Monday, January 31, 2011

Not So Pretty Little Liars

"I'll never be good enough."
"God never answers my prayers."

"You don't know my marriage.  I might as well give up!" 

"Whatever.  It doesn't matter." 

"This is just who I am."

Do you know what all those quotes have in common?  While they differ a great deal in topic, they're ironically similar in 3 different, but very telling ways.

1.  They were all spoken to me personally within the last 3 months.

2.  Each one of these quotes belongs to a Christian.

3.  Every one of them is a lie.

What we THINK and what we SAY when we find ourselves on the brink of unbelief determines whether we'll spend the next season of our lives fortifying or faking our faith.  We will never, and I want you to believe this in the pit of your gut- EVER grow our faith as long as we put more stock in our own LIES than we put in the Words of God.   In fact, the only downside of being the product of an Intelligent Designer is that we do have the ability to let our thoughts run wild.  In truth, sometimes the worst thing we can do is think.   Now, on a good day, thinking would absolutely be considered an asset, but on the days your car won't crank, your husband ignores you, your kids disrespect you and the pile in the mailbox is all bills and no checks, any thoughts that aren't first held obedient to Christ will give you a one-way ticket to Unbelief Island. 
Now, while it's our minds, thoughts, emotion and will that tell our story of being created in the image of our Father, we have sadly used that ability to think to train ourselves to be Plan A in our own lives.  Shake your head and sigh if you will, but it remains true.  When things go helter skelter, we look inside ourselves for the answer.  Oh, we may say, "Help me, Lord," but then we immediately start brainstorming what we're going to do, say, be...what we're going to move, change or manipulate.  Even though the Bible clearly tells us that we can do no good thing without Him, off we march into the Service Department of Life.  We grab a wrench and head for what we perceive to be the crux of the problem.  What we don't do is look to the hills and wait patiently for Help to arrive.  And so, after a few decades of practicing our convenient, low risk version of faith in God, we find ourselves incapable of not only relying on Him, but incapable of being honest about who to blame when we fail to manipulate our own faith.  And in the process, we become believers of LIES rather than seekers of Truth.  And, even worse, the lies we believe aren't being spoken from our greatest enemy, but from our very own mouths.

Do you remember Elijah?  That great prophet of old?  The one whose very name means Yahweh is my God?  Well, he did more than just prophesy truth and humiliate the masses that chose to put their faith in a lesser god.  He also stood at the crossroads of belief and took a wrong turn.  He participated in a 'stare down' with a crisis of faith and blinked.  He valiantly spouted the very Word of God into the lives of others, but choked when his own heart needed him to whisper the truth.  In a nutshell, our hero of faith was human and in his error, he left us a beautiful lesson.  Wanna' see?

Once upon a time, in a far away land and a time long forgotten, there lived a stoic man known to the wandering world as Elijah.  Elijah paved a few streets in history with his great faith in and willingness to tune his ear to the Lord, God of Abraham.  In his short breath of a life, he defended the worship of his Great God by trusting God to put on a light show for the worshipers of Baal.  He so believed in the unmatched power of God that he asked for fire to fall from heaven and down it came.  He prayed to God and the dead came to life.  There were times in his life when he opened his mouth and the very Word of God traveled past his lips.  And he left this world in a whirlwind complete with a chariot, horses and fire, but before he went to be with his Maker, he bounced over a bump in the proverbial not-yet Roman's Road.  This great and celebrated man of faith had a season of unbelief.  Yes, even Elijah wrestled with trusting God in the thick of things.  After he taunted the worshipers of Baal, after he spoke the Words of God only he could hear, after he prophesied much, after his prayers brought raining fire from heaven and after his faith acted as the catalyst that caused the dead to live, he lied himself into a pitiful cave of fear and unbelief. 

It doesn't seem right, does it?  A man of that caliber of faith shouldn't lose battles with doubt and fear, but he did.  You see, just a little while after Obadiah told Elijah that he had rescued a hundred of God's prophets into his own care so that King Ahab couldn't kill them, Elijah stood before the Lord and said, "All of the prophets of God are dead.  I'm the only one left!"  And as if the lie wasn't bad enough, the fact that Elijah believed the lie changed everything for the prophet of God because while the actual events of Elijah's life paint a perfect picture of God's faithfulness and power, it was Elijah's own dishonest words that caused him to FLEE from a woman in such terror that the Lord found him hiding in a cave asking to be put out of his misery.  And all because when he came to a scary fork in the road, he entertained his own vain imaginations rather than what he KNEW to be TRUE of his God.  

So, I ask you friends, in what area of your life have you believed your own lies?  What does it take to make you spout ridiculous errors about God's abilities?  When do you allow what you feel to trump what you know about God?  Are you running away in terror when all you have to do is stand and tell the truth?  Elijah stepped in and did his enemy's job when he decided to believe his own lies.  Haven't we all done the same?

I, for one, am ready to let go of the lies.  I want to be a champion of truth.  No longer do I want to be the object of my faith.  I want to be able to take a gander at life and all its possibilities from God's perspective and check mine at the door.  As a matter of fact, I'd like for my life to be defined by a great confidence in God.  In other words, I want to trade in my humiliation in the cave for a great confidence in the battle.  And thanks to the Word of God, I know just how to start.

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind... 
My 'in-real-life' translation?  Replace the lies with truth.

"I'll never be good enough."
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me;
your love, O Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.

"God never answers my prayers."
The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. 

"You don't know my marriage.  I might as well give up!"
"But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." 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, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

"Whatever.  It doesn't matter." 
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

"This is just who I am."
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God! 

Insert your favorite lie here.   
God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?...Let God be true, and every man a liar.

Make no mistake:  Elijah's lie had no bearing on the power of God.  God was just as able to save Elijah from Jezebel before Elijah ran as He was after he huddled in his cave of fear.  Elijah's lie landed himself in the cave of shame, not God.  You see, that's the danger of our dishonesty.  When you believe your own lies, they become truth for you.  Elijah begged for his life to be over.  He fled, hid beneath a tree in the desert and gave up, then ran further away to hide under the rock when he should have been standing on it.  God was still powerful.  God still had plans to pull the ground from beneath Jezebel's feet.  God was still on Elijah's side.  God still had the ability to raise the dead when Elijah asked, drop fireworks from heaven on his command, and postpone the rain until Elijah said otherwise.  God remained unchanged.  The lie only changed Elijah.  And because he believed the lie, at least for the season he huddled himself in that cave, the lie might as well have been true.  

It's time we desired truth from our inner most being.  Choose truth.  Choose life!

Monday, January 24, 2011

As For the Asses...

Picture this:
A thirty year old man leaves the security and comforts of home in search of his father's donkeys.  He searches high and low and travels from town to town in hopes of returning what must have been an incredible pace of donkeys to his old man.  He searches and inquires and searches some more until finally, he becomes convinced that his dad has long since given up on the asses and has surely become more concerned about his son.  Just when he's ready to make a U-turn and head for home, his servant suggest that they ask a 'seer' or a prophet about the donkeys' whereabouts. That 'seer' not only knew where the prized donkeys were residing, but he also knew that God was going to call the donkey searcher to become Israel's first king. After some 'made for TV' coincidences, Saul finds himself face-to-face with Samuel and the Word of God.  And although God would use Samuel to deliver the astonishing news that all of Israel would soon look to Saul for deliverance, guidance, wisdom and protection, He chose first to set his mind at ease about a few donkeys that, in light of what was to come, were pretty ordinary after all.

"As for the asses you lost three days ago, do not be concerned; for they have been found."

I admit that when I first read these words, I laughed out loud.  Somewhere between Samuel's request for Saul to join him for dinner and his announcement that all eyes in the kingdom would soon be pressuring him for every need, God saw fit to whisper some very practical news to Saul.  By the way, the donkeys you're searching for...

I love this about God.  I love that He's all-powerful and all-practical.  Nothing He does is for naught.  Everything He touches has purpose.  No detail goes unnoticed.  No part of my life is too trivial for Him.

I think that when we begin our love story with God, we spend a lot of time stepping out onto icy ponds.  We test Him.  We try Him.  We make mental notes concerning His powers and abilities.  We nod and smile as time after time, He comes through.  Our hearts melt as promise after promise is kept.  Our faith grows as we allow His Word and work to fill our hearts and minds.  And we spend so much time reminding ourselves how practically powerful He is that we forget how powerfully practical He is. 

As for the asses...

I've both come a long way and have a long way to go in my prayer life, but I wanted to share with you where God has allowed me to be tonight.  I am desperate for His power.  I am starving for the wisdom to live out my purpose.  I am begging Him to tell me how He wants to use me.  I am willing to sacrifice for the nations.   I want to serve and pray and fast and love and give.  I'm  counting on Him to protect my family and bless my husband's heart and hands.  And I'm asking God to be and do all of those things in my heart and my life. And during the same prayer, I'm asking God to help me choose a rotisserie for my kitchen.  I'm reminding God that Algebra is hard for my 14 year-old.  And I'm telling God that even if my friends are mad that I asked, I'd still love to see snow this week.

I'm counting on Him to be POWERFUL and PRACTICAL.

Yes, He's magnificently perfect and powerful.  His ways are higher than our ways.  We'll never fit Him into a box.  If we could define Him or measure Him, we wouldn't also be able to worship and adore Him.  He's far too Big, too Right, too Holy for our minds- and yet He cares about the everyday, walking, talking, dish washing, wrench turning, contract signing, job hunting, diaper changing, bill paying, seemingly trivial details of our lives.  And when you look at it that way, it's almost as though He's deeply in love with us and wants us to share every part of us with Him.  

As for the asses... HE CARES.

Please share the blog with others and or comment if you enjoy and please don't forget to check out Graceful Abandon's edition of Faithful Fridays.  You'll love to hear what Lisa has to say!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Do You Remember?

"Falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting." ~Iris Murdock

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy... A beautiful picture of redundant clarity.  

Over and over we read of the rescue from slavery, the plan for worship, the dimensions of the Tent of Meeting, the instruction for slaughter, and of the path to the promised land.  I'm reading it quickly, so things are becoming distinctly apparent that hid between the pages until now.  God rescued His people.  He taught them to worship.  He pointed them toward their purpose.  And then, He used man to tell the story of the rescue, to retell the instruction and remind them where they were going...again, and again, and again. (And again!)  I was tempted to skim over it.  The teacher inside me didn't see the purpose in wasting time reading something I fully absorbed the first time, but I harvested the fruit of self-control and found the beautiful lesson.  "Falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting."   God used Moses to painstakingly repeat detail after detail, instruction after instruction and plan after plan so that they didn't fall out of love with their Creator.  After reminding them more times than they could count what He'd saved them from and telling until they could commit to memory the instructions they needed to worship Him and where they were going, He finally told them to write the words on their hearts, hands and foreheads.  And He told them more than once.  Why?  Why the redundancy?  Why did God continually repeat Himself?  Why didn't Moses roll his eyes and deliver the Reader's Digest version just once?  

Because falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting.

It's within us, you realize, to forget what God has done for us.  We're just arrogant enough, that if we're not careful, we'll allow our mindset to change until the hell that He rescued us from becomes nothing more than a sweet dose of nostalgia.  We're capable of deciding that, while He may very well have been present, it was probably a little more of our ingenuity than it was His intervention that brought us to where we stand today.  If we're not actively writing it on our hearts and our hands and our foreheads, we'll forget to tell our children the beautiful redemption stories that God whispered as He designed our lives.  

So, fill your homes with stories that tell of His goodness.   Remind your parents of His faithfulness.  Raise your sons to boast in His strength. Show your daughters what He's taught your heart about beauty.  Remind yourself what it felt like to be an orphan.  Write it on your heart. Tie it on your hand.  Bind it to your forehead.  

Because, after all, Falling out of love is chiefly a matter of forgetting. 

What are you determined not to forget?  If He's rescued you from slavery, taught you what it means to worship or shown you your purpose, please share it with us in a comment.  Never underestimate the power of your testimony!


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Apart From Him...

Apart from Him I can do nothing.

Of course I can't because He's the vine and I'm the branches, right?  We know the verse.  We've memorized it.  We've even taught it to our friends and family, but what does that mean in real life?  We say it's true because our living bibliography reminds us that it's the Word of God, but do our lives say it's true?  Do our actions and our attitudes stand as a living proof that these words aren't just true in printbut true in person as well?

I'm going to go out on the thickest of limbs here and say that our honest, collective answer would have to be a resounding 'no.'  I mean, take a look at who we are in the beautiful script of the world.  We've long since passed the days of Exodus in which people lived in a perpetual reminder of their desperate need for God by the constant aroma of burning flesh.  We've also progressed past the inch on the time line that would have required us to look Jesus in the too-human face and decide for our own hearts whether or not He was the Living, breathing Son of God.  No longer do we have to fear the ever-changing personalities of the Tudors, never knowing if we'd be hailed for our deep faith in Christ or hanged for it.  We don't even have fight with the earth the way the Pioneers did, calling our Father 'Providence' out of a living knowledge of what happened to families who dared to tame the wild without Him.  Let's face it, friends- we don't live life as though we're desperate for anything.

But if those words are true, aren't we just that?  Aren't we desperate?  Yes.  For sure and for certain, we are  desperate for the Spirit of God.  We are desperate for Jesus to be the theme of everything we do.  We are desperate for God to fill in the gaps we leave in our wake, proving love is more powerful than sin. We are desperate for Him to show up in the midst of the lost, whispering words of redemption in our hearts to share with our loved ones.  Make no mistake, we are a desperate people- we just don't act like it.

We don't act  like it because our world won't let us be desperate and popular at the same time.  In real life, desperate is the enemy of strength and strength is the friend of man.  Culture would much rather us be 'cool' and 'comfy' than desperate.  And we nod our heads in a not-so-silent agreement every time we write a check, discipline a child,  hand out wisdom, teach a class, love a spouse or lead a family without the Spirit, permission and wisdom of the Living God.  We, like Aaron's sons, want  to be involved in what God is doing, but we want to do it our way, on our time, and to a great degree- with our power, even though it leads to a pit.  We plan first and ask for Blessing later.  We teach from the reserves of what God has done, not from the deep well of what He is doing.  We promise prayers that never go up, tell stories of faithfulness that reek of a fishing dock and minister the Word we simply don't have time to read nearly everyday of our lives.  And we wonder why we find ourselves scrambling to tell people what God is doing in our lives, our families and in our churches when the forefathers of our faith couldn't have concealed the Hand of God if they'd tried. 

A simple glance at the first chapter of Acts paints a picture of ordinary men who were desperate for God, praying for his Wisdom, Power and Provision.  What started with a few uneducated prayers ends with a few thousand salvations somewhere between breakfast and dinner.  They were so desperate for God's guidance that they didn't come up from their knees until It came.  And, when He answered their desperation, you can bet that not a single follower felt the need to advertise what was happening in their hearts, in their families, or with their friendships because when the Spirit of the Living God shows up, nobody has to blow their own horns.  Truth begets truth.  Power begets power.  Glory begets glory.  And we, well, we're nothing more than the desperate recipients.

We bring nothing to the table except a willing heart, an open day-planner and an available life.  We can plan and manipulate and create and hope until the cows come home.  We can rely on statistics and strategies and stereotypes until we find ourselves replacing last year's calendar. We can mimic the family next door, the fellowship down the road and the church across the continent until we become their clones.  And we can exhaust every ounce of our time and talent, dragging our lives to the brink of breakthrough and back again until the only word we can honestly use to define our existences is 'tired.'  But, we'll never see what happens when the truth of God defines a family, or what happens when the Spirit of God guides a church through an Exodus, or what it looks like when the lost flock to the found until we live desperate for God's power, provision and permission. 

So, the invitation is this:  Turn the verse around. Say it.  Write it.  Live it.  Pretend, with all your heart, that it's true.  Tell God you can't do anything without Him.  Tell Him that your children are hopeless if He doesn't stand up in your heart and tell you what to say, where to go, what to do, and who to be.  Tell Him that whatever you do Sunday at church, if you're doing it without first marrying your faith and works between the binding of His book, that it's really just character education.  Tell Him that the promises you've made to love your spouse forever are fabrications without His power being alive and working in your heart.  Tell Him that your life will be void of a mission and purpose, that you'll never see souls saved and the saved freed apart from His talent pouring from your hands and His truth pouring from your mouth.

Go ahead.  I dare you.  I dare myself!  Tell God the truth.  Do it again tomorrow.  Try it again the next day.  Life a life that says His Word is true and see if His Word doesn't prove itself true to the nations through your life.  See if He doesn't spend the rest of our desperate lives proving His promises are true!  And then, live to tell about it!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Great Exodus

My spirit sighs. 

Some days are mixed with just the right amounts of grace, grease and Glory.  Today was a day just like that.  It started with a heavy dose of grace as I stood with my faith family and declared the goodness of God.  By noon, I realized that my day had taken a turn for the 'hard,' and that it would require a decent amount of elbow grease to sign off on my many promises.  But by nightfall, or should I say 'snowfall,' the precious Glory of God was undeniable as He painted a picture a white-as-snow picture for whomever would pay attention.  And, so my spirit sighs...

I'm supposed to write your cup-of-Monday-morning-get-you-going-blog, but my heart is flying in so many directions that I'm not sure my skin can hold me together.  I'm saturated with all things God.  My heart is as raw as a bottom lip in a blizzard, but in a beautiful way.  I'm at that perfectly coming apart place where you know you're going to 'lose it,' but the loss is a celebration in and of itself.   Every word on every page of every book seems as though it was written for me.  Every song sings a story I've entertained in my prayers.  Every sermon makes me want to stand and applaud.  And every call to action whispers my name.  Some folks call it religion.  Others call it rededication.  Some may even call it revival, but my heart has a different name for it.

I'm near the God Margin.

I'm somewhere close to that imaginary line that exists between something good that requires all of my time, talent and resources and something GREAT that can only be accomplished if God does the impossible in my life.  I'm near learning the deep lesson that no matter how many of my own accolades I write on that piece of paper, still a margin surrounds my words that only God can fill.  I'm at the point where I'm almost ready to whisper my purpose aloud, no matter how impossible it sounds, believing that God can accomplish the desires of my heart.

And so, our Monday morning pep rally turns out looking a lot more like a confession. God's Word, along with a thousand prayers and a willing heart, is turning me inside out. If Genesis was a beautiful, intentional beginning, then Exodus was a picture of the impossibility of life without Christ.  Every fiber of tightly woven fabric, every ounce of the twenty-two hundred pounds of pure gold, every detail carved into every precious stone, and every shaving of acacia wood used to prepare a place to offer sacrifices to God proves the truth even the saved are terrified to admit;  we're nothing without Jesus.  I mean, let's face it- if we had to follow that many directions, spend that much time, or share that  many resources before we could ask someone else to ask God to forgive us, we'd be hopelessly, eternally lost.  Even if we knew the way, we've steeped in our 'gimme-gimme' culture too long to spend years practicing a very expensive obedience for any amount of forgiveness.  We're too proud.  We're too smart.  We're too right.  In all honesty, we're so deeply desperate that we spend our entire lives trying to pretend we've forgotten what desperation feels like.  Yes, friends,  I'm pretty confident in saying that we wouldn't have embraced the Exodus.  Nope.  If God was going to write words of redemption across our hearts, He was going to have to do it another way.

Jesus.  The once and for all Sacrifice.  The Atonement.  The Ransom.  The Friend of sinners. 

He was enough.  He fulfilled the requirements that He knew we never would.  He's the perfection His Father was seeking and after thousands of years, He's what His Father sees when He seeks us out.  From our point of view, the book of Exodus looks more like this:

Bring to the Lord an offering of gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and hides of sea cows; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.    Find Jesus.  Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high—its horns of one piece with it. Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it. Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding—two on opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. Put the altar in front of the curtain that is before the ark of the Testimony—before the atonement cover that is over the Testimony—where I will meet with you.   Believe Jesus.  Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it. Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it. Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made to the Lord by fire, they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die.  Love Jesus.

I'm a little worked up about it all, if you want to know the truth.  The sweetest Name I know is even sweeter today.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah is a little more wild than He was before I camped out in the Great Exodus.  And, alas, the inevitable has happened- my mind is a little more His tonight, and my heart is a little less mine.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

I'm In Control

In a culture where 'personal responsibility' is beginning to look a lot like 'Hollywood accountability,' I'm amazed at how good we've become at trading the burden of wisdom and maturity with the catch-phrase of the hour.

No longer are we held accountable for bullying people on the roadways because 'road-rage' has become an acceptable excuse.

We can punch that obnoxious co-worker in the face or allow a child to be grossly defiant and disrespectful as long as we're quick to remind people that they have 'anger management' issues. 

We don't have to get out of bed in the morning if we're 'down,' we don't have to tell the truth if we're 'habitual liars,' we're not required to make right choices if we're 'struggling' or 'down on our luck.'

Well, that's all well and good.  It makes life a lot easier to know that the goal of life is to preach wisdom and maturity without ever having to live it.   But, there's a big problem with our 'find-a-catchy-phrase-for-it-so-that-I-don't-have-to-be-held-accountable-lifestyle,' and that problem's name is Jesus.

Jesus, when speaking to his best friends once told them, "Do not allow your hearts be troubled..." We've read it countless times and if you're like me, you didn't pay it too much thought.   As a matter of fact, it didn't come to mean a lot to me until my heart was troubled.  Then, I camped out at this verse and let the Word speak to me and show me things I didn't know.

It's easy to digest those words when all is well and life is grand, but what about when the 'low' you find yourself in is as close to hell as life on earth comes?  Jesus, when He said these words, wasn't speaking in generalities or giving a one-liner in an encouragement class.  He wasn't standing on the top of a mountain with one hand pointing out the splendor of His Father's Creation and another resting on His chest as he explained all we had to be thankful for.  As a matter of fact, He wasn't talking to a group of strangers and He wasn't giving 'good' news at all.

John chapter 14 paints a picture of Christ telling a story that must have been painful, not only for Him, but also for the men who had left everything to follow the One they loved.  Standing before Peter, Jesus tries to shed light on the fact that while Peter is proclaiming an undying allegiance, he'll actually deny the One he loves the best only hours before he sees His corpse.

Can you grasp how terrible that news was to Peter?  Put yourself in his shoes for a moment and try to feel the weight of what Jesus was trying to make him understand.  In a matter of hours, Peter would turn his back on his own heart and deny knowing the Man who radically changed his life and destiny.  And as if that weren't bad enough, before Peter would have a chance to make things right, Jesus, his Savior and best friend, would die a criminal's death without him by His side.  And while Peter may have had a hard time understanding this, Jesus knew it well and gave Peter this advice:

"Do not allow your heart to be troubled..."

Wow.  Surely Jesus meant to say something else, right?  (I mean, it's not like He said it twice or anything, right?) Surely something got lost in translation because if Jesus really said that to Peter, well, that would mean that Jesus knew Peter was in control of his own emotions.  If Jesus, the sinless Savior, really told his dear friend, "You're going to betray me on my deathbed, but I'm telling you not to allow your heart to be troubled," then that means Peter, you and I have control over our emotions.  We tell them what to do.  We allow or refuse them.   It means we make conscious decisions to run people off the road.  It means we punch that guy at the office because we've been dreaming about it for months.  It means that we don't get out of bed because, well, because we don't have to.  We lie.  We cheat.  We steal.  And we do so because we choose so, not because we've fallen victim to some emotional toxin that we 'catch' at the local mall or because we didn't wash our hands at Whataburger.

"Don't let your hearts..."

What is it that you've allowed your heart to feel that you know Jesus would advise against?  It's within your power to take it back, you know?  Maybe Jesus is whispering the same request of you that He is of me.  "Don't let your heart care more about what they think than what I do."  Or maybe it's something else...

Don't let your heart wreck your life with anger...

Don't let your heart disengage from your family...

Don't let your heart turn against those who tell you the truth...

Don't let your heart be lazy...

Don't let your heart fortify habits that will steal peace from your children...

Don't let your heart believe that excuses are your friend...

Don't let your heart shut its door to the lost...

Don't let your heart look in the mirror all day...

Don't let your heart become prideful, deceitful, ungrateful...

Do you get it?  That heart of ours, it's just that- OURS.  When I'm mad, it's because I choose to be mad.  The same is true when I'm joyful or thankless, happy or sad, mean or pleasant, lazy or diligent, fearful or faithful.  Jesus said I am in control of my emotions, even during the worst of times.  With this knowledge comes the evaporation of every excuse I've ever used to throw a temper-tantrum, every reason I've ever given to back out of something I was afraid of, and every catch-phrase I've ever adopted to give me the pleasure of being wicked in the moment. 

And it means the same for you, my dear friends.

Don't let your hearts be....

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in Me.  John 14:1
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

Sunday, January 02, 2011


These are a few of my favorite things.  It's not an exhaustive pile by any means, but given a few minutes to grab a few things that mean a lot to me, this is what it would look like.  I don't expect that it looks anything like your pile would look, and that's okay.  This is just a handful of things that I feel is an honest representation of my heart. The only problem with my pile of favorite things is that it's just that- a pile.  I look at the pile and, even though I'm pleased with what I have, I'm a little unsure about what exactly to do with it.  As a matter of fact, a few of my very favorite things are useless because they're in a pile.  It's all there at my disposal, with the ability and purpose to bring me joy, but because I piled it up, I can't fully enjoy the benefits of what I proclaim to be my favorite things.


Life, even when it's wonderful, is hard.   We have parceled out our hearts in so many good directions that we don't truly have enough left to focus our time, attention and thoughts on the things we love the most.  Often times, we find ourselves half-heartedly checking off our to-do lists while the real desires of our hearts gather dust on a shelf.  We have gotten so good at making promises we don't keep that we've lost credibility with ourselves.   We have trained ourselves into living with good intentions and bad integrity. As bad as it sounds, we've allowed our lives to become so completely full of good that they are desperately empty of great, all because we've forgotten one of the beautiful truths of Genesis:  

I ask you, friends:  Did God have the ability to perfect His creation in an instant?  Did He have the knowledge and preparation to create on the first day and rest for six? Could He, if He had so chosen, actually have created every fiber of our universe in the blink of a Holy eye?  As a matter of fact, considering His power and prowess, wasn't spending an entire day on each facet of creation a little overkill in the attention department?  
Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  God could have done all those things and more, but He didn't.  According to verse after verse in the first Book of the Bible, our Heavenly Father who fashioned us in His image, gave us a living example of the importance of FOCUS.  An example so creatively exquisite that even the lost can't help but wonder who He is thousands of years later.

FOCUS.  Allowing the good to garner some of your attention while reserving every fiber of your time, attention, talent and thoughts for the great.  FOCUS requires turning that lens in our heart until we can clearly see everything in the picture.  FOCUS, by mere definition, won't allow you to miss the great because you were distracted by the good.  FOCUS makes you concentrate your attention.  FOCUS, like it or not, makes you choose.

Take another gander at my pile and ponder at the things you might have missed the first time. 
See, beneath the good eyeshadow and beside the good popcorn and below the good lens lie the two GREAT covenants that will forever define my life and my legacy.  If I'm not careful, what the Book and the rings represent will stay in that pile of good things, never getting the CONCENTRATED attention they deserve.  If I'm not intentional, I can mosey my way through life by ingesting an occasional verse and giving my family a few casual experiences.  No matter what my day-planner or refrigerator looks like, that is NOT how I want to live my life or spend my heart, and thankfully, I don't have to.

Thankfully, I was made in the image of One who showed me how to FOCUS.
Thankfully, I'm surrounded by friends who remind me the importance of FOCUS.
Thankfully, occasional  and casual have an enemy named FOCUS.

I want to live everyday in that 'give it all you got' mentality, going the distance and then some for the ones I say I love. I want to look back one day and know that I didn't waste my life on the good while I let the great fade into the background. I want to draw a line in the sand between good and great and live my life on the right side.

90 Day Challenge.  90 days of concentrated attention.  90 days of FOCUS.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Two Women. One God

Two women.  Two hearts.  Two voices.  Ninety days.  One God. 

I would like to introduce my friends to my friend, Lisa Tucker of Graceful Abandon.  She has become a precious member of my faith family and has taken on the tremendous challenge of praying me into the God Margin.  Together, we plan to read our Bible from cover to cover in 90 days with approximately 615 other sisters across the world.  She and I are incredibly excited about the promise-filled, relationship-rich, becoming less so that He is more experience and we are cordially inviting you to join us on our journey.

If the idea of concentrating the first-fruits of your time, attention and thoughts on the Word of God for the New Year grips you the way it has us, follow this link to accept the 90 Day Challenge.

Lisa and I invite you into our personal journey through God's Word by visiting our weekly blogs during the 90 Day Challenge.  I, like coffee, will get you started on Monday with a blog about my Challenge and Lisa, like a sweet dessert, will end your week with a Faithful Friday blog about her Challenge.  You'll not want to miss what she has to say. She provides a consistent challenge to my faith with her beautiful words.  If you haven't already, click the "follow" button on both blogs and allow us the pleasure of sharing our hearts with you!

Remember: Your 90 Day Challenge week will kick off here at  and end faithfully each Friday with Lisa at

Pray. Fast. Seek.  Need....  FIND.

It all starts Monday!  

Airing Her Clean Laundry (SAVING SECRETS!)

"A wife of noble character who can find?
   She is worth far more than rubies.
 Her husband has full confidence in her
   and lacks nothing of value...
She watches over the affairs of her household
   and does not eat the bread of idleness."

Okay, Ladies!  Many of you have asked for more ways to spend less when it comes to laundry expenses.  I'm going to share my favorite tricks, recipes and tips for your reading pleasure.  If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section and I will answer them quickly!

First things first, if you haven't read the "Homemade Laundry Detergent" blog, you'll definitely want to check that one out, first!  It can be found at this link:  I want to make 10 gallons of laundry detergent for $2.50!

Now that we are confident that we'll always have high quality, inexpensive laundry detergent, we can move on to other aspects of practicing laundry frugality!

Airing My Clean Laundry...

Always sort your laundry.  (Who am I kidding?  I'm terrible at sorting laundry!)  Seriously, though, the first tip to saving a bundle on laundry expenses is to make sure you don't RUIN expensive clothing.  So, in light of that fact, YOU (not me) should ALWAYS sort your laundry.  You should also ALWAYS double check your clothes before throwing them into the wash.  Be diligent about pre-treating stains.  And today is your lucky day because I'm going to share with you 2 very good "Homemade Laundry Pre-treater" recipes.  :D

Laundry Pre-treater SPRAY
1/2 tsp dishwashing liquid
1 cup Homemade Laundry Detergent
I cup Greased Lightening (Found at Dollar General)
1 Tbsp Washing Soda
1 Tbsp Borax
Mix in an empty spray bottle and spritz stains before washing

Laundry Pre-treater SOAK
1/4 cup Washing Soda
1/4 cup Borax
1 Tbsp dish liquid
**1/2 cup lemon juice (for dingy whites or light colors)
Mix with water in a large pot on the stove, warm but do not boil. Remove from heat. Soak stained items 4 hours or more.  Don't throw it away.  The mixture will stay good for days.

After you're certain you've managed your stained or dingy items, wash your items with your Homemade Laundry Detergent.  I also add a Laundry Booster to my wash.   And today is definitely your lucky day because it just so happens to be "Share Your Laundry Booster Recipe With a Friend Day!"  Your Laundry Booster will keep colors bright, whites white and keep your washer super clean and fresh!  Now, aren't you glad we're friends?

Laundry Booster
1 cup of super cheap color-safe bleach
1 cup of super cheap 'oxy-clean' type powder
1 cup of super cheap baking soda
Mix in an old container and add 1/8 cup for a front loader, a little more for a top loader machine. (The little plastic scoop that comes with the super cheap 'oxy-clean' type powder works great for this.  Use half a scoop for front loaders, a full scoop for top loaders.)

Now that we're sure our laundry will be clean, let's make sure they're going to be soft, too!  In order to ensure that my family is always wearing super soft clothes (even off the line), I use a fantastically cheap Homemade Fabric Softener.  Now, before you get worried, let me assure you; It's illegal to charge someone for a Fabric Softener recipe on the 1st of July in all 50 states.  Aren't you relieved?

Homemade Fabric Softener 
1 cup White Vinegar
1 cup of your favorite scent of hair conditioner
2 cups water
Mix in an old fabric softener bottle and use as you would liquid Downy.  If you line dry your clothes, increase vinegar to 1.5 cups in above recipe.

I see you shaking your head.  Just relax, okay?  Would I really let you walk around smelling like vinegar?  Of course not!  The vinegar rinses completely away, leaving soft, fresh and deodorized fabric.  It also cleans your washing machine and prevents sweat stains in your sweetie's clothes.  And before you think I'm going to make you give up those wonderful smells you pay $4 a bottle for, get this:  I'm still going to show you how to STRETCH your favorite liquid fabric softener (mine is Suavitel), still get the benefit of all those great smells, and save your money, too!  Just because I'm feeling benevolent, I'm going to give you (for free) my Fabric Refresher Spritzing Spray recipe!  Can you believe it?

Fabric Refresher Spritzing Spray
1 capful of your favorite liquid fabric softener
4 cups of water
Mix in an old spray bottle and use to spritz your clothes as you hang them on the line (I won't tempt you by telling you that I'm saving a TON of money by doing this.)  A clothes line isn't for you?  No worries.  Simply spray your Spritzer into the dryer 4 or 5 times before you turn it on.

  See?  Slashing your laundry costs can be SUPER EASY and SUPER FUN.  One thing it won't be is disappointing!

So, I'm issuing a challenge.  Call up a friend and invite her to switch to homemade cheapies for a month.  See if you don't save a load! :D  And after you get good at making your own, consider sharing your gifts with a young mom or an elderly neighbor.  After all, we're in this TOGETHER!