Published Blogger Friend

Hey all-if you have a You Version account please check out my blogger friend, Randolph Koch’s very first published devotional. It’s titled 9 Keys to Walking In Christ. Below is a taste of what this 9 day devotional is all about:

“How do you walk in Christ? Like eating right and regular exercise, you have to be disciplined in exercising your faith to grow in your walk with Him. God’s word outlines many practical principles that will help you successfully walk in Christ. The aim of this devotional is to guide you through nine of the keys to help strengthen your walk.”

Please comment below if you read this study and be sure to pass it along to your family friends who also have You Version. I’ve already started the plan and can not wait to read day 1.

This publishing is a true testimony to what perseverance and faithfully serving God looks like-especially when faced with multiple closed doors. Seeing my friend’s dream come true is inspirational to keep chasing after my own dreams and trusting God to bring them into fruition in His time and in His way.

I can only imagine how proud your wife and family are but as a fellow blogger I too am very proud of you Randy! Congrats and God bless. Keep using your gift to serve Abba and I know He will continue to bless you with the wisdom that is behind your writings!

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Freedom Isn’t Free

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from Heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land.”                                                          2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT

Today is my nation’s 242nd birthday.  People all over this country will be coming together to celebrate and pay tribute to the good ole’ U.S. of A.  Star-spangled clothing will be worn; red, white and blue decorations adorned.  People will host cookouts and barbeques.  Lakes will be flooded with boats, floats and beach goers.  Parades will march.  Attendees will applaud Veterans.  ‘God Bless the USA’ and other patriotic melodies will be performed.  When the sun goes down, fireworks will explode as the grand finale of the nation’s greatest display of American pride.  For most, today will be a day filled with fun, family, friends and many, many festivities.

A true Independence Day celebration reminds us of the sacrifices that were made for this country to have the freedoms we stand on today.  The Revolutionary War was the start to gaining our freedoms.  In googling statistics, according to World Book Encyclopedia, found at www.answers.com, 25,700 Americans were killed during this war.  Traditional US History classes teach that this war came about to separate us from the tyranny of Britain’s then monarchy. Our US constitution was written to give and protect freedoms to its citizens. Since we became a nation we have engaged in numerous wars and military conflicts to ensure this country and its residences are protected and that freedom will forever reign.

One entity that is honored on Independence Day is our US military.  We remember the fallen and we honor the living, those who have served and are serving.  In fact, most Americans, when encountering a member of the US Military, will thank him or her for their service to our country because we recognize that military personnel sacrifice a lot during their time of active duty.  They’re training alone teaches them how to be sacrificial and how to survive in the most dangerous and cruelest of situations.  They are moved periodically to different states and most serve overseas on at least one if not multiple deployments.  They sacrifice time with their families, their jobs, their health and even their lives to protect this nation and to especially protect this nation’s freedoms.  One thing we Americans value is our freedom.

God also values freedom.  Galatians 5:13a tells us “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters…”  We read David’s confident statement in Psalm 119:45 when he declares that he will walk in freedom for he had devoted himself to God’s commandments.  Again in 2 Corinthians 3:17, we are reminded that wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  As a Christian, we are called to walk in freedom.  But what does that mean and how do we do that?

First we need to look at what freedom looks like to God.  Freedom in Christ means freedom from guilt, shame, despair, bitterness, etc.  It most assuredly means, freedom from fear and from death.  If you’re an unbeliever reading this, you may question that last statement or possibly even mock it because people die every day.  The death mentioned above is not a physical death, its freedom from spiritual death.  This means after we experience physical death we are promised eternal life with Christ.  (1 John 5:11) Just like a US military member pays a price to protect our nation’s freedoms, as a Christian, our freedom was paid when Christ died at Calvary and then resurrected three days later.  Freedom is not free.

So if freedom isn’t free, then walking in freedom will also cost us.  If my country’s freedom and Christian freedom were both paid by the sacrificing of lives, it only makes sense that in order to walk in spiritual freedom, we are called to sacrifice our lives as well.  PLEASE NOTE!  This is metaphorically speaking.  This post is not leading to a call to drink some magic red poisoned Kool-Aid that would actually kill us.  The life sacrificing I’m referring to is the sacrificing of lifestyles, life habits and negative thoughts that do not honor Christ and inevitably separate us from the freedom He has promised us.

Anything that is dishonoring to Christ separates us from His freedom.  That can come in the form of deliberate sin such as a battle with lust, purposefully holding grudges, becoming best friends with pride, refusing to obey when God gives us a direct order.  That can also come in a subtler form like battling with an addiction or holding on to wounds that Christ wants to heal and release us from.  Whatever stronghold we allow in our lives becomes our way of life and keeps us captured in a spiritual roller coaster that simples goes round and round in circles but never seems to end.  No matter what human effort you make, if you’re not willing to sacrifice the stronghold or repent of the sin, you will not know or be able to walk in Christ’s freedom.  You will also grow weary and face conditions like depression, anxiety or physical health conditions that develop when we are wait down by burdens we are not meant to carry.

Can you relate to struggling with deliberate sin, battling with some sort of addiction or just feeling bogged down by all life has thrown at you?  Do you long to feel free from past wounds?  Do you want to guard your heart, as the Lord directs, without putting up walls that inevitably push others away?  Are you willing to make the sacrifices required to know Christ’s freedom?

If you want to know and walk in Christ’s freedom, you (and I) must be willing to place all that weighs us down, at the foot of the cross.  We have to humble ourselves before our King and confess the sins we commit, confess the hurts we hold on to and confess the addictions we wrestle with.  We have to seek Christ’s forgiveness, choose to forgive our offenders and also, choose to forgive ourselves.  This also means sacrificing ungodly habits such as gossiping, complaining, procrastinating, cussing, overeating or whatever else we may turn to in the place of Christ to “cope” with what burdens us.

This sacrifice is not a one-time event consisting of one prayer or even one fast.  This is a daily sacrifice that involves refocusing our thoughts, asking Christ to renew our minds, softening our hearts to obey His word and practicing the art of discipline to refrain from turning to back to dishonorable behaviors.  This sacrifice also entails understanding that making these kind of sacrifices, changing our coping skills, letting go of the past and forgiving those who have trespassed against us is a process.  It’s a process that doesn’t come naturally and takes much discipline to master.  It’s a process that has to be practiced every day and it’s a process that will include backsliding and failing.  But it’s also a process that through commitment, God’s strength, His grace and your perseverance, brings victory and true freedom.

Zach Williams is a Christian artist who performs a popular song called, “Chain Breaker.”  The lyrics to the first verse and chorus are this:

“If you’ve been walking the same old road for miles and miles

If you’ve been hearing the same old voice tell the same old lies

If you’re trying to fill the same old holes inside

There’s a better life

There’s a better life

“If you’ve got pain,

He’s a pain taker

If you feel lost

He’s a way maker

If you need freedom or saving

He’s a prison-shaking Savior

If you’ve got chains

He’s a chain breaker..”

As I am personally walking through this process of letting go of my strongholds in order to gain Christ’s freedoms, I recorded myself performing this song praising God even before the chains I have bound myself to are broken.  Jesus is the chain breaker of all that holds us back from the life He promised us.  When you’re willing to sacrifice what He’s calling you to let go of, when you’re willing to endure the painstaking process of confession, forgiveness and healing, then you are ready to chase after Christian freedom and walk in it, freely.  Freedom isn’t free.  But our Jesus paid the debt when He gave His life on a tree.

Wrighter’s Block

“He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a little while” –for there were many [people who were continually] coming and going, and they could not even find time to eat.”

‭‭MARK‬ ‭6:31‬ ‭AMP‬‬

Hi all. Asking for prayers as I’m battling with headaches and exhaustion the past two days. I’m in a season of busyness with no signs of a day of rest for another few weeks. Headaches and tiredness make it difficult to concentrate so I’m also experiencing writer’s block. This too shall pass as they say, but your prayers may just be what’s needed for me to experience freedom from these headaches as well as having my energy restored.

I’ve been hearing frequently that this stage of warfare means I’m nearing the end of the battle. I pray that’s the case and for the strength to endure as the closer you get to victory, the harder the enemy fights, right? I’ve still got a lot fight left in me but even strong ones get weary. I know this isn’t from the Lord but most likely an attack from the enemy himself to keep me from writing God’s truths. The enemy will not prevail. That truth I will always stand on.

Thank you in advance to all who pray and as always, if I can be a prayer warrior for you, please share a request in the comments section. God bless you all!

Happy Father’s Day

To all my readers who are dads I pray your day is filled with love, laughter and the blessing of being honored today.

They say any man can be a father but it takes someone special to be a dad. There’s also a saying that “Dad” stands for dedicated and devoted. If you fall into this category I pray you are honored today. There are far too many men in this world who have abandoned their responsibilities toward their children, far too many children living without a father figure in their life.

No matter if you have children, desire children or are around children-step up and invest in a child today. Children need both a mother and father figure in their life. There are men who set the bar and then there are men who raise it. Be a man who raises the bar, for your own children and in the lives of other children. God bless and enjoy this day that has been set aside just to honor you!

•“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs‬ ‭22:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

•“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalms‬ ‭127:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

•“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

•“So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Deuteronomy‬ ‭11:18-19‬ ‭NLT‬‬

•“May the Lord richly bless both you and your children.” Psalms‬ ‭115:14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

•“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.” Psalms‬ ‭103:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

•“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬

•“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” Psalms‬ ‭127:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Find the David in You

“So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.”

‭‭1 Samuel‬ ‭17:50‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There are times in our lives when we come against a mountainous Goliath. This person could come in the form of a school bully, a domineering spouse, a manipulative boss or even from a parent, sibling or close friend. Whatever form, they are a person who seeks to have power and control over you. They display an overwhelming strength that can be very intimidating. Your instinct is to want to fight them but fear, lack of resources perhaps or some other barrier keeps you from doing so. Maybe you do fight back but their coarse words or even physical strength leave you feeling even more defeated. You may cry out for help but no one seems to be willing to stand up to the giant. Maybe it feels as though God will never send help. I am confident David’s people knew exactly how that feels.

They prayed for God to send someone to defeat this overpowering beast who killed off anyone who even attempted to take him on. Day after day Goliath taunted the Israeli army. The Israelites shook in fear of him. I am confident they wondered where God was and how He was going to redeem them from the Philistines. God answered by sending David (who interestingly enough enters this story as a delivery boy checking up on his brothers.) if you’re familiar with the rest of the story then you know that David, the unlikely hero, overcomes the giant through God’s divine intervention.

When we read this story, it’s easy to pray for God to send us a “David” to triumph over our giants. I’ve prayed this prayer many times hoping God would conquer my giants the same way. But what if, God’s plan is to empower you and/or me to be our own Davids? What if ultimately we are the ones who will stand up and defeat those who seek to dominate us?

If you’re thinking in human terms, you could be wondering how that would even work? Maybe you’re thinking it’s impossible even. Jesus’ answer to that would be: “…Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew‬ ‭19:26‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Clearly though, if God wanted us to defeat our enemy it would’ve happened by now right? But what if it hasn’t happened simply because we’ve failed to take a stand, set boundaries and say “Enough is enough. I will not tolerate this anymore.” Think about this: the Israelites HID from Goliath. David ran toward him. The Israelites trembled when Goliath spoke. David responded to Goliath’s taunts with this: “…You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies…” (1 Samuel‬ ‭17:45‬ ‭NLT‬‬) Verse 46 begins with “Today the Lord will conquer you…” David’s secret weapon was His confident faith that he could fight this behemoth bully because God ultimately would be the driving force behind his victory! Even when others told him he couldn’t fight Goliath, David refuted their words by reminding them of how God had already protected him from brute wild animals who threatened the lives of his sheep.

David’s triumph over Goliath is a reminder of the warrior God has made each of us to be. We aren’t made to be prisoners of war or ladies in waiting locked away in a tower guarded by a dragon. We were made to be conquerors over all the real enemy throws at us including bullies, controllers, abusers, and overbearing people. How do we do that? How do we fight and become conquerors in our own trials and tribulations? Here are some useful tips I have been applying in my own life to become the David who defeats my giants.

1.) Set boundaries for yourself that protect you physically, emotionally and spiritually. This may look like telling someone not to speak to you a certain way but could also mean having to cut off total communication if the person continues to be demanding, abusive, harassing, or manipulative. This may also come in the form of police involvement or obtaining a personal protection order if the person’s actions violate your physical safety.

2.) Controllers do not like boundaries or being told what to do so once boundaries are set, expect backlash or retaliation. Do NOT tremble or cower from this. Be consistent in setting boundaries no matter how intimidating your controller becomes. Even if your heart is racing and fear tries to consume you, stand firm.

3.) Pray continuously and stand on Exodus 14:14. The Lord will fight for you, you need only to remain calm!

4.) If name calling or manipulation is the weapon of choice for your giant, do not feed into their lies. Stand on God’s truth and focus on what God says about you. Our enemies will never define us as good. They will always seek to be destructive because of their toxic make-up. That is their issue-don’t make it yours. God’s opinion of us supersedes any other, especially that of our enemies.

5.) Read the book of Psalms. David was taunted by more than one giant in his lifetime. Psalms is full of times he had to repeatedly remind himself of God’s victories in his life. Even when he feared for his own and was hiding in a cave from Saul David continued to praise God as a way of reminding himself that God would deliver him once again. (Psalms 57 and Psalms 142.)

6.) Don’t focus on your enemies’ actions. This gives them more power and can grow more fear, develop a root of bitterness and turn you toxic. Focus on God’s ability and His promise of deliverance. Praise Him in your storm.

7.) Seek our wise counsel but recognize what is and isn’t helpful. Before David met Goliath, Saul tried protecting him with armor that actually would’ve hindered David from defeating Goliath. Our friends and family can have the most meaningful intentions and still give us advice that, if followed, could set us back instead of bringing victory.

8.) Pray. Not just for protection and victory but for guidance, strength, endurance, wisdom, discernment and grace. No matter how awful our enemy is, God calls us to love and forgive them. This request is the hardest for me to practice in my own life so as I am praying for you, please pray for me in this regard especially.

9.) Don’t go down the rabbit hole of arguing with them (another weakness of mine.) This will only lead to giving them control over your emotions and leave you feeling defeated. If you have to communicate with them-stick to the facts and ignore every attempt they make to discredit you.

10.) If your Goliath is a boss or supervisor, remind yourself that you are working for the Lord. If their actions are creating a hostile workplace or coming in the form of harassment then you may need to enlist help from Human Resources or legal assistance. Laws were created to protect people from harassment in the workplace and more people need to stand on these laws.

No matter your circumstance or who your Goliath is, God will deliver you. Sometimes God will send a David to help us. But other times, He brings out the David within us to bring a victory that exceeds what we could ever imagine. If you’ve been battling a Goliath for a long time, it’s time to ask God to show you the David within you. Then trust God to deliver you from your Goliath by taking a stand, setting boundaries, praying and forgiving.

Turn the Other Cheek

“But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:39‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I once got into a debate with someone regarding the above scripture. I was dealing with a cruel individual and a Christian Friend of mine, in an effort to help me, quoted this scripture. I was encouraged to not defend myself against my enemy but allow the cruelty to happen.

I have a firm belief that we are to love our enemies but that does not mean we are to be doormats. So I refuted this advice. This friend of mine and I are both strong minded individuals. He thought he was right and I thought I was right. Thus, our debate ended up in an argument that led to ending our friendship. There were other circumstances in the mix also that led to cutting off communication but nonetheless this argument was definitely a key factor.

Recently I downloaded an app that is full of sermons and other great biblical tools. I opened it for the first time today and the first sermon that popped up was “Dealing with Mean and Demanding People.” It’s a three part sermon series by Pastor Mike Fabaraz. I spent the morning listening to the first two parts. The common denominator in both messages is this: turning the other cheek is meant specifically to those who persecute us for being a follower of Christ. It is not meant for those who bully us, assault us, steal from us, demean us, etc. for the purpose of fueling their own toxic thinking and solely to hurt us. We are allowed to defend ourselves. God does not call us to be doormats.

The picture for this post is of the app to encourage readers to download the app and check out these sermons specifically. If you listen to them, share your thoughts in the comment section. This post is NOT to say that I’m right and my friend was wrong. This post to raise an awareness to many, including myself, who struggle with the correct interpretation of this verse as well as who are seeking instruction with how to deal with the toxic people in your life.

One last thought-learn from my experience. Never let a debate about scripture come between you and someone you care about. The enemy comes to seek and destroy and he will use every angle possible to do that-even debates over scriptural context in God’s word. If you feel your pride swelling up, take a step back, pause and pray. Ask God to help you both share the same understanding (like in Philippians 2:2) of the scripture in order to keep solidarity in your friendship or relationship. Think about this; if the devil’s raising up his own army, what better tactic for him to attempt to be victorious then if he can get God’s army to turn against one another, right? May the Lord and my friend forgive me for allowing my pride and my need to be right to sever what was an intense and spiritually intimate friendship. May the Lord bless those who read today’s post and especially to those who are able to experience the sermons mentioned first hand.

I’ll See You Soon…

“I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.”

‭‭2 John‬ ‭1:12‬ ‭NLT‬‬

There’s a movie titled Dear John. It’s a love story about a couple who spent most of the beginning of their relationship in separate countries. Their occasional face to face encounters were short lived because other commitments kept them going in different directions. The bulk of their relationship consisted of letter correspondence.

Throughout their relationship, the couple never said goodbye. They parted ways and ended their letters with “I’ll see you soon.” To them, “goodbye” was something final and permanent. Because they wanted to be in each others’ lives, they chose to part ways with a sentiment that would remind them that they would be together again no matter how long they were apart.

Even when their relationship seemed to be permanently over, it’s really not the end. The final scene leads the viewer to believe their relationship rekindles. There’s also a voice over of the woman reading a letter to the man. The letter closes with this:

“…no matter how many years go by, I know one thing to be as true as it ever was, I’ll see you soon.” Those words are a depiction of an incredibly powerful connection and a love that was never ending.

In the scene where the relationship ends, the man burns all the letters he ever received from the woman who was rejecting him. Oh how I’ve “cleaned house” to rid myself of past relationships in an effort to heal a broken heart and move on. In fact I recently unfollowed certain social media pages just to forget about a close friend whom I’ve parted ways with. A close friend that I used to say “I’ll see you soon” to. A close friend that if I’m being honest, I loved as more than a friend but a real relationship never came to pass.

The very day I decided to remove all that reminded me of him, Dear John aired on TV. My hardened heart tempted me to change the channel but the Holy Spirit prompted me to keep watching it. Truth be told, I didn’t get why until I tried writing this post. I’ve deleted two drafts and quit writing briefly before realizing what the Holy Spirit was showing me.

God used this movie to remind me He keeps people in our lives in His way and for His reasons. Some people come into our lives to help us develop our character, to test our patience and to stretch our ability to forgive. These are people we sometimes beg God to remove from our lives but He keeps them near us-sometimes too close. But there are others who’s purpose in life is to grow our hearts to a love that supersedes anything we could ever imagine (like what God promises in Ephesians 3:20.) These are the people we want to keep that God may take away. He does this, not because He doesn’t love us but because He knows that heart break grows a compassion that produces more love. I am a walking testimony to that.

If you’re reading this-I believe God has a message for you through this post. God wants you to know how much He loves you and just how deep He wants to grow His love within you. If you’ve written off the idea of loving someone or ever being loved, don’t say goodbye just yet. Instead, place your wounded heart in Jesus’ scarred hands and let Him fill it with a love that will make you feel as though you’re going to burst. The process is painful and overwhelming. It will bring you to your knees and even make you sob. But oh the joy that is felt when you are filled with a heart that is hand crafted by Jesus. Don’t say goodbye to love my friend, simply tell love, “I’ll see you soon.” It’s then and only then that our joy will be complete.

Moving Slow but Working Hard

“Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.”

Hebrews 6:15NLT

My freshman year of college I lived on the 4th floor of Robinson Hall.  This dormitory had no elevators, only stairs-many, many flights of stairs.  There’s a “freshman 15” saying referencing the amount of weight you gain your first year of college.  The amount of times I went up and down those stairs on a daily basis I am confident I lost fifteen pounds and then some.  Along with the stair climbing you had to walk across campus multiple times a day for classes, meals, etc.  For a girl who at one point lived across the street from her high school, this world of walking a country mile and climbing stairs that equated to scaling the Empire State Building on a daily basis was a tad much.  It was even worse when I was running late.  Speed walking doesn’t get you to class much faster than normal walking and even at eighteen years old, my knees were not built for running, especially carrying several textbooks on my back.  Have to admit, twenty plus years later, I think my freshman year of college was a mini boot camp for this diva.

After I graduated college, I moved back home.  I had big dreams to change the world and ended up with a minimum wage job at a retail store.  My college relationship ended and I found myself partying multiple times a night.  I found a job that was a remote fit to my degree but it wasn’t stable and it wasn’t satisfying.  I came to a realization that I was going in circles.  Going in circles gets you nowhere. Going in circles, simply makes you dizzy.  I took out a map and I picked a city to move to.  About six months later, I was settling in to a city seven hours away from home only knowing two people in the entire area.  I secured a job in the downtown area and gained many lifelong friendships from working there.  I also walked a lot.  You see, in most cities, there are parking structures that cost money to park.  People who worked downtown typically would spend $40-80 plus in monthly parking fees.  Paying for parking was a foreign thing for this small town girl.  So I found free parking, on the outskirts of a rougher part of the city, and I would walk about six blocks to my office in high heels.  At lunch time I would walk a round trip of about another six blocks to grab a meal and eat it at the office.  On the weekends my friends and I again would walk from bar to bar to go dancing.  You basically drove to the downtown area, just to walk to where you needed to go.

It’s been seventeen years since I’ve moved back to my home state.  Where I live, walking to work or to get my kids to school or even to the grocery story is only a possibility if you’re in the shape of marathon runner.  In fact, the only extensive walking I do now is 1-3 times a week on my lunch break as a form of exercise.  Other than that, I am driving every place we need to go.  Now, walking isn’t a form of transportation, it’s simply a form of exercise.

I have been battling with car repairs and unreliable vehicles for the past decade.  Since moving into the home I’ve raised my children in the past 10 years, I have owned four vehicles.  Each one has needed multiple repairs and each one has left me stranded a time or two.  Some repairs have been routine needs like new brakes or tires.  Others have been incredibly expensive and/or major safety issues.  Each one causes a great stress in figuring out where to get it fixed, how to pay for it and how to get to work and other places I need to go while the vehicle is being repaired.  At some point, the repairs get to be more than the vehicle is worth and then I pray extensively for the Lord to provide a better, more reliable and more affordable vehicle.  Each time, God answers.

Two years ago, God provided me with the nicest vehicle I’ve owned in several years.  This vehicle seemed to fit all my needs and even handles very well on bad wintry roads.  It’s needed a few repairs here and there but it’s all been routine maintenance until last year.  At the beginning of the year, I noticed a loud banging sound when I would drive over bumps. I kept checking the area where the sound was coming from and couldn’t see what would be causing it.  One day I got to my office, checked it again and discovered my entire wheel well was broken.  If you know anything about vehicles, the wheel well holds the rear shock into place.  If the well is broken, the shock bangs up and into the trunk area of your vehicle.  Not only is this a safety issue but it’s an expensive repair.

A family member did a free weld repair on it first.  This lasted several months and I was incredibly grateful.  However, in December of last year, the weld broke and replacing the wheel well was unavoidable.  It was Christmas time and very cold outside.  It was also the time of year where it’s dark until about 8am and dark again around 6pm.  My commute to/from work is 70 miles (112 kilometers) and given the time of year, walking to work daily wasn’t a realistic option.  Neither was driving my vehicle in the condition it was in. Given that fact that is was also Christmas time, financially speaking, this kind of car repair would break the bank as they say.  I prayed a lot.  I cried a bit and I reached out to others for prayer and help.  God answered in a mighty way. My vehicle was repaired, I was provided a loaner vehicle while mine was in the shop, my children had an overwhelmingly abundant Christmas and I suddenly found myself in a position to bless a family in need with an abundant Christmas also.  All this happened in a three-week period.  All this happened because God used friends and family and other avenues to provide for my children and me.

About a month ago, my car broke down on the freeway.  It actually just shut down as I was traveling.  Fortunately, it was a slow motion occurrence where I was able to safely pull to the side of the road before losing my brakes and power steering.  I couldn’t get it started for a bit.  It was raining and vehicles were passing me at speeds high enough to shake my vehicle as they went by.  I prayed and asked God for help.  Tried to start the vehicle again with no success.  This happened a few times and I found myself quickly losing my patience.  At one point the high maintenance diva side of me came out and I actually asked God this, “Do you expect me to walk down the freeway, in the rain, in my high heels? Is that what you’re expecting me to do right now?”  He answered by starting my vehicle and getting me to a safe park N ride area.  I was able to call my mechanic who arranged for a tow truck and delivered me a loaner car to get me home that night.  My car was repaired the very next day.  I thanked God for His continued provision and embarrassingly humbled myself when I thought about those who walk in the rain without shoes because they have no other means of transportation and cannot even afford a pair of shoes.  Who was I that I thought I was too important to walk in the rain in heels?

The past two weeks I have battled yet again with another needed repair.  This time, it’s a second broken wheel well.  This one is worse than the first.  The Lord provided the financial means to repair this one rather quickly, however, the body shop doesn’t have an opening to fix it for three weeks.  I drove the vehicle (after consulting with professionals who said it was ok) for the first week.  However, the noises grew increasingly louder and the damage worsened.  I tried to get the repair done sooner with no luck.  I reached out to a few friends for a possible loaner vehicle, with no luck either.  I prayed asking God to show me what to do for transportation over the next two weeks until I could get my car into the shop.  I didn’t ask nicely, mind you.  I had a world class toddler style meltdown over the whole thing.  In fact, I remember two things I prayed out of anger in that moment-1.)  I told God I didn’t want to learn whatever lesson He was trying to teach me and 2.) I was deeply disappointed in His method right then.  I even tried venting to two people I trusted and was told I was venting to the wrong people.  It was a whirlwind moment of deep discouragement.  My frustration grew as I could feel God going silent-just letting me have my rant.   In December God overwhelmed me with help.  This time, it felt like I had been left alone to figure it out.

But then He answered.  He answered by sending a family member to look at the vehicle once again and advising me on how long I could drive it.  He answered by providing transportation for my kids to get to/from school and by giving a dear friend a willing heart to drive me to/from work.  He answered by the generosity of another friend who loaned me a vehicle for this entire weekend.  Although I don’t have a solid plan for this upcoming week regarding transportation, I know He will answer because He promised to take care of my children and me and God is faithful in keeping His promises.

Now, if you’re still reading this, you might be asking, what do car repairs and where I lived in college have in common.  My answer would be this: turtles.  You see my freshman year of college, 4th floor Robinson Hall had t-shirts designed for each resident.  The shirts had a couple turtles on the front and the back read, “4th Floor, Robinson Hall, Moving Slow but Working Hard.”  I was reminded of this motto this week when I watched a turtle attempting to cross a busily traveled country road.   I actually found myself asking God to please help that turtle make it safely across.  Then I thought about how slowly turtles move.  There is no rush or urgency in a turtle.  They simply were not built to move quickly.

Turtles crossing the road is very common where I live.  Many times, humans intervene by picking up the turtles and moving them out of the road in an effort to save them from getting smooshed by vehicles.  But other times, the turtle has to get across the road by the grace of God only because there is no human intervention.  That was the case of this particular turtle.  Nobody was stopping to help it.  I saw a few cars drive around it and hoped anyone encountering it would do the same.  Aside from darting cars, from the outside looking in, that turtle was on its own to make it safely to where he or she was journeying to.

In life, and especially when dealing with a broken down vehicle, I feel like a turtle.  I can see where I need to go, I can develop a plan on how to get there, I usually choose the shortest route possible and then race off to the finish line.  That’s when I encounter delays or other roadblocks that slow my pace down or bring me to a sudden stop.  Delays and roadblocks trigger my impatience.  There are things in my life,-plans, goals, etc.-that I want to happen in hare speed, not turtle speed (if you’re not familiar with the Tortoise and the Hare story this analogy may not makes sense so google “The Tortoise and the Hare” for a better understanding.)  I especially get impatient when I know how to get something done but delay puts me in a position where I cannot get it down on my timeline and I have to depend on others for help during the waiting process.  I am a very impatient waiter (unlike Abraham who waited “patiently” and received the Lord’s promise.”   God knows this.  He also knows I learn best when He answers with “daily manna” instead of delivering everything I ask for all at once.  Because this year is the year He is developing my character to reflect how He designed me to be, He is slowing my life down to turtle speed, putting me in positions to be dependent upon others and in position to be totally dependent upon Him.

I’m gonna be real right now and admit that this form of character building, I. Do, Not. Like.  But God tells us in James 1:2-4 to “count it all joy…when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let the steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (ESV).”  The NLT version uses the word “endurance” instead of steadfastness.  This word “endurance” is also found in Romans 5:3. “we can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Verse 4 ties it all together with this; “And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation (NLT,)”  Instead of acting like a toddler, God gently reminds me that I should be rejoicing through these trials because He merely developing more of my character through them.

If you’re going through a trial, even something as trivial as lack of transportation, remember this-God uses all circumstances to refine us, especially the ones He knows will really put us through the test.  Our fiery furnace doesn’t have to be something major.  It could be taking the same “test” over and over again until we learn to not let that circumstance rattle us.  Maybe your test is a different financial struggle, dealing with a toxic person, having the same argument with your spouse with no resolution in sight, struggling with a rebellious child or something more intense like battling with a life threatening illness or job loss.  Whatever the circumstance, you may be feeling like you’re going in circles, this journey seems endless, God is silent and your trying to walk through heavy traffic (get through this situation) at a turtle’s speed.  There will be times you will feel like God uses others to pick you up and carry you to where you need to be quickly.  Other times in this journey you will feel like everyone is bypassing you and you’re at the mercy of your own strength to get across that road.  Just remember this, whether a human moves that turtle or the turtle makes it across because travelers choose to swerve and avoid it, God’s divine intervention is what truly gets that turtle safely across the road.  No matter how God delivers your miracle, know this-it’s coming from God, in His time and in His way.  Don’t give others more credit than they deserve and don’t be a hare trying to rush through life on your own.  It’s in the turtle speed that we notice more around us and are even gifted moments of pausing (like when you’re waiting for someone to pick you up.)  You’d be amazed at how beautiful life truly is when you’re not rushing and you’re not rattled.  You just keep going, moving slowly but working hard.  You do what you can, and then trust God to do the rest.

One last note-as each vehicle passed that turtle, it never once stopped or hid in its shell.  It kept its eyes toward the direction it was heading and it kept moving forward. That is the epitome of unshakable faith.  When we’re faced with delays, roadblocks or feel like we’re metaphorically trying to cross a road through heavy traffic, there’s a confident trust we can exude by keeping our eyes focused on where God is leading.  We must continue to move forward believing He will get us to the other side completely unharmed.  God used that turtle to teach me this:  I can look at the problem and worry about how to solve it-or I can look to Jesus and trust Him to bring the solution even if it means hours, days, weeks or years of roadblocks and delays.  God used Abraham’s journey as a testimony that He is never late but always on time in delivering His promises, even delivering car repairs.

Do Not Go Down the Rabbit Hole

“Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.”

2 Timothy 2:23 NLT

I cannot count the number times I have failed obeying 2 Timothy 2:23. In fact, I once had a superior describe me as this; “She tends to argue but when she argues it’s because she’s usually right.”  Of course hearing such statement brings an increase in pride and an inflation in ego, at least for me it did.  It also made it justifiable for me to continue to argue.  After all, it’s pointless to argue if you’re wrong but if you know you’re right then you should argue, right? WRONG!!!

Arguing one’s point is ungodly and counterproductive.  Arguments rarely end in a positive manner with friendships or relationships still intact nor do they draw people closer together.  In fact, the book of Proverbs gives us two examples of how arguments and angry words do the complete opposite. In Chapter 18, verse 19, we read that “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars.”  Proverbs Chapter 26 verse 4 warns “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.”  I personally have lost a handful of relationships after engaging in hurtful arguments.  One in particular ended over very different opposing political views.  Another took a long hiatus because of multiple mini arguments over subject matter that I don’t even recall the details of now.

In the category of politics, I have argued about abortion, women’s marches, equality, presidential candidates, racism, etc.  I have argued about religious beliefs both with believers and non-believers.  Unfortunately, I have argued about far too many less trivial things also.  If I listed all those this post would never end.  I have a fierce personality and my mouth tends to start running before my brain has time to keep me quiet.  I’m slowly learning to practice pausing and thinking before speaking.  But there are days I am making very slow progress if any at all.  HAHA!

Ironically, I recently found myself tiptoeing into two separate arguments on social media.  One was an anti-education post that completely goes against my beliefs and values in education.  The other one was actually an effort to help someone avoid arguing and turned into a debate about arguing.  I could feel my insides just getting fired up about both posts and especially regarding comments made to me by the posters.  I could mentally see my platform in front of me and a fully prepared speech on the tip of my tongue that would open with, “First of all…” I’ve been told I should be a good lawyer because I definitely can argue well.  Not that that’s something to brag about.  But, I also felt the Holy Spirit say to me, “Don’t go down that rabbit hole” and I knew that meant something like, “this is not my circus and they are not my monkeys.  Do not exhaust your energy engaging in an argument with either of them.  Surprisingly, I actually listened this time (usually I’m too fired up to listen to God’s gentle promptings and fight the battles in my own flesh.) and opted to take a weekend hiatus from that social media site to reset my priorities.   I also deleted the comments I had already posted.

I spent a good part of my evening thinking about the concept of going down the rabbit hole.  This ideology is related to story of Alice in Wonderland.  Alice was enticed to go down that rabbit hole and entered a world full of all kinds of crazy abnormalities.  I started relating some of the characters Alice encountered to those we engage with on social media and how that all ties in with arguing.  Social Media is the universal source of arguing these days isn’t it?

Just like in Wonderland, in any social media argument you will encounter the Queen of Hearts whose view is inevitably “OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!”. Everything is black and white in their minds and they’re solutions are typically punitive.  Then there’s the Mad Hatter who’s certifiably crazy and makes comments that leaves most readers scratching their heads or feeling slightly disturbed.  Of course there’s the White Rabbit person who either has bad timing with their remarks, or is ever fretful in their commentaries.  And what media argument would be complete without the Cheshire Cat tapping into their multiple personalities and fueling the fire by secretly taking dual sides or talking about others behind their backs.  The Cheshire Cat characters are definitely the most toxic as they are the pot stirrers who keep the discord going all while looking like they are the best friend to all parties involved.

Admittedly I have played the role of the Queen, the Hatter and the white rabbit on far too many occasions.  Worse yet, I know I’ve been a Cheshire Cat a time or two also.  Not necessarily with malice intent or as an effort to destroy a relationship but I’ve kept the embers of anger, hurt and conflict burning by dwelling on the argument and discussing it with others who weren’t a part of it. I’ve ignored verses like Psalm 37:8 that tells us to stop being angry and turn from our rage and Ephesians 4:31 where we’re told to put away all malice, harsh words, brawling, etc.  Malice, harsh words, and brawling are all descriptors of arguing.

Fortunately for Alice, going down the rabbit hole didn’t bring total disaster.  After all, a Disney movie usually has a happy ending.  In the real world however, when we choose to go down the rabbit hole of arguing, the only ending we get is one that results in an ending of a relationship, perhaps even an ending of mutual respect you once shared.  Even if you feel you’ve “won” the argument, is it worth celebrating if it cost you the relationship?  That raises the very question of where we place our value.  Is it more valuable to be right or is it more valuable to have relationship?

Personally I believe that relationship holds far more value than being right.  I’ve learned this the hard way.  For example, I have a best friend whom I rarely agree with.  The only thing we probably truly have in common is a love for Jesus, family and our friendship.  Everything else we tend to be opposites on.  In the early stages of our friendship we had a few arguments.  Only one that I can recall ended up in no communication for two weeks.  For a friendship that talked daily, two weeks was a very long time.  During that time frame I reflected a lot on what was said and actually considered ending the friendship.  But I loved this person too much to never have them in my life again.  So I bent my pride and reached out to her.  It wasn’t easy.  Neither of us believed we were wrong.  But we both could agree that we shared words that hurt one another and we could apologize for that.  We also both chose to forgive and move past it because our friendship was far too valuable to throw away.

I wish I could say that was the case for other relationships in my life but sadly, there are some that the argument outweighed the relationship and that person is no longer a part of my life.  Those were times when the offender refused to apologize for attacking my character or wanted continue to argue.  I felt it necessary to emotionally protect myself by no longer having them in my life.  I still love them, but I simply choose to love them from a distance.  There are times you have to set boundaries in your life to protect your emotional well-being.  These situations aren’t about who’s right and who’s wrong.  They are simply about choosing what kinds of behaviors we will allow in our lives and being able to cut off anything that is toxic or will undermine the character God defines for us.

Please know I am not saying we shouldn’t have opinions or strong convictions.  The Bible is full of beliefs we as Christ followers are to cling to.  We should never compromise our belief systems.  But when talking to someone who opposes us, we should do what Jesus did.  He didn’t argue.  He had the spiritual wisdom to recognize a trap and he never went down the rabbit hole.  Time and again the Pharisees would ask Him questions to entice him into a debate.  Each time Jesus disappointed them.  There were times Jesus wouldn’t even answer them (think of the woman caught in adultery when Jesus ignored the Pharisees and drew in the sand.)  When He chose to answer them, He would use one liners like “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Or “Render unto Caesar what is Caesars’s.) Other times He spoke in parables to make His point.  Often times His own disciples didn’t understand what He was saying but Jesus didn’t debate them either.

There were also times he avoided his naysayers altogether.  But here’s a list of what He didn’t do:

  • Jesus never said, “I’m right, you’re wrong.”
  • He never became defensive nor did He defend Who He was. By this I mean He never engaged in a debate or argument about Him being the Son of Man.  He stated it time and again but He didn’t argue with anyone who disagreed.
  • Jesus also never defend His character. Jesus’ enemies were right in their own eyes and there were many who slandered Him for Who He presented Himself to be and the ministry He led.
  • He didn’t have a publicist write a formal speech to address His naysayers. He just kept on doing His thing and ignored the Queens of Hearts, Mad Hatters, White Rabbits and Cheshire Cats of His day.

Time and again the Bible tells us, we are to be just like Jesus.  Which means, instead of arguing, we can choose to ignore.  Instead of debating, we can choose to pray.  When someone entices us into an argument, we can choose to be like Jesus which may mean not responding to them at all.

Before you post something that you know will open up a rabbit hole into Argueland, pause and ask yourself is it worth the energy you’re going to waste defending your opinion?  Better yet, don’t post it.  Post a verse, a fun picture or a joke instead.  Social media platforms don’t change the world anyway.  They simply create a greater division that already exists because people are too focused on being right and less focused on being in relationship and fellowship with one another.

We are all entitled to our opinions and belief systems.  We are not entitled to share or impose them on someone else.  If Jesus didn’t force His beliefs on anyone during His ministry, why do we feel so entitled to do it now-especially on social media?  I can’t promise I won’t fall prey to another argument but for now, I am choosing to listen to the Holy Spirit and not go down the rabbit hole.  People change the world by praying and being Christ like not by arguing or posting controversial things on Social Media.

The Wisdom of Motherhood

“Hear the instruction of your Father; do not forsake the law of your Mother!”

Proverbs 1:8

Today was Mother’s Day.  An obvious choice for a sermon, the minister preached on Proverbs 31.  However, the surprising theme of the message was not about women being the Wonder Woman described in this chapter (a woman most Christian women have compared themselves to more than once and most likely felt they could never measure up to-myself included.) Today’s theme was about wisdom and honoring women of valor because they are very wise women.

I was raised by a single mom.  When I read Proverbs 31 and compare it to my mom, honestly she measures up far better than I do.  If you read Proverbs 31 in a literal sense, my momma brings her husband (and others) good, not harm all the days of her life.  She knows how to select fabrics.  Growing up she sewed clothing for me and my dolls (we had matching outfits).  She made me dolls and crocheted versions of Care Bears.  To this day, she raises Alpacas and uses their fiber to make many beautiful things.  She is a very creative and talented woman.  I have never shared this passion with her and the only sewing I can do is repairing loose buttons and using iron tape to hem things.

“She gets up early and tends to her household.”  My mom was always the first one up, making sure my brother and I were ready for school or church and getting us to where we needed to go on time.  (Me-I’m always running late and my kiddos and I leave in a rush most days. In fact, today I woke them up late and they ended up having Hershey’s bars for breakfast and we were still two minutes late for church.) I am the first one up but I like to ease into my days enjoying the quietness of the morning while drinking a cup of coffee, some days reading my devotionals, other days reading a book.  My kids do get fed nutritious meals on a daily basis so don’t misinterpret the Hershey bars for breakfast statement.  That was a rare occasion and the chocolate bars were leftovers from the S’mores that were made at last night’s bonfire.

“She considers a field and buys it”-my mom has owned several homes and maintained them well.  She grew a few vegetable gardens and even knows how to can food items. She could make noodles from scratch.  I have no desire to own my home.  I tried helping my daughter grow a garden last year and I believe we managed to produce 2-3 tiny green tomatoes.  Nothing else bore any produce.  I do not have a green thumb-another thing I simply am not passionate about either.  I don’t think I’ve ever even attempted to make noodles from scratch either.

Something from Proverbs 31 my mom and I do have in common would be verse 20; “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”  My mom always had an open door for displaced people and stray animals.  Okay if I’m being honest, I was the kid who brought home every stray animal I came across but she never told me I couldn’t keep them. At one time, I had six pet cats (this was obviously before I discovered that I am in fact, allergic to cats-Ha! Ha!)  My friends always knew they were welcome in our home.  In fact, some spent time at my house when we weren’t even home.  There were many occasions that family members, for various reasons, lived with us.  Her generosity instilled in me a passion to someday be a key player in implementing homeless to housed programs throughout my country and God willing, all over the world.

I could go on but I am guessing you get the gist of the kind of mom I was blessed with and the fact that I am fairly opposite of her.  Doesn’t make me a bad mom.  Just means I parent differently.  My kids still learn the things I am passionate about and what I am not skilled at teaching them, I rely on others to teach them.  I’m secure enough in my mothering to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and to no longer beat myself up when I make a mistake.  I don’t like to cook and my kids know that.  But they love my sloppy joes and pancakes.  They also know that I love to baking and think I make the best homemade frosting in the world.  My son thinks I throw a football like a girl but he knows he can count on me to throw a football, play catch or shoot hoops with him if he asks.  My daughter is incredibly liberal (not how she was raised) but she knows she is allowed to speak her mind.  In my home we have an open communication policy.  You are allowed to say what you’re thinking knowing that you will be listened to.  But, you must then allow the other person to speak and give the same respect of listening to them, even if you do not agree with what they may be sharing.  There are days they may get a candy bar or even cookies for breakfast but my fridge is always stocked with healthy food choices and I spend 1-2 hours every other week doing food prep to ensure the healthy snacks are easily accessible for all of us.

But as I learned today, Proverbs 31 was not written to be a list of super hero traits we moms must aspire to be.  As pastor said today, “Proverbs 31 may be the final chapter of wisdom.”  He continued by explaining that “wisdom is the ability to live life skillfully.”  Later he stated that “being a Proverbs 31 woman is not about being perfect, it’s about learning to live life skillfully.”  When we learn this, we become women of valor, women of wisdom.  He suggested a great way to gain wisdom is to “Read and Plead.”  This means reading a chapter of Proverbs daily as well as seeking God and asking Him for wisdom.  He quoted James 1:5 (If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”) to back up this suggestion.  He also explained how God in His infinite wisdom, references wisdom repeatedly as a female character.  God made women to be a source and example of wisdom.

What I walked away with today is this; the best thing I can do for my children, myself and to honor God, is to walk in His wisdom and to strive to be a woman of wisdom.  Proverbs 3:18 describes wisdom like this, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” This is definitely a verse I am going to meditate on and strive to be.  Hearing that verse this morning instilled a desire to be the tree that is so rooted in an unshakable faith that my children or anyone who encounters me can feel blessed to take hold of because they see Jesus through me and gain wisdom by knowing me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my readers who are moms.  I pray your day was blessed and that this post reminds you of the amazing mom/mum that you are.  I pray this post inspires you to measure yourself to wisdom only and to seek God for an increase whenever you feel lacking.  I also pray that you stop measuring yourselves to the literal version of the Proverbs 31 woman and embrace the woman you are, exactly as God made you.  Jesus did not gift us all to be seamstresses, grow luscious gardens or even to be morning people.  But whatever gifts He’s given you, use them for His purpose and glory and shine like the amazing gems you all are.  In case you forgot how valuable you truly are, Proverbs 31 tells us we are more precious than jewels (vs 10), that we surpass excellency (vs 30) and that when we fear the Lord, we are to be praised (vs 31.)