Processing Change

Sometimes even the best changes can be difficult.

Sometimes even the best changes can be difficult.

A couple of Sundays ago, I learned that the women in our church choir were going to sing, “I’ll Fly Away.” I was ecstatic. I have always loved that song. I sang it in church as a kid. But, as we began to sing, I learned that the sopranos were going to sing it completely differently than the version I know and love.

Unexpectedly, I felt my eyes fill with tears. I took a deep breath. What in the world was going on with me, that the changing of a church song would bring me to tears? What was the big deal?

But, age, and hopefully wisdom, has taught me that tears are an indicator that something deep within is bubbling, something I likely have not given attention to. I filed the knowledge away and finished the song.

But, I didn’t forget, nor did I try to. I knew that I needed to spend some quiet time in prayer to get my answers, so I found some time to do just that.

The quiet answer that came to me was simply one word, “change.” I really don’t do change very well and this season has been one of many changes for me, good changes for the most part, but changes, just the same. Instead of allowing myself to truly deal with saying goodbye to what was, I have just powered on full steam, to what is. The song was just one more change.

Dwelling on yesterday is a waste of time, right?

Maybe. But, when the chapter that you are closing was a long one and was filled with many wonderful memories, perhaps, actually closing it, takes some time and thought. Maybe, missing what was, doesn’t mean I’m not super excited, grateful, and happy about what is, as well.

Maybe, I need to make room in my heart for both and if I find some tears flowing along the way, that’s okay. As I’ve written here before, there’s great healing in tears.

After praying about it and thinking about it, I sang the new arrangement of that old favorite hymn again, the next week. It was then I learned that our choir director had arranged the piece herself. I’ll have to admit that I really found myself enjoying it and the joy I saw in her eyes when she saw us singing it, made the change well worth it.

An old favorite hymn sung in a new way, reminded me that although change is often hard, it can be beautiful too. Embracing the new doesn’t make the old any less special or relevant and missing the old doesn’t mean the new isn’t wonderful.

We have room in our hearts for both. Perhaps you needed reminding today too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Choosing to See the Bright Side | Leave a comment

The Path to Character and Hope

Perhaps the path to character and hope is perseverance.

Perhaps the path to character and hope is perseverance.

Last Sunday, my pastor told the story of an elementary school project that he put off until the last minute. When he turned in a thrown together mess, the teacher simply shook her head and allowed him to re-do it over his Christmas break. At the time, he didn’t see that she was in any way “helping,” him.

He ended up writing a well thought out paper because he had to. He went on to say that God sometimes helps us by doing nothing.

I feel like that concept really makes us squirm these days. I work in an elementary school office where we see parents all day long bringing in lunch boxes that got left at home, and water bottles, and homework, and ice cream money.

We have become a society that really doesn’t believe in the idea of suffering the consequences. If our kids don’t study and fail a test, no worries, they can re-take it.

But, who can blame the kids? The adults are making the rules.

If we run up too much debt, we can file bankruptcy. The idea of the bail out has become part of who we are. Has that philosophy made us better off?

Is that how God’s Kingdom works? Is Christianity merely just about intentionally making one bad decision after another, knowing that grace will save us?

Yes, it’s true that we can always be forgiven if we honestly seek forgiveness and repent which means ceasing the sinful behavior to begin with.

But, on Sunday, my pastor threw out another idea. He said that faith is not just a feeling; faith is also thinking and doing and that when we dig ourselves into a deep hole where we have to make a move or find that the game is over, we really come to understand that “we can do everything through Christ who strengthens us.”

I think I remember reading that somewhere. Oh yeah, that’s Philippians 4:13.

Any good parent will tell you that sometimes the best thing you can do for your kids is let them figure it out on their own. Sometimes they need to fail. Sometimes they need to face the consequences of their actions. It’s hard and it’s not pretty, but it makes them stronger and builds their character.

Sometimes God does the same for us.

The Bible tells us that, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us….” Romans 5:3-5a

Look around. Couldn’t our world really use more character and hope?

God always hears our prayers and He always answers them though not always in the ways that we would like. But, do we always answer our own children’s requests in the ways that they would like? Does that mean we don’t love them?

Perhaps we can’t just regularly exclude God from our lives and then expect Him to help us every time we get in a bind. Perhaps, like a loving father, He stands back sometimes and let’s us learn that we do need Him on a daily basis, that His Word does matter, and when we willingly choose to wander, we can find ourselves in a mess of our own making.

There’s always forgiveness and redemption. Jesus ultimately provided that.

But, we are creatures of free will. We have choices. Obedience is one of them. We also have the gift of learning from our mistakes if we are willing to admit them. Even when we do find ourselves in a pit of some sort, that requires us to do our own climbing out, we are assured that, “we can do everything through Christ who strengthens us.”

A sermon reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Just Bring Yourself

Just bring yourself.

Just bring yourself.

My pastor’s wife, who is also a dear friend, invited my family over for Sunday dinner last week. When she texted me on Saturday to ask me if we were still coming, I told her yes and asked her what we could bring.

Her answer was, “just yourselves.”

I’ll have to admit, being a lifelong Southerner, that statement gave me some trouble. My mama raised me to never show up empty-handed. That’s just good manners. Would showing up with just ourselves be rude?

Later that afternoon, my hubby asked what we were supposed to bring to the Sunday dinner, when I told him, just ourselves, he was kind of surprised too.

I thought about just bringing ourselves for the rest of the afternoon and why it bothered me.

It’s kind of interesting what gets ingrained in us as children and what we carry into adulthood. At first glance, never showing up to eat at someone’s house empty-handed, is meant to be a sign of respect. But, upon closer inspection, don’t we also need to feel that we are contributing something? Is bringing something to someone else’s table about honoring our host or about honoring ourselves?

What about when we worship? When we go to church, do we feel like we have to bring something? Do we feel pressured to bring money? Do we feel like we have to bring a happy face? Do we feel like we have to volunteer for everything to get to heaven? Do we believe that only the people who have it all together are the ones who should even attend church?

Has our free enterprise society taught us that to get salvation we have to somehow work for it so we can earn it?

God’s Kingdom is different. Jesus very plainly told the folks around Him that He wasn’t there to call people who think they have it all together.

“When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor-sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17

Jesus calls us to the foot of the cross just as we are. The work of redemption has already been done. There’s truly nothing we can do to add to that. We are called to come empty-handed with open hearts.

Once we have accepted that truth, we are welcome and encouraged to bring our talents and our gifts. When we walk closely with Jesus, we find that we want to serve, and give, and share. But, we want to do those things because He did those things. We want to honor Him.

It’s not about us. It’s about Him. Sometimes we can get that mixed up.

A text message reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character | 2 Comments

A Different Kind of Peace

Jesus offers a different kind of peace.

Jesus offers a different kind of peace.

Every Sunday, a member of our congregation has a reading from the Bible. Sometimes it’s from the Old Testament and sometimes it’s from the New Testament.

Last week, it was from 1 Timothy. There was a newborn baby in attendance, just a couple of months old. He had been lying quietly in his carrier the entire service. He was quiet through the announcements. He was quiet through the singing. He was even quiet through the prayer.

But, when our reader began to read, right when she got to the part about “living peaceful and quiet lives,” that baby began to fuss. Our reader didn’t miss the irony either as she chuckled and continued to read, although at one point it became a bit of a competition on who could be the loudest.

His grandmother scooped him up and walked him out. She returned a short time later having soothed him in the way that only grandmothers know how.

He was quiet for the remainder of the service.

I thought about that sweet baby long after that service was over and I thought about peace and our concept of it.

So often we think of peace physically. We think of peace and quiet as in no screaming kids, or ringing phones, or even loud music. We think of it as the absence of noise or maybe that which annoys us.

We also think of peace as the absence of conflict and that is a rare state these days. We are normally involved in some type of conflict whether big or small. In the broken world that we live in, conflict between ourselves and others seems to be a given.

But, does living in regular conflict and in constant noise mean that peace is impossible?

As Christians, Jesus offers us a different kind of peace. Not surprisingly, it’s a spiritual concept rather than the physical. It’s so easy to forget in this physical life, that we are spiritual beings too, and the spiritual can feed the physical.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27

He also said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

In these times when worldly peace seems so far out of reach, Jesus reminds us that when we seek peace through Him, what is happening on a physical level doesn’t really matter that much. We are spiritual beings in physical bodies only traveling here, not staying here permanently.

But, while we are here, Jesus calls us to live with the peace of knowing that we are His and He has overcome all that is worldly, and in the end, because we are His, we will too.

A baby who was fussing in church, reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

 

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Following the Pilot Car

Jesus is the ultimate pilot car.

Jesus is the ultimate pilot car.

We have a ton of road construction going on in our little town at the moment. Most folks who live here are discovering all types of routes to avoid it at all costs. We despise road construction of all types, don’t we?

We will really enjoy traveling on the shiny new four lane roadway, but the process of getting there is slow and painful and we will avoid it if possible.

Road construction requires us to stop or at the very least, to slow down. We don’t like that. When we travel in our cars, we have specific places to go and a set time to get there and we do not like to be taken off track.

But, sometimes, there is no way around the construction. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in it, at a complete stop. If we aren’t running late somewhere, we become annoyed. If we are late, we can become angry.

When the traffic starts moving again, we sometimes find ourselves behind a pilot car. The pilot car moves very slowly and will often have us driving down paths that we never would, if we were in control of the situation ourselves. We can easily find ourselves traveling on the wrong side of the road where we would meet oncoming traffic head on, if there were any.

But, there isn’t any.

The pilot car is in constant communication with other workers up ahead, who have closed off that lane keeping everyone involved, completely safe. Our only job as drivers, is to slow down and follow the pilot car.

When I think about it, life is always busy with some kind of construction. Whether it’s something major like graduating, getting married, having a baby, or changing jobs, or minor, like getting a new doctor or a new neighbor, life is always changing.

There is simply no way to avoid change here on planet earth no matter how desperately we may try.

What we need is a good pilot car. As Christians, we happen to have one in Jesus.

If we follow closely behind Him and not get impatient and try to pass Him, He will faithfully see us through all kinds of construction, big and small. Even when it gets scary and we seem to be headed in the wrong lane into oncoming traffic, if we trust, if we obey, we will come out safely on the other side.

Jesus, as it turns out, is the perfect pilot car. Sometimes I need reminding. Perhaps you needed reminding today too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

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Backseat Freedom

Accepting that I am not in control, but trusting that God is, leads to peace and freedom.

Accepting that I am not in control, but trusting that God is, leads to peace and freedom.

I am currently in another season of teaching a teenager to drive. A couple of years back, I lived through a similar season with my daughter. This time, it’s with my son.

The sheer experience from the first time around has taught me that I will in fact, (most likely), survive this go round. But, this time is also different because the first time around, I was usually the only adult available for driving lessons. This time, my hubby is doing most of the teaching.

Most of the time, I find myself in the backseat, with my hubby doing the instructing. I often choose to check e-mail or Facebook, as we travel down the road, trusting that he has it all under control.

I can’t tell you how freeing that experience has been. I can choose not to worry about the path we are traveling, or the cars up ahead, or merging into traffic because I can choose to trust my son’s father.

On the other hand, I could choose to worry about what’s going on in the front seat. I could yell directions from the backseat. I could second guess every move being made by our fledgling driver and my hubby. I could argue. I could create all kind of unnecessary stress for myself.

Either way, trust comes down to choice.

Either way, I have very little control of what is taking place in the driver’s seat. The idea of me controlling the situation is an illusion at best.

This driving business got me to thinking about the similarities in my own life and my own journey.

While it’s true that I make decisions every single day regarding my life. In the end, there is so much more out of my control than there is in my control.

Things like my health, or all kinds of tragedies that could happen, or my children’s future, are for the most part, out of my control. What happens in American politics or world politics, also out of my control.

But, I worship the God who does control all of those things. The Bible says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

The Bible also tells us, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

If I were to substitute “God’s plan,” for the word purpose, then I would see that God is working for the good of those of us who love Him and that in the end, God’s plan will prevail.

So, choosing to trust that, God has “this,” whatever “this” may be at the moment, is truly a no brainer. I am not in control, but God is and He loves me and He has a plan.

The same is true for you. Accepting that truth may be difficult, but it also leads to a deep sense of peace and freedom.

Riding in the backseat reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

 

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The Call to Confess

In order to be forgiven, we have to admit we were wrong.

In order to be forgiven, we have to admit we are wrong.

I hear all kinds of things working in an elementary school office. One of the things I hear a lot of is excuses. Earlier this week I heard a little boy tell our principal that his cousin accidentally put a stuffed animal in his backpack. How exactly did that happen?

A couple of days ago, a child came into the clinic who had accidentally stuck a pencil in his nose. Again, how did that happen?

All of the daily excuses I hear, got me to thinking about human need to never be wrong.

We seem wired to deny fault.

The very first human beings, masterpieces, created by God and given all they needed not only to survive here on planet earth, but to thrive, put in paradise, not only disobeyed God, but they tried to hide their sin.

They denied it.

We live in a culture, thanks to our lawyer friends, that has taught us to never admit fault, no matter what, and in many ways it has permeated every part of our lives.

Yet as Christians, we are called to be in this world, but not of it. We are called to live differently.

We know that we are sinners, but we also know that we are forgiven. But, there is a catch and the catch is called confession.

Confession has become kind of an ugly word these days, because it is admitting we are wrong. It’s admitting we did something that we shouldn’t have and asking for forgiveness for the act.

But, it’s a step we really can’t skip.

How can we be granted forgiveness if we aren’t willing to admit we have done anything wrong in the first place? It’s an uncomfortable conversation because we don’t like to be wrong.

I love to read about King David, in the Bible. He was a passionate man, who loved God. He would even dance for God to show his adoration. The Bible says David was “a man after God’s own heart.” But, he also made huge mistakes that cost lives.

What I love about David, is that he admitted it. He asked God for forgiveness and he repented.

God forgave him. God will forgive us too, but we have to ask. Refusing to admit we are wrong does nothing, but drive a wedge between our hearts and much needed grace and redemption. He already knows the things we have said and done, just like my principal knew that no one accidentally put a stuffed animal in a backpack.

My principal told the little guy who fessed up to having the stuffed animal, that his cousin wouldn’t be in trouble as long as he left it in the backpack.  I’m sure that took a load off of his mind.

Our confession of our sins frees us too. It allows us to be forgiven. It allows us to bask in grace. It draws us closer to God and it makes us free from carrying that heavy weight around our hearts.

While we may be physically wired to deny, we have to remember that we are spiritual creatures too, created for bigger and better things than the mere physical.

A stuffed animal in a backpack reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

 

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The Courage to Grow

God can do amazing things with people who are broken.

God can do amazing things with people who are broken.

Last summer, I decided it was time to re-pot my aloe plant. It’s not a very pretty plant, but it’s special to me for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a natural healer. I break off a piece and use it’s juices to heal burns and scrapes.

It reminds me that our power and our gifts come from the inside not the outside. It also reminds me that there are some things that are much more powerful when they are broken than when they are perfectly put together.

Secondly, that plant belonged to my mother-in-law who passed away ten years ago. When I found it in her laundry room window, it was yellow. It hadn’t been watered in a very long time and I wasn’t sure if I could nurse it back to health.

But, that washed out yellow, plant called to me. I often feel led to nurture all types of living things that have been injured or neglected, and I felt the need to take the plant. I also felt that in a way, it kind of helped her live on here, although she had gone home to be with Jesus.

It took some time, some new fertile soil, some water, and some attention, but that plant turned green again and thrived. As is often the case with living things that grow, it needed more space, and the time had come to re-pot it again.

I got a pot and some new soil and when I went to re-pot it, a good sized piece broke off and fell to the ground. I could have thrown it away, but I just couldn’t. It was healthy and green. I felt that I needed to give it a chance.

I didn’t have another pot, so I gently planted it in the ground of an already established bed. I had no idea whether or not it would grow. I’ve never planted an aloe plant in the ground, but I reasoned that it was in the cactus family and Georgia is very desert-like in the summer.

I am happy to report that the little sprout is thriving in its new spot. It has taken root. It’s green and standing up straight.

As I was watering it the other day, I was reminded that just like that broken piece of aloe, we sometimes find ourselves broken. We sometimes wonder if we will survive the break.

But, if we reach out for Jesus, God will take us and re-plant us in His fertile soil. It may look different from the place we came from. It may even be scary. Growth is often scary. It’s usually much more comfortable to stay in the crowded pot.

But, we are called for much more than status quo. Faith teaches us to trust even when we can’t possibly know the outcome and when we do, beautiful, surprising things can happen.

An aloe plant reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Building Christian Character, Trusting God, Watching for God | Leave a comment

The Power of Tears

Sometimes a quick shower is exactly what we need to clear the air and refresh us.

Sometimes a quick shower is exactly what we need to clear the air and refresh us.

The air outside was heavy when I arrived home from work yesterday. It was cloudy, but the forecast was not calling. for rain. I let my dogs out and went to pick a couple of tomatoes and some okra, when I felt the first drops. I hurried back inside as those drops quickly became a steady pour.

We have been in drought here in Georgia, and we desperately needed the rain. I stood and watched it from the porch for a few minutes, totally appreciating how cleansing a good rain could be.

I was reminded of a recent visit with a friend of mine who has been having a really rough time lately. Life has been throwing her one hard ball after another.  Now this lady is tough as nails, but she finally broke down the other day and cried.

Then she apologized for being a “cry baby,” which I assured her was ridiculous. It’s really unfortunate that society has taught us that crying is for the weak.

I read an article in Psychology Today, that reported that emotional tears actually contain stress hormones that are excreted out of our bodies when we cry. It also stated that studies suggest that crying actually stimulates endorphines, our body’s feel good hormones. Furthermore, human beings are the only creatures known to shed emotional tears.

Isn’t that interesting?

Children have no trouble shedding tears when they are hurt or sad. It’s only as adults that we consider shedding them some kind of character flaw.

The science suggests that we were biologically set up to feel better after we cry. Why would we consider crying to be a weakness?

We know in the Bible that Jesus cried. When His friend Lazarus died and everyone was crying and mourning, the text says simply, “Jesus wept.” John 11:35

His heart was moved. His heart was troubled, and the Son of God wept.

I can’t imagine anyone thinking Jesus was weak or a cry baby. Quite the contrary, as Christ followers, we are supposed to seek to understand and follow all that He did.

Jesus loved deeply. He cared deeply for His friends and ultimately for all of us. We are called to do the same and when we love others deeply and care deeply about the situations around us, we are sometimes moved to tears.

In the end, when we allow them to flow, we are simply acknowledging our humanity. If the Son of God wasn’t ashamed to shed tears over what moved Him, should we try to be any different?

After the rain at my house yesterday, the sun came out and the air felt much lighter. After Jesus wept in the Gospel of John, He raised Lazarus from the dead.

Tears have a definite cleansing power and perhaps a healing power too. They are an essential part of our existence on this side of heaven. One day, “there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.” Revelation 21:4b

But, while we are traveling here, maybe we should embrace them instead of denying them.

A rain shower reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

Categories: Biblical Wisdom, Building Christian Character | 6 Comments

Treasure in the Lost and Found

With Jesus, we are never abandoned in the lost and found.

With Jesus, we are never abandoned in the lost and found.

At the elementary school where I work, we have a Lost and Found. Amazingly, after being in school for only six weeks, it’s full already. There are some perfectly good jackets and sweaters and a table full of water bottles that have been lost so far. We even have the lense of someone’s glasses. How could that not be missed?

Every now and then, a child will come up to the office to ask if something has been turned in, but for the most part, the items remain unclaimed.

I am told, that the year will end and the lost and found will be full even though, several letters will have gone home reminding parents to come and check.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. My pastor reminded us in last week’s sermon, that we live in a throw away society.

If something breaks, we don’t try to fix it. We throw it away. If we lose something, we buy a new one. That’s a byproduct of living in abundance.

My pastor also reminded us that God’s Kingdom doesn’t work that way and that Jesus isn’t running a throw away society. In Luke 15:8, there’s a parable of a woman who has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she simply let it go? She has nine others. Nope, she searches high and low until she finds it and then she contacts all of her friends to let them know.

Jesus tried to explain the Kingdom of God to people in ways they could relate to. The people in Jesus’ time understood the message. The people in our country during the Great Depression, understood the message. Maybe living in our abundance has caused us to lose something in the translation.

As the pastor shared the parable of the coins, I thought about that lost and found at our school. I thought about how precious those jackets and sweaters would be to a child who didn’t have one. I thought about how precious a water bottle would be to a child in Africa, who has no vessel to transport water on a several mile walk from a well to his village.

The Bible tells us that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25

There have been countless words and essays written on that statement by people far smarter and more educated than I am. But, perhaps it simply means, when you have to rely on God for daily provision of your physical needs, your faith tends to be strong.  You get to see God in action everyday.

The “rich man,” and let’s face it, that would include most Americans, have plenty of food to eat on a daily basis. So, in a sense, we are robbed of seeing His daily work.

But, Jesus provides us with an answer. When the disciples ask who can be saved. Jesus replies, “With man, this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

Each and every one of us matter to God. We are never left abandoned in the lost and found. Jesus will come and claim us if we only ask. We are each a treasure to Him with far more worth than we may believe. We may have been abandoned by humanity, but we will never be abandoned by God.

A sermon and a lost and found rack reminded me. Perhaps you needed reminding too.

Have an awesome day!

Wendy 🙂

 

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