Choices

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I am in the process of renewing my passport. Unfortunately, the picture I sent was rejected due to a shadow on my face. I had it taken at an official passport processing facility. My first thought was to demand my money back when I had them retake it. I wasn’t happy about having to drive to their location again and take another picture. I called, explained what happened, and they gave me an early appointment today. My frustration subsided overnight and the woman in the office couldn’t have been nicer.

After my appointment, I walked to my car but my eye caught a bench across the street. I don’t know why but I wanted to go sit on that bench. I crossed the street and sat down. After sitting, I began to tear up. I felt overwhelmed by God’s presence. I looked ahead of me and saw the view in the picture above. Before I took the picture, I watched a hawk circle over the mountains. I soaked in His beauty. I cried out in my heart with praise, asking forgiveness and to find guidance. God and I sat and absorbed the morning. I didn’t stay for a long time, maybe twenty minutes. I’m so glad I sat.

Had I kept my anger, I would have missed this moment with God. I would have demanded my money back because they caused me extra time out of my day to get another picture taken. I would have started my day rather grumpy. The tone of my day all came down to my choice in a relatively unimportant decision. Which college I go to and which house to buy, carry much more weight in our lives than do I respond in frustration or grace. However, our daily lives are impacted by those seemingly insignificant choices. The phrase, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” comes to mind but that devalues my feelings in things that may bother me even if they are small. I’d rather say what Paul says in Romans 12:18,

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

If I can choose a peaceful solution, I will. If I can be at peace with minor setbacks, I will. If I can find peace sitting on a bench watching a hawk fly over the foothills, I will. Choose peace.

Dream Big!

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Ineffective and Unproductive

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Those are four-letter words to me. You see I am an Arranger and Achiever and Maximizer according to Gallop Strengths Training. I strive to make every day effective and productive. I am a type-A personality. You know what they mean by A, right? Awesome!!!!  I like to accomplish goals and tasks. These days my to do list can be rather long. I do remember a season when I created a one item to do list each day. When my kids were little, productivity was difficult. However, my personality is one that needs to finish something daily. If I could do one thing, even if it consisted of completing one load of laundry, it gave me satisfaction.

Knowing this about me, you can imagine my surprise when I read the following scripture in Chuck Swindoll’s weekly devotional.

2 Peter 1:5-8 (NIV)

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I love many things in this passage. First off, it says if we “possess these qualities in increasing measure.” I don’t have to have them all or have them all right now. I should be growing in these qualities. As I increase in my goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love, I will be effective and productive. What will I be effective and productive in? My knowledge of Jesus.

I strive to spend time daily in God’s word. I strive to pray daily. I strive to apply what I learn in my readings, sermon listening and other sources of knowledge. These are all ways I know Jesus better. Yet if I am not growing in my faith in goodness, knowledge, …, these efforts are futile. My actions and interaction with others needs to reflect what I’m learning. Follow me here: If I learn about Jesus but don’t live it, my knowledge is ineffective and unproductive. If I learn about Jesus and my faith grows and shows in my daily life, my knowledge is effective and productive.

That’s so cool. I have a way to measure if I am truly growing in my knowledge of God. If I’m growing in the qualities listed above, so is my faith and knowledge of Jesus. For one who likes to be productive, this spoke to me. For you A-type personalities out there, rejoice. This verse supports our drive to excel. For you non-A-type personalities, you can be equally effective and productive, if you are growing with Jesus. However, we were created, to crave accomplishing tasks or to accomplish tasks out of necessity, we both grow in faith.

I hope you followed my logic in this one. If not, my take away is this, know Jesus.

Dream Big!

Phil

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You may be asking yourself who is Phil? I’m referencing Philippians in the Bible which is a letter to those living in Philippi. Recently I have been reflecting on chapter 4 verse 7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I craved peace. Not peace and quiet, even though that is nice too. I sought a deep abiding peace. A calm in the midst of whatever. A solace. An oasis. A place of calm. A quietness in my mind. You know those days, or weeks, when you can’t let it go? Your thoughts keep returning to concerns and/or fears.

I asked my prayer group to pray for me. I prayed myself. When I awoke the next morning, overwhelmed by the presence of peace, I freaked out.

Why was I so calm? The calm before the storm? I must feel good because something bad is coming.

I asked for it but when I got it, I couldn’t accept it. I questioned it for a large part of my morning, then I remembered Phil 4:7.

My prayer was answered and I was missing it. When something transcends understanding, it means it is beyond comprehension. You can receive it. You can accept it. You can sit in it. You can thank God for it. Yet, you can’t quite figure it out.

When I was pregnant with my first-born, I woke up without morning sickness one day. I didn’t celebrate the lack of a queasy tummy but freaked out and called my doctor. What’s wrong with the baby? I don’t feel sick today. The doctor assured me all was well and I should enjoy the day. I didn’t. I worried all day. When I woke up the next morning, feeling sick again, I finally let the worry go. However, I had missed a day where I physically felt great because I couldn’t let go of the concern that something was wrong.

Just like when I felt peace the other day, I nearly missed it. I finally understood peace that you can’t understand. It means, just accept it. Go with it. Have a good day where your cares are lifted and your burden is light. You see, that is a promise from God.

In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden in light.”

My day was easy and my burden was light. He answered my prayer. He honored His promise. Once I realized it, I relaxed into it. I stopped striving for understanding and just let myself have a good day. When my thoughts crowded my mind again the next day, I sought the same peace. He provided it again and again. I just had to ask and receive.

Stop trying to understand. Come to the one who lifts our burdens to find rest and peace. Transcend, by definition, means to rise above. So let’s rise above our burdens and busy minds and accept peace, His peace.

Dream Big!

Quiet Waters

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I learned something significant this week. I am a sheep. Not literally though (unless you believe Webster’s definition that literally can mean figuratively now). I digress. You see, sheep are dependent on their shepherd for everything. I am on a daily journey to rely on my Good Shepherd, Jesus, every day. They are defenseless, a bit clueless and totally reliant on another to guide them through life. I think I may be tough, smart and self-sufficient but I don’t want to go it alone. This weekend, I read Psalm 23 while sitting in my car waiting for the start of my daughter’s soccer game. Here are the first 3 verses from the NIV Bible translation.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he refreshes my soul.

I needed some soul refreshing this weekend. The transition back to school is tough even for the parents, or maybe, especially for the parents. We have had some health issues in our family that have weighed us down. If you live in Southern California, you know the past 2 weeks have had triple digit temperatures non-stop. I’m tired physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. Psalm 23 refreshed me. Most of us know it. We have read it many times before or had it read to us. The part that hit me was He leads me beside quiet waters.

I did some sheep research. Sheep are afraid of rushing water and refuse to drink from a stream. They are afraid of the noise, the movement, and they are afraid of drowning. Sheep can’t swim well and if they have a full coat of wool, they’d be so heavy with water, they would drown. In order to provide water, shepherds need to get creative. Shepherds will divert water using rocks and digging a ditch to the side of the stream, thus creating a pool. It’s the pool of quiet, still water. The sheep will drink from there.

The love of a shepherd for his sheep is visible in the tiny things he/she does to keep the sheep healthy and safe. The love my Shepherd, Jesus, has for me is even deeper. He wouldn’t think twice about creating a pool of quiet water to satisfy my thirst. You see, Him leading me beside quiet waters is to refresh my soul. What do quiet waters look like for humans?

  • Reading God’s Word
  • Listening to God
  • Praying
  • Crying out to God in honest emotion
  • Casting all my cares on Him
  • Admitting my fears and asking for peace
  • Connecting to God’s people a.k.a. my friends
  • A nap

I hope this week you find yourself by quiet waters being refreshed. It’s the only place to be.

Dream Big!

P.S. Here is the whole Psalm is you want to read it all.

Psalm 23

A psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.