It happens sometimes. Perhaps you’ve been there; you are overly fatigued or tense because of something stressful going on in your life and someone crosses you. You get offended or disappointed… and you snap. Unkind, even cutting words fly out as you release the frustration within you.
And then you have to deal with the carnage that is left. Hurt feelings. Broken Trust. Damaged relationships. It all lies scattered at your feet. Even if you had been right, the way you dealt with it was wrong.
As I’ve been tempted to “let ‘em have it”, over the last several months a whisper of a new idea has been ringing in my heart: “Bend, don’t snap.”
The picture in my mind is of a tree branch bearing a heavy load. It has two options:
1. The branch can snap and the load falls and everything is a broken mess – sound familiar? This is what happens when I feel overwhelmed and then one more thing happens and I release my frustration in words --resulting in a big, nasty, broken mess.
2. The branch can bend under the load. I feel like what the Holy Spirit has been whispering to my heart is that God will enable me to bear the load, even though I might feel like it is too much… The truth is He is my source of strength and that I have a choice.
I can decide to bend and not snap.
I recently became reacquainted with this verse and I think it paints the same picture:
And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:24 (NIV)
· Not be quarrelsome – not snap
· Be kind – bend
· Able to teach – bend
· Not resentful – not snap
Imagine how this could help us in our parenting, our marriages, our friendships – even our interactions with strangers!
God calls His followers to be rich in lovingkindness and longsuffering… because that is what He is like. This is how He described Himself to Moses as He passed before him:
“…The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness…”
Exodus 34:6 (NIV)
So today my prayer is, “Lord, help me, when I am tempted to lash out at someone to pause, turn to you instead, and ask for the strength to bear the load, the strength to bend, not snap.”
The first time I went to the Speak Up Conference I was very nervous. I had signed up to give a 15 minute talk and receive a critique. I went to find out if “I had what it takes” to be a public speaker. Dreams, ambitions and anxieties mixed within me, making it challenging to collect my thoughts and do my best. At the end of my talk, what were the first words out of the mouth of the one giving me my critique?
I expected to hear a list of all the things I did wrong. I feared being determined lacking and then sent home. But instead, I received encouragement to continue to develop my skills to deliver powerful messages as well as instruction in how to begin doing so. I was given encouragement when I feared rejection.
And that has been the gift I have received time and time again at the Speak Up Conference.
The community that gathers at this conference creates a hospitable environment for dreams to thrive and next steps to be discerned. Often when we share our ideas people are quick to criticize and point out pitfalls, but at Speak Up there is a culture that believes our God can and does inspire and work through everyday people like us to do amazing things in our own spheres of influence. His love cannot be contained. As it overflows the banks of our hearts, it finds expression in countless ways. And so, we encourage one another to invest in and employ the unique talents the Lord has entrusted to each of us as we walk into the opportunities set before us.
I have often reflected how encouragement is one of the most undervalued spiritual gifts. It’s on the list we find in Romans 12 along with teaching, serving, leadership and contributing and yet I think few of us consider encouragement in the same way we think of those other gifts.
As evidence that the apostles valued encouragement, we look at how they gave Joseph the nickname Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36 NIV). They identified and called out this important gift in this man who was generous with his material resources as well as his affirmations.
And so, as I leave the Speak Up Conference, I am inspired once again to be extravagantly generous in my encouragement of others, to affirm their good ideas and God-sized dreams, to call out the gifts and talents I see in them, and to join in the work of our God who “loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope” (2 Thessalonians 2:16 NIV).
the gift that keeps on giving.
Need some encouragement? Plan on attending speak Up Conference 2016, July 7-9 at the Prince Center at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan!
Okay, full disclosure. Recently, I kind of lost it.
When I say lost it, I mean I lost my way and I found myself with my head down on the dining room table, tears rolling off my nose onto the wood, while confessing to my husband that I didn't know where I was going, I didn't know what was wrong with me, I didn't look forward to anything, I couldn't think of anything I wanted to do, no dreams, no passion… I felt, lost.
I felt like I forgot all the things I knew about God and about life… and I was just overwhelmed. Have you ever been there? I think the people who wrote the Psalms in the Bible have been there. There's a verse in Psalm 61 that says:
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. Psalm 61:2 (NIV)
I felt like I was reaching, but the rock was slippery and I prayed to the Lord, “I’m trying to get on the rock but I keep sliding off! It's so hard to remember the truth, it's so hard to trust… I keep trying to climb back up on the rock but I slip off…”
And then I remembered the story of Peter. Peter tried to walk on the water, but he lost sight of Jesus and fell in… And immediately, immediately Jesus reached in and pulled him up out of the water and into the safety of the boat (Matthew 14:31).
That reminded me of this passage in Psalm 40:
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
(Psalm 40:1-3 NIV)
The truth is, it is not all up to me… I can be overwhelmed, and that does not negate God’s faithfulness. He is the one who will again put my feet on the rock, and give me that firm place to stand. I don't have to clean myself up, I don't have to fix myself… The Lord is taking care of everything. The Lord is taking care of me.
God knows how to deal with those whose hearts have grown faint. How grateful I am that He has faithfully put my feet back on the rock and put a song of praise in my heart… and how grateful I am to know that if I begin to slip again, He will be right there ready; willing and able to help.
My daughter is graduating in two months and I’m a bit of a mess. I seem much more emotional than usual, prone to tears at any moment and a bit irritable when things feel the slightest bit out of control! And then there is the relationship with my daughter. It is changing and I have felt a bit insecure and fearful about finding my place as the balance is shifting, but still has not solidified yet. As I prayed and Micah 6:8 came to mind:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and
to walk humbly with your God.
I recognized a bit of advice for parenting during this time of change:
Act Justly. Do what is right and hold up God’s standards… but in those issues that don’t have to do with God’s standards, don’t hold our children up to our own standards. So many things we differ with our kids about are preferences – not Biblical principles. We should reserve confrontations to the things that have to do with our kids’ relationships to God and His standards… not ours. For example, is it really an issue of justice whether they come to every church meeting? Or how clean their car should be?
Love Mercy. Be compassionate. Be tender. Don’t feel that we have to correct every mistake and perfect our children. And we need to receive mercy from God for ourselves as parents. We need to love God’s mercy for ourselves and let ourselves off the hook for past mistakes (even if they were this morning) and confess whatever sin is on our hearts and receive His love, forgiveness and mercy that we may have it to offer to our children.
Walk Humbly. Be honest about our own shortcomings. Don’t try to be perfect or make our children into some better version of us. Instead, look to God for our answers, strength and help. Trust Him to figure things out.
Please share your tips for navigating the boundaries waters between childhood and adulthood with your teen!
This post is part of the 2015 Pre-Launch Sequence series and follows the post My Name Spellchecks as Jerk.
I remember lying terrified in bed one sleepless night when I was little, clutching my small, squirming dog close to me and sweating through my pj’s while I stared at my closet – watching the handle intently to make sure it didn’t move. I had recently heard a scary story about a mysterious old chest. It was never absolutely clear, but the story alluded to the fact that it captured people. That was when I started needing my closet closed every night and a bright night light. If I could just stay awake and watch the closet door – nothing could hurt me. I just had to keep everything where I could see it.
Fast forward three decades. With my spouse cuddled next to me in bed I no longer need a night light and my closet doors are rarely shut tight. No, all that worry has now moved to the inside. Instead of keeping my eyes peeled and on the lookout, I now have a Worry Search Engine that whirs constantly in the back of my brain looking for signs of trouble. You see, if I constantly keep watch, nothing too bad can hurt me; I can stay ahead of it and avoid great trouble… right?
So, I have a few moments every day, and often one in the wee hours of the morning, where dread washes over me and I think,” What is it? What is the imminent danger?” And I access my Worry Search Engine for the worst possible thing that could have happened. Did I inadvertently break a law? Did I accidentally say something that could have harmed a relationship? Did I forget something important? Did I leave a toaster on in my home? It could be anything – but it is always something I cannot confirm readily, something that is not easily fixed and that makes me feel guilty and helpless.
Yesterday, as I walked out of the grocery store, my brain began to attempt to access my Worry Search Engine and all of the sudden I had a new thought – a bright, shiny, not-from-me kind of thought.
What if I don’t have to identify what the worst thing is that might threaten me in the moment? What if, whatever trouble may come, God is big enough to handle it? I mean, God has been with me through every trouble I have ever faced. He has kept hold of my hand and never let go. What if I can rest securely and then, when trouble actually happens, face it with Him?
“What if?” indeed.
And so today, I wonder if the second step in my new 2015 Pre-Launch Sequence is to turn off the Worry Search Engine and put my trust in God-- instead of myself-- to keep me safe and help me through every trouble when, and if, it comes.
10 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.
Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)
What do you do when your Worry Search Engine starts whirring?
This post also appears on the Women Pursuing God blog series: #BeautifulNew and is part of the series
2015 Pre-Launch Sequence: changing up my morning rituals.
It is absolutely true that if you spellcheck my name, Jeri, it comes up as “jerk”!
I often feel like a jerk. In fact, I realized lately that the prayer I pray on the mornings I don’t take time for a real quiet time with God – the days I’m just rushing out the door - is…
“Lord, please help me to not be a jerk today.”
It’s funny that my highest goal for some days is to not be a jerk. Doesn’t seem very lofty or visionary does it?
I questioned myself to determine what I mean when I say “jerk”… what am I afraid of being?
This week the Lord showed me that my thinking is a bit off. You see, I know in my mind that I am a new creation! I am recreated in Christ! The old has gone and the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17) I’ve been given a heart of flesh for my old heart of stone! (Ezekiel 11:19)
NEW CREATION ≠ Jerk
But I realized I still really believe I am a jerk. Deep down, I do not believe I am a new creation. I am just trying to paste a nice Jesus cover on top of a jerk--like one of those “skins” we buy for our smart phones.
The truest thing about me is what God says about me.
If you spellcheck my name it does come up, jerk… but if you “Truthcheck” my name, it comes up #BeautifulNew.
God’s Truth tells me:
· I am created in Christ Jesus to do good works He prepared in advance for me to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
· I am holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12)
· I am a co-worker with Jesus. (1 Corinthians 3:9)
· That I am a child of light and I shine like a star in this society.
(1 Thessalonians 5:5, Philippians 2:15)
What I believe about myself impacts, maybe determines, how I will act. If I believe I am a jerk, I will act like a jerk. But if I believe what God says about me and if I walk in His power, not mine… I will start to behave like the #Beautifulnew person that I truly am.
So, as I discover new morning rituals the first direction from God is to cease praying, “Lord, please help me to not be a jerk today.”
Instead I have a new prayer:
"Lord, thank you for making me a new creation – one that joins with You in encouraging, loving, and building up others. Thank you that that is the truest thing about me. Thank you for making me #Beautifulnew."
One of the unusual things about me is that at one point in life I had my mind set on being an astronaut. After I spent 10 days at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama I was in love! Life has since taken me on other paths, but once in a while you can see my Space Enthusiasm and Mechanical Engineering Degree peek through… this is just one such occasion.
So I’m viewing my “morning rituals” as my “pre-launch” sequence… what should be the habits I do regularly before I launch into the day? What do I need to do to connect with God and get on his agenda, before my natural inclination to do my own thing hijacks the whole thing?
Now, this is risky ground for me.
I am a recovering perfectionist and compulsive “do-er”, and if I am not careful I can make my morning routine all about the deeds and not about God (the one I am supposed to be using the rituals to connect with.) It’s by faith, not works, we are saved (Galatians 2:16)… and I’ve got to keep my eyes on the Lord.
So, this time, I am trying to let God guide this revamping of my morning routine and see what it ends up looking like. So far this journey has been unpredictable and I am embracing the adventure!
I invite you to join me on this new blog series as I discover a new Pre-Launch Sequence, and I hope as you do so, you will consider updating your own morning rituals and daily time with God and let me know how it goes!
(This article is part of the Wonder-filled Christmas Series)
The story of the shepherds found in Luke 2. These shepherds are out in the fields in the middle of the dark night watching their sheep, when angels appear to them, and God’s bright glory shines about them, and they give the shepherds the announcement that Jesus Christ has been born! It’s hard for me to even imagine this scene, let alone try to explain it! (Read more in the previous post.)
After the angels leave and go into heaven, the shepherds go to Bethlehem where they seek out this newborn Savior.
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
(Luke 2:17-18 NIV)
Wonder and amazement swept through the hearts of those listening as the shepherds told them about Jesus.
After everything the Shepherds had seen and heard, they were filled with wonder and that wonder was contagious! When they shared the news, they also shared the wonder and amazement! And I believe that same wonder and amazement can fill the hearts of those hearing the good news about Jesus thousands of years later!
“…A Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:7 NIV)
“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:14 NIV)
The Shepherds were so affected by what they had seen and heard, and the fact that everything lined up with what the angels had told them, that they returned to their flocks and pastures glorifying and praising God. (Luke 2:20)
Wonder leads to worship.
When I let my heart be filled with the wonder and miracle of Christmas, it begins to sing and cheer! God is bigger than us! He saw we needed Him! And he came… He came to be God with us! No distance was too great, no effort too much… He came to save us! And the wonder quickly turns to worship… if I follow the kids’ lead, take a moment, and enjoy.
What is filling you with wonder this Christmas?
(This article is part of the Wonder-filled Christmas Series)
In the last post I shared how I am looking to be filled with wonder this Christmas. So what has been filling me with wonder lately?
The story of the shepherds found in Luke 2. These shepherds are out in the fields in the middle of the dark night watching their sheep, when angels appear to them, and God’s bright glory shines about them, and they give the shepherds the announcement that Jesus Christ has been born! It’s hard for me to even imagine this scene, let alone try to explain it!
If we apply the tips from the previous post, we should…
1. Follow the Kids. How would a child imagine this passage? Would they hear the sheep bleating? Would the stars be twinkling over their heads and then, all of the sudden, angels! Glorious Light! Praises to God! Angels announcing the birth of a Savior! Peace on Earth!
2. Take a moment. Let’s pause and let this paint itself on the canvas of our mind. Let’s not hurry on to the “point”… let’s give a bit of time for the wonder of everything that is happening to gather in our imaginations as well as in our hearts. Let’s go outside and look at the night sky tonight and recall the story afresh in our minds.
3. Enjoy. Let us smile. Let us giggle. Let us let the tears come to our eyes. Let us sing our favorite song, or a new song of our own, or, perhaps, the song of the angels themselves:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth
peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
(Luke 2:14 NIV)
What’s filling you with wonder this Christmas?
He wouldn’t budge. My son was three years old and we had just dropped off my daughter at Kindergarten. I was leading him on the walk back to our house, but he wouldn’t budge. I tugged a few times and implored him to move before I turned around to see why he had stopped in his tracks. As I looked at him I saw that his little face was looking up at a tree and as my gaze followed his I saw why. It was this tree’s “moment.” It was the middle of autumn and the brightly colored leaves were falling off this tree like snow. Innumerable leaves falling gently down. Falling, falling softly onto the grass. We stood there, two statues, absorbed in this phenomenon we had happened into. There was no one else there, everything felt quiet and still, and I was filled with… wonder.
When was the last time you were filled with wonder?
It doesn’t seem like it happens as much to me now as it did when I was a child. But, I have decided that I want it to! I want to be filled with wonder and awe in my spiritual life. I want my thoughts of God to be reverent, lofty and full of awe.
So what does that mean during Christmas?
The Christmas season is so busy with events, errands and to-do’s to get “to-done!” As a mom, I make Christmas happen at my house, and I love doing it, but with all the responsibility and activity I find it can be easy to misplace wonder at this time of year.
When I think of that moment with my son watching the tree, there are a few things that can help me discover the wonder again this season.
1. Follow the Kids. Children seem more tuned into wonder and awe than adults. We need to pay attention to what they are paying attention to and let them lead us.
2. Take a moment. Wonder takes a bit of time to gather in our hearts. We have to slow down a minute to really let it form in us.
3. Enjoy. We have to let ourselves enjoy it! Our Lord delights to give us good gifts.
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy. Psalm 65:8 NIV
What is filling you with wondering and making your heart sing this Christmas season?
(I’ll be sharing more on wonder as we approach Christmas!)
This article is part of the WONDERFUL Christmas series
Jeri writes about her spiritual journey as she lives out her everyday life.