Friday, July 26, 2013


Have you ever read a story and it just hit home?  Maybe it provided you with hope or a perspective change.  Maybe it inspired you to try something new or different.  Maybe it convicted you about something you needed to change in your life. 

I read a story last week that convicted me.  And it wasn't until after I read it and processed it a bit that I realized God was using this story to convict me about my reaction to my hair cut.  It was God's living and active word playing out in my life (Hebrews 4:12).  Let me start at the beginning. 

While studying the book of Esther, I encountered this story about Haman.  Take a moment to read it.

Esther 5:9-13 New International Version (NIV)

Haman’s Rage Against Mordecai

Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home.
Calling together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, 11 Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials. 12 “And that’s not all,” Haman added. “I’m the only person Queen Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave. And she has invited me along with the king tomorrow. 13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.
My first reaction was "Wow!  Haman has so much to be thankful for and yet he lost all his joy because one man wouldn't bow down to him."  It seemed kinda silly to me at first... until the Holy Spirit gently whispered to my soul, "Heather, this is you.  You have so much to be thankful for... you have received so many blessings this past week.  And you are allowing a hair cut to steal your joy.  You have a bad attitude about it and it's impacting others."  OUCH!  And the Holy Spirit was so right.  One incident changed my entire perspective, just like one incident changed Haman's entire perspective. 

I had mixed emotions.  I was so sorry for my reaction and behavior.  I was also incredibly thankful because in the midst of my hair mess, God was pursing me.  He was true to His character:  compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love (Nehemiah 9:17).  He opened my eyes to sin so I could receive His mercy and grace.  I quickly repented letting God know how sorry I was for letting my hair cut get the best of me. 

Have you ever overlooked your blessings because you were focused on circumstances that you didn't ask for?  Or because you couldn't control the situation?  Or maybe it was because you didn't get your way?  Isn't it crazy how we can let one thing, like a hair cut or not getting the respect that we think we deserve, steal our joy?  Change our attitude?  Transform our perspective?  And once you start down that slippery slope of negative thinking, complaining, rage, frustration... it's hard to stop, isn't it?  Don't you just want to let everyone know how you've been wronged?  How it should have been?  That's what Haman did.  He gathered his wife and friends to tell his story.  And that's what I did too.  I wonder if you can relate...

I'm so thankful that God loves me enough to point out my sins so I can receive His forgiveness.  I wish I could say that after reading Haman's story, I was cured of my negative thoughts.  But it wasn't instantaneous.  I've had to continue to work through my feelings.  And my perspective change is getting easier and easier, especially since I had a hair intervention this week.  What's that, you ask?  It's where you get your hair cut again.  And this hair intervention has completely changed my perspective.  I now look in the mirror and think I look pretty.  The gal who intervened was such a blessing to me.  She listened to my hair concerns.  She added layers, coached me on products that would work with my hair type, and taught me how to work with my bangs and style my new do.  The fact that God would choose to bless me with a hair cut I like... after my bad attitude... just blows my mind.  I don't deserve it, but His scandalous grace intervened.  And His scandalous grace is available to you too.  Have you noticed how God blesses you in spite of your sin?  He. truly. loves. us. so. much! 

I'm a huge Francesca Battistelli fan and her song "This Is The Stuff" reminds me of Haman... and of me too.  Especially these lyrics:

This is the stuff that gets under my skin
But I've gotta trust you know exactly what You're doing
Might not be what I would choose
But this is the stuff You use
To break me of impatience
Conquer my frustrations
I've got a new appreciation
It's not the end of the world
This is the stuff that drives me crazy
This is the stuff, someone save me
In the middle of my little mess
I forget how big I'm blessed
Here's a link to the YouTube video:

So let's resolve that when we are in the midst of our messes, that we won't forget how big we're blessed.  Let us put 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 into practice:  Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.  And know that when our messes overtake our thankfulness, that God is patiently waiting to be gracious to us and show loving-kindness to us (Isaiah 30:18 AMP).  For God promises to never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6)... even in the midst of our messes.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Lessons Learned

God is so good!  He just continues to amaze me with how much He loves.  His love is truly indescribable.  He is so patient.  He is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love (Psalm 103:8).  And I am incredibly thankful for these character traits of God, especially after my hair pity party.  He has encouraged me, convicted me, provided me with glimpses of how He could use my haircut for good (Romans 8:28), and helped me find hope.  I've got enough to blog about for the remainder of the week, so stay tuned...

About midway through my pity party, I started to get mad at Satan.  Really mad.  Why?  Because Satan knows that beauty is my battlefield and he was taking full advantage of a haircut that didn't look the way I hoped.  I was also mad at myself for falling prey to his lies.  And I learned a few things from this.  First, I discovered that I'm not done with this Beauty War.  It was my battleground for years, and it can easily become my battleground again. 

Second, I learned that I actually recognize Satan's lies, which means that I can fight back right away instead of just believing that what I saw in the mirror was reality.  It feels good to know that I don't have to let Satan win.  I feel empowered and I'm determined to fight back.  I even wrote in my journal:  I AM NOT GOING TO LET SATAN WIN.  I AM NOT GOING TO LET SATAN STEAL MY JOY.  Do you think he's intimidated?  I sure hope he is!

When I got in the car, the first song that played was the EXACT song I needed to hear.  It perfectly summarized my past 24 hours.  I love how God speaks to us in so many different ways.  He is pursuing us... chasing us... whispering His truth if we just take the time to listen.  I think I played this song at least 15 times and it makes me smile to know that I'm covered by God's grace in the midst of my biggest messes.  The song that touched me so much is called Good to Know by Francesca Basttistelli.  I wonder if you need to hear this message too?

These lyrics particularly hit home:

 Hello, old friend
I know it's been a while
I'm here again
And it won't be the last time
I fall apart
But You won't let me get too far
You're speaking to my heart

It's good to know
It's good to feel the arms of grace
To know that my mistakes are covered by Your love
It's good to know
It's good to see that You won't change
When it's said and done
You'll always be enough
To know that I can always come back home
It's good to know

Why are these lyrics so meaningful?  Because Beauty War is my old friend and it's been a while since I was engulfed in the lies this much.  And the lyrics reflect that even when I find my way back to the battlefield again, God won't let me get too far.  I appreciate how He opened my eyes to the lies quickly.  I wonder if you have an "old friend" that's paying you a visit.  Know that God wants to help you fight back.  He wants you to feel His arms of grace and cover you with His love.  He's waiting for you to cry out for His help. 

Speaking of crying out to God for help, that's exactly what I had to do because I'm too weak to win the Beauty War on my own.  Trust me, I learned this from years and years on the battlefield.  And how did I cry out for help?  By praying 2 Corinthians 12:9:

2 Corinthians 12:9 Amplified Bible (AMP)

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [a]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [b]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

How encouraging are these verses?  God's strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in our weaknesses.  Will you also invite God to fight for you?  He wants to help.  And His power works best when you are weak.  Take a moment and invite Him into your own battlefield right now. 

Maybe your mess raises its ugly head daily.  Maybe you feel like God is tired of helping you or maybe you think He's ready to give up on you.  Well, that's another lie from Satan.  Let these verses take root and grow in your heart.  They beautifully describe God, who loves you and wants you to experience victory in your own war.

Isaiah 30:18 Amplified Bible (AMP)

18 And therefore the Lord [earnestly] waits [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. For the Lord is a God of justice. 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]!
God longs to extend His amazing grace to you.  And when you humbly come before Him, He lifts Himself up to have mercy on you and to show loving-kindness to you.  He wants you to experience victory. Believe Isaiah 30:18!  And fight from a place of victory.  We can win our wars, with God's help, one battle at time!

Friday, July 19, 2013

ALL Things for Good

Have you ever heard that God works all things for good?  The Bible clearly states this in Romans 8:28:

Romans 8:28 (NET)
And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose,
What is your initial reaction to this verse?  Do you believe it? Doubt it?  Want to understand it better?
One three letter word jumps off the page at me: "all."  Did it stand out to you too?  We KNOW that ALL things work together for good for those who love God... (caps mine).  This verse can be a comfort during times of struggle... or a stumbling block, depending on where your mind goes during trials.  Let me explain how I got to experience God working ALL things for good with my Beauty War this week.  (Check out the post Beauty War Number ... for the story.
For better or for worse, my mom, sons, niece and nephew experienced firsthand the aftermath of my haircut.  They saw the angry tears and knew I was upset.  There was no way I could hide my true feelings because my emotions were quite raw and I hadn't reached fight mode yet.  I was in believing lies mode immediately following my hair cut.
After some processing with my hubby that evening, he pointed out that I may need to circle back with some people due to my behavior.  Not what I wanted to do, but I knew obedience was necessary if that was God's plan for me.  A seed was planted.
And an opportunity arose the next day at lunch.  While seated across from my oldest son and my nephew, I felt the need to address my hair behavior with them.  I shared that one of the lies I've believed during my life has to do with beauty and my hair can trigger those lies.  I explained that I was learning to fight back with truth.  And I asked the boys what lies they believed.  These two eight year olds immediately rattled off lies that filled their heads.  I was in awe of this reality... the lies that we believe take root at such an early age.  My Beauty War began when I got glasses at age 9.  And my son and nephew are already in a battle... Satan is already at work.  But did they know how to fight back?
I posed this question to them... do you know how to resist the lies?  And my son replied, "Satan, I resist you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, you have to flee from me."  Wonder where he heard that before?  It warmed my heart to know that he has some ammunition in his heart to fight Satan... and that my nephew discovered some techniques to fight back too during our conversation.
I then shared my Dog named Satan story (for more detail, check out A Dog Named Satan blog post:  They both got a kick out of me screaming James 4:7 at the dog and how the dog stayed put after I yelled scripture at him.  And they began planning out strategies to defeat the devil in their own creative ways. 
I also shared some Bible Verses to help them in their battles.  Bible verses are filled with truth that can replace the lies Satan whispers.  And as I'm writing this, I'm reminded to spend more time looking up scriptures they can use to defeat Satan's lies.  That way, their swords of the spirit are equipped and ready for action.  Just added that to my To Do list...
You know what?  I'm thankful for my haircut because God used it to teach two precious boys about Satan's lies and how to fight back with God's truth.  God truly did work ALL things for good in my book.  God is so good... I'm just amazed that He could use my tears and anger and bad attitude over a haircut for good!  I'm in awe of His grace and His love and His patience as I learn.  God doesn't expect perfection... He desires us to apply 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV):

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
I've experienced God's forgiveness, healing, and working all things for good this week.  His love for me... for you... is indescribable.  It's jaw dropping.  It's beautiful and constant.  Do you see all the ways He shows love to you each day?  If not, ask God to open your eyes. 
A few final questions for you today... What lies do you believe?  What lies do your friends, family, children believe? 
Are you ready to fight Satan's lies with God's truth?  Is God asking you to help someone else fight lies with His truth?  Then let's take some action!!  Find scriptures to help fight back.  Here are a few to get you started:

2 Corinthians 10:5 New International Version (NIV)

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. 

Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

1 Timothy 4:4 New International Version (NIV)

For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving,

Ephesians 6:10-17 New International Version (NIV)

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

James 4:7-8 New English Translation (NET)

So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
Choose to believe that God works ALL things for good.  Ask Him to show you how He is doing this in your life.  Memorize scripture to help you defeat Satan and His lies.  And have complete confidence that NOTHING can separate you from God's love (Romans 8:38-39). 

1 John 3:1
See what [an incredible] quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are!


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Beauty War Battle Number....

Little did I know that I was going to need the truth in yesterday's post so much today.  One of the messes I've struggled with throughout my life is feeling ugly.  Getting glasses, less than complimentary comments from others, and getting Bell's Palsy all contributed to my Beauty War.  I've struggled with feeling beautiful the majority of my life.  The battle would rage at different times... and haircut could trigger a beauty battle in 5 seconds flat.  And today, after getting a haircut, I was back in my Beauty War again.  Yep, it took no time at all for the tears to fall and for my anger to rise up as I looked at my hair and thought about how much I hated it.  Each mirror I walked by confirmed my fear... that my hair looked awful.  And mind you, my tears were flowing in public.  I quickly realized I needed to head home.

As I was driving in the car, the tears were pouring down my face.  There was a lot of pressure on this haircut because I have a vacation coming up and wanted to look and feel beautiful during the trip.  And as the tears rolled down my cheeks, I knew that I was believing lies from Satan and needed to fight back with God's truth.

You see, I won my Beauty War in the past by repeating biblical truths about beauty to myself in the mirror twice a day – once in the morning and once before bed. Yep, you heard me right.  For weeks, I was talking to myself in the mirror twice a day.  And here’s what I recited to myself:
1 Timothy 4:4 says For everything God created is good.  I am beautiful to look at, shapely, magnificent (or exceptionally beautiful); good, excellent in my nature and characteristics. 
Genesis 1:26-27 says 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness… 27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them. Being made in God’s image means that I resemble, or reflect God1. I’m made in God’s image and that makes me beautiful!

Psalm 139:13-14 says 13For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  I was created with great reverence and heart-felt interest and respect and I am uniquely marvelous.
Zephaniah 3:17 says 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.  The Creator of the Universe delights in my beauty and rejoices over me with singing.  What He thinks about me is more important than what anyone else thinks about me. 
And guess what?  Talking to myself in the mirror really did help me so much.  There’s something about repeating God’s truth while looking at my reflection that helped it sink in.  And God’s truth also exposed Satan’s lies.  This simple daily practice helped me write truth on my mind and my heart. 
So, while in the car, I started reciting some of the scriptures that I wrote on my heart in the past.  It didn't change my  haircut... but it did help me remember that God doesn't look at the outward appearance to define beauty, instead He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).  The scriptures reminded me that I'm beautiful no matter what my haircut looks like.  But I have to confess that when I look in the mirror right now, I'm struggling to see the beauty myself. 
And isn't it just like God to do something surprising.  I had to stop at a bookstore on my way home, so I tried to compose myself before walking into the store.  And what do you know, as soon as I walk in the door, I see a friend from my mom's group at church.  She knows a bit of my story and as I walked up, I started crying again.  She asked me what's wrong and I explained.  She was quick to assure me that it wasn't as bad as I thought and that she thinks I'm beautiful regardless... and she also reinforced that who I am on the inside is what really makes me beautiful.  It was no accident that she was at the bookstore to provide me with truth and encouraging words.  I love how God knows just what we need and provides it during our toughest times.
My encounter with her, combined with prayers and encouraging words from my hubby and best friend helped me remember that I need to refocus my thoughts.  I need to put the Philippians 4:8 funnel into place.  I need to think about what's true, right, noble, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.  My hair is ugly and I hate it should not make it into my heart... because those are the lies Satan wants me to believe.
I'm so thankful that I recognize these ugly lies now so I don't go too far down the pity party path.  It's easy to do, for sure.  In order to avoid the pity party, I tried to reframe my thinking a bit.  Some thoughts I used to replace the lies are:  This experience makes me thankful for good haircuts.  I'm thankful my hair will grow back.  I'm thankful to have hair.  Baby steps, I know, but it's moving my thoughts in the right direction, and that's what counts.
When I got home, I played around with my hair a bit and reached the conclusion that it is not quite as bad as I initially thought. Looks like it's time to start reciting scriptures to myself in the mirror again.  I'm fighting back, and I hope that you will fight back with God's truth too.  Don't believe the lies.  You have the power of God's Word to defeat Satan's lies.  Start by filling your mind with truth.  Read the Bible.  Look up scriptures about your struggle.  Say James 4:7 out loud, with your finger pointing, "Satan, I resist you!  In the name of Jesus Christ you have to flee from me!"  And know that God loves you every single moment... when you believe the truth and when the lies fill your head, God loves you completely and unconditionally all the time.  Let's resist Satan together and show him that he doesn't stand a chance... whether it's a Beauty War, Insecurity War, Intelligence War, or __________________ War.  I'm cheering for you!

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Dog Named "Satan"

My morning walk yesterday turned from peaceful to stressful in a matter of minutes.  I was walking along on the last leg of my journey, thanking God for the black butterfly that fluttered right in front of me while walking up the hill when I saw it... the dog sitting up ahead without an owner.  Let me fill you in on a few things in case you missed my last blog post about being chased by dogs on my morning walk.  (Check out What are you afraid of? for more on that dog chase scene.)  Number 1:  I am not a fan of dogs.  Number 2:  I'm afraid of loose dogs.  So as you can imagine, fear began to creep into me as I contemplated what to do about this loose dog.

Desiring to avoid another chase scene, I decided to cross the street and hoped that the dog wouldn't notice me.  But my red shorts were quite bright, and this dog not only noticed me, but decided to trot across the street and join me.  At this point, I break into flight mode.  If only there was a hidden camera around... I'm quite sure what happened next would have ended up on America's Funniest Home Videos.  So the dog starts to chase me at a slow trot.  No barking, no rabid teeth, just trotting behind me.  And I start running and yelling "Ahhh!  Get away from me!  Ahhh! Get away from me!"  while continuously looking behind me to see if it's working.  Of course, it's not.   Then, hip, hip, hooray, the dog takes a potty break!  A deep sigh of relief pours out of me as I think that it's all over.  But no, this dog was not finished with me yet.  He trots across the street again and my panic meter escalates.  So I do what anyone else would do in this situation... I turn around and shout James 4:7 at the dog while pointing my finger at him:  "Satan, I resist you.  In the name of Jesus Christ you have to flee from me!"  And at that, the dog sat down and stayed put.  I breathed a sigh of relief as a man in the neighborhood asked if I wanted to stay behind his fence for a bit.  Let's just say I was a little bit embarrassed that he witnessed my craziness, but was thankful that someone cared enough to help me. 

When I shared this event with my husband, he named the dog "Satan."  Pretty appropriate name, don't you agree?  Yet as I pondered this event even more, God opened my eyes to the reality of how this dog could be just like Satan.  Think about it for a minute.  Some lie from Satan fills your mind.  You try to resist the lie by walking across the street because you recognize that it's a lie.  But the lie just follows you.  It's not making a big scene or anything.  It just won't leave your mind.  It starts to fill your thoughts.  You start to believe it.  It might go away for a moment or a few days, but then it trots right back into your mind.  And finally, you've had enough and you say out loud, with a voice of authority, "Satan, I resist you.  In the name of Jesus Christ you have to flee from me!" from James 4:7, and peace settles over you.  A scripture to defeat the lie fills your head.  And Satan has lost his power. 

Satan is the father of lies.  Check out this verse that explains Satan's identity so vividly:

John 8:44 (NET)
You people are from your father the devil, and you want to do what your father desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not uphold the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.

Satan wants nothing more than to fill our minds with his lies so we doubt and disobey God.  We can't just sit there.  We have to fight back.  We have the power... the sword of the spirit, God's Word.  Check out these verses that describe our sword of the spirit:
Ephesians 6:17 (NET)
And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Hebrews 4:12 (NET)
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart.

We need to study the Bible, memorize scripture and use that scripture to fight back when Satan whispers one of his lies and continues to trot behind us, whispering the lie over and over again. 

The verse of the day on today fits perfectly with this concept of defeating Satan's lies with God's truth:

So get rid of all uncleanness and the rampant outgrowth of wickedness, and in a humble (gentle, modest) spirit receive and welcome the Word which implanted and rooted [in your hearts] contains the power to save your souls. James 1:21 AMP

God's Word has the power to save our souls.  God's Word, when rooted in our hearts, helps us recognize Satan's lies because his lies go against God's truth.  Let's show Satan that his lies don't stand a chance.  Let's be proactive and memorize scriptures so we are ready for battle.  And remember, you aren't fighting alone.  God is fighting on your behalf as these verses describe so beautifully:

The Armor of God

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  Ephesians 6:10-17

So put on the full armor of God and stand firm as God fights on your behalf.  You've got this!  That dog named Satan doesn't stand a chance. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Be Careful...

On Sunday, my family went on a bike ride at the Biking Park, which is what my boys affectionately call their favorite location for a family bike ride.  It was the perfect evening… sunny with a few clouds in the sky and not too hot.  As the bike ride began, an order began to fall into place.  My hubby with our youngest son went first, followed by our oldest son, and I brought up the caboose of our family biking train.  We went on a three loop tour, which is about 7.5 miles. 

I learned a few things on this bike ride.  I learned that my oldest son is an amazing bike rider.  My heart swelled as I watched him ride.  He was able to navigate the hills, quick turns, and coasting with ease.  I was impressed – especially when people were going the wrong way on the street.  His attentiveness and my momma “Oh, Oh, Ohs!” in the background, to the driver through the open car window, kept him safe in what could have been a dangerous situation.  God was definitely watching over us.

I also found myself coaching him throughout the bike ride.  Since it was a beautiful evening, there was lots of activity at the biking park.  On the pedestrian side of the street, we would encounter runners, walkers, and people walking their dogs, along with cars traveling on the other side of the street.  I would anticipate what was coming and would say “Be careful… watch the people up ahead… be on the lookout for cars…”  You get the picture.  I was a shining example of a momma watching out for her son.  At least I think I was.

And while I could coach him till I was blue in the face, I couldn’t control what he did.  I was on a bike myself, so I couldn’t catch him, or stop him.  I could just use my words to guide him.  I found myself offering up silent prayers throughout the ride.  I wonder if any of you have experienced something similar.

And then a light bulb went on in my brain.  I wonder if I was experiencing some of the things God experiences with me… with you.  I could just picture God behind me, coaching me through life.  Whispering things like “Be careful, Heather, there’s a dangerous spot up ahead.  Watch out for that friendship, Heather, it can pull you away from me.  Be on the lookout for temptations and the way out that I promise to provide.”  I could picture His heart swelling with joy when I do what He says, like my heart swelled with joy watching my son navigate the bike path so adeptly.  This experience brought Psalm 139:5-6 to mind:

I look behind me and you’re there,
    then up ahead and you’re there, too—
    your reassuring presence, coming and going.
This is too much, too wonderful—
    I can’t take it all in! (The Message)

Psalm 139:5-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

Psalm 139:5-6  New International Reader's Version (NIRV)

You are all around me. You are behind me and in front of me.
    You hold me in your power.
I’m amazed at how well you know me.
    It’s more than I can understand.

Don’t these verses just blow your mind?  I love the picture it paints… that we are surrounded by God.  He is in our past, our present and our future.  We are never without Him!  Isn’t it amazing how God gives us glimpses of His character like this?  His love for each one of us is too much for my mind to grasp, just like verse 6 says.  God loves each one of us so much.  But He doesn’t force us to follow His divine instructions… just like I couldn’t force my son to obey my coaching.  We get to choose.  We get to decide. 

Will you choose to follow God’s gentle whisper?  Will you be careful when He warns you of something dangerous up ahead… with a relationship, with a financial decision, with a job offer, with a service opportunity, with…?  Will you choose the way out of temptation that He promises to provide (1 Corinthians 10:13)?  Will you believe that God’s coaching is out of His great love for you instead of thinking He’s withholding something from you?  It’s your decision… and know that regardless of what choice you make, His love for you is constant:

Romans 8:38-39  New Living Translation (NLT)

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Listen closely for God’s coaching.  Choose wisely.  And know, without a doubt, that you are deeply loved by God up above.

Friday, July 5, 2013


The Fourth of July and fireworks go hand in hand.  It's a week long celebration in my neighborhood as people take advantage of the availability of these booming noisemakers.  There are fireworks all week long preparing us for the big day.  I remember watching fireworks on the Belvedere as a child... and being afraid because they were so loud.  I would stand next to my parents with my hands over my ears to soften the intensity.  And apparently, my youngest son takes after me because when he had the opportunity to watch fireworks this week, he chose to play hide and seek inside because he was afraid.  I understand.

I found myself in reflective mode while watching the fireworks this year.  This was somewhat out of character for me, because I'm not one to wonder how things work.  But as I watched the brightly colored explosions, my mind filled with questions like how do they make fireworks?  How do they color them?  What makes them different?  I know, quite random, but that's where my mind went.  And obviously it was a fleeting thought, because I didn't spend anytime on the internet researching the answers later. 

The neighborhood fireworks display that I watched was very impressive.  It lasted about 30 minutes and was filled with a rainbow of fireworks... all different shapes and colors and sizes and sounds.  I forgot how the boom can make your teeth rattle.  And those white, small, really loud fireworks do that to me.  I became intrigued by how unique each firework was... some were huge and had extra sparkles at the end when you thought it was finished.  Others would have a random spark shoot sideways like a shooting star.  Some were colorful... others were loud.  Some crackled after the explosion and others shimmered as they faded away.  You never knew what was coming next.  And it was delightful when the fireworks had a surprise built in.  We oooohed and ahhhed.  OK, I'm exaggerating a bit, but it really was quite beautiful.

The fireworks led me to reflect on God and His blessings.  He's constantly showering us with blessings of all shapes and sizes and colors.  Some blessings make you glow and shimmer long after you receive it.  Others can be small and gentle.  And some blessings even have an added surprise built in that is completely unexpected. You never know what's next in the blessing department, and it's exciting to sit, watch and see what blessings God ignites for you next.

Do you notice the blessings that God is igniting for you each day?  Have you considered how many blessings you miss because you become so used to them that you forget... or maybe you don't even notice the blessings because you're distracted by your circumstances?  How would your life be different if you were actually watching for the blessings, just like I sat and watched for the fireworks to ignite?  Let's ask our Father God to open our eyes and ears so we can experience each blessings He has for us.  And let's take time to thank Him for the blessings we receive.  Here's some verses to encourage us to thank God for the blessings:

1 Thessalonians 5:18
give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 1:3
[ Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ ] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his[a];
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
    and his courts with praise;
    give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
    his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Watch for the blessing fireworks.  You don't want to miss even one... because they are all unique and perfectly planned just for you.  And may your life ignite with praise as you start recognizing the blessings each day. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Bagel Obedience

I had a proud momma moment on Sunday.  You know, the kind of moment when you see your child "get it."  And it all revolved around bagels... yep, you read it right.  Two bags of Lender's Bagels as a matter of fact.  Let me explain.

After church on Sunday, my sons and I stopped by Walmart Grocery to pick up some bagels because we were out.  Lunchtime is so much more pleasant with peanut butter bagels on the menu.  This grocery visit was designed to be lightening speed... go in, pick up a bag of bagels, buy the bagels and leave.  After my oldest son grabbed the bagels, he asked if we could get two bags instead of one since we went through the last bag in about 24 hours.  Now, in case you're wondering about our bagel consumption, I must share that we had company for lunch and that's why they disappeared so quickly.

I agreed to the two bags of bagels.  So he went back and grabbed bag number two.  As we are walking toward the checkout lane, my younger son asked me if he could carry a bag.  My response?  To let my older son make the decision and, as you might guess,  his initial decision was no.  I told him it was his choice, and I challenged him to think about how Jesus would handle this situation.  He got a somewhat contorted look on his face as he wrestled with what to do... should he do what Jesus would do or what he wanted?  After about 30 seconds, he handed one bag of bagels to his brother.  While he wasn't a fan of sharing, he did it anyway because it was what Jesus would do.  After he handed the bagels over, I stopped and let him know how proud I was of him and how God was proud of him too.  He was quick to point out that doing the right thing wasn't always fun. 

My son hit the nail on the head, didn't he?  Obedience... doing the right not always fun.  It can go against every fiber of our being.  We can know what the right decision is and fight it with all we've got.  We can wrestle, justify why we should get our way, list all the reasons we should do our own thing, but the bottom line is it's always best to obey what God tells us to do.  Why?  Because God gave us boundaries out of His great love for us.   He gives us guidelines to follow because He wants us to have the best life possible.  But being the gentleman that He is, God will not force us to obey.  We get to decide, just like my son did.  And listen to this:

Deuteronomy 28:1-2 New International Version (NIV)

Blessings for Obedience

28 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
Did you know that Deuteronomy 28:3-14 lists actual blessings that the Israelites would receive for their obedience?  There are about 30 blessings listed in those 11 verses.  Choosing to obey may be tough at the time, but the blessings from obedience are totally worth it. 
Take my son, for example.  His decision to obey was small in the grand scheme of things.  No one would have gotten hurt if he didn't share the bagels.  However, if he didn't share, he might have experienced some guilt for not doing what Jesus would do because he clearly knew the right decision since he wrestled between the two choices.  And the blessings of his obedience were immediate.  He received praise from me for doing what was best.  And I believe he felt good inside too, even if his face didn't immediately show it.   
So are you willing to obey... even if you don't want to?  Even if it means being different from your friends?  Even if every fiber of your being tells you to disobey?  Because obedience unlocks the blessing.  And if you're wrestling with obedience, cling to this verse:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Ask God to show you the way out when you're tempted to disobey... and then take it.  Run away if you have to... and be on the lookout for the blessings that come from obedience. Because being free from guilt and shame is a BIG blessing in my book.  Don't you agree?