Monday, November 16, 2015

A Lesson on Holiness in the Fast Food Drive-Thru

"Be ye holy; for I am holy."  1 Peter 1:16

I was sitting in the drive-thru at McDonald's.  It was one of those fancy new drive-thrus that has two separate ordering lanes to choose from.  I pulled in on the right and placed my order.  The car to my left finished and pulled ahead.  As I finished my order, I began to pull forward assuming that it was my turn to go.  Just as I started to inch forward, the next truck on the left started to push his way into the line ahead of me.  I paused and wondered out loud, "Hey, I thought the lines were supposed to take turns... what is he doing trying to get in front of me?"  As I continued to pull ahead, two little voices from the back seat proclaimed with excited anticipation, "Mommy!  Let's pay for the car behind us!"

What?  That car behind us?  The one that was trying to push me out of line and get in front of me? You want me to pay for that car?

At that moment, I had a choice to make as I pulled up to the payment window.  The innocence and compassion from my 8 and 11 year old touched my heart.  They were right.  

The Bible says, "Be ye holy; for I am holy."  To be holy means to be set apart.  Later that evening, I continued to think about that.  If I want to be holy as He is holy, my responses should be different than those of the world.  

I am so thankful that when Jesus was hanging on the cross as an innocent man, being mocked and beaten, that He didn't choose to say, "Forget them.  I'm not doing anything special for those people who have treated me so terribly."

Instead, he chose to say, "Father, forgive them.  For they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

That is the holiness of God.  He didn't respond as the world would respond.  Instead, he responded with grace.  As I think about this, I realize that I have a question to ask myself in the face of injustice:

Should I respond with holiness or should I respond as the world would respond?

Father, I ask today that you would grant me holiness in every situation that presents itself. Help me to put aside my own feelings of injustice and bitterness and respond as You would respond. In your Name I pray, Amen.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

In Defense of Anna Duggar

"Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."  Matthew 10:16

Very rarely do I jump on the social media bandwagon of trending discussions.  However, the current trending story regarding Josh and Anna Duggar makes me sad.  Everyone has an opinion... as they always do.  It comes from every side of the issue.  It's easy to think we have all the best answers as we casually swipe across the screen of our Smartphones and then move onto the next topic of the day.

One story I read today came from a mom in Georgia.  I liked her statement that she wished "more people would talk about Anna" because I think it's easy to overlook the pain of others involved in a scandal like this.  But then she talked about her thoughts that Anna Duggar's parents had "utterly, utterly failed her" by not teaching her to stand up for herself against mistreatment.  While she made some good points about women not allowing abuse (and most definitely protecting your children from it), I couldn't get over the fact she probably doesn't actually know Anna Duggar or her parents.  All that any of us know about the circumstances are based on reports from any given media outlet.  Anything other than that, we can only assume based on observation which may be biased based on our own beliefs and past experiences.  This is true of any story in the media on any given day.

If I were to make an assumption based on my own past experience, I would assume that Anna is struggling through a traumatic time in her life right now.  Since she recently had a baby, Anna would be experiencing a lot of hormonal change.  That alone can make the emotional side of dealing with the recent events in her marriage and family one thousand times worse and difficult to sort through what is real and what is not.

On top of the hormonal changes following childbirth, it is likely that this newest baby is not yet sleeping through the night.  That leads me to believe that Anna is probably not sleeping through the night, either.  I remember how it felt to be experiencing deep pain and grief compounded by hormones and a lack of sleep.  It's very difficult.  Add to that taking care of a newborn plus three other young children.  Then compound that with the fact that her husband's past and current affairs are being played out in front of massive audience of wolves poised and ready for attack.  And the attacks are not only directed toward the person who committed the sins, but also of those hurt and devastated by them.  This is a reality that we know is true of the world, but don't really expect to experience in such a radical way in our own lives. It is shocking and devastating to find out that the person you married and love and had babies with may not be the person you thought they were.  Lord, I pray that Anna would a experience a calm and quiet spirit that only comes from You as the world around her is spinning. 

Yes, I also wish more people would talk about Anna.  But what I really wish was that more people would pray for Anna.

Pray that she would be wise as a serpent and also harmless as a dove.  But be wise.  "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves."  Matthew 10:16

Pray that the Lord would give her eyes to see and ears to hear.  "The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them."  Proverbs 20:12

Pray that she would guard her heart and protect those of her babies.  "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."  Proverbs 4:23

Pray that the Lord would bring other believers alongside her to support her and pray for her. "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Pray that truth would sink into her being.  "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts:  and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom."  Psalm 51:6

I pray that Anna would have courage to walk the road ahead with boldness to stand up for what is right. These are the same things that I pray for myself and for my own children.  I also pray for her in the wee hours of the night as she rocks her sweet little one to sleep, that the Lord would quiet her soul to find rest in the comfort of His arms.

In the coming days, weeks, months, years... Anna Duggar will make good decisions, and she will make decisions she will later regret and wished she had done differently.  She will make decisions for right now and decisions that will impact the rest of her life.  It's hard to live righteously in a wicked world even without all of the added pressures that she has.  But with every decision that she makes, whether good or bad, I believe that God will use them all to mold her every day into His image.  It may not look like that to us, the outside judging world, as we read the latest stories and news feeds. But I trust that the Lord knows what He is doing... in Anna Duggar's life... in my life... in my kids' lives... in your life.

It's easy to say Anna Duggar should do this or that but it's another thing to actually be living it and making those decisions in real life.  It begins with prayer.  My prayer for her right now is for comfort and wisdom in making decisions for her and her children.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Instead of "I Should Have..." Say This...

I am a thinker.  

I am an analyzer.  

I am introspective.  

I am sometimes borderline neurotic.

Over the years, I've gotten a better handle on personal boundaries and being proactive rather than reactive.  But not always.  Recently, I've found myself saying, "I should have..."

I should have spoken up more.

I should have done this instead of that.

I should have kept my cool when my kids were fighting with each other.

I should have just stayed out of a conversation that didn't have anything to do with me.

I should have...

Should have is a reactive statement and self-defeating.  It doesn't build me up.  It tears me down.  It leaves me clothed in guilt and regret.  The glass is half-empty.

Recently, I have learned a new technique.  Instead of saying "I should have..." say "I would have preferred to..."  

I would have preferred to have spoken up more in that situation.  Thank you, Lord for helping me to see that and I pray that you would give me the boldness and confidence to speak out when appropriate and to use my tongue wisely.

I would have preferred to do this instead of that.  I am not going to beat myself up over this, but will remember these preferences as I face similar situations in the future.

I would have preferred to keep my cool when my kids were fighting with each other.  Instead, I yelled.  I could have handled the situation better and will humble myself and apologize to my children for losing my temper.  I will lead by example of how to respond to anger and frustration.

I would have preferred to stay out of a conversation that didn't have anything to do with me.  Instead, I joined in the gossip.  Going forward, I will be intentional about not involving myself.  I may even come up with some simple one liners to politely excuse myself from the conversation such as, "I'd prefer not talk about that."

Saying "I would have preferred to" instead of "I should have" gives me power over my own emotions and reactions and allows me to be proactive and focus on the future rather than remaining reactive and focusing on the past of all the things I should have done.

Instead of I should have... say I would have preferred to...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Finding my Happy Place in the Darkest Days

Tonight, I was reading through my old journals as I randomly do every once in a while.  I came across a conversation I had with the Lord back in 2011 that I really liked:

I'm siting at [Y] Park right now and it's just as peaceful and relaxing as I remember it.  You and I had some good talks right here at this park, Lord.  It's a beautiful day out, too so I'm just sitting here in my old usual spot with the windows down.  If I ever need to go to my "happy place," I think this should be it.  Not because I was always happy here.  I used to come here on some of the darkest days of my life.  But I met God here.  There is peace here.  Will you meet me here now, Lord?  I really don't even feel like I need to ask because I know You're already here.  I just know.

I love that.  I used to sit in my car at that very park almost every day.  Sometimes I would write. Sometimes I would read.  Sometimes I would listen to a program on the Christian radio station. Other days, I just sat in silence and watched the clouds go by.  There was nothing special about that park, in particular.  There was no beautiful landscaping.  The walking trail was old and cracked.  In fact, there was a big rain gutter right by the area where I always parked.  But for me, it is my happy place. Although I could meet with the Lord at any time and place, that corner spot in the parking lot over by the soccer field was special to me.

I think I'd like to visit there again sometime soon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Single But Never Alone

"Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee."  Deuteronomy 31:6

Do you ever have one of those "Aha!" moments?  You know, when you learn something that in theory of mind you have known all along, but in that one split second, you really know it?

I had one of those this morning.  I was reading a blog post by Brooke McGlothlin posted at The MOB Society.  She wrote about fighting for her Hard to Handle (H2H) boys.  I can relate to that sometimes. She talked about reading the book Little Pilgrim's Progress to her boys and referenced a paragraph about fighting a dragon.  And then she wrote...

"Everything changed for little Christian and his friends when they know Greatheart was there to help them.  For the first time, they realized they weren't alone, and that maybe they had the strength to fight the dragon after all."

That was my "Aha!" moment.  As a single mom, sometimes it's really hard raising young boys on my own.  This past weekend was especially difficult as one of my boys was having a really difficult evening, to the point where we had to retreat to our separate corners and calm down.  At that moment, I felt very alone.

All along, I've always known that God was with me.  But this morning when I read Brooke's post, I felt in that very moment, the presence of the Lord and His help and companionship in this thing called parenting.  I really needed that reminder and fresh look.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dealing With Difficult People (Part 2)

"He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"  Micah 6:8

Recently, I have felt convicted about my attitude towards Mr. X.  In my anger towards the actions of his character, I have wanted only one thing:  Justice.

And then I realized something that in all my interactions with Mr. X, I had overlooked:

Jesus died for Mr. X.

Christ died for the just and the unjust.  There you have it.  There has been something missing from my equation:  Mercy.

[Mr.] X = Justice + Mercy + Humility

Mr. X has a sin problem.  And guess what?  I have a sin problem.

"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God."  Romans 3:23

Wow.  That's convicting.  Showing mercy doesn't mean I now have to turn over and become a doormat.  But it also doesn't allow me the right to maintain a heart of bitterness.  That's something I need to deal with in myself, with God.

Fortunately, things have gotten slightly better because Mr. X hasn't been getting away with as much. But honestly, that shouldn't even matter.  My attitude should still be one of acting justly and loving mercy.  I can't control his actions, only my attitudes and reactions to the behaviors.  Still, I'm thankful that the Lord has allowed me a glimpse of Mr. X through His eyes of mercy.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Dealing With Difficult People (Part 1)

I am dealing with a very difficult person at work.  I'll call him Mr. X.  

Mr. X is shady and currently drunk with power.  Most people who have known him for a while do not trust him.  However, to newer employees, he appears to be the savior.  He can help them advance in their position.  If they have a problem, he will solve it for them.  He will flatter them endlessly.  He will make them feel special by letting them in on little secrets that he claims to know.  Because of the way he makes himself approachable and seems to care, the young and naive share many details about their lives and emotions with him.  He carefully takes note.  

Mr. X is quick to point himself out as the martyr, working harder than anyone else in the company. He claims to be the "go to" person in the organization.  If any of his unethical practices are exposed, he is quick to shift the focus elsewhere.  He is very careful with his words.  

I have a very difficult time seeing other people deceived and led astray.  I despise dishonesty of word or character.  Every ounce of me wants to make it right, especially when it seems that they are getting away with it.

Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.  Romans 12:19

That verse has played through my mind a lot recently the more I deal with Mr. X.  In recent weeks he has been laying it on strong.  Some mornings I wake up and it is the first thing I think about.  It starts my day off on an angry note.  I am letting it have control over me.  I have started praying every morning before I go to work that God would deal with Mr. X and help me to have a proper attitude about it.  I have given Mr. X and his actions control over me and I don't like that.  Lord, I need help!

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.  Colossians 3:23

This is the verse I have sitting on my desk to remind me of the real focus of my work.  Sometimes I feel like I have to overcompensate with my work because of Mr. X to prove that I am doing a good job.  As a result, I am letting him win.  Instead of working as to the Lord, I am working unto men.  I need that reminder from Colossians on a daily basis so that I don't lose focus.

As much as I really hate learning valuable lessons this way, I have done just that through this experience.  One thing that I learned a few years back that I feel like I've really improved upon is not responding to situations with jerk reactions.  I especially used to hide behind email and send messages out of raw emotion the moment it came to my awareness.  Then, after I had time to process the situation more clearly, I was often met with despair and regret over responding too quickly.  Once you've said something, you can't take it back.  That valuable lesson has almost flown right out the window recently.  If it weren't for a close friend and mentor, I would have easily lost it.  I'm glad I haven't... so far.  I have taken time to process my reactions and only respond when necessary.  Even then, I am careful to respond factually rather than emotionally.

Dealing with Mr. X is an ongoing experience and lesson for me.  Fortunately, it has forced me to really lean more heavily on God and His Word which is something that I have really needed recently as I have often let the busyness of life get in the way.