Enough Faith

This sign hangs by our dining table. I see it everyday, but this week it has been stirring within me. What does it mean to have enough faith?

I hear statements such as, “pray harder,” “you didn’t pray hard enough,” “you need to have enough faith,” etc. These are often said by well-meaning people who don’t know what else to say, but they always make me cringe. We hear these phrases when we don’t get the miracle we are praying God will bring us.

I, recently, watched a dear young couple lose their daughter pre-term. My heart broke for them. I found myself asking a question I ask a lot, “Why God?” While I don’t have the answer to why, I do know that God didn’t do this to them. It didn’t happen because they didn’t have enough faith or pray hard enough.

20 “Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy- seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (Matthew 17:20 MSG). 

I will always want to ask God, “Why?” It doesn’t mean I didn’t pray enough or have enough faith. Don’t get me wrong faith and prayer matter. Prayer makes a difference. It’s how we communicate with God an important aspect of our relationship. God cares deeply about what is on our hearts. But, the reason I didn’t get the miracle I prayed like crazy for is not because I didn’t have enough faith.

It is about having faith even the faith of a small seed. It is about growing in our relationship with God in the midst of difficult circumstances that we don’t fully understand. God loves each of equally whether our faith is a seed or a mighty oak.

As hard as it is to understand why these things happen, I still choose faith. Faith makes things possible not easy.

If you wrestle with this as I do, here is my prayer.

I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. (Philemon 1:6 NIV).

When do you ask why? Do you feel like you don’t have enough faith? How has God encouraged your faith? Share your experiences here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Change


I have been wrestling with some questions, lately. They are questions that I will probably never have the answer to in this life. What motivates a person to change? We go through trauma, addiction, poor life choices and habits.

These experiences change us. We perceive the world and the people around us differently because of them. We lack trust in others. We have fears. We don’t feel safe or worthy. Then something happens within us. We decide to change. We decide we don’t like how we feel. We know there is more and there is a moment that spurs us to do something different. Previous attempts at change have failed. This time it works. What is different? Did life become painful enough? Do we hit “rock bottom?” Is there a fear of loss?

God is a God of transformation, restoration and change. God loves us and is always with us. God desires our hearts become more Christlike. These are things I do know.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us…. (Romans 5:1-5 ESV).

To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV).

As I wrestle with what causes change to happen, scripture is clear. God is for us. God want to take what is old, hurt, and broken within us and make us new. Even though there are still aspects of my house to clean, I have hope that I will continually be renewed. My heart will continue to change and transform. I still wrestle with the timing of it and our role in it, but I have hope in the promises within scriptures. I trust God to bring His work in me to fulfillment.

What brought you to change? Where did your motivation come from? What did you cling to in the process? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Do Over

It was one of those days. I had spent several hours working on a report. I was proud of it. In going over it with a colleague, I came to realize that it needed to be completely redone. It needed a do over.

As our conversation continued, the frustration within was building. Why hadn’t this been better communicated? Did I miss something?The crabbies took over. I had a full on bad attitude. My emotions were a strange mix of self-righteousness and inadequacy. I needed a do over.

The story of the woman caught in adultery reminds me that God is a God of do overs. Jesus knew her sins, her bad attitude, her inadequacies. He still offered her a new life. He offered her forgiveness and grace to begin again, anew.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

11 “No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:2-12 NIV).

She needed a do over. I have needed many do overs. Jesus continues to offer them. I can learn from my mistakes and grow in grace and forgiveness. Whether is something small like today’s crabbies or something large like the woman in adultery, Jesus declares, “Neither do I condemn you.” Will you accept the charge to leave the life of sin?

How have you experienced do overs? How has Jesus said to you, “Neither do I condemn you?” Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

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Preparation

Before

After

“Why am I doing this to myself,” has been a question I’ve been asking myself for the last six weeks. We have been in a state of preparation. A few of the gardens in the yard had experienced years of neglect. The interior of the house was in need of some deep cleaning. All of this in anticipation of my son’s high school graduation. Food prep even began weeks ahead and was thrown in the freezer.

My body has experienced extreme muscle soreness from the landscape projects. The rocks around that tree were already there. They had to be unearthed, and weeds removed. I promised myself not to let this level of neglect take place again. Okay, at least not before the final graduation party in three years :0)

I was reflecting on the preparation for the Sabbath in the Hebrew tradition. It is a day given to prepare food, surroundings and the body for a day with God. In one place, I read it was to bring joy to the Sabbath. It’s true that we were subjecting ourselves to all this preparation for the graduation celebration to be joyous. I wanted my son to feel special and our guests, welcome.

I had to ask myself, “Why don’t I do that for God?” There have been times when I have prepared for time with God through retreats and it brought anticipation and excitement, so why don’t I do it regularly?

If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
    Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
    Yes! God says so! (Isaiah 58:13-14 MSG).

When I do prepare, God always shows up in a way that surprises me and brings joy. What would happen if I did this regularly?  What would happened to my prayer and devotion time if I prepared my space and my body for it? What door would I open for God to impact my heart? I think I have been missing out.

How about you? How do you prepare for time with God? How has it impacted your relationship? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Regret

Recently, a friend asked that I write about regret. He mentioned that he has had many conversations with older (70, 80-year-old) folks who wished they could redo parts of their lives. He wanted my take on this. Far be it for me to turn down a challenge.

There are certainly times when I wished I was a better mother to my boys. There have been times when my behavior was less than kind and compassionate and wished I could take back my anger and words. That’s regret. However, I’m glad do-overs are not an option. I wouldn’t actually change anything not even what the icky neighbor did to me.

Here’s why. All of those experiences have made me who I am. More importantly, it is these very human experiences that teach us to rely on God for strength, perseverance and comfort.

8-9 I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out. The letter upset you, but only for a while. Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss.

10 Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 MSG).

All of my experiences, including having an icky neighbor, have taught me about love, grace and compassion. They have made me a better wife, mother and friend. There is a catch. I have to be willing to let those moments of regret drive me toward God. I have to be willing to face it, own my mistakes, and make amends.

What the Apostle Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians is about a choice, a choice I get to make because of the cross. The gift we receive through Christ’s death and resurrection is only a gift if we get to choose. Love, grace, and mercy are a choice, a choice that only has meaning because of the cross. If God simply made everything perfect in our lives, the cross would be meaningless. Grace, love and mercy would be meaningless. We turn to God in times of regret because of love, grace and mercy. We turn because of the cross.

How have you faced regret? Are you willing to turn toward God? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Unspoken Rules

I have unspoken rules. For example, I have rules about public bathrooms. Whenever possible, there should be an empty stall between you and me. If there are multiple toilet paper rolls, take from the smallest roll. No conversations between stalls. Always wash your hands. When finished, wipe up any water left on the counter.

Okay, maybe I have over thought this, but I’m guessing you have unspoken rules too. Maybe they are not related to public bathrooms, but I bet they exist. Maybe you have them at home? We have one that says Dad runs the TV in the living room.

Church is a place where unspoken rules are common. Worship is filled with them. So and so sit in that pew, so you can’t sit there. Everyone stand during the songs. “Peace be with you” requires the response, “And also with you.”

The problem with the unspoken rules is they lead to assumptions that can get us into trouble. We assume others know the rules. We assume others have the same expectations around what is supposed to happen. We assume others share the same beliefs especially in the church.

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind. 19 They have lost connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:16-22 NIV).

I have been thinking a lot about what I believe.  What is grounded in the commands of Christ? Does it fit with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself?” Is it an unspoken rule or doctrine put in place by the church to serve itself. These are heady questions, but important questions for all of us to ask ourselves. We need to know what we believe and why we believe it.

What are your unspoken rules? How is God guiding you in examining them? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Gardener

I don’t consider myself a gardener. My husband is the gardener. He typically plants a huge vegetable garden, cans pickles and salsa. I stay as far away from his garden as possible, however I do like my flowers. I will plant a few annuals and clean up the flower beds. I don’t even mind weeding for the first 20 minutes. The problem is I’m six hours in and still weeding and mulching. My nails are broken, my fingers are rough and dirty even though I was wearing gloves. My back is tied up in knots. My shoulders and knees ache. Being a gardener is seriously hard work.

This has given me a new perspective on God as a gardener. It has always been this beautiful imagery of God caring for me, nurturing me and helping me grow. It was a peaceful and comforting image. Now, the image is completely different. I see God has hard-working and persistent to keep going after the weeds in my life. He is relentless. He never stops. This scripture is talking about others in our lives, but for me, it can also be God working tirelessly to keep my flowers from being overtaken.

Or they’re like weeds springing up in the sunshine, invading the garden, Spreading everywhere, overtaking the flowers, getting a foothold even in the rocks. But when the gardener rips them out by the roots, the garden doesn’t miss them one bit. The sooner the godless are gone, the better; then good plants can grow in their place. (Job 8:18-19 MSG).

God is the gardener who never stops digging out the weeds in my heart. He never stops trying uproot my behaviors that prevent me from loving as He loves. He doesn’t get tired and sore like I do. He just persists. He uproots rage and fears. All of the weeds he has uprooted in my life, I don’t miss one bit. In fact, I’m far better with them gone. Uprooted means gone forever. Uprooted means it doesn’t come back without a new seed being planted. So many weeds are gone from my life. My family has a wife and a mother who is more compassionate and caring. My heart has new depth. I am able to love more fully.

How about you? Are you willing to let God tend to the weeds in your life? Has God removed weeds from your life? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Brothers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorial Day is a time when I reflect back on the service of my dad during WWII. Dad and John became brothers in boot camp. They always lined up next to each other. It was alphabetical. They looked out for each other. They pulled pranks together. They saved each other’s lives on more than one occasion.

This bond didn’t end when they returned home. They remained brothers to the end. They raised families together. They vacationed together. They joked together, and they kept each other in line.

Family can be by blood or by choice. Family doesn’t always get along. We often hurt each other. We let each other down. We let a little rift become a gorge. As God reminds Joseph, He reminds us what is most important.

This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept. (Genesis 50:17 NIV),

As I reflect on Dad and John this Memorial Day and the power of their bond, I’m reminded that it can be fleeting. I need to be willing to reconcile my relationships. I need to be willing to forgive. I need to honor their memory and honor God’s direction. They give a vision of a lifetime relationship. Once brothers, always brothers. Once family, always family.

God, thank you for clear direction toward reconciliation. Thank you for showing us how to put family first. Bring healing to families needing your grace and mercy to come back together and back to you.

This Memorial Day I encourage you to honor your family.  Share your reflections on family here and breathe life and bring hope.

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Opposing Views

Confirmation bias is the tendency to interpret new evidence as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories. We latch onto information that supports what we already believe. We ignore or deny information to the contrary. We ignore or deny opposing views.

I know this full well. In one of my previous lives, I was a personal trainer/fitness director. This required extensive knowledge of anatomy, physiology and nutrition. I was shown all kinds of “proof” that fat was bad for us. I was taught that nutritional fat would cause physical fat on the body. When I began doing my own research, it was telling me that the opposite. Nutritional fat was not related to fat on the body. At first I was angry and thought it had to be wrong. I kept digging. I kept finding additional research telling me that I was wrong. It took six months of digging to fully embrace this research.

Neuroscience tells us that we are wired for this type of reaction. Brain scans show that when we see information that we agree with our pleasure centers light up and our prefrontal cortex (reasoning) shuts down. If we see information that we disagree with, our fight or flight response is triggered and our reasoning shuts down. We are happy when information agrees with our point and we want to argue when we encounter an opposing view. In both cases reasoning shuts down. It’s easy to see how we get locked into a position just as I did.

How do we ever learn? How do we grow in our understanding, or expand our thinking? Scripture gives us some clues, and it’s not about standing our ground ready for a fight.

let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— (Proverbs 1:5 NIV).

I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching (Proverbs 4:2 NIV).

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. (Proverbs 9:9 NIV).

It begins with an openness to learning, expanding our understanding rather than shutting down opposing views instantly. We are wise to fully examine what we think we know and what others present to us as new knowledge. It doesn’t mean we change our minds as I did. Sometimes the exploration strengthens our initial understanding. The idea is to follow the wisdom of Proverbs and allow ourselves the opportunity to add to our learning. I can learn from those I disagree with a heart that is willing to listen.

How do you embrace opposing views? How do you challenge yourself to learn and grow? Share our experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

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Well Run Dry

A well is a source of refreshment. It brings nourishment and energy to the soul. But, a well run dry leaves us parched, tired and cranky. A couple of decades ago a close friend said, “I would always be going Mach 10 with my hair on fire.”  I would always be working several jobs. I would always have too much on my plate. I would always be over involved. Clearly, those words stuck with me, and I never expected them to be true.

Here I am all these years later working two jobs, involved in multiple ministries, speaking, writing, being a mom and a wife. I’m still running  Mach 10 with my hair on fire. I admit I like my cup to be full, but there are those times when it starts to overflow. More begins to pour out of me than is being replenished. My well runs dry. I don’t seem to notice until I’m completely dehydrated.

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” (John 4:14 MSG).

Soon, I’m so parched and in need of rest that crankiness becomes the norm. Then I finally remember what will replenish my well. My well runs dry because I’ve wandered away from the source. My prayers have become a flat one way street of routine and obligation. Scripture and devotions are more of a “to do” than a time of resting and replenishing. I actually begin to crave sacred time with Jesus. He is the wellspring of life that will replenish my soul. He calms my heart and brings peace to the day.

I finally turn my intention back to the source. Yes, intention not attention. I force myself to sit in His presence. I make the time to worship with my whole heart not a fraction of it. I become intentional with my time with God. I create space to listen and notice Him in all aspects of my day. My energy and motivation increase. I become more optimistic and hopeful. My families favorite part is the crankiness goes away.

Has your well run dry? Have you strayed from the source of life? Are you thirsty for more? How do you replenish your soul? How is your well restored?  Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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