Nautical Naughtiness

“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness.”

2 Peter 3:17

In my country, July 4th is a national holiday known as Independence Day.  It’s a day that is celebrated with parades, picnics, barbecues, beach days, boating and of course fireworks.  Everywhere you look American flags and  red, white and blue decorations adorn homes, streets, businesses and even people.  It’s a day the US celebrates becoming its own country, independent of another country’s governing.

In my family, we have a traditional Independence Day celebration.  It’s a small gathering of cousins and their children.  We attend a parade, enjoy a cook-out, relax at the beach and end the day reveling at the firework show.  There is an annual festival going on with many events and we tend to find ourselves exploring vendors and enjoying the whatever entertainment is performing in the park.  There are always a few stressful moments but overall it’s a very enjoyable day.

This year, after the cook-out, I took my daughter and three nieces to the beach.  The lake is very shallow and my younger nieces went out quite a distance before the water was even near their bellies.  Being a “nervous Nelly” when it comes to water safety, I would call out to my nieces and motion for them to come back in.  This of course was no fun to them because they would inevitably end up swimming in very shallow water.  After seeing one of my nieces express some frustration, I explained that I was only trying to keep them safe.  As far out as they had previously gone, if they ended up in danger, it would have taken me too long to get to them from the shore.  After a brief storm interrupted our beach time, we found a happy medium for distance in the water that we could all live with.

As evening approached and only a few short hours until fireworks time, the rest of my family arrived.  This crew included my nephews who are seven, five and three.  Because the temps were cooling off, the sun was setting and fireworks would start at dusk, my nephews were not permitted to go swimming.  In fact, when everyone else arrived, my nieces changed into dry clothes as all swimming had come to an end for the day.  That was, until my three-year-old nephew decided to walk right into the lake.

Keep in mind, this is a very shallow lake.  Thankfully that meant no drop offs anywhere around him that put him in immediate danger.  His mother, seeing what her son was doing, called out his name and told him to stop.  He did not listen.  She called again and he continued walking into the water.  Another adult family member headed to the water to get him.  My nephew turned around wearing a giant grin on his face and continued to walk backward farther into the water as my cousin slowly walked toward him.  My nephew’s mother continued to tell him to stop but alas, he did not listen.  Reading his face, it looked as though he thought his uncle was playing a game with him and he was determined to not get caught.

Just before he went under the water, my cousin grabbed a hold of my nephew and carried him to shore.  He was greeted by his momma who was wearing a very serious, concerned and unhappy look on her face.  As he looked as his momma, that big smile turned to a frown.  He lowered his head and in a soft, sweet toddler voice he said, “Sorry momma.”  As I am one who tends to find these moments funny when it’s not my own child disobeying, I jumped up and took a photo of the very moment he became apologetic.  All in all, his clothes were soaked but he was kept safe from going under water.

As this scenario played out, and especially as I watched my nephew’s facial expressions turn from joy, mischievousness and then to remorse and regret, I thought about God’s parenting and our own sinful natures.  If we are honest with ourselves, we can be certain to recall a time or many where we looked God in the eye, heeded His warnings, possibly flashed a cheeky grin and walked directly into a dangerous and sinful situation.  It doesn’t have to be something as drastic as three-year-old ignoring his mother’s warnings and walking into a lake where he could’ve drown.  It could be something as easy as overeating, overspending, having sex before marriage, telling a lie or a handful of lies, etc.  It could be something more destructive like being married, forming a friendship with a member of the opposite sex, heeding God’s warnings about getting too close and crossing lines into an emotional and/or physical affair.

There are times we face sinful choices and like the situation with my nephew, God steps in just before we’re about to go under water.  There are other times though, God chooses not to intercede but instead waits to piece us back together as you or I self destruct.  With that self-destruction comes collateral damage to ourselves and others that isn’t always fixed.  Relationships can be destroyed and God’s redeeming love doesn’t always restore them.  Some decisions we make can be life changers or life enders.  That’s why God calls out to us yelling, “STOP!” It’s our fault we get into deep water when we choose to ignore God’s warnings.

No matter what type of sin it is, ignoring God’s warning signs will always lead to negative consequences.  When walking through those consequences, that cheeky grin we once displayed turns upside down as we are burdened with remorse and regret.  Thankfully, God’s mercy and grace mean we do not have to live in an eternal state of regret.  Yes we will make mistakes.  Some may even forever change us.  But we don’t have to let our mistakes define or govern us.  We can have our own “independence day” celebrating the freedom God’s love and forgiveness brings-freedom from guilt and shame.

God’s redeeming love covers all of our mistakes.  He is our foghorn when we face temptation.  He is our lifeboat when find ourselves in deep waters.  He is our guiding light when were shipwrecked and lost.  He forgives us as soon as we say, “Sorry Abba” just as my nephew’s mother forgave him immediately when he sought forgiveness too.  If you’re in deep waters today, God can still save you.  All you have to do is cry out for help and trust Him.  If you’re struggling with a regretful past, swim away from the under toe of shame and know that you are forgiven.  If you’re facing a temptation today, listen to God yelling, “STOP!”, heed His warning and walk out of the deep water you’re about to enter.  Walking in obedience may feel like swimming in shallow water but there’s no chance of drowning when you’re right where God can save you.

No matter how enticing the enemy is making temptation look, it will not bring you the joy and satisfaction you’re longing for.  Obedience to God’s word is the only joy that will truly satisfy you. Walking in obedience may not always feel fun or joyful but living with a lifetime of regret from sinful choices is far less enjoyable that doing life God’s way.   I’m writing from experience on this one for sure!

 

Christ in Me

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭139:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today I surprised my mom at her church. It was a blessing to see the joy on her face when she saw me. It refreshing to be back in a church. It’s been a bit since I’ve attended. It was also refreshing to see a man I’ve covered in years of prayers. In church worshipping and engaging in fellowship with other believers.

After church I was blessed to have a quick conversation with this friend. He paid me a compliment that’s resonated with me all day. He told me I have a light in my eyes. A light that is life. I’ve been compliment about my eyes many times but no one has ever seen that in them.

My first response was to point out the tired and purple bags hanging from my eyes. He didn’t allow me to negate his observation though. He simply stated he wasn’t talking about what was below my eyes but what was in them. He said he could see Jesus and a love for people in my eyes. When he was finished I responded with a confirmation that I do indeed love people.

What he said resonated with me because Ive never been complimented that way before. But his words resonated me for another reason too. I thought about the times I don’t act loving toward people-the times I lose my temper, grumble, complain, hold a grudge, take things too personally, or deliberately choose to be rude or unkind. I actually thought I was presenting a falsehood to my friend and that I should message him the “real” me. I wondered if in those moments do my eyes show the opposite of life? At my worst, do they exude death?

Tonight, before writing any emails or messages, God led me to Psalm 139. Reading this chapter showed me what God sees in me (and you.) We are fearfully and wonderfully made by Him. He made all the delicate parts of us and knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. We are wonderfully complex, a marvelous display of His workmanship. Every moment of our lives has been laid out before Christ before we even existed. Including every bad moment and sinful act we engage in. Yet His thoughts about us are precious! And Isaiah 55 reminds us that His thoughts are not our thoughts-they’re higher than ours.

Today’s conversation was Christ orchestrated for both my friend and for me. God used my eyes to hopefully breath more life into a man who’s felt dead inside for years. But God also used my friend’s words to remind me of who I am in Him.

The next time the enemy tries to define you as anything than who you are in Christ-meditate on Psalm 139 and worship Abba with this chorus from Jeremy Camp:

“So come and empty me

So that it’s you I breathe

I want my life to be

Only Christ in me

So I will fix my eyes

‘Cause you’re my source of life

I need the world to see

That it’s Christ in me

That it’s Christ in me”

This chorus alone reminds us to empty ourselves of all we think we are and fix our eyes on Him-our source of light and life. When we do that, it’s inevitable that others will see His light and His life through our eyes!

Happy Birthday 🎂

“If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭12:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬
Today, Sept 29th, is my birthday. I tend to make this day all about me thinking it’s the one day a year I get to be celebrated. Most days I feel under appreciated, overlooked and insignificant to say the least. But God has been showing me that I was not created to live my life for me-I was created to live for Him and to serve others.
Thus I can’t imagine a better way to spend today than to bless others and I want to encourage anyone who reads this to do the same. Today be encouraged to be a blessing to someone in your life or even a total stranger. Buy someone coffee, pay for a person’s groceries, help someone carry something that is too heavy, call a long lost friend and reconnect, pray with someone, strike up a conversation with your cashier, call the person delivering your lunch by name, thank a veteran, hold open the door for someone and especially SMILE at others you encounter today. Our world is full of strife but small and simple acts of kindness can be the reason someone smiles today.

Please share in the comments  how you blessed others or paid it forward with a random act of kindness!  God bless! 🙏🏻💕🎂

Shine Bright Like a Diamond

I have a few favorite quotes/sayings in life.  My first would be Mother Teresa’s “Small acts of kindness, done with great love, change the world.”  My second would be Audrey Hepburn’s, “I believe in pink…”  My third would be “Never let anyone dull your sparkle.”  On a side bar- my favorite paraphrase would have to be, “When life hands you lemons, make margaritas.”  I call it a paraphrase because I think it’s actually supposed to say something about lemonade but seriously-if I’m drinking lemonade, it had better have some Patron mixed in it, and served on the rocks in a salted rim glass.  Am I right?  I’m digressing, my apologies.

“Never let anyone dull your sparkle” if taken literally, sounds like something you would say to a Vegas show girl or perhaps a cleaning lady-basically anyone that deals with shining things or wearing glitter.  In reality this quote is simply another way of saying, “Don’t let others steal your joy” or even “Do not let the words or deeds of others define who you are.”  A pretty deep meaning behind a very short quote, don’t ya think?

I gotta be honest with you-my life (as I’m sure some of yours’ also) has been full of “Sparkle Dullers”, “Joy Stealers” and outright pathological jerks.  For years-I defined who I was based on how I was treated, the harsh words spoken to me and on the opinions of my critics.  Basing your self-worth on what someone who doesn’t like you thinks of you is pretty reckless and gives that person too much power over you.  I can’t tell you how many texts and phones calls I’ve made to my friends and few close family members, full of tears and brokenness expressing how much I felt like a total loser and not worthy of anything all because the voices of my critics rang too loudly in my mind.

Thankfully, God has blessed me with friends and family who speak truth into me regularly and have worked diligently to fill me up with words of affirmation, reminders of who I am in Christ, and all around uplifting encouragement.  They never put me down for putting myself down (which by the way is not a helpful tactic.  Putting someone down when they’re already down on themselves only pushes them down lower.)  One friend in particular, calls me a diamond.  Every time I get down on myself, she says to me, “Friend you’re a diamond.  Shine like it.”  But all these words of affirmation and encouragement simply aren’t enough if I don’t choose to believe them over myself.  Believing in ourselves can be a very difficult thing-especially if we’ve spent most of our life believing in what our critics spoke about us.

The truth is-we are all diamonds, we should shine like it AND we should never let anyone dull our sparkle.  For anyone that’s ever owned diamond jewelry, whether it’s a diamond ring, a pair of diamond earrings, or tennis bracelet, they know most people treat diamonds like the beautiful and expensive treasure they are.  Some keep them in special cases, locked in safes, and purchase special insurance to ensure their diamonds are well protected.  They always make sure to clean these precious gems before adorning them to capture the eye (and envy) of every passerby.  Afterall, who doesn’t want to show off their diamonds?

Guess what that means for the diamond in you and me?  It means we need to take care of ourselves by cleaning out our minds.  We can do this utilizing positive self-talk, reminding ourselves who God made us to be in order to sparkle in a way that lights up a room as soon as we walk in.  That sparkle inside each of us is what attracts others to us.  The more we accept the words of affirmation and encouragement others speak into us and refute the naysayers mean words, the brighter our sparkle gets.  The more we speak words of affirmation over ourselves, the more attractive our sparkle gets. And the more we speak words of affirmation and encourage over others, the bigger our diamond grows.

The bigger our diamond grows-the harsher our critics may get because they will be jealous of our happiness and angry that they can no longer steal our joy.  Think about it-how many times have you watched two kids interacting (usually siblings)-one is doing their best to irritate the other.  If the one who is doing the irritated gets a reaction from the other one, they will keep it up because they are thriving on irritating the reactor.  But if the reactor instead chooses to not respond or chooses to respond in a positive manner, the irritator has lost their power.  Jealous mean people are usually power people.  Nothing frustrates a power person more than when they lose that power.  It infuriates them. At first they will try harder to steal your joy but the more we choose to shine-eventually, the critics stop.  They give up.  They learn that what you and I think about ourselves holds a greater weight that what they think of us.  They may still never like us, but those “Sparkle Dullers” will move on and find someone else to prey on, who thinks they’re nothing more than a cubic zirconia.

Here’s the kicker-thank God for the “Sparkle Dullers” and “Joy Stealers” in your life.  Praise Him for the critics.  Why?  Do you know how a diamond is made?  It’s starts as a piece of black coal and after years and years of hardcore pressure a beautiful, highly coveted, deeply admired, very precious gem is formed-a sparkling diamond.   You may have been nothing more than a lump of coal in your past but today-you are a diamond.  Speak life into yourself and into others.  Let your light so shine before others and watch how others become attracted to you.  Then see just how big your diamond is going to grow.

In an effort to show off my sparkle tonight-here’s a blended version of my three favorite quotes and one paraphrase, with my own twist.  “Do random acts of kindness, love greatly, believe in everything pink, drink magaritas and always, always, always, make sure to never let your sparkle go dull-when you do all this, you, my diamond girl, are going to change your world!”