A Different Kind of Gratitude


Thank you Holley Gerth for today’s message…

The sky outside is a dense, soaked grey today. It reminds me of earlier this year when my husband and I watched from our living room window as menacing clouds rose up in the distance then stretched their fingers tentatively toward the ground. We live in tornado country and we don’t take such sights lightly. Flipping on the television, we heard the weatherman telling us to find a safe place as he pointed to splotches of red on the map. We went to our designated spot and took a moment to pray as the tree limbs began to sway outside.

The dark masses soon gave way to brilliant blue again. The wind quieted, and we stepped back into the rhythm of our routine. It was not until hours later as I curled up in my cozy bed under a pile of warm blankets that it occurred to me to say “thank you” to God for what didn’t happen that day.

I mentally scrolled through the list of other disasters I’d narrowly missed in life. The bad-news boy I had a huge crush on as a teenager. The suspicious test results that worried the doctor but turned out to be nothing at all. The countless times I’ve asked God to keep my husband safe as he headed out for a bike ride and then watched him walk back through the door sweaty and smiling hours later.

And, yes, I understand that even if the storm wreaks havoc, the unwelcome diagnosis comes, or the heart gets broken we are still to say thanks. I have experienced firsthand the mysterious, hard beauty that can come from tears and ashes. But the place where I seem to most often miss an opportunity to be grateful is when everything turns out fine and I just go on my merry way.

God invites us to say thanks then, too. First, simply because He is worthy of it. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good” (Psalm 106:1). What He prevents in our lives is just as full of gifts as what He allows.

Also, this kind of gratitude can cure so much of our discontent. When I think of how I could be suddenly homeless after a storm, I smile a bit more at the roof over my head and don’t notice that stain in the carpet as much. When I recognize I might be in the hospital instead of sitting in a little coffee shop with my computer, it puts that envy-provoking picture on social media into proper perspective. When I think of all the turns my story could have taken, the rocky patches in the road of my relationships don’t seem quite as much like boulders.

I want to remember to express my appreciation for all that’s right in front of me—many provisions, memories being made, dear friends and family. But I also want to thank God for all that isn’t there, for what could have been if things had gone another way or even if I had always gotten my way.

Yes, gratitude is about what we can see. But I’m learning it’s also about what, thankfully, will never be.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Comparison Highjacks Contentment

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message…

We live in a culture of constant comparison. Someone tweets that they just had lunch at a fab restaurant; you had canned tuna and raw carrots. Not even baby carrots but a big ole carrot out of the bag.

Someone posts an Instagram of a gaggle of friends dressed in Lilly Pulitzer pink lunching by the lake, and you’re reading about it dressed in sweats, trudging down the grocery aisle with a snotty-nosed kid pawing at the cereal displays.

You pull up Facebook and read about Barb’s vacation in Paris, and you’re happy for her . . . sorta.

A woman looks at Pinterest boards, and comes away with her greatest fears confirmed: her kids look shabby, her house looks dumpy, and her clothes look frumpy.

Social media accentuates the culture of comparison by sending the false message that your monotonous tedious boring existence is a poor excuse for living compared to others whose lives are awesomely exciting all the time. Secretly you hope your husband never stumbles across Pinterest to realize what a loser of a wife he really has. Mercy!

Social media breeds instant comparison at the click of a button. Comparing who has more “Facebook friends,” “re-tweets,” “followers” and “re-pins” is maddening. The age-old comparisons of appearance, accomplishments, possessions, and position are still around. Technology has simply magnified the access to other people’s lives, even though you’re only seeing what others want you to see.
Then there’s Christmas letters. Photo cards of friends and family with letters detailing every wonderful milestone of the previous year. We read them and think, “My life stinks!” That letter doesn’t tell about Brian getting suspended from school for cussing in the classroom, Megan getting caught lying about studying at a friend’s house, Brie’s on-going battle with depression, Dad’s loss of a major account, or Mom’s twenty-pound weight gain. Just the highlights. Only the good stuff. We read it and say, “good for them.” All the while thinking, “what’s wrong with me?”

Comparison is the devil’s tool that he uses to undermine your confidence and kills contentment like nothing ever will. It magnifies insecurities and fosters a self-absorbed pre-occupation of your inadequacies. As one pastor said, “One of the main reasons we struggle with insecurity is that we’re comparing our behind-the-scenes with everybody else’s highlight reel.”

Comparison sullies the canvas upon which God longs to display His greatest work. Nothing will rob you of your confidence in Christ like comparison. The measuring stick will get you stuck every time.

I love what Jesus said when Peter asked about John’s future. (Yes, he was comparing his future with John’s) “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:22) In other words, “It’s none of your business! Stop comparing!”

Have you ever wondered why Jesus picked such a ragtag bunch of blundering blubbering misfits to be his disciples? Even though they stumbled their way through much of the gospels, once they were filled with the Holy Spirit, this uneducated, unrefined, untrained bunch of unruly fishermen changed the world. A few days after Pentecost, the Jewish Supreme Court questioned Peter and John about their persistence in preaching the gospel and their audacity to heal a beggar lame from birth.

The dynamic duo preached a mini-sermon that struck the religious rulers to the core. But here’s my favorite part of the entire scenario: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The Sanhedrin leaders were mystified at how this bunch of scrappy saw-toothed misfits could wax so eloquently. Then they had an ah-ha moment. They realized the men had been with Jesus. That explained everything.

That’s what I want people to say about me! She’s an unschooled ordinary girl. How does she do what she does? Oh, I get it. She’s been with Jesus! Can you think of any better accolade? I sure can’t.

Let go of the tendency to compare and take hold of your uniquely fashioned, pre-ordained, God-given talents and abilities. You are specifically equipped by God to do everything He has called you to do and to go through. Including being the mom your kids need.

Then when the world questions how you do what you do, they’ll say, “Oh I get it…she’s been with Jesus.”

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

When Comparison Kills Confidence


Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s message:

If there’s one thing I know it’s this: The measuring stick will get you stuck! Comparison is the devil’s tool that has stopped many of us gals from stepping into our God-given destinies…and it’s time to stop!

You know I’ve been camping out with Moses by the burning bush for over a year while writing Take Hold of the Faith You Long For. When we meet up with him in Exodus chapter 3, he is an insecure, stuttering recluse. He argued with God and told Him that he was not a good speaker.

But, Moses hadn’t always been so insecure. Look what Stephen said to the Sanhedrin: “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action” (Acts 7:22). He was powerful in speech? That’s what The Book says.

So what happened? Moses failed and bailed and ran away to Midian. Thought he deserved to be there. Got stuck there. He forgot his pre-ordained preparation and his God-given ability.

Oh, I wish I was sitting right there with you and we could just chat and throw around ideas. For now, I’ll just ask you this question and maybe one day we’ll sit and have a long talk.

How do you think that Moses came up with the idea that he was not a good speaker? Here’s what I think. I think that Moses came up with the idea by comparing himself to other people he thought were good speakers.

It’s the same way with you and me. Comparison opens the door for sabotaging lies to steal our confidence, stymie our courage, and stand in the way of our contentment. Comparison puts up roadblocks along the path to fulfilling our God-given calling by setting an undefined standard of approval and acceptance.

We fear the REJECT stamp will come crashing down with wet ink that mars all of life. We fear that we are perhaps fatally flawed as confidence seeps through the holes of insecurity punctured and punctuated by comparison.

We compare our abilities to someone else’s and come to this conclusion: I could never do it like she does it. And you know what? You were never meant to! God doesn’t need two people just alike. He has uniquely and precisely created you with specific gifts and talents to do exactly what He has called you to do. So get good at being you!

David wrote: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:13-14 emphasis added).

He knew what full well? In these particular verses, David wasn’t praising God for the way He flung the stars in the night sky, set the spinning earth on its axis, or stocked the oceans with sea creatures of every kind. David was marveling at the magnificent masterpiece called David. Me. You. He knew that full well.

You are God’s workmanship. His masterpiece—His grand finale of all creation. Do you know that full well? You are amazing!

Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Gal. 6:4–5, MSG).

Listen; if God didn’t put it in you, then you don’t need it to do what He has called you to do.

If God didn’t make you eloquent, then you don’t need to be eloquent to do what He’s prepared for you to do.

If God didn’t make you a good speller, then you don’t need to be a good speller to do what He’s prepared for you to do.

If God didn’t place you in a home where you were the apple of your daddy’s eye, then you don’t need to be the apple of your daddy’s eye to be all God wants you to be and do all He has planned for you to do.

One pastor said: “One of the main reasons we struggle with insecurity is that we’re comparing our behind-the-scenes with everybody else’s highlight reel.” I promise to show you the film on the cutting room floor. See, I cut them out, but God picked them back up, brushed them off, and inserted them back into the reel. “These are some of my favorites,” He explained. “The scenes you would rather no one see are the very ones that will help women see Me.”

God knows your inadequacies and your insecurities. He knows what caused them and who caused them. He saw you before you even had them. Yet He chose you before you were born for a purpose—to fulfill a plan in a predetermined point in time (Acts 17:26).

So let’s let go of comparison and take hold of our God-given uniqueness!

You’re amazing!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Unlocking the Power of Praise

Thank you Rachel Wojo for today’s message….

My 21-year-old daughter, Taylor, stares at me as she sits propped up in her hospital bed. Not many young adults would ask for a hospital bed in their room, but she hasn’t been able to ask me for anything in 15 years. I attempt to read the communication in her eyes and will her body language to reveal her needs and desires. She’s been a frontline disease fighter since birth and since age 4, we’ve faced the eventual outcome of no cure and no treatment. My thoughts turn to prayer, an instinctive reflex I’ve cultivated for all these years, but somehow, I can only be silent.

Though I can find no words in the moment, I long for God’s presence. Just as my girl will move her leg over to touch mine so she can simply know that I am here, so I find myself seeking moments to be still and know that He is God and yes, He is here. I remind myself that prayer begins with praise. Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Your Name.

How do I find words to praise God when my child, my heart existing outside my body, is suffering? Limbs that once ran everywhere have withered down to skin and bone. Hands that once grabbed with lightning speed can barely hold a sippy cup to her mouth. Voice box that once chimed “Mom-my” is lost, never to be returned on this earth. Though together we’ve practiced gratitude day after day, frankly, we are running out of things to be thankful for.

But Jesus didn’t begin His prayer with thanksgiving. And the praise didn’t begin with things God has given. Nor did it begin with God’s work. Jesus first reminded God of Who He is. With this epiphany, the prayer that I couldn’t begin starts to form as I grip my girl’s hand. Just as Jesus began his prayer with words of adoration, so my prayer reflex is stimulated to follow his model.

Praise is the most powerful tool in our prayer arsenal. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. (Hebrews 13:15, NIV) As today’s truth explains, the blood of Jesus sacrificed on the cross provides our direct access to God. As a result, we are privileged to enter the presence of our Father and whisper praises directly to Him! When we stand before the Almighty God, we come as we are. It doesn’t mean we have a complete understanding of His work in our lives. It simply means our hearts are trusting and believing Him to be the ever-present, never-changing God who loves us beyond our comprehension.

When we can’t find praise in our hearts because we don’t understand what God is doing, we can always praise God for Who He is. He is the God Who never changes and has loved us since the beginning of time. Praise Him!

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

I am Offended and Hurt

Thank you Kelly Balarie for today’s message…..

She put me down, right there in front of “all them.” Sure, it was subtle, but it was real and … worst of all, it wasn’t the first time. In fact, every time I encourage others around that one particular subject, she circles right back and shoots it down. You can’t get one thing past her.

Hmph! Well, if she’s going to put me down like that? Well…I’ll show her. I don’t have to put up with this.

I thought about leaving the gathering. But I didn’t. I just sat there, internally fuming, while externally smiling.

Later, when I got home, I wondered why I even bother speaking up, encouraging others or taking the risk to be open and honest. Women always hurt me. Like that one time I shared the vulnerable details of my heart, only to get word it was being passed through the meat grinder of women’s chattering mouths. Or the other time when I shared my hurt and it was misinterpreted and stomped upon by those around me. Or worst yet, when I shared about God and felt all the crawling judgement of others walking up and down my body.

The more I think about all this, the more the problem bothers me. And worst yet, I fear: what if the real problem is – me? Perhaps it’s not their issue, but my fatal-flaw issue. One I was born with. What then?

I must not be good. I must be unlikable. I’ll always have this problem.

When I look deep within myself, I see faults:

I sometimes seek to impress others.
I hate feeling like people aren’t approving of me.
I never want to be seen as one doing wrong.
I have a hard time when people disagree.
I feel like less of a person when I’m not adding value.
I feel worthier when God is using me for important things.

Yet, when I look a level deeper I see something else. Yes, I am flawed, but not fatally – thanks to Jesus. I say things wrong, but I am always wanted. I make mistakes, but I am always loved. I do need to say, “I’m sorry,” but I am always forgiven.

I am not the sum of what I do, but the product of how I’m loved by Jesus.

The same goes for you. Love pours out of you, because Love came for you and conquered all. He taught. He led. He bled. He died. He was buried. He rose to heaven. For you.

With this, we no longer have to create perfect love that demands perfect responses from others. Instead, we can rest in Him who is perfect love. We can trust His love to compel us. We can breathe deep and gain perseverance and endurance from the endlessly beautiful gift he extends to us. The gift called, “sweet relief.”

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!