Monday, July 29, 2019

Following God is Simple - We Make it Complicated.

Where would you like to go to dinner? 

I don't care, what about you? I am open to anything. 

Ok, well how about we go to that good Mexican restaurant down the road? 

Aw, man. Anything but Mexican. I am getting burnt out on tacos and I just had a burrito last week. 

Ok, ok. Fine. Then, what about the Thai restaurant? We have not had Thai food in a LONG time. 

Ew. No. I do not feel like Thai food at all. No sushi, no Thai, not today. 

Ok, then. Geesh. Well, wait -- you have been wanting to try that new Greek restaurant that just opened. How about we go there. You've been talking about it a lot. Yes, let's do that!

I have? Nah. That is more of a lunch thing. I don't want to go there for dinner. 

Alright then, last suggestion - let's go for a burger or wings. Something easy like that. Yeah? 

You know what? Why don't we just go have some tacos? There is that Mexican restaurant down the road that we like. Why don't we just go there? It'd be quick and simple. 


Silence... 

😵

LIFE IS COMPLICATED


Does this sound like a typical Saturday night dinner battle with you and your significant other? So excited to get a night out and it becomes so frustrating that you almost wish you didn't, right? 

We overcomplicate everything. Well, if not everything - most things. 

Like deciding what color to dye our hair or what style cut to get. Or, how about going out of our way to avoid someone or beating ourselves up so badly over something someone said? Or perhaps spending three hours in a store looking for the perfect outfit to impress someone who may not even notice and spending money outside of our budget to do so. 

These are just examples. If you turn inward long enough, there is a good chance you will see where you have made some complications, too. It could deal with your financial matters, your health, your relationships, your work, your kids, etc. 

All we crave is simple. Yet all we do is complicate things. 

Have you ever thought about that?

FOLLOWING GOD IS SIMPLE


Have you ever paid attention to the things that God asks of us? 

He wants us to believe. 

He wants us to have faith. 

He wants us to read His word. 

He wants us to pray. 

He wants us to trust in Him. 

He wants us to give. 

He wants us to show gratitude. 

He wants us to forgive. 

He wants us to love. 


Simple actions that we humans can't seem to do without a hiccup or two. Or three, for some folks. God doesn't want us to say, "Sure, I will love them as long as they stop using drugs and take a shower." Or, "Yes, I will forgive him as soon as he shows some remorse."

That is not at all what God says. Yet, that is what we do, whether we realize it or not.

THE PROOF IS IN THE RED LETTERS

In Matthew 16:24 (NLT), Jesus says, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me."

He didn't say, "If any of you wants to be my follower, pick a date and time that works for your calendar, be sure to call all your family members, notify your office, and set up your social media accounts so all your followers will know what you are doing. Then, take some time for yourself to make sure that is what you want to do. Go shopping to get anything and everything you may need. Take a quick long weekend vacation to help you relax first. Then take up your cross and follow me."

The idea of all that just sounds exhausting, doesn't it? Like we really need to do all of that? 

Jesus is looking for the radicals, the leaders, the bold. Yet he also looks for the meek, the weary, and the broken.

No matter who you are or where you are in life, he simply wants you to take up your cross and follow him. Surrender all the complicated mess and bring humility to the life you know. 

You and Jesus. Jesus and You. The most simplistic yet deepest relationship you will ever know. 


Remember...
He wants us to believe. 

He wants us to have faith. 

He wants us to read His word. 

He wants us to pray. 

He wants us to trust in Him. 

He wants us to give. 

He wants us to show gratitude. 

He wants us to forgive. 

He wants us to love. 


FINAL THOUGHTS


Take a step back and try to uncomplicate the motions of your day-to-day life. If you spend so much time trying to perfect everything around you then you will miss the most important. 

"Who may climb the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place?" 
- Psalm 24:3

He wants you. 
It is that simple. 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Your Purpose and Samson: Why You Shouldn't Lose Sight of God

Years ago, if you didn't know someone personally, then you didn't really know what went on in his or her private life. Once a social event is over, heading home meant shutting out the world. It was the one place where a guard could be let down and a person could be free. 

Then, along came social media. No longer did we need to work our way into an episode of Unsolved Mysteries to connect with long lost friends. Old classmates, neighborhood friends of our earliest days, and even those distant, brief connections - they are all at our fingertips. 

Type in a name. Boom. We now know that the kid we used to have a crush on in Kindergarten married someone else, has three kids, and he works as a real estate agent in Biloxi, Mississippi. He has a beautiful wife. His kids are active in school and make good grades. He is selling one house after the next, heavily sought after and in demand in the real estate space in and around Biloxi. Even his dog, Chap, is absolutely adorable. A nice home and lots of social, family functions. That stranger from all those years ago has a perfect life. He did well. 

Or did he? 

Regardless of what one has or doesn't have, very few people will honestly open themselves up to the world of social media without a filter. In fact, you may as well consider social media platforms to be the place for posting the best pics showing the best angles of life. Staged or real. 

So, what happens when we see all this goodness going on in the lives of the people we used to know? Or that we used to be acquainted with? 

Jealousy. We want what they have. We get disappointed with the things that we have and the hand that we were given. We automatically put others a step above us - based solely on what their social media pages tell us. 

We don't even know if it is real or not! Yet, we are basing how we feel, how we view our life and our own self-image on these social media posts. 

Sounds a bit absurd, doesn't it? 

Jealousy is ugly. And wasting time wanting what others have can stunt your growth. 

This type of behavior, in one way or another, has been getting us in trouble for years. 

Have you heard of Samson? 

His story, found in Judges 13-16, begins with him coming as a blessing before he was even born. An angel appeared to Samson's mother to tell her that she was pregnant and she was going to give birth to a baby boy she will name Samson. The angel went on to say that Samson should never cut his hair, "No razor will touch his head - the boy will be God's Nazirite from the moment of his birth. He will launch the deliverance from Philistine oppression." (Judges 13:5 MSG). 

As Samson was born and raised, his hair grew and no razor ever touched it. Unfortunately, though, Samson had a hard time fitting into the role God had created for him. 

Now, let's think about that for a moment. We all know that we were born because God created us. And, we know that we all have a special purpose. I don't know about you, but my mother has never told the story of my birth to include special instructions over my life and God's plan for it as delivered by an angel. Yours?

That is big. In fact, it is downright HUGE. An angel. A messenger of The Most High comes to tell your mama that you have big shoes to fill. Wow. 

Samson couldn't have cared less. He was wrapped up in wanting to live a life like everyone else. He wanted to attend the parties and feasts and mingle with beautiful women. He had a purpose that he did not follow. He made choices that affected his family and his entire nation. He insisted on marrying a woman from an enemy nation. In short, He in no way, shape, or form acted as a follower of God should, let alone as the leader he was created to be. 

The funny thing is that Samson's strength was in his hair -- which is why God didn't want him to cut it. And everyone around him was envious of this strength that he had. They wanted to know what it was, where it came from and were willing to find out at all costs. 

So, while Samson was busy wanting to be like everyone else - they just wanted the special gift that he had. And, he was too blind to even notice.

I am not going to get into details about the story of Samson. That is for you to read. If you don't know it and have not spent any time reading it, you should. Turn your bible to Judges 13


What you can do for yourself. 

Before you find yourself wrapped up in what everyone else has going on, take a step back and remind yourself of a few things: 

💚 Like Samson, you were born for a reason. Sure, maybe no angel came to talk to your parents before dropping you off, but God doesn't make accidents so you best believe there is a reason you are here. 

💜 Your reason for being here is going to vary from that of every person around you. You are unique and wonderfully made - with a purpose in mind. Specifically in mind for you

❤️ Telling you to shut down social media may be a bit extreme. Instead, make sure you aren't allowing yourself to get caught up in everything that comes with scrolling through those pages and stories. Just like you've always been taught not to believe everything you read or hear, don't believe everything you see on social media. 

💙 Everyone wants to be flawless. Everyone has flaws. Remember this. 

💛 Take time for inward focus. When you spend so much time focused on what others are doing, you are bound to be affected by it, whether you realize it or not. Take time to learn who you are, what you stand for, your goals, hopes, and dreams. 

💗 Perhaps the most important thing you can do for yourself is to develop a relationship with God. Spend time with Him. Allow God to hold your attention. By doing so, you will have less time to get lost in what you think you don't have and will be able to learn about all the riches have been blessed with. 

Final thoughts. 

Are you wondering how it ends? Are you wondering whether Samson ever regains control of his focus? Let's just say that GOD is good, GRACE is powerful, and PRAYER is a direct line to our Creator. 

Go read!

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, "Sovereign Lord, remember me again, 'O God, please strengthen me just one more time." 
- Judges 16:28









Thursday, July 11, 2019

Feeling less than? You don't have to.

Life is a mixture of calm, peaceful moments and chaotic uproars. Just when you arrive and have smooth ground underneath your feet, you come face to face with a mountain.  Do you detour? Do you climb it? Are you prepared for the task? 

It wouldn't necessarily be life if this didn't happen, right? After all, isn't the point of life to be challenged and grow while transforming into your best self? How else will you grow if you don't get pushed and tested?


It is easy for these large mountains of troubles to bring us down. They can be overwhelming, frustrating, and seem impossible. You may walk through day-to-day life as if everything is fine only to go home and sit motionless wondering what you are going to do to overcome. 

There is a good chance that someone along the way has told you that you ought not to focus on the negative things and, instead, focus on the good in your life. Sure. If only it were that easy, right? Let's just dismiss those struggles and that gigantic mountain blocking the sun and focus on the fact that we woke up this morning. 

Exactly!

Wait, what? 

When you feel like you are struggling under the weight of everything, finding the beauty in life itself can make that rugged mountain a bit easier to tackle. Showing gratitude can be a great way to remind yourself that, although you have struggles in this moment, your life is still magnificently beautiful. 

But, what if you had something even better? What if you had your own best friend who is always there no matter what - and not just to tell you to look on the bright side? This best friend can... 

Provide you comfort when you are feeling anxious. 
🕇
Lend a helping hand when you are feeling less than. 
🕇
Remind you that you are loved and worthy of goodness. 
🕇
Heal your broken pieces when you feel defeated. 
🕇
Show you that your troubles will create a new, stronger version of yourself. 
🕇
GOD will hold your head up when you can't. 

There was once a little guy named David. He went up against a giant - Goliath - that no one else could defeat. Everyone thought he was being foolish. But, David knew he had God on his side. All it took was a huge amount of faith in his best friend and a tiny little stone. Using his slingshot, he took down the giant. 

“...You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. And everyone assembled here will know that the Lord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the Lord’s battle, and he will give you to us!" 
- 1 Samuel 17:45, 47 NLT 


Won't you allow God to let the mountains ahead of you build your strength and solidify your faith?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Raising Someone Else’s Kids

Raising Someone Else’s Kids

“Do you have kids?”

That is always a tough question for me. And I always find myself stumbling over my answer. Yes, technically. I mean, they aren’t necessarily mine as in the normal way one has kids, but, in all other ways, yes, I have kids.

To be more specific, I have a stepson and two nephews. In my mind, though, they are all my kids. I didn’t have them so-to-speak, but they are mine.

And, here’s why. This is what it is like raising someone else’s kids.

When someone plays too rough outside and falls off a skateboard, tumbles over a basketball, or skids off a bike, you make sure you are there to wipe the blood, clean the wound, and dry the tears.

When someone feels beat down after a rough day at school or gets frustrated with a homework assignment, you speak uplifting words and provide encouragement.

When someone has a favorite breakfast, you go out of your way to make sure it is available in the morning.

When someone has interests, goals, and the like, you do what you can to guide their pursuit. You let them explore the things that matter to them.

When they do well, you praise them.

When they make a poor choice, you correct them.

When a kid gets excited about something, you feel yourself getting excited, too.

You brag about them.

You show up for them.

You sing with them, act goofy, and have your own inside jokes.

You do what you can to not let them down. And, if you ever accidentally do, you beat yourself up for it long past the time they’ve stopped thinking about it.

You make sacrifices to see them smile.

You hug and kiss them goodnight.

And, by all means, you tell them you love them.

Life is not easy. Life with kids is surely a rough ride. And, nobody – including myself – is perfect.
Raising someone else’s kids should be no different than raising your own biological children. Moral of the story? It doesn’t matter who had the darn kids – you raise them as if you did. You treat them as if they are yours. And you love the heck out of them.

You know, one of the wisest women I know once told me that you don’t ever love any kid differently, whether they are your own or your stepchild or another child in your care. She said that each child deserves to have unconditional love.

When I first fell into this role in my life, I had a hard time believing that. Not that I didn’t think all children should be loved unconditionally, but I felt that there is a certain piece of you that is bound to that child when it is biological. Something that I wouldn’t know for sure, of course. Perhaps I am wrong – I will leave that to all of you biological parents to discuss.

But I have grown into the woman that I am knowing that the love I have for the children in my life is not conditional. That there is not possibly anything I would do more or less for them if they came from me. I give them my all. Every day. Rain or shine. And, I do it because they are mine. All three of them.
  

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Be a diamond - shine bright

Life is not always easy, is it? Could you imagine if it was? Everyone would walk around happy, stress-free and carefree. And, while that may sound perfect, it isn't. Why? Because we grow out of the struggles we face. 

Many of us are either in the middle of something rough or we know someone who is. Life's hurdles will be different for each individual but encountering things such as: 


losing a job

*

battling cancer

*

dealing with teenage struggles

*

waiting to hear a doctor's diagnosis

*

walking away from a marriage
*

the loss of a loved one

*

These are awful events that are capable of bringing even the strongest person down. They can make us turn inward, leading to anger and frustration, and, maybe even a bus ride straight into a life of darkness. 


But, let's stop and think about Jesus for a minute. This guy lived his life in the light. He encountered resistance and doubt during his travels. He endured unimaginable pain and torture. And, he was killed as if he was one of the most horrible criminals. 


Did he complain? No. Did he turn inward? Nope. Did he get angry and frustrated? Not at all. Guess what else he did not do? He never blew out his light. 

So, no matter what you are going through at this stage in your life, do not let your light go dark. We live in a world where so many people do -- and where so much darkness exists. 



God needs you to shine so that you may show others the way. "Do everything without complaining and arguing so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the world of life..." - Philippians 2:14-16

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