When It’s Complicated

“Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

A situation. A relationship. A difficult decision. Feelngs about the way someone treated you or yours. Your response to a verdict or tragedy, or just your view of the world in its present state.

Like a tangled ball of Christmas lights the size of a city, life can be complicated. Sometimes you cope by avoiding the mass altogether. Most times, the tangle cannot be ignored but just the thought of untwisting all of those knots overwhelms you.

There is one fool-proof method for straightening out any mess: start small. For example, don’t try to understand and conquer every negative emotion you have. Pick just one and leave the rest for another day. Forgiveness for a wrong, especially a big one, usually happens in layers anyway. God knows this and wants to help you detangle the labyrinth one day at a time.

Relationships have complicated written into their DNA. Still, the solution is the same. Start with one broken part like communication and focus only on that for a while. You might work on just the listening part of communication or on keeping calm when it’s your turn to talk.

Christmas time is a reminder that God tackled our biggest problem when He “started small” in the form of a tiny baby Who strung together a life of thirty-three years. Weaving Himself into the calendar of human history straight to your heart, He invites you to roll all your complications onto Him because He cares for you. Nothing in your past is too complicated for Him to heal; no present situation He can’t simplify, but it doesn’t usually happen in one big save. He starts small, and in powerful ways He unfurls a beauty and clarity in you that is incomparable even when it’s complicated.

What small start will you make today?

Happy Thanksgiving

“he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.” Psalm 103:10

“Girl, your behind couldn’t stand the whippin’ it needs!” Truer words never came from the mouth of my mother. Who knows which of my mischiefs provoked those words, but she made a good point about me and all of us. Whatever may have gone wrong for you this year, the dam of God’s grace held back what you deserve. Because of His great hand of generosity, even life-long troubles are only temporary.

This is a wonderful season to itemize all the good He’s done, not the least of which was to provide you with a choice on how you want to pay for your sins. You could pay in cash, if you will, by trying to be good enough; however, the interest keeps you in debt because God requires absolute perfection. Trust me, credit is much better (Romans 4:24). All your sins were paid in full by Jesus and He offers His perfect credit to you. When you accept it, God sees you like He sees Jesus. If you haven’t already, you can click the link to learn how to obtain that standing with God today.

God is good and the giving of thanks is due Him in abundance. May your praise to Him be as sweet as your favorite dessert and your adoration pile as high as your holiday dinner plate. Offer Him the sweet smelling savor of a grateful heart for a salvation you could never earn and love you could never deserve.

Happy Thanksgiving, My Friend!

Handling Your Inner Critic

“I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it… I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Have you noticed no matter how hard you try, a little voice inside you finds fault? Sometimes it sounds like your own, or it may be the voice of someone impossible to please. You must learn how to handle that negative commentary, or it will drain the joy out of your present and plant spikes under every step in your future. You are daily aware of how far short you fall from God’s standard, and that keeps you humble, but the condemnation part has nothing to do with Him. Growth is what is pleasing to the Lord! No, you’re not as far along as you’d like to be (who is?) but if you have moved forward and improved in any way, God is pleased with you.

Don’t get the idea that Jesus saved you from Hell, but the rest is up to you. This is not about acquiring a holy hernia trying to please God. Jesus did the heavy lifting at the cross. Like a steroid, His Holy Spirit empowers you to accomplish what you never could without Him. The approval you want from God is already there, but the pleasure of God is a daily cultivation; not a giant beanstalk that sprouts overnight. Perfectionism will tell you otherwise, but don’t you believe it! Spiritual laziness is the other extreme, it’s a liar too. The balance is not easy to find, but it’s address is always at the feet of Jesus where He’ll center you while communing with you, but never chide you.

If God were to visibly mark the trail your life has taken, it would not be a straight line. No, there would be detours and backtracks, places you skipped and spots you stayed in too long. It’s ok. He offers forgiveness, and He grades on how many times you recalculated and got back on track. It looks sloppy on a map, but if you’re moving toward Him instead of away, then it’s sloppy beautiful. Gag that inner critic with this truth: Good and faithful servants aren’t flawless ones nor do they aim to hear “Perfectly done,” but “Well done.”

The Best Way to Love Yourself

“Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:5

Obedience to God is one of the best ways to love yourself. It is the daily bath that wards off the disease of terrible consequences. Applied to the private parts of your heart, obedience disinfects and deodorizes what might otherwise stink up your character.

The obedience to His command to forgive moisturizes dry and cracked relationships, making them vibrant, elastic, and wholesome.

Obedience to regularly attend worship has a way of realigning thoughts you didn’t realize had popped out of joint. Stubborn pride calories are burned by the exercise of denying yourself. This builds muscular faith too! Daily intake of God’s Word fortifies your spirit and builds a healthy reserve for the lean days when trials come. Aren’t you glad He commanded us to read it?

Exfoliate those nasty little habits that build up in your language. Generously apply selflessness and watch how others will enjoy the fragrance of Christ. At first, even loving your enemies may feel like more fiber than you can take in, but you’ll discover it will detox hate and make room for the flow of God’s blessing and purpose in your life.

To love yourself means to do whatever it takes to achieve maximum health in all areas. Obedience to Jesus is the perfect antidote to anything that threatens the abundant life He died for you to enjoy. Love yourself today, My Friend. Do whatever He tells you to do!

A Fight Among Friends

Discretion will preserve you; Understanding will keep you.” (Proverbs 2:11)

I made a friend. Seems we’ve known each other all my life. She speaks my heart language—at least one of them. She encourages me to do things that bring me comfort, and she provides me with bursts of confidence to tune out other voices and just go for what I want. When I’m with her, I feel invincible, and she makes me forget the unpleasant challenges I face.

The only problem is that she poisons my walk with God.

Her name is Compromise, and she’s not my friend at all. She tells me what I want to hear instead of what I need to hear. We’ve been friends all my life, but she only comes around when I’m at my weakest. She speaks the soothing, familiar language of my first love (ME) and drowns out the voice of my other First Love sometimes demoted to second place. Her voice speaks only of pleasure, and her skill at rationalizing is epic. When I’m with her, I lose track of time and hardly notice the decay. Life with her is exciting until it’s time to pay the consequences.

How do I win the battle with Compromise? I can’t handle her by myself. No, she’s too skilled a liar, and I must call in reinforcements: Discernment and Truth. They are a powerful tag-team! Discernment knocks out the lying teeth of Compromise revealing the deception I can’t see on the surface. She saves lots of heartache if I give her a chance. Then comes Truth. She tells it like it is but Compromise, though toothless, still wants to argue. No matter! The voice of God rings louder and clearer, calling my name and reminding me this fight was fixed at Calvary; I need only collect the winnings by choosing to obey what is right.

This fight is not easy, but with the help of Discernment and Truth, we are more than winners. Here’s to giving Compromise, our not-a-friend friend, a daily black eye!

Do You!

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14

I was talking to a young adult a while back when the subject of snowflakes came up. He asked if I really believed every snowflake was different from any other. When I said I did, he said he couldn’t wrap his head around that. The conversation then shifted to the uniqueness of people. “There never has been another you in the world and there never will be again.” I said, “Think of all the people born and died since the beginning of time. DNA is God’s way of proving He’s never made a copy.” His silence showed how staggered he was at this thought.

It staggers me too, but it also encourages me. I love that God made each of us unique. This frees us from the foolish task of trying to be somebody else. The intelligent design of Our Creator has given us a vast forest of uniqueness to explore and to share with the world! When I look at you, I see beauty, creativity, uniqueness, and glory worth knowing. Do you see it too? Don’t hide it and please don’t cheapen it by mimicking what you think is more admirable in somebody else. You are His masterpiece, and Your Designer is most glorified when you do you!

Prayer of a Rat-Race Renegade Come Home

Dear Jesus,

I am so done. The treadmill of this world with all of its expectations is going at a speed I am incapable of mastering. It has made me tired, and I’m getting off today.

What’s that You say? Your yoke is easy, your burden is light (Matthew 11:30)? Oh, that sounds so good. No, I haven’t forgotten this is no invitation to an easy life, (Matthew 16:24) but anything is better than the demanding, dragging, sleep-stealing, merciless driving, competitive life I’ve been living. It made promises it never kept; always extending the pay-off to another day or year. It’s so unlike You, Lord, Who made me promises impossible not to keep (Numbers 23:19).

Yes, please give me some of that peace you patented (John 14:27). I’ll soak in that tub brimming with the identity you say I already have as your child (Colossians 2:10). Thank you that I don’t have to sweat for it it because you already bled for it.

Toss me that tailor-made purpose You designed to fit only me. You paid a precious price for it, (Ephesians 1:7) and I’ll wear it with joy, Lord. I never fit anything the world stuffed me into anyway.

I’m feeling better already. The lightness is so refreshing, Jesus. I love you for it! I anticipate many moments relishing the thought of You rejoicing over me with singing ( Zephaniah 3:17). I am giddy about our future. It’s going to be fun to ignore and refuse to dance to anybody else’s tune but Yours. I’m sorry I lost my way, but I’m back now. Shine through me, use me, and show the world what You can do in a renegade come home.

Your Third Eye

“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead–since he was about a hundred years old–and that Sara’s womb was also dead. Yet He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised. ” Romans 4:19-21

My heartbeat speeds up every time I read the passage above.

Everyone one loves a story where the underdog triumphs over incredible odds. I have noticed that overcomers use their two natural eyes to look at the bare naked facts. They don’t dabble in denial and tell themselves they don’t see what is staring back at them. But while they view the facts with their natural eyes, they also have a third eye, the eye of faith.

Do you have three eyes?

People call us crazy, pie-in-the sky Pollyanna’s because of our third eye. They think we are not living in reality. But we are more realistic than the pessimists because we know once God has said a thing, it is as real as if it already happened. We remember that God sees the past, present, and future simultaneously. Humanly speaking, it’s like seeing yourself as a baby in one room (that’s the past), your present age in the next room, and you living in what God has promised just one door down. Because God cannot lie, what He has promised has already happened. You’re just not in that room yet.

What has God promised that you are tempted to doubt? Resist the temptation to look at your present circumstances only with your natural eyes.

Maybe your third eye is getting blurry? Is your faith faltering? Verse 19 says that Abraham was strengthened in his faith. Where did his faith find its strength? In the power of God! You don’t have to muster up faith if it’s faith in God because God’s promises are backed up by who He is!

If your third eye is getting blurry, you may be looking too long at the circumstance and not enough at the One who is greater than your circumstance.

Maybe the exercise below can strengthen your third eye if it is growing weak.

Put your name in place of Abraham’s and your circumstance in place of his and see what happens!

Without weakening in her faith, (your name) faced the fact that (insert your facts here). Yet she did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God but was strengthened in her faith…being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised.

Talk About It: Share what your third eye sees that is just one door down. Or what promise has God made that has already been fulfilled? It may encourage the rest of us who are still waiting.

A Tongue’s Tale

“Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3

I was having an ordinary moment with a family member the other day when he alerted me I’d crossed a line. The rebuke was so gentle that the sting mirrored it. I hadn’t meant to hurt or offend, and I rushed to say so. “I know you didn’t,” was the loving reply. I offered an apology, and his gracious acceptance gave the incident a peaceful burial.

Upon reflection, two thoughts have sprung from those few uncomfortable moments.

First, sometimes it’s not what we say, but how we say it that’s wrong. Frustration or anger have a way of turning the most benign words into weapons. I thought back to a few other things I’d said in recent days that I could have delivered with more sensitivity. (Forgive me, Lord.)

Second, oftentimes people don’t tell us that we’ve hurt them, but it doesn’t mean we’re not guilty. Sometimes only the Holy Spirit makes us aware of what we’ve done. I’ve tried to duck the conviction because no one actually said anything, but no, I can’t use that as an excuse. If ever my words could have had a gentler expression, to that degree I am guilty of harshness to the delicate and unseen part of the recipient’s emotions. It is not the way of Christ, and I want to be like Him.

If this is your heart’s desire too, may we pray this together:

Dear God, make my mouth an instrument of love, not of hurt. I ask that Your Spirit change my heart so that gentleness flows from my lips. Let meekness control my tongue so that it takes the time to construct the best words to say in the best way. Amen!