Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reactive or Effective?

I threw a spoon across the kitchen yesterday.  It felt good for about two seconds and then I realized I was being an idiot.  My girls had been screaming and picking on each other all afternoon and I had reached my limit. "She's looking at me!"  "She's touching me!" "She won't leave me alone!"  "Why did you have to be born?!" Initially, I chose to stay out of it and try to let them work it out.  But it just got worse and worse and they were now pushing me to the edge.

When I finally decided to jump in and intervene, it was too late - I was an emotional volcano and I erupted with a spoon thrown across the kitchen floor while screaming at the top of my lungs "KNOCK IT OFF!".  Yeah, that was effective.  I'm so glad they were upstairs and did not see my 3-year oldish reaction.  What in the world happened anyway?!  Who was this psychopathic woman in my kitchen and where did that sweet, gentle mommy who was there a moment ago run off to?  Sure, the girls got quiet - very quiet - but I think it was because they were in shock!

Have you ever reacted to something and then really regretted how you responded?  You obviously know my answer to this question! I think it's when my emotions get all wired up and I lose my "filter" to be able to respond in a godly way.  I always regret a knee-jerk reaction - usually it's not the godly response I would prefer to have, but it feels right for about two seconds.  After the two-second window, my heart is sick and regrets creep in, along with remorse.

I think that when I'm hurt deeply, that is when I do this the most.  As I've prayed about this specifically this week, I've felt that what I'm hearing is "Be effective, not reactive".  I have been meditating on this and searching the scriptures for examples of how to be more effective in my life rather than reactive.

When I react spontaneously and without thought, it is usually out of pure adrenaline and emotion.  A reaction is so quick that unless my heart is changed completely, it will come from my human nature, not my new spiritual nature in Christ.  The key to being transformed and being able to be effective in my response is found in Romans 12:2:  "Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect."

When I'm confronted with a big decision, if I'm emotionally injured or stirred up or even if my children have done something wrong and I need to discipline them but I'm too emotionally upset to think straight, I need to wait before reacting.  When I react in a discipline matter with my kids, it's usually reactive and not as effective a punishment as when I take the time to think, pray and seek wisdom in the matter.  When I speak before thinking when I've been upset or emotionally injured, I will inevitably say something I'll regret two seconds later.

Proverbs 15:28 says "The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words."  That's interesting, because if you read Luke 6:45 it says "...What you say flows from what is in your heart."  That means that if our heart is not being changed by Christ (transformed - by the renewing of our mind and changing how you think, which will trickle down into our heart) then our quick reactions will not be naturally good.  That is why I need to stop, think, pray and seek His response before I allow an ungodly one to erupt out of my heart.

After a heartfelt apology to my girls for my foolish reaction, we are now fine. Thank goodness for grace!  Once everyone was calm, I was able to speak to them about their relationship with clarity and purpose.  God used my spoon-throwing reaction to remind me that if I'm in a process...and He's not finished with me yet.

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

Seeing Through His Eyes

I am always amazed by how Jesus rebuked Peter in Matthew 16 - He said to him "Get behind me Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God's." Can you imagine? Why would Jesus say something like that? Seems extreme.

Peter thought he was defending Jesus when he said "Heaven forbid, Lord, this will never happen to you!" after Jesus told him He was going to suffer, die and rise again. But sometimes things are not what they seem, are they? Sometimes God's purposes can work out even in the most seemingly hopeless situations.

Peter was seeing things through man's eyes, not God's. As a result, he began to fear and doubt. He loved Jesus and didn't think He should have to go through those things. He didn't want Jesus to die - but what he didn't grasp was the importance of His death and His resurrection that would follow!

Is there anything in your life that you are seeing from a human perspective? Maybe you received a dire diagnosis.  Trust the Lord.  Have you lost your job?  Trust the Lord.  Have you been rejected?  Trust the Lord.  Sometimes things don't make sense from our human perspective.  If He brings you to it, He will see you through it. He is working in the situation in ways you may not see and when we begin to doubt and fear, we are allowing Satan to influence our thinking. Just rebuke him and tell him "Get behind me, Satan!" Then, walk forward in trust, knowing the Lord has a plan. He always has a plan.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you...plans to prosper you, not to harm you - plans to give you hope and a future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Seeking Wholeheartedly

Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the plans that I have for you," says the Lord.  "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  In those days when you pray, I will listen.   If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me."

I read this scripture passage this morning and kept backing up over the word "wholeheartedly".  According to the dictionary, the word means fully or completely sincere, enthusiastic, energetic, etc.; hearty; earnest.  Am I seeking God like that?  Because if I am, that means I'm going to find Him.  There are days when I know I'm not seeking Him like that - the days when I can't find him no matter what I try.  So what signs can I look for to know if I am seeking Him wholeheartedly?  Here's some ideas that come to mind...

Am I seeking His approval before others?
Am I seeking His will above my own?
Am I seeking His praise above man's?
Am I seeking His Word or the advice of my friends?
Am I seeking His Kingdom or my own?
Am I seeking His truth or the way things seem to look in my life?
Am I seeking fulfillment in what I can do for God or in my personal relationship with Him?

These questions can help me to know if I'm seeking God with all of my heart.  When we seek other things first, even if they are good things, we are not seeking Him with all of our heart.  When we look at things from an earthly perspective, we can lose sight of God completely.  But when we look at things from an eternal perspective, everything changes.

Today, I pray we will not base our faith on our feelings, our friends, our expectations on others or our emotions. I pray each of us will seek Him first above everything else.  He tells us in Matthew 6:33 that when we do that, everything else falls into place.

I like that.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Public Opinion

It seems like God is always in the process of teaching me something important.  I'm so glad it seems He really only focuses on one deep-rooted issue at a time.  I don't think I could handle more than that at once!  This week has been very painful, but I'm beginning to see what He's up to and honestly, it's pretty cool.  But I won't lie, it's been tough.

Last week I came across an article written about me by a woman who attended an event I spoke at about a year ago.  She wrote things that were very hurtful.  She claimed I said things that I did not say and she held me up as the example of what not to be as a Christian.  She said I was telling people to "vote unbelievers out of their lives" and she said I was the epitome of a mean Christian.  I was devastated after reading this.   Why would she say these things?  Had I done something wrong?  My doubts began.

If you know me or if you've heard me, you know that is no where near the message that God has given me.  She says she is a Christian, too, and I suppose that is why it hurt so badly.  I really struggled as I found myself reading comment after comment on her article about how other Christians agreed that I was a "lousy messenger" and they gave their opinion, one after one, about my actions in the Buddhist temple in China on Survivor. 

We've all had things said about us that aren't true, we've all had our feelings hurt and we've all been judged by public opinion, so I know I'm not the only one.  It is so hard to face rejection and slander.  Especially when it comes from other believers.  Man, I felt hung out to dry!  I have heard it said before that the Christian "Army" are the only soldiers that shoot their wounded.  I know this breaks the heart of God.

The week has gotten better as I focused not on what these people were saying, but on what God had to say about me.  He knew the truth.  He knew everything that was going on - even before I did.  And I have to trust that He has a purpose in allowing me to stumble across this article.  Every Christian speaker I know has this issue at some point.  We all face this.  Even the Apostle Paul did.  Look at 2 Corinthians 6:7-8:

We faithfully preach the truth.  God's power is working in us...We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us.  We are honest, but they call us impostors.  

He goes on to say in verses 11-12....

Oh, dear Corinthian friends!  We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you.  There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us.

I'm really sad that Paul had to go through that but honestly it gives me comfort to know that even he struggled with this very thing.  Our being accepted by those who we speak with is not the issue - the issue is were we obedient in saying what God wanted us to say!  And if so, we need to trust that He will use it to open the hearts and minds of those we speak to.  And when we mess up, we need to trust that God will still use what we say because even when we are unfaithful, He is still faithful.  He will use it to help us grow, one way or the other. What we cannot do is cower in the face of public opinion and become fearful of speaking out again.  That is exactly what Satan would love for us to do.

God will allow these things in my life to test me and see where my heart is - will I crumble when people don't like me or slander me?  If so, I'm in the wrong ministry because every person I read about in the bible who stood for Christ and spoke about Him was hated by many, many people. Yes, there are days when I wake up and think "It sure would be easier if I could just keep my mouth shut!" but it's in my bones - I cannot keep from speaking about Him.  And I hope that when this happens again (I won't be delusional and assume this is the last time!) I pray the hurt and pain will go quickly as I dwell on scripture and truth, not slander.

I choose to surround myself with godly people who are in the scriptures and get counsel from them.  I cannot take counsel for this ministry from people I don't even know or who don't know me.  I have a group women who I meet with each week and we pray, seek truth together and go through each talk I give to make sure we are being good stewards of God's Word with this ministry.  I have a husband who gives me honest feedback.  God has blessed me with an amazing mentor who helps me stay on track.  These are the voices God gives me to listen to.  And what a blessing they are! 

I'm learning that public opinion is no yardstick for measuring truth.  If I base my ministry on what those who do not know me say, I could become discouraged,  begin to doubt my call and I could be easily deceived.  Do I believe this is what God has called me to do?  Absolutely.  Will I mess up occasionally?  Absolutely.  Will I be slandered?  Yes, I will.  But will I give up?


...A person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.  Romans 2:29b

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Baby Steps

It's very rare that I complete everything on my to-do list.  Maybe that's because I'm a lofty-thinker and think that I can do more than I actually can, but sometimes it's because quite frankly, I am a poor time-manager (something God is definitely working through with me!).  When I don't accomplish everything, I tend to be very hard on myself.  But lately I've been feeling accomplishment because of something I've figured out.

Even if I do nothing else to clean my house for the day, I make my bed.  It's the one thing that I know I must do.  It's a decision I made and I'm not going to go against it.  My mind is made up!  It's my first step, I suppose you could say, to trying to be more time-efficient.  And it's really amazing how good I feel!  I've never been a bed maker because I figure I'm just going to be getting back into it that night, so why bother?  The only time my bed every got made before was when people were coming over.  Otherwise, it went unmade.

But for the past few months, I've made a decision to change that.  My mentor once told me that if the bed is made, the room looks 70% clean, no matter how unclean it really is and I can honestly say she is right!  The bed makes up 70% of the room and if that is made, it gives the illusion of clean and for some reason in my mind it makes me feel accomplished and I've been a lot less hard on myself as a result when I don't finish the rest of my "to-do" list!

I've applied this to my flossing, too.  A week or so ago I went to the dentist and had not flossed the way I should have and the dental hygienist tore my mouth up and I was sore for days!  I decided to apply my bed-making philosophy to flossing and be discipled in it and I'm surprised how focused I am at accomplishing that one task.  Next time I go for a cleaning, I'm hoping it will be more pleasant.

I'm on to something here!  Baby steps are all that are needed in making changes.  I think I overwhelm myself with getting everything right instead of getting a few things right.  I think I assume the whole house must be clean when really it's just a few things a day that will keep it tip-top.  I can't believe it's taken me 40 years to figure this out! (haha)

It's like this spiritually, too.  When we become a Christian, often I think we expect that everything will be completely different right away, but really God doesn't over-whelm us - He is patiently working in us but will do it one step at a time.  Once that one thing is improved, He moves on to the next.  It's a gentle and amazing super-natural thing that only He can do in us.  When we put pressure on ourselves to get it all right at the moment we surrender, we end up discouraged and frustrated.

I think about when my kids took their first steps.  I didn't yell at them and tell them,"That's not good enough - you need to learn to do it right before you start walking!"  Rather, I was proud of them as I watched them take a step, fall down on their cute little diaper butt and get back up (about a hundred times!).  I know that's how God feels about us.  He's proud of us for trying and not angry with us when we fall down.  He just wants us to get back up again.

Yesterday I didn't make my bed.  It was the first time in months and honestly when I went to bed last night I felt discouraged.  I thought that it was the beginning of a downhill slide.  But as I prayed as I lay there before going to sleep, I felt God whisper to me "Just make your bed tomorrow. Let it go."

In life there will be times when things we thought were improved in our life - like a bad habit, an ugly emotion or a destructive pattern - will come back to taunt us.  This is not the beginning of the end!  This is life.  But the key is to remember that you wake up the next day with the attitude of "I may have messed up yesterday but today I'm back on track" instead of the natural human thought process of "Oh, man, this is the beginning of the end.  I messed up so now I'm doomed."

Changing the way we think can work wonders.  Don't allow discouragement keep you from moving forward in your walk with God.  If you fall, just get back up again.

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ever Wonder What Satan Thinks of You?

I found this "Letter from Satan" online and had to share it with you.  I cannot find who originally wrote it but I was nauseated after reading it because it's true...this is what Satan thinks of us:

Hey Fool...
I saw you yesterday as you began your daily chores. 
You awoke without kneeling to pray. As a matter of fact, 
you didn't even bless your meals, or pray before going 
to bed last night. You are so unthankful. I like that about you.

I cannot tell you how glad I am that you have not changed 
your way of living. Fool! You are mine. Remember, you and I 
have been going steady for years, and I still don't love you yet. 
As a matter of fact, I hate you, because I hate God. I am only 
using you to get even with God. He kicked me out of heaven, and I'm going to use you as long as possible to pay him back.

You see, Fool, GOD LOVES YOU and HE has great plans 
in store for you. But you have yielded your life to me and I'm 
going to make your life a living hell. That way we'll be together twice. This will really hurt God. Thanks to you. I'm really showing Him who’s boss in your life. With all of the good times we've had.....

We have been watching dirty movies, cursing people out, 
partying, stealing, lying, fornicating, overeating, 
telling dirty jokes, gossiping, backstabbing people, 
disrespecting adults and those in leadership position, NO respect for the church, bad attitudes: 
SURELY you don't want to give all this up.

Come on, Fool, let's burn together forever. I've got some 
hot plans for us. This is just a letter of appreciation from me
to you. I'd like to say "THANKS" for letting me use you for 
most of your foolish life. You are so gullible. I laugh at you. 
When you are tempted to sin, you give in. HA HA HA 
You make me sick.

Sin is beginning to take its toll on your life. 
You look 20 years older. I need new blood. So go ahead 
and teach some children how to sin. All you have to do is smoke, 
drink alcoholic beverages, cheat, gamble, gossip, fornicate, lie, look at pornography and be a hypocrite in front of them. Do all of this in the presence of children and they will do it too. Kids are like that.

Well, Fool, I have to let you go for now. I'll be back in a couple of seconds to tempt you again. If you were smart, you would run somewhere, confess your sins, live for God with what little bit of life that you have left. It's not my nature to warn anyone, but to be your age and still sinning, it's becoming a bit ridiculous. Don't get me wrong, I still hate you... 

I don't share this letter to put anyone on a guilt trip or to make you feel frustrated.   As a matter of fact, that would be a lie from Satan - yet again.  He desperately wants to discourage you and steal your joy in Christ!  In order to balance this, I also want to show you something I read in Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, a devotional that takes Biblical Truth and puts it into words like a love-letter from Jesus.  I was touched as I read this the other day...

Hello, My Love...

Do not be discouraged by the difficulty of keeping your focus on Me.  I know that your heart's desire is to be aware of My Presence continually.  This is a lofty goal; you aim toward it but never fully achieve it in this life.  Don't let feelings of failure weigh you down.  Instead, try to see yourself as I see you.

First of all, I'm delighted by your deep desire to walk closely with Me through your life.  I am pleased each time you initiate communication with Me.  In addition, I noticed the progress you have made since you first resolved to live in My Presence.

When you realize that your mind has wandered away from Me, don't be alarmed or surprised.  You live in a world that has been rigged to distract you.  Each time you plow your way through the massive distractions to communicate with Me, you achieve a victory!  Rejoice in these tiny triumphs, and they will increasingly light up your days.

Romans 8:33-34; Hebrews 4:14-16

Mercy and grace or guilt and condemnation.  We have a choice.

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for this day whom you will serve...but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Monday, November 2, 2009

Be Careful Little Mouth What You Say...

Are you watching Survivor Samoa?  If so, you know there is a character on there named Russell H. who is controlling the game, being deceitful and conniving behind everyone's backs.  Yes, there seems to be at least one of those every season but this year it seems to be over the top!  I have had a few things to say about how he is playing the game - and unfortunately not much of what I've had to say has been positive.  Sure, he doesn't give me much to work with in the positive realm, but nonetheless I should have been a little less judgmental.

This morning I woke up and found a post on my Get Gutsy for God Facebook Fanpage from his wife. She was hurt because she thought I hated him and that I was judging him as a person.  My heart sank.  It's so easy to forget, even after having been on the game myself, that these people are real-life people with feelings and lives outside of the game.  I should never have expressed my opinions publicly about how he is playing the game.  When you say you are a Christian, your behavior is put under a microscope and people expect you to behave in a different manner.  I didn't behave in a different manner and as a result, I've hurt her feelings and had to humbly ask for forgiveness.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation like this?  I think we tend to justify putting people down when we feel they "deserve it" but Ephesians 4:29 is clear..."Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."  It doesn't say "unless you think they are deserving of your slander" anywhere in that verse, nor does it say it anywhere in the context of the scripture.

Today I have to seek not only the forgiveness of Russell and his wife, but also the forgiveness of God. I misrepresented Him.  It's the worst feeling ever to know that I've done something that gave Satan ammunition to attack me - and most important, to attack my faith and my ministry.  I have learned though - and will be more careful what I say in the future.  You know, here I went trying to do God's job again!  I know according to the scriptures that's His job to judge, not mine!  Thank God for His grace and mercy!

This poem came to mind this morning as I reflected on my life-lesson.  I hope it will bless you today.  I didn't write this poem - I found it online a few years ago - not sure who wrote it...

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not shouting "I'm clean living'."
I'm whispering "I was lost,
Now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I don't speak of this with pride.
I'm confessing that I stumble
And need Christ to be my guide.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not trying to be strong.
I'm professing that I'm weak
And need His strength to carry on.

When I say, "I am a Christian,"
I don't think I know it all
I submit to my Redeemer 

Asking humbly to be taught.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not bragging of success.
I'm admitting I have failed
And need God to clean my mess.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not claiming to be perfect,
My flaws are far too visible
But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I still feel the sting of pain.
I have my share of heartaches
So I call upon His name.

When I say, "I am a Christian,"

I do not wish to judge
I have no authority

I only know I'm loved.

When I say ... "I am a Christian"
I'm not holier than thou,
I'm just a simple sinner
Who received God's good grace, somehow.

Got Questions?