Friday, May 31, 2013

An "Elementary" Boost

When was the last time you felt delighted in?  When it happens, it's not something you forget.  It becomes one of those memories that resurfaces from time to time.  It's something you replay in your head.  And it can brighten your day in a big way. 

Today was a day that I felt delighted in.  But I think you'll be surprised by WHO delighted in me.  Any guesses?  Drum roll please... it was my son's Kindergarten/First Grade class.  Who got it right?  Trust me, if I was guessing, this answer would not have been on my radar screen at all.  Are you ready to hear about the "elementary" boost I received?  Here it goes...

Today was field day and I decided it would be fun to take my four year old to watch his brother participate.  Knowing that we would be outside all day, I strategically decided not to take a shower.  I did not want this decision to be overly noticeable, so I washed my face (and didn't even put on one lick of makeup), threw on my pink ball cap, and we were ready to go.

When I walked into my son's classroom, you would think I was a rock star.  (Notice I didn't say look like a rock star... see paragraph above).  And while I might be exaggerating a little bit about the rock star status, lots of the kid's said hi and were excited that my four year old and I were joining them for the day.  (Note that being the room mom does help with this kind of welcome because you are the one who throws the parties.)

One little girl came up to me and told me how much she liked the parties.  Later, that same sweet girl, who embodies joy like no one I've ever seen before, looked me straight in the eyes and said "I think you're nice."  I was so touched... in my book, that's one of the highest compliments you can receive from a gal in Kindergarten. 

But the icing on the delight cake came when my son handed me a note from his best friend.  This note said "You are my best friend because..." and it listed some things he liked about my son.  But his best friend didn't stop there.  The note also included something about each member of our family.  How cute is that?  A seven year old writing a note that includes something about each person in his friend's family is pretty amazing.  The part he wrote about me brought tears to my eyes.  It said "And your mom is beateful." 

For those of you who don't know my story, I've struggled with feeling beautiful a lot during my life.  About eight years ago, I got Bell's Palsy, which paralyzes your face.  And the entire left side of my face became paralyzed.  My face looked deformed as a result of being paralyzed and I knew, for a fact, that I was ugly.  I believed lots of lies during this time.  And one of my biggest fears was that my son would be embarrassed to have his friends over because my face was deformed. 

So the fact that my son's best friend wrote that I was "beateful" in a card... completely on his own... without any prompting... on a day that I was "au naturel"... touched me.  I almost broke into tears whenever I thought about the note during the day.  God used these words to remind me that I am beautiful, just as I am.  And He also showed me that all those fears I had... all those lies I believed... were not reality.  They were just not true.  And how cool that God's messenger today was my son's best friend.

I wonder... does someone you know need some encouragement today?  Do they need to receive an "elementary boost" like I experienced?  How can you be God's messenger?  Instead of just thinking a compliment in your head (I know I'm guilty of this!!), actually say it.  Tell your friend she looks beautiful.  Let your hubby know how much you appreciate him taking care of the yard.  Let your children know you appreciate their good behavior.  Tell the wait staff how much you appreciate them serving you so well.  Look the cashier in the eye and actually engage in a conversation with them.  You never know how much the person might need your "elementary" boost. 

And in case you need another nudge to start boosting others up, check out Ephesians 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Just think how the encouraging words you speak today could build someone up who is struggling, or help someone who's having a bad day, or speak truth to a friend who's fighting lies and needs the "elementary" boost of your words to help them take their thoughts captive. 

Maybe you are the one who needs the boost today.  I've got a message just for you.  From the One who absolutely adores you.  From the One who knows everything about you and loves you just the same (Romans 8:34-39).  .  From the One who pursues you (Luke 15), is compassionate and gracious towards you (Psalm 145:8), and whose love never fails.  Listen closely and let this truth settle deep in your heart:

The Lord your God is with you, He is might to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
He will rejoice over you with singing. 
Zephaniah 3:17

Yep, you read it right.  God takes great delight in you AND He rejoices over you with singing.  Can you hear Him?  Can you envision the twinkle in His eyes?  Can you imagine the smile on His face?  You are delighted in.  Let this be your "elementary" boost... every day.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What are you afraid of?

Do you have any fears?  I actually discovered a new fear recently and I'm going to call it: chased cynophobia, or the fear of being chased by dogs.  Let me explain.  It was a gorgeous morning as I took my regular walk.  I was actually walking about 10 minutes later than usual, and I noticed more activity on this particular morning.  As I rounded the corner, I heard some dogs barking and noticed two dogs were behind a glass door.  The next thing I know, these two dogs pushed on the door and opened it... and they came running at me full speed ahead.  The fact that I'm not an animal person - yep, I'm a "no pets" kinda gal - will explain my reaction.  I immediately started screaming at the top of my lungs and started running serpentine (Madagascar 3 anyone?) into the street.  (On a side note, I did not look both ways when running into the street.  Apparently my fear of being chased by dogs is bigger than my fear of being hit by a car).  As this scenario is playing out, the owner is yelling for her dogs to stop... and she's telling me they won't hurt me.  Unfortunately, I don't believe her because they are barking and chasing me, so her words did not ease my fear.  She finally yelled enough that her dogs stopped and I was able to resume my walk, shaking a bit and breathing hard.  It was quite an adventure to say the least.  I think I should stick to my earlier walk time...

Fear is the opposite of peace, isn't it?  Thankfully, this fear of mine isn't so great that it's stopped me from taking a morning walk.  And I don't panic every time I turn the corner, waiting for another "dog chase girl" scene.  I haven't let this fear consume me.  But fears sure can consume you.  They can take control of your thoughts, your attitude, your activities.  They can isolate you.  They can prevent you from living life to the full.  Living in constant fear is not where I want to be. 

And living in fear is not where God wants us to be either.  Did you know that the phrase "do not be afraid" is in the NIV version of the Bible 77 times?  And the phrase "do not fear" is in the NIV Bible 33 times?  That's some major encouragement to NOT fear.  But why shouldn't we be afraid?  Check out these verses and see:

Deuteronomy 3:22
Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:8
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
2 Chronicles 20:15
He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.
2 Chronicles 20:17
You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”
John 14:27
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.
Hebrews 13:6
So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
Why shouldn't we be afraid?  Because God is with us.  We are never alone.  He is right there, fighting on our behalf.  Can you imagine how different your life would be if you lived free from fear?  If you turned your fears over to God in complete trust and chose to live in peace instead?  What if Psalm 37:5 became your mantra?
 Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass.  Psalm 37:5 Amplified
Letting go of fears won't happen overnight.  And it may not happen in the heat of a "dog chase girl" scenario.  But it is possible... Are you willing to give it a try?  Are you ready to roll all your fears and cares over to the Almighty, All-Knowing, All-Powerful Creator and live a life of peace as you trust Him moment by moment?  He's waiting... 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Exposed by the Light...

Have you ever heard of a dust dance party?  Me neither... until I witnessed it first hand a few weeks ago.  Let me explain.  I was excitedly cleaning my son's room.  (OK, I admit that this is a bit of a stretch, but I was definitely MORE excited than usual because I was using my new dust mitt).  It was getting dark outside, so I turned on his intensely bright desk light so I could see better.  But let me tell you, I did not like what I saw.  In fact, I wish I never turned on the light.  Why, you ask?  Because the glow of the desk light revealed millions of tiny dust particles dancing and twirling around.  And to make matters worse, if I moved my dust mitt, even more dust particles escaped and joined the party.  So basically, I really wasn't cleaning at all.  I was just moving dust around and adding more dust from other rooms.  Yikes!  Needless to say, I did learn a few things.  First, I need to WASH OUT the dust mitt after I use it to ensure the old dust is purged.  And I also learned that if I didn't want to see the true impact of my cleaning efforts, it's best to leave the intense desk light off...

The desk light exposed things that I wouldn't have noticed without it.   This same principle applies in our own lives.  When we venture into the light of Christ, He is able to expose stuff that we might not see on our own... things like sins that would go under the radar if it wasn't for Christ's light shining on them.  Sometimes, the light of Christ can expose things we don't want to see.  Can any of you relate?  I know I can!  And I'm so thankful that when Christ's light exposes my sin that it's through gentle conviction, with a desire to restore me and set me free.  I love that God loves us enough to show us sin so we can confess it and receive His forgiveness.  In fact, 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness."

Do you need to step into the light of Christ today?  Do you need to invite Him to expose sin in your life... either sin that is under the radar or sin that you don't want to see?  Take some time to do this today.  If you're able, find some sunshine and stand in it while you "be still and know that He is God" (Psalm 46:10).  And as you bask in the light, invite Jesus to expose your sins so you can receive forgiveness and cleansing.  Let's invite our Lord to shine on us (Psalm 118:27), because those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame (Psalm 34:5). 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Need a Hero?

Are you a fan of worms?  I'm not.  Bugs, worms, ants... they aren't high on my list of favorite things.  My boys, however, have quite a different perspective than their momma.  They love worms and bugs and ants.  As a matter of fact, my oldest son is a worm hero in my book because he loves to rescue them as they are crossing the sidewalk.  He carefully picks up the worm and then gently places it in the grass.  Hmmm... maybe he needs a superhero shirt for this?

I can honestly tell you that worms need a hero.  Why, you ask?  Because the sidewalks of our neighborhood are covered with dried up worms.  There are too many to count.  And after watching a worm attempt to cross the sidewalk, I began to understand why there are so many causalities.

I witnessed one worm in particular that was on a mission to cross the sidewalk.  I was quite impressed with his strategy to squirm his way straight across.  He was moving!!  But after several squirms, he got off track and instead of heading straight across, he started going down the sidewalk.  And then he headed back to his starting position.  He quickly lost his way and I didn't stick around to see his final destination.  Hopefully he got back on track instead of ending up like so many that went before him.

I wonder if you've ever felt like the worm I observed this morning.  You're on a mission, moving along great, and then something happens.  You get distracted.  You get lost.  You forget where you were going to begin with.  A tragedy happens.  You get some negative feedback.  It's a lot harder than you thought.  You lose motivation because it's taking much longer than you expected.  You...

When you're in that kind of situation, do you ever feel like you need a hero?  Do you wish that someone would carefully pick you up and gently place you in a safe place?  I know I've been there!  It's so refreshing when you're in the midst of a trial and a friend comes along with a scripture that gets you back on track.  Or maybe someone prays for you.  Or you receive an encouraging card.  Or someone gives you a hug and provides a shoulder for you to cry on.

But sometimes a hero doesn't show up.  Maybe you're in a trial and no one is walking beside you right now.  Don't lose hope because there is a hero just waiting to help you.  That Hero is our Heavenly Father.  The Bible is filled with stories of God's love and faithfulness and deliverance.  Just check out the book of Exodus for the amazing story of God saving the Israelites from Pharaoh and all the incredible miracles He performed during their rescue! 

Maybe you need a hero right now.  The Book of Psalms is a great place to get tips on how to rely on the best Hero around, your Heavenly Father.  It's filled with examples of David and others crying out to God in the midst of their trials, inviting God to rescue them.  Psalm 31 provides a great example of David trusting in God during a tough situation: 

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
    deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
    from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
    save me in your unfailing love.

Do you need a hero today?  Cry out to God.  Pray Psalm 31 and personalize it with your requests.  Believe that the Lord is earnestly waiting (expecting, looking, and longing) to be gracious to you; and therefore He lifts Himself up, that He may have mercy on you and show loving-kindness to you (Isaiah 30:18 Amplified).  And rest confidently in the last part of Isaiah 30:18 Amplified:  Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are all those who [earnestly] wait for Him, who expect and look and long for Him [for His victory, His favor, His love, His peace, His joy, and His matchless, unbroken companionship].  Your Hero is waiting to hear from you, so take some time right now to sit in His presence and rest under the shadow of His protective wings (Psalm 91:4).

Monday, May 13, 2013

What's Your Label?

Do you have any nicknames?  In college, I had a rather strange nickname courtesy of my field hockey friends.  Are you ready for this?  It was Dirt.  Yep, you read it right:  Dirt.  Now this may be quite surprising for those of you that know me well, because this city girl does not like to get her hands dirty.  But the nickname did not come from dirty hands.  It actually originated from a potluck where I brought Dirt in a Flowerpot for dessert.  You know, the Oreo cookie, cream cheese, vanilla pudding, Cool Whip concoction?  It was a hit and I was called Dirt for a few years thereafter.  Isn't it funny how we get our nicknames?  I bet you've got some great stories about your nicknames too!

I was reading Judges last week and was intrigued by a label God provided to an unsuspecting man that was hiding in a winepress threshing wheat.  Any guesses on the Bible character?  It's Gideon.  Yep, this unsuspecting man was living under the oppression of the Midianites, so he was threshing wheat in the winepress to keep it from his oppressors (Judges 6:11).  Now, check out what comes next...

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, "The Lord is with you, mighty warrior."  Judges 6:12

I love this verse!  I have to admit that after reading Judges 6:11 (which describes Gideon hiding in the winepress), I really didn't picture Gideon as a mighty warrior... but God did!  And get this... the Amplified Bible translates mighty warrior as "a mighty man of fearless courage."  That's a pretty incredible label, don't you think?

God saw Gideon's potential - God knew who He created Gideon to be... a mighty warrior.  This was Gideon's purpose... his identity.  And before giving Gideon any instructions, God gave Gideon a label... a mighty man of fearless courage.  But that's not all God did.  God also reminded Gideon that the Lord was with him... even before calling him a mighty warrior (Judges 6:12). 

Let's look at Gideon's response to the mighty warrior comment in Judges 6:15:  "But Lord," Gideon said, "how can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." 

Isn't it interesting?  God sees Gideon as a mighty warrior and Gideon sees himself as "weakest" and "least."  Quite opposite ends of the spectrum... And how often is this the case with us?  The Bible is filled with labels for us... Labels like fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), made in God's image (Genesis 1:27), and we are made a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), yet we see ugly when we look in the mirror.  Or the Bible tells us we are chosen and God's treasured possession (Deuteronomy 7:6), we are precious to God (1 Peter 2:4), and God's special possession (1 Peter 2:9), yet we see ourselves as rejected and unimportant.  Or the Bible tells us we can do everything through the power of Christ.  He give us strength (Philippians 4:13 NIRV), yet we believe we are weak and defeated.  We can be just like Gideon, right? 

I have a question for you... what labels do you believe about yourself?  Are your labels consistent with how God labels you?  Or are your labels painted with the graffiti of Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44)?  We have the power to replace Satan's graffiti with the beautiful, new paint of God's truth.    We just have to learn to put 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 into practice:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  (Emphasis mine).

We need to believe that we can defeat Satan's negative labels with God's divine power. We need to take Satan's graffiti captive and paint over it with the positive labels of who we are in Christ.  Are you ready?  Remember, you can do everything by the power of Christ.  He gives you strength (Philippians 4:13 NIrV).  Let's see ourselves through God's eyes... let's believe His labels... and let's choose to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). 

In case you need some help in the label transformation department, here's the song Hello My Name Is... by Matthew West.