Begging God

Yesterday I was telling my husband that I really need to get a blog post written. He asked, “Haven’t you run out of things to say?” Much to my surprise, I hadn’t. Until now. As I was driving home today, I found myself begging God for the words, the idea, the story, anything to get this written.

I began to reflect on the many things I have begged God for over the years. I have begged for the life of others, for healing, for jobs, for restored relationships and so much more. The Apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing. But, are we to annoy God with begging for our way like my teenage children do when they want something? Here is what Jesus says about persistence (begging God).

18 1-3 Jesus told them a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit. He said, “There was once a judge in some city who never gave God a thought and cared nothing for people. A widow in that city kept after him: ‘My rights are being violated. Protect me!’

4-5 “He never gave her the time of day. But after this went on and on he said to himself, ‘I care nothing what God thinks, even less what people think. But because this widow won’t quit badgering me, I’d better do something and see that she gets justice—otherwise I’m going to end up beaten black-and-blue by her pounding.’”

6-8 Then the Master said, “Do you hear what that judge, corrupt as he is, is saying? So what makes you think God won’t step in and work justice for his chosen people, who continue to cry out for help? Won’t he stick up for them? I assure you, he will. He will not drag his feet. But how much of that kind of persistent faith will the Son of Man find on the earth when he returns?” (Luke 18 1-8 MSG). 

He will stick up for us. He will seek justice for us. I have seen Him provide blog posts, jobs, heal and restore relationships. God cares about big things like healing and little things like blog posts.  He cares about the details of our lives.  He encourages persistence.  I think of begging as an annoyance by my kids. God just sees our hearts.

I’m reframing my begging God to persistence and praying without ceasing. How about you? What do you beg God for? Do you feel like you can beg God? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Expectations

 

 

I have been thinking a lot about expectations lately. Specifically, I have been thinking about expectations I put on my kids and God. School is ramping up and they are old enough to have their own aspirations and calling. Admittedly, their dad and I also have ideas about their aspirations and calling. We, of course, want the best for them. We want them to have good paying jobs that uses their knowledge and skills. We want them to be leaders in their chosen fields. We want them to be “successful.”

Our oldest is beginning is college career while finishing his senior year of high school. We are doing our best to guide him.  He is a talented musician who wants pursue a career in music. You can guess where this is going. Musicians fall in the struggling artist category. This didn’t exactly fit with our expectations. We love our son and want the best for him, so of course we want to control his life. We struggle thinking we know what is best for him.

I hold similar expectations of God. I love how God answered Isaac’s prayer. He got exactly what he wanted, and I want what I want.

Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. (Genesis 25:21 NIV).

I admit it. I have expectations of God just like I have expectations for my kids. In particular, I expect God to give me what I want. I expect God to heal those I love. I expect God to right wrongs. I expect God to keep my kids safe. I expect God… It has been easier to adjust my expectations of my children than my expectations of God. I get mad at Him  when a loved one dies. I get mad at Him when my children hurt. I get mad at Him when my prayers aren’t answered with a resounding yes like Isaac and Rebekah received.

Thankfully, God understands my grief, frustration and struggles. He knows what my heart wants and He knows what is best. He sees the big picture. He sees the good that will come out of my grief. Trusting that becomes my challenge.

My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119:50 NIV).

I remind myself of God’s promises to comfort me, to never leave me. I remind myself of all the times God has exceeded my expectations such as my life with my husband and kids. I remind myself that this is a journey that doesn’t promise that I get everything I want. It’s a journey that promises that I will grow in Christlikeness. That I will grow in love and grace toward others. I am reminded that the expectations I hold aren’t always the best for me or my kids.

How are you with expectations? Do your’s need some adjustments? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Letting Go Isn’t Forgetting

In grief, letting go feels like forgetting. I was scrolling through my text messages today and came across messages from my niece who recently passed. I looked through our conversations. My heart was warmed, but I’m not ready to let go. I’m not ready to delete the messages. It is a way of keeping her close. 

I began to wonder, “What if my phone crashes and I lose my messages?” I didn’t like how that felt, so I took this screenshot. I wouldn’t be able to scroll through the conversation, but at least I would have part of it. I know it won’t always be this way. I know that letting go isn’t forgetting.

Letting go is part of the struggle with grief. We wrestle with moving forward thinking that equals forgetting our loved one. We cling to hope and reach for comfort. Slowly, God shows us the way forward.

Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life. (Psalm 119 49-50 NIV).

When my dad passed, I was heartbroken and angry that my children wouldn’t get to know him. I was afraid of letting go of everyday reminders. I thought I would forget. It has been 17 years since he passed. He is not forgotten. My children know his stories and his famous phrases. I still talk to him. He is still very much in my life. The promise of hope and comfort in scripture are being lived out.

Letting go isn’t forgetting. Letting go is honoring. What? Yes.  It honors my dad when I continue to move forward and pursue life and love to its fullest. It will honor Stephanie as I do the same. She wants us to live life to its fullest. She wants us to love deeply. She wants us to move forward.

I know I will get there. For now, I’m still holding those text messages close. Eventually, I will be able to delete them. I know in doing so she will not be forgotten. She will always be in my heart. Her smile, and her positive, no-nonsense attitude will spur me on. Her light will not go out. Her memory will not fade. It will evolve into honoring the gift her life brought those who knew her.

Allowing that evolution to take place is difficult. The timeline is different for everyone. In the meantime, we cling to the One who brings hope and reminds us there will be joy again.

How have you honored a loved one by letting go? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Wrestling with Scripture

Scripture can seem boring or out of touch with today when read. The words and phrases don’t always fit with the way we express ourselves. It can seem hard to understand. It can also seem like the same old stories we already know. If we are willing to wrestle with scripture,  it can be so much more.

I was asked to give a message at my home church. I was excited. It had been a couple of years since my last time in the pulpit. Pastor let me know that the summer series was on the parables. The parable he sent me for my message was the Good Samaritan. My first thoughts were of Sunday school and flannel graphs. The story seemed boring, old and over used. So, I prayed. I asked God to renew the story within me, so it would be new for others.

33-35 “A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

36 “What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?”

37 “The one who treated him kindly,” the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:33-37 NIV).

God took my prayer seriously. He took this story that seems so straight forward and showed me it was so much more. I pulled out an old book that shows the parables from the Jewish context. I was reminded that placing the story back in its historical context brings a new layer of richness. The Samaritan was the good guy in this story. Jesus wasn’t welcome in Samaria, yet he chooses a Samaritan as the hero. Hmm.

One of my take aways from the Jewish tradition is the idea of becoming a neighbor. This sent me into a tail spin. What was I doing to become a neighbor. How was I extending grace and mercy in difficult situations? This was more than doing nice things for people in need. The Samaritan risked becoming unclean when he went to the man on the side of the road. What was I risking? I began to wrestle with scripture again.

The scripture became alive again. It had more depth, more intrigue. It stirred my soul. It challenged me. It was no longer the flannel graph story from Sunday school. Sometimes it’s digging into the context of the story that brings new life. Sometimes it’s learning the meaning of a word in Greek or Hebrew, and sometimes it’s looking at several chapters or books together to see a larger picture that brings new life.

It’s on me that scripture became complacent. A simple prayer changed all of that. I believe it’s a prayer God loves to answer. As He molds me, stretches me, it’s important to wrestle with scripture. It’s important to let God stir in my soul. Will you join me?

How is God using scripture to stir your soul? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Be The Hero

I always want to be the hero. I love watching shows and movies with a hero. I was recently listening to a podcast when the author spoke about needing 6-7 positive inputs to metabolize one negative. This was not new information to me, but the reminder came at an opportune moment. The kind God really likes to use as He refines us. I have been really crabby lately with my family.  I have been going to the negative quickly which has been demotivating to everyone. Now, guilt was setting in. This is not the kind of mom and wife I want to be. I was not doing the right thing or accepting responsibility for my actions. I was not being the hero. 

There are a few principles guided by scripture that help us all be the hero in our families. We all face trials, become overworked and short-tempered at times. James reminded us see it through.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV).

Add to this the advise in Proverbs, I’m reminded not to be stubborn but listen to what God was showing me.

Fools are headstrong and do what they like;
wise people take advice. (Proverbs 12:15 MSG).

Being the hero requires humility and strength. The hero doesn’t so what is easy but rather what is right and then takes responsibility no matter what happens. It’s three simple things.

  1. Listen to the truth
  2. Do the right thing
  3. Accept responsibility

Okay, maybe it is not so simple. It really is hard, and sometimes it hurts. Something my husband said reminded me that it is always worth it. As a high school teacher, he had noticed a student had changed as wasn’t completing homework. He decided to contact the parents and share his concerns. The parents didn’t appreciate his concern. Then he told them that he had recently lost a student to an overdose and he vowed to always make the call because every life was worth it. The student ended up receiving treatment. In my eyes, my husband was a hero. He listened, did the right thing and accepted responsibility. He made a difference in a student’s life. It reminds me that we can all do the right thing.

I don’t have to be Wonder Woman to be the hero. I can follow these principles and be the example to my family that I want to be. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. It’s the least they deserve.

How about you? Are you ready to be the hero in the lives of those you love? How has a hero impacted you? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Recognizing the Pit

How did I not see the signs? Maybe I didn’t want to see the signs? Recognizing the pit of depression is difficult. Depression can slowly build over time. Patterns can make subtle changes. Suddenly, moodiness and poor sleep become an illness that needs attention.

That is how it was with my son. We watched him struggle to get a good nights sleep. He seemed down more often than a typical teenager. He kept talking about something being missing in his life. I’ve asked myself how did I miss it, but the truth is I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want him to hurt the way I had hurt. I didn’t want him to struggle in the pit.

Since recognizing the pit, so much makes sense. His struggles and anxieties no longer seem like teenage angst. The signs were there. Here are a few signs of depression.

  1. Sad or down mood
  2. Poor sleep
  3. Lack of energy
  4. Anxiety
  5. Irritable/Isolating

Depression was hard enough to go through myself. The last thing I wanted was for my son to have to experience the pit. Memories of my experience in the pit have come flooding back. I understand what he’s going through and know I can’t fix it for him. I, so, want to fix it for him.

It was easier to go through the pit than parent through the pit. The typical “mom” response is now second guessed, reframed, and still comes out wrong. God has continually reminded me that He has this all under control, and this scripture is my hope.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. (Romans 12:12 NIV).

Recognizing the pit was one thing. Walking with someone through the pit, is another. That being said, I’m thankful to have the depression identified so we can walk through it. Walking through it is hard, but it better than wondering, questioning and watching someone sink further into the pit. We now have words to use and an extra measure of grace to offer. Depression is a sneaky disease. One that shouldn’t be ignored and pushed aside.  There are many treatments available, and a God whose desire is for all of us to be whole. I’m living proof that depression can be treated and that God can restore us to complete wholeness. My son and I trust that He will do the same for him.

Do you know someone struggling with depression? Is it time to recognize the pit they are in and walk with them? Hope, patience, prayer and the promises of God will guide you through.

What is your story of depression? Share it here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Microagressions

“Don’t look at me like that. It’s like you think I’m stupid.” “This is a look of confusion,” I replied. “I have never thought of you as stupid.”  This exchange reminded me of how difficult communication is and how much we can say without using words.

Microagressions is a term used more and more today to express unfriendly tone of voice, body language or word use. It takes a lot of self-awareness to know when we inflicted one on someone else.  Even slight offenses can hurt and scrape open old wounds.

I was thumbing through a small book, The Way of the Heart by Henri Nowen, looking at my highlights (1981). This little, 86 page book, has a lot to say to me. This jumped out at me, “Often quite unconsciously we classify our people as very good, good, neutral, bad and very bad. These judgements influence deeply the thoughts, words and actions of our ministry,” (pg 35). This is where microagressions begin.

When I am honest with myself, this quote becomes more true than I want it to be. I do classify people as soon as I meet them. It is an automatic response that I’m not proud of. It is tempting to brush off such thoughts and tell myself that I don’t mean any harm by them. However, often harm takes place without us even knowing it unlike the exchange above where I was made aware of my slight.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV).

It’s a challenge to take every thought captive, but our thoughts do influence behavior. It is recognizable to others. Growing in the likeness of God means I am willing to look deeply at my thoughts and actions. It means I am willing to address those little microagressions that God makes me aware of so I can be the best representative of His Kingdom.

Recognizing my own sin isn’t fun, but it softens my heart toward myself and others. It helps my compassion grow. It changes my heart, so it’s worth it. I’m reminded that I want others to see that I want others to see the best of Christianity in me. I want others to see Christ i my words and my actions. It’s a tall order. One I can only fill by working at it.

How about you? Are you ready for some self-reflection? Are you willing to look at you deep inner thoughts about others and how that influences your behavior? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Carry The Burden

Parenting is hard. That is no understatement. Galatians 6 tells us to carry each other’s burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ. Parents know how to do this well. We worry about our kids. We remember all that bad things that happen to them. We question every parenting move wondering if we have emotionally wrecked our children. We want our children to become compassionate, self-sufficient adults.

Some of the burdens we carry weigh heavier than others. For ten years my husband and I have been carrying such a burden. We knew our son had been hurt in some way without a lot of details. I had held an apology email from the offender in a file for all of these years. We carried the burden. We didn’t know when the right time to share it would be. We didn’t know the long-term consequences of the offense, so we carried it.

The message version of the scripture puts it this way:

1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. (Galatians 6:1-3 MSG).

I imagine that the burdens I have carried are only a fraction of what we lay at the feet of Jesus. Yet, I don’t want to have to carry something like this again. On the flip side, if needed, I will. I will because it’s a privilege and I know I don’t carry it alone. I know that Christ is carrying it with me just as he did this one.

It is not surprising that this burden had some heavy, difficult moments. One of the most difficult ones was sharing it with my son. He wanted to see the email immediately. He took my phone and read it. He then deleted it, looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’ve carried this long enough.” It felt like Jesus was speaking directly to me.

Carry the burden happens when there is a cancer diagnosis, an unexpected death, or other unexpected difficulties that ask us to come alongside those we love, and those who tear at our hearts. We carry the burden because it builds the kingdom. We carry the burden to represent Christ to others. We carry the burden to show love and care to others.

Are you willing to carry the burden of others? Are you willing to carry the weight of love and care for others? There will be pain but there will also be joy.

How have burdens shown you Jesus? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

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Forgiveness 2.0

For years, I have been teaching others about forgiveness. I teach about forgiveness being the beginning of healing not the end. I teach about forgiveness being about self-healing. It’s not about the offender. It doesn’t condone actions. It doesn’t mean consequences aren’t needed. I talk about reconciliation being a goal but not always possible. This past week my teaching on forgiveness just got an upgraded to 2.0.

Leave it to my oldest son to teach me. He came to understand an incident from younger years. (He’s still young). Someone hurt him in a profound way. This new awareness was shocking and difficult to process, but that wasn’t his first concern. He wanted to know more about the person who hurt him. He wanted to talk to him and offer forgiveness. He didn’t hesitate. I was in awe. He knew he had a journey in front of himself, but his first concern was that his offender know forgiveness.

I was deeply humbled by his mercy. I had forgotten about the power of being forgiven. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve known about the power in Christ’s forgiveness of my sins. I forgot about the Christ’s power within forgiveness offered to an offender. I forgot about this scripture. I forgot about how God changed Paul when he hears these words from Jesus.

17-18 “‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’ (Acts 26:17-26 MSG).

My son made that call the same day this all came to light. It was a brief conversation. He said, “I just want you to know I forgive you.” The offender responded with thank you. God was in that moment. He will use it to bring light into the lives of others. He has already used it in mine.

I’m proud and humbled by my son. I have had to reflect on forgiveness 2.0. How am I being called to enter tough situations, bring forgiveness to others and be the difference between dark and light? When we take these words from Jesus to heart, we not only release ourselves to heal, but we also release the offender to heal. We open the door for them to see Christ in a new way, maybe for the first time. We have the opportunity to make a Kingdom difference. My son made a Kingdom difference that night, and I want to be like him. Will you join me?

Have you experienced a forgiveness upgrade? How has forgiveness changed you? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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It’s Finished

Recently, my family went to see the new Spider-Man movie. I have to say I wasn’t overly excited about it. I’m hooked on the Marvel Avenger services and all its tentacles. However, how many times can you redo the Spider-Man series? Really? Apparently, more often than I care to watch. Okay, I did enjoy this new version and its tie into the Avengers. I did laugh. It reminded me of my own teenagers, but it also got me thinking about when is something finished?

How often do I continue to drudge up and recreate difficulties in my life? I reopen old wounds and reply the movie. I go back to old bad habits (sugar) and have to fight my way free again. It can be so frustrating. Yet, I continue to try and do it on my own rather than take what Christ offers so freely.

Jesus’ final words on the cross are powerful. They are His final declaration. It’s a declaration that we can all make in our lives. We just can’t make it alone. We have to make it with Him. Doing it alone leaves me creating another version of an old movie.

29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:29-31 NIV).

When Jesus says, “It’s Finished,” He means it’s finished.

  • It’s finished – It’s time to forgive.
  • It’s finished – I’m here with you.
  • It’s finished – I’ll bring healing.
  •         It’s finished – You are free.

When I’m tempted to recreate an old movie, I need to declare it’s finished.  I need to tell the old patterns of self to get lost. I need to enter the healing process and embrace the freedom that comes with Christ.

Are you with me? Are you ready to stop recreating old movies? Are you ready to embrace the freedom that only comes with Christ’s declaration, “It’s finished?”  You won’t regret the decision.

How have you found freedom in Christ? Share your story here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

 

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