To Speak or Not To Speak…that is the Question


Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message:

When Steven was about seven-years-old, we went snow skiing. For hours I instructed him in how to stand up, ski down, and get up once he fell. Steven fell down, and fell down, and fell down. He was not getting the hang of it at all. What’s the problem, I wondered. Then I found out. It was me.

“Mom,” Steven cried, “If you just quit telling me what to do, I think I could get it.”

“Fine!” I said as I skied away in frustration. “Go ahead and do it your way!”

And you know what? He did. Thirty minutes later Steven was cruising down the slopes with ease. See I was the problem. My continual instruction was hindering Steven from working the maneuvers out on his own. The day started out being a skiing lesson for Steven, but ended up being a parenting lesson for me.

Sometimes the most powerful words are the ones we withhold. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7). A wise woman learns the difference.

In the Bible, Esther is a wonderful example of a very wise woman who knew that timing was crucial. After much prayer, fasting and deliberation, she went before the King to make a petition for her people. It was an important request as the entire Hebrew nation was at stake. Rather than grovel at the King’s feet in dismay, she very calmly invited him to dinner. When the King attended the soirée the following evening, once again he invited Esther to make her request. Once again, she invited him to dinner the following evening.

At the second dinner party, the King offered yet a third opportunity for Esther to make her request. Finally, Esther revealed the evil Haman’s plot to annihilate the entire Hebrew nation, which included her life as well. It is an amazing story and I encourage you to read the book of Esther for yourself. But here’s a lesson among the drama. Esther had a very important request for the King. And yet, it was all about timing. Sure, she could have made the request the first time she approached the King and he extended the golden scepter in approval. Yes, she could have made her request at the first dinner party when he offered her anything she desired, “up to half his kingdom.” But there was something in Esther’s spirit that caused her to wait. The time wasn’t quite right.

Even though the Bible doesn’t tell us directly, I believe that Esther was listening to God. I believe the Holy Spirit was telling her to wait. Because she asked herself the question, to speak or not to speak, and then spoke when the time was right, the entire Hebrew nation was saved. That is the power of a woman’s words offered at the right time.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to be silent and a time to speak,” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7).

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

When It Never Feels Like Enough

Thank you Kathi Lipp for today’s message:

As I stand in the middle of Sur La Table, my favorite kitchen store, I pass over the cookware and utensils that beckon me (I’m a sucker for kitchen gadgets.) and head straight for the cookbook I came to get. It’s my stepson’s birthday. Jeremy is a talented chef and I know that the new Alton Brown cookbook will be exactly what he wants.

But then, right there in the middle of the store, I start to panic. Will it be enough?

Will it be enough to show Jeremy how much we love him? Step-relationships can be tricky, and I want to make sure that Jeremy knows he is a priority for me. Will this cookbook, along with the party and the other gift, be enough for him? I start to doubt myself and the book I hold in my hand. So, I start marching around the store, throwing utensils and towels into my basket so that I can make sure the gift looks like enough.

This has been a common theme throughout my life—feeling like not enough. And when I’m feeling like I’m not enough, I hustle by doing more, buying more and trying to be more than I am to make up for my lack of “enough.”

But hustle is the world’s answer to fear: work harder, do more, buy more and you will feel okay.

God’s answer to fear is dramatically different: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV) God wants us to reject what the world thinks—that hustle is what will get us peace—and instead renew our minds. God knows that the world’s pattern will never lead to peace, only the radical, counter-cultural act of replacing our worldly thoughts with His thoughts.

So, when the ugly, broken thoughts of being not enough start to invade my thinking (and my shopping cart) I need to break those patterns of thinking and replace them with these truths:

· The goal of giving gifts is celebrating the person, not building the relationship.

· It is presence, not presents, that builds relationships.

· I will never become more by buying more.

· God has promised He will provide everything I need. I don’t have to hustle when I’m in God’s perfect plan.

God says we are already enough, not because of who we are but because of who He is.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

As a Child in the Presence of a Loving Father

Today we lay my dad to rest.  We will gather together as a family to say good-by again as your ashes are buried.  I can’t believe it has been almost seven months since I heard your voice.  I know you are near every time I hear talk about the “aliens”.  Miss you dad….

Thank you Michele Cushatt for today’s message.

The second the bus stopped at the corner, my little girl climbed off and ran as fast as she could toward where I stood.
Something wasn’t right. She was crying.
Immediately my mind jumped to worst-case scenarios.

Not quite so dramatic, someone told her they didn’t like her anymore. In typical grade-school fashion, the mood of the relationship had turned sour on the playground. As a result, my girl fell out of the other girl’s affection.

There on the street corner, I held her close while she cried. I was glad she told me. But what made me most proud is what she said next: “When we get home, can we cuddle?”

For years I’ve been working with my girl to learn how to ask for what she needs. It’s hard for her, tough girl that she is. Typically she either guts it out or reverts to theatrics. Instead, we’ve discussed how to use words to communicate needs.

That day, on the street corner, she did just that.

If only I could learn to do the same.

Most days I’m glad to be an adult. I mean, really. Who wants to travel back to the days of diapers or pimples?

When I’m hurt or discouraged or afraid, however, my adult skin wears thin.

When bills demand paying and parenting proves impossible. When marriage is hard, friendships struggle, and doctor’s appointments fill a calendar.

Then I wish to travel back in time, when a girl’s greatest fears could be soothed in a mama’s arms. Held close, all was well. To a child, there’s nothing greater than a parent’s ability to comfort.

But comfort doesn’t come so easily to us grownups.

Where do you and I go when relationships wound and the injustice of life stings?

We adults carry such responsibility, don’t we? Such blunt knowledge of the unfairness and volatility of this life. Even if we avoid news and media, fear and pain still have a way of finding us. We can’t escape them.

Ourselves, more often than not. We either erect a false front of strength or cave in to a pattern of complaining. But neither brings much relief.

There’s a better way.

The Bible is rich with examples of men who voiced their needs and asked God for His comfort.

Even better, the Bible nearly explodes with examples of God’s corresponding tireless affection. At times He comforted those He loved through their circumstances, and other times He comforted them in their circumstances:

– To the leader Joshua, overwhelmed by his new task: “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Josh. 1:9).

– To the Israelites enslaved by ruthless Egyptians: “I am concerned about their suffering” (Ex. 3:7).

– To the widow who’d lost her only son: “Don’t cry” (Luke7:13).

– To the adulteress caught in her shameful sin: “Neither do I 
condemn you” (John 8:11).

– To the blind man longing to see: “Receive your sight; your faithhas healed you” (Luke 18:42).

– To the disciples, who ached because their friend would be leaving them, Jesus said: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

– And to those of us who wade through the deep waters of this modern life, longing for a world we’ve heard about but have not yet seen, Jesus promises: “I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

Regardless of your pain—whether physical, emotional, or spiritual— you don’t have to pretend to be strong, nor do you need to succumb to your tears. Become a child in the presence of a comforting Father.

Don’t be afraid to expose your need and ask God for comfort.

Then, count on Him to deliver.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Stop Doubting Your Value

 

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message:

I may look confident and put together on the outside (when I’m not in my yoga pants and a ponytail) but on the inside I often wander back to that little girl who questions her value and wants to make a difference.

There are lots of ways this inner struggle presents itself in me …

I tether my value to how I look.
I tether my value to how my jeans fit.
I tether my value to how I perform.
I want my husband and kids to love me perfectly,
even though they can’t.
I want to love others perfectly, but I don’t, so I 
juggle guilt like a hot potato.
I get distracted and waste time, so I feel unproductive.
I want to make a difference, but I try to do too
 much.

The Bible showcases a perfection that I implement pathetically. Like that love chapter in 1 Corinthians that most of us had read at our weddings. Verses like “love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way” (13:4–5 ESV). Wait, what? Geez! The way I love doesn’t even come close to this list! And then the big left hook smacks me hard: “Love never fails” (v. 8).

The magnitude of God’s perfect love is epic. The magnitude of my love is minuscule.

I try to be patient. I try to be kind. I try not to envy or boast. All of it. But my efforts are less than. I stub my toe on my ego all the time. I get edgy and loud. I insist on my own way. And then I beat myself up!

If I were a better mom, I would’ve ____.

If I were a better friend, I would _____.

If I were in better shape, then maybe _____.

If I were more talented, I would be able to _____.

And because I’m not content with my own body, my own behaviors, and my own abilities, I struggle to see how a perfect God can look past my brokenness. I know in my heart that He loves me, but I sometimes struggle to accept that He likes me, because sometimes I don’t even like myself.

These doubts and insecurities cause me to question my value and my ability to make a difference. They cause me to feel insignificant. Invisible and ineffective.

Yet I know that the Bible says the opposite. And because of this, I’m reminded to, instead, tether my value to truths like these:

I was created in the image of God.
I am sealed with the Holy Spirit.
Jesus loved me so much that He endured a horrific death so I could be saved.
These truths matter. And because they matter, they confirm to me that I matter. And they confirm that you matter too.

Don’t think for one little minute that I don’t sense you bristling up. It’s what we girls do when the spotlight of attention is shined on our significance. We shy away. Throw our hands up to shield the light. Contest with our best excuses …

Some of us contend, “I’m really nothing special. That word valuable makes me nervous. My life is less than. Average at best. Mac and cheese is my jam. I drive a minivan, wear ponytails, use off-brand detergent, and live paycheck to paycheck. Where is the value in that?”

Others of us contend, “I cannot believe you’re going to go there! Did you not read my bumper sticker and T-shirt? I am nothing. Jesus is everything. Hide me in the cross and stop trying to make me feel special. Slap! Slap! Slap! Shame on you for even bringing up such a topic of the flesh!”

Some of us acquiesce: “Okay. Let’s talk. I know in my mind that I’m precious to Jesus, but that often gets lost in translation on its way to my heart. Yes. Let’s have this conversation. I want everything God has for me, and I’m ready to move forward as a woman of greater impact.”

Wherever you find yourself in these responses, my prayer is that you will join our last friend with an expectant and curious heart. With a heart that is ready to move forward in the truth of your significance so that you can live out the purpose for which you were created.

 

A Light in the Dark

Thank you Michele Cushatt for today’s message:

“Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” ~ John 20:21

The last thing I planned to do that day was to leave my house.I had a mountain of writing I’d neglected and only a small window of time to complete it. I planned to hole up at home, ignore email and phone, and get the job done.

But then the phone rang. And I answered it. Which led to a spontaneous lunch with a friend who needed to talk. It wasn’t in my schedule, but I jumped in the car and headed out anyway. I knew what it feels like to need a last-minute listening ear.

But lunch took longer than I planned. Doesn’t it always? A sweet afternoon, no doubt about it. But worry over my waiting responsibilities continued to nag me. So I jumped back in my car and pointed it straight toward home. No detours allowed.

Until my phone rang again. And I answered it. It was a work call I’d been waiting for. So I pulled into a coffee shop parking lot where I could talk business without distraction.

Nearly an hour later, I hung up. By now it was well into the late afternoon with my to-dos untouched. Thinking a chai tea latte might energize me; I backed out of my parking space and turned into the drive-through.

Only the drive-through was closed. In the middle of a weekday afternoon. Dear Lord, how was that possible? If I wanted my pick-me-up, I’d have to walk inside.

Once again I parked my car in the lot. Frustrated, I glanced at my watch as I walked inside.

That’s when I met Lindsey.

Lindsey is a beautiful barista. And when my frustrated self walked up to the crowded counter, she’s the one who greeted me with a smile.

“What can I get for you?”
More hours in the day?
“How about a grande chai tea latte?”
“Sure thing.” As she pulled out a fresh cup, Lindsey let me know they were now customizing their standard chai. As a result, I could choose my desired sweetness.

In a rare moment of stranger transparency, I mentioned how happy I was about the customization option, because of the fact that multiple surgeries have taken away most of my taste. I can’t taste sweet, making added sugar pointless, I told her.

Lindsey paused, sucked in a breath, and whispered, “You’re not that woman who wrote that book, are you?”

My turn to pause, inhale. “What book?”
“Undone?” I don’t think she could’ve said it any softer.
“Actually, yes.” I smiled big. “So nice to meet you!”
And that’s when tears filled her eyes. She went on to explain the week before, she’d heard me tell my story on a radio interview, an ordained moment and message God delivered on a day she desperately needed to hear it.

“That has nothing to do with me,” I smiled again. “That’s all Him. He loves you.”

She nodded in agreement. And then said my showing up in her coffee shop on this particular day was nothing short of a miracle.

If she only knew.

From the moment the day began, God orchestrated my seemingly errant details to interrupt my well-planned day. Instead of allowing me to hole up at home with my list of to-dos, He sent me out. To a beautiful barista named Lindsey.

A coincidence? No way.

Now, months later, I’m pretty sure all that divine orchestration was for me and not her.

You see, most days I feel a strong urge to hide. To buffer myself from the vulnerable life. There are moments when reality weighs heavy, and I feel overwhelmed with a world that’s gone mad.

You know what I mean, don’t you? The wars and economic woes and tragedies and diseases and accidents. Even beyond all the dramatic evidence of this broken world are the everyday challenges of simply trying to love and live. More often than I care to admit, I want to nestle into the protection of anonymity, hide in a shelter of my own making.

And yet, we weren’t given a light to hide it.

Our stories weren’t written for our own reading any more than the sun is for one person’s shining. We’ve been given stories—broken and beautiful stories—so a broken and beautiful world can see there is a God who’s written a story for them too.

Including baristas named Lindsey.

We’ve been sent, you and I. We’re message bearers, storytellers, light givers.

None of this can happen if we hide, content to keep our stories to ourselves. There is a great big world waiting to know there is a God who sees and loves them too. Will we leave safety in order to be sent?

The sending is hard, that is true. Both risk and rawness come when we allow God to push us out of hiding and into the light. It means sharing in the suffering of others. Opening yourself to rejection. Facing and feeling the brokenness of a world we once believed was nearly perfect.

And yet I shudder a bit when I think how close I came to staying home that day. How easy it would’ve been to keep the door locked, stay in my car, and refuse to walk inside those coffee shop doors, keep my lips shut about my story.

How close I came to missing out on God’s sweet gift through His sending. Because in offering Lindsey a glimpse of God’s love, I got a taste of it for myself too.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!