It’s self-explanatory. Dare to dream, feel, open up, dream.
I dare you…
I was taught at a young age to work hard. No, I’m not talking child labor… (although if you asked me about it when I was 11 years old I would have said it was…)
Another lesson that was taught to me at a young age was this… don’t complain about things you’re not willing to work hard to change. Another person stated it this way…
You can complain about something once… but don’t complain about it again. Just do something about it.
Sadly, we live in a society of instant gratification. Google tells us the answers we need within 23 seconds… is there even a use for the library or encyclopedia anymore? We complain about not having something that someone else just got… even though we didn’t even know we wanted it until they got it. We sway back and forth about what drives us to accomplish things, acquire things and achieve certain goals… so quickly we’ve forgotten our purpose.
Lord I pray today that you take away my urge to complain about something and instead please remind me to just WORK HARD to fulfill the purpose you have set out before me. May the way I live today be pleasing in your sight, Oh Lord!
When we fear the worst…
When we want to control the outcome…
When we are afraid…
When we are lost…
When we feel no one has our back…
When we fail at remaining positive…
When we forget our purpose…
When we’re near losing our faith…
When we have lost trust in others…
When we worry…
May I encourage you to remember these words in Romans 12:12
This year’s word is HOPE.
A friend recommended a book her weekly study group is going through. The Hope Quotient, by Ray Johnston. I jumped all over it! Already a quarter of the way through the book and I find it hard to put it down…
This quote, found early on in the book, seriously slapped me in the face… you know, if quotes could do such a thing.
This is exactly why this word, this sentiment of HOPE, is so important!
There is so much tragedy in this world… martyrs, discrimination, people being murdered for their religious beliefs, terrorist attacks, families falling apart, people being treated inhumanely (emotionally or physically), people shaming other people, people allowing their sinful nature to get the best of them and treating others poorly… it is constant.
We are in a constant battle…
And a large majority of this world’s population just shakes their heads and wonders why these horrendous events are allowed to happen… why would God allow such things to happen?
In times of disappointment we lose hope.
And that is challenge for this year.
Nothing is hopeless. No one. No thing. God’s got this.
4 Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
5 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.
7 However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. 8 That is why the Scriptures say,
“When he ascended to the heights,
he led a crowd of captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. 10 And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.
20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception.23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body. 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. 29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
30 And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.
As I was completing our Christmas cards this past year I was heart-broken over the number of families I wouldn’t be sending cards to this year… sudden loss had changed their family dynamic and it just wasn’t going to be right to send them a cheery holiday card. Death. Divorce. Other unmentionable stuff…
I instead thought about how I could show them I was thinking of them at “the most wonderful time of the year”… and it occurred to me that when I was facing Grampa Marvin’s death, or Gramma Ruth’s passing or the loss of my first marriage that all I really wanted was a set of friendly eyes to look into and a warm neck to hug.
I didn’t need consoling. I didn’t need to hear the words “I’m so sorry.” I didn’t really need anything, except for a friend. My material needs were being taken care of. My spiritual needs were being addressed.
My emotional needs were lacking.
That last one was partly my fault… admittedly, I held people at a distance while I was hurting. Seemed natural at the time.
But as soon as I needed a friend, I knew I could call on a few friends who would just be there for me… not offering advice, not trying to fix my problems, not attempting to make it better… just being with me.
With love, they served me by simply being there for me… by simply sitting next to me and being there if I needed them… by simply being available by phone.
Sometimes I even offered up: “Hey friend. I need your friendship today. I don’t need you to attempt to fix my problem. I just need a friend today.”
How are you serving your friends?
How are you loving them?
Galatians 5:14: Love your neighbor as yourself…
Annually I spend time focusing on a verse and a word.
In 2014 I focused on what it meant to be His BELOVED.
In 2015 I am being led to focus on His HOPE.
Let me share a recent chat with a friend… I don’t think she’ll mind (especially since I was the one with all the typos and auto-correct mishaps – which have been edited for these purposes).
Tricia: “I’m wondering what methods or processes you use in seeking the Lord on your “word?”
Me: “Seeking out my focus word for the year is something that starts around Thanksgiving. And as I work through devotionals and pray for what lessons God has in store for me I pray that He would lead me to what He wants to do in my life.
“I had actually been praying about three different themes that kept coming back to me – I’m sure none of them would have been incorrect. But one day something just felt right about “hope”. So I started to dive into a word study and it was clear that that’s where God wanted me, based on the meaningful messages I was reading in Scripture. It all just jumped off the page at me.”
Tricia: “That’s awesome. So in your daily devotions or life throughout the year – what’s your approach to the words?”
Me: “It’s different from year to year. Two years ago the theme was “forgiveness”. I was led to make a list of people or situations where I needed to work through forgiveness. And in the next 12 months God brought me to divine appointments with all of the people and circumstances on those lists. You know how I am with lists.
“I just bathed the theme in prayer. And He gave me what I needed to work through it that year. There wasn’t any schedule, or formal study involved. It was just asking him to open my heart to that theme.
“And I saw messages about that theme almost daily.
“Last year the theme was “beloved”. And again, there was no formal study, or schedule, just praying for God to open my heart to receive His love the way He intended us to receive His love… and to learn more about the WHY behind this theme was being impressed upon my soul.”
As we move throughout the year I intend on sharing Bible verses, lessons from life, stories of hope, etc as I dive into this gift of hope… as it is QUITE the gift! Imagine an existence without hope… no thank you!!!
I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one of my purposes in life is to share my unique perspective on a relationship with Christ. Growing up in church, in fact as a pastor’s kid, I saw a lot… I heard a lot… I gleaned a lot from other church-goers. Some of those things were good. Some of those things… well, not so good.
For lack of a better way to explain it, I’ve gone through several “phases” when it comes to my relationship with Christ. I was a hard-core, Bible thumping Christian in my high school and college days. I was a searching, sometimes-attender in my early twenties. I was an outright FLAKE of a sinner in my mid to late twenties. And then I was a humbled, hurting sinner who was afraid to get re-involved in church. When I finally went back to church, I sat in the back row and avoided eye contact with people who tried to interact with me. I wanted to hide. But I knew I needed to be there.
That feels like a lifetime ago.
Phenomenal personal and spiritual growth has come about for me since then… courage, wisdom, gratitude, repentance… but mostly love and forgiveness (for myself and others).
A few weeks ago at church the following words were shared… and they struck a chord that rang so loudly. I went back and listed to the sermon audio because I wanted to write this down. Today I share it with you.
Many religious people think their goodness should be celebrated.
God doesn’t celebrate our goodness. He celebrates our repentance.
Being religious, going to church, being a part of a small group, reading your Bible are all good things… but NONE of them will EARN you Heaven.
There will be no celebration for trying to be good, for trying to earn Heaven by your good works.
It is only through repentance… it is only through bending your knee to Jesus, turning from your sins and turning to Him can anyone enter the Kingdom of God… can anyone receive this free gift of forgiveness.
God rejoices when sinners repent.
– Steve Bruecker
As I alluded to there was a time when I had turned away from the institution of church for quite some time. You see, at that point of my life I was of the mindset that God DID celebrate our goodness… and I walked away because I was deeply saddened to learn that people weren’t repentant or worthy of God’s celebration.
Looking back on that now, I know it was highly “religious” of me to think this of God or others. It was highly hypocritical of me to think this is how God operated. My attitude towards grace was highly toxic. It was misguided.
Years later I will admit there have been times when I have fallen back into this mindset from time to time. Thank goodness our Heavenly Father has offered grace. Thank goodness… God rejoices when I respond to His gently nudging … and I realize the error of my ways and repent. He rejoices. Each time. Each time I repent He rejoices.
I’m a planner. I’m a morning person. And, among other things, what I spend a good amount of time doing is planning out the day and week.
This daily planning session involves: new goals, some re-assessing of established goals for the day/week/month and then deciding if what I had previously planned still works toward those goals. I have planning lists for our home life, work, personal accomplishments, dreams of what our future looks like, etc.
And to be prepared to tackle these lists I need to spend some time preparing… my heart, my head, my resources… you get the idea. I can plan, plan, plan… but without preparing for the needs of the project I know that I’m just going to flail about with no true direction.
Wait… I’ve heard these objections before. I know what some of you are thinking: “You’re too high-strung. Who has time for fun when there’s so much planning going on? What about being spontaneous? Why does every minute of the day have to be planned?”
First of all… bad assumption. There’s plenty of time for spontaneity. There truly is. After years of planning, in the way that I am used to, I have learned how to set reasonable expectations of myself. On one hand, if I don’t get to everything on my list that’s OK – it really is. Secondly, I plan “down time” into my agenda as well. I know that I have bouts of high productivity followed by periods of contemplation, followed by moments of doing a-b-s-o-l–t-e-l-y NOTHING. And I’m OK with that. Typically. And if not, then the self-guilt drives me to get up off the couch and keep working towards my goals.
But to move ahead and be ready to jump on opportunity when it presents itself … it takes some preparation. And so the sayings go…
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Alan Lakein
“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell
“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
“Prior planning prevents poor performance.” British Army Adage
So, yes … I’m a tried and true planner. I do my research. I ask “What if?” a lot, from all different angles, even if the likelihood of those options are low. I even walk myself down the path of some of those answers to see where it might lead me. I dream. I hustle… so that when opportunity presents itself I can be prepared with the knowledge of knowing HOW TO respond, to be able to determine IF I should respond, to know when I should just say “No – don’t count on me for this one.”, and to determine ahead of time what drives my focus.
My name is Lori… I am a planner. I blame it on my Dad…
The message I want to shout from mountaintops this week is this…
Jesus was born to a virgin
His birth being The True Christmas Miracle… His birth being a heavenly, gracious gift that we will never deserve… His birth being the reason we celebrate.
At the risk of sounding all preachy or coming across like “I’ve-got-it-all-figured-out-and-the-rest-of-you-need-to-pull-it-together!” … and at the risk of sounding completely cliché… the reason for this season is where we find our happiness, our contentment, our purpose, our eternal gifts.
We will not find our happiness in the gifts we purchase for others, bigger and better than last year. We will not find our happiness in how many friends we are surrounded with or how many holiday parties we are invited to. We will not find our happiness in the attention from others or the recognition of others.
When we truly seek Him… we will find our happiness in Him. Plain and simple…
We are reminded, at the most wonderful time of the year… the true reason we celebrate. We celebrate His birth, His gift, His gracious love…
And we are humbled…. we are humbled by His humility, His generosity, His gift to us…. Himself. We are to be connected to Him. Period.
It’s tough this time of year to balance out our expectations and just rest in His expectations. But it’s simple. Instead of trying to please others, be pleased by others, seek the acceptance of others, have worthy gifts bestowed on us by others, give worthy enough gifts to others… instead, we are to REST IN HIM… BE CONNECTED TO HIM. IN HIM WE FIND OUR PURPOSE, OUR HAPPINESS, OUR CONTENTMENT… OUR ETERNAL GIFTS.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… He’s waiting to connect with us.