Monday, March 30, 2015

Thinking about Labels

Labeling can lead to quite a discussion as people become more concerned about what's in the food they eat, but I've found myself thinking about this in a different way. What about the labels we wear...ones others have tagged on us or ones we've given to ourselves? These thoughts always take me back to Easter 2013...a time when God brought the lesson to life for me. It was good for me to reread this post from 2 years ago and I pray God will use it to remind you of the labels you need to wear as well!

From April 1, 2013 -
My husband and daughters returned home from a shopping trip...they'd left with the intentions of finding the girls' new Easter dresses. (This was my husband's idea.) They came home with what they were looking for and more. Excitement took over the house when they unveiled the dress they bought for me, the gal who's worn a dress once in the last 12 years. And that was to my wedding.

Needless to say I wasn't part of the excitement - the girls were thrilled, my husband just smiled and my oldest son was insistent that I wear it.

Anyway I decided to humor them and try it on. That's when the situation went from bad to worse. I looked at the tag and it was 3 sizes bigger than I normally wear. Instantly my mind took over, "That's the size he thinks I wear? Our baby's almost two I need to lose some weight." And the final thought that came was, "I am not wearing this dress."

So the next day came and I returned the dress. Knowing my kids were more than excited for me to wear a dress, I did exchange it, but the one I found in my size was different than the one my husband picked out. I really didn't think it was a big deal, but by the following night I knew something was wrong.

I asked my husband what was up and he said, "I don't know why this is bothering me, but it's the dress. And the fact you took it back. I didn't even know you didn't like it." I responded, "Job, I don't wear that size. It's 3 sizes too big!!" In return he says, "I know, but I know you don't like things tight and they looked so small. It looked nice on you."

I listened, but I'm not sure I really heard him. (If you know what I mean?) I simply said, "I'll take it back. Maybe we should just forget the whole thing; it's kind of a waste of money for something I'll never wear again."

Two days later, I took the dress back and thought: I'll be a good wife, buy the original dress, wear it and make everyone happy. Well, everyone but me!

So Easter morning arrives and I still had no desire to wear the dress, but I had 5 little people who were very excited about it!

We headed out the door with everyone smiling and me silently praying, "Lord, help me focus on YOU, forget about this dress and not worry about what everyone will say." And friend, I have to admit He answered my prayer.

Many people shared words about the dress...though no one said it was too BIG or that I looked funny! (Though I sure felt like I did!!) As we left the church yard a good friend said something about the dress and my husband replied, "You mean the one we bought twice?!?"

With that statement God had my attention as He quickly spoke to my heart amongst the chaos of a vehicle filled with 5 energized little people!

He whispered to me, "Jill, you were focusing on the label. That label means nothing...think about the love Job was showing. How about the love others shared as well with their kind words? What about your kids, they have no idea what size you are and they love you."

And then on Resurrection Sunday He continued, "Jill, the size label on your dress doesn't matter to me either. Neither do labels from your past or other people. You are who I say you are - Loved, Forgiven, My Daughter, a Gifted Girl and my Chosen Child. Those are the labels that matter! Today, you celebrate the day I bought you with the blood of My Son...Jill, that's something I only have to do once. My love and forgiveness is not something you can return or exchange, so please accept it. And daughter, do the same with the love your family is showering upon you as well!"

Friend, I don't know if I'll ever wear the dress again, but I don't think I'll ever forget the lesson it taught me. I pray you will join me in letting go of what the labels say and focus on who God says we are!

Easter Morning 2013

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Have you ever been drunk?

I have to believe this is the craziest blog title I've ever come up with! It might be a question that caught you off guard as well. If you're a former high school friend, you know I stayed away from all things alcohol for fear of it impacting basketball. If you're a college friend, you know the only consumption I had was when my roommates put vodka in my Diet Mountain Dew as a joke. (Real funny guys!!) And if you're one of my former athletes, I want you to know I still believe alcohol is only going to get you in trouble. So with all that, said, I have to confess my answer to the question is yes.

Now before you question Job or call my mom, let me explain - Last Sunday in church our pastor posed this question, "Are you drunk with the world?" Now, he's asked this question before, specifically when he was preaching through 1 Peter. Verse 13 tells us, "Therefore with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is to be revealed as His coming." At that time, he reminded us that sometimes the best way to understand something is to look at what it's not. If we are to be sober, that means we are not to be drunk. Peter is talking about more than physically consuming alcohol. We can be drunk on the world, on pride, lust, or materialism.

But this week I realized my drink of choice was doubt. God has been confirming the call He has on my life, opening doors and leading me to step out. After I took a step of obedience, Satan served up a BIG drink of doubt. Each time I finished one drink, he was there to hand me another. I didn't really realize this though until our pastor asked the question and I have to admit following that moment in the sermon my mind started to wonder.

I thought about the actions of drunk people - they do things they often regret, they say things that are foolish, they waste time and money, they take risks and set a bad example. Friend there was a time I felt grateful that I never did that, but last week in a spiritual sense I did all of this - I worried, I voiced my worries often, wasted time worrying and I set a bad example for all those who saw me consumed with worry. I was drunk spiritually and that's not a good thing.

So this past week I've spent sometime studying what it means to be sober. According to the dictionary it means to abstain from alcohol, be under self-control and be in the right mind. Other definitions also added of sound moral quality, sensible and reasonable. I took my word study a step further and looked at the Greek meaning of the word (nepho); during Peter's time this word meant - self-restrained, calm, thoughtful, of good sense, level headed in times of stress, temperate and vigilant. Being sober is more than not just drinking - we can be intoxicated with past sins, worry and the cares of this world.

God has more to say about 1 Thessalonians 1:6-8 we read, "So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night, but since we belong to the day let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet." Matthew Henry said this, "Sobriety is usually opposed to excess in meats and drinks, and here particularly it is opposed to drunkenness, but it also extends to other temporal things." These "things" can distract us and keep us from doing what we, as disciples, need to do.

One of those things is to recognize the attacks of the devil. 1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Friends, he is on the attack, but if we are intoxicated, whether it be physically or spiritually, we will not be able to stand our ground.

Friend, drunkenness won't just keep us from recognizing Satan's attacks it will also keep us from prayer. Listen to this wisdom found in 1 Peter 4:7, "The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray." Sobriety is important, it's necessary for us to draw near to the heart of God. Enough said?

Finally a few Scriptures that speak specifically to literally being drunk, but I believe have a lesson that's important in a spiritual sense as well. Proverbs 23:20-21 says, "Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on mean, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags." Drinking alcohol has consequences and being drunk spiritually does the same. It doesn't matter what our "drink" of choice is...when our soul is intoxicated we are not wearing the robe of righteousness we've been given.

One last reason to stay sober spiritually is found in a passage that is near to my heart - Titus 2:3, "Likewise teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanders or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good." And if we continue on the end of verse 5 tells us why; not only to teach young women, but "so that no one will malign the Word of God." Friend, drunkenness impacts the things we do, the example we set and the witness we share.

So with that sobriety is a must, but how does that happen? I've talked with people who've struggled with addictions and one thing they each said was, "It's a choice." Friend, we don't have to pick up the drink, listen to the lies or let lust take over. When this is a choice we've made for a long time, it won't be easy, which is why we must follow Matthew Henry's advice, "Watch and pray against sins we are inclined to fall into." I also believe it's important to share our might not be an alcoholic, but if you're addicted to doubt, struggle with pride or anything else that hinders your soul and infects your mind, tell someone. Ask them for prayer and give them permission to keep you accountable.

This week as I've studied the topic and talked about it with my husband, my kids have joined in the conversation. My 12 year old son, replayed a recent commercial and we laughed as perfectly echoed the announcers deep voice, "Stay Sober or Get Pulled Over!" That's true in life, but it's also true as we walk in faith...when we allow ourselves to get spiritually drunk, Satan is pulling us over and keeping us from living out God's call.

I also took a little liberty and adapted the phrase to fit my situation, "Stay Sober or Your Mind Will Take Over". When I let doubts and worries intoxicate me, it's not a good a thing, so yet again I'm reminded that I must live out Romans 12:2 - "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is, his good, pleasing and perfect will." 

Friend, thank you for letting me share my struggle with you...I pray you can learn from it as well. As I've reflected on my thoughts about drinking from the past, I've been struck at how I avoided it as an athlete. It was a risk I didn't take for fear of missing a game and letting down my team...oh how that fails in comparison as I think about it as a disciple. Friend, let's stay sober so we don't miss an opportunity God gives and so we don't let down our Heavenly Father.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lessons from the Madness

March Madness has begun and as a basketball fan it's one of my favorite times of the year. The competition is strong and games are exciting. But last night as I prepared to turn the TV off, I got to thinking and friend, even if you're not a fan of the game, I believe there are some lessons we can learn from the Madness.

I'll admit my bracket is busted after day one and that hasn't happened for a long time. I typically analyze the games, apply the trends (a 5 always loses to a 12...) and listen to some experts. This year though I went with my heart and picked Iowa State to beat Baylor for the title. Our beloved Cyclones lost by one and didn't bring their A was a disappointing lose. It took me back to my younger days, back when the game was my life and basketball was my God. Back then a loss could affect me for days and my dad would often say, "It's just a game." As a teenager those words frustrated me, but yesterday I found myself remembering them and sharing them with my kids. Basketball is great and March Madness is fun, but on day one of the tourney I'm grateful I was reminded it's still just a game. My heart still aches for the players and coaches, but win or lose life goes on. Perhaps basketball isn't your passion, but what is? When it doesn't go the way you expect or want remind yourself, "It's just __________."

Another lesson from our home team - People Pleasing NEVER Lasts! This past Saturday, ISU won the Big 12 Tourney and were back to back champions for the first time. Fans were excited and had nothing but good things to say about the team and coaches. People were pleased with the Clones and agreed they could win it all. Five days later they lose and we hear, "I knew they wouldn't win. They don't play as a team. Fire the coach." Friend, if we set out to please man the same thing can and will happen to us...people may love us today, but tomorrow things can change real fast. We must remember Galatians 1:10 - "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."  

Our whole family fills out a bracket so the kids get involved in the games as well...last night we all sat and watched part of the Purdue and Cincinnati game. We watched as one player basically hit his opponent and was ejected from the game. The kids hadn't ever seen this before and were quite struck when he had to leave the court. As the announcer talked about his past anger problems we had a great conversation about self-control. We shared with our kids about how our actions affect others and have consequences...this athlete let his team down and we can do the same when we don't practice self-control. "A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back." 

Another lesson I need to remember that came to mind as I watched the game I love - there are no 2nd chances! I'm sure the Cyclones are still replaying the game in their mind and wishing they would have done this or not done that, but they can't go back and change it. And friend, the same is true in the life we live...the things we do or don't do can't be redone tomorrow. Friend, just like a team that plays a tournament game, we have no 2nd chances and are not guaranteed tomorrow, may we use our time wisely! "Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." James 4:14

I'll admit I was bummed with the Cyclones loss...I really believed they could make a run and as a former player and coach I know how that last loss stings. As I found myself almost grieving the end of their season, a talk I heard Ben Watson (NFL player) give came to mind. He shared about his Super Bowl ring and how though it's what professional football players train for, in the end it really doesn't matter. Friend stop for a minute and think about what you are working towards? A promotion? A new home? A perfect family? We are called to work as if working for the Lord and must be driven to earn rewards that will never rust away or sit on a shelf. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matthew 6:19-21

The final lesson and probably the most important came from an interview I saw with the SMU player who was called for goal-tending. The play cost his team the game and ended their season. The guy was in tears and held himself responsible. My heart hurt as I watched him describe it all and express the pain he felt. Then I was reminded of a phrase my high school coach used to say, "When you lose you should feel bad." Obviously this guy wanted to win, he loved his team and he fell short of his dream...he felt bad. As I thought about this a different thought entered my mind - "When you sin, you should feel bad." Friend, that thought was convicting. I thought about how bad I felt for my favorite team losing and for this player I'd never seen making a costly mistake, but how did I feel about the sin in my life. Did I hurt over that? Did I think about the pain it caused for my team, my family, my coach and Heavenly Father? Do I realize how my sin, especially the little ones that don't seem to matter, keep me from living a life worthy of the calling God's given? 

I'll have to admit, I don't think I ever learned so much from a day of basketball. What has the Madness taught you? Friend, I pray you enjoy some more games this weekend, but may we each remember what matters and allow God to teach us as we enjoy the sport we love!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wonder Woman

My Little "Wonder Woman"!
"Mom, I really am wonder woman...because I wonder a lot." The statement my 8 year old daughter made to me. The first part of Jaylyn's statement caught me off guard...I didn't even know if she knew there really was a "Wonder Woman", but the last part of her phrase made me laugh. She is a deep thinker for a little girl and lately I've been reminded that she comes by that naturally. 

If my daughter is "wonder woman", I'm definitely the Mom who taught her everything she knows! My mind rarely shuts off, just ask my husband. Thinking is a good thing and God created our brains for a reason, but lately I've been reminded He also addresses this in His Word because we need to use them for our good and His glory. 

Awhile back a few little things happened that didn't go the way I expected or wanted and after each one I found myself thinking the same thing - "It doesn't matter." In the big picture of life that was was all trivial, selfish stuff, but in time and after having this phrase roll through my mind 3 or 4 times, three new words took over - "You don't matter." 

I felt like people didn't care and when my opinions weren't considered, Satan took advantage of the opportunity to pounce. He replaced my thoughts, "It doesn't matter" with his lie - "You don't matter." Friend, I'm sorry to admit it, but these became words I thought about for awhile. The "wonder woman" in me was wondering about the wrong things and was left feeling defeated, discouraged and full of doubt. 

Thankfully, God was at work in all of this as well...whispering Truth to my heart, reminding me of who He is and who I am. He'd redirect my thinking through His Word, prompt me to praise through music and encourage me with words from others. 

Being the loving Father that He is He then gave me grace and proceeded to teach me a I've learned before, but needed to be reminded of. It can be summed up with these two verses - 

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)  

"We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Friend, these are verses I've read countless times and heard just as often...I know them, but obviously I don't always do them. Sometimes I do, but lately I haven't done very well. As I reflect on this I'm reminded of a saying, "The mind is Satan's playground, the Christian's battlefield and God's classroom." Take a minute and think about the thoughts that roll through your head, would you agree? 

Now join me in looking at these two scriptures a bit more - 2 Corinthians has some very strong language - demolish and take captive. I think of the word "demolish" and I picture my two little boys building towers and then destroying them...this is not what I did with the doubts and lies Satan put in my mind. 

My kids and I are reading a book about the Vikings and we spend a lot of time discussing the prisoners they took captive. They are confined and locked up. My thoughts were anything but, they ran wild and took over. Let me ask, "Do your thoughts ever do that?" 

Friends, I didn't just fail in applying this verse, but I wasn't practicing Philippians 4:8 either. I was thinking about was wrong, false, defeating and from the evil one. My wondering left me thinking about things that brought me down and made me doubt. Not just who I was, but also what God wanted me to do.

God has created us each to be a "wonder woman", but we must wonder about the right things! The next time your mind starts to wonder, push pause for a moment and make sure your thoughts are ones that bring God glory and you good!

Today will you join me in applying Romans 12:2? "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  How can we do that? By spending time in God's Word, meditating on Scripture and living out Isaiah 26:3 - "You keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in You." 

When the "wonder woman" in you wants to take over, I pray you will wonder about the right things and friend, I'd love for you to pray the same for me! Below you can find a prayer to help you get started and a song to leave you encouraged. Friend, "Wonder Woman" from the cartoons had super powers, but we have God's resurrecting power...whatever you are struggling with, He can help you overcome!!

Thank you for joining me for this little talk I had with myself...I pray God uses it to speak to you as well!

If this is an area of struggle for you, join me in praying, "Lord, you've given me the ability to think, help me use that gift for your glory and my good. Father, I ask for your help in taking every thought captive. Help me demolish everything thing that is contrary to your Word. Help me recognize lies from the evil one and replace them with Truth. Lord, fill my mind with what is good, true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable. Today Lord, renew my mind and keep it focused on YOU. In Jesus' Name, Amen" 

Friend, if you're like me and can struggle with negative thoughts about yourself and lies about your worth, I pray the words from this song speak to your soul. Listen in as Sidewalk Prophets sing "The Words I Would Say", I'm a friend who wants to share them with you and to my friends who shared them with me - "Thanks!" 

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Power of Praise

A special welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe today! It's a joy to share about a song that always touches my heart and a topic that is so important. (You can read it HERE.) Praise is something that is powerful and truly can change our perspective. It can be easy to praise God in the good times, but we are to praise Him at all times. Our circumstances and feelings change, but He never does! He is worthy of our praise!

This past week I've found myself thinking about praise a bit more. On Monday I opened one of my daughter's school books and stuck inside was a card. I'm sure I put it there 2 years ago when my son was using the book. I was struck as I opened it up to this...

For those of you new to my blog, my grandma "B" passed away in June 2013. She ALWAYS sent me a birthday card, and as one who loves cards, I appreciated it. As it becomes a bit of a lost art, even my kids miss her greetings in the mail. I'll be honest, as I saw her handwriting tears came to my eyes and memories flooded my mind. 

The timing was quite remarkable as my birthday was on the 4th. Grandma was never late, but the timing of this was all God. In that moment I missed my grandma, but yet I found myself praising God. I was blessed with her for 37 husband didn't have his dad for 20. My children have wonderful memories of the woman they know, love and miss. 

Though we wish she was still with us, we can still praise God for what He gave...a wonderful Grandma, her lessons, legacy and love. More important than that is His plan for salvation, peace and comfort. Even though this card brought sadness, I could choose to praise and friend, you can do the same. 

Two days later, I found myself praising God again. He had blessed me with another year and given me a family who was beyond excited to celebrate. I'll admit I wasn't thanking Him for the craziness the day created, but I'm grateful for the blessings others poured out on me. 

The kids baked a cake and made an apple crisp!
Friends, praise is powerful and something we are commanded to do. God is worthy. He deserves our praise all the time. Our pastor likes to say it's for God's glory and our joy. Have you ever worried while worshiping? The two don't go together. I realize sometimes praise is easier than others and at times we have to simply make the choice, but from my experience it is worth it. As we praise God, we are reminded of who He is and the power He has. Will you join me today in living out this verse from 1 Chronicles 29:13? 

"Now therefore, our God, we thank you, and praise your glorious name.

Below you will find a few of my favorite songs specifically related to praise...I trust they will move your heart! I'll add one prayer request, Mark Hall, lead singer for Casting Crowns, is currently living out the words he wrote. With his recent cancer diagnosis he is "praising God in the storm." Join me in praying for him!!

Casting Crowns - Praise You in the Storm

Fernando Ortega - All Creatures of our God and King

Matt Redman - Blessed Be Your Name

Matt Redman - 10,000 Reasons

Phillips, Craig and Dean - Great I Am