Get Focused on the New

This means that the anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The old life is gone, a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

The mere fact that I began writing this today, and failed to notice I am repeating a daily verse, is most likely evidence that I have been distracted. Distracted by a number of issues. Tasks. Pressing matters. Some of these tasks have been good things. Even “God” things. Some due to illness. Some of these are courtesy of the tools the devil uses to keep us focused on him instead of God.

Whether good, God, or other-they are distractions, nonetheless. When the old habit of picking up your phone first thing in the morning overpowers picking up your Bible. When the work deadlines become greater, and the finish line to get there takes precedence over your usual study routine. Your old patterns of sleeping an hour later instead of getting up to pray with Him get in. And then some of those other old patterns creep back in-some you gave up when you put on your new Christ nature.

You are now distracted.

Though, yes, Satan most definitely uses temptation. The sin kind. The obvious one to keep us distracted from seeking time with God, he can also use less obvious tools, as well. Some may even come in the form of “good” things. Things that can be useful in the kingdom, but if we do them in the spirit of our old selves, the selves from which God redeemed us-then these things are no longer “good.”

For us anyway.

They are now distractions. From OUR greater purpose. They may be good for someone else. They may have been good at another time. But for who we are now-not so much.

Writing is this “good” thing for me. Yet, why had it become my distraction?

See…this new thing God had done in me? It had inspired a desire to tell others about this new thing. To write all these thoughts I had about Him as I spent time with Him. And to not keep those to myself. It bred in me a desire to stop being liked by the world, and to embrace the person God liked. Loved, even. Writing sparked joy. It lived inside me, and I loved this person who God had created, and it took a long time to get there. A long time to make sense of who she was, and how He was using her.

But distraction made this “new” thing “old” again. Something to check off a list. How I deemed myself worthy. Someone to be approved and liked by the masses. Decided I had anything of worth to say based on whether anyone read it, viewed it, or liked it.

Distracted.

It is time to remember who God made “new.” It is time to focus on the woman God turned me into when He made me that way. Not distracted by a duty to read His Word, but captured by the pure desire to learn more about Him, to spend time with Him, to listen for Him, and to write about those experiences because it brings me joy. And in doing so, I am no longer distracted. In fact, I in turn irritate Satan.

It is time to focus on this joy so I can be fueled again by His purpose, not by the old desire to be approved by people, but only by the One who has given me a desire to do something with the gifts He has given me. Those things I can only do when I am focused on Him, and less distracted.

So…for a time, I am writing solely for me (well, for Him). Solely in my quiet time, without screens. No laptop. No agenda. No laid-out plan. No checklist. Letting Him lead. Letting Him guide. Sharing as He directs.

Undistracted. Completely focused on Him.

Y’all need Jesus

I love t-shirts. Let me rephrase that. I love t-shirts that have words on them. Sarcastic words. Rap words. Funny words. Jesus words. I like to say what needs to be said with my t-shirt. I started doing this at a time when I was silenced and ridiculed for outwardly expressing my faith more in one of the places I spent a great deal of time. I decided to wear it on a t-shirt instead.

Like this: “Y’all need Jesus!”

Now, I don’t have one that says this…though I do have one about coffee and Jesus, love and Jesus, prayer and Jesus, even tacos and Jesus. But I do have a sticker on the window of my vehicle that tells everyone who will read it that they all need Jesus.

But…here is the truth. We ALL need Jesus. Not just certain people. Not just the people who get on our nerves. Make fun of our faith, or our “Love Wins” t-shirts. ALL of us.

Every moment of our lives. Twenty-four, three six five. -Danny Gokey and Koryn Hawthorne

We all need prayer, because on any given day, we are all struggling. We all need comfort, because on any given day we may feel a little restless, a sense of chaos or loss; and need a little peace and hope. And there is not one who is immune to the devil who beats them down for every single bad thing they did, and knows exactly how to tell them, and repeat to them over and over and over that they are not good enough.

We ALL need Jesus.

Everybody needs a Savior
Even the ones who think they don’t
We’ve got stuff we hide, deep down inside
There’s so much that we don’t show

My t-shirts may be bold. I may speak a little sass with the messages I wear on the front of a tee. Words I can’t express out loud, because at a time I was silenced. I am often not one to hide from a story, but even I have wounds I don’t want to show.

I have stories I can’t yet quite tell, because there are still some cuts left to be healed. Band-aids not yet ready to be ripped off. I am not immune, and the prettied-up person with the button down sitting in the pew, too (not wearing a snarky tee)…oh, they got ’em, too. Things they hide, that is.

Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. Romans 3: 9-12, MSG

So, yes…We ALL need Jesus! Even t-shirt wearing, Jesus-loving, I bet you think I got it all together pastors. Prisoners. Beggars. Rich Folk.

We ALL need Him.

*I do not own rights to music/lyrics.

Looking for love? Open this…

 

brown book page

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

Write them on the doorposts of your house, and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:9

I have sticky notes of daily affirmations and reminders of my worth posted in a number of places. On walls. On mirrors. On microwaves. Coffee pots. Some are quotes I have collected through the months, but others are Bible verses.

Because God’s Word is love.

And on the days I don’t feel especially loved, I can read these words on my “doorposts and gates” and be reminded that there is one who most certainly loves me.

How so?

Well…there is that one that says “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), to remind me that God’s love does not fail.

There is one that states, “You are altogether beautiful, my darling” (Song of Solomon 4:7); to remind me on days I don’t feel it, that I am beautiful in God’s eyes.

And the other that says, “the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6); to remind me I am never alone, and He will never abandon me.

Or another that tells me: “The Lord will fight for you. You only need be silent” (Exodus 14:14), to remind me I always have a protector.

Aren’t these things we all want to hear? That we are loved, beautiful, and always held and cared for?

You don’t have to look too far. These messages are all in His love letter, written to and for you. The Bible. And He is waiting for you to open it up, and read all the amazing things He says about you.

And maybe add them to a sticky note or two!

The still, small voice

Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:11-12

That still, small voice.

That’s what Elijah heard. God’s whispering as he prayed for help.

So often we get discouraged, believing that we can’t hear God speaking, or that he isn’t providing direction. When really we are just listening for the wrong voice.

We are listening for His voice in the wind, the earthquakes, and the fire. Anticipating that the voice will be a loud, booming one.

But it’s still. It’s small.

Or we are so distracted by all the “noise” around us, that when he does speak-we miss it. Because we are distracted by things that get us so unfocused. We are running around super busy and super stressed. We miss the still and small stuff.

And we may even miss a still and small voice.

Get away from the noise. Get rid of the distractions. Spend some alone time with God.

Then maybe you will be still enough to actually hear His small voice. His gentle whisper.

Early morning wake-up calls

I have had the honor the last two nights of being woken up at 4 in the morning. Tossing and turning. Praying for God to just help me get back to sleep. Nope. Just laying there instead.

On both of these mornings I lay, wrestling with a number of thoughts racing through my head. I shed a few tears. Said a few prayers.

It wasn’t until the second night, when I rolled over and looked at the clock, I realized…I needed to open His Word to see what He may be saying to me.

All night long I search for you; in the morning I earnestly seek for God. Isaiah 26:8

And it was that. That verse.

I spend much time with Him at night, but as the morning comes, very little.

Because if I’m being honest I start my day with my phone. Then coffee. Dripping all while I check my phone. Then as I get ready, I might read that 5 minute devotional on what else, my phone, before life starts.

I rarely earnestly seek Him as I wake. I rarely earnestly seek His solutions, instead relying often on my own strength, and what goes on here on earth to dictate my actions, thoughts and feelings. I am praying for God to just put me back to sleep, when what He really desired was just some time with me.

Don’t ignore your 4am wake-up calls. It’s usually your Father knocking and telling you to get up and spend a little time with Him. He has something important to share!

“Real” Love….getcha some.

I’m going to show my age here. Urban Cowboy. It’s a movie. John Travolta. Not so Grease and Saturday Night Fever cool.

Common boy meets girl, fall in love, fall out of love, do whatever you can do to make each other jealous until you realize…well darn, he really was the one type of movie.

Classic.

I remember the movie. Yes. But, I remember one of the songs even more. Probably because when I think of this song it brings to mind a late friend. Singing it over and over in the middle of my living room, doing the same exact thing: “Lookin’ for love in all the wrong places/Lookin’ for love in too many faces.”

Sound familiar?

Looking for acceptance from the number of likes on your Insta post.

Looking for approval from the “in” crowd. The “cool” kids.

Changing who you are, or ditching your own goals because someone else has told you they were lame. All because he or she “loves” you.

Looking for love from the first person who looks extra long at you, or gives you a sideways glance, even if they may be oh-so-wrong for you. Even if you know this already. You need love.

Looking for attention from those who will laugh at any little thing you do, even if it’s not some nice stuff. Maybe some downright cruel stuff.

You will change your style to find love.

You will do whatever you can to lose weight for love.

You will give up on a dream for love.

You will forget who you are.

All for what you believe to be love.

Love like that. The kind that demands you be someone you are not. The kind that is all based on that “Ooooohhhh. Aaaaahhhhh. I need that” feeling. It’s fleeting. It goes away once that “need” goes away. And then you move on to something else.

There is, however, a love that never leaves.

God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will. Expect love, love, and more love!” Jeremiah 31:3, MSG

It’s the love that comes from our Creator.

How would I know?

Because I knew the fleeting kind of love. I knew the kind that caused me to sell myself short because someone “loved” me. Because it was “cool.” Because I “needed” something.

But when I realized that all I ever needed to be was wholly and gloriously me in the eyes of God. That I could be accepted in all my broken pieces, and he would love me anyway, and create in me something new and amazing-I didn’t need the approval of the world anymore.

Love found me. It loves me when I am unloveable. It pushes me towards a dream that is all my own. It knows my personality. My style. What I bring to the table. To the room. The space I am in, and uses that, because He put that in me. He loves those gritty, fiesty, inner fighter parts of me.

The world will look at those parts and see something different, and there was a time that used to break me down. But I’m not looking for love from those faces.

I’m looking for it from One place. The One.

Because I’ve never known anything else quite like it.

Want that kinda love? The “real” kind. Unconditional. Everlasting. You can getcha some, too. It’s pretty amazing.

Not a Stand-In Comforter

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If you look closely in the picture above. Beyond the curly-headed boy, focused intently on the puzzle sure to keep him busy for at least five minutes on a long car ride. You will see, peeking from his little lap-the blue, tattered, and worn face of his beloved puppy.  This puppy has been Hunter’s devoted mate since he was about 3 months old, and the joke around here, is that it will be with him when he graduates from high school, and if he ever actually decides to leave home.

He is unable to speak. However, he has been a constant. Steady. Devoted friend to the child who craves sameness, consistency, and routine.

And, although he doesn’t have a heart, can’t breath, or move; he has been the keeper of, and taken the brunt of my overloaded little boy’s emotions.

Puppy. (So aptly named because in Hunter thinking he shall be named what he is-a puppy) has soaked tears. Of loneliness. Despair. Sadness. Has been held onto as a lifeline during times of worry and anxiety. Has been clutched during screaming fits of frustration, confusion, and anger. He has helped calm the fears of the unknown, the new and different. Weathered sickness, shots, and long, exhausting car rides. He has soothed nightmares. Made bus rides with substitutes bearable, for both parents and child. He is depended upon for peace in the midst of chaos. Clarity in the face of confusion. Called on in the presence of fear. When the usual safety nets-mom and dad-are absent for a time, Puppy is the stand-in.

My little “monster” may need him for now.  He may still need him come graduation day. His object of security provides him with trust and faith as he navigates a world of which he often can’t make sense.

But, he doesn’t really need puppy at all.

His security lies in someone much more powerful than any stuffed dog.

And so does ours…

But, just like Hunter’s puppy, we cling to earthly security. We put our faith in the knowledge of people. Books. Possessions. Social media outlets. What the internet, or so and so down the street says. What our teachers tell us. Our friends. All those people we just “know” will come save us when we find ourselves in trouble. And God forbid we lose a WiFi connection, or have a bad day. When these worldly things fail that we turn to in times of stress, and we get in a tizzy, we may just turn to an unhealthy crutch to get us through it all. I know, because I do many of these things. Have coped with some unhealthy “puppies”, too.

Just as Hunter does not need that puppy to get him through the hard stuff. We don’t need those things either.

See, God provides all the things our objects of security and devotion seem to fulfill for us.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. Psalm 46:1

We just reach for Him. Because, eventually when we reach for the chocolate, there will be none left. When we reach for the bottle, it will be empty. When we reach out to phone a friend, there will be no answer. And, stuffed childhood puppies, became tattered, torn, and worn. Eventually tossed away and forgotten, too.

But God doesn’t leave. His love doesn’t run dry. And He always answers.

As tears fall. When worries get big. When we scream in anger. When our hearts are broken. When we are just plain confused, and need some clarity. He’s a steady, devoted friend, even until graduation. Surely, all the way to the end.

“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

The lost (beans) get found

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Anyone that knows me well, knows that I have a slight, unhealthy dependency on coffee. So much so that I have been known to plan entire road trips around stops at Starbucks (don’t judge!).

My husband also knows this about me. Thankfully, he also understands my obsession, and the fact that it is essential to his health that I remain caffeinated. For this reason, he will often come home from Costco shopping trips with the newest seasonal Starbucks blend…and, while we are still working on the “He-Brews” part of the deal, this one is still pretty sweet.

This past Christmas season I found myself in a bit of a tizzy when my “bean” jar had dwindled, and I could not locate the remaining beans from that bulk bag. It was quite possible I had gone through 2.5 pounds of coffee in a month, but I was pretty sure I had hidden those things somewhere in this house. Somewhere I would remember, of course. Or not.

That somewhere was never found.

Until 3 months later. In a cabinet I open every night at home during the dinner making hour. Sitting right next to my beloved casserole dishes, and my well-used measuring cup, were my “missing” coffee beans.

“I found them! I finally found those darn coffee beans! I told ya! Things are finally looking up!”

My husband was slightly (well, probably more than) amused that I had missed them each time I had opened this cabinet. I, however, was not. These beans were just one more “wink” from God that I can miss a whole lot when I am distracted from my purpose.

See, I looked everywhere for those coffee beans, but never once thought to look in that cabinet.

We look everywhere for love, peace, joy, healing…but never once think to look to Jesus for these things.

I have been feeling lost myself. Like everything I touch crumbles beneath me. Clinging to hope in a dark world. And, praying that God would restore some fire in me to keep fighting.

And, somewhere in a dark cabinet, he shows me some missing coffee beans. The ones I had totally given up on. But showed up, unannounced 3 months later, exactly where I left them, mind you.

To show me that yes, even in those struggles, things are looking up! That good things do exist in a dark world, if you can rid yourself of the world’s distractions and look in the right places.

That he won’t stop pursuing. Won’t let go. Won’t give up hope. For His people. That lost sheep. His purpose. Even missing coffee beans.

Because what was once lost, can always be found!

I once was lost, but now am found; t’was blind, but now I see. 

 

a boy and his bible

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Take hold of my instructions; don’t let them go. Guard them, for they are the key to life.         Proverbs 4:13

“Mom! I’m ready!”

This is the call from the steps, or the couch, or the bed of a little boy ready for his bedtime routine. After having lavender rubbed gently on his feet. His covers placed over him just right. His favorite puppy tucked neatly beside him-he is then ready for sleep.

This is our nightly routine. Without fail.

Until…mommy gets distracted, and that routine gets ignored.

On this particular night, I will admit…my favorite show was on. I asked that little boy to wait patiently until the next commercial. And then, that commercial turned into two, three, and four.

When I did finally remember I had failed to make good on my promise, I expected one angry, upset, little boy.

I found something quite different.

I found a boy and his Bible.

Instead of sulking. Instead of pouting. Instead of fussing because Mommy had failed him, he simply opened his Bible.

And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4

This boy. This patient, little boy was doing exactly what I had been failing to do. He picked up his Bible, and waited patiently. He spent those extra few minutes waiting for that nighttime lotion Mommy had promised, to read about what God had promised.

I can take a few notes from that boy and his Bible.

That instead of sulking. Instead of pouting. Instead of fussing because someone has failed me, or let me down. I can pick up His word and read about how His love never fails (Psalm 136).

Instead of getting discouraged when things don’t go my way, I can open up to His promise that he won’t let my heart be troubled (John 14:1). That He will guide and direct my steps even when I stumble. Fall. Fail (Proverbs 3:6).

Instead of worrying about the tasks that don’t get done. The kids that aren’t at home. The ones that are but are struggling. The bills on the counter. I can pick up my Bible and read that there is no need for worry, as He will handle it all (Matthew 6:25-34).

When I’m overwhelmed, unbalanced, and ready to break from trying to handle it all, I can read how His strength sustains me (Phil 4:13).

And, when I am tempted to consume myself with the distractions of the world, my phone, or my TV, I can give back to Him the precious time He has given to me.

Just like that little boy and his Bible.

My first line of defense-Him!

Seeking him

Before I speak a word, let me hear Your voice. And in the midst of pain, let me feel Your joy.

-Lauren Daigle, “First”

You are having one of those moments. Maybe one of those days. Everything has gone wrong. Every possible obstacle and frustration stands directly in your path.

There is that email from a co-worker that lacks grace, and leaves you seething.

Your kids have spilled something, knocked over the plant, and yelled at each other one too many times.

You have been stuck for days inside, and in need of some fresh air, only to find that your only means of escaping cabin fever now won’t start.

That person cut you off in traffic. You are in the express lane behind someone with WAY more than 20 items.

Your neighbor has called the police on your dog…..AGAIN!

You react. You respond to that email in anger. Snap at the kids in frustration. Throw those keys on the ground, and slam the car door. Maybe shout a few expletives at that aggressive driver. Roll your eyes in the checkout line. Call the police and give them a piece of your mind, too.

Kicking. Screaming. Stomping reactions. And, well deserved, right? I mean…look at all that chaos before you?

It’s what I do. When all those emotions snap at once, and leave me a confused mess, I react.

When criticized, I react with defensiveness.

When inconvenienced, I react with frustration.

When attacked, I put up my dukes and get ready to fight. With words. With accusations. With yelling. With impatience. With my human emotions blazing.

Until, it’s over…and I hold my head in shame.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Ephesians 6:13

When I should be waiting, looking, asking for Him to react. When I should be relying on Him to defeat the chaos. Instead my first line of defense is to handle the battle on my own…

My first line of defense against criticism, frustration, inconvenience, and anger should be Him. A prayer. A plea from the one who can handle it.

Stopping to ask for the right words to respond to someone’s verbal attacks.

Stopping to ask for wisdom and guidance in handling the ups and downs of motherhood.

Stopping to ask for peace when crazy sets in.

Stopping to ask for eyes to see beyond my emotions…to see the person behind the wheel, the mom who may be in a hurry in the grocery store, too.

Stopping to ask for grace to forgive that neighbor. That co-worker.

Stopping to seek him in the midst of each hard to handle moment. Each battle. Each encounter.

So that next time my reaction will not cause me to hang my head in shame. So that my reaction will reflect Him. His light. His grace.

I wanna find you, in every season, in every moment. Before I speak a word, I will bring my heart, and seek You first.