Think On and Do These Things

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Thoughts. Our thoughts become our voice, and often our patterns of behavior. What we think about ourself and even others, can be outwardly reflected in the way we respond with or without love.

The verses above are often referenced at times as a prescription for anxiety, as they can be; they are also a prescription for the stance we must take against those things that we may encounter or consume that are not trustworthy, honorable or worthy of praise.

Garbage in, garbage out.

First, let’s talk about our thoughts. Let’s simplify this as it applies to Paul’s instructions and our character. Our thoughts and perspectives about particular situations, especially as they apply to others. Because this verse can certainly apply here. When we encounter a person with whom we share a difference of opinion, or even someone with whom we don’t connect, don’t understand, or maybe we even have some sort of conflict with them personally, or with something they may be doing-we do a couple things. We form thoughts and opinions about their character, their actions, and their intentions. We often believe based on our thoughts, our own perspectives, our own version of events that said person may be driven by malice. May be aloof. Not like us. We have our own thoughts about their intended motives because we don’t truly support their mission. For whatever reason we have decided they should not be successful, and we look for anything but admirable qualities to prove it. And if you look for those qualities you will find them, even in the smallest, most ridiculous of things.

What would happen if we did what Paul asked us to do? If we changed those negative, fault-seeking thoughts and began to look for good? Intentionally? In people? And in situations that made us feel frustration? What if we looked for the truth about a person instead of believing whatever so and so told us about them? If we focused on the admirable accomplishments of others, and applauding them instead of sitting in our envy and jealousy tearing down those who dare to brave and step out into boldness for God? What if we talked more about things that were worthy of praise, and less about things that tear others down? Would our thoughts be fixed on Christ, and less on the flaws of others?

Next, Paul is not only speaking of our speech or the way we see people here-he tells us to put what he says into practice. Remember, I mentioned garbage in, garbage out. So that means whatever you take in, your output will be the same. So if you take in good, your actions will be good. If you practice kindness, your actions will be kind; and if you practice deception, then your actions will be the same-deceitful.

If we are filling our minds with junk. If we are consistently surrounding by the influences of evil desires, and things that turn us away from a pure and holy God, eventually our actions will begin to look like the thing that is filling our minds. This is why Paul warned us where to fix our thoughts-on what honors Him. Those things that are going to reflect Christ within you and keep you focused on Him.

The One that provides peace and can be a light to someone who will see it shining in you.

What Example Are You?

And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching. Teach the truth so that your teaching can’t be criticized. Then those who oppose us will be ashamed and have nothing bad to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

Family game night. It’s a family bonding time that can be a pain for one, because he just wants to play Xbox, but secretly…deep down we may still love the fact that our teenage daughter begs us to still indulge. Surely it’s her desire to come out on top. Maybe it’s her desire to search for the coolest or silliest game in the store (though mom enjoys this, too). But family game night is never without laughs, debates, and some surprises.

There are quite a few interesting games out there, and our latest one has been one called “Hot Seat.” The person in the “Hot Seat” is the lucky one who picks a random card with a category or scenario listed, and everyone including the one in the “Hot Seat” must choose what the player would say.

Recently one of my cards was “what would my tombstone say?” or something like that. Kind of morbid. Answers rolled in like “Here lies a coffee lover,” until some were more like “something about Jesus…something about the Bible.”

Which got me to thinking about example. What the people around us see in us. What impact and impressions our daily interactions leave.

What are people going to say about us? Will it leave them shamed? Or justified?

In the second chapter of Titus, Paul writes to the elders of the church, not specifically to pastors; but to those considered to be of an older generation. He encourages them to be mentors to those who are younger and coming to faith. An example of champions of Christ and his character-living it out in their daily lives and interactions.

We don’t have to be elders, pastors, teachers, leaders to uphold this as our standard of living. It should be our highest calling as believers and followers of the Son of Man. As parents. As grandparents. As citizens within our communities. As walking, talking, representatives of his likeness in our neighborhoods, grocery stores, workplaces, and pews.

If someone were to place you in the “Hot Seat,” and then have to answer the question, “What would be on this person’s’ tombstone?” What would they say? Would the card say something about Jesus, or something about coffee? Would it shame you? Or would they be justified?

If your living example is the example of Christ-like character. Integrity. Actions that match your words. Honesty. Love. Gentleness in speech, even when truth must be spoken; and patience, then your example is one that probably has impact that has reached farther and wider than you can imagine. Someone may have said something sideways, and your character has spoken words that has put them to shame.

However, if you speak eloquent words, but do otherwise. Deal in ways that are contrary to the words of Christ. Hold on to bitterness, or speak falsely about your neighbor, the words spoken may just be justified. It may be a good idea to check-in with one of those elders Paul spoke of in Titus 2, and have someone hold you accountable. Not to judge you, but to help move you towards the path of integrity, honesty and the Christ-like character we are called to demonstrate as an example to others.

I’ve looked to “elders” for support, for reflection, for growth. We all need this. And I’ll testify that it makes all the difference in being one whose witness leaves an example of the person I realize I was, and the person I am becoming and continue to strive to be.

Which example are you?

Known by Your Fruit

The Fruit of the Spirit’s not a coconut
The Fruit of the Spirit’s not a coconut
If you want to be a coconut
You might as well hear it:
You can’t be a fruit of the Spirit

Cause the fruit is
Love, joy, peace, patience
Kindness, goodness, faithfulness
Gentleness and self-control
Love, joy, peace, patience
Kindness, goodness, faithfulness
Gentleness and self-control

This is how my kids, and probably any other kid who has grown up attending church camp has learned how to memorize the fruits of the spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22. Not a coconut. Not a banana. Not a cherry. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Say them as fast as you can. With no room for breathing.

Don’t worry. I can’t do that either. I actually usually have to look them up. Or my kids remind me they are not a coconut…and proceed to sing me that song. But, you know…however they remember is alright by me.

Coconuts. Bananas. Cherries. Fruits. Yes. Sweet like kindness. Gentleness. Patience. Until they rot, and then we don’t think of them in quite the same way. And I can guarantee we have encountered some rotten fruit.

In our fruit drawers at home, we can usually detect the rotten culprits right away. They are the lemons or the oranges that are a tad bit green. They are slightly moldy, growing an unsightly fungus that we must remove before we taint any others. Before that fungus spreads. 

But what we don’t often see. What often do is pick up a perfectly good fruit, bite into and find it rotten on the inside. Pretty stinkin’ disgusting. The fruit looked good. What happened? Well as settings go, our fridge environment wasn’t quite right. And if we kept that pretty green apple around that moldy lemon for longer than we intended, well…the inside became rotten, while the outside still looked good.

It can be that that way with us at times. We can hang out with fruit that may not be spirit-filled. We may look really good on the outside. But on the inside-we aren’t filled with those things he intended. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The gunk that has been left to linger around us-the coconuts, the bananas, the moldy lemons and oranges…they start to rub off on us. Not on the outside, maybe. But they start to impact our hearts. And the goodness, it isn’t so ripe anymore. God takes a look on the inside, and he starts to see parts that are not a reflection of ripe fruit.

Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 7:15-20, and it can be a pretty harsh, yet very honest and truthful teaching when thinking about our witness and our character as believers:

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistle? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

In other words here, Jesus is letting his disciples know, as believers who are filled with his Spirit we cannot profess to know him, to be filled with his love, and show hatred to our neighbor. We cannot profess to be filled with kindness, and then become irate when something is demanded of us. We cannot profess to be filled with joy, and grumble through our days. We cannot claim to be an apple tree, and produce coconuts.

You will be known by your fruit. May it be sweet, and not one to be turned away from, or thrown out because it has grown rotten, and is in danger of infecting the others. May it be the ripest fruit. Known for love, kindness, patience. Known by all as an example of Christ.

The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule. Do you remember the first time you heard it? Maybe it was spoken by a parent as you were picking at a sibling. Maybe a teacher as they were listing the classroom rules. Maybe somewhere along the way you just heard it. Believed it to be a long-standing societal rule: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

The Golden Rule. You know it now, right? But where did it come from? Your parents? That teacher? The government?

Luke 6:31. It was spoken by Jesus to his disciples along with some other commands.

Jesus’ call to “do unto others as you would like them to do you,” was a call to treat each other with the same kind of love and respect we would in fact treat ourselves, but also spoke to the way we treat those who may not treat us with kindness.

“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” Luke 6:32-35,NLT

I encourage you to go back and read these verses replacing “sinner” with the words “the world,” since we are encouraged to be different from “the world.”

Not expecting we are to be treated as the elite, but we treat others as if they are, expecting nothing in return. Putting out the kindness, compassion, and love we want to see in the world, because we have a duty as believers in Christ to be His reflection of those things in it. And showing it not just to those who love Him, or who we love; but who don’t know Him and who could not care less about us. So that they know His love, and see it reflected in us in a world that shows anything but.

That is the Golden Rule. Lived out. In us. Through us. To others. Daily.

How can you be a reflection of it today?

The Path of Integrity

People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will slip and fall. Proverbs 10:9

What exactly is integrity? We often throw that word around. Use it to describe people who do or even don’t possess it.

A person said to have integrity is someone described as having a moral compass that does not waver. They aren’t one way here, and one way there. They are honest in all dealings, speech, and they are the same in every place they go. Not shape shifters.

Evidence of shape shifting came to mind to me earlier in one of the places I don’t particularly care to be. Airports. I enjoy flying. Well, let me rephrase this: I enjoy being on the plane. Book in my lap. Taking a nap. As it seems everyone else does, too. You know…enjoying your ride in the “friendly skies” as the slogan goes.

But something happens once those feet hit the ground, I suppose. We become a little less friendly. I didn’t complain about my less than friendly experience waiting in line at the Starbucks kiosk, because the complaining would not have changed the experience. I simply told my family that I was going to walk in the way that showed the world something different on this trip instead.

I said “excuse me.” “Thank you.” “Have a great day.” “Go ahead of me.” Things that just seem less commonplace these days in all our rushing along our paths.

Seems so simple. Such an easy thing to do. But if I were to have to answer the question are you the same in the pulpit as you are at home? Are you the same at work as you are at the airport? Are you the same on Sunday and on Friday? I want the answer to be yes. I want all my paths to be straight. I want to be considered a person of integrity.

There are a number of ways in which we can veer off the path of honesty and integrity and walk onto one that is crooked and intended to cause destruction. We will talk about some of those in later posts. One easy way is in our simple acts of unkindness. The simple ways in which we treat the people we meet on a daily basis, while professing to honor Christ. While professing to be a loving people, yet planting our feet in the ground and walking into places with unfriendliness. If someone were to pass by you in the checkout line on a Monday, what would they see? Would they see you smiling and saying “thank you” to the cashier, or grumbling because she bagged your groceries incorrectly.

Integrity. It’s in the big things, and the small things. And even the small things determine if our paths grow crooked and destructive.

Today, don’t just make it a mission to remain friendly while your in the “skies,” or in the pews. Make it a mission every time you have your feet planted on the ground, and every time you have people who could very well be watching you.

Are you a “bumper sticker” Christian?

I had some extra time between counseling placements. Rare time. Shuffling between many different schools and offices means a ton of driving time, and less time to actually run the errands I need to get done to make these sessions (and home life) a success. Less than 1 mile to my intended destination. 1 mile. Should take about 10 min. To get to where I needed to be. To get that last errand complete before the mad dash to the next spot I needed to be. With some time to spare.

I wasn’t in a huge hurry. I wanted to relish this time I didn’t often get, and so I must have zoned out right before that light turned green. Or so the loud blare from the beeping behind me let me know.

And I must have certainly been in some kind of euphoric mood to completely misunderstand that the lady who backed into the space in the parking lot, wasn’t backing in-she was trying to turn around. In the middle of the parking lot. Her cursing and middle finger salute should have told me I was completely misunderstanding her intentions.

Everyone was in such a hurry, and was just truly so mean about it, that the encounter with the backed-in lady nearly brought me to tears.

How could this type of temper and anger be our norm in our daily interactions, even in traffic? But I recalled a time when I used to be the same way. Giving people that same salute, and yelling at them when they cut me off, didn’t use a turn signal or drove too slow. I am a reformed road-rager.

The power perceived when receiving that first set of keys is amazing. There is an independence and a freedom that comes from being able to freely get in and go where one wants. A power that often takes control of our choices, and even our interactions.

But there are rules.

There is also power in anger. Its strength can be amazing. It can move people to act. Break rules.

It can also be damaging. Damaging to your witness.

I drive a yellow vehicle. My personalized license plate announces my trust in Him. I have stickers on the back professing the power of the cross, and letting drivers know that it is Jesus before myself. But if I start to act sideways in that car, I could damage any view others have of Christ.

I can put all the pretty stickers I want on that automobile, but if I drive it with anger and hate in the drivers seat, those stickers are well….just decorations. Nice things to look at. Nothing more than a bumper sticker.

And I don’t want to be a “bumper sticker” Christian. I want to be truly like Him, at all times. Including when confronted in a dollar store parking lot.

So, how did I handle that finger-flicking rager. I simply waved. I rolled into my spot, and as she blew off in a tizzy, I prayed for her. For her safety; and that of the kids in the back seat. Prayed her kids didn’t witness this, and prayed that once she got to her destination, more than likely frazzled and angered; that she met Jesus there in someone else. That her encounter with me wasn’t the last one with Him.

This is how we become more than just mere “bumper stickers.”

On finding acceptance in an old hometown

Hometowns. They can bring such feelings of security. Safety. The feeling of being at home. But there’s a flip side. Those hometowns often become the place we never feel at home. Not accepted. Only remembered for all the mistakes you made. A person you likely are not anymore

Jesus was no stranger to being rejected by His own hometown.

He left there and returned to his hometown. His disciples came along. On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place. He stole the show, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?” They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further. Jesus told them, “A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.” Jesus wasn’t able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that’s all. He couldn’t get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching. Mark 6:1-6 MSG

This passage was one we discussed in our Sunday services. I pastor a small congregation of Liberian refugees. Their hometown is nothing like mine. Our experiences vastly different. They left their hometown and fleed from an entire continent to a foreign land. I never left mine.

Regardless of the differences, our hometowns have certain opinions and expectations of us. Because of who we were, and because of who we are now.

The same was true for Jesus. He went back to Nazareth, his hometown. He spent time teaching about His Father, the path to righteousness, and what did his peers do? Remembered his prior occupation. Took note of his family history. Who he had been, not who he was. Who he had become.

This kind of stuff is the way of life when you consider small towns. If Jesus, the Son of God was no stranger, certainly we are not either. It’s honestly pervasive throughout our human, earthly experience.

We gossip. We talk about people we don’t even know based on something someone said about a person they “used” to know. Or were hurt by. We take that as the gospel and run with it, and we fail to look beyond.

We only see what man sees.

A “new” person, as one who has “become” someone else. Left our past mistakes behind, we are only remembered for our old life by those who knew us. Know our family. Our past. We are still reduced to our past mistakes. Things we did then that we no longer do. Those who knew us then, only remember our family legacy. We can’t seem to rise up and be accepted in our born place, because so many are holding on to a person we have given to Christ. A person transformed.

A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family. Mark 6:4, NLT

Sometimes we can’t transform and flourish in our own hometowns.

Ever heard the phrase “the proof is in the pudding?” What this means, is that the proof of its true value. Its true effectiveness. Its true success. Its power is in “eating.” In tasting what was produced. Food aside, and inserting people-its in actually interacting. Knowing, and being around these people. Tasting that the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit is good. It’s not based on what you hear. What someone else’s opinion is, because not everyone will like pudding. And some will only choose to remember when it wasn’t so sweet.

Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Luke 7:35,MSG

You. You decide for yourself. Do those you knew then, but have chosen a different path now, do their actions reflect truth? Do they do what they say they will do? Do they keep promises? Are they known by their fruit…the ones God produces-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

Are you still holding on to a person who has been transformed and no longer lives that way? Are you still holding onto bitterness and anger from some family history that has nothing to do with the person in front of you?

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV

That person has been made new, too. They just happen to live in a hometown that remembers their past. Hasn’t seen their transformation.

Next time someone comes at you with a smear campaign. Examine the pudding. Taste it for yourself. If it’s good, ignore that voice that keeps telling you otherwise, and simply believe in what you know and what you see.

And if the pudding is as bad as you were told. If patterns have evolved, never changed, still exist; and well the fruit that is still produced is a bit spoiled…then you can listen to that person who hasn’t let go. However, you don’t need to hold onto the hurt. Pray. Pray God changes the pattern. Pray God starts producing a different “pudding.”

Examine the pudding. Choose your own path to determining if the fruit is good. And don’t let those wrongs jade your opinion of a person changed by God.

Don’t allow a prophet, a new creation to be rejected in his own hometown.

WWJD: Be a joy, not a jerk

Love is not rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable. 1 Corinthians 13:5, NLT

This post is a two-fer because these two principles work hand in hand. Words and the actions that come with them have power. In fact, Scripture discusses the power of words in many places. One such place is in James 3:8, when the tongue is described as “restless, evil and full of deadly poison” (NLT).

The tongue is deadly when words that are rude, mean, and filled with irritation shoot off of it like nothing. Using intentional hurtful actions driven by anger or hurt to make a point, won’t ensure a relationship will grow and flourish.

These kinds of words and actions can be hurtful. These kinds of words and actions are damaging. These words leave scars. These words and actions are deadly to relationships.

We have all been rude. Displayed bad manners, forgotten to speak to someone, cut someone off in traffic, interrupted someone, or said something hurtful unintentionally. I am not talking about bad manners.

I am talking about intentional hurt because we are irritated, or hurt ourselves. Provoking anger because we are angry. Retaliating because we are in our feelings, so we do something that will trigger a deep wound in another person. Ouch, you got me. Well, ha! I got you. now. Take that! A rude remark here. A silly response there. You lose your cool. You lack total self-control, come up out of your holy character, and before you know it, you have done things, and said things that have cut too deep to ever take back.

This is not an expression of love. Not at all.

According to the Kendrick brothers in The Love Dare, “When under pressure, love doesn’t turn sour. If you are walking under the influence of love, you will be a joy, not a jerk.”

Even when you are hurting, you can still be a joy to the person you love, and the ole brothers give three ways to honor our loved ones without being rude and irritable.

The first of these is putting into practice the Golden Rule. You know the one: “Do to others as you would like them to do to you.” (Luke 6:31, NLT). Would you want to be called crazy? Would you want to be dismissed when you had a concern? Ignored? Yelled at? Treated like a nuisance? Ridiculed? Criticized? Would you want someone to rage at you when you made a mistake, or use your weaknesses against you? Or would you want someone to treat you with compassion, listen when you had a concern with reassurance and patience, and accept your faults with grace?

The second, is thinking of how we treat others-like strangers. Think about it. Do we treat the UPS man, the grocer, the person we pass on the street, or our co-worker better than the people in our home? Or the person we profess to love? Do we offer them smiles, and the best of us, and then give those we cherish our leftovers, grunts, moans, or nothing at all? Let’s ensure we treat the people that mean the most to us with the utmost respect and honor.

Last, are you doing something you were asked not to do? Are you responding in a way you were previously asked not to, or doing something you know will trigger a negative response because you are upset? If a request has been made of you, or you know something bothers someone, just don’t do it. Doing otherwise is the opposite of a loving response. It’s actually pretty rude and nasty.

Want to be a joy, and not a jerk?

I think this pretty much sums it up. It is one of the greatest commandments provided by Jesus: “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39, NLT

So, if you are waving “hello” to your neighbor, all smiles and joy…well, save a little for the ones closest to you as well. To the “neighbors” you spend time with behind closed doors. Those you interact with when you think no one else may be watching. Or listening. Give them all your joy, happiness, kind words, and loving responses, and a little less of your sarcastic quips, hurtful words, dismissive tones, and critical remarks.

Love is not rude. Love is not irritable. Love simply has no room to be a jerk.

Love is a joy.

One Word-Perseverance

IMG_0330

I like to think I have a way with words, with at least the written words that express my thoughts, my emotions, my desires. However, sometimes choosing just one word becomes a little more daunting.

Last year I joined a group of women in an on-line bible study in which I participate in choosing one word to live by for the year. This one word would replace any resolutions that would certainly be broken by the second day of January. Deciding on the one word that would define my year was not too complicated, but living it out was often something else entirely.

It is said when you choose this one word that God will reveal how exactly He plans for you to live up to it. And that He did.

While I did prove at times to be far from fearless, I also learned to understand…

Letting go is fearless. Admitting defeat is fearless. Admitting your faults and being transparent is fearless. Telling your story, as ugly as it may be is fearless. Forgiveness is fearless. Asking for help is fearless.

Faith in the midst of doubt is fearless. Embracing the twists and turns of life is fearless. Parenting is fearless. Love is fearless.

This year, this one who thinks she is so great with words, has had a tough time finding the “one.”

Until I lay in bed for the third week of an illness that quickly turned into pneumonia. Gasping for air. Tired. Weary. Worn. More sick than I had ever been.

Crying out for God to just give this weary girl some rest. Cursing Him for not providing the healing He had promised. Angry because the mission He had set out for me couldn’t possibly be fulfilled in this bed. On this couch. Gasping for breath. Tired, Weary. Worn.

Ready to give up on Him altogether.

Ready to give up…something that comes so easy to me.

The one who was “fearless” enough to stand in a room of strangers and tell her ugly story, couldn’t seem to find the motivation or strength to complete the simplest of tasks. To follow through on all the things she needed or desired to do.

The one who can fearlessly wrestle monsters, gives up too easily on other things that just seem to hard.

Like the guitar I played for a week, and then never picked back up.

Like all the books I started and never finished.

Like all the conversations I was too scared to have with the people who needed to hear my words the most.

The ideas and goals I have that I never write down, and then never start.

The good intentions and best laid plans I throw to the side when it gets to tough to follow through.

The “clean” eating. The desire to run I wanted to find again. The dream I so want to make happen. The marriage I take for granted. The prayers I never pray. The time I never have. Too hard. So, I just give up or never start.

And, here I was again. Ready to give up because God was making things too hard.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12

So, my one word. The one word God revealed to me as I lay screaming at Him. Angry. Gasping for air. Tired. Weary. Worn.

Perseverance.

Perseverance to pick up that guitar and finally learn to play it. Perseverance to get those dreams and goals written down so they can finally be achieved.

To finish that book. To follow through on those best laid plans and good intentions. To make time for God. My health. My family. My marriage.

To fight the urge to give up on people, projects, hopes when they get too hard. Or, to give up on God when he doesn’t answer.

Perseverance to run the race He will set before me. Never quitting. Never faltering. Never giving up.

A Hand-Me-Down No More

Hayley Fashion

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

I am a bit of a fashion maven. It’s true. I love clothes. I love how they feel. I love how they can define one’s personality, enhance a figure, and be the cloth that covers up how bad we may feel. I like that on those days I can at least look great, even when I may not feel it. I also like how one piece of clothing is different for each individual. And, this love of fashion, and it’s ability to be recreated into something different began as a young child.

I never had the trendiest clothes growing up. Nothing I wore looked exactly like anyone else’s, and I wasn’t heading to the mall to keep up with what my friends were wearing. Since my aunt and I were so close in age, I ended up with many of her clothes instead. Things I deemed “old,” because they weren’t mine. Some items that were obviously no longer in style. At least according to my classmates’ standards.

Instead of protesting to my parents whom I knew could not afford to keep up with all the new “fads,” I did what any young, budding fashionista would do. I started taking these “hand-me-down” garments, and making them “new.” Adding bits and pieces of my personality. My style. A belt. A necklace. A scarf borrowed from my mom’s closet guaranteed that the focus would not be on my old clothes, but my “new” accessories. And, when that didn’t work, I just cut my losses, and spilled enough juice on some of them so I could guarantee I never had to wear them again.

Knowing that the only way to make that “old” garment new, was to trash it.

God can do the same for us. He can take our old selves, and transform them into something new.

But, we have to trash a few things along the way. A few of the old, hand-me-down garments we used to wear.

Like our selfish desires. Our disobedience. Our crummy attitudes. Our hate.

Instead He gives us new garments such as self-control. Obedience. Faith. Brotherly affection.

But, he doesn’t want us to throw these things on every now and then as new accessories to simply cover up our old ways. He wants us to trash the old things like a juice-strained dress.

With a little prayer God can fill our hand-me-down hearts with love.

With time He can shift our hand-me-down attitudes to those of acceptance and understanding.

With praise He can change our old hand-me-down complaints and grumblings to words of thanksgiving.

With fellowship He can transform our hand-me-down loneliness to belonging.

With service He can change our hand-me-down selfishness to selfless and Christ-driven dreams, goals, and desires.

Until all of those old things. Those old ways. Those hand-me-down garments have been trashed for good, and the only things that remain are the duds no fashionista can emulate on the cover of a magazine, or in the halls of a school.

The garments of Christ. The ones that define us far better than any hand-me-down every could or will.