Nothing Compares….

Facebook

It is Spring Break here in southern Texas and my Facebook is flooded with friends on fun adventures, taking vacations and lots of pictures of sunny beaches. Happiness exudes in every shot. Kids are perfectly entertained, food looks like it is straight from a five star restaurant, and bodies look trim and fit.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game in today’s world of social media, isn’t it? It’s the same thing that can happen when flipping through a magazine or even watching television. You know exactly what I am talking about; you begin to make sweeping assumptions and comparisons. You find yourself thinking that EVERYONE else is taking a Spring Break vacation. That EVERYONE else skates through life without a care in the world. That EVERYONE else has the picture perfect life, body, relationship, house, kids….you fill in the blank.

We forget that social media is like watching the game highlight reel. It leaves out so much about real life. Beth Moore, in her Bible study the Quest, describes social media as a way for for us to live our lives in exclamation points. Every post, every photo, every “snap” is placed out in a bold, exciting way and arranged perfectly.

John 10:10 reminds us that, “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” I truly believe that the thief is doing just that within our social media outlets. The problem isn’t social media; rather, it is how we allow it to invade our thoughts and draw us to unhealthy conclusions and comparisons. And the thief, well he loves it! Because he successfully pulls us into his seductive world of jealousy, envy and lust.

But, God quickly reminds us also in John 10:10, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” Here is the thing, comparison steals our joy and pulls us out of a rich and satisfying life. However, our amazing God allows us to shift focus and put things back into perspective. God allows us to enjoy the moments of our friend’s lives, remembering that their lives are abundantly more than the image on social media. He also reminds us that relationships sometimes require more than a “like” or “comment”. That nothing compares to human interaction, a listening ear, a phone call, a much needed hug or a prayer.

And, NOTHING compares to our God, who is the only one who adds richness and satisfaction in abundant measure. Did you hear me? NOTHING conpares to Him!

Be joyful!

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:1‭-‬2 MSG)

Forgiveness…

crossI have been thinking a lot about forgiveness lately. In fact, I truly believe that God has been laying this powerful word on my heart to ponder for about two weeks now. My teenage daughter has a hard time admitting when she is wrong. (She gets this solely from her father. Ha!)  She also has a hard time saying that she is sorry. I have tried to point out to her many times that forgiveness has to do with her own heart. And that it is often one of the most freeing, uplifting things that we can do. It’s funny how your own words can come back to haunt you.

We recently had an argument within our family. I wish I could tell you that we handled it calmly, with complete understanding, calm heads and voices, and resolved it in a Biblical manner. But, I am trying to practice transparency and honesty with this blog. It was quite the opposite. Harsh words were exchanged, doors were slammed and resolution was left for another day.

I think God often uses family relationships to teach, refine and refocus. This has truly been the case for me since this unfortunate incident. What I realized is that the right and wrong of the situation at the end of the day really doesn’t matter. But, what does matter are the hearts involved, starting with mine. You see, I have been harboring unforgiveness. I have been justifying my own thoughts and feelings, replaying the fiasco over and over again. Then, I started to realize that I felt horrible inside. And that the more I justified, the more I felt God pressing in on me to repent and to allow Him to handle the situation. And not only was God asking for me to repent; but He was asking me to extend grace; regardless of whether that grace was deserved. He put songs on the radio, scriptures, words in my Bible study, messages from the pulpit, all whispering the same thing to me….it is time to forgive and be forgiven.

So, I did. I gave it all to my Father and asked Him to renew a right spirit within me. And just like that, I felt free, uplifted and my conscience was clear. Grace and love became easier to extend too, imagine that! Why did it take me so long?”

Jesus said, ‘Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.'” (Luke 23:24 NLT) Our Savior pleaded for our forgiveness from the cross. He demonstrated from that excruciating vantage point the importance of forgiving one another. He then gave up His own life for my sins and yours. For my stubbornness and yours. For my pride, and yours. For all of my short comings and yours. He conquered the cross, so that we could stand before our Father, forgiven and redeemed.

I want to be more like Jesus. I want to extend His grace, love and forgiveness more. He placed me here, within this generation to do His work. He wants me to shine bright for Him. Sometimes, we have to get our “self” out of the way.

And sometimes the first step is forgiveness.

Be joyful!

Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32 NLT)

Life360…

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As I mentioned before, my daughter is now a driver. This past weekend, I told her that we were going to try out this new app as a family, called life360 and that the app will allow us to track each other via our phones.

Believe me, I was ready for the complete teenage “jelly fish” moment (to borrow a term from my Pastor). Those of you with teenagers know this one well…moaning, gnashing of teeth, the cry of injustice that comes from a teenager being put out by their overbearing parents. But, instead, I was met with complete obedience, almost a jovial response and the app was immediately downloaded onto her phone. I must admit I was a bit bewildered, until my daughter exclaimed, “now I will know when you are at home and simply ignoring my texts. You know that really makes me crazy mom, when you ignore my texts and I know you are just simply sitting at home.” As if. She went on to tell me that she has always wanted to see exactly what I do during the day. I started to think that this life360 app was a bad idea.

On Monday, I had a pretty normal day. I taught a class at the gym first thing in the morning, did a couple of errands and headed home to get cleaned up. I had a nail appointment right after lunch and left my phone in my car during the appointment. The last thing on my mind was life360.  I came out of the salon an hour later (with gorgeously polished nails I might add) to find a text from my daughter asking what I was having done at the salon and why I had not responded promptly, thank you very much. I responded “stop stalking me.” Indeed, this life360 app really might be a bad idea.

It occurred to me that this is a lot like how our Father in heaven must feel. He knocks, we invite Him into our heart and He “downloads” His Holy Spirit into us. The heavens rejoice and He has so many blessings in store! Then, we set out to live our lives and sometimes we forget that He has a perfect plan for us.

There was a significant season of my life that I was so busy doing things my way that I never even considered God or His plan for my life. He was there. He was tracking me. He was watching and waiting. He tried several times to get my attention, to get me to answer “His texts”. Yet, I was convinced that my way was the best way. You see, I left my phone in my car. I didn’t really need Him. I had this, thank you very much. When I finally hit rock bottom, I looked up and realized what a mess that I had made of things. And you know what? He met me there, helped me up, dusted me off and restored a new Spirit within me. Glory!

The only way this thing called life works is with Jesus front and center.. I sure do hope that you “download” the app and give your life over to Him. Life360 is only possible with His love, grace, forgiveness and mighty hand leading, watching. tracking, guiding, and protecting.

And on that note, my final analysis is simple: Jesus at the center of my life360 is indeed the only way. He is the Way. The Truth. and the Life. I hope it is true for you too!

Be joyful!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not o your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Show Me Your Muscles…

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My mom is the strongest woman I know. I learned leadership from her and the importance of having a quiet, steady faith in God. She is still the most beautiful woman in any room, as far as I am concerned. She is my mom first, my best friend second and has walked me through the highs and lows of my life.

She is also my biggest cheerleader. If I sneeze, she will tell you that it was ‘the best sneeze ever sneezed’ in all of history! She is always on my side, even when I am terribly wrong. She is my PR agent. When I was a freshman in college, she dragged me across the room to meet the University President at orientation. She loves to make me laugh. One time, she stood in our front yard, showing me her “muscles” and from then on was deemed “muscle mom.” She taught me the joy of “retail therapy” and we earned our degrees in this “vocation” the year after my first father passed away.

She was meant to be a mother. God gave her extraordinary skills in this role and she has served Him mightily.

She was a Girl Scout leader, youth leader, PTA President, retail shop manager, receptionist, to name a few. She remains an avid bridge player, master gardener and animal lover. She believes in community service and involvement. She is a wife of a Pastor, which should, in and of itself, speak to her mighty strength.

My mom and first father were middle school sweethearts. When God called my first father home, she was left with two teenagers to raise. She was only 41 years old. Many nights after he died, my mom would walk around our swimming pool and yell at God. She would question him in her grief and would tell Him exactly how she felt. You see, in her grief and anger, she reached out to her Father. She knew that He could take it.

It occurred to me in my adult life what strong faith she showed during those honest cries of grief and heart ache. We do not argue or get angry or “lash out” at someone that we don’t believe in whole heartedly. She knew that her Father would hear her cries and would not forsake her. She knew He loved her and that He would heal her broken heart in His perfect timing. You see, she was in relationship with God, the author and perfector of her faith and ours.

Are you facing something in your life that has left you heart broken, angry, sick with grief or faint from lack of understanding? Your Father in heaven is only a cry away. He will never leave you. We see example after example in the Bible of times where He sees His people, hears His people, and loves His people.

He sees you. He hears you. He loves you. Trust that He can handle your grief. Your anger. Your lack of understanding.

Just like my very own Muscle Mom, He will show you his muscles! And trust me, our God is stronger!

Be joyful!

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” Psalm 34:17 NIV

Early Morning with An Angel Dog

Did you know that dog is God spelled backwards? I think that my angel dog can teach us a lot about God actually.

We have a ritual in the morning. The angel dog gets on the bed and then finds his way under the covers. He then lines his body up with mine, as close as he possibly can. I pull him even closer at this point and enjoy the warmth that he provides back to me. We doze together for as long as we can depending on the demands of the day. It might be ten minutes. It might be 30 minutes or longer. But, the angel dog always finds his way to me and snuggles in close.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” Psalm 91:1-5 NIV

Wouldn’t all of our days be better if we had the same ritual as my angel dog? What if we sought out the shelter of the Most High each morning and made our way under the protection of His wings? What if our first instinct was to line our bodies up next to His and steal away in His warmth and closeness as long as we possibly could each morning?What if we allowed Him to pull us even closer and wrap His mighty arms around us? Surely our day might look and feel differently. Our Father in heaven wants our time and attention. He wants to be in relationship with us. Take some time today and snuggle into Him. He is worth it!

Be joyful!