Good Endings

I love a good book, especially if it ends well. When I get swept up in the words of a novel, it seems I can hardly wait to find out how it will end, and yet, I hasten to finish it. I mean, when it’s over…it’s over! I can re-read it, but it’s not the same, since I already know the ending. There’s a bit of a let down when finishing a book that has captured my heart. I guess I’ve always struggled with endings. It’s a love/hate relationship.
We are nearing the end of a chapter in our lives this week. Well, it’s more like finishing a book in a volume of books. It’s our last week pastoring a church my husband and I planted eight years ago. I remember the day we moved to the city of Modesto so clearly. Sometimes it seems like yesterday, but it hasn’t always felt that way.
My initial feelings towards Modesto were, ummm….less than thrilling. 😬😉Yet, I knew we were called and I’ve always desired obedience to the Lord. We came to this city excited about what God might do, and terrified about what on earth we were getting ourselves into. We didn’t know a single soul here and we had benchmarks to meet in order to meet our basic necessities. My husband and I agreed we would hold it all with an open hand and trust God to bless it. If things didn’t work out, no shame in that, we would just pack it up and move on. So, we pressed on, seeking Him, meandering through this unknown journey, getting glimpses of God, as He revealed the story of this exhilarating chapter. (“Terrifying chapter” would better describe how I used to feel, but now as I look back at those early pages I see them more as an adventure ride. I’m so glad we hopped on and didn’t let fear hold us back!😄) Honestly, that first year, was harder than I ever could have imagined and also more thrilling than I can explain in a few sentences. To trust God weekly for His basic provision, was a nail biter, but my faith grew immeasurably as I witnessed miracles from living a life surrendered to Him, even when it hurts.

We cashed out 401k’s, sold one of our two cars, prayed tirelessly, reached out to every stranger, cried a lot (at least I did), adjusted to quiet holidays where the only people at the dinner table were the same people we saw every day….our party of five. Those were some lonely days. I eagerly anticipated the next chapter in those early pages, even praying that God would bring us back home, but God is infinitely smarter than I am and when we allow Him, He writes the most beautiful stories through the challenges of our lives. He’s a far better story teller than I could ever hope to be and so it’s best to let the author of life create our stories.

Over time God brought people to The Well that loved us like family. We saw many surrender their lives wholeheartedly to Jesus; an experience that makes the whole journey worth the pain. Life became full of meaning and loneliness subsided. God faithfully filled this chapter with people that will forever be in our hearts. We grew in numbers at the church, but more importantly, we grew in Jesus. Each milestone was so miraculous, we couldn’t possibly take the credit. Christ alone is the Cornerstone. The church became a beacon of light in our community, drawing people in need of hope and healing. While we are still far from perfect, grace abounds at The Well….most of the time. (There is no perfect. Thank goodness, or they wouldn’t let me attend.)😉

This story has unfolded rapidly as I’ve watched our kids grow and thrive, both at church and at school. We’ve experienced the blessing of baptizing two of our kids at The Well, and all three of our children asked Jesus into their hearts during this chapter of life. Kids have a way of making time move at the speed of light. If only I could freeze time….sort of like you can when you put a good book down, forcing the ending to wait a little longer.

It’s Saturday night. Tomorrow morning will be the last time I wake up early to drive to that cute little church on the edge of town. It figures that tomorrow is “Spring forward”…if you know me, you know I’m allergic to mornings.😉🤧 I usually dread when we lose an hour of sleep! Yet, it feels completely appropriate on our last Sunday at The Well. God’s going to catapult us all forward into our next chapters; no more dog earring those pages and saving them until later. It’s time to finish, so we can start anew.

Here’s what I know for sure; He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It won’t be easy, but it will be faith building, hope filled, and soul refining. God will do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine and the pages of our lives will be rich in His stories of grace, healing, restorative power and above all, His love.❤️
I can’t wait to read the beginning of the next book in the volume of our lives, but first, I will savor the ending of this one. I love a good ending.🙏❤️🙌

Phil.1:3-11~3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

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Unwelcome Cross

A court ordered mandate enforced the removal of a cross from the top of a Christmas tree in Indiana this week. The man that filed the lawsuit said it caused him “irreparable harm”. Just seeing the cross as he drove was a source of “unwelcome contact.” It was so unwelcome by him that he went through legal proceedings to have it removed. Imagine the harm Jesus actually endured on the cross for you, for me, and for the man insisting the cross be removed. Jesus is so gracious. His response to the man would be something like, “Father forgive him, for he knows not what he is doing.” He’s way more grace filled than I am. I can think of a lot more colorful, defensive, self-righteous responses. But, thank you Jesus for the Holy Spirit, which enables us to do what we can not do on our own strength. Often He helps us do and say nothing. Phew! Keeping our mouths closed takes divine intervention.😉

The thought of us “not knowing what we are doing” percolated through my mind as I considered the cross. My first thought was, Jesus how can you claim that we don’t know what we are doing? I mean seriously, did the Roman guards not know it was barbaric to beat you, whip you, hurl insults at you, while leading you to a torturous death on the cross? How could they not know??? How brainless did they have to be not to know that kind of behavior is wrong….even if you weren’t the Son of God? But you were…and they did. And Jesus, seriously, how can that man not know getting a court order to remove a small cross from a big tree is…wrong…and lame? Oh, but then the conviction set in. In the words of John Bradford, “There but for the grace of God, go I”.

The thing is, there was a time I was completely blinded to the truth….spiritually blind. I remember rolling my eyes at Christian friends as a teen; laughing at their pursuit of this unknown God. The cross carried no value for me until I met Jesus. In fact, I was agitated by it and felt antagonist toward it…though there was no rational explanation for my feelings. I truly did not know what I was doing.

Even while walking with Jesus, I’ve gotten lost along the journey, and needed Him to set me back on track. I get uncomfortable with the cross too, like the man in the article. It confronts my own behavior, selfishness, judgements and offenses. So much about the cross makes me uncomfortable, but the Bible says to pick up our crosses and follow Him.

When we carry our crosses, we can’t carry much else. There was so much love demonstrated on His cross, such selflessness. At times I’m so overwhelmed by His love that I’m eager to pick mine up. Other days, I’m ashamed to admit, I’d rather remove the cross from the tree, so I can focus on how offended I feel, how wrong someone else is, and throw myself a little pity party. Yet, Jesus so willingly gave it all for me and you, that there isn’t room for petty offenses, grudges, or self-righteous behavior in light of His love. Though my humanness tries to persuade me to speak out, get angry, push back when offended, I can lay the offense down knowing He called me to a different way of living; to carry my cross.

How do you handle the offenses of others? It’s going to happen, a lot, especially this time of year. Christmas can bring about lots of expectations while visiting with family; fuel for big offenses to occur. We have in our minds how things should be, people should speak and behave. Here’s what I know for sure; an offense + a defense = a relational train wreck. If we choose to get defensive and offended by every offense we encounter, we are headed to a very un-merry Christmas.

Our closest friends and family can often feel like our biggest offenders, since their opinions tend to carry greater value than strangers or acquaintances. Great expectations can leave us feeling greatly offended. We expect that they are going to speak and behave differently than last year, but they don’t. We expect they will offer concern, care, or even just a little kindness to us, wrong again. We expect everyone will get along, enjoying all the food and festivities, much of which took weeks to prepare, but that awkward tension remains….it’s like cutting through caramel, only not as sweet. 😬

I’ve felt offended and unknowingly have offended family and friends more times than can be remembered. Unfortunately, I have a pretty good memory, so offenses can often be churned again and again in my mind, leaving a curdled mess in my heart. Nothing good comes from sour thinking.

Jesus set an amazing example for us when it comes to feeling offended. He laid down his life for us while we were still sinners. Think about how offended and defensive He could have been. He was perfect, and yet constantly accused. He offended people by loving them, healing them, working on his day off, caring for the marginalized in society, waiting on His Father’s timing, and claiming to be who He was….God. The gossip train was out of control when Jesus walked the earth, and yet, Jesus refused to hop on. He did not get defensive, wasting energy on what wouldn’t change. He stayed on course; headed toward His Father’s will; a pain filled, arduous journey that no one else could endure. His love fueled that train which lead to His death as He welcomed the cross.

Are you prepared for the possible “unwelcome contact” you might have with family over the next couple of weeks? Will you collide with your offenders, offering up defenses, finding flaw in them, hurling insults, withdrawing emotionally, or starting your own gossip train? There’s a better way. Offer grace, offer forgiveness, offer Jesus in those moments. It will keep you on track and you will be blessed beyond the circumstance by remaining close to the conductor of your soul. You’re bound to have moments of feeling offended this Christmas…just remember the cross atop of the tree. He is why we celebrate. Let Him be why you forgive, offer grace, and understanding. The offense is just a blip on your travel plans. Offer your loved ones the greatest gift, His unconditional love. They don’t need your stuff, wrapped in pretty packaging. They need His grace and if you know Him, you have it to give. Let’s carry our crosses into Christmas. You can do all things through Him!

Luke 23:34~Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Matt. 16:24~Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
1Peter 4:8~Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
Proverbs 19:11~Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.

Avoid The Race

On your mark, get set….the tension is mounting, do you feel it? The Christmas decor is beckoning to be dusted off from attics and storage. Carols are playing, filling our senses with joy, memories, and anxiety for all that needs to be purchased, baked, wrapped, and given. Our days seem shorter and our lists seem longer. What ever happened to Thanksgiving? That day of being grateful for all we have  so generously been blessed with…it’s become a day for the race to begin…..ready….GO!

Martha understood the frenzy. People were coming to her house for dinner, not just “people”, but Jesus! How thrilling, overwhelming and exhausting. I can only imagine what she must have been feeling as she “opened her home to Him.” What an honor. What a blessing. What a frenzied ball of nerves she must have been, like a turkey avoiding the dinner plate. Everything must be in place for such an honored guest. But then, that annoying sister….

Mary, Martha’s sister, “sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.” She just sat there! How rude. Martha is racing around preparing for their distinguished guest and her sister is just sitting, effortlessly at Jesus feet. How lazy, how wrong, how blind Mary was to poor Martha’s full blown anxiety attack. So, like many sisters would do, Martha tattles. She runs to Jesus, like a child, whining of how unfair life seems and demands a change. Commanding Jesus.   It’s like when our kids run to us demanding we reprimand their sibling for whatever alarming offense just occurred. Likely, there is blame to share.

Jesus response touches my own anxious heart. “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…”. Can you hear the gentleness in His voice, the tenderness? He doesn’t scold her or seem indifferent to her temper tantrum. He sees her anxiety and reminds her of what she really needs. She only needs ONE thing…and that is Him.

Oh to sit at the feet of Jesus, enjoying the company of our Father who adores and delights in us. To stop running about with our long lists, checking them twice, trying to be nice…but at the end of the day feeling worn out and more like Scrooge. What if we just sit and linger with Jesus? He is our source of joy, peace and love. Those are the gifts that our family and friends REALLY need, and we have it to offer, IF we receive it ourselves.

Thanksgiving is this Thursday. Don’t race past it my friends. When your internal alarms start sounding, feeling the tension of all that needs to be done, remember Mary. Choose what is better. Wake up in the morning and sit at Jesus feet. Drink in the goodness of time spent with Him so you can pour it out on your family and friends. Don’t put all your hopes into the perfect dinner, or expect perfect behavior from your family, setting yourself up to be perfectly disappointed. Put your hope in the perfect One, who brings perfect peace. You can do all things through Him!

May His peace flood your homes this Thanksgiving. Enjoy your family, friends, food and fellowship. What a blessed life we have been given!

Luke 10:38-42~38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Distortion Glasses

“I see J-Lo.” I can only imagine how challenging it must have been for her to keep a straight face when I said that. The corners of her mouth were doing tug-of-war with the knowledge that this was not a moment for laughter. Honestly, as I think back to that moment, I laugh at myself. It’s like I was wearing distortion glasses; seeing my image in front of a fun house carnival mirror. Sin scrambles the brain.

Yesterday I was at the gym in my Muvz class and the instructor made a random comment,”this is what J-Lo does every morning.” (We were doing a routine full of squats and lunges, to a J-Lo song.) It’s crazy how our memories can get jarred by a simple statement. A memory flickered across my mind in the middle of class. Suddenly I was back in my counselors office 15 years ago, explaining to her that I didn’t want to have a….uhhh, ummm, errrr, J-Lo behind. 😳 I’m embarrassed to admit this conversation, but it’s a reflection of how warped my thinking was at that time.

My brain had been distorted by my own sin. I no longer viewed my own body image, or anyone else’s, in the same way God does. It became my goal to be the perfect weight and shape….a non-existent possibility. The counselor helping me was a wonderful, Jesus follower who had faced her own body image distortion years prior, so she knew all the tricks and blind spots. She had me draw my perceived body shape on butcher paper that was taped to a wall. When I was done she asked me what I thought was wrong with the outline I had drawn…that’s where the J-Lo comment happened. 😬 The only thing I saw on my drawing was a very large, round….well you know. 😉 Apparently, not even J-Lo’s body was perfect enough in my mind. Crazy, I know.

Our minds can get warped and out of alignment with God’s word and we don’t even know it. At the time I believed that I was loving Jesus and worshiping Him from the platform at church almost every Sunday, and yet I was literally dying in my own stinking thinking.

Once I realized I had a problem, I got down to business and did the hard work of cleaning out the garbage I had believed, making room for God’s word to be firmly planted in my mind and heart. It took years to fully embrace my new way of thinking. There are no quick fixes in our healing and growth.  It starts by taking one step in the right direction, and then another step, and then another….until one day you realize that sin no longer has any grip on your life….then you can run freely without any baggage. Not to say that I never tripped and fell along the way. Having partners in this race is vital to finishing well. If I fall, someone is there to help me up and encourage me along the way; reminding me of what is true.

Do you have stinking thinking? Ideas and beliefs that aren’t congruent with God’s word? Maybe you are stuck in a rut and you don’t know it; looking through your own fun house mirrors, unaware of how distorted your vision has become. Pray, ask Him to reveal if there is any offensive way in you. Be sure to check your thoughts with God’s word. These “offensive ways” will lead you down a dark path, unintentionally hurting you and those in your life. To be honest, I thought it felt good to be hungry. It didn’t bother me one bit, though it was hurting my marriage and my body. We can be fooled by our own selfish desires and foolish thinking. The longer you walk in the dark, the harder it gets to distinguish God’s perfect plan and will for your life. You can know Jesus, but not be able to walk in His footsteps…it’s hard to see footsteps when the lights are out.
Cry out to Him, He will set you free, and set you back on track. You don’t have to figure it all out in a day, just take the first step. The first step is always the hardest. You can do it! I’m rooting for you and so is Jesus! You can do ALL things through Him!

Colossians 2:6-7~Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Psalm 139:24~See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1John 1:7~But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Wrong Rights

I LOVE peanut M&M’s. They bring delight to my tastebuds and they are colorful morsels of happiness. On a bad day, like tax preparation day, I have my yellow bag on standby.😉 Now, I know they are not good for me. In fact, there have been articles written about the health hazards of eating to many. Occasionally, I have justified my indulgence by thinking, well, they have peanuts in them, and that’s a protein. Since protein is good for me, I can eat what I want. You could say, it is my right to eat peanut M&M’s, all day, every day, should I choose to.

The interesting thing about “rights” is they can be so very wrong. My body would revolt after awhile, if I chose only to partake in my little round, happy, chocolates. While they do contain  protein, they also have lots of ingredients that I can’t even pronounce; some of which have been linked to cancer.😳 I’ve considered laying down my rights to M&M’s altogether because of the health risks, but I’m a work in progress. 😉

In recent news and social media I have heard a lot about “rights”; women’s rights, immigrant rights, LGBT rights, African American rights, rights to guns, rights of free speech, rights to protest….the list goes on and on. Many of my Christian friends have participated in discussions about “rights”, which has caused me to pray and seek Jesus and His perspective.

In reality, there is a peanut of truth to the discussions about rights.  These discussions are labeled as rights, but I think the desire behind the dialogue is more about value.  Do we all have equal value?  The answer is a resounding YES.  Jesus is about equality of all people as evidenced in scripture, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(Gal.3:28) Incidentally, this scripture isn’t absolving gender identity or the fact that we are born of different cultures.  Rather, it is demonstrating that every life has equal worth, through Christ Jesus.  He is the great equalizer.  We don’t need anyone else to tell us we are valued in order for it to be true…it’s true because Jesus says so. No person or circumstance can lessen our value.  Period.

Jesus also points out our equal need for a Savior.  He openly admitted we all fall short of God’s glory and are in desperate need of His grace and forgiveness. Every person, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, need Him.  Though they have differing views on political policies, they both equally need grace and forgiveness.

Honest dialogue about perceived inequality can be good and healing.  However, there seems to be more behind some of the social media discussions of “rights”; ingredients that are unhealthy for the soul.  There is an angry tone, a loathing, a disgust, an entitlement simmering that is damaging.  There is one who comes to kill and steal away our joy…we have a real enemy, and it isn’t each other.

As a Jesus follower, it is my right and privilege, to lay my life down, pick up my cross and follow Jesus; loving God and loving people.  His ways are often different than popular opinion…especially those displayed in the media.  The news and much of social media has been offering up a lot of spiritual junk food.  It’s of little value and we should be careful about absorbing to much of it.  Allowing ourselves to get caught up in angry finger pointing, is like eating to many M&M’s….it tastes good in the moment but makes you feel awful after. There is no value to it, since it solves nothing, just fans the flames of anger and hostility.

Brothers and sisters of the faith, remember we no longer fight for our rights, but for God’s. We no longer live for us, but for Him and His plans. What ‘right’ do we have to anything?  Is it possible for us to feel entitled to anything more  when God has given us everything in Him? If anyone could have felt entitled, it should have been Jesus.  Being the only perfect person to ever walk the earth, He had that right, but He waved His rights, out of His great love for us. Such humility and grace, I can hardly take it in.

I don’t even have the right to my next breath, unless He gives it to me.  There is no guarantee of tomorrow, or even 10 minutes from now.  Every moment we have on this lovely earth is a gift given from our Father above.  Rather than investing our limited time on endless discussions about ‘rights’, what if we savored each moment, appreciating the people placed in our lives and enjoying our blessings?

Jesus is our model for living and He didn’t debate much, and rarely got angry; leading me to believe we get into the wrong kinds of discussions.  As Jesus followers we need  to be careful that our pride doesn’t swell, leading us to have an unhealthy perspective of “rights” and entitlement.  We ought to get on our knees in prayer, seek Him and maintain a posture of surrender to His will.  We are living  in times that  will challenge our faith like never before.  Be leery of your own feelings which can lead to emotional outbursts; laying down your cross, and hurling stones at one another. Pick up your cross, and follow in His footsteps. He reached out to people in love, humility, grace and truth. If people throw stones at you for expressing love, in truth, He will be your shield and protector. Don’t be discouraged or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you. Keep looking in the mirror and asking God how you can be the best YOU for Jesus, then be the change you hope to see in the world.    We are shining His light, and the enemy would love to snuff us out, giving the impression we are outdated and irrelevant. Don’t fall prey to the lies of the enemy.

Lets choose a healthier diet of “rights” by  loving tirelessly, giving generously, and letting  grace abound. Filter through the spiritually sick ingredients that are being force fed to us through news and social media, and check those ingredients with His word. If the ingredients don’t match scripture, don’t eat them! Throw them out and stand firm in His truth. Don’t look for a loophole, absorbing what is bad for your soul. Accepting what is popular and ‘feels good’ can be the path of least resistance, but there is NO growth in that. It’s just a diet of peanut M&M’s; slowly malnourishing our spiritual health.  Pretty soon, all the absorbed loopholes we’ve ingested cause our lights to dim, and we are no longer distinguishable to the world around us.  Jesus stood out in a crowd.

We will all be accountable for what we did with Jesus. He laid down His very life for each of us….there is no greater love than His. No politician, no civil rights groups, no protestors, no sports figures, no celebrities, no peanut M&M’s will satisfy the hunger we have for true love, value, and justice. Jesus gives it freely and fully.  He hands out healthy love by the bucketfuls, if we are open to receiving it. Recieve the free gift of His love daily and then give it out to those around you.  Don’t get sidetracked by discussions meant to keep you on a merry-go-round to nowhere.  Grab His hand And walk with Him, even though you will stand out and may get insulted or even assaulted. You no longer live for yourself, you live for Him. You can do ALL things through Him! 🙏

John 15:13~Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Gal 2:20~I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Luke 9:23~Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

Isaiah 41:40~So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Pliable Arms

Matt.6:10~…Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

His will vs. my will. It’s an ever present struggle. There’s a song that comes on the radio called “Thy Will Be Done.” Yesterday I was imagining myself swaying with Jesus to that song, dancing and twirling to His lead. He moves forward, I move back. He moves back, I move forward. It was a beautiful image, and all at once, the picture changed. I was sitting on a chair across from Jesus arm wrestling, getting frustrated that there was no possible way of me winning. The image is ridiculous, wanting it my way, and fighting against the pull of God’s plan. It’s like an infant wresting a 300 pound linebacker, only I’m infinitely smaller and He’s infinitely bigger. While arm wrestling matches with God are laughable, I still find myself prone to resisting. Of course, God doesn’t force us to do anything, but He places circumstances into our lives to press back against our will; always for our benefit and His glory.

My oldest daughter could beat me at arm wrestling when she was 5 years old. I’m not kidding. 😬💪 For some reason my arms have never had much strength, even though I’m quite athletic. I suppose I could get stronger in that area, but I tend to focus more on my strengths than weaknesses. Consequently, my arm wrestling matches will more than likely end in defeat, which is fine by me, and brings much joy to my kids.😉

In the same way, I want God to win in my stubborn bouts of wrestling Him over plans for my life. I want to have pliable arms that relax and bend to His will, not mine. I’ve tried things my way, and I’d rather lose the wrestling match than go down my own broken path.

My will is all about ME. It’s often self centered, critical, mis-directed, insecure, and….small. I’ve never been a big dreamer, thinking about grand plans for my life. Never in a million years did I think I would be a pastors wife reaching people for Jesus, helping start two churches. Nor did I think I would lead worship, lead Zumba, speak in front of people….or write a blog! My plans were way smaller than God’s plans. In my mind I never had much to say or offer, just a heart tender to Jesus. It turns out He loves using average people for bigger purposes, and so I’ve learned to flex and stay pliable to His call on my life.  In the process, I’ve experienced the richness of His greater plans;  the sweet  fulfillment  of walking hand in hand with Jesus.

As we flex with God’s plan He strengthens us for the tasks He calls us to. Pressing in to Him, rather than against Him actually broadens our spiritual shoulders to carry more than we ever thought we could, enabling us to try new things, overcome obstacles, and live a life of abandon for Jesus.

I want to be spiritually fit in this life, not weak, wrestling with God over His plans for my life. If He tells me to overcome a bad habit, love in spite of people’s behavior, move forward when I’m sitting still, let go when I’m gripping the steering wheel of my life….I want to surrender to Him. No holding back or holding on to things He’s asking me to release. I’m far to weak to handle the challenges which arise out of the destruction of my own stubbornness.

Are you arm wrestling with God over something in your life? He’s telling you to lay it down, let it go, and move forward. If you’ve gotten off track and are feeling spiritually wimpy, press into Jesus. He’s the ultimate personal trainer. He equips us for every good work He has planned. Grab His hand and ask Him to guide you through your challenges. He speaks words of wisdom, love and encouragement….are you listening? Stop wrestling and start dancing, only let Him take the lead. You can do all things through Him!

Jer.29:11~For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Isaiah 64:8~But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.

Isaiah 45:9~Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker– An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you doing?’ Or the thing you are making say, ‘He has no hands’?

People Pleasing Bites

Some people will love you.
Some people with think, eh, you’re ok.
Some people aren’t going to like you at all.
Just keep your eyes on Jesus. ~Margaret Adams

The people pleaser bug bit me long ago, maybe from birth. As far back as I can remember, I’ve aspired to have people, ALL people, like me. It’s an impossibility. I’ve learned the hard way, and yet, I still get bitten by it from time to time.

People pleasing leads down a yellow brick road with no end, just pitfalls, and greedy, flying monkeys that will pick away at your identity and joy. 🙊😉 It’s the pursuit of making others happy by ‘giving in’ or laying down what we know to be true of ourselves. Approval seeking is expensive, costing us our own identities. It never feels quite right, but can temporarily relieve tension. When we pursue people’s wants over God’s desire for our lives, things get out of whack. The crazy thing is, we do it to ourselves, by excepting the spoken and unspoken demands of others.

This last year I felt the effects of being bitten by my desire to please some unsatisfied ‘friends’. I tried in a variety of ways to earn their approval, and each time, came up short, leaving me frustrated as it became clear there was no stopping their indifferent, lackluster responses. Instead of appreciation, they were quick to remind me of what I wasn’t doing right, what I ought to do more often, and in general, how I could be better….well, better for them. At some point I became aware, I was not meant to please them. Love them? Yes. Earn approval? No. After much prayer and seeking my own responsibility in the matter, I heard God telling me to get off this merry-go-round of approval seeking. Easier said than done for this devout pleaser, but oh so necessary for my own health. Once I hopped off the spinning wheel, I could move forward on the mission God had for me, a mission full of purpose, hope and joy.

Jesus calls us to love Him and love others, but never calls us to win the approval of others. The truth is, many hated Jesus, and He never felt the need to try and please them. He was clear about His mission and knew how He was to go about His journey. He did not cater to people’s demands, only to His Father’s will.

As we seek Jesus, we find Him, and He brings clarity to our own personal mission. He calls us to love honestly, extend lavish grace, forgive freely, and do nothing out of selfish ambition. It’s a tall order, but one we can improve upon as we draw near to Him daily. When we walk closely with Him, we learn when to say yes, and NO. No is not a bad word. It’s a healthy, life giving word, for those of us that struggle with bug bites of approval. While our “no’s” will offend people that want what they want, it is for their benefit as well as ours. Someone else is meant to meet their need….more than likely that person is Jesus.

God can only use us to our full potential as we embrace our identity in Him…not by being transformed by popular opinion. Just keep your eyes on Jesus. His opinion is all that matters. If you’re unclear about how He sees you, search the pages of His word, the Bible. He adores and delights in you. It’s all there throughout the pages of His life giving words. Discover what God is calling you to do and do it with all your heart, then ask God to spray you with people pleasing repellent. 😉 Just say no, in Jesus name. You can do ALL things through Him!

1Thess2:4~On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Gal.1:10~Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Genesis1:31~God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
Jer.29:11~ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.