When We Don’t Get Our Way

Working For Him

“Mom, I didn’t get the job.” Emily sniffed and her voice broke. “She didn’t even let me finish the application. She just took it and said ‘It’s fine’ and then said she’d think about it.” Mom held the phone close and listened carefully.

“Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry. What happened?” Mom could tell that Emily was upset. She could almost see the hurt on Emily’s face.

“She asked me if I was applying for the host position or the bus person position. I said I wanted the host position because I didn’t like dirty dishes.”

“Oh dear,” said Mom. 

“She wasn’t very interested in me after that.” She sniffed. “That wasn’t what I meant though, and she didn’t give me an opportunity to explain.” Emily started crying again.

Mom was nodding her head, then realizing she was on the phone and Emily couldn’t see her, she said, “I’m so sorry, honey. I know how it feels to be misunderstood.”

“I’m going home.” Emily said.

“Okay, baby. But, don’t feel too bad. Maybe this was God’s way of protecting you from a bad situation. That woman might not have been a very good person to work for.”

Emily sniffed again. “What do you mean?”

“Well, remember when I didn’t get that job I wanted? I was sad for a while until I heard what it was like to work for the person that is the manager.  When I heard how he micromanaged everyone I was glad that I didn’t get the job.”

Emily huffed. “Yeah, but I hate my job now! I thought it was going to be great but it’s awful!”

“I understand.” Mom said. “But God may have placed you there for a purpose. Have you thought about that?” Emily sniffed again. “No.” She paused a moment. “Why would God put me somewhere that I’m miserable?”

“That’s a good question. Have you asked yourself why you’re miserable? Are you too focused on the negative instead of the positive? Have you asked God why you are there?” There was another long pause before Emily responded.

“No, not really.”  

“When I start to get down about not having the job I want, I remember that I am working for God, not myself.” Mom paused before continuing.  “I didn’t get the job. Maybe it was because I would have settled. I would have achieved what I wanted, not necessarily what God wanted, and I wouldn’t be where I am now. I wouldn’t have trusted in God so much as in myself.”

“I guess I never thought about it that way.” Emily said. “Maybe I need to pray about God wants instead of what I want.”

Mom smiled. “I think that is an excellent idea. I’ll pray with you.”

Emily smiled too. “Thanks Mom.”

Follow up Verse

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ. Colossians 3:23-24 NLT

OPERATION: ACTIVATE

Are you seeking your own plans or God’s plans for you? He has a great plan and a future full of hope for you. Pray for His guidance in your life. Work wholeheartedly and focus on serving Him instead of man (the world).  

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Strong and Courageous

Just a Bully

David came in from school and threw his backpack on the stairs. “Stupid Kevin!” David growled through clenched teeth. Dad came around the corner. “Whoa, what’s going on? Why are you so mad?” David sniffed and Dad reached out to hug him. As soon as David wrapped his arms around his dad, he broke down. His dad patted him on the back and led him to the couch to sit down. “Okay son, tell me what’s going on.” 

David sniffed again and wiped his eyes. “Kevin is being mean to the new guy in our class Gavin. When I tried to be Gavin’s friend, Kevin started being mean to me.” David crossed his arms angrily. “He’s such a bully!” 

Dad nodded his head. “I know that you and Kevin haven’t always gotten along. Did you tell your teacher what happened?”

David sighed and sat back on the couch. “Yes, and she said she would talk to him, but it never changes anything.”

Dad nodded again. “Well, you may have to take matters into your own hands.” 

David straightened and turned towards his dad. “What? You want me to get in a fight?”

Dad laughed but shook his head. “No. I don’t want you to get in a fight, but it is okay to stand up for yourself, as long as you do it the right way.”

Dad explained why some people bullied other people and then they watched some videos about how to peacefully stop a bully. David agreed to try it the next time Kevin picked on him or Gavin. 

The next morning at breakfast, David was feeling nervous. He knew that Kevin would start in on him, and Gavin, as soon as they got to school. 

“What’s wrong? Are the eggs not good?” Dad asked.

David sighed. “I don’t know if I can go through with it, Dad. What if it doesn’t work?”

Dad reached for his Bible. “I know just what you need. One of my favorite verses for when I’m feeling nervous is  Deuteronomy 31:6, “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

David smiled. “Thanks, Dad. Can we pray before we go?” 

“Absolutely.” Dad said.

Follow Up Verse

“So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the LORD your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

F. I. T. – Follow It Through

Do you get nervous or afraid sometimes? Trust in God. He is always with you. Trust God to take care of you.

Follow Through

I don’t know about you, but it has been a rough couple of  weeks. Getting kids back in school, planning and carrying out a birthday party, traveling with a youth group to a weekend conference, and trying to put the house back together, all while operating on only about five hours of sleep per night has made it hard for me to follow through with my Bible study and writing schedule.

I’ve made myself a calendar to try to schedule my time so that I can follow through and meet deadlines but life hasn’t necessarily been helping me out. I’m also trying not to beat myself up too much that the Bible study I am currently working on hasn’t seen me in like two (or ten) days.

What is working in my life right now is getting to school on time, doing a short devotional each morning with my youngest daughter, and discussing how we can apply what the devotional says to our life. So, even though things are going according to my plan right now, doesn’t mean they’re not going according to God’s plan.

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NLT

I’ll get my wagon back on track and get into a rhythm again. I just have to keep on. And you can make it too. Don’t give up. RESOLVE to follow through. Even if there is only one thing you can follow through on, do it. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Just choose one thing and set yourself a short time frame.  

Want to start getting up and reading your Bible in the morning? The don’t bite off too much. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier than you normally would and set your alarm for 30 minutes earlier to wake up. Choose a book to start in and read just one chapter. If a chapter is too much, start with five verses and work your way up. Get a notebook and record whatever the Lord impresses upon your heart.

Ask: What is this verse telling me?

Apply: What can I do about it?

Reflect: What happened after I applied the verse to my life?

Or, if you feel like you need a little more structure and direction, find a devotional or Bible study to help guide your reading. 

Following through will become more second nature. We can do this. After all, our end goal is to become more like Jesus. That is a goal worth following through on.

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

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Making Good Choices

Ill Gotten Goodies

Sasha looked through the desk drawers for the notebook Mrs. Richards wanted. She finally found it in the bottom drawer. When she lifted it out, she discovered a box of candy bars. Her stomach rumbled. She’d skipped snack today because she forgot her money. She lifted the lid. There were several in there. Would she notice if she took one? She could always buy one at the snack store tomorrow and replace it. Her stomach rumbled even louder. Sasha took a candy bar and closed the lid. She’d replace it tomorrow. 

The next day, Sasha was talking with her friends on the way to the snack store. When it was her turn, she got her wallet out to buy a snack, and the replacement candy bar. “$3.50” the attendant said. Sasha opened her wallet.  Where was all her money? She knew she had ten dollars in there yesterday. “Uhm, I need to put the candy bar back. Just the juice please.” Sasha said. She handed the attendant the only dollar bill in her wallet. What was she going to do? She needed to replace the candy bar in Mrs. Richards’s desk before she noticed. All day Sasha worried over the situation. When she got to Mrs. Richards’s classroom, Mrs. Richards had the bottom drawer open pulling everything out of it. “Are you looking for your notebook again? I think you left it on the podium.” Sasha said. 

“No. Today is special snack and I know I counted fifteen candy bars, but when I checked the box, there were only fourteen,” she sighed. “I guess one of the kids won’t be getting a candy bar.” Sasha swallowed. She felt terrible. She never should have taken the candy bar. What would she do now?

Mrs. Richards reached for her purse and pulled out a five dollar bill. “Sasha, can you go down to the snack store and buy me another candy bar? I can’t believe I miscounted.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Sasha took the money and walked to the snack store, feeling sicker with every step. She had to tell Mrs. Richards the truth and face the consequences.

When she returned, Mrs. Richards was setting up the special snack. “Thank you, Sasha. Just put the change in my desk. I’m so glad we caught my mistake in time.”

Sasha swallowed hard. “Mrs. Richards, it wasn’t your mistake. I’m so sorry.” Sasha looked at the floor. “I took a candy bar yesterday because I forgot my snack. I intended to replace it this morning, but when I opened my wallet, my money was missing. I am so sorry for taking the candy without asking.” 

Mrs. Richards sighed. “Sasha, I am disappointed in your actions, but thank you for being truthful. You could have easily lied and gotten away with it. Have you learned your lesson?”

“Yes, ma’am. I never want to take anything without permission again.”

Follow Up Verse  

“You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15

F.I.T. – Follow It Through 

Do not take things that do not belong to you without permission.

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Overcoming Obstacles

“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

We push. We pull. Straining, agonizing, worrying, and fighting. Sometimes we are victorious and sometimes we are not. Overcoming is hard, but it is possible and it is worth it. Think about all of the things that you have already overcome. As a baby, you overcame and learned to walk. As a child, you overcame and learned to read and write. (You may still be struggling with fractions but, even that can be overcome.)  

When we overcome in areas that challenge us, we are encouraged to keep fighting and overcome in other areas of our lives. The Bible tells us in Romans 5 that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Therefore, we can face James 1:2-3 head on and know that we will come out on the other side victorious.

“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.”

As hard as it is while we are in the process of overcoming to stay positive and “glory in our sufferings”, it is the reflection on our “sufferings” that produces the perseverance we need. When we see and really realize where we started and how far we’ve come, we are encouraged and can therefore encourage others, even while we are still suffering! This changes our character. We are no longer the weak person we once were. We have overcome something significant and we are changed because of it. This contributes to our future hope. Hope in God and hope in ourselves. We know we can do it next time because we’ve done it before.

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with (perseverance) endurance the race God has set before us.” Romans 12:1

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Unexpected Idols

The Man (or Woman) In The Mirror

Samantha washed her hands and watched as Tracey touched up her makeup in the mirror of the school restroom. All the girls were complimenting her looks. Even Chase, one of the baseball boys, told her she looked nice today. “Hey, I’ve been looking for you. I was hoping to get your help with something.” She dried her hands while Tracey finished applying more lip gloss. 

“Oh yeah, what with?” Tracey rubbed and smacked her lips together, spreading out the gloss. 

“We need help with the youth car wash fundraiser this Saturday. Can you come?” Tracey scrunched up her nose. “Ugh. I hate washing cars. It’s so sweaty and dirty. Besides, my makeup might get messed up.”

Samantha laughed. “Well, just don’t wear any, silly. We’ll all be getting wet and dirty. We’re there to work, not win a beauty contest.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so.” Tracey said as she packed up her makeup to leave. Samantha was astounded. What was going on with her friend? 

When Samantha got home, she told her mom about the conversation she’d had with Tracey. “She used to care more about serving God than how she looks.”

“Hmm. Sounds like Tracey is making an idol out of her appearance.” Mom said. 

“An idol? I thought an idol was like a little statue that people bowed down to.” said Samantha.

“Oh no.” said Mom. “An idol can be anything that we elevate over God. In Bible times, idols were an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship, like a carved statue. The Bible warns mankind to stay away from idols and to worship God, and Him only. This warning is so important that it is included in the Ten Commandments as number one and number two! Today, our idols might look different. They could be money, our job, our social status, our hobbies, or even our image. That’s why the Bible says in Romans ‘They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–’. You really need to pray for Tracey, and maybe try to talk to her about how she has changed.”

“I’ll try. I really care about Tracey and I don’t want to lose her as a friend.” Samantha said. 

“How about we pray for her right now?” 

Follow Up Verse

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God– 2 Timothy 3:2-4

OPERATION: ACTIVATE 

Do you have unexpected idols in your life? Ask God to reveal them to you and ask for forgiveness. Then talk to a trusted adult or accountability partner.

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Resolutions – The Revised Version

beautiful bloom blooming blossom

Photo by David Brezina on Pexels.com

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:18-19

We all do it. 

We SAY we are going to do things differently THIS year. We have a bag full of resolutions that we intend to start the new year with. Then, one by one, they fall away and reveal the same old person we have been forever. 

So, take a moment. Really reflect on your core person. This is what you are trying to change and make into something you think is better. However, change is hard and most people HATE it. 

Why are you doing it, again? 

Let’s take a closer look at your motivations. WHY do you want to change something? You need a reason that is going to keep you motivated for the rest of your life, not just for this year. Because real change requires real sacrifice and real work. And real change, not a resolution, is what you want. Are you trying to change because YOU want to, or for someone else? You have to be personally invested in the change or it will not happen. 

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

For example, most people want to lose weight or get in shape. Gyms make the bulk of their money in the first few months of the year due to “resolutions”. Why? To look better? To feel better? To live longer? What’s YOUR motivation? Instead of resolving to lose weight and get in shape maybe you should resolve to eat healthier and exercise more. Forget about setting unattainable goals that will just end up discouraging you and eventually causing you to quit altogether. Set a goal for TODAY.

TODAY I will eat healthier than I did yesterday. Make one small change. Drink a bottle of water instead of a soda. Or, for every soda you drink, drink a bottle of water. Eat five less bites. Or, pause for five seconds between bites. Start with one meal then move on to another. Don’t rush your change, THINK about it. Remember your reasons for changing.

Also, find someone to keep you accountable. Journaling is a good way to keep up with your progress, but, the journal is not going to call you when you are skipping workouts or eating like a garbage can. Find someone who will encourage you to meet your goals, not tear you down and make you feel worse.

Speaking of goals. Let’s revise this whole “resolutions” idea. Resolutions have lost their meaning in our society. We set them and break them like that’s how it works. The true definition of resolution is a firm decision to do or not to do something, yet we treat it like it is temporary. Since that seems to be the case, let’s change the word to goals. Make a list of the things that you most want to accomplish, no more than twelve, and start to plan.

Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord! Lamentations 3:40

Set daily goals, weekly goals, or monthly goals. Take small bites of the progress you want to achieve. Do you have a goal to read the Bible more? Set a daily goal for five minutes or  five verses. DON’T bite off more than you can chew. If you are reading for application, five might be all you can handle! Meditate on those five minutes or verses. What do they mean? How do they apply to your life? What does God want you to know about Him through that reading? Don’t rush, THINK about it. Again, journaling is a great tool to help you get the most out of your time with God.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Psalm 51:10-11

God wants you to be successful! Lean on Him when you feel discouraged. Call that accountability partner. When you fall down, get back up and try it again. Remember the real definition of resolution and strive to achieve it.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

Accountability

I did it. 

I joined an accountability group. 

As much as accountability scares me, I knew it was the right thing for me to do. I need someone to call me out, congratulate me, encourage me, and, most especially, pray for me. As a group we decided to each choose a word for the year and share it with each other. We have prayed about what our word should be and the purpose of the word in our lives. 

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

My word for this year is follow through. Yes, I know technically that’s two words, but it has the one definition I need for my year: “to press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion.” I chose this word because I have been having a hard time with it. There were so many things I wanted to do last year (and, in the previous years) that I didn’t accomplish because I didn’t follow through. I didn’t. It is no one’s fault but mine. I do not want a repeat of the disappointment I experienced, therefore, I am focusing on following through.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

I would encourage you to do the same. If you are a list maker like me, make a list of what you want to accomplish this year, break it down into manageable “bites” and make a plan to follow through. Ask some trusted friends to help keep you accountable and look forward to a fabulous year.

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. Ecclesiastes 4:9

 

Starting Over

Did you ever stop doing something for a while and then, when you wanted to start again, you felt silly or afraid of what people would think?

For example, let’s say that you were in the choir. You really liked it and you went to all the practices and even sang the occasional solo. But then something happened. You got a cold. So you couldn’t sing. So you missed practice. Then your kid got a cold and you had to nurse them. So you missed practice. Then you had to go out of town for something. So you missed practice. Then you had a really rough week and your nap turned into you sleeping right through the Sunday night service. So you missed practice. Then, you had a family thing. So you missed practice. 

You saw them up there and longed to be a part of the group but things just weren’t working out. It wasn’t that you didn’t desire to go to practice, other things just got in the way. Then you started feeling afraid of what they’d say when you came back. 

              “Where has she been?”

              “Why hasn’t she been at practice?”

Then you start to tell yourself that maybe they don’t want you back. Someone else is in your seat, so maybe they don’t need you. You want to be there, but your fear of what others are thinking is influencing your negative feelings and behaviors. 

You are being ruled by fear. 

And, most likely, unfounded fear. 

What they are really thinking:

       “Of course we want you back, you are a part of the choir.” 

     “I (we) understand that sometimes life just gets in our way. We have all experienced times when things didn’t go according to plan.” 

     “The important thing is that you came back. You didn’t give up. You love to sing, God has gifted you to sing, and you didn’t let Satan keep you away.”

This is exactly how Jesus responds when we turn back to Him. 

He came from heaven to live among us so that he could understand our trials and temptations. He understands that sometimes life just gets in our way. He has experienced trials and temptations himself so he owe that sometimes things don’t go according to plans. The important thing is that you came back. You didn’t give up. You didn’t let Satan keep you away. 

I’d like to say thank you to all the people over the years who have spoken words of encouragement when you could have spoken words of reprimand. Proverbs 18:21 says:

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”(New International Version)

“What you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the consequences of your words.” (Good News Translation)

So get back out there. Start over doing what God has called you to do. Start over living in obedience to God. Don’t let fear rule your life. Live in the freedom of God. 

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,” Acts 3:19 NIV

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18 NIV

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

Wake Up Call

I’ve spent the last month “procrastinating” while doing research. It’s easy to get lost in research and forget what the research is for. I won’t call it wasting time, because I was investigating and researching things for my new book, however, I also wasn’t heading God’s voice.

Just before I started a new day in my Bible study a video popped up on social media that had an interesting title, so I clicked on it to watch. She made a comment that immediately struck me in reference to her soon-to-be ex-husband. “It occurred to me that I could hang up on him.” In the span of ten years, she’d been clinging to his every word.

Conviction hit. Is God calling me to something? Or, just calling to talk? Have I “hung up” on him? What about you? Did you even realize you’d done it? I didn’t. I had stopped taking His calls and I was no longer hanging on His every word. Disobedience leads to distance between you and God. God is always there, but, if you’re disobedient, your heart is not close to Him.

You can love God but not be “in love” with Him. Just like you can believe in God but not “believe Him”. I hope that my wake up call inspires you to take a closer look at your relationship and make the changes necessary to stay close to Jesus.