Posted in Devotion

Don’t Be Like Scout

I was just informed that today is international cat day. These holidays don’t mean a whole lot to me, but my friend wanted to know if my cat, Scout, knew that today was a holiday in honor of his kind. My response was that Scout thinks everyday is International Scout Day.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my cat, and he brings me great happiness, but he doesn’t understand that he’s not the center of everything. In his mind, I should be ready to snuggle or play with or feed him when he’s ready for those things. Maybe some animals can sense their owner’s emotions, but he could care less if I am laughing or crying. In Scout’s world, it’s all about him.

Don’t be like Scout.

The Bible stresses humility and kindness toward others. In Philippians 4:3, Paul writes “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves“. The center of our world shouldn’t be ourselves; as believers our central focus should be God. After that we should strive to view and treat others the way God sees them. That includes the people we like and the people who get under our skin. We should be slow to judge and quick to serve others. It should be in our hearts to sacrifice of ourselves to serve others in order to glorify God.

In essence, don’t be like Scout, waiting on others to serve and love you when you need them and then ignoring their emotions and needs.

Posted in Devotion

Seeing Through God’s Lens

I want to see the world through God’s eyes and with the Bible as my point of reference. A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about seeing other people with God’s eyes, but lately I’ve been impressed upon to open my eyes a bit more and see everything and do everything through the lens of the Bible. As a Christian, God calls me to act, think, and speak differently. Everything I do must reflect God appropriately. That means that wherever I go, whomever I come in contact with, and whatever social or career roles I serve become a means for sharing the Gospel message.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2

Why is this necessary for a Christian? Why can’t I simply go to church on Sunday, maybe serve in some kind of ministry, and read my Bible in the morning? The answer is found in that verse: be transformed. To transform is to change entirely. The kind of change God wants from me is the kind of change that requires me to think about everything from a Biblical standpoint. When I read, I should ponder if the text supports or disagrees with what I know about the Bible. When I speak to people, I should try to be a loving example of Christ. When I pick out clothes, I should remember that God always sees what I wear. When I teach, I must remember that everything I say or do is being filtered by the young minds in front of me as truth; I want to be sure I’m speaking and acting in God’s truth.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of the evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 5:45

In order to do this, I must study the Bible and spend time with God in order to discern how his truth guides me. Without God, I am nothing but a feeble attempt at being good. With God, I can be a light that shines brighter than the closest star. I want all parts of my life to reflect God. That means I must examine my heart and ask God to make me clean and pure in thought, deed, and word.

Posted in Devotion

Falling in Love

I remember the moment I accepted Christ’s gift of salvation, but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I really fell in love with God. When I accepted Christ and his gift of salvation from my sins, I said yes that I wanted to start this relationship with him. I acknowledged his pursuit of me, recognized that he wanted to show me love, and desired to learn more about him. That was a decision, but after that it has been a journey of first learning how to be in that relationship and eventually falling in love. It really has been a sweet, sweet time, but it’s also had its rocky moments when I started to stray.

God designed relationships between men and women to reflect his relationship with us. There is a pursuit, similar to how God draws us close to him, and then a period of mutual attraction and interest, much like the time when we are learning about God before complete acceptance. Eventually a decision is made to establish a relationship (the DTR as it might be called), which resembles the moment of acceptance of salvation. After that, though, the couple has to figure out how to be in a relationship, and the relationship grows to love. Through watching movies and people in my life, I know that part is sweet and can also be rocky. Falling in love and maintaining love in a relationship is an ongoing choice to forgive mistakes and see the good in the other person.

Just like in earthly relationships, figuring out the relationship and falling in love with God can take time and work depending on the individual’s background and experiences. Take heart in your relationship with God if you feel like you are messing up on your end or don’t love him enough: God is better than any earthly partner. He’ll never give up on you no matter how long it takes for that falling in love stage to come to completion or how many times you allow something else to become more important than your love for him. God is faithful to forgive, and his love is deeper than any earthly relationship will ever offer.

**By no means am I trying to trivialize a relationship with God to fully resemble human relationships, which are easily flawed. Know that my experience with relationships is limited to the little I’ve experienced and what I’ve watched in other’s lives, but I pray some of this gives you hope and encourages you to fall more in love with God each day until we reach heaven and can love fully like He does.

Posted in Devotion

Steeping My Tea

Yesterday I heard a metaphor that I think will stick with me for a while. When I go to make tea, I boil the water, pour it over the tea bag, and let it steep for several minutes. Alternatively, I could boil the water, pour it in the cup, and dunk the tea bag in and immediately take it out. That wouldn’t make very good tea, though.

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Similarly, I have two options for how I spend time with God. I could take brief and irregular dunks into God’s word and say short prayers sporadically. Alternatively, I could saturate my life with God’s word, spend time pondering the application in my heart, and communicate consistently with him through prayer. Which will make me a better “tea”?

One way to “steep my tea” a bit stronger is to be involved in a good church that challenges me to spend more time with God (and I feel blessed to have one right now).

“I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.” (Psalm 26:8)

“One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4)

When life gets crazy or my schedule gets interrupted, I’ll make a cuppa and remember that in order to be fully “steeped” I have to spend time in the living water. No one likes weak tea, and God doesn’t like a half-steeped follower.

“Send our your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.” (Psalm 43:3)

Posted in Devotion

A Fairy Tale Ending

Someday I’ll wake up to a letter saying that my long lost relative is actually royalty (probably in England), and this letter will reveal to me that I’m actually a princess. It’ll be just like The Princess Diaries. I’ll have princess lessons, and, of course, I’ll be a natural. A fancy hair dresser and his assistants will make my hair and makeup fancier than I’ve ever known. I’ll charm all of the dignitaries. It’ll be magical.

Isn’t that every little girl’s (and obviously some big girls’) dream?

My friends and I pretended to be princesses while we hiked Princess Arch.

It’s a nice dream based in some very real truths. The core of this desire is to be seen, valued, and beautiful. (I can’t speak to understand the male brain, but I’m sure at least part of those desires exist for him as well.) We want to be princesses because God placed that desire in our hearts, and it can only be truly fulfilled by him.

Ladies, we already are royalty! We may not have crowns or castles or even a Prince Charming, but our Father is a King. He’s the High King of everything. He created all the other kings and will one day rule supreme over all the Earth and heavens again.

If we’re already royalty, we should act like it. We’re princesses training to be Queens. We have the ultimate kingly Father as our role model, and he’s given us his Spirit and instruction manual as a guide. We should walk with dignity, kindness, and joy, knowing that the most Royal Wedding is being prepared for us. We are seen, valued, and called beautiful. We are children of the King. Just be patient, keep practicing using the instruction manual he left us, and know that one day God will call us to our heavenly castles where we can worship the king and realize our true regal identity.

P.S. Guys, I think you can claim this royalty as well and live like the children of the king that you are.

Posted in Devotion

Stuff

As I sit in my comfy chair and look around my house, I am amazed at just how much stuff I have accumulated in the short 26 years of my life. Then I think about all of the stuff I’ve had over the years and discarded. I think about the trash I’ve created, and the material possessions I’ve wasted. I’m hit with two thoughts:

  1. I am extremely blessed.
  2. What is the purpose of having all of this stuff?

That second question is what has plagued me this summer as I’ve spent the time doing the “spring cleaning” that I didn’t have time to do in the spring. I have more clothes than I can wear in a month, more books than I could read in a year, and more plates than I use regularly. Some of the stuff surrounding me is needed for physical necessity, some for emotional necessity, and some for creature comforts. But is there a point when stuff starts diminishing my life rather than improving it?

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. Matthew 6:19-20

This advice from Jesus follows directly after teaching the disciples to pray and directly before telling them not to be anxious. The line between just enough stuff and too much stuff seems to lie in the heart. When the stuff in our lives starts to distract us from God or cause us to be anxious then it becomes a problem. We must decide if we are surrounding ourselves with stuff because it helps us to live a more productive life or if we are masking our anxieties about the future. Are we holding on to things because they bring us joy or because we’re afraid of forgetting who we are without them?

One of the hardest things for me to let go of is books. (No big surprise there right?) I’ll read a book, enjoy it, and want to keep it not because I’ll ever read it again but because looking at it helps me remember the euphoria I felt while reading it. There’s a fear of forgetting the pleasant times spent reading. There’s also a bit of pride in owning certain books that make me feel cool or intelligent. Both of those reasons reveal a small heart problem.

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There’s nothing wrong with owning stuff, and in my humble opinion, I could be collecting worse things than books. The problem with collecting stuff is that the stuff starts to take precedence in my heart instead of looking forward to God’s plans. It’s easy to become obsessed with getting the next big thing to impress your friends (or for me, owning the book that everyone is impressed with). As a believer, I must remember that the stuff I accumulate on earth does not define me nor will it make me happy (the loads of unbought books and other junk in thrift stores attest to that fact).

My identity and joy rest in God. The stuff may bring me little bouts of happiness, but that happiness is short-lived compared to the eternal joy I will experience in God.

Posted in Book Review, Devotion

Fleeing from Anxiety

What if he doesn’t show up? What if I don’t like it? What if I forget that? What if I can’t get them under control? And the list goes on.

I often find myself thinking through every detail and possibility of the future in order to attempt to avoid embarrassment or failure. That’s worry. It’s not so much that my fleeing thoughts of worry or anxiety are a sin but that they potentially keep me from trusting God if I don’t push them away. Reading Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing helped me think through my reaction to worrisome thoughts that pop into my mind.

My anxiety stems from a lack of control. I worry when I don’t know exactly how a future situation will pan out. As Lucado points out, those initial thoughts aren’t the problem. It’s what I do after those thoughts that counts. I can either continue to dwell in that dark place and panic, or I can praise God.

I’ll admit, the idea of praising God when I’m anxious seems crazy and a bit impossible, but it’s Biblical.

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I’ll say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to all. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but instead in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-6

The solution is clear: rejoice, be thankful, pray, and allow God’s peace to take over.

Here’s an example. The first day of school always makes me nervous, even though this will be my third year of teaching and my fourth first day of school as a teacher. As the day grows closer, worries about classroom management, likeability, and content knowledge will seep into my thoughts. I can be completely prepared physically, but mentally I will still have anxieties. Knowing what I do about Philippians 4 and remembering Lucado’s admonitions, I should replace those worrisome thoughts with gratitude and prayer to God. Every time they pop up, I need to say a little prayer and breathe a breath of gratitude because my God is in control.

God is in control.

Then comes the second part that helps the peace stick in my mind. Paul goes on to say,

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 on these things. Philippians 4:7-8

Once I’ve given the worries to God through prayer, I have to let them go. The easiest way to let go of something and not grab it back is to fill your hand, or brain in this scenario, with something else. In almost any situation, there is something true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise. On that first day of school, I can focus on the opportunity I have to minister to my students, the training I have received, or the successes of my peers. Even if I’m in a situation where it’s really hard to find something else to think on, I can always think on God because he fills all of those requirements.

If worry and anxiety plague you, even just on occasion, I’d encourage you to get your hands on a copy of Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing, or at the very least, start memorizing Philippians 4:4-8. Christians, let’s show the world that, because of God, we don’t have to live constantly in worry.

N.B. I do want to clarify that I recognize the difference between anxious thoughts and and clinical diagnosis of anxiety. While I believe God can overcome a mental illness, I don’t want to simplify anyone’s pain or anxiety.