For Freedom

Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.

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Do you know how many times I’ve read this verse?  Lots.  And I’ve never really thought deeply about it.

Like, yeah, it’s kinda obvious, isn’t it?  It’s a verse that’s easy to skip over.

It’s so obvious but yet it is still included in God’s love letter to us.  So now I’m thinking it must be important.  🙂

Maybe it’s because Christ has set us free but we need to step out by faith into that freedom.

Have you been stuck before?

In sin?  Maybe it’s something you’ve tried over and over again to stop doing but you just can’t.  You’re stuck.

In bad attitudes?  Maybe you’re critical of others (or yourself?)  Maybe you have a habit of complaining and you just can’t seem to stop.  You’re stuck.

In guilt?  Maybe you did something in your past that you can’t get over – something you have a hard time forgiving yourself for?  You’re stuck.

In unforgiveness?  Maybe you’ve been hurt so badly that you feel you simply cannot forgive.  You’re stuck.

I know I’ve felt stuck -in fact, right now I’m going through a season of feeling stuck in a couple of areas.  But God’s loving and tender persistence is starting to pierce through.

He’s telling me (and if you’re stuck, too – hear this today, friend):

Christ has {already} set you free!!!!

He knows our situation inside and out, he knows us intimately, and he knows our future.  And he has already set us free.

Let’s not be like that bird that’s still in the cage, even though the door is open!  We are free, now we need to walk in freedom!


 

I’d love to hear from you if this resonated with you!  How can we support each other in walking in the freedom Christ has provided?!?

 

 

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What am I seeking?

What do you most often ask for when you are praying?

Very often I ask God for His direction.  To tell me what to do.  

I ask Him for His peace, His wisdom, His strength, His protection, His provision.

I don’t know why this question or thought came into my head, but it occurred to me recently that maybe I’m not seeking the BEST things when I pray.

So often I’m asking for things God can give me.  Not just asking for Him.

Now don’t misunderstand me, I don’t think it’s a bad or wrong thing to ask God for specific things.  In fact I think the Bible is clear that we should be in prayer about all things.

But God impressed upon me the thought that my prayers need to have the first priority of seeking relationship with Him.

I did a quick search of my bible.  Most of the verses I found with the word “seek” in them talk about seeking God himself, not His direction, peace, wisdom, strength, or any other thing we might want from Him.  WOW!  It was like a light bulb went on for me.

Suddenly Matthew 6:33 looked new as I thought about it from a different perspective – specifically the perspective of how I approach prayer and how I prepare my heart for prayer.  “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

I’m so thankful for God’s divine whispers to me.

What has God been whispering to you?

 

 

 

“Yet I will rejoice”

I’ve had this passage from Habakkuk in my mind since last week.  Initially I wasn’t sure why – it was just a passage I happened across as I was searching for another verse in my Bible.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

“Though the fig tree does not bud
    and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
    and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
    and no cattle in the stalls,
 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
    I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
    he enables me to tread on the heights.”

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This idea of praising God even when current circumstances look bleak is what has been rattling around in my brain.

Life has been rough lately (maybe I’ll share in a future post) – and yet God keeps gently reminding me to look to Him rather than the circumstances.  To praise Him.  To trust Him.

“Yet I will rejoice.”

I thought the last part of this passage interesting- “…he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.”   Like what does this have to do with the part before it?  This part shows up in the Bible three times – also in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18.

The more I think about it and research it, the more I see the two ideas are connected – rejoicing in God in spite of any circumstance, and God enabling us to walk close to Him “on the heights”.  I think the connection piece is the joy.

Nehemiah 8:10  “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” 

We must choose to rejoice in all things.  In return, God gives us strength to deal with all that life throws at us and to “tread on the heights”.

And what does “tread on the heights” mean?  It gives a picture of living our lives above the din of our circumstances – getting God’s perspective from a higher vantage point.  As I researched mule deer and mountain goats – they live in high terrain because it keeps them safe from the predators that live in lower elevations.  That’s what God wants us to do – to not get caught up in our circumstances (predatory though they may be!).  Through choosing joy and the resulting strength from Him – we are enabled to see life from His perspective, keep our eyes on Him, and walk closely with Him.

Thank you for the hope we have in you, Jesus.    

The waves and wind still know His name.

Years ago… I sat in my minivan in the Target parking lot and sobbed after a particularly intense battle with a strong-willed child.

Why hadn’t God changed me, made me more patient?  Why hadn’t God eased this constant turmoil?  Why hadn’t God repaired what was broken in our relationship?

“Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

That’s what Jesus’ disciples asked him that night they were in a boat with him and the storm was closing in (Mark 4:38).  And that’s how I felt that night in the parking lot.

I have been captivated by this story for several years now.  I think it’s because I see myself and my own story reflected in it so clearly.

Here’s the whole story, told in the gospel of Matthew (New Living Translation):

Jesus Calms the Storm

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

Do you have (or have you had) a storm in your life that pulls you down, that threatens to overtake you?

I know I have.  And I’ve often wondered why God has even allowed the storm to begin with.  (or taken it away after I’ve prayed about it the first time, or the tenth time, or the 100th time)

I think this story – and, by the way, it’s told in Matthew, Mark, and Luke – has so much we can learn from!  Why did God send that storm?  He’s in control of all things, his son was in that boat and wanting to cross over the lake – so what was the point of the storm?

Four things I have come to understand after reading and praying and pondering:

The storm gives Jesus an opportunity to display His power.

The storm allows us a front-row seat to be amazed by Jesus.

The storm increases our trust and faith in Jesus.

And the storm helps us learn to turn to Him when we are afraid.

One of the things I think is so cool about being able to read this story from the perspectives of three different writers is that there are different nuances emphasized in each.  Mark, for example, says the disciples didn’t only declare that they were going to drown, but they also asked Jesus if he even cared that they were going to drown!

Isn’t that the way it is sometimes?  Not only are we afraid for the outcome (and at least in my life I assume the outcome is going to be the very worst!), but we are also afraid that Jesus doesn’t even care – that he’s abandoned us.

Jesus, don’t you care?

Haven’t you felt that way at some point?

Here’s the good news:  the answer is always yes.  A resounding yes.

We just don’t always see the bigger picture.

But we must cling to what we know is true – God is good.  He is faithful.  He is with us always.  His plan for us is good.  He is in control.  He loves us deeply.  Our knowledge and wisdom is limited, but His is not.

Nehemiah 9:17 “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”

and words straight from the mouth of Jesus,

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

May we lean into the lessons he is teaching because we know His awesome goodness, faithfulness, and love.  And may we remember that the waves and wind still know his name.

 

 

 

Why “What Impact Am I Having?” is the wrong question.

Yesterday I returned home from MOMcon 2016 in Milwaukee.  Oh, what a sweet, sweet time of communion with Jesus, learning new stuff, and serving moms and MOPS leaders from all over the world.  It is good for the soul!

During our MOPS Volunteer Staff training before MOMcon began, we were challenged to spread kindness by writing notes and leaving them all over where people would find them and be encouraged.  Here’s an example:

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This was so much fun!  Writing them and wondering how the person who found it would react, or finding one yourself and feeling your heart smile.  I think I may just continue doing this randomly around my community!

Anyways, this morning as I was driving my kiddos to school I was wondering to myself what impact all of that had not only on the women who attended MOMcon, but also to the people of Milwaukee.  My thoughts turned more inward-focused, to the question, “what impact am I having in the ministries I’m involved in?”.

And then I quickly realized that’s the wrong question to be asking.

Since I have no power to change lives – only Jesus can do that – why am I asking about it?  As I thought more and more about this, I decided that THESE are the questions I should be asking myself:

Did I seek God?

Did I do what He told me to do?

Did I give it my best?

Because the bottom line is that the results are ALWAYS up to Him.  My job is simply to listen and obey.

I’ve blogged about this before here, but I think of Moses as he approached Pharoah, asking Pharoah to let the Israelites go.  What if Moses over-analyzed after the first, or second, or even eighth time of asking Pharoah, and thought: “well, this whole thing is not having the impact I thought it would so I’m going to give up”?

So often I tend to analyze what I’ve done or been involved in, trying to figure out if what I’ve done has had “results” or has been “successful” (and too often in my mind that is directly linked to, “did it go well or smoothly?”.  But the fact is, God’s ways are above my ways.  He is still working even when things down here don’t look like they are going well.  And truth be told, we don’t even have the capacity to know the full ramifications of the actions we take!

THAT is why we walk by faith and trust in God, not by sight.  As Mandy Arioto (president and CEO of MOPS International) said this weekend at MOMcon, “we live by faith so the world knows that God can be trusted.”

So here’s to walking fully in faith, keeping my eyes on Jesus, and asking myself only if I’ve listened to Him, followed and obeyed Him, and given it my all.

 

What to do when you don’t know what to do.

It was mid-2001.  I had a newborn (my first).  I was beginning to learn that the norm of motherhood is not having all the answers (or, really, any of the answers).

I had also committed to reading through the bible for the first time that year.  I may have been a little optimistic in my goal setting, huh?

I got through Genesis and Exodus pretty easily – after all, they are pretty fascinating stories!  Then I hit Leviticus and to be honest, I started to wonder not only about my level of commitment to this goal, but also about whether or not the Old Testament would have many lessons for my daily life.  I stuck with it.  And was amazed by the store of wisdom from God in those pages.

I remember happening upon the story of Jehoshaphat, King of Israel, in 2 Chronicles Chapter 20.  He  was one of the kings who did seek God – in fact in Chapter 19, he was described as having his heart set on God.  So in Chapter 20 we find him with an opposing nation coming at him intent on war.  And this verse is the one that caught my attention because it resonated with me – verse 21 – “Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  In other words – he was crying out to God to manage this situation because he knew he couldn’t.  He didn’t know what to do, so he did what he was able- he set not only his heart but his eyes on God.

Sound familiar to any of you?  I have come back to this verse again and again through my years of mothering because there are so many times I don’t know what to do.  Can you relate?

The amazing thing in this story is what happens next.  God hears Jehoshaphat’s prayer and answers it by giving a message to Jehoshaphat through someone in his community.  Verses 15-17 share what this man said to Jehoshaphat, “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.  Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  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.”‘

God speaks such sweet words of encouragement to Jehoshaphat:  I’ve got this.  Don’t be afraid.  Don’t get discouraged because you don’t know what to do.  Even though the circumstances look bleak, you will get through this with my help.  I won’t leave you alone.

Listen up, friends.  God is speaking the same words of encouragement to you today.  If you are in a place where you don’t know what to do next, it’s ok!  All you have to do is set your eyes on Him.  Look to Him for guidance and direction.  Trust Him and He will provide.

Four Ways to Feel Angry Less

So as I previously posted, I had spoken about mom anger at a MOPS group last month.  I thought I should take the time to share a bit of what I shared with that group.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I’ve struggled with controlling my responses towards my kids when I’m angry.  Over the years, through trial and error, lots of practice with anger management techniques, and lots of help from the Holy Spirit, I’ve definitely improved.  But along the way I’ve also learned that there are proactive things I can do to help me feel angry less often.

Here are four things you can do to stop angry feelings before they start:

  • Understand Your Anger

Look at your anger as a warning light.  It can be an indicator of changes you need to make.  Ask yourself two questions:  “Are there underlying emotions or stresses in my life that cause me to feel angry?” and, “Are there certain situations or circumstances that tend to trigger my angry feelings?”.  If you track your angry feelings over a period of time, you will likely find common triggers for your anger.  Once you know the triggers, then you can focus on making changes that will prevent or decrease your triggers and result in less anger.

  • Make Time for Self-care

Mothering can be tough and can push you to the limit of your physical, emotional, and mental energy.  If you are feeling empty it is so much easier to act out in anger.  Be sure you are taking time to care for yourself.  Determine what revives and refreshes you, and do it!  Investing in your self-care not only benefits you, but it benefits your family as well.

  • Get Perspective and Support from Friends

Friendships can help you on this journey in so many ways!  Having some deep and authentic friendships gives perspective, support, accountability, and encouragement.  Sometimes your expectations of yourself or your kids are too high, leading to frustration and anger.  Friends can provide perspective.  Friends can support you by praying for you and by holding you accountable for your responses.  Sometimes a hug and word of encouragement from a friend can take you a step further to healing.

  • Seek God in Your Weakness

Struggles can be an avenue for growing faith in God.  Nehemiah 9:17 says, “…you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.”  Getting to know God better and growing closer to Him brings change in our lives because we become more like him.

If you struggle with anger, know that you are not alone.  You are not outside the limits of God’s love, and He can bring change in you.

Tell me, have you struggled with anger as a mom?  What are your best tips for feeling angry less and also for managing your responses when you’re angry?