Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Power of Your Story

I was recently reminded of the power of our stories. The power of sharing our own experiences with those around us - with those we love.

It was a Saturday afternoon. My cousin and I were sitting at my parent's kitchen table listening to my Grandpa. I don't know how things got started. But I know I stayed because of the story my Grandpa was telling.

For the next while, my cousin and I listened and asked a few questions, while my Grandpa shared a portion of his life story with us. Some of it I had heard before, but much of it I had not.

There's something different about listening to someone tell their own story. About hearing it from their perspective. Possibly even more so when it's someone you know and love telling the story.

I walked away from that conversation with a precious memory. Time with Grandpa is likely not going to happen for too many years more. So I will embrace the times I get to do that.

It reminded me of another precious memory from my teenage years. We were at my great-grandparents wedding anniversary. Towards the end of the party, I found myself at a table with old photo albums with my Grandma and my Great-Grandpa. My Great-Grandpa was sharing his memories of where and why the picture was taken and who the people were. I didn't know at the time that only a couple months later I would be back at my Great-Grandpa's funeral.

But, I've never forgotten that time. Hearing the story of my Great-Grandpa's life.

There's power in sharing our stories with others. There's meaning in those times where we learn about what life was like for those we know and care about.

So, what is your story?

And who are you sharing it with?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Being a Writer

This post is a bit of a change from what I usually post here. For almost a year I've been a part of an online writing community that encourages and challenges one another in our writing. One of the other member of that community is hosting a writing contest on his blog and I've decided to join in. With that said, I'm participating in "Writing Contest: You Are a Writer" over at Positive Writer.

I've been writing a blog for almost 5 years now. And I was writing without sharing it with anyone for a number of years that.

But, I never would have called myself a writer.

I work in accounting. I'm a numbers person. I never liked anything to do with writing in school. I took math classes for fun instead.

I thought there was no way a person like that could be a writer.

So, when people told me I should write, I shrugged it off. I never gave it much thought.

At least, outwardly I did. But the thought didn't really leave my mind. I kept thinking about it. And dreaming about it. I never told anyone. I just kept thinking about it and I kept posting things here.

I always thought it would happen one day. One day I would be a writer. One day I would write something that was worthy of being published.

In the fall, I came across an opportunity to get involved with this writing community. I learned a lot. And I'm still learning lots.

I was challenged to begin to call myself a writer. I was told that the difference between being a writer and not being a writer was whether you wrote or just thought about writing things. I had never looked at it that way before.

I always thought you had to have a book published to be a writer. But, I've come to see how you don't have to have a book to be a writer. You have to write something and share it with other people. It's not a book, but I publish something every time I post something on my blog. Having a book published is a goal of many writers, but you can be a writer before that happens.

Shortly after that, I wrote a post I had been thinking about writing for a while. I wrote about something near to my heart and I wrote boldly about it. I knew not everyone would agree with what I wrote. But for the first time I stepped out and wrote about something that was dangerous for my to write about.

I hit publish on that post.

And shared it with the world.

That was when I started to see myself as a writer.

I haven't completely arrived as a writer. I still have a long way to go to fall into the category of a good writer. But I'm a writer nonetheless. And I will become a better writer the more I write.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Blessing of Real Friendships

I just got home from having coffee with a friend. As I was driving home, I started reflecting on friendship.

Much has been said about friendship. And much of it by people who are probably considered more qualified than me to talk about it.

But, I don't profess to be an expert on most of what I write here, so I will share my thoughts.

Friendship is important in our lives. We all need friends. And we all need to be friends to others.

And not just people who say they're our friends. But people who really are our friends.

Sometimes I wonder if calling people we're connected with through social media "friends" has cheapened our understanding of what friendship really is.

Friendship isn't about lots of people knowing our every move. Friendship isn't about what's in it for us.

Real friendship is about really allowing people to know you and really knowing them. It means you are real. It means you have people in your life who can ask you the tough questions and who you can ask the tough questions to. It means you have people in your life who know the good and the bad in your life, but still choose to be your friend and love you.

Real friends stick with you through the tough times. They're the people you can count on to pray for you, to celebrate with you, to sit with you when things are hard, to call you on things when that's what you need.

The blessing of real friendship is that it's not based on surface-y stuff. It's based on something deeper. And we need that in our lives.

How are you doing at being a real friend to the people in your life?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Don't Get Stuck in the Past

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up, do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland."
Isaiah 43:18-19

God's words to His people Israel, through His prophet Isaiah.

God was calling His people to not get so caught up in the past that they missed what God was doing right now. He wanted them to see what He was doing currently.

God didn't want His people to be so focused on things that had happened in their past, that they missed how He was making a way for them now. The way He had done things in the past was great. But, if they just focused on that, they ran the risk of missing the different way that God could be doing something today.

I think we face the same danger in our lives.

We have an experience where God does something and then we keep looking for Him to do things the same way in the future. And while we're looking for Him to do the same thing, we miss that He is doing something new in the present.

We miss the way that God is working now, because we're so caught up in looking for a repeat of what God did in the past.

We can also be held back by things in our past that we wish were different. We keep looking back at what happened and wishing it was different. We dwell on it and we stay stuck there.

But, the truth is God wants to do something new now. We're so stuck in the past, that we miss the way God is working now. He wants to do something new in our lives. But, if we're stuck on the things of the past, we can miss it.

We miss the way God is working now, because we're looking backwards at what has already happened and wishing it was different.

How are you doing at seeing what God is doing now?

Are you expecting God to keep doing things the same way and possibly missing something new He's doing now?

Are you stuck in the past and missing what God is doing now?

Do you want to see the new things that God is doing now?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Can't Change God's Love for Us

There's nothing you can confess that will make God love you less.

I saw this on a church sign I drove past the other day. It caught my attention because it is so true.

Scripture makes it pretty clear that God loves us even when we're not living exactly the way He has called us to live. That doesn't mean God wants us to keep living that way. He doesn't want us to stay in our sin.

But no matter what we confess, God won't love us any less. He already knows we did it anyway, so why are we afraid to confess it to Him?

I wonder sometimes if it's because we have this idea that some sins are worse than others. A ranking system of sorts if you will. And that there are some things that if we confessed them, God would love us less.

But there is nothing like that in Scripture.

Scripture tells us that Jesus died for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). And that sin is sin is sin. Paul tells us over and over in his letters that we need to deal with sin in our lives. And no where in his lists of things we need to get rid of in our lives does he say some sins are worse than others - all are on the same level in his writing.

If sin isn't ranked by God, then nothing we confess will change how He views us or feels about us. We can confess exactly what we struggle with to God. And find the freedom that comes with that. We don't have to worry that what we have to confess will change how God sees us.

God doesn't want us to stay in our sin though. So when we confess it, He also wants to change us so we don't live that way anymore. Because He loves us that much.

There is nothing you can confess
that will make God love you less.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Belong

Once again, joining in with the group over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog for Five Minute Friday. Five minutes of unedited writing on a given word, and then we share it. Today's word is "belong."


Sitting at the edge of the room. Watching the groups of people greet each other with joy. Listening to the buzz of conversation.

She didn't really feel like she belonged here. She felt like she was on the outside looking in.

All she wanted was to belong. To find one friend - one person who would greet her with joy. Was that really too much to ask?

She got in her car to drive to another social event. Another event where she knew she would just be sitting on the edge of the group. She just hoped she would be close enough to a group of people to look like she belonged.

She never really felt like she belonged in a group of people. She always felt like she was just on the outside looking in, when all she wanted was to belong. Was that too much to ask?

She walked into the room. Expecting much of the same as every time - to hang out at the edges of the group. Just hoping she wouldn't look like she was totally alone.

But, this time was different. Someone welcomed her. Someone started a conversation and really wanted to get to know her.

She didn't spend the evening alone. Or trying to look like she fit in.

Tonight she really did fit in. She felt like she belonged. It was a night she wouldn't forget.

As she drove home that night she decided that the next time she went to a social event she would look for those who had been like she was. She would look for those on the edges just hoping to belong. And she would make them feel like they belonged. She knew the power of one conversation - of one person caring. And she was going to pass that on to others.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Have We Forgotten How to Really Listen?

In the last few months, I've been writing a lot about hearing from God and listening for His voice speaking in our lives. The last few days, I've been thinking about listening in a different sense.

I've started wondering about how we do at listening to one another.  And I've started to wonder if we've forgotten how to really listen to one another.

In our desire to share our own opinions and experiences, I wonder if we sometimes forget to really listen to the other person talking.

In our desire to fix things for someone and give advice, I wonder if we sometimes forget to really listen to the other person talking.

Sometimes all someone needs or wants is to be heard.

Sometimes all someone needs or wants is to know someone else knows.

Sometimes all someone needs or wants is to know someone cares.

I'm not saying we should never share our own experiences or opinions, or that we should never give advice. Those things are good. Those things are necessary.

But maybe we need to learn to really listen before we offer those things.

What if, instead of thinking of what we'll say while someone else is talking, we waited to formulate our response until they were done?

What if, instead of offering our advice for what to do in a situation right away, we waited to offer advice until we had acknowledged the reality of the situation?

Would that change our listening?

I think it would. And I think it would for the better.

So, I'm left with one question for myself and for you:
How are you doing at listening to the people in your life?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Being Single Does Not Mean my Maker is my Husband

“For your Maker is your husband –
                the Lord Almighty is His name –
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
                He is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:5)

I’ve had the first part of this verse quoted to me many times as a single person. And it bothers me every time. I usually keep my mouth shut when someone says it because it’s not worth getting into it.

But, a blog post about it has been forming in my mind for a while. I seem to be hearing it more and more often the longer I’m single. Both from married people and from other singles.

I guess I get why people say it or why people hold onto it. Life as a single person, especially in a marriage- and family-focused church, can get lonely sometimes – especially if you want to get married and have a family of your own. I get that. I’ve been in that place often in my life.

But I think in our desire to provide comfort for singles who want to be married and have a family, we’ve made a big mistake in how we use this verse – or rather how we use a small part of this verse. In our search, we’ve thrown out the first and most basic rule of interpreting and understanding the Bible . . . CONTEXT.

We’ve taken the first six words of Isaiah 54:5 and tried to make them stand alone.

Forgetting that these words make up less than 20% of the words in Isaiah 54:5.

And definitely not looking at the entirety of Isaiah 54, or the book of Isaiah, or the whole of Scripture.

Just a bit about the context of this phrase from this verse of Scripture:

·         Scripture, as a whole, is God’s love letter to His bride – the church as a whole.

·         The book of Isaiah was written to the nation of Israel as an entire people, not as individuals.

·         Isaiah was calling the nation of Israel back to God. Yes, that involved an individual decision, but nowhere in the book does Isaiah, or God through His prophet, say anything about the rewards and good things he was presenting as being given to individuals. They were all for the nation as a whole.

Now to the verse itself: All scholars I have read on this verse speak of this as being something corporate, not individual.

“The idea is, that Yahweh would substantiate to his people the relation of a husband; that he who had made them, who had originated all their laws and institutions, and moulded them as a people, would now take his church under his protection and care.” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1847-85, public domain)

“In chapter 54 the people of God are represented under the double figure, which the Book of Revelation has made us familiar, of Bride and City. To imagine a Nation or a Land as the spouse of her God is a habit natural to the religious instinct at all times.” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 1887-1896, public domain)

These are two of the many scholars I read while studying this verse that say the meaning of this verse is God being the husband of the nation of Israel , not individuals. We also know from the New Testament that the church is the Bride of Christ, not the individual believer.

Ignoring the context is dangerous. There have been some pretty strange beliefs in history that have come from doing so. But, ignoring the context is exactly what we do with Isaiah 54:5 all the time.

In this case, we’re not directly stating anything that will lead people away from the truth of the gospel, but, as someone who has heard this verse quoted all too often in response to expressed desires for marriage and kids, we’re definitely failing at what we’re trying to do with this verse.

It’s not providing comfort or hope to anyone. It’s putting down a legitimate desire they have. It’s essentially telling them that their God-given desire is sinful. I don’t believe this is done on purpose, but that is what is done.

By taking this verse out of context, the desires of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as belittled and down-played and called sinful. It really doesn`t feel very good for that to be the response you get – whether it comes from a married brother or sister in Christ or from a single brother or sister in Christ.

So, this all boils down to a simple request – Stop quoting this verse out of context to me when I say something about wanting to get married and have a family of my own.  Instead of belittling and calling my desire sinful, let me know it`s valid. I don`t need you to quote Scripture at me. I just need you to listen and care. When I express that desire, I`m not looking for an answer, I`m looking for someone who will care and listen.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Present

Joining in with Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog again this week. Today's word is "present."

In our world of smart phones and instant communication, it can be very easy to be distracted and forget about the people right in from of you. We forget the power of being present in the moment and place where we are.

Being present is important. We feel valued and loved when the person in front of us is present with us - rather than constantly checking their phone for the next message.

It's in being present that we notice the important things in life. And that we notice the people around us who are important to us.

When we walk through life feeling unnoticed by the people we care about and who are supposed to care about us, we can easily get discouraged. It makes us feel unimportant and unloved when people don't seem to feel the need to be present when they are with us.

How are you doing at being present with the people right in front of you?

Are you present with them? Or are you distracted by the instant communication our world is constantly putting in our faces?

Five Minute Friday is five minutes of writing on the word for the week. No editing or back-tracking
or over-thinking. Just sharing what comes to mind from the heart.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What Are You Filling Your Mind With?

I've been thinking more about how what we think about ourselves matters in the last few days. It's easy for how we think to be influenced by what we are listening to. Not just what we're saying to ourselves about ourselves, but what we're filling our minds with that comes from outside of us.

What we're listening to for music matters.
What we're watching on TV matters.
What we're reading matters.

Those things all fill our minds with things. And they have influence over what we think about.

If we're filling our minds with things that bring us down, we'll be talking to ourselves in ways that bring us down - in ways that keep us stuck in patterns of living we don't want to live in any longer.

If we're filling our minds with things that build us up, we'll be talking to ourselves in ways that are in line with the way God sees us.

God's Word tells us that what is inside will eventually come out of us. In our words. In our thoughts. In our actions. If it's what is inside of us, then we have at some point allowed it in - often through what we chose to listen, watch, or read.

So, what are you filling your mind with?
Things that will lift you up?
Things that will bring you down?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Way We Think Matters

I've been thinking a lot lately about the way we think about ourselves. The thoughts that fill our minds. The things we tell ourselves over and over. The things we eventually come to believe about ourselves.

The way we think and talk to ourselves has incredible power. In much the same way as someone else's words can have incredible power in our lives.

If something gets repeated often enough, we begin to believe it. And when we begin to believe it, we live it completely. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

And then we get frustrated because we find ourselves stuck in patterns of thinking and living that we don't like and that we want to break out of, but we don't know how.

I know I've been there. And I know how frustrated I got when I felt stuck like that. I wanted to change, but I didn't know how to change those things, because I really honestly thought the things I was believing and telling myself over and over were true about me and couldn't be changed.

But, the good news is that we can change the way we think. It is possible - even though it may seem impossible at times.

With God's help we can begin to believe and tell ourselves things that are really true about ourselves. We can change our thinking to be in line with what God says about it.

We have to learn to listen to God speak His truth into our lives.

Through His Word.

Through other people in our lives.

Through His voice speaking to us personally.

It takes practice. It take time. But it is possible. Because God doesn't want us to stay stuck in those ways of thinking about ourselves. He wants something to change in us and He will help us to make it happen.

What are the things you're telling yourself about yourself?

What are you believing about yourself?

Do they need to be changed to be more in line with what God actually says is true about you?

Take them to God. Ask Him for His truth. And ask Him to help you believe it.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Power of a Touch from Jesus

"Our Redeemer's gift of touch provides healing connection and can warm even the coldest heart." (Lisa Harper, Stumbling Into Grace)

As we read the gospels and read of Jesus' miracles of healing, we see that over and over, He healed people with a touch. Je could have just spoken a word and healed them, but He chose to touch them instead.

  • Mark 1:41 - Jesus touched the man with leprosy to heal him.
  • Mark 5:41 - Jesus raises a little girl from the dead by taking her hand.
  • Mark 6:5 - Jesus laid hands on sick people and healed them.
  • Mark 7:33 - Jesus healed a deaf and mute man by touching him.
  • Mark 8:22-26 - Jesus healed a blind man by touching his eyes.
  • Mark 9:27 - Jesus sets someone back in his feet after driving out an evil spirit by taking his hand.

These are just the miracles of Jesus's touch that Mark recorded when he wrote his gospel.

In a culture where people who were sick were considered unclean and no one else would have touched them, Jesus chose to use touch to bring healing and restoration to these people. Jesus knew the power that touch could have.

I sometimes wonder if that touch from Jesus was more important to the people He healed than the actual healing itself. For some of them I wonder how long it had been since someone touched them. Based on the religious laws of the day, I would guess that it had been years for some of them.

I believe that Jesus still touches people today. He knows that a touch is important to our healing, so He uses other people in our lives for that.

A hug from a friend.

A hand on our shoulder.

These things may not bring an actual physical healing the way Jesus' touch did in Scripture, but they can still bring healing and encouragement in other aspects of our lives.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Beautiful

Joining in with everyone over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog again for Five Minute Friday. Five minutes of writing on a given word. Just writing what comes to mind, no serious editing or back-tracking in it for this one. This week's word is BEAUTIFUL.


Early morning. Sun rising over the mountains. Mist rising off the lake. All was quiet, except a single loon calling in the distance. I was alone in my kayak in the middle of the lake, bathed in the warmth of the rising sun.
Photo taken by me on a hike.

Late at night. It was a little bit cold as we lay on the edge of the field looking up at the sky. The Northern Lights danced above us. A multi-coloured show filled the sky above us.


Snow falling all around me. The world is turning white before my eyes. Silence surrounds me - the only noise heard is the sound of my feet crunching on the snow with each step.


Sitting atop a mountain. Sun setting behind the mountains across the lake. The city below a glow of light. So close and yet it feels so far from the noise of the city. Birds chirping are the only sound I hear.


The world that surrounds us is so beautiful, but I don't notice most of the time. I'm too busy getting to the next thing. And I miss the beautiful creation that surrounds me.

The beautiful world that God created and then allowed me to live in. I need to learn to see the beauty of it more often. God's world is beautiful.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Discipline or Pleasure?

We weren't created to run on discipline only.
We need pleasure in our lives.
Because if it's only discipline keeping us going, we will eventually quit.
That's the way God created us.

But, in my walk with God, I find it easy to default to discipline. I like knowing what I'm supposed to be doing, when I'm supposed to be doing it, and how I'm supposed to be doing it.

Sometimes in my desire for those details I forget that I'm supposed to enjoy it too. I get so caught up in the "rules" that I miss everything else. At least for a while . . .

Just following the rules doesn't last long . . . even for someone who likes them.

I get tired of doing it because I think I'm supposed to. I get bored of doing something because I have to.

And it's because I'm missing something when I get caught up in the rules.

I'm missing pleasure. I'm missing out on enjoying my relationship with God. I'm missing out on enjoying much if life. And when I feel like I'm missing out, it's easy to just quit doing the things I feel are causing me to miss out.

Then I read Psalms and I get stuck in the 37th Psalm verse 4: "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart."

The second part of that verse sounds great - God will give me what I want. But, that doesn't happen without the first part - I need to find delight in God first. And when I'm finding delight or pleasure in God, the desires of my heart become what He wants to give me anyways.

The question then becomes . . .

How do I find pleasure in God?
What does it look like to find pleasure in God?

I used to wonder if it was even possible to find pleasure in God, but Scripture seems to say that it is. So, then I'm left wondering how.

I think that's something that can be different for each person. We don't all find pleasure in the same things in the rest of life, so we won't all find pleasure in God in the same way.

For some it might be a worship service. For some it might be out in nature. For some it might be in the quiet place as they dig deeper into the Bible. For others it might be an art project or dancing.

Or it could be many other things.

But, one thing I'm learning, if I'm not finding pleasure in God, my relationship with Him stops growing and even goes backwards. Discipline will only get me so far. If there's no pleasure, I will eventually quit.

I'm not saying there is no place for discipline. We need it. We need discipline to keep us growing. But it can't be the only thing sustaining us, because that won't last.

We need discipline to come alongside our pleasure, so both can help us grow.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Wait Expectantly

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
-Psalm 5:3
When I read this verse a couple of days ago, one question immediately came to mind. And has stayed with me since.
What does it mean to wait expectantly?
I mean that doesn't sound like what I normally think of when I think of waiting for something. Waiting is usually thought of as something passive. Something that requires nothing of us. We just sit there and do nothing until we get the answer we're waiting for.
But that doesn't seem to be the kind of waiting the psalmist is speaking of here. Waiting expectantly for something says more than we're just sitting around doing nothing.
Waiting expectantly speaks of being ready. We have to be ready to act on whatever the answer is when it comes. To be ready to do this, we have to be doing something.
The psalmist here was saying the he was waiting expectantly for God's answer to his prayers. The psalmist laid his requests before God, and then he waited for God to answer. But this answer was something he was ready for. When the answer came, the psalmist was ready.
So, what does it look like to wait expectantly in our lives?
It looks like taking our requests and our questions before God. And then waiting for His answer. But not waiting by just sitting there. Waiting that looks like doing what we already know to do as we listen for God's voice.
It's not about running ahead trying to make what we want happen. That defeats the waiting part of it.
But it's not about sitting around and doing nothing either. That defeats the expectant part of it.
Waiting expectantly is doing what we already know God has told us to do - even if that's just following Him in everyday life - while we listen for God to provide an answer to our request that brought before Him.
I don't always do this waiting expectantly thing well. But, it's something I want to learn to do better.
How are you doing at waiting expectantly?
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
-Psalm 5:3