Monday, November 30, 2015

Christmas is Coming

A big welcome to those of you joining me from the Encouragement Cafe! It's a joy to be sharing there today though the topic of my devotional is tough. If you want to read, "Christmas Without You" click HERE.

With Thanksgiving behind us, it means Christmas is upon us. This recent holiday has reminded me that this season can be hard. There's the grief that accompanies it when we celebrate (or try to) without the ones we love. There's the stress and shopping. The busyness and baking. The Christmas programs and plays.

Christmas is coming and that thought can leave us overwhelmed, but fried it doesn't have to. Just so you know I'm writing this post to myself because honestly I've been trying to keep the upcoming holiday a bit of a secret around here. It was working until the other night when my 6 year old spotted lights and decorations when we left Thanksgiving Eve service. Then yesterday the same little guy came to me and said, "Mom, they're singing the rum, pum, pa, pa-mum song on the radio. Is it gonna be Christmas?"

I had to be honest and let him know it's coming. His eyes lit up and my breath grew deep. I know my little people get filled with excitement and anticipation. They look forward to all the season holds. I do too, but sometimes I don't appreciate what it does to my kids...they get a little wound up, they want to decorate and re-decorate...which makes the new decorator happy, but the first decorator mad!!

So now before December even begins, I find myself thinking about Christmas coming and really I want to enjoy it. I want to make memories my kids will remember and I'll be thankful for. You see, whether I enjoy it or stress over it, we're making memories. This year I don't just want to sing, "Joy to the World", I want to share joy with my family.

Christmas has a lot to do with joy, but this season isn't always filled with joy. Those moments we're grieving and the tears are falling, the times our kids are crazy and we're lacking patience, when the prices are high, but money low. When are stomachs are full, but hearts are empty. When calendars fill up and energy pours out.

I don't know about you, but joy and happiness isn't the first emotion that comes to mind when I read through the above scenerios. Would you agree? So what do we do?

For me, remembering that the season is not about perfection is helpful. Realistic expectations are critical as well. 12 years as a Mom, and I'm finally starting to figure that out. We can make plans and prepare, but we must hold that all loosely because unless you're celebrating alone things can, and often will, change.

So what expectations do you need to re-evaluate as this Christmas draws near? Do you need to expect grief to hit? Do you need to remember that money is tight and a budget important? Do you need to expect your baby will grow tired and need a nap? Do you need to expect the kids to go a little crazy when decorating the tree?

Take a little time and really think about this...what has stole your joy in the past? Ask God to help you prepare for that and handle it rightly in the future.

Finally, and most importantly, I (maybe even you) need to remember what joy truly is and where it comes from. Joy isn't simply a feeling and will never be found in the perfect plans or party. It will fade away if we rely on gifts to create it. It won't last long if we wait for well behaved kids to bring it. I'm guessing, you get the idea - joy doesn't come from people.

Ultimately this great gift comes from God, it's a fruit of the Spirit and a command in Scripture. Philippians 4:4 says, "Rejoice in the Lord always, I will say it again, rejoice!" Friends, I'm not saying this is easy, but I'm learning it is essential. Truth is life is hard, but God is good.

The coming Christmas season is proof of that...think with me for a minute, "Why did God send His Son, the boy whose birth we're about to celebrate?" John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall never perish, but have eternal life."

No matter how hard, crazy or busy this Christmas season is, I pray we each remember why we are celebrating. It's more than all the stuff we do and gifts we give, it's about the coming of the One who saves and sustains us. It's about the One who's strength can be our JOY.

Friend, ready or not, Christmas is coming! This year may we expect tears to come and plans to change, but may we commit to finding and sharing joy in the journey!

This pic is one of my favorites and is a reminder to keep things in perspective. Notice all the ornaments missing from the bottom of the tree? I'm sure that frustrated me in the moment and though Jesse was probably contemplating how to get the star down, I look at it now and it reminds me of the wonder of the season. Not the wonder of - "What's in this package?" "Or what should I give my husband?" Or "Where should we go for dinner?" But the wonder of how a virgin gave birth to a child and He was called, Immanuel, God with us.

Friend, this Christmas, let us not forget He is with us - when the cookies burn, the kids grumble and even if the tree falls down, our Heavenly Father is with us!! That is a reason for JOY!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When Thanksgiving is Hard

Today I came across a post I wrote last Thanksgiving. It was one I needed then and need again today. The holidays are upon us and I find myself thinking of my cousin's family, my niece's family and my uncle's family. We said "Good-bye" to 3 people far too soon this year and life will never be the same for many. I can't imagine the pain that accompanies losing your child, spouse, sibling or parent, but friend if you're there this Thanksgiving, I'm praying for you.

May these words lift our eyes to Jesus and remind us who is in control. Our circumstances can change, but our God never does...let's thank Him for who He is!

Thanksgiving is a day that always makes me think and it has become my favorite holiday. I appreciate the simplicity (no gift-buying pressure) and treasure the memories. Fourteen years ago, on the eve of the big day, Job surprised me when he asked me to be his wife and four years ago we learned we were expecting our 5th child. This holiday holds memories that our dear and represents a concept that is critical, but today I was reminded that sometimes Thanksgiving, and giving thanks, can be hard.

A childhood friend, who I grew up with, went to school with and later coached with lost her dad...15 short months after losing her mom. My heart hurt when I read the news...Chuck was one of a kind! "Sir Charles" and I always enjoyed a good conversation...he kept people on their toes and loved them from the heart. I can "see" him now as memories race through my mind and again the tears fill my eyes. I think of his 3 daughters and 2 sons and the pain they must feel. I've never been in their shoes and can't begin to understand, but the situation has me thinking.

Thanksgiving, like I said, is my favorite holiday, but sometimes the things we love are hard. Today, a day many were looking forward to and enjoyed, was hard for my friend and her family. And friend, there may have been moments that were hard for you as well. Moments when you found yourself missing loved ones who weren't there. This was my 2nd year without my grandma B and yesterday as I prepped and worked in the kitchen I thought of her. I missed her, and though I'm thankful for the memories, I'm reminded sometimes remembering is hard.

For my friends, this day will forever be marked, Thanksgiving may always be hard. All this had me thinking about the bigger picture...Thanksgiving may be a single day on the calendar, but God longs for it to be a constant state of the heart. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, "In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 

We often wonder what God's will for us is and here He clearly tells's not a job or a ministry, a place to live or a trip to take. It's not a complicated task, but it is a difficult one. We are instructed to give thanks in everything. Today when I spoke with ones I love and spent time with some as well, it was a fun thing and honestly, an easy thing to do. But tomorrow, next week or next year when I'm personally living out the bad news it won't be enjoyable, but God will still expect it.

Friend, His will for you and me, is to give Him thanks. How can we do that on days that are not created with that focus? On days when it's hard? I'll admit I've wrestled with these questions today as my thoughts drifted to my friends who were planning a funeral instead of enjoying a feast. I struggle living out the command when my kids and I are having a bad day.

I found myself asking God, "How? How do I do this, give YOU thanks in EVERYTHING?" And then He reminded me of a verse our pastor shared last night at our Thanksgiving service - James 1:2-5. It says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." 

I'd been studying the beginning of this passage, but the last verse really hit me. Considering our trials pure joy is another thought that is quite contradictory to our human emotions and something I struggle with. Perhaps you do too. If so, be encouraged by verse 5. Friend, when we don't know how to give thanks in everything or how to consider our trials a joy, we need to ask. God will guide us, direct us and provide for us. That truth alone is something to be thankful for. 

Friend, I pray your Thanksgiving has been blessed, but if it's been hard I'm asking God to draw you near and use HIS WORD to speak to your heart. Go to Him now with the hard stuff, the trials, the painful memories and ask Him for wisdom, He will provide. And then on this night of Thanksgiving, do the thing we are created to do - give Him thanks. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The top of my list... favorite holiday for at least the last 15 years. It was then when Job proposed after Thanksgiving Eve services and when we discussed building our marriage and family on the Rock. Now that 14 years have passed since our wedding and 5 kids call us their parents, I still enjoy this holiday. I appreciate the no presents and simple decorating, but I'm especially grateful for the reflection.

As a Christian, I'm told to "give thanks always" (1 Thes. 5:18) and "give thanks to the Lord" (Psalms 118:1), so this thanks-giving shouldn't just happen in November, but personally there's something special about this time of the year. Being thankful is talked about, it's expected. It's out in the open and on the forefront of our minds. Oh to live that way always.

Tonight, once the house was quite and I had some time alone, I started to think and pray. I was grateful and praising God. I have much to be thankful for, but I found myself wondering about what was at the top of my list. I'm not sure if that's right or wrong, but it's what was on my heart.

As I paused to think, a song came to mind. A song I've always appreciated, but one I haven't thought about or heard for quite sometime. As the words played in my head, I found the answer to my question. John Waller's "Somebody Else's Story" reminded me of the many who've played a part in my story. The ones who've shown me love and shined the light of Jesus into my darkness. The ones who helped me find comfort and hope. The ones who changed my destiny.

I grew up going to church and believed in God, but it wasn't until later in life when I understood Christianity wasn't about religion, but a relationship. I was nearly 24 years old when I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. God did that and had His ways, but to accomplish His plan and change my destiny, He used people.

Friends, and strangers too, who prayed, who shared and lived a life that I observed. With their words and actions these people pointed me to Him. In them, I saw something different, something I didn't have and through them God drew me to Himself. Their encouragement and example, their teaching and transparency played a part in my story. A story God forever changed and one that leaves me forever thankful.

As I think about this, I'm humbled and grateful. I'm challenged and encouraged. I'm reminded of many...some who will never know the impact they made and others who think I thank them too much. I'm also reminded to be thankful for those who continue to point me to Him. My "iron" friends and mentors who continue to teach Truth and encourage obedience. The ones who lift me when I'm down, convict me when I'm comfortable and comfort me when I'm hurting. Fellow believers who inspire me to grow and motivate me to follow.

This post takes me down memory lane and I'm grateful, but I'm reminded of another thing from long ago. I'm not sure if it's possible to thank someone too much, but I remember processing this with God once. I prayed and asked God if I should thank a friend again because honestly I know flattery is a bad thing and I didn't want that. I know I'm to praise the Giver, not the gift, and I remember what James 1:17 says, "Every good and perfect gift is from above..." Knowing all of this, didn't remove the desire to say "Thanks". So I proceeded to write the note and as I did God put something on my heart I've never forgot - "Don't just thank her, do what she does."

Friend, this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to do a few things - first, and most importantly, thank God. Spend sometime in prayer and just give Him a list...He knows all He's blessed you with, but it does us good to remember! Then ask yourself, "Who am I thankful for?" Thank God for that person and then take some time and share appreciation with him or her. Finally, take it a step further - why are you grateful for that individual? Answer the question and then do the same.

God can and will use you to make a difference in somebody else's story and that my friend, will bring Him glory!!

Heavenly Father, thank you. Those words seem so simple, but yet they mean so much. I could fill this screen with an unending list of all I'm thankful for, but like I said in this post, at this moment You've reminded me to be grateful for the people who point me to You. Thank you Lord for your body, for my brothers and sisters in Christ. The ones who encourage and teach, help and pray, convict and rebuke. I'm grateful for how you've worked through others in my story and Father, I ask you to use me in another's story. Help me learn from others and do what they do. Lord God, you and you alone are worthy of all our praise, honor and glory. May Your name be lifted high this Thanksgiving. In Jesus' precious and powerful name, Amen

A few songs for you this Thanksgiving -

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Walking in Faith

Do you ever sense God leading you to a place you're not sure you want to go? Perhaps He's asking you to do something you don't feel qualified to do. Maybe you don't feel worthy of the task He's given. Or you're afraid of walking into the unknown? When this happens, what do we do?

We must seek His guidance - go to Him in prayer and listen. He will show us what to do and confirm His direction, but you and I must be aware, listen and look for His response. It will come in His Word, through His soft whisper and by way of words from a trusted friend. 

Another thing that will help is remembering what the Lord had Joshua do at the Jordan. He told him, "Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight." (Joshua 4:2-3)

Do you remember why they were told to do this? We find the answer in verses 6-7, "to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

Friend, in the moment when God is leading you into the unknown, look back and remember the places He's led you through. Let His faithfulness in the past give you courage for the present and hope for the future. If He calls you to something, no matter how big, hard or scary, He will lead you through it. Keep your eyes on Him and allow Him to work in you and through you! 

Let us remember, and live, 2 Corinthians 5:7 - "For we live by faith, not by sight." (NIV) For a fresh look at the verse, The Voice says, "The path we walk is charted by faith, not by what we see with our eyes."

And friend as you walk in faith don't forget these powerful words Paul shared in Philippians, "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (1:6) Today, let us walk where God leads and trust what He does!!

Friend, where is God leading you? How is He asking you to walk in faith? Leave a comment and I'll be sure to pray!

Dear Heavenly Father, Lord, sometimes it's hard to walk in faith. I can feel afraid or not equipped, but Your Word tells me You've created me to do good works and more than that I'm commanded to pick up my cross and follow You. Father God, in those times when that's hard, I ask You to fill me with Your Spirit and power. Remind me of who You are and the power You possess along with the perfect plan You've created. Lord, today may I follow You and walk by faith, not by sight. May I lean on You and not my own understanding; help me trust YOU with all of my heart. Thank you Father for all You've done in the past and what You promise to do in the future. May my faith glorify You! In Jesus' precious and powerful name, Amen 

Monday, November 16, 2015

What are you afraid of?

Yesterday the blog post you find below showed up in my Facebook Memories. The picture definitely took me back, but the message was one I needed as well. Friend, flipping on the news can make us fearful, thinking about the future may leave you afraid and wondering about tomorrow may lead to anxiety, but it's important to remember who we need to fear. May these words serve as a reminder!

The other day I opened the door to our suburban to find this - 

Job, my husband, who I do love, has a sense of humor I don't always appreciate!! I'll admit I screamed and jumped about 3 steps back. Thankfully, nobody was around to see my reaction. Once I caught my breath and moved past the angry thoughts towards Job, I thought, 'Jill, what are you afraid of?'

This coon, that had made my heart skip a beat, was dead. There was absolutely nothing it could do to me, but for a few minutes it kept me from doing what I needed to do. My fear messed with me so much I even resorted to calling my husband and asking, "What am I supposed to do now?" He stated the obvious, I did it and then I moved on with my day.

Later on as I thought about this, God started speaking to me about other things I am afraid of - like failing and letting people down. He also brought up my fear of man and worries about the future. He didn't stop there, He went on to liken them to the coon. These fears can also stop me in my tracks, make my heart race and keep me from the plans God has for me.

Being afraid of a dead raccoon really is ridiculous, but friend it's just as crazy to fear man and failure. An animal that is no longer living truly is not a threat. Though it can't harm me, I'm not saying it won't scare me. I may be scared of failure or letting others down, but I can't let that fear paralyze me and keep me from doing what I need to do.

I've been spending some time studying Ezekiel, the man I really only knew for the dry bones story, but I'm grateful for all God's been teaching me through him. He is a man who was being sent by God to his own people, ones who were rebellious and ones God said would not listen to him. Doesn't that sound like a fun assignment?!?! (If you're a mom, perhaps it's one you can relate to?!?)

Personally, I would have been afraid! And honestly, I think Ezekiel was too. Why else would God say these words in verse 6, "And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people." Three times God told him, "Do not be afraid."

Oh friend, God has told me the same thing too many times to count! And often times even though God says that, I can still be afraid. When I read on in Ezekiel I appreciated knowing I was not alone; verse 14 tells us he went on in anger and bitterness. He really didn't want to do it. But more important than our shared feelings is the simple fact that Ezekiel went. He was afraid, but yet he obeyed. 

His obedience trumped his feelings. I hate to admit I sometimes allow the opposite to happen in my life. My feelings, especially those of fear and doubt, can keep me from doing what God asks me to do. How about you?

But the good news is God is a loving Father who teaches us and gives us another chance! The next time He asks you to obey, even if you're afraid, remember you're not alone and our fears can't hurt us, but disobedience does have consequences. 

I didn't want to remove the raccoon from our vehicle, but I did it anyway. I really didn't have any other choice. And friend, I pray you and I will walk in obedience in a similar way.  When we're afraid, when obeying is hard and even when it makes no sense, I'm asking God to help us do it anyway!

Something to think about - When is a time fear paralyzed you? Can you share an example of when you obeyed even though you were afraid? How does reflecting on this impact you?

A great song that speaks to this very idea is "Do it Afraid" by Elizabeth South. Listen to it here - 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Grace for the Grieving

Another phone call with news we never want to uncle Arnie passed away today after a battle with cancer. The same disease that took his mom, my grandma, two and half years ago. As I let the tears fall, memories filled my mind and sadness filled my heart. Thoughts of Arnie's wife, sons, daughters-in-law and grandkids made me hurt. We've been on this road of grief and I know they have hard days ahead.

As I sympathized for them and grieved with them, thoughts went to others who've lost loved ones too. New grief wounds seem to open old ones. My kids talked about heaven and all the people they know there. My mind thought about earth and all the ones we miss here.

Our minds are a powerful thing and sometimes mine can be a dangerous place, so as my thoughts started to drift, I decided to take them captive. (2 Corinthians 10:5) Rather than allowing myself to become depressed, I started to pray. It was good, powerful and needed. Once I was done lifting those I love, I was still and tried to listen. Friend, we must remember prayer is not a one sided conversation.

As I sat in the silence, God whispered a question to my heart - "Jill, what do you need." Instantly a one word answer came from my lips - "Grace". We need God's amazing grace to save us, but in moments of grief I'm reminded we also need it to sustain us. God's grace is a we need to receive.

These thoughts went through my mind and I was reminded of our sermon from earlier this week. Our pastor preached from Philippians 4 and verse 19 comforted my soul. Here Paul says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." Join me for a minute and think about what this means.

First of all, Paul points us to our provider - God is the one who can strengthen, comfort and provide perspective. What do you need? God will provide. Go to Him. Seek Him. Ask Him.

Then He reminds us of a promise - God will meet ALL our needs. As Pastor Tim said, "All is a promise, but needs must be qualified." And God is the one who can rightly differentiate between needs and wants, requirements and desires. If you're a Mom, you understand how parents are to provide for children's needs - God is our Heavenly Father and He understands this perfectly.

Finally, Paul tells us the extent of God's provision. Paul says according to His riches, not from them. Pastor Tim used a great illustration - friend, we have unlimited refills. God's grace is inexhaustible. We don't have to worry about there being some left over for tomorrow. Ask for all you need today. He's able to provide it. Then He can do the same tomorrow. His resources never run out.

Friend, if you are grieving today I pray you will go to God and ask Him for grace. He has what you need, what I need and what my uncle's family needs. And if you're walking alongside those who are grieving, allow God to use you as a vessel to pour out His grace.

The grieving (whether it's fresh or on-going) need others to listen, share a smile, offer a hug and bring a meal. They also need people to be present and share memories. And to remember that grief is personal and unique to each individual, so respect that and offer grace as they walk a road that's hard. Let's also not forget that grief never really goes away...when a loved one leaves this world for the next we'll always miss them whether it's been a day or a decade.

A big thank you to all of you who have been praying and encouraging my family and me over the last few months in our walk down the grief road. We're grateful for you and the grace God gives through you!

Know this: my God will also fill every need you have 
according to His glorious riches in Jesus the Anointed, 
our Liberating King. Philippians 4:19 
(The Voice)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Lesson in Humility

This picture is not real clear because it's not a picture I wanted to take. Actually I didn't take it, because it's a vision of something I'd like to forget. But my husband did capture the moment on his old cell phone and for the sake of this post, I'll share it with you.

Last week, I offered to go with my husband as he took wagons from our farm to another field. Once we arrived he decided to fill the wagons and we enjoyed a little uninterrupted conversation in the combine. All was going well...he was combining and I drove the tractor and wagons so he could unload on the go. We were finishing up and he told me to pull the wagons on the road and pick him up on the other end of the field. Sounded simple enough.

I turned out of the field onto the end rows, glanced back and saw the tire crack off. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but there was nothing I could do as I next watched the wagon tip and bushel upon bushel of corn flow out. I was sick. My husband was heading the opposite way, so he saw nothing. I didn't have my phone so I couldn't call him. So what did I do? Sat there and cried for awhile.

I felt terrible. I'd made a huge mess. I glanced out the tractor cab and saw dollars on the ground instead of corn. Eventually, I saw Job start making his way towards me. I got out of the tractor and saw everything up close and started to cry again. I walked to him sobbing and shaking.

"Just relax. It's going to be OK," were his first words to me. He assured me it wasn't something I had done and was a mishap he'd actually experienced before. At this point, the rain started to fall and his brother was on his way with the skidloader, our kids and shovels.

We jumped in the combine and my stomach continued to churn as I remembered I was suppose to lead Titus24U that evening and share about humility. I told Job, "I'm going to call Jackie and tell her I can't do it." He assured me it would be fine and that I would be going.

Once we met up with the clean-up crew I felt terrible all over again. Here I'd made the mess, but they were sending me home to lead Bible study while they would get soaked scooping up grain. My little Jaylyn saw the distressed look on my face and reminded me, "Mommy, it's not your fault."

As I headed home much went through my mind..."Sometimes God humbles us in our humility." "It takes humility to receive grace." And "If we want our kids to be humble, we'd better live out humility." Friend, we do need to humble ourselves in order to die to self and obey God.

I'd been knee deep in study of this topic that is broad and deep and He used this experience to continue the lesson. Friend, let me ask you - what is humility? What does a humble person look like? I think we can all give general answers and examples, but Biblically this is a big, important topic that can be somewhat hard to understand.

Prior to my study, I would have said humility is the opposite of pride. It's NOT that cocky NFL player who is all about me. This is true, but there is so much more. Andrew Murray said, "Pride is the lack of humility," which I thought was an interesting perspective. Especially when I connect it with a Susie Larson quote, "Insecurity is a form of selfishness, which is pride.

Now for someone who's battled insecurity for most of my life this quote hit home. For years, I at times labeled my insecurity - my shyness, my lack of confidence, my fear of speaking up, my worry about what others thought, as humility. And friend, that is SO wrong.

Humility is all about God, not me. Humility is an emptying of self. Being humble requires confidence, in Christ. Humble people focus on God, not self. When we're humble we acknowledge God as Creator and remember we are simply His creation. In Greek, humility means to submit self, a meek, gentle and lowly state.

Humility is needed to learn and teach, lead and follow, give and receive, help and be helped, share and listen, receive criticism and rightly confront, serve and be served, ask and offer. Humility is necessary if we want to be like Jesus...the one who was HUMBLE.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 
who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God 
something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing 
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself 
by becoming obedient to death - even death on a cross!" 
Philippians 2:5-8

Friend, there is so much more I could say, but I believe it will mean more if God is the one talking, so I'm going to do something a bit different and leave you with some homework. Everytime I sat down to search the Scriptures and dig into God's Word on this topic, He spoke to my heart...and convicted it too. That's not necessarily an easy thing, but let me assure you it is a good thing. 

If you're up for the challenge, here's some notes from our local Titus24U gathering that will get you started. I encourage you to humble yourself and ask God to teach you and transform you! I pray your lesson won't include a mess like the one I described above!! Feel free to print this out. I'd love to hear what God teaches you, so be sure to comment. I believe this lesson in humility will last a lifetime, so if we can learn from each other, we perhaps can avoid some humiliation and grow in our humility!

A Short Study on Humility
Words From Others
“Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” C.S. Lewis
“Humility is the proper estimate of one’s self.” Charles Spurgeon
“The level of our faith matches the depth of our humility.”
“Lack of humility often is the cause of much of our difficulty.”
“Pride is refusing to accept God’s gifts or taking credit for what God has done; Humility is accepting the gifts and using them to praise and serve God.” (Bible notes - Luke 1:48)

Words from God
As you read these Scriptures think about these questions - "What do they tell you about humility? Where does humility come from? What does it lead to? Is it necessary for a believer? Why?

Proverbs 3:34, 11:2, 13:10 29:23  
Jer. 6:16-19
Psalms 25:9        
Isaiah 57:15
Philippians 2:3-11        
1 Peter 5:5-6
Colossians 2:18-23, 3:12                
Eph. 4:1-2

Examples of Humility
As you read of these influential people, take note of the role humility played in their life.
Abraham - Genesis 18:27-32
Jacob - Genesis 32:10
Moses - Ex. 3:11
Joshua - Joshua 7:6
Job - Job 42:2-6
Elizabeth - Luke 1:43
Jesus - Matthew 11:29
Paul - Acts 20:19

Humility Homework
Define humility -

Describe a humble person -

Think about your roles - What does humility look like in each of them?

Humility is a matter of heart…take some time and examine yours -
Am I humble?
Do I serve with joy?
Do I compare myself with others?
Am I jealous? Do I envy?
Do I strive for praise? Long for approval?
Do I react wrongly when others are praised?
Do I forgive? Do I accept forgiveness?
Do I judge?
Am I humble in seemingly insignificant daily tasks?
Do I desire to be more humble?
How can I grow in humility?

Write a Prayer for Humility (Verses to consider- Ps. 26:2, 51:10, Jer. 18:6, Is. 66:2, 1 Peter 3:3-4)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Running the Race

Welcome to those of you joining from the Encouragement Cafe today! I'm grateful you stopped by! And friend, if you haven't visited the Cafe, I encourage you to stop by for some food for your soul. It's a pleasure to be sharing there today. If you want to read my devotional, "Forget The Things That Don't Matter", click HERE.

In my devotional, I shared there are some things we don't need to remember. Years ago, during a game of Memory my oldest said to me, "Mom, you have a good remembory." It was a cute, little word made up by a young child, but it described me quite well. Like I said remembering is good in most situations, but there are times it's helpful to forget.

I was reminded of this truth last week when I was beating myself up over something that had happened. My husband listened to me, but then responded, "Forget that. It was yesterday." The thing is the mess I made impacted him more than it did me, but he was able to let it go. Me on the other hand, well, I was dwelling on it.

This conversation brought to mind Philippians 3:13-14 - "forgetting what lies behind reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." Along with Hebrews 12:1 - "Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

It's been awhile since I ran a real race, but one thing I remember from my days on the track is our coach's advice: "Don't look behind you." When you are running you want to focus on the finish, looking back will slow you down and can interrupt your focus. I no longer run laps around the football field, but I am running the race called life. And friend, so are you.

I believe my coach's advice for a sport applies for us in life. Our races don't look the same and we no longer know the distance we are running, but we are advised to press on, forget what lies behind and throw off everything that hinders us. Much can fit into this category, but today will join me in looking at the things we remember?

The other day I was focusing on something I had wasn't even my fault, but I played a part and Satan was eager to use that against me. For awhile I let him mess with my mind and feed me lies, but thankfully my husband shared wisdom and gave me permission to forget. There are other times the problems I ponder are my responsibility, but rather than dwelling on them I need to learn from them and confess them. God who is faithful, will forgive me. Friend, He'll forgive you too. Still there are troubles that life creates and others cause, how can we forget them? That's a good question. As humans I'm not sure we'll ever really forget, but we can focus on them rightly and remember God is still good.

As I reflect on my days as a runner much comes to wasn't easy, it was hard; it wasn't always fun, sometimes it was lonely and there were moments I wanted to quit. Honestly, sometimes life feels the same. Would you agree? Sometimes it seems like an uphill race. A challenge that will never end. A course with endless obstacles.

In moments like that, we must focus on the finish or as Paul says, the prize! When we remember what lies ahead, we're more likely to press through the pain and realize the work is worth it. Friend, today as we run the race of life let's remember Paul's words, "Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly..." (1 Corinthians 9:26b) and "Run in such a way as to get the prize." (1 Corinthians 9:24b)

Praying we can all forget what weighs us down and remember the One who lifts us up!!