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Friday, September 30, 2011

Clogged Ears or Harden Hearts?

So do you hear from God much? I'll admit there are days that stretch into seasons when I don't feel like I hear from Him much. Even though I read my Bible, pray, attend church, study the Bible, etc., sometimes I can't hear His voice.

What I've found over time is that if I don't hear from Him for an extended period of time, there's reason to worry. I believe God wants to speak to us. He is not a God who withdraws His encouragements, His instruction, or certainly His rebukes for no reason. So if I'm not hearing Him, more than likely the fault lies with me.

Today I read in Psalm 95:6-11 a passage that could explain why you or I don't hear the voice of God at times.

Today, if you will hear His voice:
Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,
As in the day of trial in the wilderness,
When your fathers tested Me;
They tried Me, though they saw My work.
For forty years I was grieved with that generation,
And said, 'It is a people who go astray in their hearts,
And they do not know My ways.'
So I swore in My wrath, 
'They shall not enter My rest.'

That passage is a little tricky the way it switches persons mid-sentence (that wouldn't go over too well with my daughter's English 101 teacher, I'm pretty sure!), but the messages are loud and clear. There's all sorts of meat we could pick at here, but the main thing that jumped out at me this morning is that when I harden my heart toward God I stop hearing from Him. 

How do we harden our hearts toward God? It's not nearly as complicated or intentional as we might think at first. You see I don't think we have to declare that we don't love God or don't like Him or don't want to hear from Him to harden our hearts against Him. I think it happens much more subtly than that. We can harden our hearts, according to the scripture, when we rebel against Him. That simply means we disobey, refuse to obey his simplest and most direct commands. It means we do our own thing instead of yielding to Him. And it means we ignore God's works and words and choose to go our own way instead.

I've done that...many times...too often. And the longer I'm a believer the easier it actually becomes to discount His voice. Shocked? But you see the longer I grow with Him, I find He gets pickier and pickier about my stuff. He actually raises the bar. No, I suppose His standard stays the same, but my understanding of it certainly rises to new levels. And with each level ( don't just turn the other cheek to your enemy, but pray for him; don't just pray for him, love him; don't just love him; forgive him...my goodness!) it gets more and more tempting for me to give myself permission to just throw my hands up in the air and say, "Now that's just going too far! I can't do that one, and here's why....." And each time I do that I believe God's voice gets a little harder to discern.

Today I'm thinking on the little ways I may have rebelled against God recently. The things I may have read in His Word, but refused to do. The nudging I felt from the Holy Spirit, but ignored. The wrong attitudes I've harbored in my heart because they just seem too hard to change. I don't want to rebel against my God. I want to yield to Him. And I want to hear His voice loud and clear.

What about you? Have you heard from Him lately? Or is something keeping you from hearing Him? You'd think it would be your ears you need to clean out, but actually it might be your heart that needs to be softened. Maybe this weekend would be a good time to apply some softening agent to our hearts -- also known as OBEDIENCE -- so we can heart Him loud and clear.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sick Body, Renewed Mind

Today's a sick day for me. I've battled this heaviness in my chest, sore throat and general weariness long enough and so I'm actually going to see the doctor later this morning. My self diagnosis? Something akin to bronchitis. But we'll see what the doc has to say.

Meanwhile I have work to do as well. I won't be tackling the dusting or vacuuming (that's one of the perks of having some sort of tiring respiratory illness) but I'll have to finish up the article that is actually due right now. Fortunately I can do that while lounging on my sofa.

But what else will I do? I have the tendency to spiral down emotionally when I'm not feeling well physically. Do you do that too? But I don't want to host a pity party that I'm too tired and sick to attend myself. So I've got a different plan for the day.

I read this morning in Romans 12:2 that if I don't want to fall into the same bad habits I'm prone to slip into over and over I'll need to be transformed or changed. And the best way to do that, according to the same verse, is to have my mind renewed. That's where most of our behavior actually starts you know, in our minds. But how can our minds be transformed?

I've found that one of the best tools for renewing my mind and transforming my behavior is meditation. And no, I'm not talking about striking an awkward yoga pose, emptying my mind, chanting senseless phrases, and focusing on a peaceful meadow. The way I see it, that kind of meditation calms you for the few minutes you can manage to sit still and picture daisies, but after that you're just the same person you were before you crawled into your pretzel configuration.

On the other hand, when we meditate on God's Word we're guaranteed that His living word will do a lasting and supernatural work in our minds that actually changes things. So that's the kind of meditating I'll be doing today. Besides I hurt all over way too much to strike an awkward pose. Here's how I meditate on God's Word:
  1. Choose a scripture verse or passage that has meaningful significance to you. I like to choose a verse that feeds some spiritual need I have at the time. And believe me, they're in there! God wants to feed our souls and He does so through His hearty and sustaining Word.
  2. I like to write the passage on a 4 x 6 index card and put it in a small photo album where I keep all the verses I am currently meditating on and even attempting to memorize. Writing it out helps me really think about what the verse means.
  3. I spend time mulling over the scripture. Did you know that the Hebrew word for "meditate" most commonly used in the book of Psalms actually carries the connotation of murmuring. That could be why so many people think you need to hum when you meditate. But actually the murmuring referred to in the word's definition is the humming sound produced when we talk to ourselves. In other words, meditating is simply talking to yourself about something, hashing it out, looking at it from all the angles and explaining your thoughts to yourself. So whether you actually talk out loud to yourself or keep it silent, meditating boils down to having an internal conversation about the matter at hand.
  4. However, the difference in meditation and worrying, which is something else we tend to do as we talk aloud to ourselves, is that meditation includes God. So talk with God about the scripture you've chosen. Ask Him what you should learn from it, take away from it, and believe or change as a result of its truth.
  5. I try to meditate on my chosen scriptures throughout the day whenever I have a few minutes. I definitely think over them in the morning, but I also try to mull them over several more times throughout the day--perhaps as I sit on my back porch in the late afternoon, maybe as I eat lunch by myself, or potentially as I get ready for sleep at night.
  6. I've tried to make meditation on scripture a daily practice in my life. I'll admit that there are many days when I don't spend much time chewing on my scriptures, but I can see a definite transforming difference when I've been consistent about it. In fact, I will tell you that scripture meditation and memorization has made more of a difference in my life than Bible study. And I love me some good Bible study. But I'm convinced that we can study the Bible without ever being transformed by it. Study feeds us with knowledge and understanding; but meditation feeds our soul and changes our thinking. And in the end it transforms our lives.
So while I won't be doing much physical today, I can still accomplish a lot if I spend my time dwelling on the Word of God. Now, if I can just keep the television off and resist the pull of the Internet :)

Have a good one!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Stop the Multiplication!

How good are you at multiplication? 8 x 8 = ? 12 x 9 = ? Ah, I always hated the 12s. Especially once you get past 10. 

True to our math teachers' words we really do use multiplication most every day, whether we're cooking, purchasing things, sewing, doing simple accounting, figuring out mileage, or worrying. That's right, I said worrying.

Have you ever noticed how worries seem to multiply? You probably don't plan for your worries to multiply, but, like rabbits in a cage, if you give them time and feed them they'll produce one more worry after another.

One of my biggest worries right now is how we're going to pay for my daughter's college education. God supplied beautifully for my son's college degree. He's a National Merit scholar and attends one of a handful of schools that actually gives him a full scholarship for this honor. And that's just the simple rendition of how God provided Daniel's financing for college. It's really a lot more intricate and supernatural than that.

But alas, now we're on child number two's senior year of high school and I'm worrying about wondering what we're going to do about her college expenses. Believe me, if anyone knows that God can and will provide it's me. I've seen Him do it. But I'll admit, I still worry at times.

Are you a good worrier? Do your worries multiply like weeds in an Arizona monsoon season?

Recently I saw the movie I Don't Know How She Does It with Sarah Jessica Parker and Greg Kinnear. (Not a stellar movie, by the way, but fairly clean and cute. Kind of exalts the working mom while demeaning the stay-at-home mom, but I don't carry a chip on my shoulder about all that stuff, so it was ok with me...now...back to my point.) In the movie Parker's character talks about "the list," that never-ending, always-surfacing list that all moms have in their heads and often dwell on most as they lie in bed at night trying to fall asleep. The list typically includes things you've got to do, things each child needs, concerns you have over each child, places you need to go, calls you need to make, things you need to pay for...my blood pressure is rising as I type! According to the frazzled working mom in the movie (I forgot her name), the list starts off simple enough in your head, but before long the worries multiply until each anxiety has sprung a list of its own. Now you have multiple lists and you're juggling them like stacks of plates.

Indeed, the Bible confirms that our worries tend to multiply if we feed them by stewing over them, naming them one-by-one, and giving them more weight than they deserve. Consider the words I read today in Psalm 94:19:

When my anxious thought multiply within me,
Thy consolations delight my soul.
Psalm 94:19

I've experienced multiplying worries and my bet is that you have too. But I've also experienced the delight of God gently rebuking me for being anxious and consoling my fretful mind. Have you?
How does God console us when we're worried? Well, we have to turn to His promises, which are found in His Word. We have to find the promises that truly apply to our current anxieties and meditate on those. We have to find scriptures that remind us of God's character--His faithfulness, generosity, unconditional love, graciousness, power, and commitment. And it does us well to also read stories about how He intervened in the lives of other people who were worried at one time too. 

I like to write one or two of those scriptures on 4 x 6 index cards and keep them with me throughout the day. That way when my worries start multiplying in my head I can shut the arithmetic down by reading or reciting God's truth over those ferocious little anxieties. And the more I do that and the longer I keep it up and the more those truths become ingrained in my heart and head, the less my worries multiply. In fact, before I know it I've done a little simple division and whittled my worries down to nothing more than a puff of smoke. Poof, they're gone!

Have worries been multiplying in your head lately? That's a common thing, especially for us parents. But it's not a good way to live. Instead allow God's sweet, promising, and trustworthy consolations to delight your soul and divide those anxieties into oblivion. Poof!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jury Duty = Just a List

Today I am being a good American and showing up for jury duty. Quite honestly, I'm hoping I don't have to be so good as to actually serve on a jury, but if that is my lot I'll take it with a good attitude...even if my throat is hurting, which it is.

So, because I'm off doing my duty today, you just get a brief list. Now don't enjoy this little ditty too much because I plan to be back on the "Read Through the Bible and Talk About It" trail tomorrow...assuming I"m not deliberating in some hot little room with 11 new friends.

My friend over at Carpool Queen regales us with a list of some sort most every day. She cracks me up before I get to number 2. Do not expect that here. I'm not nearly as naturally funny as she is. But I'm sending you her way in case you'd like to check out whatever she's listing today. Just promise me you'll come back.

  1. You can read Carpool Queen's most recent happenings here. Have fun and then come back. I mean it.
  2. My husband went and just sat there with someone who was grieving deeply yesterday. Actually he probably did more than sit. He's good with words at those times while I am not. I probably should have gone with him, but I did not. I guess you'd call that not practicing what I'm preaching. You got me there. I just couldn't go. If I told you the details, which I won't because those are someone's personal details, you'd probably understand why I didn't go, but all the same... If you're wondering why I'm going on and on about this you probably didn't read this post. Read it and you'll know what a louse I am.
  3. I love watching the Pioneer Woman's new cooking show on the Food Network. I watched Saturday and headed straight for the grocery store to buy me a pot roast and veggies, blackberries for a cobbler, and arugula for a pizza. That's right, I said arugula for a pizza. The pizza wasn't my favorite, but I have the cobbler in the oven (you caught me...I'm actually writing this on Sunday evening), and I know it's going to be great. The roast is for tomorrow/today so it can cook in the crock pot while I"m doing my civic duty. I expect to be aptly rewarded when I get home this evening and the aroma knocks me off my tired feet!
  4. Did I mention my throat is scratchy? Like that pre-sick scratchy? Not happy about that.
  5. While I didn't go and "just sit there" (like I should have), I did "let it out" this past Friday. Got some bad news. Yucky, phewy, blaaak news! And I told Him all about it. And He took it and took it and took it. He's so good to me. I just love Him to pieces. I really do. And He loves me too.
  6. I'm about to wrap up a book I've been writing for a while now. It's a devotional book meant to follow my Bible study, Satisifed...at Last! The working title is A Taste of Satisfaction. Would you pray for me as I bring it to a close, hopefully in the next couple of weeks (depending on whether or not I'm sequestered...)? I'd really appreciate all the prayer I can summons for this project.
  7. I had the best time speaking to a group of moms in Benson, Arizona, last Thursday. I just want to give them a shout out here and ask you to pray for them. Just pray God's blessing on that bunch and that would do nicely. After all, there's never a day a mom couldn't use an extra prayer on her behalf.
  8. My daddy turned ...something... older....yesterday. (I know how old he is, but he might not want me to say, otherwise I would.) I'd like to give him a shout out too. He is hands down the best daddy in the world. Don't even try to leave a comment telling me otherwise because I have the power of deletion, you know. He's just the best and I'm so glad he's mine.
  9. Here's the scripture I'm meditating on lately: Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. (James 4:10) What are you meditating on? Something better than your bank statement, the number on the scales, or what you're having for dinner, I hope. Get you a Word from the Lord and put your mind there, for Pete's sake!
  10. Thank you for reading my little list, sweet friend. I really do hope you have a splendid week. If my tone has sounded a little puny, it's just my sore throat. I'm a weenie about getting sick.
I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Just Sit There

Is there anyone out there who feels just really comfortable visiting with someone who is grieving? Seriously, if you're out there I'd love to hear from you. Do you feel like God just gifted you for reaching out to hurting people? Or do you have the spiritual gift of mercy? Or maybe life has just caused you so much grief that you are accustomed to the awkwardness, the silence, the helplessness of it all. I know it must seem like a strange and unwelcome gift at times, but I'd truly call that a gift of God. That ability to rush right to the side of someone who is experiencing loss, pain, grief, distress.

I have a hard time visiting or calling someone who is grieving. But because I'm married to a pastor who seems to do a pretty good job of it, I've tried to overcome my fears and feelings of inadequacy enough to get out there with him for at least a few visits. I've even made a few bereavement calls (I thinks that's the technical, ministerial term) on my own without my husband. But it's not been easy for me. God generally has to take me by the shoulders, turn me around from the extremely important task that mundane thing which currently occupies my attention, point me in the direction of the hurting person, and give me a divine shove to get me moving. Even then I tend to pray all the way there, get out of the car only by the grace of God, and desperately hope there are others there visiting the grieving widow or hurting mom so they can carry the conversation and I won't have to.
You see that's my biggest problem. What do you say? What do you say to someone who is experiencing something you haven't yet gone through? What do you say to someone who is bravely bearing so much hurt, so much pain? What do you say to someone who has lost a loved one due to a senseless accident, a drunk driver, a drug overdose, or gunshot to the head? What do say to someone who has just lost the baby they carried for nine months?  What in the world do you say?

When we study the book of Job, the one who lost so much so quickly, we often scoff at the friends who visited him during his grief. More than once these men certainly put their collective feet in their mouths. But today, as I read the initial chapters of this rather lengthy account, I saw something I hadn't seen before.

It turns out that, at least for a while, these men did just what they should have done for their grieving friend.

When the three men arrived at Job's place, what was left of it, and saw their hurting buddy they were shocked. He didn't even look like himself. You've probably noticed that is quite common when someone has been dealt a severe blow. They usually don't look like themselves. True, on top of losing most of his family and possessions Job had also been struck with boils all over his body. But my bet is that it was his disposition, his sadness and sorrow, that caused him to look so foreign to his friends.

Grieving people often look different than normal. And that can just add to the difficulty of the situation. You see your friend, your co-worker, your relative and they are hurting so badly that they don't even look like the same person you saw just yesterday. And, like Job's friends, you hurt. It breaks your heart to see your loved one like this. Their pain weighs heavy on you, their grief pulls at your heart, and you wonder if you can keep it together for their sake.

Jobs friends grieved with him. I think that was the right thing to do. Maybe we shouldn't tear our clothing or sprinkle dirt on our heads like these three middle easterners did, but like them we may shed a tear.

Then Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar did the most important thing.

So they sat down with him
on the ground seven days and seven nights,
and no one spoke a word to him,
for they saw that his grief was very great.
(Job 2:13)

Now I'm not sure the three men should have stayed all seven days and nights. That may be why they eventually started saying some things better left unsaid. But I do find it commendable that they "sat down with him" and "no one spoke a word to him."

I've heard from those who have grieved that this one act of sympathy and kindness is often the most appreciated and the most appropriate...to just sit there. Not to rattle on with opinions or ill-timed suppositions or misinterpreted Bible verses or even "remember whens," but just to sit there, to be companions, to be with.

So if the Lord has you by the shoulders today and is in the process of pointing you toward someone who is grieving, someone who is hurting, and gently nudging you in their direction, why don't you simply do what these three friends did? Just go be with your friend. Don't worry about saying the right thing. Just don't say much of anything. Instead listen, hold their hand, get them a glass of water, or just be there. Not for seven days, mind you. Probably, unless you're a best friend or family member, not even for seven hours. But just go be there for a little while...long enough to let them know you care.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Come In from the Storm

Is it raining on you today? You know the kind of rain I mean. Not the pleasant pitter patter of a good ground soaking rain that feeds and grows and blesses. Not the rain of relief that many of my friends in Texas are so hungry for. Not even the quick down pours we've been experiencing here in the thirsty desert during our recent monsoon season.

I want to know if you're in a storm of sorts. An unwelcome, undesirable, scary, and threatening storm of destruction, hardship, or sorrow. We all go through those storms occasionally, unfortunately. They're the storms that threaten to overtake us, to sweep us away, or to cause great destruction in our lives.

Some of those storms are financial. One thing after another breaks down, gets lost, or becomes immediately necessary. Illnesses, surgeries, home repairs, car repairs, and losses cause the bills to mound until they fall upon us like a damaging hail storm.

Some of those storms are relational. One person or more begin to batter us with their words, accusations, slanderous remarks, or lies. Sticks, stones, words...they all come raining down with equally damaging effects.

Some of those storms could be physical. One part of our anatomy after another begins to ache, burn, rumble, or just cease to function like it should. Head, shoulders, knees and toes are only the beginnings. Places begin to hurt that we never knew could hurt. Or maybe nothing hurts...except the words spoken by the physician sitting across from us in the wood paneled office.

And there are many other types of storms too. Family storms, business storms, mental storms, church storms, spiritual storms, you name it...

If you're going through a storm of any sort today (and I'm just experiencing the last few windy and frailly unpredictable days of a couple of storms myself), take encouragement from the words I read in Psalm 91:1-6 today:

The one who lives under the protection of the Most High
    dwells in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
He Himself will deliver you from the hunter's net,
from the destructive plague.
He will cover you with His feathers;
you will take refuge under His wings.
His faithfulness will be a protective shield.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
the arrow that flies by day,
the plague that stalks in darkness,
or the pestilence that ravages at noon. 

And I might add to the psalmist's last statement, "or the storm that rages all around you." 
In a storm of sorts today? Come into the shelter of His wings today. How do you do that? It's not just a matter of visualizing it. That works for about five minutes for me. No, if you really want to settle in under His protective shelter, you need to follow the prescription mentioned in the middle of this passage: Let His faithfulness act as your protective shield.
  1. Read of His faithfulness in His Word on a daily basis. See how He faithfully came through for David, Moses, Abraham, Hagar, Ruth,...the people of Israel, the world.
  2. Remember how He's been faithful to you in the past. How has He provided, stepped in, redirected, healed, restored, and protected you in the past?
  3. Thank Him for His faithfulness in the past. He loves to give encore performances!
  4. Remind yourself of His character by reading His Word and reflecting on His ways, His priorities, His passions, and His words. Then praise Him. For Pete's sake, praise Him. He inhabits the praises of His people. That means He moves in and pushes aside the rain clouds and shines brightly upon your daunting situation, giving perspective and hope and light to show the way.
  5. Find appropriate promises in His Word that relate to your storm and memorize and meditate on those scriptures. Hold fast to them.
  6. Pray those scriptural promises and ask Him to bring them to fruition in your life.
  7. And expect Him to be faithful to you...even when you can't see His hand right away...even when others are not...even when the odds seem stacked against you...even when it seems impossible.
 Come in from the storm, dear friend! There is shelter in the Almighty God, the Lord Most High.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Of Dry Cleaning Bags and Other Dangerous Weapons

***I came across this post yesterday and thought we'd throw it out there again for a few laughs. I originally posted this one in March of 2010 and now I realize I have a lot of new followers who need to see just who they are following. Enjoy!***

 Tomorrow I have to pick up my husband's suit jacket from the cleaner's . I am determined not to let this be a traumatic event for me and I am quite sure I'll make it home alive. But in the event I don't I'm writing this post so the world will know what happened to me.

When I was a little girl my mom was a good, responsible mother. She taught me to look both ways (twice) before crossing the street, not to touch hot things on the stove, and to carry scissors with the point directed toward the ground. She also taught me the dangers of plastic dry cleaning bags.

Did you not know that plastic dry cleaning bags are deadly? Well they are. I was taught to immediately remove the plastic wrapping from over the freshly dry cleaned clothes, tie the bag into a knot or two and throw it away. And of course I was taught to never put my head in the bag because I could suffocate.

Not only did I develop a healthy respect for the fact that indeed a plastic bag could suffocate you if you were stupid enough to put your head into it and get lost in there, but I developed quite an unhealthy fear of large plastic bags in general. Ever since I've been an adult and have had the occasional need to pick up laundry from the cleaners in those large, ominous plastic drapes, I have suspected that those plastic killers could actually jump off the hangers, throw themselves over my unsuspecting head and knot themselves around my neck so I couldn't possibly breath more than a few last gasping breaths. (Do you hear the screechy music playing and intensifying in the background?)

I don't blame my mother for this fear. I'm sure I took her gentle but firm warnings and simply ran in the direction of insanity with them all on my own. But I kid you not when I say that I truly look at plastic dry cleaning bags as weapons in the same category as ... um... say hairdryers or mattresses. They can all kill you, right? If you plug the hairdryer in, turn it on and throw it in the bath tub or .... I don't know.... maybe lie under the mattress with a 300 pound man lying on top of it.

You can imagine that my inordinate fears have only been multiplied the few times I've actually heard on the news that a child died due to suffocation or I saw a TV murder mystery type show where a dry cleaning bag was the weapon of choice. I've heard such reports or seen such TV episodes all of once or twice in my life, but my mind has recorded those incidents in multiples of six. Ok, I'm psychotic...

While I'm confessing my deranged fears I might as well tell you that I also never use butcher knives for any reason because my mom once accidentally dropped one on my foot while icing a cake. I know. But I forgave her back in 1972 when that happened and I hardly ever think of it... except every time I see a butcher knife, of course.

And the other day a bloggy friend mentioned pressure cookers in her post and that reminded me of another fear I have. Now my mom used her pressure cooker a lot when I was growing up and though she let me know they were potentially dangerous (and I could see that for myself of course, with the thing sputtering and hissing like it did) she never told me I couldn't use one. Unlike the plastic dry cleaning bags, we actually kept the cooker in the cabinet ready for use. But somewhere along the way I determined that only mothers could use them and somewhere further along the way when I became a mother I determined that I still didn't qualify to use them. And I never would. So when my bloggy friend said she had bought one and I'm almost certain she's younger than me, I was pretty sure she had broken the law. Again, psychotic.

All this to say, fear is a crazy thing, huh? It gets planted in our minds through the most innocent seeds, like a dandelion seed that wanders into your flower garden. Then with just the smallest amount of encouragement (a TV murder mystery here, a WARNING tag on the mattress there, a sputtering, steaming release top there), that fear grows in leaps and bounds. Before you know it your fear has overcome reason and it is keeping you from doing even the most normal things (like cooking green beans, for pete's sake!).

I do hope you realize that my little confessions have all been offered lightheartedly today. Truth be known, these fears do indeed still skate through my mind each time I pick up the cleaning or pass by my block of unused butcher knives, but I recognize them for what they are: silly, inordinate fears based on a child's misinterpretation of helpful information. I don't blame my mom, I repeat, I don't blame my mom for any of my psychosis. I own it clear and free.

But fear itself is very real. And the crippling damage it causes in our lives is real too. I hope fear, silly or well-founded, is not keeping you from doing anything you're supposed to be doing today. I say well-founded because sometimes fear does play the healthy role of opening our eyes to potential hazards, but we should never operate out of fear alone. It should only act as a you-might-want-to-consider-this sort of guide in our minds. But God's truth and His instruction should trump it every time.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear,
but of power and love and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

So let's go out there and use our knives and pick up our cleaning and dry our hair with a sound mind today. And while we're at it, let's parent our children and do our work and start something new and make that dreaded phone call and make that new investment and ....whatever you have to do .... without fear too.

Feel free to make me feel better about myself and share your stupid, psychotic unfounded fears with us today. Or if you have real fears that are hindering you, you can share those too and I'll be glad to pray for you. You can leave a comment for us all to see or you can contact me privately through the Contact button on the tool bar above my posts. I'd love to hear from you!

Blessings sweet friends!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Oops! There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant!

Just what makes that little ole ant
think he'll move that rubber tree plant?
Anyone knows an ant...can't...
move a rubber tree plant!

But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes,
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes!

It's true that some hoping and wishing and thinking and planning...is just high apple pie, in the sky hoping. But I think that ant has more than unrealistic, silly scheming going for him. He has a God that created him to do a job--a mighty big and miraculous job, one that seems impossible for such a tiny guy--and a God who has enabled him to get that job done.

We've all been amazed as we're walking down a sidewalk and suddenly we see a tiny ant carrying a huge potato chip, dead bug, berry or other morsel across the pavement on its wee little back. Obviously no one told that ant he couldn't do that. He's just doing what needs to be done and he's got the can-do attitude to get it accomplished.

Now before I go too far with this ant analogy, let's bring this thing home via the scripture I read this morning.

In Romans 4:20 I read:

He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief,
but was strengthened in faith,
giving glory to God, 
and being fully convinced that what He had promised
He was also able to perform.

What had God promised Abraham? Of all things He'd promised this older gentleman a son, an heir. But Abraham was already quite old and his wife Sarah, who had yet to bear a single offspring, seemed to have a closed womb. Just like it seems virtually impossible for a tiny ant to move a leaf or a morsel of food across the pavement, it seemed highly unlikely that a child could ever materialize between this elderly couple. 

And yet, the scripture says that Abraham didn't waver at the promise of God through unbelief. Instead, as time went on and he and Sarah both got older and further from childbearing age, his faith actually got stronger. True, he tried to help God out a few times and found that he was getting in God's way more than he was moving things along. But by the time Isaac, that child of promise, arrived on the scene, Abraham's faith in God was so strong that he obediently took that son up a hill and laid him on an altar, knowing that the same God who had provided Isaac in Abraham and Sarah's old age could also raise him from the dead if need be.

That's faith. Mighty big faith. Some might even call it high apple pie, in the sky faith. But when Abraham displayed that mighty big faith, well, mighty big things happened. God made big promises, Abraham believed and held onto his hope, and God came through in a big way.

Let me ask you a question. Are you believing God for anything big right now? Of course, I hope you're believing Him for your salvation. That, after all, is the context for this scripture I pulled from Romans 4 -- that we are saved through our faith in God and not through works. So I do hope you are fully trusting God to save you and you're not trying to add anything to that perfect and complete salvation by working your way to the pearly gates.

But beyond that, are you believing anything big from God? Do you have a huge need, a crisis of sorts, big dream? Have you talked with God about it? And have you listened for His response?

I don't think we can just claim things willy nilly and believe that God will fulfill our every crazy wish. I believe in scriptural prayer of first abiding in God's Word and letting it abide in us so that we can ask whatever we feel led to ask based on what God is teaching and showing us. I do believe God answers those prayers based on His Word, His promises, His character. But the question remains, have you asked for anything big lately?

Have you come across a rubber tree plant that needs to be moved? If so, are you staring at it with disbelief, woe, and confusion? Or have you asked God to move it, to help you move it? 

Folks, here's the thing. We need to have a big faith. We have a mighty big God and He is willing and able to move our rubber tree plants. But we need to ask. And we need to have faith. And we need "not waver at the promise of God through unbelief." But we need to be strengthened in our faith.

What big thing are you waiting and watching for God to do? What are you anticipating in faith? It's ok to have high apple pie, in the sky faith...as long as that faith is in God. Think big, ask big, and believe big. And then you'll be able to say,

Oops! There goes another rubber tree plant!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Someone Needs to Do It

Do you have a task you're not looking forward to today? Maybe you've agreed to keep someone else's preschooler while they enjoy lunch out...but now you're having second thoughts about your generous offer. Or maybe you have to deal with a crummy situation at work and you're dreading the discussion. It could be that you simply have to clean your house today, get it back in order after a fun-for-all weekend. Or you might need to say those words none of us enjoy saying -- "I'm sorry" -- and you're thinking of every diversion you can to keep from having that encounter. Or maybe it's some other task I can't even conjure up in my mind right now, but it's very real and pressing to you. And you...just...don't...want...to do it.

Then again, it may not be a specific task you're dreading today as much as you're simply continuing to wrestle with a role you must play day after day that you never wanted to take on. Maybe you never planned to be a single parent, but ...here you are...alone. Or maybe you have a child with special needs and you still, after all these years, feel unprepared, ill-equipped, out of your comfort zone with this role. Maybe you're a working mom, but you'd rather be home with the preschoolers you left at daycare this morning. Or you could be a stay-at-home mom and you're lamenting the fact that you didn't get to dress up in something besides shorts and a t-shirt this morning, have coffee with grown-ups, and work on "really important stuff," stuff that didn't include cleaning!

Are you wearing shoes today that you never thought you'd be wearing? Or maybe those shoes are ones you picked out, but now you're having second thoughts. They're getting a little uncomfortable, pinching you around the toes, so to speak.

We've all heard those piercing words that I read this morning in Esther:

And Mordecai told them to answer Esther:
"Do not think in your heart that you will escape
in the king's palace any more than all the other Jews.
For if you remain completely silent at this time,
relief and deliverance will arise for the
Jews from another place,
but you and your father's house will perish.
Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom
for such a time as this?
Of course when we read those words we usually put them in the context of words spoken to a queen, a woman of privilege. And she was being called to a heroic task, not a mundane one like babysitting someone else' preschooler or cleaning toilets or saying I'm sorry. This is a fairytale come true, albeit one filled with danger and intrigue. Thus we don't consider the delicate shoes of a queen to be comparable to the sneakers of a stay-at-home mom who wants to be at the office or the pumps of the working woman who'd rather be at home. Sure, she was a little reticent to step up to the plate and deal with the impending danger, but in the end how hard could it really be to have a nice meal with the king?

Still, she didn't want to do it. She would be putting her life at risk; bucking the establishment, stepping in where she'd rather be staying out of things, and, on top of it all, she'd have to act nice in front of that scoundrel Haman. Yuck.

But Esther rose to the occasion. She prayed and fasted and did what she needed to do. She did what someone had to do. She did what God had obviously assigned her to do. And she did it with grace...and success.

We all have a choice today. We can struggle against the assignments we've been divinely given in this life -- as mundane or monumental as they may be -- or we can do the thing with grace. And be assured, there is no in between. Just "doing it" doesn't cut it. An apology offered through gritted teeth is no gracious apology. And if you're at home with your preschoolers but you're spending all your time daydreaming about being somewhere else, you're probably not very effective. Likewise, if God has you at work and your children in someone else's care, you're doing them no favor by whining and complaining about it. 

Today your God has called you to some special tasks, some specific roles. You can fight them or embrace them. But the Bible says to do all that we do with fervor and passion, as unto the Lord. We may need to follow Queen Esther's example and pray (even fast) about the task at hand. We may need to enlist others to pray for us. But if God's given the assignment, He'll give us the strength and grace to accomplish it.

I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me!

Will you do today what someone needs to do...what you need to do...what God has called you to do?

Friday, September 9, 2011

No Big Deal?

So what's the big deal? Did someone hurt your feelings? Did you miss out on an opportunity? Did things not go quite the way you thought they would? Was it really that big of a deal?

Or maybe you got left behind. Maybe a check bounced, you got a speeding ticket or you lost a library book. Maybe someone missed your birthday. Maybe you forgot someone's birthday. Big deal. Right?

Did you lose something important? Does your back hurt a little? Have you gained a little weight? Is your pet sick, your car worn out, your vision waning, your cupboard bare, your bank account short on funds, or your work coming up short? Is that all?

Did your newborn keep you up all night? Is your terrible two year old pitching tantrums at Target? Is your preschooler pushing your limits? Does your grade schooler have two projects to do this weekend and a ballgame to boot? Is your middle schooler trying to grow up too fast? Does your high schooler want a car, a new phone, a tatoo? Is that all?

Are you worried about your aging parents, your kid at college, your single sister, your divorced friend? Do you have too much work to do? Are you out of work? Are you moving or do you wish you could? Really now. Is that all?

The truth is most of the stuff that overwhelms us could seem less than underwhelming to other people. They might not understand why we're fretting, crying, or freaking out. The burdens that weigh us down may seem feather light to someone else. And the situations that confuse us may seem much less confounding to others.

And that can frustrate us all the more.

What's the big deal? Well my hurts and pains and problems and losses may not be a subject worth even mentioning to someone else. In fact, I rarely express aloud many of the "little" things that weigh me down on any given day. But this I know: my God will never ask "What's the big deal?"

He doesn't minimize my issues. He may help me put them in perspective. Mercy me, let's hope so! That's exactly what I need Him to do most of the time...simply put it all into perspective. But He'll never make me feel like the things that bother me are trivial or unworthy or dumb or frivolous.

But in case you doubt that your small potatoes are worthy of God's attention, you might want to pray along with the Levites in Nehemiah 9:32:

Now therefore, our God,
The great, the mighty, and awesome God,
Who keeps covenant and mercy:
Do not let all the trouble seem small before You
That has come upon us.

Indeed our God is great and mighty and awesome and faithful and merciful. And He is the best One to whom we can carry our every problem - big or small. He will never let our troubles seem small before Him. Instead He will treat us with dignity and love and goodness. 

Do you have a "no big deal" kind of problem that you've hesitated to take before such a big and mighty God? Believe me, you can trust Him with whatever burdens you today. No problem is too big...or too small.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Remind Him; He Likes That

Have you ever had your teenager repeat back to you what they think you said? Trust me, it can be really interesting. More than once my two kids have thought they were following my orders, doing me a favor by obeying my requests or answering the correct question when in fact that hadn't heard me correctly at all. Therefore, when we entered into some sort of conversation about what I had said and what they thought about it, we would start off on the wrong foot, needing to clear up several misconceptions right from the get-go.

On more than one occasion I've played that teenager's role to my Father in heaven. I've asked Him for what I thought I'd heard Him promise only to be discouraged by His lack of response. Then it would turn out that I had mistaken His words or even assumed He had said something to me that He'd never really said. I've taken His promises out of context, misconstrued His meanings, and thought I "read somewhere" that He'd said thus and thus. Wrong.

That's why it's such a good idea to stick with God's actual words when we pray, when we communicate with God and ask Him to work in our lives. He's told us that He upholds His Word; He honors it always and with integrity. And He invites us to pray according to it with 100% success.

In Nehemiah 1:8, Nehemiah prays to God, "Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses..." and he goes on to remind God what He said to Moses with integrity and honor. And you better believe that God honored Nehemiah's humble request based accurately on His Word and answered his prayer.

So when we're asking God to work on our behalf it behooves us to remind Him what He said. First of all, of course, we have to make sure of what He actually did say. We have to get into the Bible, find the promise we're thinking of, check its context and make sure the promise applies to us and not just one certain person in history, and humbly bring those divinely spoken words before the Father who loves us so. He's not offended when we remind Him of His promises and precepts; He's thrilled. He wants us to ask Him to do what He has already said He will do. When we bring His words before Him and ask Him to see them through, we express our faith in Him to do what He has said He will do and His ability to do the same.

So if you're floundering for how to ask God for what you need today, begin by spending time in His Word. Here are a few God-sized promises to check out if  you're wondering exactly where to begin:

  • Luke 11:28
  • Psalm 68:6
  • John 8:32
  • 2 Corinthians 12:9
What "words of God" have you prayed back to Him recently? I'd love to know.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Little Like Spell-Check

As a writer I'm dependent upon and thankful for that handy dandy little thing called spell-check. It underlines at least a few of my words in red most every time I write a paragraph or two. And then with a simple right-click of the mouse on top of that burgundy underlined word I can see a list of possible right choices and easily, usually, select the correctly spelled word. In fact, spell-check just saved me from spelling burgundy with an "a" instead of a second "u" as in burgandy. Who knew? I certainly didn't. So not only did spell-check keep me from making a mistake, but it taught me a little something as well.

Our conscience works something like a spell-check. It lets us know when we've made a wrong choice, stops us in our tracks, warns us that if we don't correct things we're going to make a big mistake, and then, just like spell-check, leaves the choice up to us. We can correct our path or stay on the wrong course. And just like with my spell-check feature, if we choose to go with the choice we'd previously made, the wrong one, our conscience will eventually even leave us alone about it. It doesn't auto-correct. It doesn't push us to do the right thing. The red underline goes away and the choice, just like the word, is printed permanently upon the records of our life for all to see. It's wrong, but we've chosen to ignore it and perhaps we forever will. Still it's wrong.

In Acts 24:16 Paul said, "I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men." Paul knew the value of heeding his conscience just like I know the importance of making the recommended corrections when my words are underlined in red. He didn't want permanently printed mistakes in the annals of his life. He wanted a clean copy.

But our conscience is no more perfect at correcting our choices than spell-check is 100% at pointing out our spelling errors. Why not? Well there's the little problem of manual override for one thing. Just like when I choose to ignore the menacing red line of spell check it eventually disappears from my computer screen, I can choose to ignore my conscience until it eventually stops throbbing with guilt. Before I know it, I'm going right along with my day, blissfully forgetful of my error in judgment.

Plus I've managed to tamper with my spell-check feature enough to where it's no longer as accurate as it once was. You know the feature. The one that pops up right along with all the right spelling choices. The one that lets you "add to dictionary." We can do the same thing with our consciences as well. We can "add" new options for right and wrong, more current ones, more culturally relevant ones, more tolerant and open-minded ones. Get my drift? Before you know it the red lights no longer come on when we choose to cheat, lie, fudge, entertain certain thoughts, listen to certain words, or go certain places. We've adapted our "dictionary" of right and wrong to fit our personal style so it's no longer right to the letter.

I haven't figured out how to erase words I've "added to the dictionary" on my computer, but I know how we can eradicate the adaptations we've made to our consciences. We start by allowing the Holy Spirit to take over. Did you think our conscience and the Holy Spirit were synonymous? Far from it. Everyone has a conscience--some are more intact than others, but we all have one. But only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior have the Holy Spirit abiding within. Still some of us who have been sealed with the Spirit of God have quieted His voice much like we've adapted our consciences to our culture. But we can change that.

We can tune the Holy Spirit in more clearly by spending time in the Word of God. You see the Word of God and the Spirit of God speak in unison. They confirm each other. So the more familiar we are with the Word of God, the more accurately we will hear the Spirit of God. His voice will resonate with our conscience, a conscience that has been retrained by biblical truth.

Do you ignore the little red lines of spell-check? Probably not unless you just really don't care about the final product. But you may have ignored the red lights of your conscience because it seemed expedient and easier than making the necessary adjustments. I know I'm guilty of tampering with the mechanics of my conscience in certain areas until it no longer even underlines the wrong options. And our culture just affirms those adaptations as though they are some sort of "alternate spelling." Hmm. But if I want to have a clear conscience before man and God, I'll need to get my conscience back in line with His holy Word and the voice of His Spirit. So that's what I'm working on today...this week...for a while.

Will you join me?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Prepare and Persist

August and September (depending on which region of the country you live in) mean three things for many Christian women:
  1. getting children of all ages ready to return to school, 
  2. viewing countless previews of all the new (and mostly raunchy) shows coming to television this fall, and ... 
  3. beginning a new Bible study. 
Is that true for you?
Well I've gotten my son off to college and my daughter started on her senior year. I've picked out the one new television show I might give a shot this season. And I'm two weeks into my new Bible study, Beth Moore's David - Seeking a Heart Like His. What about you?

The first two weeks of my Bible study went splendidly. I got my homework done each day over five days and then prepared my lesson for my class on the sixth day and taught on the 7th day. Ran like clockwork. Then my son had his wisdom teeth removed and the Labor Day weekend came along. Funny the little things we'll let stand in our way of getting our daily Bible study done.

So last night I sat down and did days one and two of my five day Bible study...on the 5th day. I was way behind. Quite frankly, I still am. I must cram in three days worthy of my attention into one hurried day and prepare my lesson for tomorrow. Shame on me. Not because I've done anything wrong, but because I'm missing out on the greater blessing...the blessing of really soaking in God's truth for my life.

Today I read in my daily Bible reading that Ezra "prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel." It occurred to me that that is exactly what I set out to do back in mid august when our Bible study began. And yet, I've struggled this week to keep that commitment, that fervor. Never mind though. I'm back in the saddle and determined not only to finish this Bible study (not usually a problem since I'm the teacher), but also to give it the time and attention it deserves, to experience a life-change because of it, and to teach it well each week to the ladies who gather for my two classes.

Many women struggle to keep the commitment they make each August/September as they sign up for and begin a new women's Bible study. I get that. I struggle too. While I always finish, I don't always finish strong. But maybe we could learn a few things from Ezra, this man of God who began strong and saw it through. Here are a few helpful tips I've pulled from my reading in Ezra and a few other places in God's Word recently. Maybe we should consider these biblical points and see if they a make a difference in our commitment to Bible study.

  • Bible study has to be a priority. Satan strongly desires for us to stay away from God's Word, to remain ignorant of it, and even to become frustrated with it. He will do all he can to defeat us in this area. If we're going to be successful at all in studying the Bible in a life-changing way we will have to make it a high priority, right behind the similar priorities of seeking God Himself, yielding to Him, and listening for Him. In actuality there is no separating our Bible study from our relationship with God. If we make our relationship with Him the priority in life -- and it should be -- then studying His Word is naturally a priority of our days. But we have to will Bible study to be a priority. We have to make the necessary changes in our daily lives that facilitate that prioritizing. Have you made Bible study a top priority in your life?
  • It begins with preparation in the heart. Over and over recently I have read of kings and priests and prophets and men of God who "prepared their heart" to seek God. I thought that was strange. What kind of preparation did they do? I assumed that seeking God would be the first step, but evidently there were other steps taken before the actual seeking took place. What could they possibly be? I found that the words "prepared his heart" were also translated "set his heart." As I meditated on those words I concluded that several things would need to take place for me to really, completely, consistently, and successfully seek the Lord and His truths. I would need to turn away from many diversions that beckon my attention - worries, entertainment, time wasters, sins, etc.  - and forcibly and habitually turn to the new object of my devotion - my Bible. In the most practical of terms, that means turning off Good Morning America (or better yet, not turning it on to begin with) and picking up my daily reading Bible instead. It means that after supper I sit down to my Bible study instead of picking up another book or magazine to read. And it means I carve out enough time for that Bible study instead of rushing through it so I can watch whatever's on television. This will take real effort, but that's what "setting our hearts" on something includes. Have you really "set your heart" on studying God's Word consistently? Have you had to set aside anything to do that?
  •  I'll need help if I'm going to succeed. Most of us can follow the Lord obediently on our own just so long. Then we begin to falter. But if we have a Christian sister encouraging us, walking along with us, and praying for us we're much more likely to hang in there for the long haul. That's why being a part of a church (on a larger scale) and a small group Bible study (on a smaller scale) are so important and crucial to the successful Christian walk. I've been studying and teaching the Bible for over 20 years. But still to this day I find it extremely difficult to start and finish a Bible study on my own. To be quite honest, I'm not sure I've ever completed one that I started by myself -- except for the two I've written. If I've bought a Bible study book and begun reading and completing assignments and even watching video teachings on my own without a supporting group, I've eventually abandoned the study every time. I hate to admit that, but it's true. How about you? Has solo Bible study worked well for you? If not, please join a group for study. It's so worth it. And when you do, take the time and make the effort to make some friends in there and establish a little accountability. You'll be so much more likely to succeed.
  •  It's wise to review the return on your investment. I don't know about you, but I love reviewing a bank statement that indicates a large return on my investment. That lets me know that it's been worth leaving that chunk of money alone and not spending it. It reminds me that my return has been worth any sacrifice, any time, any changes of habit. And when you finish a good Bible study it's wise to review your returns as well. Take the time, not just at the end of your 11-week study, but at the end of each week to review what you've learned, what you've gained, how you've grown, how you've changed, how God has blessed. I promise you that you'll find the dividends to be hearty if you've really invested in God's Word. His Word never returns void, but always accomplishes a great work in our lives -- if we yield to it. And when we review those dividends we're more likely to reinvest week after week after week.
 I admit my commitment to Bible study waned a bit over the past four or five days. That happens, at least to me. But rather than throw my hands into the air and concede defeat I'm picking up my Bible, my highlighter, my study book, and my pen (oh, and my reading glasses!) and "setting my heart" anew to seek the Lord and His Word. Maybe the holiday weekend didn't throw you off. (I do hope someone out there is more consistent when their daily schedule takes a detour in the road than I am!) Or maybe you're already behind a little in your new Bible study like I am. Whatever the case, let's all commit together to encourage one another to be in the Word of God on a daily basis so we can really live this thing out.

Comments? I'd love to know if you're taking a new Bible study class and what it might be. Do tell!

Friday, September 2, 2011

When Life Becomes Mayhem

The only thing worse than being in the middle of a storm without an umbrella or shelter is being smack dab in the middle of a huge misunderstanding. Have you ever set out with the best of intentions only to have your motives scrutinized and come up short? Or have you ever tried so hard to word something just right and still your carefully spoken words got garbled somewhere between your mouth and the other person's ears? Or maybe, to make matters even worse, your words were incorrectly translated by multiple sources until they ended up not even resembling your original intent in the slightest. By the time your innocent enough words have been mistranslated and gotten around town you're not worth the dirt you're walking on!

I hate misunderstandings. Loathe them. There's nothing worse than being than being misunderstood. Especially when the misunderstanding has somehow been molded in the cement of time and repetition so that no matter how you try to rectify things, there's no undoing the harm that's been done. People no longer have faith in your word so they won't hear your explanations. The damage has been done and you can't clean it up no matter how hard you try.

That's somewhat the position the apostle Paul found himself in in Acts 21 and 22. He had entered into Jerusalem with quite a following and began to teach as was his custom. But before he knew it he was caught up in a terrible misunderstanding. Some people thought they saw him doing something they didn't see at all, thought he said something he never would have said in a million years, and thought he intended to do something he certainly shouldn't do. And he wouldn't have, for pete's sake! He was innocent. But the damage had been done.

Acts 21:30 says, "And all the city was disturbed; and the people ran together, seized Paul, and dragged him out of the temple; and immediately the doors were shut."

And it was more than a physical door that seemed to have shut in Paul's face. It must have suddenly seemed that the doors of understanding had shut, the doors of opportunity had slammed closed, and the doors of friendship no longer even existed. Paul's actions, words, and motives had been called into question and he had been thrown under the bus or the chariot.

Can you identify? Have you found yourself in the mayhem of misunderstanding recently? Have you ached to explain yourself, to sit someone down and make them listen to the truth, or at least to call a time out so you can figure out how to unravel the mess you somehow ended up in?

I've been in my share of misunderstandings alright. And I feel some comfort in the fact that Paul, David, Moses, and even Jesus experienced similar situations. But the greater benefit in reading passages like the one I read today is to find biblical solutions to messy human problems. So here's what I've gathered from the examples of the likes of Paul.

  1. Wait it out. I tend to want to rush in and fix things, grab folks by the collar, swing them into a chair and make them listen to my side of the story. But Paul doesn't act quite so irrationally. He patiently waits for the right moment to clear the air. And while he waits God works. At first, I'm sure he couldn't see the hand of God doing much, but in the end he knew God had been busy on his behalf. Sometimes, oftentimes, we need to give God time to work instead of hastily trying to fix the problem on our own.
  2. Remain calm. Once again, I tend to get a little frazzled in such situations. And the more frazzled I get the more frayed the situation becomes. I use the wrong tone of voice, push myself on the other person or persons, say things I later regret, make accusations and cast blame. But Paul doesn't stick his foot in his mouth while rushing to defend himself. It may be hard to walk in integrity when your character is already being dragged through the mud, but in the end, when the dust has settled, folks will undoubtedly notice that you have kept your remaining shreds of integrity intact. And that's when it counts the most.
  3. Ask God to work. There are some things that only God can fix. In fact, most things can only truly be repaired by our omnipotent, omniscient God. You might get the chance to say something that will save your hide, but only God can really change a heart, redirect someone's thinking, or clear the air. Ask Him to do just that.
  4. Speak the truth. When you do get a chance to "splain" things, resist the temptation to defend your actions, set someone straight, or express your hurt at the injustice shown to you and choose instead simply to speak the truth...in love. Allow God to defend your honor. He alone can really do that. You just speak truth with grace and love.
  5. Value the other people. They may be wrong as all get out. They may have behaved badly in their mistreatment of you. They may not deserve the time of day by the time they get around to giving you a little courtesy. But keep in mind that they are simply human, as are you. And they are God's precious creations. Treat them with respect whether they deserve it or not. I believe that's called grace.
Do you have any other suggestions for how to deal with misunderstandings? I'd love to hear them. I'll probably be in one within the week...