Conntecting the Dots

How to Respond Amidst Life’s Little Annoyances

How do we respond when life’s little annoyances crop up?

For the past week, I haven’t been able to log into my Facebook account on my laptop. That means responding to comments and posting my blog using my phone. I can manage the former, but doing the latter requires a learning curve, time, and patience. If you see this post on FB, you’ll know I’ve successfully figured it out – yeah!

My inability to log into my account has been one annoyance amidst several others recently. For instance, one washing machine in our marina laundromat went kaput and flooded the entire floor on the day we returned from Poland and needed to wash our dirty clothes.

International travel, illness, and other circumstances have meant I’ve been able to have a decent gym session maybe four times since the end of February, and I’m starting to feel like a slug.

I found mildew on the wall in our bathroom cabinet. Yuck!

No doubt you face annoyances too. They might include anything from finding your kids’ or spouse’s socks consistently strewn across the floor, sitting in traffic backups day after day, or waiting for someone to fulfill his promise to fix that leaky kitchen faucet. Drip, drip, drip.

Our human tendency is to lose patience and say or do something we later regret. This week, the thought of deleting my FB account has crossed my mind more than once, but I know I’d regret it later because I truly enjoy the interaction that’s happening on my Author Page. And so, I stifle that temptation and choose instead to take the time to learn how to post via my phone and to persevere trying to figure out what’s wrong with the login capability on my laptop. And while I do that, I will choose not to gripe but to 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Here are three things for which I’m giving thanks today:

  • That I have the privilege of owning both a laptop and a cell phone. Much of the world lives hand-to-mouth and would give anything to trade places with me.
  • That there’s much positive interaction happening on my FB page. Knowing that people are finding encouragement motivates me to keep going.
  • That I’m not too old to learn new technology tricks. Miracles never cease!

If you’re dealing with annoyances today, make a list of three things for which you can be thankful in the midst of them. Feel free to share those with the rest of us, okay? Let’s spur one another one to maintain the right response.

#Gratitude #DealingWithAnnoyances

You Have a Personal Cheering Squad

Spending time with my grandkids is always a treat. Last weekend we celebrated a birthday party at a bike park. The older kids pedaled up, down, and around dirt hills trying to “catch air.” The younger ones found entertainment doing other things, like going for walks through the forest with Grandma and Grandpa.

My four-year-old granddaughter raced ahead of me on the path. Suddenly she called out, “C’mon, Grandma. You can do it! You can, you can!”

The preschooler’s encouragement made me smile. It reminded me of the “huge cloud of witnesses to the life of faith” mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. Did you know that the word “clouds” in this context refers to the highest seats in a Greek stadium?

So, imagine you’re in an arena and fighting….

  • For your marriage
  • For your prodigal son or daughter
  • For the soul of an unbelieving relative or neighbor
  • For the ability to overcome an addiction
  • For the freedom from fear
  • Fill in the blank with your personal struggle

The stadium is packed to the hilt with believers who have already fought their battle and won. They’re cheering you on. “C’mon! You can do it, _________ (your name). Don’t quit! Never give up! You can win the battle over ______________!”

Knowing a multitude of victorious men and women is cheering you on ought to do more than put a smile on your face. Hopefully it infuses you with courage and determination to keep on keeping on

You’re not fighting your battle alone. You’re surrounded by a personal cheering squad whose victories prove you can do it too.

#bgbg2 #CloudOfWitnesses

3 Keys to Surviving Life’s Hard Stuff

Life is flat-out hard sometimes. Stuff happens when we least expect it, and it can send us into a tailspin or drive us to our knees.

Sometimes that stuff lingers much longer than we’d like. We tie a knot and hang on for dear life, but fear threatens to slip our grip.

I’ve experienced “stuff”—like when our daughter was born with hydrocephalus and had to undergo nearly a dozen surgeries within her first two years. And when my dad died when I was overseas and I couldn’t return for his funeral. And when we’ve faced financial stress as missionaries depending on others’ donations to keep us in ministry. And when I lost my mobility for three months. And when I purged my house last year and moved into a boat and a culture much different than anything familiar.

I could tell many stories about the tough stuff I’ve experienced. I suspect that, if everyone reading this blog pooled their stories, we could fill a book. Or two. Or more.

So what’s the key to surviving these seasons when they come? Here are three things to remember:

• God is with us.
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, falsely accused of sexual assault, and forgotten in prison. Talk about having to deal with hard stuff! I wonder if he sometimes felt like God had turned His back on him. Nonetheless, Scripture says that God was with him (Genesis 39:2,3,21,23).

The enemy will try to convince you that God has abandoned you, but don’t fall for the lie. God has not changed. His faithfulness remains the same, therefore, rest assured that He is with you as you deal with difficulty. He will never leave you or forsake you.

• Our trials are temporary.
Joseph’s hardships lasted about 14 years. Some of you might think that’s a long time, but others might think, If only mine were so short-lived. No matter the length of time our difficulties stay, it’s easy to lose sight of the truth when we’re in the middle of the mess. The truth is – our trials will not last forever (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Joseph’s hardships lasted until “the time came for [the LORD] to fulfill his word (Psalm 105:19). Ours, too, will end at just the right time. So, again—be encouraged. This too shall pass. We might not know when they’ll end or what the process will look like enroute, but they will not last forever.

• Our trials are part of a picture that’s bigger than the one we see at this time.
Joseph’s hardships were divinely designed. Psalm 105:17,18 say, “Then he [God] sent someone to Egypt ahead of them—Joseph, who was sold as a slave. There in prison, they bruised his feet with fetters and put his neck in an iron collar. Until the time came to fulfill his word, the LORD tested Joseph’s character.”

Why did God deem it necessary to test Joseph using these means? Because He purposed for Joseph to become second-in-command in Egypt. God wanted to prepare him for the task, and this was the best way to do so.

God has purposes yet unseen for our lives, too. Every one of the hardships we experience are part of the pruning and honing necessary to prepare us. They’re also designed to make us more like Jesus no matter what our destiny is (Romans 8:28,29).

“Father God, we don’t understand why certain hardships come our way. Truth be told, we would never choose them ourselves. But we belong to You, and we want Your highest purpose to be fulfilled in and through us. So when those hardships come, help us to remember that You’re with us, they’re temporary, and they’re part of a bigger picture than the one we see at this time. Help us to trust You with our pain and to allow You to accomplish Your good work. In Jesus’s name, amen.”

#bgbg2 #GodUsesPain #SurvivingHardTimes

Listening for Spiritual Clues

While in the marina laundromat yesterday morning, I met a woman I’d never seen before. She lives several hours’ drive away, but she’d accompanied her husband to our marina because he had a job here today. In less than one minute of introductory conversation, I discovered that her knowledge about sailing skills far surpasses mine.

I told Gene about her when I returned to the boat. He said, “You should invite her for tea and get to know her better.”

“It’s too late,” I said. “I don’t even know her name. I’ll never see her again.”

A half hour later, I returned to the laundromat to throw our clothes into the dryer. Guess who was standing in the parking lot beside her van? She immediately accepted my invitation for tea.

Whenever I visit with strangers, I listen for “spiritual clues”—words or phrases they speak that tell me God’s pursuing them and that their hearts are being prepped to hear the Gospel. Knowing they’re already interested in spiritual things totally removes the fear factor about engaging in a conversation about Jesus with them.

This morning’s conversation gave me two clues. Here’s one example. It came as we swapped stories about how we came to own our boats: “There’s a voice out there that speaks to us. We have to listen for it. When we do what it says, things turn out okay.”

Sometimes those clues provide wide open doors to talk about Jesus. Other times, they come with a whisper that says, “Wait.” That’s what I sensed this morning.

Before she left, my new friend took my contact information and invited us to visit them on their boat this summer. “I think we’re going to have fun adventures together,” she said with a cheery smile. “We women boaters need to stick together.”

Meeting this gal was no mere coincidence. God alone knows her heart, but He’s given me a glimpse that shows He’s at work there. Now it’s up to me to pursue future contact. Apparently they come here once each month, so I’ll set up a lunch or dinner date during their next visit.

I believe it was Henry Blackaby who said God works at all times and in all places. He’s right! We only have to be alert to His Spirit’s activity in our lives and wear our listening ears to discover that’s true.

What are your thoughts about listening for spiritual clues in conversation with those who don’t yet know Jesus? Is this a new concept or something you already practice? If the latter, what clues have you received in recent conversations?

#SpiritualClues  #bgbg2

Secure People Serve People

Having been involved in career ministry for more than 25 years means I’ve worked with a few different personality types. One coworker, in particular, was a controller. Rather than encourage those within his sphere of influence to use and develop their God-given gifts, he squelched them and said demeaning things.

His manner both hurt and nearly drove me crazy until I began to understand that it was rooted in insecurity. He couldn’t encourage others to soar because they might soar higher than him. Third parties might then recognize their potential, and this could threaten his position. This understanding completely changed the way I viewed him.

Rather than chafing and harboring hurt, I viewed him with compassion. I now saw him as a man in bondage, a man who lacked inner freedom because he didn’t understand his identity in Christ.

When I read the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, I see a Man secure in His identity, and His behavior proved it.: “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel he had around him.” (John 13:3-5)

Jesus knew who and whose He was. He understood God’s unique purpose for His life. As a result, He never wasted time or energy comparing Himself to others and their callings, and He never felt threatened or intimidated by others’ giftedness.

In this story, Jesus could have asked a servant or one of His disciples to wash His feet. He was, after all, the Teacher. Asking someone to perform this service for Him would have provided a convenient reminder of His position and authority. But why? He had nothing to prove. He was the Son of God, and nothing would improve on or change that fact. Therefore, He was free to behave like a servant and wash His disciples’ dirty feet.

Our human bent might say that stooping to serve others causes them to view us with less dignity than we desire. We might lose their respect. Our authority might take a hit. But in reality, the opposite is true. When we’re secure in who and whose we are, then serving is neither demeaning nor a means of proving something. Rather, it’s a demonstration of our love for others, and it brings joy.

Your thoughts?

What’s one act of service you can do for someone (apart from your family) today?

#bgbg2 #IAmSecure

Photo courtesy of Google images.

Rest — We All Need It

It’s good to be home. After the past ten weeks of both domestic and international travel, teaching, and hosting our booth at four missions conferences, I’m basking in being back on the boat. It’s time to stop, rest, and recharge. It’s time to live Psalm 23:2,3a—“He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength.”

We all need a rest periodically, yes? For some, that means taking a break from ongoing family responsibilities—leaving the kids with a sitter for a few hours, perhaps, so you can go out for coffee with your spouse or a good friend. For others, it means taking an extended vacation away from workplace pressures. For some, it means turning off the cell phone and ignoring social media for a day or two.

Your circumstances and life season will determine your need for renewal and what that looks like in practical terms. For me, today, taking a rest means spending an extended time with my Bible and journal. I’ve sipped coffee and read a couple chapters of a good book.

After posting this blog, I’ll give the boat a good clean. I know, I know—that doesn’t sound like a rest, but I find a change of activity is good for the soul. Besides, I’ve been staring at winter’s salt residue on the steps entering the salon long enough. I look forward to doing a bit of spring cleaning, and I’ll make it fun by listening to praise and worship music while I scrub. When I’ve finished that task, I’ll schedule memes for my FB Author Page and then go for a walk. Tomorrow morning I’ll be good-to-go and better able to focus on preparing for upcoming speaking engagements.

“Rest” looks different for everyone, but one thing’s for sure—we need it. And we need to enjoy it without feeling guilty.

God knows we’re not super-human. We’re made from dust, and we flourish best when we take occasional breaks from routine busyness.

What does “rest” look like for you?

#Rest #TakeABreak  #bgbg2

Photo attribution: Image by PublicDomainArchive from Pixabay

How Big is God?

This week’s travels allowed me to see bits and pieces of the earth on which we live—the snow-capped Rockies and the towering Alps, the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, lush forests, barren islands, and the grand finale—a sunset that painted the clouds pink as my plane descended through them and landed on Middle Eastern landscape.

The vastness of our world boggles my mind. Imagine—I spent 14 hours flying at more than 500 mph and still saw only a fraction of what there is to see. And what I saw was only the big stuff. What about the wee marvels like ladybugs and ants, coral and plankton, flowers and fruit of every variety? My soul can’t help but burst into praise to the Artist who planned all this, spoke it into existence, and holds it in His hand.

Here’s something else that boggles my mind: this same God fashioned you and me.

And that’s just a teeny-tiny fraction of what He does for us. Is it any wonder the psalmist burst into song:

“Come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us give a joyous shout to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come before him with thanksgiving.

Let us sing him psalms of praise.

For the LORD is a great God,

The great King above all gods.

He owns the depths of the earth, and even the mightiest mountains are his.

The sea belongs to him, for he made it.

His hands formed the dry land, too.

Come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the LORD, our maker, for he is our God.

We are the people he watches over, the sheep under his care.

Oh, that you would listen to his voice today!”

(Psalm 95:1-7 NLT)

God deserves our worship and adoration. Because of who He is—our Creator—He also deserves our obedience. Why would we choose to argue with Him or defy His authority when He is clearly bigger and wiser than us?

Tomorrow I’ll board another plane and land in a different Middle Eastern country. Too bad it’s a night flight. I won’t be able to see the landscape this time, but I will be able to see the moon and stars. Perhaps, rather than working in flight as I usually do, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the ride, meditating on the greatness of God as seen in the heavens.

#GodIsBig #bgbg2

Never Ever Alone

I’ve traveled many miles this week. They’ve taken me down freeways, over mountain ranges, through farming country, and alongside rivers and lakes. This morning I woke in the city of Edmonton.

Every time I phone my mom, she asks, “Where are you now? I can’t keep track of you.” I know the feeling—sometimes I can’t keep track of me either. Especially in unfamiliar territory.

True confession—I am directionally challenged. North, south, east, and west mean nothing to me. I’m the only person I know who can get lost in a cul-de-sac.

Maybe that’s why Psalm 139:3-5 resonates with me so well:

You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest.

Every moment you know where I am.

You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD.

You both precede and follow me.

You place your hand of blessing on my head.

Next week I’ll fly to a sketchy part of the world. Some people ask me if that prospect scares me. My answer is “no.” I’m on God’s radar every moment and across every mile. He not only sees where I am, He goes with me. I am never alone.

Neither are you.

You might feel alone at times. You might feel a bit lost now and again. You might feel as though you’ve taken a wrong turn on this journey called life, and there’s no hope for finding your way back home. But the truth is—God knows exactly where you are. You’re on His radar every moment of every day. He’s with you.

Is it any wonder the psalmist, after reflecting on this truth, exclaimed, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to know!” (Psalm 139:6).

God is with you, my friend. Let that truth wash over you today and bring you joy.

#GodIsWithUs  #NeverAlone

Obedience and Attitude

Let’s say a mother asks her child to empty the dishwasher. How might that child respond?

  • “Aw, Mom. Do I have to?” The child dawdles to the kitchen muttering, “Why do I always have to empty the dishwasher? Why can’t someone else do it?”
  • “Sure, Mom.” An hour later, the child still hasn’t done the chore. He’s preoccupied with his own interests. Emptying the dishwasher isn’t on his radar.
  • “Sure, Mom.” The child backs up his words with action until he loses interest. The sound of his siblings playing a video game entices him, and he leaves the task half-done.
  • “Sure, Mom.” The child immediately pauses the activity in which he’s involved. He does exactly what his mother asked him of him, and he does so with a cheerful heart.

Which response, do you think, sparks the greatest joy in the mother’s heart?

As followers of Christ, we know He desires our obedience. Saying “yes” to His commands is vital to our well-being, but our attitude is no less important. Psalm 119 tells us what it should look like. Here’s a sampling:

  • “I have rejoiced in your decrees as much as in riches.” (v. 14)
  • “I will delight in your principles and not forget your word.” (v. 16)
  • “I am overwhelmed continually with a desire for your laws.” (v. 20)
  • “I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your laws.” (v. 30)
  • “If you will help me, I will run to follow your commands.” (v. 32)

Truth be told, immediate and joyful obedience isn’t always easy. When God asks me to do something beyond my comfort zone, my human nature wants to drag its feet and look for something easier to do.

When obedience requires personal sacrifice on my part, I’m not exactly overwhelmed with desire to comply.

When obedience means humbling myself, my nature feels determined to defend personal rights.

But then I recall another verse, and everything changes.  “I reflect at night on who you are, O LORD, and I obey your law because of this” (Psalm 119:55).

Why should we obey God’s commands with a good attitude? Not because He’ll bless us with joy for doing so (although this is true). Not because doing so benefits us (although this is true). Not because it’s the right thing to do (although this is true).

Our most important reason for obeying God’s commands with immediacy and delight is because of who He is—our Creator. Sovereign King. Almighty, all-wise One. Holy God. The Great I AM. Considering who He is, how can we even think about dragging our feet or whining about personal inconvenience when we do comply?

“Father, thank You for knowing what’s best for us in every way and for teaching us how to live well. Please forgive us for reluctant obedience. Forgive us for considering ourselves supreme above You. Grant us humility that we will run to obey Your commands with great delight. Amen.”

#bgbg2 #ObedienceIsBest  #ObeyGod

Loving People Through Hospitality

One of the things I enjoy most about living in the marina is inviting our neighbors over for meals. The food is never fancy, but it’s warm and nutritious. The single men, especially, seem appreciative both of the food and of opportunity to sit around a table and enjoy conversation.

Hospitality in our homes almost seems a lost art in our rush-rush and increasingly impersonal society. And yet, it’s one of the best ways to build relationships. It’s not difficult either, if we keep things simple. The point is not to impress but to serve. To open the door of our homes and our hearts and, through our actions, say, “You’re welcome here.”

“When God’s children are in need, be the one to help them out. Get into the habit of inviting guests home for dinner or, if they need lodging for the night,” wrote Paul (Romans 12:13). I don’t think his suggestion refers solely to fellow believers. Not when people everywhere long to know they’re valued. Not when people everywhere need a friend sooner or later.

And that’s what we can be—a friend. A real-life, face-to-face listener and encourager. That’s nearly an anomaly in our day and age.

A winter storm watch is predicted in our area with high winds beginning around 4 PM today. Snowfall is in the forecast for the weekend. Nothing says “you’re welcome” on a shivery day more than the aroma of soup and biscuits, so Gene and I plan to invite several neighbors for lunch tomorrow. We might do the same for dinner. It seems spontaneity works best in our neighborhood. Today we’re asking God to show us who we should invite—we never want to overlook one of the people living along our dock by inadvertently offering repeat invitations to a certain few.

If you don’t already practice hospitality, I encourage you to do so. Build a friendship with your neighbors over a bowl of homemade soup. Get to know them over a cup of coffee and dessert. Try popcorn and board games. Again, keep it simple. The more complicated we make it, the less likely we are to do it.

I guarantee you this—opening your door will bless all who enter. And you’ll be blessed in return.

#PracticingHospitality  #OpenHeartOpenHome  #bgbg2