Facing the Future or Fearing It?

Thank you Kathi Lipp for today’s message.

Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:33-34, ESV).

When I was a young adult, I would often tell myself, “When I become really successful, I will give away so much money! I will support orphans and the needy. I need to work hard so that in my later years, I can do a lot of good in the world and for God’s kingdom.”

At the same time, I was in a constant battle: me versus my stuff. My home was stuffed to the brim with things I bought and used (or not). I would try and try to declutter, but everything in my house, to me, was completely essential. Maybe not right now; I couldn’t get rid of anything that I might need, someday. It seemed wasteful to have bought the heart-shaped muffin pan, use it once, and then give it away. (What if, five years later, I had another child who wanted little heart shaped cakes for Valentine’s Day?) My entire house was brimming with “what ifs.”

So as my house kept bursting at the seams, my plans I had to care for the poor never magically happened. I knew the next step was to earn more money so I could serve the poor and buy a bigger house so that we weren’t always so crowded, and I could concentrate on loving others well. Right? Isn’t this what the world tells us?

All of this was faulty, future thinking. Instead of doing what I could, in the moment, to serve those right in front of me, I kept saying “someday.”

  • About my clutter.
  • About my helping the poor.

When it came to clutter, “What if I need it someday?” is the cry of the fearful heart. Because for the fearful heart, what we once decided would be “enough” to start helping the poor, “enough” to have in our homes, will never be enough.

The only way we will have enough in our homes, enough to help those who need the help, is to get to the place where we trust the God who has already given us so much.

It took me well into my forties to believe — really believe — that I could get rid of the “extra” in my house, the “just in case” in my house, without fear. Have I given away a few things I needed again? Occasionally. In those instances, I’ve had the peace of knowing that my extra was being used by someone else who needed it, and I could, if I really needed it, buy or borrow those items again.

But the most exciting part of this journey has been the ability to help people — not “someday” but right now.

Instead of selling our couch that was still in wonderful shape and people had offered to buy from us, we were able to give it to a single mom who just moved to our community.

And when our friend was raising funds for clean water in Africa, I had a piece of jewelry (given to me by someone who was no longer in my life) that I was able to sell for money to help build a well.

I would rather carry these acts in my heart than extra stuff in my house.

Don’t let your abundance be what you put your trust in. Instead, trust your abundance to God.

Have a blessed day!

Show, Don’t Just Tell

My Battle With Pride

Fear Has a Really Big Mouth!

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message…

I often try to quiet fear by pretending it doesn’t exist. Clever… I know. But alas, it does exist and that’s not always a bad thing. To the contrary, it can actually keep us safe in proper context. When my house was struck by lightning and lit with fire, fear sounded an emotional alarm, insisting that I escape – and fast. In this instance, fear was good. It kept me safe.

In many instances, however, fear is not good.

I’ve found that while it’s natural to be afraid at times – human, even – it’s best to not allow feelings of fear to consume and control large spaces of real estate in my heart. David handles the intersection of his fear and faith nicely.

In Psalm 56, captured by the Philistines in Gath, and in Psalm 57, hiding in a cave to escape the pursuit of Saul, David sifted through honest feelings of vulnerability and desperation. I imagine his reality was one of shaky hands, pulse raging wild and brows soaked in sweat. Yet fear was silenced as he made the powerful decision to redirect his emotions toward a more productive, more faith-filled response when David chose to trust God.

By choosing to trust God in the hiding and in the chains, David’s fear shifted to faith.

Faith shuts the mouth of fear.

“When I am afraid, I will trust you.” (Psalm 56:3, CSB)

“You yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will retreat on the day when I call. This I know: God is for me.” (Psalm 56:8-9, CSB)

These weren’t just flippant statements or memorized verses.

These were sturdy declarations.

Deliberate choices made by a deeply determined worshiper. The kind of choices that change and calm a frantic heart. The kind of choices that speak peace to anxiousness. The kind of choices we can make when we’re afraid. The kind of choice we can make when fear screams loud within.

Bring it.

Fear is a liar.

We can choose faith, knowing God is for us.

Decision made.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

The Art of Confrontation

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend ~ Proverbs 27:6

Dan and I just celebrated 42 years of marriage. And every single day has been filled with peace, marital bliss, more peace … and I need to stop right there before a bolt of lightning strikes me dead!

Dan and I have a great marriage – most of the time. Honestly, there have been days when I have thought about getting in the car and driving away. I am sure there have been more days when Dan has had the same thought. We have weathered some severe storms in our marriage, and it is only by the grace of God that we still love and respect each other after all these years. We are best friends – flawed and frail humans who say and do stupid, hurtful things. But we work hard at our marriage and let me tell you one thing – a good marriage requires hard work. We are committed to each other and to making the rest of our marriage the best part of our marriage. It didn’t start off that way.

Before Dan and I were married, I noticed several rough edges that needed to be sanded away and felt like I was just the one who could do it. After all, that’s what wives are for, right?

I decided to lay low for a few months, lulling Dan into a false sense of security and giving him a chance to make the changes on his own before I stepped in with my well-thought-out plan for his life. The only problem was that my plan did not line up with his plan. Furthermore, he seemed oblivious to the character flaws that were blatantly obvious to me.

After a few months of marital bliss during which I was fine-tuning my “Fix Dan Plan,” a seed of discontent took root and began to grow in my heart and in our marriage.

The strength I had once so admired in Dan now looked a whole lot like stubbornness.
Dan’s ability to take a complicated issue, dissect it, and boil it down to a three-step-plan now seemed patronizing.

What I had once embraced as his devotion to me now seemed like his need to be in control of me.

I could go on – but you get the picture.

It was obviously time for the execution of my sure-to-succeed plan of transforming my husband into the man that God and I thought he should be. Looking back, my arrogance and ignorance are laughable, but at the time, they were just plain wrong and yielded painful and disastrous results.

I will never forget the afternoon Dan gently confronted me in love and with amazing patience. I don’t remember much of the conversation, but I do remember the words that broke my heart and saved our marriage, “Honey, I’m not sure what is going on between us. But I do know that I want to love you like you need to be loved.”

Boom!

And there you have the recipe for a successful marriage – confrontation wrapped in love for the purpose of restoration. It is also the formula for cultivating peace and unity in every relationship.

Healthy confrontation is especially important when dealing with those difficult people who rub you the wrong way – the Sandpaper People in in your life.

Sandpaper people love a good fight and often mistake combat for confrontation. The two are not the same thing. Combat slowly corrodes and splinters while confrontation is an art that, when done correctly, improves and strengthens relationships.

To confront someone is to meet them head-on in the quest for compromise. Our heart motive must be love and restoration – not getting even or winning. Confrontation is an emotional tackle for the purpose of resolving conflict while promoting peace.

Most people I know hate confrontation and will do anything to avoid it. That is not all bad. In fact, if you love confrontation and drama, you are probably confronting for the wrong reason. On the other hand, if you refuse to confront, you are giving the impression that you are content with the status quo.

Silence is agreement.

Confrontation is a spiritual surgery that tends to be painful. But without it, the cancer of contention and discord will remain unfettered, free to grow and spread its deadly relationship poison. Confrontation is a gift we bring to every healthy relationship as well as the unhealthy relationships with which we struggle.

As fully devoted followers of Christ, it is our responsibility to bring confrontation into the picture when dealing with sandpaper people. There is a right way and a wrong way to confront. Confrontation is not combat. The success of any confrontation depends upon understanding the difference between the two.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!