to share a room).

Overwhelmed

Today as I was making a couple trips to the house with more boxes and smaller items, I began to think back over the past 2 years. To be honest, my life today looks absolutely nothing like I expected it to look like just a few years ago. A few years ago, I was married with 4 children, living in a nice house with my family, working in a ministry I loved, and honestly just enjoying my life, thinking I had it all.

And then 2 1/2 years ago my world began to come crashing down as I discovered I was about to lose it all. After months of doing everything I could to try and hold it all together, my biggest fears happened. I lost my marriage, lost the ability to see my kids everyday, lost getting to live with my family, and lost the ministry I loved. My world came crashing down hard, and I was broken. It was all very overwhelming!

For 2 years since all of that happened, I have been wondering what my future would look like. What would it be like to live in my own house again, what would being in ministry again be like, and even the idea of what a future relationship might look like. Just thinking about it all and not knowing when or how it would happen, as well as still questioning at times why I was in this place to begin with, would just get overwhelming to think about.

Then, after a long time of waiting and wondering, God began to lead me into my future. 4 months ago I began working in ministry again. It started off a bit rocky, but I quickly settled into doing what God has given me a passion to do again. What a blessing that was!

And then, I was offered the church parsonage…a house! A house I can call home. Where my kids can come and spread out and we can be a family in our own space. What an incredible blessing!

I’m overwhelmed by God’s blessings! And excited for the future that God is leading me into!

BUT

I have also come to realize that God never stopped blessing me and taking care of me during the 2 years prior to this.

  • For 2 years I have not been able to afford a place to stay, yet I have not been homeless even one day.
  • For 2 years I have struggled to make ends meet, yet I’ve always had food to eat, gas money, jobs to make money, and several people have been generous to me through financial gifts.
  • For 2 years I have had Christian brothers and sisters take care of me, provide for me, help me, and be there for me in ways I didn’t even realize I would need.
  • During those 2 years, men stepped up to disciple me and council me through the darkest days I have ever experienced…sometimes days that were so dark I just wanted to give up on everything.

For 2 years as I wondered why my world had fallen apart, God was working in my life to teach me, equip me, restore me, and prepare me for the future he had in store. And while the past 2 years have been by far the hardest I’ve ever experienced, the truth is God was blessing me the whole time while preparing me for my future. God has had a plan for me all along, and he has continued to bring that plan to fruition while walking with me on the journey.

SO OVERWHELMED!

So as I begin to step into what God has next for me, I would be remiss if I did not also remember how God blessed me and took care of me during the past 2 years.

  • to all who provided me a place to live
  • to all who helped me with financial gifts so I could continue to cover basic needs
  • to all who have provided me with a job
  • to all who provided a listening ear for me to talk to
  • to all who reached out to me and my children
  • to all who challenged me to live for God even when I was struggling in my faith
  • to all from my former church who continued to stay connected to me and my children
  • to all from my new church family who have made me and my children feel loved and accepted
  • to all the new people I have met through different circumstances and for different reasons over the past 2 years that I probably would not have met had I not been in this position
  • and to all of those from my childhood whom I have since reconnected with during this time

I will never be able to say thank you enough for allowing God to use you in my life to be a blessing. God has truly been good to me by bringing each of you into my life, and I am beyond thankful. God has used you to teach me what he wanted me to learn through this, and to bless me as he carried me through the storm.

As I move into the future God has for me, I look forward to seeing what God will do next. I have learned through all of this that I can never imagine what God has in store, but if I just seek to follow where he leads, he will continue to lead me step by step in the direction he wants me to go. It might not be what I expect…but after watching God provide and care for and bless me during these past 2 years, I know that wherever he may lead, he will be there with me for each step of the journey. And after the past 2 years, I’ve learned that if it’s God’s plan, I want to be a part of it…and if it’s not God’s plan, I don’t want to waste my time.

God’s blessings are truly overwhelming!

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Posted in Bible Study, My Thoughts

While in the wilderness

Promise. Blessing. Abundance. These words describe what the Promised Land represents. They are opposite, however, of what the wilderness represents.

In Exodus 3, we see that God has seen the affliction of his people Israel. They were slaves in Egypt, and they had been crying out for him to deliver them. In verses 7 and 8 of chapter 3 is says Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”

“A good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey”. The Promised Land. A place that is good, full of promise and blessing and even abundance.

However, before Israel was able to get into this land that God told them of, they had to make their way through the wilderness. A place that would not be described as good and full of promise and blessing and abundance. Words that describe what the wilderness represents would include difficulty and scarcity.

One thing that makes the wilderness a difficult place is the scarcity of proper food and water. In chapters 15-17 of Exodus, we see this played out in the lives of the Israelites…they needed water and there was no good source for them, and they needed food and there wasn’t anything adequate for them.

We also see something else played out in these chapters. God took care of them, performing miracles to provide and bless them with the water and food they needed. When water was bitter, he made it sweet and drinkable (Exodus 15:22-25). When there was no water at all, he provided it miraculously (Exodus 17:1-7). And when there was no food, God delivered again.

In Chapter 16 of Exodus, it tells us that God sent Quail into the camp of Israel for meat, and provided a flake-like substance they called “manna” that could be used for bread. In the evening quail came up and covered the camp, and in the morning dew lay around the camp. And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. ” (Exodus 16:13-15) 

The Israelites were commanded to only take what they needed for that day, and each day more would be there for them to collect. If they collected too much, the excess went bad. They had to trust God each day for what they needed, and each day God delivered. Even though they were in the wilderness, where food and water were scarce, the Israelites had what they needed for the day to survive.

The Promised Land was where the journey was leading. That is the land that is good, the land that provided promise and had abundance. However, to get to that place, they first had to travel through the wilderness.

If you read the story of Israel in the wilderness, you see a few different consistent themes happening. One of them is that Israel consistently complained. To be honest, I get that. I’m pretty sure I would have complained too! We all would have. No one likes to be in a place that is best described by words such as scarcity and difficulty. Like Israel, we too would want to get to that place that is described as good and full of abundance.

The second thing you see happening consistently is that God continually provided for them, often in miraculous ways. He knew they needed water, and he provided when there was no water. He knew they needed to eat, so he provided food for them when there was no food around.

 

We all go through seasons in life that are best described as a wilderness. It seems as though everything is surrounded by difficulty, and often the things we need to get through life are in scarce supply. Bills are hard to cover. Often debt begins to mount up. Purchasing things such as food and gas, basic necessities of life, are way more stressful than we would like them to be. We never have enough time to take care of all the things in our life that we need to. We have minimal energy, little time for fun, good friends seem to be in short supply, and so on. During the wilderness season of life, it’s honestly a daily struggle just to survive.

During that season of life, it is very easy and tempting for us to long for the time when we will reach the Promised Land…the season of life that is full of promise and blessing and even abundance. We see others around us being able to pay for things, go on trips and afford fun, have times of rest, and truly thriving in life rather than just surviving. We see that, and we long for it. If only we could get to a place where we have everything we want, and life seems to be under control, then everything would be so much better and life wouldn’t be such a struggle.

BUT

While we are in the wilderness, if we only spend our time longing for the Promised Land, we will miss out on seeing something amazing. We will miss seeing and recognizing that even in the wilderness, God still provides us with blessings.

God provided water and food for Israel while they were in the wilderness. And God will provide for us too.

How do I know this to be true? Because I’ve been in the wilderness the past 2 years, and while I do look forward to someday reaching whatever the Promised Land may be in my life, I can’t deny the fact that God has continually provided me with what I’ve needed to survive. I’ve had to learn what true needs are and what really aren’t needs during this time as well, which hasn’t been easy. However, my true needs, God has provided for…sometimes seemingly out of thin air. 

God still blesses us, even while we are in the wilderness. His blessings don’t stop just because we are in a difficult place. And, our journey through the wilderness also helps us learn to trust God for everything we need that he blesses us with, as well as to be thankful for every blessing he gives us.

May we not miss out on seeing God’s blessings while in the wilderness. May our eyes be open so we can recognize all that God is doing in our lives, even while in the wilderness of life. May we see, recognize, and be thankful for his blessings.

Posted in My Thoughts

Praising God, or the moment?

This afternoon, as I was out driving, a wave of discouragement came over me. I had been in a fine mood all day, just taking care of things I needed to. Then while I was driving home, that all changed. And it happened in such a way that it was like I could see my mood change…as if, like when a gust of wind hits you, discouragement suddenly just blew into my life at that moment. At that moment, my whole demeanor changed.

I’ve always been one to wear my emotions on my sleeve for the most part, so I can only image what my face and body language was like when this discouragement came over me…good thing I was in the car alone. While I wasn’t looking at myself to see what my face looked like at that moment, I definitely knew how I felt. Sad. Discouraged. Defeated. Hopeless. In my mind I felt like just complaining to God about everything. And even though I was listening to Praise Songs at that time, I sure didn’t want to praise God in that moment…

…and then this song started to play: The Doxology. This is a song I know well, and have sung in church for years. This particular time I was listening to the version by Phil Wickham (his version is called Doxology/Amen). The opening lyrics are “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” The entire Doxology calls us to Praise God, but it was that first line that really hit me in that moment.

There I was, complaining to God in my head and feeling completely discouraged, and I was being reminded to praise God. I began to think how I love to praise God when things are going well in my life, or at the very least I’m not struggling with feeling discouraged. But at this moment, I really did not feel like praising God because I was tired of life being hard and feeling very discouraged. And as I was thinking that, a moment of truth pierced through the discouragement and hit me hard.

If I can’t praise God when things are not as I want them to be, then what does that say about when I am praising God? If I can’t praise God in the bad, am I really praising God in the good…or am I actually praising the good God is allowing in my life? If I only choose to praise God when things are good, then am I praising God, or praising the moment?

That truth and the challenge from that truth hit me hard. I love God, and I want to be one who can praise God for who he is and what he has already done for me, even if in the current moment things are difficult. God deserves praise simply because he is God. He deserves praise because he offers us salvation when we don’t deserve it. God deserves praise because he has offered me a love that I cannot get from anyone else, and he never stops loving me even when others do.

Regardless of how good or difficult life is at this particular moment, God is the same and deserves praise the same. If I can’t praise him when the moment is hard, but I can when the moment is good, then the reality is that I’m potentially praising the moment more than I am praising God.

Consider Job. God allowed him to lose everything. Yet despite the discourage and defeat and hopelessness he was feeling, it didn’t change his ability to praise God.

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” – Job 1:20-21

“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”. Job was known as a man of God before his life went from good to horrible. And then after he lost everything, he still chose to praise God.

When we sing praise songs to God in church, are we only able to do so if our life is good? Can we stand there and praise God through song even when our life is difficult? When we pray, are we only able to say “blessed be the name of the Lord” when things are comfortable for us, or can we also say that when life is currently uncomfortable? Can we say “thank you God, for you are good” in all circumstances, or only when our life is as we would want it to be?

May we realize that God deserves praise, no matter what our life situation is. May we realize the truth that if we can only praise God when things are good at that moment, then perhaps we are praising the moment more than God. May we desire to praise God simply because he is God, regardless of what the moment looks like. May we truly praise God in all situations.

 

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised – Psalm 96:4

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. – Psalm 69:30

Praise the LordPraise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. – Psalm 146:1-2

Posted in My Thoughts

My annual beach trip

Today I made my 3rd annual trip to the beach. No, it’s not the only time of the year I go to the beach…I went a few times this summer. This particular beach trip is for a much different reason than a normal trip. It’s has a very focused purpose.

The purpose is to spend time praying, reflecting, listening, and seeking wisdom from God for my future.

This now annual trip began 3 years ago, in November of 2015. That first trip was to seek God concerning my future, because after 5 months of fighting hard to hold onto my marriage, I had run out of ideas and hope, so I took a day to seek God for wisdom and guidance. I chose to go to the beach because I actually don’t really like the beach very much. I mean it’s ok…I’m just not a fan of the sand, of all the things in the ocean that can eat you, or of how crowded it can get with people. So I chose to go to the beach because it represented a place I don’t really like…and at that time I didn’t like where my life was at, so it was fitting.

I didn’t plan on it becoming an annual trip, but the next year I ended up making a trip back to the same beach on Christmas Day of 2016. The purpose that time was not so much to seek God for my future, but rather to simply spend time praying and reflecting, as well as take time to listen to God. It had been a year since I had lost my marriage, family, and ministry, and at that time I was simply trying to be patient and heal from all of that loss. And just like the first trip, God encouraged me with words of wisdom and scripture, and he also challenged me to remain faithful to him in ways that I needed to be at that time.

Again, I wasn’t planning to make this an annual thing…but today I decided it was time to make my 3rd trip to the beach. This trip was much more like the first one…a focused time of prayer, reflection, and seeking God for my future. My life situation now is a bit different than that first trip; I haven’t spent the past 5 months fighting for my marriage, I lost it 2 years ago now and the divorce has been official for a year and a half. But, the past few months have been difficult in their own right, and I’ve definitely been struggling lately.

The struggle I’ve been having lately has been largely due to finances. My financial situation is very tough right now…actually it has been for a while, which I know is part of what a person who goes through being divorced must deal with…but lately it seems that no matter what I do, more bills keep piling up and I keep feeling more and more overwhelmed. I now have 2 steady jobs, which I thought would help. But this past month I’ve had knee issues that has kept me from being able to work my second job, so that just makes another difficulty in the world of my finances.

As I continue to struggle with this, it has been getting harder and harder to be positive. I’ve been struggling more and more with feeling so overwhelmed that I just want to give up, as well as struggling to believe that God has any kind of a future for me that is better than where I’m currently at in this moment. Despair has been on my heart more, and faith and trust and been harder to hold onto.

So this morning when I woke up, and honestly didn’t even want to get out of bed because it felt as though the burdens were just too much to face, I decided I needed to go back to the beach again…the same place I have gone the past 2 years when I needed a special word and encouragement from God.

And, just like the past 2 years, God gave me just the word of encouragement and challenge that I needed.

(Now, before I continue, I want to say that I’m not sharing any of this so that whoever reads this can feel sorry for me. I’ve always believed that God wants me to be willing to use my life to both encourage and challenge others…so that’s why I’m willing to share personal things. And I know I’m not the only one struggling either, so I don’t think I’m special. I’m simply being open and transparent as God leads me to be.)

As I sat there on the beach, on this October day, praying and listening to God, he shared 2 things with me that I needed at that moment.

One of them had to do with faithfulness, which is something I’ve been focusing on a lot lately in my life. I’ve been praying constantly that I would have the strength to remain faithful…I even wrote a blog about it recently. One of the struggles in my mind lately has been having the thought “God, I’ve been faithful the past 2 years despite all that has happened to me. When are you going to recognize that and begin to bless me with what I need so that I can move into a better future?” Yes, I admit that this thought is a bit selfish, that’s why I’ve been struggling with it. But it continues to come back into my mind regularly.

This is the word I received from God concerning faithfulness: Before you can be called faithful, and thus rewarded for your faithfulness, you must first remain faithful. And it’s not you who determines if you are being faithful, it’s the one who will reward you that determines if you are truly faithful. I needed that. It’s not me who decides if I’ve been faithful or how I should be rewarded for it. God is the one who knows and decides that I’ve been faithful, and he is the one who will decide when and how to reward that faithfulness. I am simply to continue to be faithful.

The other one had to do with my future…specifically my inability to see it and the discouragement growing in my heart as a result of that. As I was sitting on the beach looking out on the ocean, I noticed that it was quite foggy, so I wasn’t able to see very far. But I didn’t doubt that the ocean continued on beyond what I could see, I knew the ocean still existed beyond what I saw at that moment. And then I received the following word from God as an encouragement…

This verse accompanied that word of encouragement: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18

There were a few other verses that God brought to my mind, all of which were just what I needed. This trip to the beach was certainly just what I needed. PRAISE GOD! 

My hope and prayer in sharing this is to encourage anyone else who may be struggling right now; encourage them specifically with the words God gave to me, as well as encourage them to find a time and place to seek God themselves. Don’t only seek God and listen to him once a year…have a regular time of reading his Word and praying. But, definitely also have special times set aside to go and intentionally do nothing more than spend time praying, reflecting, listening, and seeking wisdom from God.

Posted in Bible Study, My Thoughts

Faithful above all else

What does it mean to be successful? I mean what does it REALLY mean…past the ideas we often first think of like becoming popular/famous, making lots of money, or receiving accolades. Beyond all of that, what is the deeper meaning of success?

Several years ago I defined success in my life as having a strong marriage and family, being the leader of a growing and vibrant ministry, being asked to speak at conferences/events/camps/etc, having people read my blogs and books and think of me as a gifted teacher, and making enough money to cover bills and be comfortable as well. These were many of the ways I defined being successful. When they were accomplished, or as I believed they were being accomplished, I would see myself and my life as being a success.

I think it’s safe to say that nothing in that list is a bad dream or desire to have. It is good to have dreams and desires for your life. And none of what I listed above would be considered sinful, so those things I shared are all good things to aspire for. 

But, are those dreams and desires, or rather the accomplishment of those dreams and desires, what defines success?

I honestly used to think so. But then I lost my marriage despite all I did to try and save it, I lost my ministry and most of the opportunities that came with it, and I lost my ability to be financially sound and comfortable. In the span of 5 months near the end of 2015, I went from defining my life as successful to not knowing how to define my life or what being successful looked like anymore. And it took me another 23 months of recovering, healing, searching, and growing before I was able to finally change my mindset and be able to see and understand the deeper meaning of success. 


That is how true success is really defined. Success that goes beyond fame, money, and accolades. Success that isn’t dependent on our accomplishments, nor affected by life’s difficult circumstances.

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful – 1 Corinthians 4:1-2

A faithful man will abound with blessingsbut whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished. – Proverbs 28:20

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. – Luke 16:10

The success of my life is not determined by what I am able to accomplish. It is not determined by how many people I know or the number of people who follow my teaching or buy my books. It’s not determined by how much money I make, where I live, or what job I have. The real success of my life will be determined by my faithfulness. My faithfulness to what I’ve made commitments to, faithfulness to not giving into what is wrong when doing what is right is hard, faithfulness to take serious my role as a Pastor and teacher to those I have been given the opportunity and privilege to minister to. Ultimately, it is determined by my faithfulness to God.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much.  – Matthew 25:21 (and 23)

In Matthew 25:14-30 Jesus tells the parable of a master who entrusts a different amount of ‘talents’ to 3 of his servants. After the master returns from a long journey, he asks each servant to give an account of what they did with what he entrusted to them. Two of the servants share how they used what he gave them and gained more, and the verse above is the masters response to both of them. The third servant shares how he didn’t do anything with what he had been entrusted, and the master condemns him. 

This parable is an example of us and God. God entrusts to each of his servants, those who are followers of Christ, with doing his will in this life. In the parable, the two servants didn’t accomplish the same amount as each other, but because they were faithful with what they had been entrusted with, they both received the same praise from their Master. Because it’s not about what we accomplish, but rather our faithfulness with what he has entrusted us with. 

Not all of us are entrusted with the same things in this life (although when we read scripture, we see that we are all entrusted with many of the same things: loving others, sharing the gospel, living righteously, serving God by serving those around us, trusting God, etc). However, we are all to be faithful with what we have been entrusted with in this life. And true success is not determined by what we have been specifically entrusted with, or what exactly we accomplish, but rather if we are faithful.

All the things I listed at the beginning are great dreams and desires, and it is always good to have dreams and desires in this life. But, they are not what define success. They are blessings the Lord can choose to give me because of my faithfulness, but I must be faithful first. And even if he chooses to withhold some of those blessings…or take them away, I must still remain faithful. Because true success is determined by my faithfulness. 

Regardless of the hand we are dealt in this life, we are to remain faithful to God above all else. No matter how large or small of a ministry or sphere of influence God gives us, we are to simply be faithful with what God has given us. In the midst of great tragedy, even when we don’t understand why, our focus must continue to be on faithfully living for our Lord and Savior. 

When being faithful above all else is how we seek to live, then no matter what we do or do not accomplish, and no matter what circumstances we deal with in this life, we can be confident that our lives have been successful. 

Posted in My Thoughts

Tomorrow

I like to know what’s going on. I like to be able to control what is happening, how it’s happening, when it’s happening, and even why it’s happening. I’m a planner, and I like to have a plan as well as see that plan come to fruition.

Perhaps that is why I’ve spent so much time wrestling with God in my prayers lately; why my prayers have included more questions asked, concerns expressed, fears shared, and tears shed than is the norm for my prayer time. Maybe it’s my desire to be in control and plan for what’s coming tomorrow that has me struggling more lately.

The past couple of months have been both very exciting and very difficult…it’s been quite a whirlwind. After more than a year’s hiatus from ministry, I was able to get back into doing what I love. After not having steady work and income for a few months, I had steady income because I had 2 steady jobs. After a while of struggling to pay basic bills, I finally saw light at the end of the tunnel with being able to start climbing back onto steady ground. Important relationships in my life were growing stronger, and even difficult relationships seemed to be getting better as well.

BUT…

Even though I was back in ministry doing what I love to do, I was quickly reminded just how difficult ministry can be when some major hardships took place at my church. Even though I now had 2 steady jobs that could provide me steady income, an old medical issue showed up again and made it impossible to work one of my jobs, so I wasn’t able to work as I needed. Because of that, the light I thought I saw at the end of the tunnel faded out of view again because of my inability to work the hours I needed. Important relationships didn’t end up as I had hoped (it’s a part of life…no hard feelings, but it’s still tough), and difficult relationships were still much harder for me than I was hoping they’d be at this point.

It’s been both an exciting and exhausting past couple of months with all that has been going on. None of it is how I would have planned it to be. And, with how things have been going these past couple of months, I have no idea what to expect in the months to come. I have no idea what tomorrow holds. And I don’t like that.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

“Hoped for” and “not seen”. In this verse which gives us a definition of what faith is, it says that faith does not include knowing what’s coming tomorrow and being in control. Faith involves the things “hoped for”…meaning it’s in the future and it hasn’t happened yet, so we have to have faith. Faith involves things “not seen”…meaning it’s not something we can see or control, so again we have to have faith.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. – Proverbs 3:5-6

This life is a journey. And on this journey, we are constantly seeking to know where our next step will be. We can plan for what we would like to see happen, but along this journey of life there are way too many variables over which we have no control that can change the course of our journey. In this very popular verse, we are told that while we walk along the path of our life journey, we must trust in the Lord rather than in our own ideas and understanding. When we trust him, he will guide us along the path.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

Jesus is speaking here, and he tells us to not worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow…the future. Jesus tells us to just focus on today and let go of worrying about tomorrow. As one who likes to plan and know what is coming next, that’s not so easy. I want to take care of things today, but also have a solid plan for what is coming tomorrow as well as the next day…and the day after that too.

In these 3 verses, we are told to trust, have faith, and not be anxious (worry). Those are contradictory to my desire to know, control, and plan.

I say I have faith in God. I say I trust him. And I want to not worry about the future. The question is, do I really? Do I really have faith in God? Do I really trust him? Do I really want to not worry about the future?

You see, I can say that I have all those things and that I want to live according to those verses. But unfortunately, words only count for so much when it comes to faith and trust and not worrying. Actions are what really prove my faith, show my trust, and reveal if I’m really not worrying.

Despite how difficult things are and potentially will be, I must be willing to let go of my desire to control things, and I must act in faith that I know God is trustworthy and has a plan for my tomorrow.

Despite not knowing how I’ll cover bills on a weekly basis, I must be willing to keep working hard at the jobs the Lord has provided for me (being smart with how I spend money of course), and then have faith that God will provide for any needs that arise tomorrow.

Despite not understanding why my life is the way it is right now, I must be willing to keep seeking to live for God and be faithful, and then trust that God has a plan for all that is happening now and for my tomorrow.

Despite not being able to be in control, despite not being able to plan for all scenarios, and despite not being happy with some of the things that are going on, I must be willing to let go of worry and place my faith and trust in a God who is in control and has a plan, even when I can’t see it or don’t understand it.

“Lord, give me strength to put action behind my words; words that say I trust you and have faith in you. Give me strength to not worry about tomorrow, no matter how difficult today is, because I know that you have a plan and are in control of all the things I have no control over. Help me to not just say I know you have a plan, but help me live like I know it.”

Posted in My Thoughts

The legacy we leave

What kind of legacy do you want to leave? How do you want to be remembered? When people speak of you, what would you like them to say?

And, I’m not just talking about after we are gone from this earth…we also leave legacies while we are still here on the earth. Legacies of how we handled a certain situation(s), legacies of how we lived our life during a particular time-period, etc. We are continually leaving legacies.

The legacies we leave while we are still around are able to be changed. We can seek to right our wrongs, learn from our mistakes, and make the necessary changes for moving forward. However, our ultimate legacy that is left once we’ve passed on cannot be changed. That legacy will be set, and the kind of legacy we leave once we are gone will be determined by how we spent our time here.

Reality is, everyone will leave a legacy of some kind. That is a truth we cannot escape. Those who watched us live our lives will remember us in some way, good or bad. The question is, what kind of legacies are we leaving now, and what will our ultimate legacy be once we are gone?

There are 3 main measurements that will determine the type of legacies we leave. 3 aspects of our lives that those around us watch the most. Our actions, reactions, and words.

1- Actions

What we choose to do. The things we stand for and fight for. How we choose to spend our time and energy…and even our money if it’s obvious. What we choose to believe in, because our actions are dictated by our beliefs since we will make choices based on what we believe is right or wrong. Where we go, who we choose hang out with, and even the type of things we choose to post on social media. All of those actions speak volumes about who we are. These actions are all things we choose to do, and those who see them will take our actions into account when they are forming what our legacy is in their mind.

2- Reactions

When life hits us, how do we respond? In the midst of difficulty, what is our reaction? If someone says or does something to us that we don’t like, how do we react? Our reactions are often an indication of our heart. We can work to do things that look good in front of other people, but in moments when something happens that is hard or that we don’t like, we will often react before we have time to think through what will look best to the people around us. Our actions are an indication of what we choose to do, but our reactions are an indication of the condition of our heart at that moment. For example, if anger is in our heart, we will react with anger in that moment. And those who see our reactions will take them into account when they are forming what our legacy is in their mind.

3-Words

Words are very important. We can hurt someone very deeply by our words, as well as encourage them in amazing ways. With our words we can guide someone in the right or wrong direction, give good or bad advice, lie or tell the truth, and either help or hurt another person. Words are important and carry a lot of weight. The saying, ‘actions speak louder than words’ is completely true, and we must remember that. It is for that reason that I put words third on this list. But that does not give us a pass on what we say…our words are very powerful and important, and those who hear our words will take them into account when they are forming what our legacy is in their mind.

Our chosen actions, our initial reactions, and the words we speak = our legacy.

 

But as I said earlier, the legacies we leave now while we are still around can be changed. If our words or actions have somehow tarnished our legacy, know that we can still work to right our wrongs and leave a better legacy. So…

If you have chosen an action that you know wasn’t the best decision, or was blatantly wrong, work on fixing it. Correct the mistakes you made, apologize to those you hurt or were somehow affected by our actions, and then change your choices moving forward to show that you were sincere in your acknowledgement of wrong doing. Prove you have changed by the actions you make moving forward…and you’ll be able to change your legacy in the mind of some (not all…because let’s be honest, some people won’t forgive or want to change their thinking…but do the best you can)

If you reacted in a way that was not the way you should have reacted, or in a way that caused pain in those who watched your reactions, then work on mending those relationships. Apologize to those who saw your wrong reaction, work on yourself to determine what led you to have that kind of reaction, and move forward with resolve to learn to not react that way. Work on your patience in difficult situations so that you learn to react properly. Realize that your reactions begin with your heart, so seek to have peace and humility rather than pride or anger in your heart. Prove you are working to change, and you’ll be able to change your legacy in the minds of some (again, not all, that will always be true to a degree…but don’t let that keep you from doing what you can)

If you said something that caused damage in any way, be it a lie or a hurtful statement or anything else that you should not have said, then find those that your words affected and say you are sorry. Learn to apologize and admit you were wrong. Begin to work to restore your relationships that were hurt by your words. Work on what you say and how you say it. Seek to speak less and listen more, and when you do speak to have your words be more uplifting than negative. Prove you are changing how you speak to others, and you’ll be able to change your legacy in the minds of some.

Perhaps you noticed a common concept in how to begin repairing your legacy. Apologize. Learning to admit our wrongs and say we are sorry goes SUCH A LONG WAY! Pride on the other hand will keep us from being willing to admit any wrong on our part, and can even lead us to try to defend what we have done rather than working to correct it. Apologizing takes humility…pride refuses humility.

Our actions, reactions, and words will be what determines the legacy we leave.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

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…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves… But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22, 25)

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  (1 Peter 5:5)

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:16-18)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

…Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith… (1 Timothy 6:11-12)

*if you know of another verse/passage that could accompany this, please feel free to share.