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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Burned but Not Consumed

I love a good fire. They are relaxing, calming and a great way to end a day. The logs, however, are always consumed.

I was reading a book called Falling Upward when I read this quote. It left me eyes wide open. I know what it means to be burned but not consumed.

Second-half-of-life, hard-won wisdom. In the first half of our lives, we have no container for such awesome content, no wineskins that are prepared to hold such utterly intoxicating wine. You see, authentic God experience always “burns” you, yet does not destroy you (Exodus 3: 2–3), just as the burning bush did to Moses. But most of us are not prepared for such burning, nor even told to expect it. (Roar 2011 pg 12-13).

The second-half-of-life is about spiritual maturity not chronological age. It is saying that spiritual growth comes when we recognize that God is trying to refine us, take away sin, restore trust, challenge us through grace and mercy. Those moments leave us feeling stung, maybe guilty, definitely repentant. We find ourselves, as Moses did, in the presence of God. What hurt becomes Holy.

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” (Exodus 3: 1-3 NIV).

I’m not off my rocker. It is possible to be burned but not consumed. Throughout my life, I have had many “ah ha” moments where God has entered my circumstances and showed me the error of my ways. One such time was early in my marriage. My husband and I had been bickering a lot. I began to pray. I told God I didn’t like how this felt, and that it wasn’t what I wanted in a marriage. God answered that prayer by showing me that I had turned into a nag. Yes, I admit it a nag. I knew that if I changed my ways the marriage would change. It burned. It did not feel good, but I was not consumed.

Changing my reactions to my husband was no small feat, but it changed the trajectory of our marriage. Allowing a moment of being burned but not consumed, hurt and made me a more gracious wife. I know now when the fire starts that God is transforming me into a more Christlike person. I know it won’t consume me. I know that it moves me further into the second-half-of-life.

Are you ready to move into the second-half-of-life? Are you ready to be refined to become more compassionate and gracious? How have you been burned but not consumed? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Not a Sinner

”A sinner saved by grace” is a common declaration made by Christians. To be honest, I have always struggled with this phrase. I have decided it’s a phrase that doesn’t reflect me. I am not a sinner saved by grace. I’m sure this could start quite the debate, but hear me out.

The phrase has always left me feeling less than, and that seems so contradictory to the character of God. God says that I’m his beloved. He says that he as made me new, transformed, washed clean. When I say, “I am a sinner saved by grace,” I am making a statement about my identity, who I believe I am, and who God believes I am. My identity is not a sinner.

I do sin, more than I care to admit. I am a follower of Jesus, who sins. I also claim the promises of these scriptures and many others

Saul turned and left Samuel. At that very moment God transformed him—made him a new person! And all the confirming signs took place the same day. (1 Samuel 10:9 MSG).

This is what God says, the God who builds a road right through the ocean, who carves a path through pounding waves, The God who summons horses and chariots and armies— they lie down and then can’t get up; they’re snuffed out like so many candles: “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands. Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’ —the coyotes and the buzzards— Because I provided water in the desert, rivers through the sun-baked earth, Drinking water for the people I chose, the people I made especially for myself, a people custom-made to praise me. (Isaiah 43: 16-21 MSG).

In the beginning, God declared creation good. I have strayed from that original plan, but claiming my savior means a transformed life, a life with a purpose and a plan. I have the opportunity to grow in grace, love, compassion as my heart changes and becomes more Christlike. My identity is not a sinner.  My identity is in Christ. That is where my hope is. That is where my focus is. I will stumble and I will fall, but I refuse to hold onto what was. I will continue to run the race God has set before me.

How about you? Where is your identity? Are you focused on what was? Are you ready to declare you are not a sinner. Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

 

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The Pharisee in Me

I like to be right. I will argue my point. I will stand my ground. In my house, all of us like to be right, and take great pleasure in proving someone else wrong. The family banter is fun, but insisting on being right can become hurtful. When I insist on being right, I can damage a relationship. I need to acknowledge the Pharisee in me.

9-12 He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: “Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: ‘Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.’

13 “Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, ‘God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.’”

14 Jesus commented, “This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.” (Luke 18: 9-14 MSG).

This attitude is all over social media, political parties on both sides, and religious folk of all denominations. We think our view is right, and everyone who doesn’t agree with us is out. Being right reigns over relationship. The problem is people are being hurt. Relationships have been broken. This calls me to look deeply at the Pharisee in me.

Brian Mclaren, in his book Generous Orthodoxy, describes 8 different versions of Jesus and the Gospel depending on our religious view. It reminds me how none of them are wrong, but none of them are fully right. Jesus calls us to build relationships. He calls us into conversation with each other. He invites us to learn from each other.  We are called into a life of generosity. We are called to see the best in each other. We are challenged to give the benefit of the doubt to others.

I am called to examine the Pharisee in me. I need to look closely at how I judge others because I do judge others. I need to pause when I have an abrupt reaction to posts on social media. I need to give the benefit of the doubt when words sound offensive. I need to ask questions first. I need to approach with curiosity and generosity. I will be richer for it and hopefully, others will too.

Do you have some Pharisee in you? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Why I Believe

It’s supposed to be spring in Minnesota, but nine inches of new snow has given me reason to doubt. I believe, if we are honest with ourselves, we all have times of doubt. We all have questions. I grew up in the church and learned all the right stories, but I didn’t own it for myself. So, why do I believe?

Much like Thomas, I needed more to accept my faith. Reading the Bible wasn’t helpful at that time.

24-25 But Thomas, sometimes called the Twin, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We saw the Master.”

But he said, “Unless I see the nail holes in his hands, put my finger in the nail holes, and stick my hand in his side, I won’t believe it.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were again in the room. This time Thomas was with them. Jesus came through the locked doors, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.”

27 Then he focused his attention on Thomas. “Take your finger and examine my hands. Take your hand and stick it in my side. Don’t be unbelieving. Believe.”

28 Thomas said, “My Master! My God!”

29 Jesus said, “So, you believe because you’ve seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.”

30-31 Jesus provided far more God-revealing signs than are written down in this book. These are written down so you will believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and in the act of believing, have real and eternal life in the way he personally revealed it. (John 20: 24-35 NIV).

Why I believe – I was on a mission trip as a teenager where I was experiencing God’s grace in lives of the people we served. During one of the worship services, a re-enactment of the crucifixion took place. Something about it, combined with the week in mission, and it all became real. Jesus died for me. It became personal. It overtook my heart. It was no longer a history story. It became real.

Since, there have been many moments of wrestling, questioning and doubts. It has never been about getting it right or irrefutable proof. Scripture is full of the same questions and doubts.  It’s about a relationship about that lives out love, grace and mercy. All of the moments of wrestling and questioning have been places of growth in my faith, places where God has shown Himself in unexpected ways. Sometimes I have to look back to find it.  This is why I believe.

Why do you believe? What are you wrestling to understand? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

 

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