Three days ago, I drove up to Wisconsin from my parent’s home in Crystal Lake, Illinois for my niece’s birthday. That night, when I was getting ready for bed, I noticed my engagement ring and wedding band were missing…again. [See prior post /losing-my-diamond-ring/] I prayed and worried and prayed through the night–rendering a sleepless night. The next morning, we went full-throttle into “Operation Ring” mode, deploying my seven family members and myself. Retracing steps, borrowing a metal detector, scouring gravel drive ways and parking lots, and filing “missing ring” reports. Later that day, after giving up my search (and hope) my brother Jamie suggested we drive back up to Wisconsin (an hour away) to my niece’s party location. I assured Jamie that would be a waste of time and gas, because that wasn’t the last place I had my rings. To which he replied, “Why not, though? We aren’t doing anything now.” So we went. But the wind of hope was knocked out of my sails when we got to the park’s parking lot and it was packed like sardines with cars and people. Wouldn’t you know…it was the park’s official, “Hot Dog Festival.” Even if we DID find my rings where we parked yesterday, the car that was there now, was certainly the new owner of them. I was defeated, but Jamie wasn’t done. We pulled alongside the space, got out, looked down, and there they were. Right where I had (unknowingly) left them. A sunbeam was casting light off the diamond solitaire. Like God was using His universal, laser pointer-finger to direct my eyes from His seat in Heaven, to my squatted stance on the gravel lot. Jamie and I jumped up and down! And in true demonstrative “Heather,” I proceeded to twirl with my hands raised as high as my joints would let me and screamed, “THANK YOU JESUS!!!!!” Jeremiah 29:14 says, “‘I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.” This verse optimizes the drama of my lost rings. We sure are [non-literal] losers, aren’t we? We lose our way, our possessions, our faith, hope, joy. We lose insignificant things like keys, all the way up to losing our child in a store [see another prior post /when-i-left-andy-2/] And I haven’t put my rings in my lap while applying hand lotion, and forgetting they were there as I jumped out of the car, once… I’ve now done it TWICE! But my God is a Finding God. He is my: I-know-where-it-is-I-know-where-she-needs-to-be God! I don’t want to declare to you that it’s my job to lose, cuz it sucks! But I do want to declare that God has promised He WILL be found by you. If you are lost, I hope you call for Him. You don’t have to find your way to Him. He will come to you. Because out of His always-finding-never-losing love, He’s known right where you were all along. Just like my rings.
Chapter One of Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities” reads, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. “ Pretty sure I had to read that in school; sadly I just had to Google its source. One thing I testify is times change, but Jesus is unchanging. During best times (i.e. birthday, wedding day, graduation day, boys’ birthdays) and worst times (i.e. job-termination day, psych ward stay, Feb 14, 2018, Sept 11, 2001) Jesus was there all day, every day. Even in my worst-case scenario, Jesus had my best interest in mind. Even at my worst, Jesus is at his best. Jesus was, is and will be the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. My life ebbs and flows, He is a constant conduit. My seasons change, but He is the Season-Changer! Maybe Jesus didn’t prevent the worst day, but Jesus didn’t abandon me in it. The hours move, but Jesus is unmoved. He is ALL IN when I invited Him in, and he doesn’t reduce. He doesn’t deteriorate. He doesn’t age. He doesn’t expire. He doesn’t transfer, transform, switch, rotate, trend in, or fade out. He is everything and everyone I’ve ever needed at any time. People have come and gone. Opportunities have risen and fallen. Health has decreased and increased. Locations have relocated. My position or title has dropped, flourished, maintained, downgraded, but Jesus-CEO has stayed in charge and on His throne. I can’t always count on people, can’t count on myself, can’t count on the weather, and can’t count the number of hairs on my head. But I can count on Jesus. There is not one day in the worst or best of times I witnessed His exit. Has He been silent? Oh yes. But Jesus has never been absent. In the best of times and worst of times, Jesus has been my dependable, reliable, faithful friend, Father, counselor, boss, confidant and Hope. And I Hope He is yours too.
In Acts 16, the bible says, “She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, and they have come to tell you how to be saved.’ This went on day after day until Paul got so exasperated that he turned and said to the demon within her, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And instantly it left her.” It can be easy to get mad at people who exasperate us with their demons, literally and figuratively. In the above account, a girl was wearing out the Apostle Paul with hers. Day after day, depleting his energy, time, patience and focus. I did some research on this text, and (for a simpleton’s sake like me) it broke down like this: The Greek word used for ‘exasperated’ is ‘grieved’ (διαπονηθεὶς). Basically, it’s ‘angry’ and ‘sad.’ Paul was sad at the condition of the girl, and mad at the ongoing, outward display of the evil that possessed her. To be simple: Paul wasn’t mad at her, Paul was mad at what was IN her. And Paul loved her enough to help get it OUT. I get to do life with wonderfully-broken people who have demons of their own (addiction, rebellion, criminal behavior, suicidal thoughts). My heart leaps at chances to help them (and many times, in turn, they’ve made me a better person!) This passage of Paul’s encounter with this girl encourages me to help in 3 ways: 1. that my ”διαπονηθεὶς” be anger mixed WITH sadness/compassion and not just anger, alone. 2. that I do what I can, when I can to help and not assume someone else will. 3. that like Paul, I occasionally see the proverbial demons flee, the brand new person rise up and we both do a praise dance at God’s faithfulness!
We all have a past. Some of us have unimaginable pasts. Some of us have pasts without major incident. But we all have one. In the past, it’s where we were; in this present, it’s where we are; in the future it’s where we’re headed. But what I’ve seen more times than not—is our past is what makes us or breaks us. In short, does my past define me or does my past refine me? Over the years, I’ve trolled the bible looking for good verses to encourage me about my past. One of my favs is Galatians 6:15, “It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.” And where “circumcised” is, we can fill in anything from our former life. For example, “whether we have been addicted or not,” “whether we have been mistreated or not,” “whether we have been rejected, neglected, defected or not.” Whatever was part of your past, with Jesus, doesn’t define you because with him you are a new creation in your present. You are refined by Jesus in your heart, not defined by circumstances in your past. I could keep going with the verses. But if you are struggling with feeling defined by your past, maybe do a bible word search on “new creation,” “born again,” “freedom,” and let God’s timeless, irrefutable truths and promises speak to your heart. Just because you had a bad chapter doesn’t mean your story has a bad ending. I hope this encourages someone today.
“I am not trying to please people. I want to please God. Do you think I am trying to please people? If I were doing that, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) See, before Paul made the decision to follow Christ, Paul followed people. They wanted him to persecute people? He did. They wanted him to stone people to death? He did. But then Paul accepted Christ. Finding himself at a precipice, Paul realized he could not serve two masters, people and Christ. Paul chose Christ. He would transition from people-pleaser to Jesus-pleaser. And if he could—we can. Author and Counselor, Lou Priolo says there is a word for our current day “people pleasing” syndrome and it’s “idolatry.” It’s looking to a someone or something to do for me the things only Christ can do. And if we get really raw, here: people pleasing is idolatry, idolatry is a sin. It is a direct violation of the number two commandment: “You shall not make idols.” (Exodus 20) People-pleasing is a sin but if we identify it as such, that’s actually GOOD news! One, Jesus already paid for that sin with his life! Two, there is always a way out of sin with Jesus! Here are 3 super-uber-simple tips I’ve practiced to move from people-pleasing to Christ-pleasing. Full-disclosure: it’s not been completely eradicated. As people have come and go, sometimes when a new person comes, depending on their position or role in my life, I can find myself people-pleasing all over again. So this formula is one I keep handy. And reapply!
1. Pray each morning, “God lead me to please you today” and every night, pray, “God help me to please you tomorrow.” The Bible says, “you do not have because you do not ask.” If you truly aspire to please God, ask God for it!
2. Christian counseling. Being proactive and “wanting to stop,” is “flossing and brushing.” But getting Christian-counseling is extracting the cavity! There might be a root canal (cause) to why you keep people-pleasing. Don’t be afraid to seek counsel for it.
3. Read “People Pleasing” by Lou Priolo and “Approval Addiction” by Joyce Meyer
I hope this encourages someone today!
Sometimes love has to look away. There’s a heart-wrenching moment in the bible when Jesus was on the cross and cried out to God, “why did you forsake me?” I would surmise that in his final moments, Jesus felt like God left him. And if you leave someone, you look away. Sometimes, love has to look away. I’ve watched loving parents have to let go and look away from a child. I’ve watched loving children have to let go and look away from a parent. In my experience with a loved one, for years I held on with my proverbial “looking glass,” until a friend suggested that that might be what’s holding him back from God’s best. Why did God have to look away? Billy Graham wrote, “Jesus was without sin, for He was God in human flesh. As He died, all our sins were placed on Him. In that moment, He was banished from the presence of God, for sin cannot exist in God’s presence.” Now, though, we can be saved on Earth and party forever in Heaven! If you have someone you love, and you need to look away for their betterment, I get you! [*Note: just because we look away, doesn’t mean we cease to pray!] You and me have each other if we have to look away. We are not alone in this. Arm-in-arm, we have each other for strength. And BONUS: we also have this gridlock, united battle-line of prayer! Jesus doesn’t need our eyes on those we’re praying for to do his work. Together, we keep our eyes (& prayers) on Him. And He’ll keep watch on them.
I’m aware of my chips, frailties and cracks. See, there was a decade in my life where I ran from God-–and when I came back to Him—I retained just enough of my “cracky-ness” to not forget how far He brought me. So this verse has profound meaning: 2 Corinthians 4:7, “We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” Cracked? It’s ok. You’re not the Mona Lisa in a museum. You’re a clay pot out back. And things like chips and cracks come with that. But you’re also not damaged and disposable! Think about it: GOD can shine more through cracked pots than perfect pots. We cry about our crackyness. Some of us even throw ourselves away! But maybe we should give thanks and receive it? Cracked pots can render two cool results: 1) when I changed the way I saw myself it changed my life’s trajectory to a greater purpose 2) a newly cracked pot can see me in mine and not despair their new condition. But wait there’s more! Ironically in God’s economy, despite being cracked, we’re *filled to overflow* with the goodness and glory of God. I’m not just blowing platitudes either! This is what GOD says about us! And no one knows cracked pots better than God the Potter, who made em. I hope this encourages someone today.
Back in 1999, after I got out of the psych ward, “loving God with all your mind,” (Luke 10:27) came with new challenges because my mind wasn’t all-there. However, I definitely loved God with all my heart, soul and strength, so that’s where I started. I activated those parts to pray, meditate, read my Bible, get professional psychotherapy and take psychiatric meds. Romans 8:6 says, “If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind there is life and peace.” Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! The answer for how [to begin] to love God with all my [sick] mind was right there in the Good Book! Oh sure, in 1999, the enemy, my sin, my illness won a battle in my mind, but God was my General who victoriously wins wars! And this was war for my mind! So I began praying and believing Romans 8:6. I started asking, “what is controlling my mind that could lead to death?” (In my case, suicide). Over a period twelve months, I eliminated things God brought to my mind in response to my Romans 8:6 prayer. Back then my mind was adversely impacted by gossip magazines, so I got rid of them; R-rated movies, so I stopped watching them; booty-shaking music, so I found new music; and trashy TV programs, so I found cleaner substitutes. Little by little, my mind was able to love God more wholly. A mind that loves God with all of, it leads to life. And look who’s been living since 1999! 🙂 There’s a lot more I could share on this, but gotta stay true to my 1-minute post promise! I’ll close with this: Psalm 139 says God knit us together [minds, included] in our moms’ wombs. He is the creator of you before humans conceived you. It’s no wonder that in our creation, the part he placed closest to him in heaven is the part he has us think with. Our minds are our Northern Star, True North, our crown. Our minds aren’t on the side of our bodies, they’re on the top! To take care of that important satellite dish up there means to love God with all of it. I don’t know where you are with your mind, but if you’re challenged like I am, I hope this post brings some good thoughts to consider for it!
I imagine that akin to a car running on a tank of gas, we have a comfort-tank we run on. Mine has never been so close to running on fumes than when I became a mom. It wasn’t that long ago that I was jockeying between a newborn who needed comfort for feedings and sleep, and a toddler who needed comfort for boo-boo’s and thunderstorms. Back then, I’d tap into that comfort-tank twenty times a day—a discouraging cycle because of the looming “what if I don’t have any left for the next day?” Until I stumbled across (yet another) unbreakable promise from God! In Isaiah 66:13, God promises, “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” These days I’m not comforting babies, I comforting my teenage boys, addicts, a family member with cancer and the mentally ill. And true to His promise, God is keeping that tank full. But indulge me, let’s return to the car analogy for an important note. If I am the car, the gas-tank is my comfort-tank…the driver is God. If God is not the driver driving my life, my home, my heart, then I CAN run out of comfort. I can become a stalled out car on the side of the road unable to comfort others, my kids, even myself. Whether we need to comfort our kids, spouses, friends, patients, whoever… if God’s the driver, we will not run out of comfort for others, because God will not run out of comfort for us. Whether we have that “one” who requires gallons of comfort, or that group who require a pint each, God promises to keep filling the tank. I had a long day today, as I write this, I feel depleted. But I will go to sleep tonight knowing God works through the night—filling our tanks with comfort because He knows tomorrow He will need us to give some more. He’s the great Comforter, Provider…and Driver.