Putting out the Welcome Mat

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We all have different God-given gifts, this is true. We also have different personalities, tastes, hair and eye color and backgrounds, amongst a multitude of other things. The world is a diverse place and people are too.

Aren’t you grateful for those differences when you really think about it?

Some of us are more extroverted than others, while some folks are more peaceful, gentle, and calming. Some of us are visual in our learning style, while others are auditory or hands-on. There are people in the world who can’t stand the idea of public speaking, while others seem to come alive only when performing on stage.

Some folks like coffee, while others prefer tea, and some prefer veggies and dip over cake.

But no matter who you are and what your preferences, tendencies, or giftings are, if you follow after Christ Jesus, He asks that you live out life as a servant unto others.

He asks us to be approachable.

He asks us to be available.

He tells us that people matter more than things – even the things that are good, like church, work, or exercise.

He asks that we show hospitality, leave ourselves open, and most of all, that we do it all with a desire to glorify, praise, and lead others straight to Him and all He has for us. After all, even if we put all of our best gifts and strengths together, they’d never compare to even the most minute detail about our mighty and divine, loving and perfect God!

It doesn’t matter if you are introverted or extroverted, quiet or exuberant in spirit, or if you prefer small gatherings or large crowds. What matters is that as followers after Jesus and brothers and sisters in Him, we make sure to make the most of our commitment to Him, each other, and being like-minded in the face of these little nuances that make us different.

Really think about this for a moment: Jesus made us all different. He talks about the different giftings that we, as individuals have been given and that we are to use them all for His glory! Yet He also emphasizes that as one body, of one mind (in HIM), we can do great things. He tells us with no reservation that no matter what your personality, circumstance, upbringing, or genetics might be, it is a choice to put out the welcome mat and make a focus upon Him and people (relationship) primary in life.

I’m loving that thought right now and praying about it and really soaking it in for a while. I like to imagine the variety in the “welcome mats” that all of my friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, would display if we could all just share our own mats with one another. What a colorful world it would be if we could see them!

But we can experience them even if we can’t see them in full color – we just have to look. We just have to appreciate how they are different. We just have to be grateful for every glimpse of them we see not by sight, but through the vision the Lord gives to us when we ask Him for it.

I am so thankful – so very blown away by the grace of God and the eyes He’s giving me to be able to see that diversity amongst us doesn’t always mean division! I’m so excited to get to see the different welcoming spirits that so many around me display in so many different and creative ways. I’m seeing Jesus there. How much more “welcoming” can things get than that?

Sometimes I get down when I rely upon my own faulty vision, don’t you? If you ever find yourself in that same boat, can I encourage you to ask yourself once in a while if your own welcome mat could use a little sweeping? I know that the Lord has placed this challenge pretty heavily upon my own little heart a coule of times lately, that’s for sure. it’s easy to take for granted that it’s out and beckoning “welcome all,” but I have found mine being upside down or a little dirty a couple of times over the past few months.

I may never have even noticed it if He hadn’t reminded me of how important it is. And the reason I am stressing that is because I personally, have found that when my own welcome mat is clean and straight, I am better able to see everyone else’s.

Aren’t we all glad that the Lord always has His welcome mat out – displayed clearly for all to see and trust in and walk upon? Aren’t we thankful that we can not only see that it’s there, but bask in the peace that comes from knowing with no doubt what it’s purpose really is? To cross right over it and past that threshold and into His presence. Then, to make way for others who wish to do the same.

That door is always open – that mat is always laid right out there in plain sight. Thanks be to Him!!

Let’s keep our welcome mats out and clean and stop hesitating to step right into the ones that others have placed out in front of us as well. Then, we can enjoy how God created us all as different, but simultaneously get a better understanding of what it truly is to be like-minded as fellow believers and followers after Christ!

Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

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It’s Not Hard

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It’s not hard to show that we care…

A warm hug
A soft smile
A glint in the eye
A welcome hand

It’s not hard to really be there…

A nice note
A sincere compliment
A time spent
A laugh or two

It’s not hard to give it up and share….

A welcome invitation
A meal on me
A chance to go first
A better choice of seat

It’s not hard another’s burden to help bear…

A listening ear
A praying heart
A commitment to ask about it
A way to help out

It’s not hard – just to do something…
We can’t do everything…
But it’s too easy to do nothing.

It’s not hard.

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

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Even in the Sand

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Can I swing high enough?
Will it get me that much closer?
I want to touch your face, oh Lord,
Want to see you all the better.

Can I make it higher this time?
Or do I need to come on down?
Landing on the sand beneath me,
Maybe there, I’ll hear that sound.

Wind and breezes licking at me
Washing away all of my fears
Pumping legs, so light and airy
Drying up the pent up tears.

Swinging high, back and forth
It’s fun for while it lasts.
But landing sometimes isn’t easy
‘Cause swinging’s such a blast!

Oh Father, can I swing high enough?
What happens when the ride is done?
Walking, working, doing, moving,
I just seek the face of Your Son.

And when I reach that sand beneath
I know one thing’s for sure
If it hurts and I will just cry out
You’ll carry me, and then I’ll soar.

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Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually. 1 Chronicles 16:11

Be a Friend

Photo Credit Microsoft Office Free Images

Photo Credit Microsoft Office Free Images

As we grow older our friendships do change.

We get busy with so many activities and conflicting schedules.
We become tired. True rest and refreshment becomes a thing of the past.
We forget what it’s like to play – to laugh – to focus in on the moment.

We let life do the driving.

We build up barriers too. At the very least, we fail to recognize the ones that are already in place and destroy them. You know the ones I mean? The ones that we put up around ourselves years and years ago. The ones that keep us from being a friend to others.

We may have never even noticed that we did it.

Why do we limit ourselves when it comes to becoming friends with others as we grow and change? Why do we allow life to drive us and the first thing that is then forsaken is time with God and fellowship (without barriers) with one another? Then, that very thing – that busy-ness of life – well, it becomes the greatest barrier to closeness and friendship of all. We start to feel uncomfortable because we’ve isolated ourselves for so very long.

We stop relating.

Instead of giving up because the notion of friendship as it was when we were children is no longer in existence, why don’t we adjust and embrace the way our friendships can be now instead? Why don’t we decide to be intentional about it, get creative, and go after it? Why don’t we take the excuses away, smash the barriers, and open ourselves up to more?

Why are we afraid?

What do we do to get to know those who are in our world? Do we seize the moment – those snippets in time to connect with another, or do we just let time pass right on by?

It will pass, you know. Rapidly.

Before we know it, years have gone by. Are we all willing to say at the end of the day, “well, I did my best to keep up with my schedule, all the tasks and things to do, please the bill collectors, keep the house clean, and make everyone else’s schedule and agenda or things they need ticked off their list nice and tidy?”

Are we willing to take our last breath knowing we didn’t make relationship the most important thing while we were here?

There’s a certain degree of structure and responsibility we must adhere to (I guess) if we are going to live in this crazy world of ours. But I have to say that I find there is quite a bit of “stuff” that is truly unnecessary and I am asking God to give me discernement as to what those things are. Then, I need the courage to say no to those things.

Funny how at church service tonight one of the things that was discussed that struck me to the core was about simplifying our lives so we can make room for what should be our top priority anyway:

God and people.

I want to spend my time and effort doing that which is truly meaningful. Sure, right now, my husband and I are choosing to work to make an income, and we can do that work as unto the Lord. But we can build and grow friendships while we are doing that too. We just haven’t been for about the last 20 years or so.

Sometimes we just have to get creative in this world to keep our priorities straight.

You know – maybe the days of spending eight hours in a row with a friend and building mud pies are truly over as we grow older and have our own children to care for (so that they can be free to explore such friendships or activities). I get that. But I am committed to doing all I can to use each moment possible to connect with other people and build friendships where I’m at.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I’m tired of it being nothing.

We must be intentional about this, or it’s never going to happen. The last twenty years have proven that to me without question. But we also need divine intervention if we are going to be successful – if we are really going to make this our first priority in life.

Jesus and people. Yah, I need God’s help.

If you feel the same way and this is a desire of your own heart, won’t you join me in asking the Lord to  help you get creative and find ways to have meaningful moments with others that make a lasting impression or change in their lives. You may find that your own life is enriched as well. I sure have found that I am enjoying other people’s company now that I have opened myself back up to it.

It’s nice to see Jesus in the eyes and actions, thoughts and words, behaviors and experiences of others.

But best of all, the Lord asks us to love one another and tells us that His joy is made complete when we do so. He asks us not to forsake fellowship with others. And in being intentional about community and friendship, we have more and more opportunities to nurture this in life, bringing joy to our wonderful Savior. If He commands it, don’t we think He will  help us to do it?

I want to bring joy to Jesus.

Let’s stop limiting ourselves, or even our wonderful and Mighty Savior in this way, friends. Let’s give Him the praise He deserves and ask Him for His help every step of the way.

Look for Jesus in others and be a friend. Take away the preconceived notions, or the all or nothing boundaries about what friendship is (i.e. “I don’t have enough time, so I just won’t do it at all”) and open yourself up to a new kind of friendship – right where you are at.

Enrich your friendship with Jesus all the more by being a friend to His other sons and daughters.

He’s a friend to us, a compassionate, mighty, and powerful One indeed. He made other sons and daughters, our own brothers and sisters to exist right alongside of us for good reason. We should take advantage of the blessings of family.

No man was ever meant to be an island. We were meant to be friends and family in Christ Jesus.

“The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those  who are.”  C.S. Lewis

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival  value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” C.S. Lewis

Love one another with brotherly affection. Out do one another in showing  honor. Romans 12:10

Photo Credit Microsoft Office Free Images

Photo Credit Microsoft Office Free Images

Together in the Mess of it All

Perception is quite a funny little thing, isn’t it?

I mean, over the years, I cannot even begin to tell you how many people have shared things with me that I find so unbelievable. This is stuff that these folks have said that they thought about me upon first meeting, that, when looking from the inside, I fail to understand. But it’s still been their perception, and I have seen some common denominators throughout my life. I’m sure you have too, right? And I’m sure that both you and I have done the same thing about others – it’s part of what humans do.

Perception #1 is the one I want to share about today because this one is the FUN, FUN, FUNNIEST of all!

“You have it so together. You come across as someone who really knows what they are doing, just has it all in the right places, and is balanced and efficient and really dialed in.”

When I hear this, I now know that it’s okay to laugh – out loud. I mean, the belly kind of laugh that is really good for you too! I also realize that it’s meant as a complete and total compliment.

Yet I know myself on the inside – spots and all. I don’t know what causes this perception to be so pervasive when people meet me or are getting to know me – I have given up trying to guess, but it is one of the most common ones that I hear.

What is great about this now in my life, is that it gives me the opportunity to share Jesus in a way I never took advantage of before. In the past, I was still as shocked as I am today to hear about the perception that I am seen as someone who “has it all together”, but it certainly didn’t make me feel bad to hear about it.

These days, although I still take it as a compliment, and don’t feel bad about it, I love it because I can share that I am so NOT together, friends! (It makes for a nice segue).

I am just a poor and crazy woman who is finally trying to figure out how to be who she is in Christ Jesus, bumps and all. Actually, I am in all reality trying to learn to focus more upon HIM and who HE wants to be through me – the parts of Himself that He wishes to show through me more than ever. It’s hard.

And I realize – maybe that’s why some folks still have this perception of me. Maybe it’s because it’s refreshing for people to see others not be afraid all the time to show that they are real – that they are faulty – that they need a Savior and they are going to lift their heads up in the face of that weakness – the ones that they know without question will exist until the day we leave this life and go to live for all eternity with our Lord and Savior! (And, by the way, it should go without saying that is not due to anything I can credit to my little “not-together” self).

What’s funny is that although I am pretty open about how lame I am in so many ways, I still struggle with authenticity at times too. Lately, it’s been more due to the fact that the whole world screams “don’t do that – don’t share your failures and your inadequacies – it’s not good.”

But that’s a lie.

Maybe that is what being “together” is in this messy world we live in right now.

Knowing we are so NOT together. Asking for courage to be honest about it no matter how hard it is.

Knowing that it is Christ Jesus that keeps us whole, as broken and flawed as we are.

Yes, sharing what our weaknesses are – even boasting in them, friends.

Talking and focusing then upon how Christ is making us better, spotty as we are. More of Him….less of us.

Sharing openly how hard we have to battle (sometimes daily) against it all – the battle for being authentic in Christ Jesus and admitting we struggle with relying upon Him at times – admitting that sometimes we want to try to pretend to be, or even really be or appear “together.” That’s tough stuff.

The only way we can ever experience what it is (or a version of it, I guess) to really be”together”, is to allow the Lord to make us whole by breaking us, and molding us into something better day to day.

“Together” through allowing for brokenness- then rebuilding – into His creation of what HE wants us to be.

We are flawed, friends. We are broken at times. We don’t have it all straight, right, dialed in, and perfect – no matter what it may look like from the outside. Not a single one of us does.

But we can be together in our brokenness – in the mess of it all – as long as we realize that we are in need of THE Savior, Jesus Christ.

He can make us whole in spite of our imperfections. He can bring unity and triumph through the ugly and the pain, the failures and the disappointments, the screw-ups and the things we once may have called success but are really just man-made illusions and milestones.

He makes masterpieces this way.

Make no mistake about it: sometimes the messy gets to me. Sometimes I want to be “together” in the way our world thinks about together – in the way I used to admire and strive for with all that I  had. Sometimes I want to start faking myself out and controlling stuff and live in the delusional world of false “together-ness.”

Why? Well, quite frankly, because it feels good. The constant battle gets tiresome, and I am a lazy girl.

It feels good to feel together, even when it’s not for real.

Lots of the enemy’s lies are that way.

But I am so grateful that I have tasted that true “together-ness” comes from the broken. Truth is truth and that’s always better than the illusions we make up for ourselves, even though it certainly doesn’t always feel better than the fake stuff.

Argh. Isn’t it tough to do the right thing in this life, friends? Isn’t it hard to feel the hard and the ugly and walk right when there are so many feel-good temptations out there for the taking?

Yes it is. But it is so very rewarding to let God show His “strength through our weaknesses.” Words fail to describe that kind of “feeling.”

Together in the truth of the Almighty and Great I Am. What better place could there be this side of heaven?

Might I challenge you along with myself today, my friends? Might you be inspired and motivated toward authenticity and transparency regarding it all?  Use these opportunities to share with others just how flawed you are, yet how Christ is making you whole all at the same time. It’s mind blowing stuff, for sure, and I totally believe it’s a wonderful testimony to the power of our Lord and Savior!

Never forget to share the good news after being honest about your weaknesses, either!

In your flaws and in your broken and in your ugly and your mess and hard – Christ Jesus makes you whole. And He can and will do the same for anyone who can admit that and pour out their mess and allow Him to replace it with the REAL truth and the REAL together, and the REAL good that only HE can be.

He is the only piece to the broken puzzle of our lives that makes us complete.

Place Him where He belongs – right smack in the center! Then let Him overflow.

Fill yourself with Him today! Share in the mess of life. Bring others together through that endeavor and one step closer to a truly together life with our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ.

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 about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinithians 12:9

Things That We Can Do

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Things that we can do….

Send a funny email
Sneak in a special gift
Laugh along with others
Help to heal a rift.

Things that we can do….

Tweet or text or update
Write a quick, short note
Smile and make eye contact
Step inside of their “same boat.”

Things that we can do…

Ask about that something
That thing that’s on their mind
Try to love your enemies
Never leave one man behind.

Things that we can do…

Offer help when busy
Share your time or talents
Commend a job well done
Ask how that project went.

Things that we can do…

Offer a shoulder or ear
Love in the face of sin
Face up to demons screaming
Decide the enemy shall not win.

Things that we can do…

Remember who is family
Complete His joy and love
For all shall know us by this
And be pointed to God above.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 ESV

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Is it Okay to Live for Today?

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God surprises me all the time. Just when I think I have “come a long way” with some certain issue, He helps me to see that I still need Him in that area too. I am grateful for that.

Over the last year, I have let go (or thought I had) of a lot of what I call my “control issues.” I left a very stable job that I’d  had for a decade, lots of great relationships there, to move on to….well, I didn’t know what.

For a planner, the unknown is a dark place.

After yielding to His will, and praying a lot, I thought (twice, actually) that He had led me to the place that I was meant to be job-wise. Both of these places were wonderful, and everything just seemed in line with what His will is for me, and my family, when I accepted those positions.

Surprise!

Then, for reasons that didn’t make any logical sense, I just knew that He wanted me to  move again. I did so, and now I am at a wonderful place that I hope will be the place He has for me to remain in for a while.

Now, understand something: I am, and have never been a quitter. This has been really hard for me. I know it’s hard to understand that when there are so many out there in the world without work at all.

What? She is saying it’s  hard to have been fortunate enough to  have been offered the ability to work in three places since she quit (of her own accord) a job that was already awesome?

That’s not what I mean by hard though. I realize that it is a whole other level of difficulty to contend with when one cannot find work at all and I completely sympathize with that.

But when one is seeking the Lord’s will and voluntarily making changes, hoping that they are doing the right thing all along, and things don’t work out – well, it makes the mind and the heart ripe for battle, let’s just put it that way.

I have been at war with tomorrow.

So  here’s the thing: I have still been battling inside in spite of the fact that the Lord has led me back to a place that I call my home away from home when it comes to my employment. I am so thankful to be where I am at, and it wasn’t easy, but God just opened all the doors every step of the way. He encouraged me through the Holy Spirit by making me feel unsettled so that I would continue to move. All the while, He has allowed that uneasy feeling to get better and better.

But a version of uneasy is still there.

And I realized that it’s because I am still too much of a planner. I’m still to much about worrying about the unknown, wanting to feel dug in, settled. See, in the face of throwing the stability and the comfort and the ease of just staying where I was at right out the window, I was still counting upon being able to plan a little.

I wanted to plan within the chaos.

I thought that if I took steps and even leaps of faith with the big stuff, that then I could still plan with the little stuff once I “got to where I needed to be.” And I am reminded once again, that it’s not even about me.

Oh yah.

I feel such a weight lifted from my heart today, friends. I realize this is what has been causing me to periodically battle in the midst of this triumph and blessing at my new, beautiful job!

I don’t have to know what I hope to do there long term. I don’t have to feel unsettled at all. I can enjoy it for what it is (the position I have taken – the job itself) and love the whole of what I am doing and the wonderful ministry and family I am NOW A PART OF WITH NO DOUBT!

I can be at home at work.

How many people in the world are blessed enough regarding their employment to feel that? I feel like such a schlump!

I can focus on the big picture of why I am there. I can think about the mission of the organization, the people there, not whether I will stay in a processing job or move on to do something else.

Maybe I can feel eventually like I am actually GOOD at my processing job!

It’s not about the processing anyway. Where I’m at, it’s about Jesus and the people no matter which position you accept. How beautiful is that?

And then I realized something else….I was being taunted by fear. Fear NOT of being left behind for better jobs that come up that I can’t take right now. But fear of settling in!

Fear of settling in and being content. Fear of feeling at home. Fear of comfort.

Can you believe that?

 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

As Christians, we can get caught up a bit too much at times in wondering if we are aligned with God’s plans for us. It’s good to self-check and do heart checks regarding this, but if we miss out on enjoying God and time with Him and His people in the process, it is completely defeating. That alone can take us out of His will for us.

I can’t profess that I know how to do this, even though I have had this wonderful realization. But I can say that I am excited about it. There will be easy in this as well as hard throughout, I am certain. But I plan to do all I can with the help of the Lord to enjoy this time.

It’s okay. It’s okay to live for Him in my today.

As long as we are doing it to glorify God and be the light of Jesus first and foremost – every single day.

I’m sure there will be a blog post in the future about the struggles I am facing after getting “settled in” and then some other calling within the ministry comes my way. It will be hard to get comfortable in the uncomfortable, only to have to change again. But, that’s okay too. I am just going to trust Jesus and the leadership we have at my work to tell me what to do and where to go, if anywhere.

I’m going to focus on today.

God tells us not to worry about tomorrow…today has enough challenges of it’s own. He is giving me permission to live for today and the people I will encounter as I do so. He is giving me permission to focus upon Him and the others I am interacting with to the fullest.

He gives me permission to trust in Him and love thinking about Him today.

What greater calling can any of us  have than to make the most of what is right in front of our noses? How freeing is it to know that the Lord’s plans and purposes will be fulfilled in the face of our stubborn opposition and the battles and games we play?

If you are struggling with letting go in a particular area, I encourage  you to ask the Lord if you have fully surrendered. Sometimes He allows us to be uncomfortable because we are not walking in His will for us. But other times, He just wants for us to rest in Him, throw our incessant need for planning right out the window, and allow Him to smash it to pieces.

What is your plan for today? Ask God to help you to make it His plan and then go for it.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 ESV

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