The Good that Opposes the Best

Creativity is the key. 682x1024 The Good that Opposes the Best

In business, we often say that good is the enemy of great (and quickly fix that with books like Good to Great by Jim Collins).

But have you ever thought about the good that opposes the best when it comes to our spiritual life?

Philippians 4:8 tells us

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

just as the Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that the fruit of the spirit is

… love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

So naturally, especially as a new Christian a decade ago, I spent a great deal of time aspiring to these concepts.

The only problem is that I always ultimately come short.

So then should I abandon those moral goals altogether? Not quite.

But perhaps we may need to rethink them.

After I read the following by Oswald Chambers in My Utmost for His Highest, it caused me to pause:

The things that are right, noble, and good from the natural standpoint are the very things that keep us from being God’s best. Once we come to understand that natural moral excellence opposes or counteracts surrender to God, we bring our soul into the center of its greatest battle. Very few of us would debate over what is filthy, evil and wrong, but we do debate over what is good.

It is the good that opposes the best.

The higher up the scale of moral excellence a person goes, the more intense the opposition to Jesus Christ…The natural life is not spiritual, and it can made spiritual only through sacrifice. If we do not purposely sacrifice the natural, the supernatural can never become natural to us.

Ultimately, I took this passage to mean that all of us may disagree on what is in fact ‘good’…and we can waste so much energy and time, not only trying to achieve ‘good’, but trying to prove and convince others of that definition.

Instead, why not focus on surrendering our lives and will to God and with that will come the moral clarity so many of us seek.

Really, the equation becomes so much more attainable when we put our efforts in God’s hands instead of our own, wouldn’t you agree?

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We serve a big God…

We serve a big God.

Some of you may be thinking, “Duh…that’s like lesson one in Sunday School when we’re 5 years old!”

But for someone like me who came to know Christ in my mid-20′s and is the daughter of a Jewish lawyer born during the Great Depression, sometimes I have to go back & analyze the facts and re-state the obvious so I don’t forget the truth.

And the truth is, we serve a big God.

How can I state that as a fact? Let me just share a glimpse of how my last 12 hours have transpired:

A series of events yesterday led me to question a lot of things in my personal and professional life. Obviously, the psychological burden proved too great until all of a sudden, around 11:30 last night, I started sobbing uncontrollably.

I’d allowed a couple of petty comments, texts & yes, even Facebook to eat away at me and for a little while, seriously started wondering if anyone liked me. (The enemy strikes best when it’s dark…have you ever noticed that?)

This morning, my husband blessed my by taking our son to school and our daughter (who I’m homeschooling this term) with him to help on a home decor job he had. (That’s how they bond…surely we all know she didn’t get that gene from me!).

All this to say, I found myself home alone for the the first time in about 4 months. My first instinct was to turn on the TV and drown out the voices in my head, but I felt like my soul needed the silence more.

I was literally about to sit down at my computer and type out a blog post entitled, “Am I a horrible person?” when my best friend from Florida called me.

This may not seem out of the ordinary for those of you that talk to your best friend or mom on a daily basis (or perhaps multiple times a day), but I’m not what you’d call a phone person…and neither is she. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we actually connected via the phone, but that’s ultimately not how we communicate love to each other.

But I digress.

The point is, before I could weep and moan and belabor over my keyboard about how I must be deluding myself into thinking people liked me and ultimately I must be horrible otherwise these things wouldn’t be happening to me, my sweet friend called out of the blue.

Thankfully, as only she can do with me, she gave me a ‘snap out of it’ talk and reminded me of the actual, verifiable, God-given truth that abounds in my life. (It is ultimately because of her that this post has transformed from, “Am I a horrible person?” to “We serve a big God“…)

While on the phone with her, I received a call from another one of my best friend’s in Atlanta who I also haven’t been able to connect with in forever.

As soon as I hung up one call, I got another from a local friend who I thought I had wronged because of the silence between us and realized that was in no way the truth, that they were in fact, like the rest of us, just insanely busy, but wanted to get a date on the calendar to get our families together.

THEN, immediately following that call, another sweet friend of mine (also equally difficult to pin down on a phone call) rang in, saying, “I don’t have much time, but just felt a strong urge to check in on you”.

Even as I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes thinking about the turn of events. 12 hours ago, I was believing a grossly-overexaggerated, nowhere near true thought that I was allowing to become my reality. Yes, I allowed it to take over my brain.

This morning, without me knowing, our big God orchestrated a series of events across multiple states, time zones, and work situations to allow some of the most important people in my life to converge on my heart all at once.

…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning. ~ Psalm 30:5b

So to all of you who think your life isn’t perfect (or worse, think my life is!), I wanted to transparently show you the truth: none of our lives are perfect, but we serve a God who is!!!

Life is too hard to waste time believing the lies of others. Ultimately, we shouldn’t spend even a moment worrying about whether people like us or don’t like us: our primary goal should be to live a live consistent in Christ that points people toward Him.

Yet how merciful is our God to know us so well that He would care enough to send His angels through our friends to remind us of His love when we need it most!

So to all of you out there struggling a bit like me today, know that I am praying fervently for you to receive blessing, peace and wisdom, much like I was gifted this morning.

And if you need a virtual ‘slap in the face’ to wake up out of your worry, just leave a comment below and I’ll send my friend your way icon wink We serve a big God...

we serve a big god psalm 30 5 We serve a big God...

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Pray Out Loud

pray out loud Pray Out Loud

I’ve never been one to pray out loud very much.

To be completely honest, I’ve never even considered prayer much of a spiritual gift.

Still, I’m not one of those to shy away from it; I’m happy to pray out loud in public when asked (obviously it’s not a fear of crowds or public speaking that hinders me icon wink Pray Out Loud

If I had to dig really deep with myself, I’d say my tendency not to pray out loud centers more around my time issues. Not only is it hard for me to find pockets of free time in my day, but even if I do, it’s exponentially more difficult for me to sit still during that time!

Still, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 reminds us to:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t interpret that verse to mean we’re supposed to pray out loud all throughout our day, even as we walk through the grocery store and the office. Rather, I believe it commands us to invite God into all aspects of our life and put on the mind and heart of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), even in the most trivial parts of our day.

Yet what struck me in a new way this morning to pray out loud was something I learned about myself recently. If you’ve been following  my story over the past few months, you already know I’ve been suffering from panic attacks for the first time in my life. While they’ve subsided greatly compared to a couple months ago, I learned a physiological key to helping them stop before they start.

Exhale.

That’s right. When fear and panic start to grip you, our bodies first instinct is to inhale. Yet our lungs cannot take in more air until we first exhale. Once we realize we can’t take in more air, we start to panic further, and thus begins the tragic cycle.

Yet if we start by completely emptying our lungs an breathing from our diaphragm (easier to accomplish stomach breathing when lying on the floor on your back), our body gets the oxygen it needs and begins to establish a regular breathing pattern again.

So why is it important to pray out loud? In order to speak, you MUST exhale. So when you call on the name of Jesus audibly, not only is there spiritual power in saying His name (1 Cor 1:2), but there is a physiological reaction that stops the fear once you exhale upon speaking.

Powerful, right?

As I felt the panic creeping in to me this morning, I simply said, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” out loud and realized that not only was I calling on the most powerful name in the universe, but I was simultaneously releasing the air gripped in my chest so I could breathe in fresh life!

I realize now that panic attacks are real, and while they may all come at different intensities, this simple rule has helped me stop them before they start. Regardless of whether or not you suffer from the same malady, I believe we can all break free from whatever grips us, and we can begin that freedom when we pray out loud.

How do you face fear when it presents itself to you?

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The nation’s thrill; a mother’s terror #PrayforBoston

pray hard 300x225 The nations thrill; a mothers terror #PrayforBoston

When news came of the Boston Marathon bomber suspect finally being apprehended last night, there was a thrill that came over the nation. I can only imagine that Bostonians in particular experienced a sense of relief that this terrorist had been caught and a sense of peace in knowing the lockdown has finally ended.

But for one mother, her terror is just beginning.

This terrorist is only 19 years old. Not only is he barely an adult himself, he is someone’s child.

He is a brother, a nephew, a friend.

And the reports from those who knew him all echo the same sentiment:
We would never have imagined he could do such a thing.”

He was described as “funny”, “nice”, & “a good athlete”…not “isolated”, “withdrawn” or “brooding”.

So what now for this family who has to face their own terror that is just beginning? Their world has been equally turned upside down by their sons’ (alleged) actions, yet I can guarantee they will not have the privilege of fighting this battle in private.

When I first learned how young the suspects were and that they were brothers, I posted this update to my Facebook wall:

In shock over the new developments in Boston. Brokenhearted to hear the new ‘WANTED’ suspect is only 19 years old. Imagine what could have happened if someone had poured peace and grace into his life instead of anger and hatred… 

I have no answers to you in writing this (not that any of us do), but I have a prayer I’d like you to join with me in praying. As you pray for the families in Boston today and everyone around the country who’s been affected by this horrific act, please consider praying for the suspects’ family as well. Pray for justice to be served, but for a path of peace to be laid as a result.

God bless America.

 

Image sourced from Google Images/RunEatRepeat.com
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Access

Have you ever seen a picture of random celebrities together and thought, “They have no business knowing each other except that their both famous!”

I have.

And then the next natural question becomes, “How did they even happen to get to meet each other?”

There is a very simple answer: Access

A singer likes a certain TV show, so his people call their people and boom, he gets to meet the stars. Perhaps they’re both presenting at an awards show together. Or maybe they’re both hanging out in the same VIP lounge at Target (surely Target has a VIP lounge the rest of us normal folk don’t get to see, right???).

(From Dierks Bentley on WhoSay…P.S. If you can name all the people in this picture, I’m impressed – I couldn’t!- though Dierks, if you’re reading this, you are the ONE country singer I’d like to meet…but I digress)

So I may have a skewed view of celebrity and fame, but the answer stays the same: Access.

I remember a time years ago when I was absolutely convinced that Rachael Ray and I would be best friends…if only we could meet! This wasn’t when everyone knew her name and loved her, it was just me….well, just me and my then toddler. I remember feeding a newborn baby in my arms and having my 19 month old jump up and down at the TV screen saying “Wachael Way! Wachael Way!” As someone who didn’t consider themselves a pro in the kitchen (and still doesn’t!), I resonated with her humility and quirkiness.

I had a dream that we happened to be getting our hair done next to each other and my hairdresser said to her hair dresser that she thought we should be friends and POOF! That was all it took…but the dream never became reality. In fact, as is typical of my life, once everyone else starts liking something, I usually back away from it. So, alas, the world will never know the powerhouse duo that Rachael and I could have become.

But do you know who we do have full, unlimited access to? God
“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” ~ Ephesians 2:18-19

When I worked at the Olympics in Atlanta back in 1996, I had an infinity level pass. That meant that even when I wasn’t working an event, I could pretty much get in wherever I wanted: the floor level of the gold medal women’s gymnastics event, the back halls of the tennis venue, even next to the Vice-President of the United States during the closing ceremonies (well, I think that one was a fluke, but once I was past the metal detector, I was in!).

I think that gig had something to do with the fact that I was young, diligent and spoke French (or just a brilliant stroke of good luck for me and my friends who also got the gig). Do you know what it takes to get an infinity level pass to God? Faith.

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God.” ~ Romans 5:1-2

It’s that simple. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ, you gain an infinity level pass to His kingdom for eternity! How cool is that?

There’s not test. You don’t have to be famous. And God knows you don’t have to be perfect!

That’s the beauty of it. With faith comes access to God’s grace, mercy and unconditional love.

So the next time you feel like you’re being left out of the coolest VIP lounge (hint, hint Target…), just remember, we all have the potential for infinity level access to the ultimate heavenly lounge.

All you have to do is ask…

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:15-16

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Almighty Ruler

measure expectations get disappointed Almighty Ruler
“If they only knew…”
“You can’t possibly understand…”
“No-one feels my pain…”
Have these words ever permeated your thoughts after speaking to someone? Do you know who could ever truly understand your unique position and circumstance?

Only Jesus can.

Now that I have children, I have an additional repertory of experiences that I could never have appreciated before being a mom. Looking back, I specifically remember several situations where I demonstrated insensitivity to those with children simply because I had never walked a day in their shoes.

By no means was I trying to be malicious, I just honestly had no clue about everything that needed to be considered in those circumstances.

When we measure our expectations against others, we ultimately get disappointed.

Likewise, we may assume that someone is being selfish when, in reality, we are the ones who are self-centered. God is truly our only measure. He is the Almighty Ruler over our lives, both in terms of who we answer to and in terms of the standard we measure our lives against.

While this may seem like an impossible standard to live up to, it’s actually quite freeing to know that there is a consistency in Christ that no single human being can ever provide. Once we cease expecting people to fill the role only God can, relationships can finally begin falling into their proper place.

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I Give Up Lord

780737 born to pray I Give Up Lord
The other day, I was praying and confessing to God and said, “Lord, I want you to remove ____ from my life”…to which He quickly replied, “I want YOU to GIVE IT UP!”

Our God is not intrusive.

He is a gentleman. He is not invasive, yet meets us where we are. He calls us not to be passive Christians, but active in our faith.

Just as when we first come to Christ, we cannot ask Jesus to come into our hearts until we first confess our sins and iniquities. God is present and might to save, but He needs believers that are strong enough to admit their need, while weak enough to know we cannot do anything without Him!

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Looking to go deeper? Why not watch church online right now? I have several options for you…

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God Ate My To-Do List (Living Beyond Yourself Week 2)

 God Ate My To Do List (Living Beyond Yourself Week 2)

God ate my to-do list today.

This morning as I sat down to listen to Beth Moore teach session 2 of our “Living Beyond Yourself” study following our week titled “To Live By the Spirit”, I had a heavy heart. A big change is taking place in our lives today, that although I feel very strongly about (in a good way) and helped make it happen, it does not negate the fact that it’s scary.

So I thought it ever-important to really start today right. Not in a ‘turn over a new leaf’ kind of way, but more of a ‘do what you’ve always known what you’re supposed to do’ kind of way.

You know what I mean, right?

When you go through your day, don’t you get those nudges of what you feel like you should do, but you don’t do them for whatever reason (too tired, too busy, not convenient, etc). Or better yet, you sit in your bed on a Sunday night pledging to God, “This week will be different.” You say you’ll get up early, read your Bible every day, make time for your kids when they come home from school, start a regular cleaning schedule, stop watching “Real Housewives of …”, clean out the fridge of crap & start juicing, pull out the P-90X DVD that’s been sitting in its case since Christmas…

Should I continue? (Just PLEASE tell me I’m not the only one who does this!)

Anywhoooo…

So this morning I finally did what I knew I needed to do. Well, I didn’t get up as early as I’d hoped. But I did work my way through my essential morning routine and then sat down to listen to Beth teach me before starting my work day.

I’ve also learned, as someone who has a brain that never stops, that I need to keep a piece of paper or a notebook nearby whenever doing something like this to jot down the random thoughts that inevitably pop in my brain.

I had been keeping said piece of paper in my Bible, but if you’ve ever done a Beth Moore study before, you know she makes you flip back & forth finding verses in that Bible like you’re fanning yourself in a Mississippi church that doesn’t have A/C in July!

 God Ate My To Do List (Living Beyond Yourself Week 2)

At some point during the hour-long lesson, I misplaced that square piece of paper keeping track of what I needed to do once this was over.

I flipped through all the pages and even held my Bible open upside down. Nothing.

I thought to myself, “Well, maybe God ate it! I guess that wasn’t supposed to be what I focused on today.”

Yet all through her teaching, I felt a nudge.

Now would be a good time for me to confess that I’m a bit of a TV addict. Not a sit down and become a zombie in front of the screen kind of way, but a “I have to have constant noise running in the background of my life” kind of way. I rarely do ANYTHING at home without the TV on and if I do, it’s the result of a very conscious choice and a strong effort of my will.

So that nudge was telling me to forsake my end-of-the-night programming that ‘helps me fall asleep’ and instead replace it by ending my evening doing my Bible study homework. Not exactly what I wanted to hear, but do-able. After all, I can sacrifice half an hour for God, right?

But then the nudge got stronger: I felt like while someone else was making a sacrifice in our family this week, I should match it by fasting TV all week.

WHOAAAAA – hold on there God…doesn’t that seem a bit extreme?

I mean, come on – I’m just trying to support what you’re doing in this person’s life, but you don’t have to punish me too!

But then it hit me: what could he accomplish in me if the noise of the TV was turned off and I was more in tune with His Holy Spirit. What could I hear? How much more productive could I be? What would I learn?

My initial freak-out turned into a peace that washed over me, quelling the PANIC I’ve been allowing to creep into my life.

In that instant, I got up, walked over to the armoire where our TV is housed in our bedroom and shut the doors on it. A literal and symbolic step saying that not only am I not going to allow you to dictate my time and my thoughts, but even more so a step of obedience to God saying that I choose you to fill me over the garbage that my enter my life through this screen.

As soon as I walked back to where I had been sitting and listening to Beth, I found it.

My to-do list was literally at my feet.

I don’t have many of these moments in my life, but it was almost as if I heard God audibly speak to me. Once I was obedient, He allowed me to move on with my day. But sometimes we are so stubborn in what we think is right and ought to happen, that we allow no room for Him to come in and impact our lives, much less our to-do lists!

Now that I’ve found it, I’m not sure it is in fact what I need to spend my time doing today. But regardless of whether or not I accomplish the things on that post-it note or not, I do know what I need to spend more of my time doing:
Inserting quiet time into my life that will not only allow the Holy Spirit of God to speak into my life and my decisions, but that will permit me to be still enough to hear Him when He does!

So I have two questions for you today:
1. What are you doing in your life that me be keeping you from what the Holy Spirit truly has for you?
2. Will you pray that I make it through this week without my TV crutch? I’d be ever so grateful…

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Teaching Kids Psalm 23 – Scripture Memorization

Teaching kids Psalm 23: teaching kids how to memorize Psalm 23 through video, song & hand motions.
teaching kids memorize psalm 23 Teaching Kids Psalm 23   Scripture Memorization

In the scripture memorization videos below, I’m teaching my kids Psalm 23.

Psalm 23. It’s six verses and typically I recommend teaching your kids one verse a week, but you can teach this to your kids in a month if you work on it at different times throughout your day. There is no tune to this, and feel free to make it your own as you see fit. Be sure to explain to younger children what the words mean that they may not understand so they can begin to form their own word pictures in their heads.

(Forgive my appearance in this week’s video, I just got over having pink-eye last week, so no makeup for me!)

Here are my kids reciting Psalm 23. First Kariss (age 4):

and Britton (age 3) in a slightly more humorous version:

Psalm 23 text (NIV):

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3 He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will not be afraid,
for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.
(From BibleGateway.com)

What ways have you found to effectively teach your kids scripture memorization?

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Why are men expected to make more sacrifices than women?

boho rick sami cone 300x199 Why are men expected to make more sacrifices than women?
Why are men expected to make more sacrifices than women?

Now ladies, hear me out.

I’m not saying that men do all the work and we are worthless. After all I am a woman; I know everything that we do. But I do think sometimes we set the bar a little too high for our guys without having equal accountability for ourselves.

Case in point:
We lent friends our car the other day after their car was in a wreck. The wife drove off in their good car and the husband ended up in our old car, which got me thinking, “Why are men always expected to be the ones making the sacrifices?”

It was just assumed that the wife would get ‘the better end of the stick’, shall we say, just like we expect our guys to watch what we want to watch, eat what we want to eat and go where we like to go.

Some may call it chivalry, but if the sacrifice is always only one-sided, problems are sure to arise.

I believe a lot of relationships suffer because ultimately, we as women, and especially wives, always expect our men to “take one for the team”.

Think about it. We want our cake and we want to eat it too.

When I put it down on paper like this (or computer screen in its current version), it’s no wonder we can often be hard to figure out!

From the beginning of time, men have literally been cursed to work the land as a result of Adam’s sin. I’m not saying Eve left us ladies in any better of a situation with labor pains, but it shouldn’t diminish the role our men serve in this world.

Don’t get me wrong, I want my man to keep treating me like a princess, but I’d be a fool to think that he would wait on me hand and foot for the rest of my life without receiving any love and respect from me.

So this Valentine’s Day ladies, don’t put all the responsibility on your guy. If your relationship is 50/50, then you should be willing to put yourself out there and WOW him too!

(And don’t even get me started on celebrating valentine’s Day on days OTHER than Valentine’s Day, but I digress…)

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