Conntecting the Dots

3 Truths About Humility

God honors humility (1 Peter 5:5). While we know it’s a good and necessary virtue to pursue, some folks think of it solely in terms of a quiet, passive personality. That’s inaccurate. Here are three truths to help us better understand this character quality God wishes to see in us.

  • Humility requires strength of character.

Inaccurate thinking suggests that humility is spineless. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus emptied Himself of all His rights and then died a criminal’s death despite doing nothing wrong (Philippians 2:5-8). He could have squelched the injustice any time He chose, but courage and strength combined with love for the Father and mankind motivated Him to lay His life down willingly. Courageous—yes. Filled with inner strength—yes. Spineless—absolutely not.

We demonstrate humility when we refuse to rush into self-defense mode when someone hurts us. Instead, we pray for God to help us see that person through His eyes and then make ourselves available to serve when it’s needed and appropriate.

We also demonstrate humility when we allow someone else to take credit for something we’ve done. Our human bent wants the praise to fall where praise is due, but humility doesn’t need public accolades because it knows God ultimately doles out the rewards.

  • Humility requires teachability.

Our human bent thinks our way of thinking or doing things is the best or only way. Humility admits another’s way might be as good or better. It accepts correction and responds appropriately whereas pride considers itself above the need to change, learn, and grow.

I’m saddened when new writers show me their works-in-progress and insist they ought to be published as is. I can relate to their passion; I felt the same about my writing at the start of my career, but I had to undergo an attitude revision.

In 1999, at my first writers conference, an editor used her red pen to butcher the first two devotionals I’d ever written. I sat across the table from her and muffled horrified gasps. Then she asked for a third. Moments after she began reading it, she shook her head and said, “Grace—this is awful. I want you to go home, read the comments I made on the others, and rewrite using my suggestions.” I swallowed my pride and heeded her advice.

I also heeded the advice of another editor who said, “It’s my job to make you shine. Submit your manuscript and then get out of the way so I can do my job.” Apart from teachability, my writing would never have been published.

In what area of your life might you benefit from being teachable?

  • Humility requires understanding our God-given identity.

Jesus knelt and washed His disciples’ filthy feet, a task normally done by the lowliest household servant (John 13:1-17). He performed it without a qualm because He had nothing to prove and no need to impress (John 13:1,3).

Knowing to Whom we belong and understanding His purpose for us frees us from insecurity and pride. We feel no need to portray an image meant to impress. Therefore, we gladly do the dirty work unhindered by the fear of losing status, respect, or authority in others’ eyes.

What are your thoughts about humility? What lessons in humility have you learned along life’s way?

#humility #ChristianDevotions

Encouragement for the Weary

Hands down, last week’s highlight was meeting and cuddling grandbaby Alexandra. She’s a seven-pound bundle of pure precious.

I know her parents say Alexandra’s worth the nine-month wait, the long and excruciating labor, and the sleepless nights since her debut. But to say they’re tired is an understatement. That’s why I’m lending a hand for a few days this week.

Life deals us seasons when we become well-versed in weary. I recall a season during which Gene and I oversaw the building of our new house. Circumstances meant selling our existing home first, packing our belongings and finding adequate storage, dealing with endless permit issues, living with my in-laws for two months (an hour’s drive from the building site), and then housesitting for another two months as contractors missed one deadline after another despite best intentions.

I felt a twang in one hip a few days after we moved in. Within hours I could barely walk. A chiropractor friend worked me over and said, “It’s stress, Grace. Your body is reacting to stress.”

The doctor knew what he was talking about. Stressful stuff happened repeatedly for the next two or three years. Every time weariness set in, my neck, back, or hip went twang. “What’s happening in your life this time?” he’d ask when I showed up for treatment.

Weary affects us physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. How good it is to know that Jesus understands. “Come to Me and I will give you rest,” He says. (Matthew 11:28)

Does that mean Jesus removes our weary-causing circumstances? Rarely. It means that, in the midst of those circumstances, He hears our cries for help and meets our need for refreshment.

On the days I feel weariness creep in, my natural bent is to focus on how tired I feel. I’ve learned that doing so only serves to make me feel more spent. Instead, I pray, “Jesus, strength,” and “Jesus, rest.” That simple communication brings Him to the forefront of my mind where He—rather than my circumstances—assumes my full attention. A sense of joy, peace, and gratitude bring renewal to every part of me.

I also visualize Jesus holding me in His strong and protective arms, like my daughter and her husband snuggle their helpless newborn. There, cradled in Jesus’s arms and nestled close to His heart, I find rest. Supernatural strength infuses me and equips me to persevere.

Tell us about a season when you experienced weariness, okay? How did Jesus bring renewal?

#bgbg2  #Weary #FindingInnerStrength

The Miracle of Babies

Let us see your miracles again; let our children see your glory at work.

Psalm 90:16 (NLT)

To say I’m distracted today is an understatement. I’m writing this from a hospital waiting room as my youngest daughter labors to bring her first child into the world. Things are progressing slowly…much too slowly for her (and our ) liking. We can hardly wait to meet this wee girl child.

Every baby is a miracle Psalm 139, yes? Creator God selects height, hair and skin color, eye and nose shape. He chooses DNA and puts fingerprints in place. He designs the various systems—digestive, circulatory, muscular, and nervous, to mention a few. He constructs brains with ventricles and hearts with valves, and veins and arteries that carry blood to and from the mighty little pump.

Medical textbooks galore explain the biological details, but I don’t need to read them in order to know that a baby is a miracle. Everything about an infant declares God’s creative genius and glory.

I am, in faith, believing that Kim and her husband David will soon cradle their little miracle. Would you pray with me for a safe delivery?

PS: As I wait for Kim to deliver her daughter, I recall a doctor encouraging me to abort her when I was six weeks pregnant with her. Today would not be happening if I’d taken his advice. Here’s the story published by Focus on the Family: “Problem Pregnancy or Precious Life?”

#bgbg2  #BabiesAreMiracles

3 Ways to Maintain Focus (and Avoid Taking Tumbles)

Last spring Gene and I spent two days traveling to Vancouver Island by boat. We moored at a marina in Sooke and then drove to our son’s place where we spent the weekend.

The strangest thing happened at bedtime on our first night there: When I raised one leg to step into my jammies, I lost balance and keeled over sideways. I grabbed a chair for balance but it was no use. I nearly took it with me as I crashed to the floor.

Thankfully my fall bruised nothing but my pride. “What in the world was that?” I asked as I regained my composure.

“Good question,” Gene said, wide-eyed. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

A couple days later, I recalled the incident to a fitness instructor friend. “Were the lights on?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “There were no curtains on the windows, so I’d turned the lights off when I changed clothes.”

“That explains it,” she said. “You’d just spent two full days at sea. Your brain and body had to work together to keep you upright as the boat rocked and rolled. Your eyesight played a vital role in helping you maintain equilibrium. It sent messages to your brain which in turn told your body how to stay upright amidst the constant wave motion.

“Coming ashore required your brain and body to readjust. When you turned off the lights, your eyes had nothing on which to focus to maintain equilibrium. Your brain received scattered messages and boom—down you went.”

My friend’s explanation fascinated me. It helped me better understand the importance of having a focus for one’s life.

Scripture tells us to Hebrews 12:1,2 Losing that focus means everything goes wonky, but keeping it helps us maintain spiritual equilibrium. We stand secure and upright no matter our situation, and we limit the danger of taking unwanted tumbles.

So, how do we keep our focus on Jesus? Here are three suggestions:

  • Listen to praise and worship music. I play it while I’m preparing meals or driving in the car. Any concerns with which I’m struggling lose their grip on me when I proclaim truth by singing along with the lyrics.
  • Take concerns to Jesus immediately. Negative stuff happens and our human bent is to stew over it. Doing so only embeds our focus in the wrong place. Taking that stuff to Jesus right away ensures our focus stays in the right place—on Him.
  • Talk to Jesus continuously throughout the day. Greet Him when you wake up. Acknowledge His presence as you commute to work or take a walk. Thank Him for simple pleasures, for giving wisdom, and for being your constant companion.

Put these suggestions into practice, and please—leave a comment to tell us other suggestions you have, okay? Let’s grow together.

#bgbg2 #SingleFocus  #FocusOnJesus

3 Truths to Overcome Envy

A multi-million dollar yacht docked nearby for a couple of days last week. The moment I saw its massive windows and large back deck complete with lounging chairs, this thought popped into my head: Wow – it must be nice to be wealthy enough to afford that toy. Imagine how much space there is inside. Living aboard would be so easy. Lucky owners.

Ding-ding-ding-ding! An alarm immediately sounded in my spirit. “Don’t go there,” whispered the Holy Spirit. “Envy will suck you into a trap.”

I knew the whisper was right, so I immediately prayed, “Father, guard my heart. Thank You for the boat-home You’ve given us. It’s ideal for our needs, and I am grateful.”

Envy comes in many shapes and sizes. It might beckon us because a friend or family member owns a nicer home with newer furniture. Or drives a car with more amenities. Or takes extended vacations in places we can only imagine. Maybe that person’s marriage is more fun, her kids are more respectful, or her diet is more successful.

Envy grows more intense when that friend or family shows no regard for the Lord. Our human bent says, “It’s not fair. Why does she enjoy so many pleasures when I’m the one sacrificing for God’s sake?”

Asaph, the writer of Psalm 73, admitted his struggle with envy. “I tried to understand why the wicked prosper,” he wrote. “But what a difficult task it is!” (v. 16). He gained clarity by going into the sanctuary of God and thinking about the destiny of the wicked (v. 17). The more he pondered truth, the more clarity he gained.

Here are three truths that freed Asaph from envy:

  • Physical pleasures and success are temporal (vv. 19,20). Granted, they might be nice at the time, but they can vanish in a heartbeat. Why waste one’s energy envying something that won’t last? Let’s invest ourselves in what God values instead.
  • Envy turns us into unpleasant people (vv. 21,22). As Asaph gained clarity, he recognized that he’d become a bitter man, foolish and arrogant in God’s eyes. In my case, wistful thoughts about the yacht set me on a slippery path to discontentment. Unless I stepped off that path, it would lead me into a mindset of finding fault with everything about our sailboat. I’d eventually second-guess God’s leading us to make this life transition.

Our thoughts ultimately influence our behaviors and our destiny, so let’s refuse to dwell on envious thoughts. Like Asaph, let’s switch them out for truth so we’ll in both gratitude and godliness.

  • God alone satisfies (vv. 23-28). Envy makes us think like this—If only I had what she has, my life would be so much better. The truth is—if only we’d recognized the depth of God’s love and the power of His presence, our lives would be so much better.

Envy is a trap. Freedom comes when we focus not on what others have but on the riches that belong to us when we belong to God. Asaph got it right when he wrote these words—”…I still belong to you; you are holding my right hand. You will keep on guiding me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny” (v. 24).

 

So—is envy beckoning you into its trap? If so, identify the lie it wants you to believe and ask the Holy Spirit to align your thoughts with truth so you can escape its nasty clutches.

#bgbg2 #Envy  #FreedomFromEnvy  #Psalms

A Prayer to Pray When Someone Hurts You

Our human bent tells us to withdraw physically, or dish up the silent treatment, or seek sweet revenge when someone hurts us. Praying for that individual’s forgiveness seldom enters our mind. But if we profess to be Jesus’ disciples, then we’re to follow His example.

Jesus was innocent of all wrongdoing yet He suffered ridicule and an excruciating death. As He hung on the cross, a crowd gathered to watch and soldiers gambled for His clothing. A lesser man might have spent His dying breath uttering curses over them, but Jesus prayed,

Jesus recognized that the crowd who cheered for His crucifixion and the soldiers who hammered spikes through His hands and feet were not His real enemies. The unseen forces of evil led by Satan himself were ultimately the ones bent on His destruction.  Knowing this, Jesus was able to pray for those who mocked and crucified Him.

Consider this truth when someone’s hurt you deeply: “For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12).

Spend your emotional, mental, and spiritual energy fighting the real enemy—Satan. One battle strategy is to pray for the person who’s hurt you. Doing so is akin to donning protective armor against anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness.

Here’s a suggested prayer: “Holy Father, thank You for Christ’s example. He was able to do the hard thing—pray for the forgiveness of those who killed Him. I’m asking You for the strength to respond to my offender in the same way. Lord, I ask You to not hold this offense against him, but draw him to repentance. Grant him a clear understanding of who You are and of Your free gift of grace and forgiveness. Give him a heart that seeks after You. Give him the privilege of knowing You intimately and the joy that comes with walking in freedom from sin. I ask this on the basis of who You are—the God of truth and justice, the God who promises to be my Defender. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

#bgbg2 #Forgiveness

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