Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Are You Wearing Baggy Pants?

I want you to picture a melting ice cream cone in your head...the top melts onto the layer below it and it all slowly pools over the cone. 
That's what I was feeling like back in November...when I sat in my chair at work, my chest rested on my stomach, my stomach squished over my waist and settled on my hips, and everything else just oozed on down towards my knees. Gravity is a cruel mistress. 

So is a love of food. 

I decided to make some healthy changes before the holidays started; I knew my ice cream cone would be headed for my ankles if I waited to make a New Years Resolution which never really work for me anyway. 

Long story short, joining Weight Watchers is working for me. It keeps me accountable and, at the very least, aware of what choices I'm making. Lots of programs are out there...this just works for me. 

After a few months, my jeans started getting a little looser; then I had to cinch in my belt. Eventually it became obvious that the pants didn't fit but being a frugal girl I hated to buy new ones. As I was getting dressed one day, though, it hit me that if I keep wearing the pants with room to grow, I will at some point grow back into them. 

The simple reality is that we gravitate towards that which we surround ourselves with.

 If I want to stop gossiping but sit with the same people I gossip with every lunch hour, I'm probably not going to stop. I can pretend I'm there to be a good influence, but that probably isn't step one. 

If I want to be a more positive person with a good attitude, I can't spend time replaying every conversation that gets under my skin thinking of what I should've said. I need to focus my thoughts on the whatever's...whatever is true, noble, praiseworthy, honorable...think on those things. (Phil. 4:8). Practicing snarky comebacks doth not a good attitude make. 

If we really want to make a change, we need to set ourselves up for success. The Bible says we need to strip off every weight that slows us down (Hebrews 12:1) and run with endurance the race set before us. 

I think we each know which race we are supposed to be running. For me it was to lose the emotional connection to food and lean on God. Weight Watchers and Lysa TerKeurst's Made To Crave are effective tools for me, but that's all they are...tools. I have to make the choices. And wearing baggy jeans gives me too much room to make poor ones. (Pun totally intended.)

So, your turn. Are you wearing baggy jeans? Have you made it comfortable not to change? Set yourself up for success. I think when Jesus promised life to the full, He intended for us to conquer the things that slow us down and keep us from that life. 

The best part: He makes the way. (John 14:6)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Living through Saturday

When I was a teenager, just the word Saturday was enough to make me smile. It was the high point of the week, promise and anticipation wrapped up in its very essence. My heart would beat a little faster as I considered all the possibilities that day held. Saturday was the day to aim for.

But 2,000 years ago, for a ragtag bunch of guys hiding out in a city otherwise celebrating, Saturday held anything but promise and anticipation. Their Saturday was filled with despair, fear, disbelief, sorrow, and anger. The promised king, the one the prophecies claimed would deliver freedom for their nation, was dead. Murdered like a criminal. And with him in the tomb lay all their hopes and dreams.

Maybe you find yourself living in a Saturday like this...hopes dashed, promises left undelivered, dreams left broken. Maybe you thought that all signs pointed one direction and your life has made a detour through unknown landscapes. Maybe the results you've worked for have been handed to someone else. Or maybe things have turned out like you planned, only the joy you thought would arrive never showed up.

We know the rest of the disciples' story, that Sunday came and changed everything. The burial tomb was empty; Jesus had conquered death. Even the most final of circumstances was no longer final.

My prayer for each of us is that we take the Resurrection of Christ and apply it to our lives. What looks like the end might just be the Saturday before the most amazing, life changing Sunday in history.

"As it is written, no eye has seen nor ear has heard and what no human mind has conceived the things God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)."

Thursday, April 17, 2014

TBT: A Challenge to All Control Freaks

It might be a Christmas based blog, but the message is timeless and timely. Step back to November 29, 2010 for our Throwback Thursday selection, blog #275...http://debgiese.blogspot.com/2010/11/challenge-to-all-control-freaks.html

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Operating Systems

Windows or Mac?

Apple or Android?

Operating systems are the technological buzzwords of this generation; every device that we can't live without anymore has one. That system is what tells your pc, tablet, or phone how it will accomplish the task you need it to; it's the interface it uses to connect with the rest of the world.

We have an operating system as well, and it can be boiled down to two platforms:

Fear or Trust.

Any time we are confronted with a decision, our answer comes from one of these two places. It may not look like it, but fear and trust are at the root of our responses. Are we going to trust God, or are we going to fear whatever consequences might arise and let doubt and worry be the controlling partners in our lives?

I had a conversation with someone who is on the edge of a life-altering meeting. There is no doubt that this interaction will change lives, many of them. But the emotion that went into the decision was centered on what might go wrong in the aftermath. Watching this person consider all the possible negative outcomes showed me that fear was the operating system hardwired into his heart.

Lucky for all of us that God is in the heart changing business.

God knew we would struggle with fear, and the Bible contains at least 366 references to fear and how to handle it.

  • We must learn how to capture our thoughts, identify them, and see where they line up with Scripture. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. That means we take our thoughts by the hand and walk them over to Jesus for close personal inspection. Does our thought pattern glorify God? Does it acknowledge His power? Does it speak to the hope that He brings to every situation? No? Then replace it with one that does. This scripture also reminds us that our battles are not with the world in general but with the darkness that surrounds us and fights against God. Don't allow yourself to be a pawn in a fight that's already been won.
  • We must learn to focus on what is actually going on, the real details in that moment, and not get spun up in the what if's. It's amazing how quickly we work ourselves up into a state of dread based on a series of events that have only taken place in our imagination. Take the little butterfly net of Philippians 4:8-9 out of your toolbox and grab those thoughts. Focus on whatever is true, whatever is holy, whatever is good, commendable, or praiseworthy, and think on these things. The promise? The God of peace will be with you. 
  • We must learn that God is not on the sidelines, flipping through our lives like a bored guy with a remote. He is intimately, intensely, and unmistakably involved in each of our lives, and He has promised to never leave us. He knows what scenarios are coming our way. Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Joshua 1:9, Deuteronomy 31:6, and Isaiah 43:1-3 are some of my go-to places when I need a reminder of God's intentions and capabilities.  
Now, trusting God is not a license to run around without prudence or wisdom, and there are plenty of verses dealing with seeking the Lord's wisdom that we can talk about another day. But when you find yourself holding back from the abundant life that Jesus offers because you are afraid, consider your operating system. Are you trusting God to deliver His best in your life, or are you fearing the worst and missing out?

Maybe it's time for an upgrade.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Be the Donkey

On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey amid the cheering of the people. "Hosanna, Hosanna," they shouted. "Glory to God in the highest." They waved palm branches and laid coats down so He would not be carried by the mud. The donkey looked around and thought to himself, "It's about time they realized who I am."

He didn't realize he was just the one carrying Jesus to the people.

Be the donkey. Carry Jesus to the people who need Him. Don't get caught up in anything other than the fact that Jesus came to Jerusalem for us, was crucified for us, and rose again for us.

All of us.

Look at the crowds around you. Every face you see needs what Jesus did. No one needs it more, and no one needs it less.

Jesus knew when He entered the city that day what His week held...betrayal, beatings, and ultimately death. But He never turned back. He never wavered, because He knew there was no other way.

This season, bring Jesus to someone who needs Him. Be the donkey.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

TBT: An Open Letter to My Friends from the Old Days

Welcome to Throw Back Thursday...and kids, this one is a doozy. Please join me as we travel back to May of 2009....An Open Letter to My Friends from the Old Days. (THanks Jolene for picking #438!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Broken Ground

This winter will go down in the history books as one of the harshest for my state. I stopped paying attention to the weather forecast in January sometime; cold had lost its meaning for me and I just figured it would be easier to adapt to this new normal instead of hope for better.

Even the spring hasn't seemed "springy"...until I saw this.

Little tulips leaves breaking the ground apart. Evidence that we will see warmer days again, or at least tulips. I marveled at the way such a delicate shoot could displace such hard earth. And of course, the David Crowder song Wholly Yours flashed through my mind...

"And a certain sign of grace is this...from broken earth, flowers come up, pushing through the dirt..."

I am also reminded of the many scriptures that promise the restoration of God. Where only cracked, dry ground could be seen days before comes the hope of spring, life in place of death.

I only need look at my own life to see these promises bearing fruit. God has restored relationships that I feared broken beyond repair. He has brought friendship to places that enmity should rightfully exist and laughter in place of tears. I know that the situations that continue to grieve my heart are in His Hands and that He is at work in them.

If you are looking at dry ground that brings forth nothing but dust, look to the God who says to a valley of dry bones, live. (Ezekiel 37:5). Look to God who saves.

Here's the song Wholly Yours by David Crowder...it reminds me not only that God brings forth life from dirt, but that I am the ground and the work of His Hands and that He will fulfill His purposes. He will bring hope to the hopeless and life to the lifeless. Here I am Lord...I am wholly yours.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

TBT: Conviction or Conviction

TBT, Throw Back Thursday, is here again. My friend Kari Anne picked number 7 which takes us back to almost the very beginning of my blogging days, 2008.

Here's a link to post #7...Conviction or Conviction. Man, that was a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lighting the Way

I've been trolling the fix-it stores and home decorating websites for an overhead kitchen light lately. I'm just coming off of my annual need to change everything in my house, and the kitchen is the last beneficiary of my efforts...until something else catches my attention.

Seriously. Sometimes I think I need a recovery program for those of us addicted to the next shiny penny.

Before I get too far down this rabbit trail, I need to tell you the deep thought that struck me right there in the lighting department at Menards. I should say the deep thought that almost struck me right there in Menards but waited until after I'd made my purchase which now needs to go back. Ahem.

Lured in by a clearance tag, I purchased a decent looking light fixture to replace the old brass-covered-in-paint-splatter mess currently hanging from my ceiling. Because no, I don't need to tape off or remove anything. I was sure I could paint neatly around the edges of that fixture...

The man in the lighting department said, "Now you know that's a fluorescent light, right?"

"Yup," I said, the bright red price sticker reflected in my eyes.

On the way home, I started thinking about fluorescent lighting and how it washes out my complexion and has the tendency to change the way things look. If the kitchen light will enhance the bags under my eyes, maybe I should rethink this.

Then I started thinking about all the different kinds of light...black light, natural light, incandescent light (which apparently is on the edge of extinction), and the different wattages of light. Sometimes my head is a weird place to hang out.

But then...here it comes...I started thinking about the scripture "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1:5)" God is able to shine His light into any darkness and the darkness will not overcome it. That is His comfort and promise to us. But sometimes we don't see it.

Could it be that the light He shines into our particular darkness is revealing things we are choosing not to see? Could it be that because we expect things to look one way, we miss what He is illuminating in our situation? Maybe, instead of a floodlight, He is pointing a little penlight onto one facet our life. Prisms cover the walls of our true need but our eyes are focused on the whole landscape.

Be encouraged today as you are waiting for God to do something, anything, in your situation, that He is always working on your behalf. His light shines into every darkness; that is His promise and His character. But He might be shining in a direction you weren't expecting using a source you didn't anticipate. Look for His fingerprints.

As for me, I have to make a trip back to Menards one of these days and return the fluorescent light. One thing I don't need help with in my kitchen as I fill my morning coffee cup is looking washed out and baggy. I got that covered. :)