Living in the Dash

live-your-dashToo many of us have one foot in the past and one foot in the future – so much so, that we forget to live in the dash!!!

The dash is the line between our birthdate and our death date that we will all have on our tombstone one day.  (Hopefully, later rather than sooner!!!)

These dashes all look the same at first glance, but they are way different upon further inspection.

Some of those dashes may be full of joy, laughter, sorrow and pain – which is what life is full of anyway.

However, all too often the dashes are a desolate waiting ground where we’ve spent too much time paralyzed by fear, worry and anxiety instead of actually living.

The dash represents the present and what we are doing with it!!!!  It would serve us well to remember that we only get one chance and we’d better make it count!

However, if we are living in the past or the future we miss living the dash as we should by actually LIVING our purpose, therefore, doing what God wants us to do in this life.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. James 1:22-23

There are lots of clichés about the present being a gift, but they are all worthless if they don’t inspire us to make changes and start living in our dash.

So, what is it that can make us LIVE each day free from the burdens of life and careless in the care of Jesus Christ?  (I can’t take credit for the “careless in the care of Jesus Christ” because that came from my preacher’s sermon on Sunday and I just LOVED IT!!!)

Well, the main thing we have to do is get to know Jesus Christ in order to be in His care.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

Developing our relationship with Jesus isn’t as hard as it might sound.  In fact, we make it difficult instead of just doing it most of the time.

All we have to do is ask Him to help us.

For example, for the past several months I’ve felt like my own relationship with Jesus has taken its own hiatus.  So, a few weeks ago I started praying that He reveal Himself to me and for me to grow closer to Him.

Guess what?

He’s done just that.  Lately, I’ve felt His presence, seen His miracles and heard His voice…AND I’ve responded to His calling.

Funny how that works.

Living in the dash is a choice and that choice defines what type of life we will have lived when that day comes when they put our tombstone out for everyone to see.

Will we have lived well or will we have lived waiting?

It’s up to us what our dash is going to look like.

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 8:17 – I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Living Bravely

braveThere are some moments in life where we just have to pull up our big girl panties (or big boy boxers) and move forward.

Even when there is no plan in sight, sitting still is just not an option.  We will never get anything accomplished if we do that!!!

Yes, of course, there are times to be still, but there are also those moments when DOING something counts big time in answering God’s call to be His people.

Therefore, we have to live bravely in a world that tells us we aren’t good enough; we are too old, too young, not smart enough and so on.

But God IS ENOUGH!!!

Living bravely doesn’t have to mean that you are setting the world on fire with your awesome ideas, talents and gifts.  It could be as small as getting out of bed each day and putting food on the table because that is where you are today.

The point is to put out the effort and allow God to do the rest!  Responding to God’s call doesn’t mean you do it all…it means you allow God to use you as his vessel of action in the world!

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. Isaiah 30:18

Unfortunately, many of us are waiting for the BIG MOMENT when God speaks (loudly) to us and tells us exactly what to do and when.

Uhhhh…it doesn’t work that way.

God can speak to us in many ways and we must be open to hearing what He has to say.  We can’t allow ourselves and our own ideas of how things should go to get in the way of His Will for our lives.

Even if you are waiting on God…the wait is supposed to be ACTIVE!

Sitting around waiting for God to act IS NOT what we are supposed to be doing.

We are to live our lives to the best of our ability while praying, studying scripture and staying as close to God’s presence as possible.

These disciplines are the way we know that we are in His Will and not acting on our own desires.

And let’s be honest, most of us have a plan that we want God to work out for us and we aren’t willing to change that plan or do the grunt work that God has planned for us instead.

Hmmm…a change of heart is needed.

Living bravely means trusting God to have my best interests at heart and truly giving my life, plans, livelihood and everything in between to HIM!!

Go out and live bravely today!!!

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 18:9 – Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.

Hey There!!

you will growIt feels like forever since I wrote a GEM!!!  Sure feels good to be back in the writer’s seat doing what I love to do!!

I must be honest.  I stopped writing GEM for what I now see as a really STUPID reason.

Man, I hate it when that happens!!!

The fact is that I let someone get into my head and I believed their opinion instead of following God’s Will. UGH!!!!

Their opinion is that GEM is a waste of my time and since it does nothing for me monetarily, it isn’t worth the effort I put into it. Nice, right?!?!

The reason I tell you this is not for shock and awe or sympathy.  I tell you to help you understand that our words can change the direction of someone’s life and they can really make a difference…GOOD OR BAD.

But, we have to decide what comes out of our mouths and whether we will use our words as weapons or as instruments of healing, love, comfort and hope.

Another lesson is this: Do we allow others to draw us away from our purpose and if so, why?

Now, let’s be clear.  I never started GEM as a money making business, so why I listened to them – and even worse, believed them – is way beyond me.

For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. James 3:2

However, I think it’s been a good hiatus because I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been silent and my absence has taught me to appreciate my God-given talents because you never know when they will be taken away – regardless of how.

My how just happens to have been self-inflicted and I’m pretty sure we’ve all had an episode like this at least once in our lives.

This eye-opening experience has shown me the following:

  1. The world’s opinion doesn’t matter…only God’s.
  2. Our gifts don’t come from within us – they come from God.
  3. If we don’t use our gifts, we won’t receive God’s blessings through them.
  4. Allowing our anger and fear to rule us will get us nowhere.
  5. Words can hurt and words can heal, so we have to be aware of which one we use them for.

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 2Timothy 2:14

I hope that in the future I will take other’s negative opinions to God instead of wallowing in them and in the self-pity that I allowed to hold me down and shut me up.

Ultimately, it is my fault for believing the opinion of someone else and it is my responsibility to stand up for what I want and should do for God.

It took me a while, but thankfully, God has a way of placing us in the paths of others who open our eyes to the truth.

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 29:20 – Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.

Enough

Do you feel that you are enough?  The better question is are you enough where you are right at this moment with no changes or take backs?

Long sigh….

The problem is that we live in a society that says we never have enough in our lives.  It also lies to us and tells us that we’ll be happy whenever we get to the “enough” status we’ve been working towards.

Don’t listen to this nonsense!!

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be working towards goals in our lives, but I am saying that most of us deal with some sort of “not enough” problem on a regular basis that is just not necessary.

Maybe it is money, time, vacations, or (insert whatever you don’t think you have enough of).  The list certainly is endless and many of us have multiple things that we wish we had more of.  However, these things suffocate the gratitude and joy of TODAY!

Brene Brown, one of my favorite authors, says, “When we allow ourselves to become culturally conditioned to believe that we are not enough and that we don’t make enough or have enough, it damages our soul.”

Wow!!

The one thing we can do to combat the “not enough” problem is to be grateful for the here and now.  A few thoughts include:

  1. Be grateful for good health.
  2. Be grateful for another day.
  3. Be grateful for food to eat.
  4. Be grateful for friends and family.
  5. Be grateful for clean air to breathe.

Remember that we are enough (just the way we are) for God.  He loves us right where we are today.

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 22:7 – The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.

Entitlement

entitlementI was recently talking to one of my friends about the problem our world has with entitlement these days…it seems that everywhere you look you have someone screaming for their fair share or for something for nothing!!!  Geez!

Unfortunately, it made me sad to think that if I’m truly honest (sigh) even I struggle with feelings of deserving when in actuality none of us deserve a thing.

In fact, we deserve death as a result of our sin.  Yikes!

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23

It stinks to think that we deserve such a harsh punishment, but it’s the truth.  Of course, we all have our excuses ready.  You know the ones you tell yourself.  They sound something like this:

  • I didn’t mean to…
  • It didn’t really hurt anyone…
  • I’m not that bad…
  • I’m definitely not as bad as so and so…
  • Oh, that’s not a sin…
  • Uh, I didn’t know that was a sin…
  • Surely, God didn’t see that one…

Entitlement is a deadly way to live.  It stunts our growth and changes our attitudes (and not for the better).  It does nothing but make us miserable and it steals our thankfulness.

Furthermore, feelings of deserving take away the joy of the many blessings and gifts we have been given.

It’s unfortunate how many of us fall into the entitlement trap!  But, the good news is that we CAN be rescued from its tight grip.

The best way is to remember all that we have to be thankful for and most importantly, to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us.

Changing our outlooks to ones of gratitude and thankfulness leave little room for entitlement!!!!!

So, the next time you feel like you deserve something better, just remember Jesus on the cross.  You might have a change of heart!

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 29:11 – A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Jesus

Jesus“The church without Jesus in the midst of it is just a social club. Worship without the living Christ in it is just another form of cheap entertainment. Bible study without the living Christ in it is just a book club. Outreach without Christ is just social work. Ministry without the living Christ in it is just programming. Faith without the living Christ in it is just wishful thinking and self-appraisement. I look at the church and wonder are we trying to fish with Christ or without him? What needs to happen for you to be in the light?”

I often wonder what people do if they don’t have Christ in their life and the above quote from my pastor a few Sunday’s ago really tells me what the reality of life is without Christ in the midst of it.

Since I can’t imagine my own life without Him, I can only say that for me, my sad moments would be sadder and the happy moments wouldn’t be so great.  Yuck!  It’s hard enough WITH HIM!!!

Plus, I don’t want the ordinary life that the world offers.  I want the extraordinary that only comes through Christ living within in me day in and day out.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1John 4:10

Sure…the world can offer social clubs, cheap entertainment, books clubs and social work, but I want the life that provides a love like no other, miracles at every corner and a peace that is beyond human understanding!!!

Unfortunately, loads of people want to be spiritual, but in doing so also want to leave out Jesus.

This doesn’t work for me because Jesus is not only my Savior because He died on the cross for me, but He’s also my teacher of life.  I personally don’t want to do without either because I would be at a complete loss.

But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.  Hebrews 2:9

Jesus is my rock and my redeemer.  He is the Truth, The Way and The Light.  Who could want for more?

So, the next time you think about leaving Jesus out of the picture, remember that He came into the world to save it and we all need a little saving!!!

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 4:5 – Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.

Faking…

safe shipNormally, I’m a big proponent for “faking it until you make it.”  However, I’m learning that sometimes you just shouldn’t fake your feelings of hopelessness and loneliness (or any other feelings for that matter) because they need to be let out and cared for so that you can feel better in the long run.

So much for a lifelong mantra!!

Stuffing the feelings down sounds a whole lot better, but it’s just not possible when they bubble up and overflow like a raging river running over its boundaries.

Feelings have a way of coming out regardless of whether we stuff them, hide them or try to ignore them.

Unfortunately, I think most of us learned from a very young age to get it right the first time or else face harsh ridicule and judgment from others.

We need to fix this.

Life is a journey…not a destination.  It’s a series of mountains and valleys that follow us all of our days.  And some of those days are spent wallowing in a deserted place and others are danced into the morning on a paradise island (or whatever metaphor works for your bad and good times – clearly, my good times would have an umbrella in my drink).

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1Peter 4:12

The truth is that from our personal perspective comes the harshness or ease of life.  Our lives are from our point of views and that’s why our attitudes matter so much!!  No one else counts when it comes to our own attitude.

That being said, if our attitudes stink, I can bet that most other things in life will follow suit.  But, if we pray for an attitude like Christ, we will see life much differently.

Easier said than done.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2Corinthians 12:9

The pit of despair is a deep one, but not impossible to climb out of.  Our bad attitudes and terrible feelings can keep us there longer than need be, but our Lord and Savior can pull us out just in the nick of time!

We just have to stay focused upward instead of inward!!

I read something recently that said, “Before you take it to someone else, take it to God.”

Our first and best plan of action for anything we are facing today is to take it to God in prayer.  Better yet, go to Him in prayer with your Bible in hand and you will be amazed at the guidance you’ll find.

The one thing we have to keep in mind is that just because we ask – it doesn’t mean we will receive the answer we want or in the way we want.  (That stinks, I know!)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Sometimes we are in a place where God is teaching us something like patience, humility, or dependence on Him.  None of these are bad to have, but none of them are fun to go through.

No matter how you are feeling today, lean on God and you will start feeling better in no time!

Breathe.  God’s got you.  He’s going to lead you to a new place with the strength, wisdom and courage you need.

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 30:5 – Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

Needy

more than you knowSometimes the encourager needs a little encouragement and the caretaker needs to be taken care of.  Sigh.

For those of us who know these roles so well, asking for help is not easy.

The reason why is because we are used to relying on an endless wealth of joy and encouragement to lend to others, but what happens when our own well dries up?

Well, I can tell you from experience it’s a scary place where you feel like a fish out of water.  Worse, you feel like you are at a fork in the road with about a million paths to take, but none sound like the right one for you.

At this point, fear is your worst enemy because it whispers in your ear:

  1. You will never get your joy back.
  2. God is punishing you for your sin.
  3. You deserve this.
  4. There is something wrong with you.
  5. No one else has ever felt like this.
  6. This pit is too deep to crawl out of.
  7. You’ve done this to yourself.
  8. Everyone else has it together, why can’t you?
  9. You’re never going to be okay again.
  10. People think you’ve lost your mind.

Man, oh man…Satan sure has a big and loud mouth when we are suffering!!!!  YIKES!!!

The truth is that Satan is a liar.

Yes, we may be in a horrible place right now and completely depleted, but this is just one of many seasons we will face as we go through life.

Better yet, God has a wealth of promises that can help us overcome the mountain of fear that sometimes jumps on our back and refuses to get off during our times in the desert.  Some of these include:

He gives strength to those who are tired and more power to those who are weak.  The people who trust the Lord will become strong again.  They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired.  Isaiah 40:29,31

Jesus will keep you strong until the end so that there will be no sin in you on the day our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.  God, who has called you to share everything with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful. 1Corinthians 1:8-9

The Lord’s love never ends; his mercies never stop.  They are new every morning; Lord, your loyalty is great.  I say to myself, “the Lord is mine, so I hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who hope in him, to those who seek him.  Lamentations 3:22-25

All of these say to me that better days are on the horizon!  Halleluiah!

We may be defeated, but God will lift us up.  We may be sad, but God hears our prayers.  We may be confused, but God will give us wisdom and discernment.  We may be lost and lonely, but God will fill our God-shaped hole in our heart.

No matter where you are today, God will lead you through it if you’ll just ask Him to.

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 16:33 – The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Act of Worship

I can’tprayer seem to get the movie War Room out of my mind lately.  Not that I want to, but the power of prayer keeps popping into my head and moves me to talk to God a lot more often these days.

That’s always a good thing!

I think the War Room just reminds me how powerful our prayers are and how critical they are to purposeful living.

It also prompts me to realize that God is not a genie in a bottle and prayer is not a way to get our wishes to come true.

Prayer is actually an act of worship.

Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Matthew 6:9-13

Yes, God wants us to tell Him what we need, but He also wants us listen to Him during the process as well.

All too often we seek answers and guidance from God, but don’t listen to His wisdom.  Or worse, we hear the direction He tells us to go, but we don’t agree so we take our own path.

Prayer is a two-way street.  It is all about giving God glory, thanking Him for all that we have, asking for forgiveness and lastly…asking for the desires of our hearts.

The problem is with our selfishness and not God’s abiding love for us.

God wants the very best for us, but we have to be willing to do it His Way because He’s the one with all the answers.

Funny how humans seem to do a good job of messing things up – even something as simple as praying!!!

It’s really too bad we “forget” to pray, how to pray and what to pray.

That’s one of the reasons I love the above scripture with the Lord’s Prayer because it gives insight on what is really important in our prayer lives.

So, shouldn’t we pray like Jesus taught us to?

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 28:9 – If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.

War Room

power of prayerIf you haven’t seen the movie, War Room, you really should because it demonstrates the power of our prayers.

The movie has tons of great parts, but the jist of it is that this one lady has made a closet in her home her prayer room and spends time daily in there talking and listening to God.  She says she is taking up the battle against evil by putting her life in the hands of God!

You should see the power she invokes in the name of Jesus Christ.  It really is amazing!

We all need a war room!

Think about how much different our lives could be by spending quality time with our God daily!!! How much more strength and courage would we have because we were leaning on the Provider instead of ourselves?!?!

But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  Matthew 6:6

I found one scene very telling where two women are discussing whether one of the characters is hot or cold for Jesus and she said she was somewhere in the middle, therefore, the other character serves her some lukewarm coffee and asked how she liked it.

This reminds me of Revelations 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

God doesn’t want us just a little.  He wants our entire being, our everything, our good, bad and ugly!  And He wants it all the time.

We can create this relationship through prayer and reading His Word.

The War Room just visualized what we already know:  there is mighty power in prayer.

Are you fighting the battle alone or through prayer allowing God to fight the battle for you?

Some Wisdom for Today:  Proverbs 15:29 – The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.