Cutting Deep

I got up early this morning and went out to prune my rosebushes. I plant the southern standard, knock out roses. They are hardy. They bloom and rebloom all summer. However, as the summer wears on they get more and more stingy with the blooms, unless you prune them! And one hard truth I’ve learned over the years is that the harder you prune the better they look and the prettier they bloom. Now, I’m not one to cut mine back to the stump every spring, but I do prune pretty hard before they bloom, then as they begin to become crowded with a mix of dying blossoms and new shoots I have to force myself to cut off new shoots. I have to cut back hard if I want them to remain shapely and bloom gloriously all summer.

You know where this is going don’t you? God tells us that those he loves, he disciplines.

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.” Hebrews 12:5-8 NLT

In John 15:1-2 he says:

“My Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more.“ (NLT)

God is well aware of the lesson of deep pruning and he’s not afraid to cut out all the rot. Click To Tweet

Pruning can be painful! I am not talking about that thorn that poked my thumb kind of pain, I’m talking about deep heartache and many tears. God is well aware of the lesson of deep pruning and he’s not afraid to cut out all the rot and the non-productive. God loves us so much that he is not going to be content with a relationship where he’s all warm and fuzzy and protects us from all pain. But that’s what we often ask isn’t it? When was the last time you welcomed pruning? I know I’m not begging for it, but I’m trying to learn the lesson that when it comes, and it will, I need to lean in rather than run. I need to trust the pruner. After all, if there’s something growing in me that isn’t good for me I want it removed down to the root, to a place where it won’t  grow back.

I need to trust the pruner. Click To Tweet

If you are in a season of pruning, I know it’s hard. But cling to the pruner who waits right beside you through the bleeding and the healing season. Through all the tears and begging for it to just ‘go away’. Trust the love my sister. Your life can bloom with a beauty that puts my rosebush to shame. Don’t choose to get gangly and live a barely fruitful life! Quit wasting time and effort on empty things and fill your life with the truly beautiful!

 

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My Feet Hurt!

I am that girl, the one who always loved beautiful shoes. I notice shoes, and can guarantee that I will notice yours. Did you know that the University of Kansas even did a study on what shoes say about you?

Well, today, I’m wearing a pair of decidedly unpretty shoes with orthotic inserts. Why?  Well, because of pain, that’s why! I was born with feet that were wonderful for jumping and dancing and gymnastics in my younger years, but which need firm support as I grow older.  I try to forget that and move away from the utility shoe that serves me well back into the things that are beautiful.  I could claim they soothe my soul but in truth, it’s probably my vanity that is best served.

Pain is a powerful motivator.  Not only can pain move me into shoes I would never choose to wear on a day to day basis, it can also move us to give up things that hurt us, to move away from harm and toward safety and the things that are right and good.  God has designed our bodies and our hearts to recoil from pain. It’s for our own good.

At times, God chooses to use pain to redirect our hearts and our lives. Click To Tweet

At times, God chooses to use pain to redirect our hearts and our lives. God loves us, and though he does not want us to suffer pain, he is also wise and knows that pain can often save us from a greater pain. So, when I experience pain what should my response be? I think that I should look closely at the pain for the underlying message. What should I change or do differently, or move away from or move toward to escape the pain? Pain is a teacher, but we must be students and accept the lesson pain offers. We must apply the self discipline to apply the lesson we learn, although if that lesson is from God he will surely walk with us through that pain.

Pain is a teacher, but we must be students and accept the lesson pain offers. Click To Tweet

We are all a bit heard headed. There will be times that the pain will have to increase before we are willing to accept the lesson offered. But if we fail to accept and apply the lesson, we can be sure that our pain will increase until we make a change. God loves us deeply and in his wisdom allows the pain to mold us to a better future.

God loves us deeply and in his wisdom allows the pain to mold us to a better future. Click To Tweet

So, as I accept the painful lesson and put on my orthopedic shoes I should accept the lessons of other pain in my life and look for the change that’s needed. If I choose the wrong change, well, most likely there will be pain there too, pointing me in the right direction. Where is your pain today my friend?  What is God inviting you to change for your long term benefit? Are you willing to look beneath the pain for the lesson? Are you willing to set aside your pride or selfishness to make the change so that pain may subside and your heart may soar free? I pray you are. I pray I am too!

Hebrews 12: 10-11For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

 

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What It Takes to Really Experience Change

Twice a week I go to a deep water exercise class. After several months I’ve begun to see a pattern. There are those who come to work out and there are those who come to tread water and chat. The working out group are getting stronger and hardly miss a class. Some of us are loosing weight and finding that we feel better and enjoy life more. For me, this class has made an amazing difference in just a few short months. It was not easy, especially in the beginning. I had to force myself to go back to class on Thursdays when I was still sore from Tuesdays. But now, after experiencing the benefits for myself, I don’t want to miss a single class!

As I’ve studied James with my Tuesday Ladies we learned that it’s important that we let the word point out areas where we need to grow and then work to make changes in our lives.

But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22

Just like with the exercise class you can attend church services, perhaps a weekly small group, or even have a daily Bible reading and prayer time. You can listen and read and discuss, but if you don’t do the hard work to put what God reveals to you through his word into action in your own life then you will not develop ‘spiritual muscle’. You won’t display the change that the spirit can produce in your life. You will just be fooling yourself.

I don’t want to be a spectator I want to be a changed woman! Click To Tweet

I have decided I’m not going to be a water treader or use my time in God’s word strictly as a social occasion. I don’t want to be a spectator I want to be a changed woman! Just like I have experienced powerful changes in my physical body, I want to experience powerful changes in my life that come only from applying what I’ve learned in God’s word.

Light In The Dark

Now is the time to shine! Don’t let the news of the day drag you down. Do not submit to cultural norms. Remember who you belong to. Remember the promises you have been given. Don’t fear change. Just keep your eyes focused on the light then you too, can be the light just as you were intended to be.

The sun slants into the windows of my sun room nearly blinding me. I can’t focus on anything else.  I soak in the warmth and my heart lifts giving praise to God. Now, to hang onto that as I face the day!

The world right now is filled with messages shouting for my attention, warning me that change is near and I should brace myself for the change. But I have news, change has already come into my life and I must focus on that light as I tune out the shouts of darkness and dread. I know who holds my future in his hand. I trust his promises are true.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

If you are feeling a sense of dread and despair. If you’ve watched too much news or hung out a bit too long on Facebook, then you may find yourself unguarded against this lion. Turn your eyes back to the light!  Let the light pour over you. Spend time in the word. Then, let that light shine out from you. In the darkness, your light will be even more evident. So will the lack of light.

Now is the time to shine! Don’t let the news of the day drag you down. Do not submit to cultural norms. Remember who you belong to. Remember the promises you have been given. Don’t fear change. Just keep your eyes focused on the light then you too, can be the light just as you were intended to be.

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Your True Value

My friend Mary diligently collected a certain type of dishes for her table. They could not be found in a store, They had to be sought out and collected from someone who’d owned them previously.  She loved the beautiful blue on white pattern that graced her table. Sometimes, I’m sure that others thought she overpaid to have this prize when she found it. After all, those dishes originally were given away in the grocery store as a reward for groceries purchased. They were not fine china nor were they originally seen as pieces with great value.

We all have our own opinions about the worth of something. But that doesn’t make us right! Is value based on the cost of the creation? The time, materials, and care that went into the creation. In reality, the true test is the price that someone is willing to pay.

It doesn’t matter how others see your value. I was redeemed at great price, although there are days I tend to forget that and sell myself short. You too, were redeemed at great price. No one can take away your value!

 

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Getting it Right

My nephew and his wife have a new baby. Today, he wrote an eloquent post on their family blog about the challenges of balancing life, the changes they find in their thirty-something lives and I heard the unspoken plea, let us get this right!

This feeling never really goes away does it? At every stage we want desperately to get it right! And, we often are focused on the next step ahead as we fight this battle, so much so we miss living in the here and now.

From my perspective, recently retired from the ‘day job’, I completely understand this desire to get it right as we focus on the next stage or step in life. Life becomes a race and we are focused primarily on the end or at least the next milestone. This can be a heavy burden. It’s difficult to do today well when our focus is on tomorrow. Then, as you look back, it’s difficult to realize what you missed by being so forward focused.

I don’t think God ever intended us to rush so much or to focus so completely on what is ahead. I also know that he is not the harsh critic of my life that I am at times. He said, my yoke is easy, my burden is light.  That doesn’t sound like a God who beats me up for more, more, more. He also said that we should not worry about tomorrow, he’s already got it handled.

God’s focus is on relationship. His relationship with us, our relationship with him, and our relationships with others. Relationships require we live in the moment. Want to join me as I readjust my focus?

 

Finding Your Value

There is a video on Facebook about an overweight young woman who begins to do yoga and it changes her perception of herself. Despite her weight she masters yoga. She says” I’m free, I feel worthy.” While it’s a touching video it made me sad. Sad because I, along with many women, judge my worth on the wrong things.

Ladies, you don’t need to be thin, beautiful, successful, popular or wealthy to be worthy. You are worthy! You are worthy because God made you worthy. He created you to be the unique individual you are. He loves you, period, no qualifiers needed!

We experience a lot of pain and rejection because we let others define us. Let yourself be defined by God, your creator and savior. It’s an awful tool the ruler of this world, our enemy, uses against us. But, “Greater is he who is in you, than he who is in the world” 1John 4:4.

You are his masterpiece! Stop wearing yourself out chasing a false idea that when you become ____ (fill in your own blank) ___ you will become worthy. It won’t work. The accuser will just bring another lie against you. Look to the one who created you for your worth.

It’s a Matter of Perspective

Do you take the short view, or the long view? God always takes the long view. He doesn’t have to do the ‘quick fix’ because he already has the big picture view.

I was thinking yesterday about recent conversations with a young friend whom I mentor. When she asks for advise or prayer it is for right now.  She is a young woman with goals and the ability to meet goals but now that she is working, her focus is on surviving the challenges of the day. She is determined to live a life of faith filled influence and integrity.

At times, I see a bit further down the road. I have more experience and am at a point in life where I can ‘look back’ and see how the pieces often fall into place where we weren’t expecting them to fall. But, I too suffer from short sightedness more than I would like. As a planner, I so want to see the entire plan, all God has in store, so I can see how each situation fits into the big picture. God asks me for faith. God knows me well. If I could see the big picture, I’d be asking for supernatural photoshopping…just a tweak here or there.

A real life example

I had a call from my young friend several months ago asking to meet with me. She spoke of struggles with a co-worker who was not respectful of her expertise or opinions.  There was concern that the coworker may be undermining her professional image with clients. She asked that I pray with her for change.

Fast forward a few months. God offered a change. My friend works for a corporate entity with several locations in the area and was moved to a new office. We rejoiced in God’s goodness.

A couple of weeks ago I had a frantic text: “Help! I need to figure out how to find balance. My life is crazy right now.” This was not a surprise.  My friend has a professional career and two babies.  She is fighting Nashville traffic daily. It’s no wonder balance was elusive. We talked about ways to squeeze in time with God and still keep all the balls in the air. I knew it would not be an easy road. I continued to pray for my young friend.

Just a week ago she called to say they had closed her office. She felt certain that the corporate office had this planned when they transferred her, but this information was not shared. She felt betrayed. I learned that she would now have a 4 day workweek. Two days will be close to home. The other two days, the drive will be just a bit further.

Hmm….As we both look back I am starting to see that neither of us was tuned into God’s long term view. Not only was God answering prayer for near term relief, but he was also moving ahead and laying out a path for concerns not yet realized. He was using career to teach. He was using a corporation to work his best in the life of a young woman learning to balance family, faith and career. Rest assured, there are challenges ahead in the new assignment too.

Here’s what I know:

• God sees the big picture, even when we can’t.
• God loves us and cares not only about the short term hurts but the long term plan.  His plan is to grow us into mature and loving women who serve him by serving others.
• Even when it’s hard, we must trust God with our todays and tomorrows. He is trustworthy!  He see’s what we don’t.

When have you had that panic feeling rush over you at work as things seem to spiral out of control in one area or another?  Have you been sure, even for a moment, that the plan is not in your best interest?

Is there someone you can call to pray with you? To provide a supportive, more experienced viewpoint when these breathless life moments happen?