No Pain, No Gain.



Sometimes life just hurts. We lose people suddenly to tragedy, sicknesses come upon us, friends move away. Sometimes things hurt so much that you just ache, inside and out. Recently, I’ve been dealing with facing a painful situation in my life and have gone through a lot of different emotions. Now I just hurt. And believe it or not, it’s a good thing.

My entire life, I have avoided pain. I completely blocked out something that happened to me when I was around 3 years old (the memory returned in my early 20s). Then, when I was about 9, my grandfather died. I refused to go to his funeral. We were really close, and I guess subconsciously I thought it would just go away if I avoided it…. This began a destructive avoidance pattern in my life. So many choices I made in my thoughts and actions were from attempts to avoid pain. (Look back at this week’s RE:FOCUS for more about how important our thoughts are.) For years, I have kept a wall up and held back love for fear of being hurt. I’m FINALLY getting to a point where I am actually letting my husband have all of the love that he has deserved, yet not completely received, for 12 years. It’s definitely been a growing process. And a sure sign of growth is when I realize that I am actually feeling something and not trying my best to avoid it.

In America, we tend to want to “feel good.” Whatever is right for the moment. This is the force that leads us to seek pleasure and avoid pain (well, that and our sinful, selfish nature). God allows circumstances for a reason. He’s always trying to grow us… but we have to let Him complete His perfect work in our lives, no matter how painful.

What is going on in your life? In your heart? Are you facing something painful, yet you’re trying to avoid the pain? Don’t go to your “happy place.” (We’ll talk more about that in RE:FOCUS in a couple of weeks.) Let go of your prideful wall and feel the pain. Then give it to God. You will grow stronger for it.

… But every falling tear is always understood.
Yes, life is hard, but God is good. – Pam Thum


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RE:FOCUS - Think on these things...




Our minds are constantly bombarded with all kinds of input, some good and some bad. We are influenced (sometimes subconsciously) by what we watch, what we read, what and WHO we listen to, and any other outside forces in our lives. Thought patterns of anxiety, impurities, selfishness, greed, hatred, destruction, laziness, and childishness have slowly and steadily taken control of our minds. The older I become and the more I learn about myself, the more I realize how important it is to filter the thoughts that I allow to run through my mind… and more importantly, the ones I choose to dwell on. You’ve probably heard someone say before, “you are what you think.” It’s true in a lot of ways. We’ve all made choices that we regret, but we also need to understand that the choices we make ultimately begin with what we think about. Our minds are true warzones with real fights going on each and every day… actually it’s more like each and every moment.

The mind is an incredibly powerful thing. If we do not control our minds (or submit to God’s control)… if we just allow ourselves to think on whatever pops into our heads, then our minds will control us. An unbridled flame becomes an uncontrollable fire, and it does so pretty quickly.

The answer? We have to allow God to reprogram our minds. And after the reprogramming, we can’t let up. It has to become who we are. Read Philippians 4:8 with me…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Because of some of my life choices (that I will talk more about in part 3), Philippians 4:8 has become a favorite scripture focus for me. It is a good measure of anything in life… thoughts, motives, actions, things we say. Just using it to test our thoughts can stop us from doing some really stupid things that we will regret. For the next few Mondays, we are going to look at this verse piece by piece and talk about this test that God has given us to use in our lives.

Think on things that are… true.
I looked up the word “true” and found the following definitions and synonyms: valid, honest, reliable, genuine, authentic, sincere, loyal, faithful, steadfast, unfailing, sure, real. Do your thoughts match up with these descriptions? Or do they fit more with these antonyms for “true”: corrupt, counterfeit, fraudulent, deceitful, false, unreal?

The only real truth is God’s word. Unfortunately, we take a lot of the things we hear about on a daily basis as “truth.” Remember the movie, The American President? There is a quote in the movie that says, “…in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone.” Lewis was talking about how people are so easily swayed by whoever “takes the lead” and presents his case. We can see this in our thoughts. If we are not truly focused on God’s truth everyday, really learning and seeking to find out what He has to say to us in our lives, then we will be easily swayed to listen to anything that comes our way. Our “slow fade” culture has caused all of us to be desensitized in a lot of areas (some that you and I probably don’t even consciously recognize). However, when our lives are grounded on God’s truth, and that is the measure of everything that comes at us, it is easier to fight off the everyday temptations that try so hard to control us!

So, how can we fight this battle?


First of all, know that it can NOT be done in your own strength. Trust me… I have tried and tried. Sometimes, I think I am more stubborn than most people. I’ve tried “routines” to keep my thoughts clean (that I will talk more about later), and they never work. It’s like dieting to lose weight. If you just go on a diet, the weight will ultimately come back. However, if you make healthy eating a LIFESTYLE, there is more potential to keep it up. The same goes for thoughts. If you try to do it your way, in your own strength, the old thought patterns will come back. Only by staying focused on God’s word can you truly change your entire way of thinking.

Second, since you know that it cannot be done through your own strength, ask God to change you. Give Him control and ask Him to reveal the “input” areas that do not exemplify truth. And ask Him what He wants you to do with them… then DO IT! ☺

Third, pursue the truth. Offensively. Don’t sit back and wait for a temptation to come. Know God’s word so well that you recognize a non-truth when it comes. Then throw scripture back at the TV, radio, person you are listening to, whatever it may be. When scripture becomes so much a part of you that you use it in everyday conversation, you know you are growing.

Everyone wants us to think like they think. Some are more persuasive than others, but we all have had the thought, “if only they thought like me…” That’s why we need to be prepared now and why we need to be so enamored with God that all other influences fade away. The challenge for this week... look back up at the definitions for "true" and see where your thoughts fit. Then ask God to work on you. We're all works in progress. :)

…take every thought captive to obey Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:5

Next Monday… Think on things that are honorable and just.

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RE:FOCUS - Clear the Mechanism



In just a few weeks, I am turning 37.  Don’t ask me why this one is hitting me so hard… it’s not like this is a milestone birthday or anything.  Maybe it’s because this pregnancy is quite a bit tougher physically than the first 2 were.  Just reminds me that life is moving fast beneath me.  So, the time has come for ME to refocus on what is important in life.  To make some changes and to stop focusing on the temporary.  Out of that brainstorm comes RE:FOCUS, a time on Mondays to really stop and think about where your heart and mind should be spending most of its energy... And THIS is the FIRST post, the FIRST Monday.  Each Monday you will find some kind of writing here which will hopefully encourage you to draw your focus back to the main thing.

Focus is a hard concept to master.  Sitting here at Panera with my “cappuccino in a mug”… don’t ask me why it tastes better to me just because I get them to put my drink in that special fat, round mug.  Maybe it reminds me of when I worked at the Master’s Loft (good memories).  Maybe it’s the same reason as why Coke just tastes better when you drink it from one of those little 10-ounce glass bottles… See how easy it is to lose focus (especially for me and my ADD self)?  I was just starting a thought, and then my brain rambled on to why I like my cappuccino in a mug.  Anyway...

One of my favorite expressions is “clear the mechanism.”  I love baseball and I love movies, so when the two of them meet, it is pretty incredible!  In For Love of the Game, Kevin Costner is a pitcher who has the ability and discipline to get to a place where everything around him is completely blocked out.  Anytime the voices, people, criticism, noise, or even OUTSIDE thoughts get in the way, he reminds himself to “clear the mechanism.”  In this movie, you even see visually how he truly gets to a place of complete tunnel vision.

In our lives, there are so many distractions.  Our jobs can be difficult and stressful.  Relationships with co-workers, friends, neighbors, family, etc. can be hard.  Even “good” things in our lives can distract us from the true main thing… Our spouses & kids can distract us.  Housework can distract us.  “Church” can even distract us.  TV, facebook, internet, sports, music…. Must I go on?  Anything tangible in our lives can take the place of the One who should be our true focus.  Anything can become an idol.

My challenge to you and to me this week is to “clear the mechanism.”  Really take time every day to spend with God.  Not out of habit… or guilt… or as a chore.  Spend some real time developing the relationship between you and your Creator.  God is so good and He wants a relationship with us.  Not a relationship that is built from “what we have been taught all of our lives,” but a real, growing, thriving relationship with 2-way communication.  And remember, you don’t have to do all of the talking.  In your human relationships, if you do all of the talking, do you ever really get to know the other person?  Get to know Him.  Let Him talk to you.  And when those distractions come…. clear the mechanism.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:2-3

Next Monday… Philippians 4:8, part 1

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Love Me



Do you sometimes feel like no one really loves you for who you are and not what you can do for them? Do you sometimes expect too much out of people? Maybe you even have trouble seeing God except through the lenses of “godly people” in your life. I struggle with all of this myself. A lot of it is self-inflicted, which I will talk about more later in this post. Today, I heard the song “Love Me” by J.J. Heller. She describes 3 different people, all who have struggled with feeling that nobody in this life has been able to show what love really means.  Here are the lyrics in the chorus:

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means


The last verse is about a man in prison who is living with the deep regret of what he has done… then God speaks to him… and reminds him that He already knows…

Then he heard a voice, somewhere deep inside
And it said, “I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied,
And I’ve watched you suffer all of your life.
And now that you’ll LISTEN, I’ll tell you that I…

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love, the love that you never knew.”


Wow… as I listened to this song, I was immediately struck by the fact that I have actually been feeling this way lately. What hit me the most was “and now that you’ll listen…” There is the self-inflicted part. You see, in my own mind, I sometimes get frustrated, wondering why the people in my close circle won’t love me the way I want to be loved. WOW how self-centered!! Do you know why people will never be able to love me the way I need to be loved? Because that is a part that only God can play. People are going to disappoint us every time if we put that kind of expectation on them.

Who do you have your high expectations on? Your pastor? Your boss? Your spouse? Another family member or friend? We have to get to the point where we realize that our complete faith & hope cannot be put on ANY human being on this earth. The only One worth having our focus is God. He is the only One who truly loves us for who we are. Don’t get me wrong. Those close to us should love us for who we are, but we all unintentionally look at each other through our own biased lenses. This means that even though we mean well, we still see those we love as what we want them to be.

What it comes down to is that we should focus on being who God made us to be, and know that He loves us JUST THE WAY WE ARE. After all, if we spend all of our time and energy on becoming what other people want us to be, how do we have time to stop and remember who God made us to be? He’s the only One that matters. Life is about relationships, but earthly relationships can never be what they are meant to be if the most important relationship is off-centered (hmm…self-centered?). Let’s focus on the One who deserves our focus.

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Need to write more...



So, this weekend I was convicted of something. I need to update my blog more often!!!! :o) Believe it or not, I have written more than I have actually published over the last 10 months or so (just haven't gotten any of it to "publish" stage). SO... for the next few days to weeks, you will see some of those writings posted. God has been working on me in a lot of areas of my life, and I am anxious to share it with all of you! FYI... upcoming is a post (or a series of posts) about "seasons" in our lives. Do any of you have any thoughts to share about how you have experienced seasons in your own lives? It will help me as I'm writing... More later...

Clear the Stage



This is such an incredible reminder of what worship truly is (and who it is for)... It is not about the music, even though we can get caught up in it. As humans trying to do things in our own strength, we can sometimes become so self-centered about worship! Hit pause on my blog playlist (in the bottom right corner of the page), watch, and listen. May God work in your hearts as He has in mine. (The lyrics are written out below.)

 

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols.
Chuck the pews and all the decorations too
Until the congregation's few then have revival.
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends.
Until you're broken for your sins you can't be social.
Then seek the Lord and wait for what He has in store
and know that great is your reward, so just be hopeful.

Cause you can sing all you want to.
Yes you can sing all you want to.

You can sing all you want to
And don't get me wrong, worship is more than a song.

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper.
Beg Him please to open up His mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister.
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open.
Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken.

 
Cause you can sing all you want to.
Yes you can sing all you want to.
You can sing all you want to
And don't get me wrong, worship is more than a song.

Worship is more than a song.

Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I give all my love is an idol.
We must not worship something that's not even worth it.
Clear the stage and make some space for the One who deserves it.

 

And I can sing all I want to.
Yes I can sing all I want to.
I can sing all I want to
And still get it wrong...

And you can sing all you want to.
Yes you can sing all you want to.
You can sing all you want to
But don't get me wrong, worship is more than a song.

Worship is more than a song.
Worship is more than a song.
Worship is more than a song.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols.

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get out of your shell!



I love turtles. One of the coolest animals God has created. Just look at their shells... perfectly created for protection and safety.

Any time I see a turtle crawling across the road, I have to stop and pick him up. Just can't stand to think that the next car to come by may not be as careful as I am.

So... today, we had a turtle adventure. As Jeffrey and I were driving home this morning, I noticed this little guy making his way across the road in front of me. Not really caring who was behind me, I proceeded to pull the car to the side of the road and get out. As I walked up to him, he seemed to have no fear. I was expecting him to shrink into his shell like most turtles do when they sense danger. However, this one kept his head and legs out the whole time. I picked him up and held him as we finished the trip home (only about a mile).

We put the little turtle out on the back porch and let Katherine look at him and giggle like she always does when she likes something. (Sidenote... that little giggle is a sound I will NEVER grow tired of!) Then, Oreo decided to jump into the action. She sniffed him and stayed right with him... and still the turtle showed no fear. I was amazed. This was definitely the most confident turtle I have ever seen. After we watched him for a while, we let him go in the backyard. He was gone by the time we checked again.
 
Our turtle adventure got me thinking about how we stay in our shells so much as Christians. We're afraid of what people might think if we "put ourselves out there." When we have Christ in our lives, we have no reason to fear. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. When he calls us to do something, no matter how big or how small, he will equip us to finish the task. The only thing He asks is that we get out of our shells!

What is it in your life? What are you hiding from? Has God called you to do something, yet you are letting fear control you? It's time to just trust Him and do it... Get out of your shell!

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."      2 Timothy 1:7 

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Facing the Music



I am a mess. It's time to get real.

You know, it's easy to look fine on the outside, yet be in a bad place. When you realize (or admit to yourself) that you have been in a "slow fade" progression, you have to stop and face the music. Only God knows what is going on inside each one of us. There has been so much going on inside of me over the past few months that is far from what it should be… pretty much the opposite of the fruits of the spirit. It all comes down to an unsurrendered soul.

So, now I’m taking stock. Humbling my prideful heart. Recognizing, yet again, that the perfectionist is not perfect. Repenting. Confessing all the junk. Finding my way back to my first Love, my Creator.

For the past several months, I have been trying to fulfill something missing inside of myself instead of fulfilling what I believe God has called me to do. In a crazy mixed-up way, the very thing I thought was my “calling” turned out to be my own selfish desire… and the one I thought was my selfish desire has turned out to be where God wants me. Now here I am back where I belong...
       
           worshiping with my husband and supporting him in his ministry…   
                                                

                                      playing the guitar… singing… writing… praying.

God is good. He knows we mess up. He knows we get off track. He knows everything we think, say, and do. He still loves us… not in spite of who we are, but BECAUSE of who we are. Every struggle is a test. It is an opportunity for God to get glory because of something that only HE can accomplish THROUGH us.

So I am facing the music… literally and figuratively. Things I am called to do have been neglected because of trying to prove myself and coming up empty. The focus has been on the things and people, not on the GOD of those things and people. So I’m coming back around and surrendering this wandering soul. I’m going to give my all to Jesus. I’m going to correct the wrongs in my life. I’m going to sing. I’m going to play. I’m going to write. This is who I am… because of who He is.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” - Jeremiah 29:13


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if peace is what you're looking for...



So, I went for a long walk today. My mind has been searching for peace lately, which seems to be nonexistent. The "why" has FINALLY really hit me. My mind has been "stayed" on the wrong things. Read these words by John Waller (straight out of Isaiah) and then I'll talk a little more about it:

     Thou will keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed on You.
     Thou will keep me in perfect peace when my mind is stayed on You.
     Peace flowing like a river; peace never to be stolen.
     The peace that You give is not of this world; my mind is stayed on You.

For a LONG time now, I have been chasing my own ambitions... It's human nature, but I'm finally realizing the slow fade course I have been on... in every area of my life. I don't like what I see when I look in the physical mirror, but more importantly, I don't like what I see when I look in the spiritual mirror. My mind has been "stayed" on myself. Self-centeredness & selfish motives lead to a LACK of peace. Focusing on Jesus & recognizing His desires for my life lead to a GAIN of peace. Needless to say, there are going to be some major changes in my life, and I'll be writing more about this in the next few days.

Just want to encourage you to think about this one question: What is your mind "stayed" on? Self and the things of this world.... or Jesus and the things He wants you to be focusing on?

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You. - Isaiah 26:3

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"i ya you" means "i love you"



This morning, Katherine came into the living room smiling and just said, "I ya you!" Then she wrapped her little arms around my leg. It was one of those moments that make you melt. So precious. This was the first time she has said it without one of us saying it to her first. As you can imagine, I cried, then I picked her up & held her. We danced for a while. This was a morning for being thankful. More and more everyday I recognize just how blessed we are... and how far God has brought us. Our family is a miracle.

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Less Is More.



I woke up Saturday morning and realized that I had been "processing" in my sleep. My heart is so passionate about some of the things God has placed into my life right now that I have trouble turning off my mind. That morning, my unconscious (and then conscious) thoughts were consumed by a project that is in the works right now. A repeating question in my head... "What are our capabilities versus what should we actually be doing?" I know I need to stop obsessing. But this reminded me of what Paul said… All is permissible but not all is beneficial. Different context, but still makes you think. Back to the basics. Keep it simple. Don’t make things so complicated that people are overwhelmed and they miss it. Keep the main thing the main thing. Don’t let the focus and the vision get lost in all the details. Simplify. What is going to keep people coming back for more of JESUS, not more of US? And THAT is what it comes down to... again... It's all about Jesus, not all about us.

Less is more.

Those three little words say so much. Less complication leads to more understanding. Less focus on "the way things have always been done" leads to more focus on Jesus. Less fulfillment of my own desires leads to more glorification of Him.
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more of Him, less of me



I am a loner and sometimes just need alone time to think, dream, write.... In fact, when I don’t get time alone, I tend to become a tad moody and dramatic. ☺ Okay, a little more than a tad. I also have a writer’s soul. The writing doesn’t just happen on paper. Actually, a lot of my “writing” doesn’t ever make it past my brain. After a month and more recent struggling with the same issue, this “brain rambling” is finally making it to the paper…

About a month ago, I was driving around trying to get my mind off of a situation that has been frustrating me. God and I were doing some serious wrestling that night (and by the way, He always wins). Some of the phrases that kept popping into my mind were “it’s not fair,” “I don’t understand,” “why don’t they just appreciate me?” Then I was stopped in my tracks.

JUST WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?


Someone was trying to get my attention. Just who DO I think I am? Why do I think I deserve anything? God, of course, had an answer for all of my thoughts…
  • IT’S NOT FAIR that my Son had to die on the cross so that you DON’T get what you deserve.”
  • I DON’T UNDERSTAND why you don’t just see the love I have for you and quit worrying about pleasing people.”
  • I APPRECIATE YOU and THAT should be all that matters. Besides, when are you going to appreciate the free gift I have given you? When are you going to appreciate the family that I have put in your care?”
    If we take a long look at ourselves, we will find that we are all guilty of selfish motives and desires. Pastor Dan Berry of Cornerstone Family Church in Des Moines, IA, said the following: “A lot of people live their lives doing what they believe God wants them to do… the way they want to do it.” I’m so guilty of this. 

    Do I love what I do? YES! 

    Do I sometimes do it for the wrong reasons? YES! 

    Do I sometimes try to do it the way I think it should be done without checking with my Boss first? ABSOLUTELY!

    It all comes down to the condition of our hearts. We must examine ourselves daily to make sure that our thoughts, feelings, motives, and actions are lining up with the Word of God. We all have a God-shaped void in our lives, which we constantly try to fill with the things (and people) we THINK will make us… happy, fulfilled, content… whatever word you want to use.

    The daily question to myself and to anyone else who may be struggling with this kind of thing is this: Why do we do the things we do for Christ? Is it for the appreciation and the applause of men? And added to that… if we (I am definitely speaking to myself here) are obsessing about how “man” treats us, we are putting our focus in the wrong place. And by the way, when we focus on ourselves, we also tend to make things a LOT worse in our minds than they actually are!!

    For a new start to 2010, let's get our focus on the ONE who loves us unconditionally and the ONE who has a reason for wanting our desires and motives to line up with His!

    “He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30

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