You’re fired

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No one wants to hear that phrase. Trump popularized it with his “Apprentice” show. I am grateful I have never been fired from a job. I quit a few. In 5th grade, our classroom had a full government setup with jobs, a President, paying taxes, a store, etc. I learned how to write a check, how to balance a checkbook, how to calculate sales tax and much more. I had the job of a banker. I love numbers and math. However, after too many complaining customers (my classmates), I got fed up and tossed down my stack of papers exclaiming “I quit.” Like I said, I learned a lot in the class exercise, including how to control my temper and work with difficult people. It led me to eventually being a team manager in my profession as an adult. With that responsibility, came the possibility of firing someone. Thankfully it never happened. However, after the sermon I heard yesterday, I realized I have fired someone on a regular basis – God.

You see I’m a bit of a control freak. Every time I take control of my life without submitting to God, I’m firing God. Mark Pikerill, pastor at Christian Assembly church in Eagle Rock, shared an amazing sermon yesterday in his Fighting for Freedom series. Here is a link if you are interested – http://cachurch.com/sermons/weekend-message-june-16-17/. Mark, too, is a control freak and shared all the ways he takes control from others including God. This got me thinking how many times I have fired God.

“I’ve got this.”

“No problem.”

“I have my 5 year plan laid out.”

All these things are me handling it all.

Now hear me out on this. I don’t believe that I need to spend weeks or months praying over a decision. I know God has great plans for me to help Him further His kingdom and to create depth of character in me. He wants me to be more like Him in all I do. If I decide to go to college A over college B, it isn’t going to thwart His plans. I feel that if I am immersed in God’s word, aware of God’s character and striving to serve God, the choices I make will be a reflection of Him. I am mature in Christ. I’m not still drinking from the bottle. (See below for Hebrews 5:11-14) I can step out and make decisions. I do pray and ask Him to guide me or to protect me or to make His presence known in the midst of my life. So when I fire God, it’s a matter of me ignoring Him. Me living my life without time with Him. I’m not just avoiding asking Him what He wants, but every time I go out in the world and haven’t connect with God, I’m firing Him.

Last week I wrote about “More God.” I guess I am again this week. More God means I’m not firing Him so much. I may seem to be repeating myself, but it hasn’t fully sunk in for my life yet. Has it in yours? I usually need time to make a change. Incorporating God daily, I usually do. Incorporating God all day, I don’t do. I want to. I want more God. I want God to keep His job. He does it much better than I do. His resume is flawless. So friends, today let’s give God his job back.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

 

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14, NIV

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More God

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I wept on Friday. The service for my friend, Alice Pendleton was last Friday. The love of her family (all the way to great grandkids) filled the chapel. God’s word came from all of their lips. Alice’s influence, because of her deep, abiding love of Christ, touched generations. As most of us do at funerals, we ponder our own existence and influence on this earth. Am I as patient as I should be? Do my kids know God’s love abides in me and they too want a part of that? What do I need to add or remove from my life to make it more meaningful, inspirational, valuable? My answer was surprisingly simple: I need more of God.

I wake up, do my back stretches, make breakfast, feed the kids, and start on whatever chores are before me. Sometimes I find time to read God’s word or listen to a sermon before I get out of bed. Usually I check in with Him at some point in the day. I’m not getting enough God. I love Him. My life does revolve around His ways. I’m just not spending enough time with Him for Him to rub off on me more.

It’s summer. My kids are home. Woohoo. I love it. I am sure in a few weeks I’ll be using their slang and be up to speed on what’s hot in their music and video game lives. They will rub off on me. I want that from God too. For Him to rub off on me more.

I read a devotional on creating habits. The main point is, successful people create a habit and stick with it for the long haul. I need to stretch my back daily. If I don’t, my lower back will spasm and hurt. If I do my stretches, I am good. My doctor told me that most people do their stretches faithfully until they feel better, then they stop. They think they are cured. She said my stretches are for life. I can do that. If it keeps the pain away, it’s worth it.

So it is with God. I am devoted to Him and His word when I’m in crisis or a struggle. When the crisis passes, I give up that habit and don’t engage with Him regularly. I need to remember that my time with God is a lifetime commitment. Not only that, but I like it. I like God. I like learning. I like growing. I like worship. Why am I not making it a daily thing? A million reasons why but nothing more important than God. I seek to make this summer a time to solidify this lifestyle change. I want more God daily. I challenge you to use the “lazy days of summer” to add in a new way to connect with God. It can be reading His word (the Bible), worshiping, journaling, whatever works for you. I just know that life can only be better with more God.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Dream Small???

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I am all about Dream Big! I close my blog with it each week. The other day I heard a song on the radio called “Dream Small” by Josh Wilson. The song messed with my head. I went home and printed the lyrics and pondered his message. The chorus is:

Dream small

Don’t buy the lie you’ve got to do it all

Just let Jesus use you where you are

One day at a time

Live well

Loving God and others as yourself

Find little ways where only you can help

With His great love

A tiny rock can make a giant fall

Dream small

 

OK. I get his point that the little moments in life make a difference. He even says in the second verse “Of course there’s nothing wrong with bigger dreams Just don’t miss the minutes on your way to bigger things.” I can get behind that. While I’m waiting for my novel to be published or to buy my beach house, I need to invest where I am today. I agree with that. However, I think I wouldn’t call it “Dream Small”. I say “Invest your all” or “Live fully where you are today” (that one doesn’t rhyme but it clarifies the message.)

I am grateful for the “small” moments in my daily life. Today I had a nice conversation with the checkout clerk at the grocery store. Last night I sent a text to a mom in need. I often pick up trash that isn’t mine. Those minutes aren’t wasted at all. They made a difference.

However, I must conclude that Dream Big is still the way to go. So just

Find little ways where only you can help

With His great love

A tiny rock set that giant where he lay

Live fully where you are today

(Sorry to change those lyrics Josh – I just can’t Dream Small.)

Dream Big! Pray Big!

My cup overflows

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I love tea. Hot or cold. Unfortunately, at this season of life I am mainly a decaf drinker. Yet, I probably have at least one cup of tea every day. I recently made a mason jar of sun tea. Have you ever had sun tea? You fill a glass pitcher with water and tea bags and sit it in the sun all day. Pour over ice and you have one of the best cups of iced tea ever. I made mine with Lipton decaffeinated black tea. Heavenly.

Recently, I attended a tea party and had the privilege of sharing a bit as their speaker for the event. I spoke about my cup overflows from Psalm 23. I’ll share the whole passage since it’s short and very well-known.

Psalm 23, NIV

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.

In preparation for speaking, I learned what the term “my cup overflows” refers to. In Jewish culture, in Biblical times, the amount of wine poured into your cup indicated the hosts pleasure with you. When travelers would stop in for a meal, the host would eventually serve wine. If the guest was found to be offensive in some way, the host would fill their cup half way, indicating they were no longer welcome. If the cup was filled but not overflowing, it meant the traveler was welcome to finish the meal but it was nearly time to go. If, however, the host overfilled your cup and spilled onto the table, you were welcome at their home anytime and please stay as long as you want on this particular night. The overflowing cup meant your company was desired and welcomed.

So when we see God overflowing our cup in the Psalm, He is tell us we are always welcomed and He desires to be with us. He wants to spend time with us. He loves our company.  Wow. I have read this Psalm a million times. I even memorized it. Before understanding the culture at the time it was written, I never understood the cup part. I just assumed it meant my life was good and full of good things. I never imagined it meant God loves spending time with me and I’m always welcome in His presence. What a gift! What a delight!

I challenged the women at the tea I spoke at to think every time they poured themselves a drink – they are loved and their company is requested by God. I extend you the same challenge. Let your cup overflow.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Hidden Service

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My 17-year-old daughter had a piano recital. She has been taking lessons since she was around 7. She is one of the oldest students with her current teacher. Before the recital, we talked about why even do a recital. I told her for the young children (6-12 was the age range) it teaches them to perform, to speak in public and to share their talents. For her, however, the purpose was to inspire the younger kids. They hear what she can play and how well she presents herself on stage and they can aspire to do that in the future.

Sometimes in life, we do things that are purely for the benefit of others. This recital was that for my daughter. What are you involved in right now that benefits others more than you? Most things we do, we get something out of it. The joy of serving others is truly a benefit. Sometimes we get paid for our service with a gift card to Starbucks or a thank you card. Self-sacrifice, in my opinion, is any time we serve and others benefit more.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to share about God’s desire to spend time with us. I did get quite a bit out of it. A tea time with daughters, friends and new acquaintances, an excuse to dress up and wear a hat, the joy of using my talents for God, an opportunity to sing and financial payment. I got a lot out of this. I believe the attendees benefitted as well. I hope they did. I’m not sure how to weigh the benefit scale, but I don’t know if that’s necessary. I don’t view the day as self-sacrifice. I truly received much in return. Also, I did it because it was what God calls me to do – share His love with others whenever I can and to use my gifts and talents to do it.

I Peter 4:10-11 NIV

10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

What are the gifts and talents you use to serve others? If you aren’t doing anything, start now. The passage in 1 Peter says that our strength comes from God when we serve. When you don’t feel qualified or equipped to do what’s in front of you, God will provide.

Look at your life this past week. See if you had experiences where you served but were unaware. My daughter’s recital didn’t seem like a place of service. Yet when we thought about why she was there, we found her using her gifts to encourage others. Take some time to evaluate those hidden places of service. Also, make an effort to start some intentional areas of service. God has uniquely made you to reach people in areas others can’t. He will reveal those places of service to you as you begin to look at your life more closely and seek places to give.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Go with the Flow

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My Mother’s Day truly exceeded my expectations. I had planned to go to the beach with the kids. I envisioned reading my book, picnic on the sand, playing a bit of smash ball and a scoop of ice cream from Paradis. However, it rained yesterday. It never rains in California but it did – on Mother’s Day. I love the rain. I do. I wish it rained more. I love snuggling and tea and cozy blankets and fuzzy slippers and umbrellas. I especially love the fresh smell outside after the rain. Perfection.

I had to regroup and rethink the day. I honestly just wanted to relax with my kids. No homework looming over their heads. No discussions of how unfair my rules are. No “can you take me here and then here and then here.” No arguing with one another over the front seat of the car. Just a day of relaxation. The beach is my relaxing place. Yesterday, my relaxing place was my children.

Often times in life, we have to regroup and re-strategize when our plans go awry. As a planner, that can be tough for me. “Go with the flow” is not my mantra. The relaxed “go with the flow” just isn’t taking root. I did find a phrase that I can get behind though. It’s found in James 4:13-15 NIV:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”

I can make my plans and say “If the Lord wills.” Much better than “go with the flow.” I can get behind “If the Lord wills.” He knows how my days should unfold. He knows what’s around the next corner. He knows what emotions I will feel and words I will say before I do.

Yesterday, the Lord willed us to relax at home playing games. At a smoothie shop. Bowling. Watching a movie and eating dinner on TV trays. You may think that God doesn’t care about these seemingly petty things. He does. He cares about every detail. He even knows how many hairs are on your head (Matthew 10:30). Someone who cares about something as mundane as counting hairs, cares about how you spend Mother’s Day. My day was perfect. I think it was better than our beach plans would have been. We all were allowed to just be with each other and relax. I have 2 teens and a tween. There isn’t much relaxing in our home. It’s busy. I woke today to the hectic pace of a Monday school day but I smiled from ear to ear. My heart full from a day with my precious children.

If you are “go with the flow,” more power to you. If you are type-A, like me, don’t worry. I encourage both types to try adopting “If the Lord wills.” Our days will be more joyful if we allow Him to guide it.

Dream Big! Pray Big!

Greatest Showman

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I didn’t want to leave. The first time I saw this movie, in the theater, I wanted to stay and watch it a second time. I needed to soak it in a bit more. The story, the themes, the lessons, the music all spoke to me. Last night, I just watched this movie for the second time. This time was at home. The entire family watched it again too. It captured me just as it did the first time. Why?

The music is incredible. The songs tell the story and the actors convey the message so well. The choreography is excellent. My favorite scene is in the bar with Hugh Jackman and Zach Ephron. I love how every clink of the class or stomp of their feet tied in with the rhythm. Incredible. The story is captivating too. Rags to riches to rags to understanding what’s important. It’s about family – biological and the one you create with friends. It’s about acceptance. It’s about dreaming and teaching our kids to dream.

After the show, my son showed me a video called Honest Trailers. It’s a funny movie trailer for popular movies. The trailer makes it very clear this is a fictional story. PT Barnum wasn’t as cute as Hugh Jackman nor as nice as he was portrayed in the movie. I will read a biography on PT one of these days. For now, I like the fictionalized PT. It’s not a documentary so it’s OK they took liberty (a lot) to make him likeable.

If you haven’t seen this movie, of course I recommend it. While you are watching, find the themes that pull on your heart. After the movie, reflect on why. The scene where he allows both of his daughters to dream on their rooftop caught me this time. It was the fact that he let them have their own dreams. One daughter dreamed a big, seemingly unattainable dream. The other, a practical one – ballet slippers. He receives them both even though he has a momentary hesitation on the ballet slippers.  He wanted her to dream bigger. Oh, how I want my kids to dream bigger. Whatever their dreams, I want to support and encourage them. I don’t want to hesitate as PT did. Yet, I understand his hesitation. Dream bigger kids. Dream bigger friends.

Dream Big! Pray Big!