Posted in Faith

Filthy Rags

Lately, my prayer life has felt kind of empty. I’ve still been praying, but I’ve missed the warm hugs of the Spirit’s presence; the thrill of hearing Him speak so perfectly into my situations. I’ve been hungry.

And this past Sunday at church, although the music was well-executed and the energy in the room was incredible – I felt numb inside. So I sat down in my chair and began to pray.

“Why do you seem so far away? Why can’t I hear you? Is there anything I should be doing differently?”

I sensed an immediate response from the Lord. But initially, it seemed odd. And, simpler than I expected.

“Take off your jacket.”

What?

I was wearing my brown leather jacket, which I really like – and today was one of the first days warm enough to use it. It was a steal a couple of years ago at $50, on our local buy-and-sell website.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I’m nervous or uncomfortable – usually, around other people, and usually, away from home – one of the things that I do to hide myself is keep some kind of outer layer on. A hoodie, perhaps, or a bulky sweater. Sometimes, it’s my parka – even if I’m hot. I’ve done this for many years; at least since I was a teenager.

And that morning, I happened to be hiding in my favorite jacket.

As I sat and reflected, contemplating whether I had the courage to take it off, I remembered the phrase found in Isaiah 64:6: “…all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”

My jacket isn’t a filthy rag, but if I’m using it to hide behind, it’s no more effective. I can’t help thinking of Adam and Eve in the garden, who covered themselves in leaves and hid from the Lord, when they became aware of their sinful nature. “Righteous acts” can be a way of attempting to cover this nature. We hope that what we do will make us more worthy of being accepted by God and others.

Maybe, if I’ve spent a lot of time in the Word, volunteered at church, and haven’t lost my temper with the kids that day, God will draw near. Bonus points for walking in on Sunday morning with a smile, and my hair done. And my nice jacket – on.

But what does He say? All these “righteous” acts are like filthy rags. Sure, He wants us to do good things, but as a loving response – not as a means of gaining His approval. There’s nothing I could ever do that will make me worthy of His presence. Only the cross can do that, and it has already been done.

What is required, then, to experience God’s presence? James 4:8 simply says, “Come near to God and he will come near to you.”

Come near. That’s it!

But come near with the real you. He doesn’t need us to shroud ourselves in good deeds, false personalities, success, smarts, or leather jackets. He just wants us.

The real us.

So I took my jacket off. I felt weird in the shirt I had on, my hair hadn’t fallen quite right that morning, and my make-up itched my face. But, there I was. And the pastor, in his message, began to talk about how we needed to get real with God when we pray.

Coincidence? I think not.

Do you hide from God, or others? Where, or when, do you feel most like yourself? What would it look like for you to bring that real-self to God, and to your other relationships?

I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

Speak Life

As I write this, my sons are battling it out laser-style in our dark basement. It’s just past 7:30 pm, and we’re hoping to see some of the northern lights before settling in for a slightly later-than-usual bedtime. The telescope is set up and ready to go. I honestly don’t think it will help much, but it’s fun to play around with anyway.

High hopes.

The weather? Cold, then snowy, then snowy again, and then even colder. The past few weeks, it has felt like there were more school cancellations due to weather than actual days of school. And that’s about all of the recap I will give you because I have officially reached the point of winter where I stop paying attention. Minus 30-ish, all the time, and that about sums it up. I’ve resigned myself to grit my teeth and wait for spring.

My husband, tunneling his way to somewhere warmer.

And on this cold evening, waiting for the northern lights to appear, my son decided to put on some TobyMac. Suddenly, I had a thought.

“Ooh!” I called to him from the kitchen, where I was cleaning up after supper. “You should play ‘Elements.'” What song would be more befitting of our arctic-like surroundings?

“That’s just what I’m doing!” he replied.

But as I sauntered over to the living room to watch part of the music video and listen to the song, I found myself getting choked up. The words were more relevant than I wanted them to be.

“…This world, is up in my grill

This world, is shooting to kill

This world always gotta be stealing my heart

This world always tryin’ to rip my family apart…”

“…This ain’t our home, nah, not even close

They camouflage like we’re fighting some ghost

You start to doubt everything that you know

I feel the heat and it’s starting to show

They try to break us, break us, make us wanna give in

Lay down our arms, Novocain us again

Lay down a fight, I could never relent

And I’ma take it all the way to the end…”

“…And I’ma go down swinging, if I go down

I’ma go down swinging, if I go down

I’ma go down swinging, if I go down

I’ma go down swinging, if I go down

Let’s go…”

“The Elements” by TobyMac

I went into my bedroom, under the guise of trying to spot the lights from another window. I haven’t cried in a while, but a few tears squeaked out as I peered at the sky.

I’ve been keeping it together, mostly. Watching the news attentively, praying myself to sleep at night. Grappling for ideas of what to do with my rambunctious children when it’s cold, I’m tired, there’s no school, and we’re not allowed in any recreational environments.

May as well enjoy it!

I’ve felt gratitude that finally, FINALLY there were people in my country willing to make a stand. But my hopes crashed pretty quick when I realized my Prime Minister had no intention whatsoever of even engaging them in a conversation. My heart was stabbed when he painted them all with the same “tinfoil-hat” wearing brush. My feelings were enraged when he, of all people, told me from the screen of my phone to “do what’s right.”

I was disappointed – not surprised – by the biased media reports. The villainization of anyone whose thoughts differ from the dominant political narrative.

It’s old. It’s all old news to the point where I can hardly stand to hear about it anymore. We know what the reporters will say before they say it. We know who they will belittle in their articles. We know who they will undermine. We know when they will use diminutive taglines and quotation marks. Or, even outright insults and mistruths.

And in the midst of this, the feds are introducing an anti-hate bill that will seek to protect ethnic, religious, or other groups of people from hate speech, including online.

Sounds like a good idea, right? Well, it depends what you characterize as hate speech. Is my blog hate speech? Because I don’t agree with Mr. Trudeau?

The main reason I left Facebook was due to the mockery, disdain, and outright hatred that I often read directed towards my God, my heritage, and my faith. My church, at the moment, is bearing up under a steady stream of online abuse and slander.

Will those qualify as hate speech? Or are those things ok, because they’re directed at Christians?

I’m only basing this on my thirty-some years of life. But these elements…they feel intense.

Storm’s a-brewin’.

A few songs after playing “The Elements,” my son put on another TobyMac favorite – “Speak Life.”

Again, my eyes teared up a little. In the video, protesters are seen, shouting at a person until he is defeated. Then a child whispers something life-giving in his ear, and he stands up again.

This depiction, like the last video, was all too fitting. Because that’s the way to do this, isn’t it? Yes, we engage. We stand firm. But as we do so, we speak life. We use our words for good, and not to harm.

May the Lord give us strength and wisdom, to stand when it’s time to stand. May He protect us, and fill us with life-giving words. May He, and not the media, Bill C-36, or politicians, be the One to muzzle our tongues.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 NIV

Featured image by Nandhu Kumar from Pexels

Posted in Faith

Spiritual Starvation

Have you ever come out of an especially dark season and been surprised by joy? Or been released from an extended period of fear and tension, to finally collapse into the warmth and rest of safety? Has a load ever been lifted, that left you feeling lighter and freer than you ever thought you could feel?

Or, on the other end of the spectrum – have you gone without something for so long, that you acclimatized to the gnawing pains of hunger within you?

Have you become accustomed to starvation?

This is the question that has been winding around my brain over the past couple of weeks – ever since I participated in a three-day food fast along with my church. Now, I really suck at fasting. I’ve never been able to do the full three days, as many people are able to do. This time around, I fasted from breakfast and lunch for two days, and that was as far as I got.

But it always amazes me, even with the partial fast, how I notice such an intense difference in my body as soon as I begin to eat normally again. With my first meal, I can literally feel my energy being renewed. Minute by minute, my alertness and strength return in fuller and fuller measure. It is as if I am a depleted gas tank, and fuel is being poured into me – from my head, to my stomach, and into my limbs, fingertips, and toes.

The first day after my most recent fast, when I again ate a full three meals, I felt almost euphoric. That afternoon, I went out skating with my boys in the crisp air for a good hour and a half. Then as I was in the kitchen making supper after returning home, I felt positively light, awake, and even…bouncy! I asked myself, “My goodness, why do I feel so good?” And then I remembered: I had eaten that day!

It was as if, even in that very short amount of time, I had forgotten what it felt like to be full.

And it caused me to ask myself another question: How am I doing spiritually? Am I walking around full of the Holy Spirit? Or am I hungry? Depleted? Wasting away, and trying to fill the emptiness with all kinds of silly things that have no nutrition – no staying power?

How many of us – even Christians, in the Church, are bored? Tired? Longing? Famished?

And if so, are we even aware of our state? Or have we become accustomed to spiritual starvation?

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

If I reflect on my years of following Jesus, there have been a few precious times when He has jolted me awake with a shock of His love. For example – an unexpected affirmation, deep in my spirit, that comes out of nowhere and leaves me amazed at His goodness. Or a precise and immediate snipping of some kind of tie that had kept me bound for years. Or an overflowing of love for God and other people that I’m not capable of on my own.

But let me be honest – these moments are the exception, not the rule.

And though they leave me feeling full when they happen – sometimes, for days; the effect generally does wear off.

I get hungry.

And that is when I need to return and let His Spirit fill me again. Like having three square meals a day: if I don’t keep up the habit, I run out of steam.

No, it’s not always a feast that I can live off of for days to come. (Maybe this is intentional, because He wants us to keep coming back!) But it’s regular, solid nutrition, that keeps me grounded in Him and gives me the stamina to persevere from day to day.

And as I get into the habit of filling my spiritual stomach with what it needs – the Word, meditation, and conversing with God – it becomes the thing I reach for, without even a second thought.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

Matthew 5:6 NIV

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.

Psalm 34:8 NIV

“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.”

Psalm 34:10 NIV

Dear Lord:

It saddens and surprises me that I could be starving spiritually, without even knowing it. Help us, as your Church, to learn what it means to be full. To not grow so accustomed to pangs of hunger that we fail to acknowledge they’re even there, or attribute them to something else. We need you, Lord – like water, like food. Fill us anew and give us grace to face what you have for us today, and in the coming days.

Thank you, Jesus. We love you, Lord.

Amen.

Are you hungry for more of God? Can I pray for you? Leave any prayer requests you may have in the comments.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

(Featured image is a photo by Monstera from Pexels)

Posted in Faith

Praying the Psalms – Psalm 1: Thought Life

The Psalms is a book of prayers. It covers a wide range of human emotions and can be a catalyst for when you don’t know what to say to God! Join me as I pray through the Psalms. I would love for you to add your prayers and prayer requests in the comments, and I will pray for you right here on the blog.

Psalm 1 (Original text, NIV)

“Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wickedor stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”

A prayer inspired by Psalm 1:

Lord, please focus my thoughts. Direct my steps towards the ways that please you. Please provide friendships for me that will bear good fruit and draw me nearer to you. Help me to be open to those friendships. Help me, Lord, to not dwell on negative things. This can be such a struggle, some days!

Write your words on my heart, Lord. Fill my head with your thoughts. Please help the Bible to be meaningful to me; give me understanding and insight.

Help me, Lord, to thrive – could you be my water? Help me to be healthy in every way: mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Help me to do good work that will be effective in the right ways.

I know that your ways are best. May I not get sidetracked by the things of this world: selfish ambition, wealth – the things that pass away.

Have mercy on me, Lord. I know that your eyes are always on me, and I thank you for that.

Amen.

(This post first appeared in its original form on The Manitoba Mom Blog on April 24, 2020. Click here to view.)

To catch up on the rest of this series, you may click the following links:

What is Better (Series Intro)

As mentioned earlier, please feel free to add your prayers and prayer requests in the comments. I would love to pray with and for you. May you be blessed today!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

What is Better

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’

‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed – or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

Luke 10:38-42 NIV

Hustle and bustle. Work hard. Be heard. Keep busy.

This is the cry of our culture. This is often the cry of my heart.

It’s not all bad. Work and productivity are gifts from God that yield rewards. This is a biblical truth – we read about it throughout Proverbs, and throughout Ecclesiastes.

But listen to our Lord’s gentle advice, to hardworking Martha. A woman He loved, and indeed appreciated.

I can hear the smile in His voice. I imagine Him stretching out His arm to her and calling, the same way I do to my kids when they are all wound up about something.

“Martha, Martha! Please, it’s alright.” He sees her distress. “You’re all upset. Come here and take a break. Sit with me a while. The world will not fall apart without you. You don’t have to keep it all going. You don’t have to keep the plates spinning and the balls in the air and the pans in the fire all on your own. That’s actually my job. I just want you to come and sit with me a while. That’s all.”

I love to end and open the year in Jesus’ company. Yesterday evening, as I sat with Him and watched an online prayer service, He filled me with peace, and joy. He renewed my love, not only for Him, but for other people – which, to Him, is equally important. He warned me about something that is likely to happen in my life in the near future, but also filled me with reassurance and peace that it would be alright. He gave me ideas of how to reach out to others. He renewed my focus and sharpened my direction, in the things that I am already doing.

One of the ideas I had, as I sat with Him yesterday evening, was to bring back a blogging series that I began in the Spring of 2020 but did not continue. I had intended to pray through the Psalms on my blog. To read through the Psalms, which is a book of prayers, and then write my own prayer to go along with each one, personalizing it line by line.

What better way to begin 2022, than to spend it at Jesus’ feet?

So, I will do my best to show up here every day, for the month of January, and pray through a Psalm with you. I will invite you to pray along with me in the comments and leave your prayer requests. I would be so blessed to pray with and for anyone who wants to join in.

There are many things that will compete for our attention in 2022. I would like to begin by choosing what is better – and indeed, what is best. If this is the cry of your heart as well, join me. It will not be taken away from us.

Happy New Year, and I hope to see you back here tomorrow!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

“Let Your Heart Smile”

It’s been a hard year. I think many of us are in a place where we could agree with that statement. For me personally, it hasn’t been a bad year, but yes, it’s been hard. The shock of when I first read those two words – “global pandemic.” The uncertainty of what this virus actually was. Would it hurt me, or my loved ones?

The adjustment to schooling my children at home. Which I welcomed, in fact…because I was afraid. And I wanted nothing more than to hide them under my wing, here at home. But eventually, that initial comfort turned into the daily frustrations of coping with my children’s boredom, and their resistance to doing the schoolwork that was important, but at times frustrating. I felt my mental health declining under the strain of their constant demands, the lack of alone time, and the sense of disorder and chaos within my home. As the school year and then the summer finally drew to a close, I welcomed the chance to send them to school and preschool again…though warily, because…how would they cope with all the new restrictions? The masks? The constant sanitizing? Being chained to a desk? Or, being prevented from something as natural and normal as interacting in close proximity to their peers?

Whatever the case, it didn’t last long. A few months later, and they were back at home again, and everything was shut down. There was nowhere we could go. Some days, I felt as if my mind was literally slipping away. I watched frontline and essential workers become celebrated heroes (and rightly so), but felt nameless and faceless at home with my kids, doing and doing and doing, without recognition, while politicians scolded us from our screens for questioning their methods. Money was thrown around to people who already had plenty. I began to worry about economics. How would our country pay off so many irresponsible expenditures? Why were wealthy people profiting even more from pandemic handouts?

Then my church split, and my heart broke. It wasn’t caused by the pandemic, but was complicated by it. I felt anger, at times, rise up within me like some unfamiliar, wild beast. I didn’t know I was capable of such. But the divisive issues that I saw everywhere brought out the worst in me, as they also did in others.

As the new year began, we kept putting our feet in front of each other, but our pace had decidedly slowed. Promises of normal gatherings and celebrations that had been dangled in front of us like carrots were pulled further and further away. I began to wonder what was more deadly – the virus itself, or the toll of trying to avoid it?

Finding myself, now, halfway (!) into the year, my province is in the midst of a ‘third wave.’ (I wonder how long they will keep numbering the waves.) The weather is gorgeous, my children are happy and healthy and laughing, the seeds are sprouting, the trees are green, and the flowers are blooming.

And yet, I seem to be stuck, in this rut of sullenness. I don’t blame COVID, necessarily. I blame habit. And I blame my own focus. My own gaze.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

Matthew 6:22-23 NIV

I ask myself the question: Where am I looking? Am I looking only at the things that infuriate and depress me? Am I fixated on areas of lack, want, and trouble?

In the midst of this, I have heard a simple phrase, whispered gently to me beneath the mental clamour of my own complaints: Let your heart smile. Perhaps, because the Lord knows I am tired of cliché sayings such as “look at the bright side,” “be thankful,” and “practice gratitude,” He has provided an alternative wording which speaks directly to the condition of my heart – which seems to be operating from a misguided, twisted sense of duty. As if I must remain upset about the world’s problems, or as though I will change them by continuing to sulk about them. But in doing so, I am turning away from the joyful things that surround me. And in doing so, I am refusing to let my heart smile.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Luke 12:25-26 NIV

So when I look out my window and see a beautiful June day; as I watch my children run, giggling, through the sprinkler; as I see the faces of women on a video call who want to interact and pray; I have begun to allow myself to be filled with joy. There is no use fighting it. God has given reasons for my heart to smile. No, it’s not something I can muster up. It’s a gift that God is offering, that I need to stop throwing back at him. As a tree does not grimace or strain to overflow with fruit, so the fruits of God’s Spirit are not produced by my efforts.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23 NIV

I thank you, Lord, for the fruit you produce in our lives, that we cannot bring forth on our own. I thank you, Lord, that we may leave all the solutions to the world’s problems up to you. I accept the peace, and joy, that you want to give to me. I will allow my heart to smile. And maybe, even my face as well.

How are you doing, and what are you smiling about today? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

On Coming Home

Recently, my family and I attended church. At church. For the first time in a year. As we entered the building, there was a sign with a picture of a house on it. On the bottom it read: “Welcome Home.”

There’s nothing like a world-wide pandemic to make you miss what you’ve never really had before. Amidst all the cries of faith-filled people that I have heard, wishing to gather with their church families, my voice has been, for the most part, silent. I am not quiet out of dissension, but from a place of what I would attempt to describe as perplexed shame.

Home. Has the church ever been home to me, in all these years? To some degree, yes. But in order for a place to be truly home, one needs to move in. And in order to move in, one must unpack. All of the boxes, bags, and containers. The new, exciting things. The old, worn-out things. The mementos. The things you love. The special items, and the mundane. Some things you should have gotten rid of years ago. And yes, even the dirty laundry you wish you had washed before you got there.

By unpacking, you bring your entire self into the environment. The things that you unpack reveal who you are. The good, the bad, the ugly. A true home must be home to your fullest self.

And once you have moved in, the work begins. You clean, maintain, and fix. You organize, arrange, plan, and make the place fit and welcoming for habitation and use. This work never stops, and many hands are needed. If you want to live there, you contribute. You don’t complain about menial or lowly tasks. And you learn to work together with the people who share the space.

You get hungry, and thirsty. You all do. So you share a meal. You pray over the bread, and break it. You eat together. You digest. You have a drink to wash it down. You’re thankful. It’s too good to keep to yourselves, so you invite guests in to share. The food and drink have a never-ending supply. Often, the guests decide to move in permanently. And you welcome them.

Sometimes, you play. You get to know your family better. There are young people, old people, and people from all kinds of backgrounds and lives. You learn to appreciate them all, because this family is formed by adoption. Dad wants lots of kids. And He likes variety.

When you get tired, home is a good place to rest. Dad says, that’s what He’s there for. And for recovery, when the outside gets to be too much. His arms are always open, and He says that ours should be too.

No home is perfect, and neither is the church. Even there, the rules meant to protect us get broken. Families fight, and people get hurt. The doors get busted in, and things are stolen. But when we pray: “Your Kingdom come, on earth as it is in Heaven” – I think that what we’re really asking for, is home. And the Church is the place that home begins.

So maybe it’s time to move in. To work, and eat, and play, and rest. Maybe it’s been too many years of ducking in and out of the family gatherings, sitting in the back, and taking all my stuff with me when I go. Maybe it’s time to unpack, and settle in for good. (I wonder what that would look like.)

Have you gone back to church yet? What was it like? I would love to hear about it in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Mental health

Mindsets for Overcoming Self-Doubt

Self-doubt. It can be crippling. For some of us, it lurks around every corner. It causes frustration, bitterness, resentment, and even despair. It makes it difficult for us to accept criticism. It can change us into competitive, envious people who are unable to rejoice at the success of others.

But we don’t need to let it win.

Self-doubt is a demon that I know too well. As a stay-at-home mom who hopes to return to work again someday, I often feel as though I am on the bottom rung. The task before me seems overwhelming…even, impossible. Yet, this aching need for a purpose beyond my walls does not go away.

In the midst of this, my thought life can be a game-changer. What I believe about other people, myself, my past, and my future will change how I behave, and the decisions that I make. From one self doubter to, perhaps, another – here are some things to remember when you find yourself in that pit.

Remember the compliments, not the criticism

Yes, criticism can be constructive. However, if you are like me, it can tear you right to the ground – especially when you’re already in a position of weakness. These are the times that we need to also remember the compliments that people have given us over the years. Perhaps it is more natural for you to meditate on the criticisms. This may happen unintentionally. So, let’s be intentional about what may not come as easily – running the positive things that people have said about us through our minds, over and over again. You may want to write a few of them down. Are there any commonalities? What are the good things that people have called out of you? These can direct you towards future paths.

Pass the blessing on to others

After you have practiced gratitude for how others have encouraged you, you will have a greater understanding of the impact that your words may have on others. Is there someone you can encourage today? Someone else, who, perhaps, has been feeling a little beaten down? Do you see strengths in them that you can help them to notice? The Bible says “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Give it a try, and experience this truth. Everyone has influence – either for the good, or for the bad. This includes you. You have the ability to change the lives of others, for the better.

Turn envy into blessing

Nothing defeats the power that envy has on you, like turning it around on its head. That woman who has what you wish you had? Tell her how amazing she is. Tell her you admire her for it. When I have practiced this, it has softened my heart towards people I would have otherwise harbored resentment for. It has also released me from the captivity that envy is. Yes, you can – appreciate others for the strengths and good qualities that they have, without it taking anything away from you, and who God made you to be.

Embrace humility

One verse that has continually challenged me is Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV)

There is a perplexing relationship between self-doubt and pride. Pride insists that a person be the best at everything, and have the best of everything, which leads inevitably to failure and self-doubt. A humble person, however, understands that this is an impossible stance, and that they are no better than the next person. It is ok, natural, and good to be less-than what you see in others. A humble person knows there is more to life than how they rank.

We are each given struggles as well as gifts. And our gifts, by definition, are acts of grace – completely undeserved. Acknowledge them for what they are, and realize that every other person is given both struggles and gifts as well.

Find purpose in the here-and-now

Everybody needs a sense of purpose in order to be healthy. Self-doubt can stem from a fear that you will be unable to fulfill purpose in your life. If you question what your purpose is, look around. Look right in front of you. Where have you found yourself? What must you do in that situation?

Are you at home, with your kids? If so, you have found a purpose: love your kids, keep them safe and fed, and try to stay sane! Are you sick in bed? Rest, and get better. In the middle of a huge argument? Work towards resolution and do what you can to reconcile. In a job you don’t like? Do it to the best of your ability, while praying about and researching other opportunities.

If you are like me, you may think too far ahead into the future sometimes. Your purpose in 5 or 10 years may not be very clear right now, or it may seem impossible. However, I am willing to bet that your purpose for today, for this very moment, is something that you can identify and achieve.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Matthew 6:34 ESV

I understand that your self-doubt may be more complicated than the points I have outlined here. Nonetheless, I hope that by focusing on the compliments, passing on blessing, overcoming envy, embracing humility, and finding purpose in the here-and-now, you will find yourself in a place of greater peace than you were before.

Do you struggle with self-doubt? What is your advice on how to overcome it? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith

“A Beast of Burden”

“How are everyone’s devotions going?” I asked a few friends several weeks ago, during one of the precious few in-person meetings we’ve been permitted to have, since…you know.

The room fell silent. Some women looked away. Others slowly shook their heads. I felt bad for asking.

Years ago I heard Joyce Meyer talk about spending daily time with God. With reference to busy mothers, she had asked in her typically pointed way (which I love) – “Well, what can you do? Lock yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes to pray, if you have to.”

This simple statement has motivated me when ‘quiet time’ is virtually impossible. A few months ago, I re-evaluated my devotional plan. At the time, I had been reading through Ezekiel. But when circumstances dictated that both children be home full time, and supervision of school work was added to my list of responsibilities, Ezekiel felt like a little more than I could handle. I wasn’t looking forward to my devotions any longer, and began to avoid doing them.

So I decided to take a break from Ezekiel for a while and go directly to the source: the words of Jesus Himself. I found a long stretch of red letter text in Matthew 5 (the Sermon on the Mount), and began to read it very slowly. I sampled different translations, and found that they added layers of meaning to the text. Since translation is not always a straight-forward process, and words are tied to the history and culture in which they are used, different versions of the Bible can relay varying aspects of what was originally meant.

Recently, I stumbled upon a verse that grabbed me in a new way because of one such alternate wording. In Matthew 21, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem shortly before His death and resurrection (otherwise known as the “Triumphal Entry”) is documented. There, I read a verse that has become quite familiar to me in NIV:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'” Matthew 21:5 NIV

However, here it is, in ESV:

“Say to the Daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” Matthew 21:5 ESV

A beast of burden! The CJB (Complete Jewish Bible) translates it the same way. A quick perusal of Britannica.com informed me that this is a common term of reference for a ‘pack animal.’ Donkeys, in particular, have been used for bearing loads for as long as six thousand years. According to Britannica: “In many places in the world, the use of pack animals is the only feasible means of transporting a load.” Donkeys “are surefooted and can carry heavy loads over rough terrain.” And where horses cannot survive, or people are too impoverished to own them, “donkeys are the main beasts of burden and source of transportation.”

Surefooted. Carrying heavy loads over rough terrain. Able to survive where horses cannot. Available to people who are poor. Transporting from one place to the next.

The only feasible means.

Could there be a better way to describe the Savior Himself?

Jesus’s association with this animal was not a coincidence. He had specifically sent His disciples to fetch the donkey from a complete stranger, knowing in advance that it would be there, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9.

And like the donkey, our Lord is humble and gentle. Like the donkey, He bears the loads that are too heavy for us to carry, and He does so without complaint. Like the donkey, He is essential – especially, to those who are poor.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:3 NIV

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7 NIV

I wonder how much easier it would be to spend time with Jesus daily, if we remembered that He is willing and able to bear the heavy loads we carry, over the rough terrain of our lives. That He is the only means of transportation – from one season of life to another, and from this life to the next.

“Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”

Psalm 68:19 NIV

What burdens can I give to the Lord today?

The burden of worry. That my life, and those of my family members, won’t turn out alright.

The burden of control. He is God. I am not.

The burden of feeling unloved. He made me, and knows and loves every intricacy of my being.

The burden of this day. I am not alone. He is with me in every task. He leads and directs me.

I invite you to spend some time with Jesus, and allow Him to hold your heaviest troubles. Which burdens will you give to Him? If you would like to share about it, comment below.

Warm wishes,

Lisa

Posted in Faith, Parenting

The Beauty of Inadequacy

I jog for a lot of reasons.  For the health benefits, and the feeling of well being it gives me.  For the hope that it will tone my legs (besides doing a number on my knees), and maybe even shrink the roll of baby fat that uncomfortably spills over my waist band.  For the cool, crisp evening air; and the refreshing guzzle of lemon-tinged ice water to follow.

But perhaps, the greatest benefit is the release of my nervous energy at the end of a day.  With each steady, plodding fall of foot upon pavement, my sneakers pound the questions that I’ve grown tired of asking.  Many of them have to do with parenting.  Questions like:

How can I do right by my kids, in every situation?  Are my husband and I steering them in the proper direction?  Are we giving them what they need – always, infallibly, with no developmental area neglected?

One area that I struggle with, for whatever reason, is team sports.  I wasn’t very good at sports growing up, and always felt bad about it.  Therefore, my intention with my own kids was to involve them in it early, so they could develop the abilities I never had.  However, after one and one half seasons of enduring mini soccer alongside my first child, I realized he had little to no interest – and surely did not see sports as implicit to his sense of self-worth, as I had as a child.

On the other hand, he has always loved water and enjoys swimming lessons whenever I’m able to send him.  He also loves to be with friends – goofing off, running around, and playing games – so the kid’s club at church was a win.  I think that this is all great.  But I still worry that I’m shortchanging him, especially when I hear other parents talk about kids who are heavily involved in sports.

As I thought about these things while jogging one evening, and my angsty trudging finally gave way to exhaustion, breathlessness, and its requisite calm, I remembered the Lord. “Please,” I prayed, “let there be nothing neglected.  May there be no inadequacies in the upbringing of our kids.”

His reply came as swiftly as the words left my mind.

“But it is in the inadequacies that I do my greatest work.”

At once, my mind flashed images from my life.  A collage – not of my proudest moments, but those of failure, weakness, lack, and disadvantage.  And I knew in a moment…

My inadequacies, though disappointing, have taught me humility in the place of pride.  They have caused me to refrain from drivenness and instead, to embrace contentment.  They have helped me to develop compassion and mercy, where I would have otherwise been critical and judgmental.

Character is of great value, to Him.  And the way that we treat others.  Can we love them?  Are we even capable?

Give up the selfish ambition.  Then, maybe.  Discover a sense of worth beyond achievements and accomplishments.  Then…perhaps.

If so, that is the best possible outcome.  For myself, and for my kids.

I will close with some of the passages of scripture I could stand to read every day.  And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:1‭-‬4 NIV

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:13‭-‬18 NIV