WHAT???

When you cannot hear, clearly, the person who is speaking to you…..what do you do?

I know what I do…..I yell back…. WHAT?

A more respectful way to answer would be to say…..”Excuse me, would you please repeat that?”

I am living in a large home right now with a friend.  We both go about our individual busyness, sometimes speaking information the other person needs to know while one or the other is walking away to another part of the house.  When that happens to me I often yell loudly ” WHAT??? ”

It would be better for me to walk to where she is and ask her nicely to repeat the information or request.  That way we would have a face to face conversation and the information would not be misunderstood….because if that happens the outcome is usually chaotic… for instance…”I told you, blah, blah, blah, remember?”…..”No, I didn’t get that message.”   etc……you know the scenario!!

But, what about the message God is speaking to you?  Do you turn a deaf ear and pretend by your own social rules that you don’t hear Him clearly so that you don’t fully understand what He is saying to you?

Since I have been a follower of Christ since a young child I have learned to hear…not saying I always obey…but that’s another topic.  I know the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict and correct so that I will come to repentance.  Then He teaches and comforts me.

Life in Christ is continual learning.    (I was going to say curve….but there are no curves in God’s way.  He is straight….Absolute!)   Yah, I mess up, but God’s still, small voice through the Holy Spirit is constantly reminding me to check my motives.  He points out those sins that pull me away from wanting to hear Him clearly.

I really want to HEAR HIM CLEARLY…….don’t you?   Because His Word gives me life, and I want life more abundantly while I’m on this Planet.     Do you?

And God does not change.  It seems that society is changing the basic, God-given life rules.   What’s wrong is OK and right,  what’s right is up for individual interpretation.  BUT GOD HAS ABSOLUTES….AND THOSE DO NOT CHANGE, and the consequences of disobedience are painful.

I cry out to God often with a WHAT???    What is it God….what are you saying to me?  I want to HEAR YOU CLEARLY…..with no outside opinions or philosophies.

I WANT TO ALWAYS ” HEAR HIS VOICE BEHIND ME SAYING, THIS IS THE WAY; WALK IN IT.”   Isaiah 30:21

Ear

Listen More, Speak Less

I struggle with this one. I am doing better the older I get, but I sometimes have this drive to win my case or be right above listening, understanding, and being compassionate. It is something I have to consciously fight against. Even if I am not right, I sometimes fight until I can make my case seem plausible. I am ashamed to admit it.

We are meant to listen to one another and show love and compassion to one another, not to constantly criticize and judge one another.

It seems that these days a lot of “Christian” organizations use a lot of time and expense to “fight” against issues that really should not concern them. We are all free to have our own opinions and causes, but I don’t believe God wants us to use our time and resources to fight against things that are truly not our concern while also putting Him and his people in a bad light.

Our energy should be put toward showing love, peace, patience, kindness, self-control: the fruits of our beliefs. It is by showing these things that we change the world. We don’t win by judging and criticizing, we win by listening, loving and caring enough for others to want what we have.

Ear

Time and time again I see people and groups lashing out at other people and groups with whom they disagree. This takes so much energy! And it’s a waste. It’s a total veering off of the track set before us.

Billy Graham once said,“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and our job to love.”

Obviously the groups I am referring to are extremists and do not represent Christ or his true followers. But, I think if we are all honest with ourselves, we may see that in some small way we all do a bit of this. We may pick fights or take the time to side with fights that really give more ground to the enemy than gain it for Christ. (The NC bathroom law situation and Target stores for instance.) We may do this on a larger scale, and/or with the ones closest to us.

The main goal in the life of a Christ-follower should be to show love and compassion to others – to ALL others, even those with opposing views – and to live a life of example. Spending time and money to picket an abortion clinic for instance is not showing the love of Christ. Those women have been through enough and what they need is a hug and to know that Jesus loves them as much as he loved them before, and that nothing can change that. Those women know what they have done. What would it look like if we showed God’s love by standing outside a clinic to give hugs and share information about support groups? What if we invited them to come to church with us the next Sunday? Perhaps this behavior would show them compassion and cause them to make a different choice in the future, or influence an onlooker to make another choice. Then they would know there would be someone to love them through their choice, whatever that may be.

What would that look like? I think you get the idea.

None of us knows exactly what another’s set of life circumstances is. Our job is to listen,  show love and compassion. Period. God doesn’t “need” us to put people in their place – he knows our hearts, and that job is His.

How about this quote from Dale Carnegie in his book How To Win Friends & Influence People: “Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses resentment.”

If we want to show people another way, we do that by example and with love – not by spouting hate and judgment.

And even better, I’ll close with a few scriptures straight from God’s Word:

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” James 1:19

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Romans 2:1

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Matthew 7:1

Equally = UNIQUE

Last Sunday morning the most deadly terror act since 911 happened on U.S. soil in Orlando, Florida at a dance club. 49 people were fatally shot and that many more wounded. Can you even imagine the terror? I was supposed to write a post for Monday, but I have been paralyzed all week due to my feelings about this senseless tragedy, and honestly my lack of faith in all humanity. How do I turn that into “Life Words?” Well, I’ve been aching and praying over it, so I’ll give it a shot. Please bear with me.  

I had already planned on writing about how unique every human being is – how utterly special and irreplaceable each one of us is. I have touched on this subject before as it amazes me how different we all are. Just like each snowflake, each blade of grass, each sand dollar. How amazing the variety that God has allowed within His creation since He started this earth spinning. Thousands upon thousands of years of DNA and gene pools mixing and changing, creating billions of unique human beings, each with special skills and a special purpose. Each created in the very image of God.  

Photo credit: Kristin Coke

Photo credit: Kristin Coke

So, through my tears of anguish after last Sunday’s events, I am connecting that thought of individual uniqueness with the aftermath of such an evil event, while doing my best to represent my God, myself, my family bloggers, and all groups of humankind with dignity and grace. That is my deepest intention as I sort through this array of emotion.  

First, I must say that I have been happy to see many people who generally spread hate against the LGBT community empathizing with their fellow humans who have lost loved ones and the terror that the survivors must endure. Progress. However, I have also seen people jumping on the anti-muslim train as that must be the “worse of the evils” in this scenario. However you look at it, it’s all stemmed from hate, fear, and ignorance, not love.  

One bad, misguided (probably confused, lonely and isolated) man took innocent lives and lost his own. Yes, we MUST reform our gun laws properly in order to get a handle on this violence. But, we MUST NOT fall into the trap of lumping groups of people into categories. Jesus would not do this if he were still here walking the earth. What would Jesus do?  

People love to spout out Scripture verses and speak on behalf of God. So many people do that to try to back up whatever they feel passionately about. We see this all the time. (In fact, the only groups that Jesus actually got angry with when he walked the earth were those who used Scripture to back up their own agenda of religious rules rather than being compassionate and loving their fellow man).  

Let’s look at some of the red letter text attributed to Jesus himself rather than haphazardly spouting out laws and regulations pulled from various books of the Old Testament without context. Perhaps we can gain some insight into what he would do, and what he expects us to do.  

In Luke 6:27, 28 he says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” 

In Luke 6:37, 38 he says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you….For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” 

In Luke 6:43-45 he says, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit….The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” 

From that I get that even a person who “claims Christ” but speaks hatefully toward any other human being is a bad tree who bears bad fruit. The fruit speaks for itself. And the commandments say that hatred in our hearts is equal to murder. 

He says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27 

No matter what terror we face on earth by other evil humans, we must not live in fear. We must not return hate for hate, but we must do what we can to live in and at peace.  

Even on the cross as he was about to die for the sins of ALL MANKIND Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23: 34  

Nowhere does it say that Jesus died for SOME of us. ALL of us were made in His image, ALL of us fall short and are sinners, and ALL of us are able to receive his gift of eternal life if we want it. 

And what did Jesus say was THE MOST IMPORTANT thing – he says it many times, and here in one passage he says it twice:

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love…. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: LOVE EACH OTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:9-13

Then he says it again in John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.” 

So, through these few passages attributed to Jesus himself, we see his nature, we see how he treats others and expects us to treat one another. He clearly states that we will not all agree on everything as we will have enemies and friends, but that we must love one another equally. He NEVER qualifies his statements of love. He never excludes any person or group. He clearly COMMANDS that we LOVE EACH OTHER, refrain from judgment, live at peace, bear good fruit, pray for one another, and give selflessly to one another.  

Nowhere does Jesus say to shun those who live a different lifestyle than we do, or believe a different way than we do. God gave us all the freedom to choose. Why are we so threatened by people with whom we disagree? We should all find security in our own relationship with God and peace within ourselves and the way we treat others. The judgment of each individual heart is up to God and God alone. Tolerance does not mean we have to agree with everyone, it just means we need to treat everyone with the same respect and dignity that we want to be treated with.  

Don’t you remember? DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU. 

Again, no qualifier listed. We are all created equal and deserve to be treated as such. 

I heard a pundit say yesterday that if all the peaceful muslims of the world would get together, we could end radical islam within months. Oh, if that were only true. Evil people have always existed and always will – within every creed, race and social structure. 

What about the hate that is preached from so many pulpits? How about the pastor in Southern California who said from his pulpit just hours after this tragedy of death and violence that, “the real tragedy is more of them didn’t die” and “Orlando is a little safer today because 50 pedafiles died.” WHAT? Statistics show there are more pedafiles amongst “straight white ‘Christian’ men” than there are in the LGBT community. How did he even make that leap? To invoke fear and hatred amongst his congregation. Those people should be taking a stand and not supporting that ungodly man. If you want to see sexual deviance you need not look further than higher-ups hiding inside of some of the church community of the world. Where is the outrage from Christians against that?  

This does not represent the God of love that I serve. And why don’t all the Christians of the world unite to end that radical hatred that so many are preaching?  

Do you know how many gay and transgender people in the world suffer from overt hatred and exclusion? Do you know how many muslim people are ridiculed and shunned by “Christians” especially after events like this where one evil extremist man terrorizes innocent people?

Jesus never excluded any person, and he never will. He welcomes all to enter into relationship with him. By his example, we must set aside all our fear and hatred and treat EVERY human with love and respect. We are all on our own path and God is ultimately in control. If we truly believe that, we can set aside our differences, be kind to one another and love one another as we love ourselves.

NO EXCEPTIONS. 

We are all created in the image of God. We are all on our own journey and path in this life. We cannot force our own beliefs on others. If we believe in love and peace, then our own words and actions will reflect that and others will see our beliefs in action, prompting them to inquire about the source.

Respect all human life. Don’t allow bullying or hatred to be spoken or shown without taking a stand against it when you can. This is our great challenge, and it is imperative to showing the true nature and love of Christ.  

Use your uniqueness as your platform to stand for love and truth in this troubled world. You are one of a kind, and your story matters. There are people who will cross your path that only you can reach with God’s love.  

“In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” Job 12:10

GOD Said……

When God created the heavens and the earth, He SPOKE everything into existence. (Genesis 1)

Cosmos

God spoke audibly to Abraham and Moses, and many other patriarchs of old. He also spoke audibly so everyone present heard Him say, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased,” when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river.

I have never heard God speak audibly, but I know in my innermost being when He is speaking to me through His Holy Spirit. But, wow…..how awesome it would be to actually hear the voice of God! I think I would crumble into a heap of weakness on the ground.

I know of a family who all came to Christ because their severely handicapped son who could not walk or talk spoke to his father one day. He shouted clearly, “GOD SAID!!!” That so impacted the entire family that they became strong followers of Jesus Christ.

Remember the saying that was so popular a few years ago, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Actually, if God said it, that settles it whether you believe it or not!

When God speaks to you, do you respond with a yes? How does He speak to you? In a still small voice, or a booming loud voice? It doesn’t matter how God speaks to you. What matters is that you have a relationship with Him so that you hear Him and answer yes!!!

My family and I started this blog so that we could impart WORDS of encouragement to you TODAY. When we hear or read words of life from God’s written Word, or from a pastor who is teaching from the Word of God, or we are singing or listening to songs that are building us up in The Faith, then we are receiving Life Words!

Today, I encourage you to know that God is still speaking. His voice keeps everything in nature and our lives in order every second of every minute of every day.

A well-known theologian, A.W. Tozer, in his book The Pursuit of God said, “God is speaking. Not God spoke, but God is speaking. He is, by his nature, continuously articulate. He fills the world with His speaking voice.”

Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech.”

God is Sovereign, so I trust Him with my life. My prayer for you is that you trust that His Word is Truth, and that His desire is to have a relationship with you through His Son Jesus Christ, so that you recognize His Voice speaking to you.

Thank you,God, for speaking continually!!!

(Repost from April 2014)

But you promised…

God has given me promises and sometimes I think, “Are they ever going to happen?”

I have been in 2 weddings this year and I just went to a third wedding this past weekend. These weddings have been of very dear friends of mine and I am over the moon excited for each of them to marry the love of their lives. Each couple has put God first and he is at the center of their relationship. It’s a beautiful, yet rare thing to see in this world. But this is how God intended marriage. Marriage is a gift given to us by God to be a representation of his love for the church. We are his bride and he is the bridegroom. Marriage on earth is a taste of what it’s like between us and God.

Marriage is a beautiful thing and something I strongly desire to be apart of. I am single at the moment but I think, dream, and pray for the man I am going to marry.

In 2013, God gave me a vision of my wedding day. I saw myself radiant and I was looking up into the eyes of my husband but I couldn’t see his face. All I could see was myself and light shining brightly all around us.

In 2014, God told me attributes about my husband and what our relationship would represent and told me to pray for him every day.

In 2015, I wrote out everything I want in a husband, prayed over the list and made room for God to add to it. I sealed the list in an envelope. I stopped praying for him every day and only when I thought of it.

In 2016, God gave me a new perspective about marriage and another promise to hold onto. He told me that this marriage will not only be for me and my husband but for so many others around us. This made me look at the bigger picture. It’s not just about me. It’s about so many others. With all of this in store for the marriage I will have one day, I am willing to wait as long as God intends. He has a master plan and sometimes we get stuck on the little things and never take the time to step back and look at the bigger picture. I will continue to pray for my husband.

God gives us promises to keep our focus on him. He tells us what we need to hear at the time to keep us on track. He has a plan behind it all. And I know one day He will cross the paths of my journey and my future husband’s journey and it will be unlike anything I could ever dream or imagine. I tell this to you as an encouragement, especially to all the single ladies and men out there. God knows. He has a plan. Someone of you will be married to someone here on earth. Others of you have a marriage with Christ (this is to all). He is waiting to take your hand and have a relationship with you.

Give God your heart and he will fulfill his promises to you.

The Lord will establish you as his holy people, as he promised you an oath, if you keep the commands of the Lord your God and walk in his ways.” Deuteronomy 28:9

You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.” 1 Kings 8:24

(There are over 3,000 promises in the Bible.)

God's Promise                   Marriage

WHO AM I?

“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

We all know the Ten Commandments. But how do you interpret this one?

I think many of us are taught that it just means we must be careful not to use the Name of God or Jesus Christ when we are swearing or talking casually. Of course we should be very conscious about how we use His Name in our daily speech and dialogue. We must respect the Highest Name by not misusing it. Totally agreed.

My Pastor was speaking one weekend about this commandment. He made me think of it in a totally different way. I already knew that this commandment held a deeper meaning as my parents had taught me that long ago. However, the way Pastor Steven explained it really resonated with me and changed my perspective forever. Here it goes….

When Moses asked God what His name was, He simply said, “I AM THAT I AM.”

God’s Name is “I AM” – which means He is everything and lacks nothing. When a couple gets married it is customary for the wife to take the name of the husband. As the church we are the Bride of Christ, and therefore we bear his name.

I have always understood that because we represent Christ, we must act accordingly. However, Pastor Steven pointed out something much deeper than that.

Do you have a problem with calling yourself names? Bullying yourself? I have an issue with this, and I’m sure that some of you do too. When I fail at something, sometimes I mutter to myself, “You’re an idiot,” or “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you pull it together? You still have this issue at this stage of life?” Or… “Why are you so stupid?” I put myself down for not being in the best shape I can be in, and for my inconsistencies.

And on and on… you get the picture.

Pastor pointed out this great truth:
If I have taken the Name of Christ as mine, and I call myself by names that He is not, then I am taking His name in vain. Simple.

Inscription motivate

His Name is “I AM.” So…. If I say to myself, “I am an idiot,” then I am saying something about myself that is not true. That is, I am saying something about myself that God Himself says I am not.

If I say, “I am insufficient,” but God says of Himself, “I AM sufficient,” and I have taken His name – then I am saying something that is offensive to Him. I am misrepresenting Him and what He has done for me by covering me with His name. I AM TAKING HIS NAME IN VAIN.

WHOA. This weighed heavily on my heart. For the past couple of weeks it has become clear to me just how often I put myself down. Sometimes I say something out loud, but just the things I say to myself about myself inside my head about how I am not good enough or always fall short in some area are frequent. Way too frequent.

This voice of self-doubt. This voice direct from the enemy of my soul. This ungodly voice meant to distract me from representing my God the way I was intended to. This self-insulting habit that holds me back from striving toward my potential.

ENOUGH.

So now what?

Bullying oneself is a habit. Therefore it has to be broken by adopting a new habit in it’s place. I have not yet broken it, but I am working on it. Awareness is the key to starting a new way of thinking. Here is what I am doing.

Some people call these affirmations. Affirmations are great, but they are a bit ego-centric. Perhaps realizing that my name is literally joined with God’s name will make the difference. I am believing it will.

I AM sufficient. (Because God is sufficient and lives in me)

I AM capable. (With God’s help because with Him all things are possible)

I AM beautiful. (Because He made me in His image and He is without imperfection)

What does God say about you versus what you say about yourself? Will you join me in breaking this habit of self-bullying?

WE CAN DO THIS!

THE BEST GIFT OF ALL

Last night I sang in a vocal group that performed for the local Rotary Club’s Annual Christmas Dinner.  The members brought their families, including children from infants to 18 years of age.  A local Pastor dressed up like Santa and, after a delicious meal and entertainment, arrived with a loud “Ho Ho Ho!!!”  The youngest children were delighted, and each one was called up to receive a gift and get their picture taken with Santa.  This was a fun evening, and we brought in the message of the birth of Christ in our music.

But, with all our busyness at this time of year, it is so important to teach our children that the baby Jesus in the manger grew up to die on a cross and shed his blood for our salvation.

He really was BORN TO DIE.  Whoa…you say…that is a morbid thought.

You see, God had a plan from the beginning of time to reveal Himself in human form by sending His Son into the world as a baby, born of a virgin.  This is one of the mysteries of Sovereign God.  One of Jesus’ names is Immanuel which translated means “God is With Us.”

The God-Man Jesus, who was without sin, shed His blood on a Roman cross to cover all sin before and after his death and resurrection.

Wow….that’s so difficult for our human minds to comprehend!  That’s where faith comes in.  Child-like faith…which is a gift from God.

If you are struggling with the reality of who Jesus is, and that He is more than a baby in a manger, ask God to give you the faith to believe.  Don’t try to “figure it out”…just know that God loves you with unconditional love. Once you realize that great love through Jesus Christ you will never be the same again!  The celebration of Jesus’ birth will give you joy and an inner peace that is unexplainable!

JESUS THE CHRIST IS INDEED THE GREATEST, MOST LASTING GIFT OF ALL!!!

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“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Romans 6:23

Reflection Connection

I have a little 800 gallon 12′ x 3′ pool that I set up in the summer-time. It’s not much, but it’s an oasis during the heavy heat of summer in the South.

I lie back and relax on my lounge raft, stare at the Carolina blue sky and dream about having a real pool someday. What will that be like? I’ll be so happy when that day comes. Until then I’ll just bide my time with this silly kiddie pool. I want bigger. I want better. Sigh.

Last weekend I decided to take a selfie lounging in the pool. When I looked at the photo later, I noticed the lovely reflection of the sky, clouds and trees in the water surrounding me. This started me thinking….

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Calm water reflects whatever stands above it. Perfectly. No matter what size the body of water is. A puddle can show a flawless reflection when undisturbed, just as well as a pond or a lake.

Do you ever find yourself wishing for something “bigger?” Thinking that maybe you’ll be a better giver, or a better volunteer, a better friend, a better Christian – once you get more income, that better car, that life you’ve always dreamed of having? Do you bypass being an impact right where you are because you are waiting for something else? Or, do you feel like your position in life isn’t meaningful enough to make a difference?

All lies. None of it’s true.

We should all dream and strive to be better. But many times we miss where we are RIGHT NOW. After all, right now is all that is guaranteed.

As I reflected (ha), I realized how grateful I was for that little private 800 gallon oasis. I realized that is where I am right now in life, and that it is good. Maybe that “real” pool is in my future, and maybe it’s not. But right here, right now, I have this one. And it’s pretty awesome. I stopped longing for something else and made a decision to enjoy the present.

You can be the same reflection of Christ no matter what your current position in life. Whether you are self-employed, one of thousands at a corporation, a stay-at-home Mom who drives the carpool, or standing for hours in the unemployment line – you can still reflect and live the character of Christ.

We are all made in His Image. We all have the same capacity to reflect Him – and we all have the same power and potential to be Christ-like in our daily lives. Our character is worth more than our “position,” and others are watching our reflection.

So, be still and KNOW that He is God. Stop thrashing about, disturbing the waters, distorting the reflection. Be faithful in the little things, so that He can trust you with the bigger things He wants to give you.

Be present. Be still. Be bold. Be grateful for who you are and where you are.

Be the best YOU by reflecting the One who made you YOU.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18 NAS

This is a repost from September 2014