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Finding new expectations

Finding new expectations

Growing up, my dad would often fill my car up with gas. It was his way of saying he loved me and thinking of me. On those cold winter days, I would hop in the car, dreading the necessary stop at the gas pump, just to find out I had a full tank of gas! Thanks Dad, you’re the best!

When I first married, I thought my husband should do the same thing, after all that’s what my daddy did! It wasn’t until I almost ran out of gas several times that I realized I needed to fill up my own gas tank.

We bring our own expectations into our marriages in a million different ways.

Who should take out the trash? Who does the laundry? Who pays the bills? Who does the dishes? Who gives the kids a bath? Who fills up the car and so forth.

We think how our family operated was the “norm,” and every family should operate the same way.

Looking for a church family is similar. We bring our own expectations and way of doing things along with us. My old church did things this way; we had this program; we sat in these chairs; we took the Lord’s Supper this way and on this day; my bible teacher taught out of this book; the pastor spoke with gusto and conviction with this kind of tone, and on and on it goes.

Having the honor of traveling and speaking at different churches, I get to see the heartbeat of each church – how they interact, how they include outsiders, what they value, how they organize events, what their needs are at the moment, how history has shaped who they are, how their “family” operates. Each church is unique and beautiful, having their own strengths and weaknesses.

God reminds me how much He loves His Church and how we can learn from each other and love each other despite our differences. Being willing to listen, learn and grow from each other is such a valuable thing – God loves the humble (Psalms 49:4).

It has been a privilege to see the Bride of Christ with a new perspective – not just see things done the way my family does them but how Christ is honored in new and unique ways. It is a beautiful reminder that Christ uses each one of us right where we are at, with the gifts and talents we each possess.

Maybe you find yourself looking for a new church home like me and my family (as we have recently moved). It can be a daunting task no doubt! But take courage my friend! God has a place for you in His family. It may look different than your old church; there will be new relationships formed, new expectations and new ways of doing things, but one thing is for certain: He has a place for each one of us!

Being a part of a church family is invaluable! Therefore, do not grow weary in looking for a church that loves His word, gives to the poor, follows hard after Christ and His example on the cross and preaches the Truth. All other things are secondary.

My husband may not fill up my car with gasoline but he does a million things every day to show me how much he loves me. Thanks baby, you’re the best!

Love Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

Love Even When You Don’t Feel Like It

The minute I walk into my mom’s house the cutest little critter greets me. Her little tail wags so fast her whole body moves side to side, she jumps up and down, and runs around in circles with so much excitement I can barely pick her up. As I cuddle her in my arms, she lavishes me with affection and love.

However, if I walk in without showing her attention and prolong our warm greeting, she follows me around the house, nipping at my heels and begins to bark, as if to remind me that she needs some attention! I scoop her into my arms and say, “I love on my kids all day and now I have to love on you! Everyone seems to need attention today!” In reply, she licks me all the more to say “Thank you”.

Loving on people and fulfilling the needs of others, even the family dog, can get exhausting! But God’s word reminds us, the call to love is highest.

Prov. 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

1 John 4:7 – “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

1 Peter 4:8 – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

Matthew 22: 37-40 – “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The times I don’t “feel” like showing love is when I’m tired, cranky, in a hurry or on a mission to complete my own agenda. All of these things are rooted in selfishness. Life in those moments is all about me, and I flat out forget to think of others. If I could just stop and look at those around me (even the dog!) through God’s eyes, then I would realize God has invited me to be a part of something bigger then my agenda or cranky attitude and show love to the people He died for!

When loves feels hard and honestly, it’s the last thing you want to do, remember that love is what sent Jesus to die on a cross for each of us. He loved us so much that He sent His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life! (John 3:16)

Jesus never grows tired of showing us love and his cup never runs dry. Out of gratitude for the love He shows us, may we continue to show love to all those around us!

A Love That Motivates

A Love That Motivates

Oh my sweet little Rose! It’s a good thing she is so cute! At three years old, that curly little redhead can be super ornery! After she spills her drink, throws a tantrum, hits her brother, tells me “NO!” or spills red juice all over grandma’s carpet (thank goodness it wasn’t my house!), she will look up with those big blue eyes and say, “I promise I will never ever do that again mommy.”

In her own sweet way, she is saying sorry and never wants to disappoint me again. So, with great sincerity in her heart, and great skepticism in mine, we hug and move on. She truly hates to disappoint me. Her little heart is so sensitive to what makes me happy and what gets her in trouble.

The feelings Rosie expresses on her face seem to be the feelings I hide in my heart. I find myself longing for my heavenly Father’s approval, never wanting to disappoint. Yet, with this desire to never disappoint my God, I can easily begin to think of Him as my Judge. The kind of judge that sits behind the bench waiting to pass judgment, to show His upmost disapproval of me, and tell me how, yet again, I have failed Him.

The most recent occurrence, for example, was trying to prepare for teaching a Sunday school lesson. The week was almost over as I sat down at the kitchen table to pray and study.

I began to pray, “God please forgive me for not being as prepared as I should to teach this lesson. Lord I pray You would move in the hearts of all who attend even though I have failed you. I don’t deserve your bailout but please don’t hold back Your knowledge because of me. Bless your people and bless this lesson.”

In the middle of my prayer God spoke truth to my heart. His truth flooded in so swiftly to correct and cut away the false thinking and give Grace even though I didn’t deserve it.

He spoke three main truths to me:

  1. I love you! I want the best for you! I don’t want you to fail. I am your biggest cheerleader! Don’t label me as a harsh judge when all I have ever given you is love and grace. Yes, I disciple you when you need it, but only because of LOVE!
  2. My word can stand-alone! I don’t need you to study for hours and hours for my word to come alive. In fact, I don’t need you at all! All you simple have to do is open my word with a pure heart and my Spirit will do the rest (This was by no means, God letting me off the hook! He was putting me in my place because my pride was getting in the way. I need to study, but it is always God who speaks and moves the heart of His people, not me!).
  3. I want you to want to spend time with me (sound familiar?). Your lack of preparedness shows the priority you place on spending time with My Word and Me. I’m after your heart, not your brain. Give me your heart and you will long to spend more and more time in My Word. Your love for Me should be your motivation. Not your warped thinking of my judgmental attitude.

That morning I got more than I bargained for in my prayer time! God scolded me and whipped me back into shape, back into remembering His love for me.

Now I could say, “I sorry Lord. I promise I will never do that again!” but God knows that truth and He will have to remind me again and again.

So I want to remind you too. God loves you! He wants the very best for you! He longs to spend time with you and lavish His words of grace into your heart. He is your biggest cheerleader!

He is our Judge, but he doesn’t judge us with human motives or thoughts or even human love. He judges us with a love we can’t even comprehend because His son Jesus stands in the gap for us.

May you remember His love for you today and let that be the motivation that moves you!

God Directs Our Steps

God Directs Our Steps

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” (Prov. 16:9).

How many times have I made plans in my life only to see them swept away as quick as an Oklahoma tornado, slamming the cellar door shut? Have you heard the saying, “We make plans and the Lord laughs”?

Sometimes, it is true. Our plans are not the Lord’s, and He has to come along and redirect the way we are going. Sometimes abruptly, in my case!

I want to live in such a way that I welcome God’s interruptions. That I trust Him fully, knowing He has better plans for my life than I could ever imagine. He sees the broader picture of how our lives play out and what is best for each of us.

But what happens when “our plans” get bumped?

Do we welcome God’s breeze to blow us in a new direction?

People who embrace God’s interruptions do not get upset when those interruptions happen. They can change with the wind; they are free to enjoy the process and not just the end result, and they have a joy in their step even when things aren’t going their way.

I want to live like that! I want to live fully trusting in God even when my life has taken me down a road I didn’t plan to travel.

The word “establishes” in Prov. 16:9 means, “Determined, provides, prepares, sets in place, directs, to be ready, to arrange.”

When our heart’s plan is in sync with what the Lord’s will is, He prepares everything beforehand, so the “plan” we have determined is accomplished. Before the end is established, the result was set in place by the hand of God!

Think about that for a moment.

You have hopes and dreams, goals, longings, ministries, plans. If the Lord’s will is for those to come into fruition, it’s as good as DONE! God will direct your steps and show you the way. It is His will. He placed the longing in your heart in the first place. Ultimately, it is His dream and His goals for your life! And if it is from Him, nothing can stop it from being accomplished!

We can rest and trust in Him to accomplish that which He has directed us to do.

Go ahead, make your plans. God has given each of us hopes, dreams, plans and desires, but don’t get tossed in the wind and blown away when He comes along and changes your plans!

About obedience

About obedience

Obeying his momma seems really hard most days, but when my little man is tired, it seems impossible! As the day goes on, the independent voice inside his head grows louder and louder, and doing what he wants instead of obeying me, well let’s just say I normally lose that battle.

I can see it coming. That look in his eye that is so ornery and mischievous. Almost like I can see the wheels spinning and the inner dialogue he is having with himself.

Yet, my little man is not the only one! I can get that way some days too! As the day lingers, my patience, love and good attitude begin to disappear. As the clock ticks away and the sun seems to stand still, making it to bedtime without listening to that selfish inner voice seems impossible!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal. 6:9).

“Lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path” (Prov. 3:5-6).

God calls me to obey a higher way. It’s a calling I can only accomplish with His help. I have to listen to His voice and quiet my own thoughts, wishes and attitudes to achieve it. Each day we have to push out the sinful self and pour in more of Jesus!

Those moments that I want to give up, throw up my hands and quit, I have to repeat God’s words to my soul and trust that He knows best. “Don’t give up. Reap a harvest. Acknowledge Him. Direct my path.”

Obedience may be hard for kids, but honestly, how obedient have you been?

Obeying God may be hard today, but if we continue, you and I will gain so much more than satisfying our wants in that moment. Press on in doing good my friend! Lean in and listen to His voice, so you may obey and show Him how much you love Him!

“If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15).