Believe

I’ve never been one to follow fads even when I was younger. Don’t believe me? When Princess Diana married Prince Charles in 1981, I didn’t imagine myself having a wedding like theirs. I’ve never wanted to wear the popular trends in clothing or dress my children in them either, for that matter. I’ve worn clothes, or had them wear clothes, when they were younger, that were durable and inexpensive. I’ve also never driven the more expensive cars. Yes, some of that was because I couldn’t afford it, but I didn’t have a preference one way or the other. It wasn’t in my make-up. And finally, I didn’t have the desire to own an expensive home. In fact, my husband and I have talked often about what we would do if we won the lottery (just wishing and dreaming, really), and in none of those dreams has owning an expensive home been mentioned. We have dreamed more of the experiences we could have and the money we could give than anything else.

I say all this to tell you why I’ve never been a trend follower even with things that might be good like having a “word for the year.” Every time I’ve seen it over the last couple of weeks, I’ve felt it was trendy and hokey, and I wanted nothing to do with it. But then, I started getting nudges. Nudges I know now were from the Holy Spirit. It was confirmed when I was at church yesterday when one of the speakers talked about nudges. I had written in my journal on Friday that if I was going to have a “word for the year”, it needed to apply to both my writing and my faith, and I wasn’t sure any one word could do that. I was wrong.

So, with that, I want to introduce my word for 2019. It is BELIEVE. God knows my struggles with believing in myself, my writing, my worth to the people around me especially at church, and my worth as a daughter of God. I often don’t feel like I have a lot to give to anyone so this focus will be a good exercise for me as I move through 2019. When I submit a writing piece and it gets rejected, I will have the courage to move on. When someone doesn’t understand what I’m trying to do and makes fun of it, I will believe in myself enough to not trust that person with my dreams anymore. When someone has a problem with my being authentic, I will have the courage to be authentic anyway. And, when all of these things discourage me from my faith, I will believe and lean on my Lord and Savior for the courage to continue.

I know these are big statements, and I know there will be times I will fail. In fact, when someone asked how they could pray for me yesterday, I wasn’t sure at first how I could verbalize it. (I do better with writing it than talking about it.) I did though (probably was too long-winded), and they told me some words they thought of when they looked at me. Courageous. Authentic. Passionate. Yes, that turns out to be a handy acronym :-), but it was helpful for me too. When I get discouraged, I can tell myself someone believes I’m a CAP. ūüėČ

In all seriousness though, encourage the people around you in 2019 whether they are like you or not, whether they are or aren’t as far along in their faith as you think they should be, or whether they have made hundreds of mistakes to your few. Your kind words may be the only thing that’s keeping them off the sinking ship.

For now, I wish you all a Happy New Year in 2019 and leave you with this visual demonstration of my CAP acronym. Thanks to David and Laura Grady for ministering to me at church yesterday and for the acronym!

What Prevents Us from Turning Cynical?–Questions to Consider–Part 5

I didn’t think I would be asking this question the week after Thanksgiving, but several things brought it to mind, and I thought I would address them in today’s post. I do need to make it clear though that I did have a good Thanksgiving. This is just a culmination of something that happened over the holiday and questions I’ve been considering over the last few weeks.

What does prevent us from turning cynical? Is it violence on Thanksgiving Day? Yes, my city had a mall shooting that evening. People were hurt and killed, and many people’s lives were disrupted including people close to my son. I keep thinking of a line at another store which prevented another person from walking back into that mall when the shootings were happening. That was a “praise God” moment for us, but I think of the people’s lives that were disrupted. Of people who are no longer here. Of people who were injured or scared. And it brings me back to God. Why did He let this happen? There are no answers, of course, and I am tempted to let my heart turn hard and cynical. Of course, I could be honest and say let my heart turn harder and more cynical.

What about people who are told they’re not wanted in churches? I couldn’t imagine this happening, but it has happened to a friend of mine who runs a ministry to the “least of these” in another city. She was told flat-out that the people she was bringing to church were not welcome. It hurt my heart so much to hear this. I asked, ‘Why God?’ Aren’t we supposed to welcome all people to church and share about Jesus’ love? And my heart turned harder and more cynical.

Finally, what about the people who are closest to you? I tried a few weeks ago to protect one of them from overworking himself in the church. He’s on a sabbatical now, but I’m wondering if that was the right thing to do. God is convicting my heart we should all be willing to serve Him, and I do agree with that.¬† But, at what cost? Health? Family? Marriage? All of it? I don’t know the answer. I wish I did. Should we still love the people who refuse to serve because they’re afraid they’ll be overworked? My heart says yes to that question, but then it turns harder and more cynical towards those who won’t help and who won’t give leaving the work to the 5-10% of the membership who will. I count myself, to my shame, in that first group right now. Between the times I’ve failed, the times where my help wasn’t needed, and the times where I’ve just felt overlooked, I’ve become confused about what my role in the church is supposed to be.

Of course, none of the situations I’ve mentioned can prevent you from turning cynical. In fact, I’ve become more cynical with each one. But, I was recently looking at the You Version plans, and I saw one entitled Beating Cynicism. It intrigued me which is why I started it on Saturday. And I learned that my heart had hardened. Hardened to almost where it could be shattered. My attempts to protect because of fear were not what God wanted for me. He wants me to serve with hope. He wants the people I love the most to serve with hope. I thought I had moved past the situations that had hurt me so badly, but I just pushed them into a box never to be dealt with again.

Isn’t that what we do in the church? We don’t talk about the hurts and pretend that everything is okay. Sometimes we move on to other relationships or other churches. I don’t think God wants that for us either. But, what does He want? What does He want us to have the courage to do?

I believe it starts with one of the prayers included with the devotions. “Dear God, I admit it. I have stopped hoping, stopped believing, and stopped trusting. But, you haven’t. And because you haven’t, I don’t want to stay the way I am. Give me the courage to hope again, trust again, and believe again. Amen.” Because, I do want my heart to be soft again. I want to be able to say I can trust people as well as trusting my Lord and Savior. I’m not saying we shouldn’t trust our Lord and Savior. I’m saying I don’t want to go into a situation always thinking that the other person is going to let me down.

So, can I ask a favor of those of you who are believers? Can we offer each other encouragement instead of judgment? Can we let each other cry when we are in pain? Can we try to understand instead of condemn? Can we be the community Jesus wants us to be instead of pretending? I promise I will try, and I hope you do too.

God bless you all!

 

Stewardship

Another year has rolled around, and it is almost Commitment Sunday at my church again. I thought about pulling my post out from last year and re-posting it, but I realized I’ve grown by leaps and bounds in my understanding from last year. I decided I wanted, no, I needed, to write these words down so I would remember what God has taught me.

Over the last few weeks, the Bible class lessons and sermons at my church have been on stewardship. I’ve learned things I never knew before. One thing in particular startled me. ¬†There are several words we are used to seeing in Scripture. Words such as believe, pray,¬†love, and give, along with many others. Out of those words, the word give appears the most times, 2,162 to be exact.

I would have thought some of those other words might be more important. Like believe, maybe. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever¬†believes¬†in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ¬†This verse from Scripture is considered the go-to verse for those leading others to Christ, and it has the word¬†believe¬†in it. So, how many times does this word appear in Scripture? Only 272.

What about¬†love?¬†There are so many examples of this I hesitate to post examples for fear I would miss something, but here are just a few. ¬†1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” This example, of course, comes out of the famous¬†love¬†chapter in Scripture where the word appears many times. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” ¬†And finally, one of my favorites from 1¬†John 4:9. “We love because he first loved us.” There are many more examples. But, does this word appear in Scripture more than give? No, it appears 714 times.

Finally, here’s an example of the word¬†pray¬†in Scripture.¬†James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” Prayer is something Jesus talks a lot about. It doesn’t appear more in Scripture though than give. It only appears 371 times.

So, what is it¬†about that word¬†give¬†that is so important to God? I probably should give some examples from Scripture first. You’re familiar with the words from Matthew 6:11. “Give us today our daily bread.” Here’s another example from Luke 14:33. “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” ¬†Proverbs 25:21 is another example that a lot of us cringe at. “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.” And finally, from 1¬†Thessalonians 5:18. “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

God means for us to give. He does not mean for us to be focused on ourselves. That is why the word appears so many times in Scripture. ¬†Let me repeat myself. God wants us to be focused on others. This is a hard thing to hear in today’s me focused society, and all of us who claim Christ face that challenge of where our focus should be each and every day. We should want to meet that challenge though and defeat it. We should want to show Whose we are to the world around us, and we can do that by what our giving priorities are whether that be money or time or a combination of both. Showing Whose I am by my giving priorities is the desire of my heart, and I pray that it is the desire of yours too.

I am going to quote some of what I wrote in last year’s blog post because I feel it even more strongly this year.

“Do we really want to win our world for Christ? Or is church and what we do at church just something to check off our list and not even the most important part of our list? I don’t want church or my faith to be something to check off a list. ¬†I want my life and my money to show what I really believe in. I want people to see Jesus in me. I might not be able to give as much money as someone else, but, from what I can give, money, as well as time, I want people to see ¬†what my priorities are. ¬†And my very first priority is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

God’s blessings on all of you today!