Who Do I Follow?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24 NLT

The news in my little corner of the world over the last week has highlighted for me the importance of our choices. We concentrate on the big choices, those we consider for days or months. Those we see as life-changing. But, I’ve come to see that what seems small defines us. That it is the one tiny act of kindness, love or self-sacrifice that changes lives. It is the adding up of all those small, seemingly insignificant choices that make a life.

It is the adding up of all those small, seemingly insignificant choices that make a life. Click To Tweet

I see a line of strangers who, in an instant, joined hands in the ocean to form a literal lifeline for a drowning family in Florida. No time to consider. Just grab a hand and become a nameless, faceless individual in a long line of others who offer life. I was proud of my fellow man, I thought, that is what we should all do, just jump in and save a life. Of course, I would do that. Of course!

Then, in my news feed, the driver who hit a bicycle rider on a road not far from home. In an instant, the driver decided to swerve into a bicycle rider. After hitting the rider he sped away. As I read the comments on Facebook I saw anger and selfishness from dozens of individuals. Many comments could be summed up as “if you are in my way you are in the wrong and you deserve whatever happens for inconveniencing me.” I am shocked! I am saddened. I am convicted. How many times have I considered myself and wish to brush away any roadblock, even if it’s another life?

All those small choices we make are really an indicator of who we are and who we serve. I’m coming to the conclusion that the only real decision we must often make is will I serve God or will I serve myself? Christ reminds us that serving God means to deny ourselves. And that is not our natural reaction in many situations. Christ’s call to take up our cross follow him never lets us do as we please.

All those small choices we make are really an indicator of who we are and who we serve. Click To Tweet

The Tuesday ladies and I were talking about this last night. How it seems easier to serve God by doing the one “Big Thing”. We want to excuse those small, daily, inconvenient choices that are set before us. We read in James 4:17 that it is a sin to know what we ought to do and not do it. And sure, we believe this! After all, it’s written in God’s word. But do our lives reflect that belief?  Ummmm, we all hung our heads a bit. We challenged one another to work harder on this. And so I challenge you now, as you make all those small daily decisions, who will you serve? Will you serve the Lord, or will you serve yourself? Attitudes are not excused any more than actions. When our world revolves around us, it does not revolve around Christ.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 NLT

 

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Five Reasons Forgiveness Leads to Freedom

Forgiveness is hard. Most of the time I don’t want to forgive. I’ve been hurt, I’m sad or angry or maybe even afraid. My brain screams, don’t let them get away with this, fight back! But experience tells me otherwise. Faith demands a different response.

1. If I don’t forgive, my faith is weak. We believe the offender should pay, and if we forgive, then payment will not happen. The offender will just do it again. Newsflash! If a penalty is due, the offender will pay. You many not see it, but it will happen. God promises us He will be our defender. Don’t let your faith be weakened by relying on yourself rather than your God.

I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty. Exodus 34:7 (NLT)

Don’t say, “I will get even for this wrong.” Wait for the Lord to handle the matter. Proverbs 20:22 (NLT)

2. By not forgiving, I weaken, rather than growing stronger. Wrestling with yourself and your attitudes produces growth. Wrestling with the ‘offender’ just offers another opportunity for hurt. It wears you out. The only growth you experience is growing more exhausted.

Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil; joy fills hearts that are planning peace! Proverbs 12:20 (NLT)

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. Proverbs 29:11(NLT)

If I don’t forgive. I can’t heal. Open wounds will fester. Click To Tweet

3. If I don’t forgive I can’t have a healthy relationship. In fact, the damage done to us by holding on will often damage other relationships as well. In our mind’s eye, we have walled off the one who hurt us. We aren’t going to let them do it again. In reality, you can’t wall off another person, they just keep moving away. The only way you can build a wall is to wall in the cooperative, and girlfriend if we are bent on building a wall that means walling off ourselves. When we isolate ourselves, all our relationships suffer.

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. Proverbs 15:1 (NLT)

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. Proverbs 17:9 (NLT)

4. If we don’t forgive, eventually, we will regret it. Our lives will revolve around the hurt we’re continuing to nurse. It becomes a focal point in life. That’s a sad life to live. We give the offender the power to continue to attack us over and over. Break free! Forgive!

And when I forgive whatever needs to be forgiven, I do so with Christ’s authority for your benefit, so that Satan will not outsmart us. For we are familiar with his evil schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:10-11(NLT)

5. I did not deserve forgiveness, but I got it anyway. So I have no right to think that forgiveness is only for the worthy. We are commanded to forgive. God does not do this to punish us further, he does this to set us free!

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6: 13-14 (NLT)

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Col 3:13 (NLT)

O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help. Psalm 86: 5 (NLT)

Girlfriend, we have many good reasons to forgive. Forgiveness is a gift. God not only gives us the gift of forgiveness but He gives us the gift of being able to forgive no matter how badly we have been hurt. People are watching. Forgiving freely is not common. The ability to offer forgiveness proclaims our faith and gives us a life that is free of the burden of anger and resentment. This my friends makes our faith most attractive. Is there anyone you need to forgive today?

God not only gives us the gift of forgiveness but He gives us the gift of being able to forgive. Click To Tweet

 

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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Powerful Words

My husband calls me a wordsmith. And it’s true, for me words hold a great deal of power.

Words can heal, words can wound, words can fight our battles, or bring peace in order to avoid the battle.

I’ve become increasingly aware that I have a tendency at times to use my words to wound. So, I’ve been paying attention to when I wield those words as a sword. When I feel threatened or backed into a corner, or maybe just a bit insecure I tend to pull out my sword of words and fend off the attacker, real or imagined. But, just as the sword in the hand of a warrior of old could do lasting or even fatal damage, my words work this same damage on relationships in my life.

Words also have the power to bring life. For me, those words you speak into my life that build me up are the essence of love.

So, I hold in my mouth the power to build up or tear down. I can blame the one who backed me into a corner of insecurity and say they caused me to come out with sword swinging, but in truth, I am the culprit. I know better. I know that my security should not be found in the words or actions of others but I should rely on my faithful savior to…well, save me! But slowly I’m learning that I have already been saved, I’m just not recognizing it, and that it’s going to be gaining control over my words that allows me to live like I believe this truth. Only when I can quit wounding will I be able to live a life that reflects that saving.

This is a season in the year when many of us spend time with those who know us well enough to choose words that wound. It’s a time of year when we are tempted to do our own wounding. I pray that those of us who have been saved will begin to live like we believe it instead of wielding our words in a vain attempt to save ourselves.

 

Also sharing here:

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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.

Pressure of Perfectionism

Yesterday I had tea with a friend. We were talking about perfectionism, mine, not hers!  I began my career in health care, I worked in the lab and it was impressed on us that a mistake had high consequences for our patients, possibly even death.

Not everything in life needs to be approached with such a mindset. And frankly, it’s exhausting! My friend also shares that it’s intimidating. That stung a bit, because intimidating is the last thing I’d want to be. Time to throw off unnecessary habits.

I’m thankful today for the freedom to fail and the friends who dare to tell me the truth.  I hope you have both in your life!