Category Archives: Articles

It’s Simple Math (Subtract to Add)

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A dear friend of mine has been challenging me to consider how I’m using my time.

It’s been such a difficult thing for me to step back some and learn (re-learn) to be quiet.

For years, out of necessity, I was always moving from one task to the next. Now, with an almost empty nest, I’m finding I have some time on my hands.

What to do with this sudden elusive commodity?

Join a group?
Lead a class?
Start volunteering?
Write another book?

Any and all options are good ones.

Still, I realized that it’s too easy to stay too busy.

Maybe, just maybe, what I need most is time.

Time to be quiet.
Time to not be distracted.
Time to be still.
Time to listen.

So, I decided to subtract instead of add.

In the past few months, I’ve realized how hard it is to choose a period of relative quiet by eliminating what I can so I can prepare for what’s coming next.

By subtracting I’m adding.

How about you?

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Own the Moment…Being Quietly Kind

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When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it. Galatians 6:10

Last summer, Logan “owned the moment” when asked to help carry plants from the yard into the garden. He was all about it as this photo shows.

Sure, it was a small thing. But I’ve come to believe life is all about the little moments.

Small kindnesses.
Little bits of help along the way.
Gestures of courtesy in a cruel world.
Stepping out to assist even when it’s uncomfortable.

Kind hearts are quietly kind.

Going about their business, not drawing attention to themselves. Just going about their day, leaving their world a little better than they found it.

Kind hearts are quietly kind. They let the car cut into traffic and the young mom with three kids move up in the checkout line. They pick up the neighbor’s trash can that rolled into the street, and they are especially kind at church. They understand that perhaps the neediest person they’ll meet all week is the one standing in the foyer or sitting on the row behind them in worship. Max Lucado

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Outgrowing Our Spiritual Playpen

spiritualplaypen

Aside from the comedic implications of this photo depicting the typical grandma as the rescuer of her grandchildren…there’s some real truth to this statement.

Aren’t we all guilty of spending too much time in our own
“spiritual playpens?”

I know I am.

I demonstrate this fact every time I demand…

to have my own way
cling to my rights
refuse to listen
dig in my heels
turn away in anger
rehearse another’s wrongs
close my heart and mind to truth

If you’ve ever been a tad unwilling to leave your spiritual playpen in favor of growing up…read what Elisabeth Elliot has to say on the topic.

Love is the way to maturity. Selfishness stunts growth and keeps us in a spiritual playpen. The world is full of emotional babies, crawling over each other, screaming, “Mine! This I want, and this I shall have, and never mind what it does to anybody else!”

What a relief, what peace, when one who has reached spiritual adulthood, who by love has grown out of himself, comes along. He freely gives up his own aims and ambitions, his safety and his cherished plans, his possessions, his feelings, anything at all that will help and says my life for yours. Such a one comes as a rescuer.

To give myself up is the last thing I think of doing. It looks like weakness. In God’s eyes, though, it is power.

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Pain and Trials: There is an Upside to These Twin Life Companions

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The devil sometimes goes too far. He drives us straight into the Lord’s arms. Ruth Bell Graham

Love that statement because it’s true and because it makes me laugh.

It’s the whole overcoming evil with good principle again.

God takes what could (should) destroy us…and He transforms the experience into something that will eventually be the making of us.

I love this little slice of pain and trials from author Kay Arthur’s life…

Kay Arthur was bitterly disappointed when she contracted a heart infection that forced her removal from the mission field. “I felt like a failure,” she wrote.

“It would be several years before I’d see how He’d use those formative years of study in Mexico to prepare me to write inductive Bible studies that would eventually reach 52 countries.”

“My disappointments aren’t over,” Kay admits. “Pain and trials are almost constant companions, but never enemies. They drive me into His sovereign arms. There He takes my disappointments and works everything together for good.”

Today I’m going to spend some time remembering specific events that pretty much broke my heart and how God eventually used those heartaches to remake me.

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Someone You’d Invite Back

Son-of-God-largeI read the review of Son of God last night right before I went to bed…and then I laid there thinking about how timely this movie is for us.

Not just because Easter is approaching…not just because we’ve had a long, hard winter…but just because this movie depicts Christ as a man we’d all invite into our homes for dinner…again and again and again.

Time after time.

We’d keep inviting him back (into our hearts and lives.)

Why?

Because He was inviting.

Read Max Lucado’s take on Jesus.

Jesus was touchable, approachable, reachable…

He was the kind of fellow you’d invite to watch the Rams-Giants game at your house. He’d wrestle on the floor with your kids, doze on your couch, and cook steaks on your grill. He’d laugh at your jokes and tell a few of his own. And when you spoke, he’d listen to you as if he had all the time in eternity.

And one thing’s for sure, you’d invite him back.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

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Small Things (I Can Do That)

smallthings

I think we’d all agree that listening to the nightly news or reading the daily paper is a pretty dismal experience these days…one that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

If you’re like me, you feel overwhelmed at times by the sheer evil that exists in our world.

Which is why I’ve been spending a bit of time each morning reading How to Overcome Evil by Jay Adams.

This diminutive little book packs a power punch of truth within its pages. So much so, that Adams’ message sticks with me all through the day.

How does one overcome evil?

With good.

And sometimes, that good is simply…

a hug
a smile
a kind word
a listening ear
an honest compliment

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Shaking off the Downcast and Troubled Frame of Mind

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Isn’t this true?

We fail and then our emotions nosedive into discouragement and despair.

I know mine do.

I’m particularly impatient and upset with myself when I struggle with the same issues as I did twenty years ago.

Ugh.

But I’ve learned something over the years. Despite how often I fail (and believe me it fluctuates between hourly and minute by minute)…I now realize that the absolute worst thing I can do is to stay stuck.

No matter how badly I feel about my failings…I make it my earnest attempt to get back up and take the next step.

Can I undo the damage I’ve inflicted? Not always.
Can I right every wrong? Nope.

So, I do what I can to make reparations and keep on going.

One little step at a time.

I love how Oswald Chambers describes this so common human emotion of despair and discouragement.

The sense of having done something irreversible tends to make us despair. We say, “Well, it’s all over and ruined now; what’s the point in trying anymore.” If we think this type of despair is the exception, we are mistaken. It is a very ordinary human experience.

Even though the opportunity is lost to us forever…

We let the past sleep, but let it sleep in the sweet embrace of Christ, and let us go on into the invincible future with Him.

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives. We will have times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them.

But we must get up and do the next thing.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step. Oswald Chambers

Love this prayer…

Grant me to rest on thy power and faithfulness, and to know that there are two things worth living for: to further thy cause in the world, and to do good to the souls and bodies of men; This is my ministry, my life, my prayer, my end. Grant me grace that I shall not fail. The Valley of Vision

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Real Love Sets Limits

lovesetsfree

I puzzled over the caption of this photo for a while trying to understand what Alistair Begg was getting at…finally, my poor muddled brain got it.

Begg is commending people who set limits on their own personal rights in the name of loving others.

How does this translate into real life? My life? Yours?

It means I don’t glibly say, “Well, we have freedom in Christ…so I can do whatever I want!”

I don’t act insensitively by making a choice that might hurt another person (or their faith.)

It also means that my heart is right toward those around me…I don’t judge them (or their decisions) simply because I don’t understand or agree with them.

Overall, true love toward others translates into me always considering another’s welfare above my own.

Which, in Max Lucado’s words, means that, “my faith makes me likable.”

Not a pushover.
Not wishy-washy.
Not indifferent.
Not wimpy.

But rather….

…agreeable. sympathetic, loving, compassionate, humble. 1 Peter 3:8

Don’t you love the concept?

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Don’t Lose Heart (how to tell the difference between real love and the pretend kind)

don'tloseheartDuring the single week of the year when we can’t get away from all things heart-related…you know, chocolate, jewelry, flowers, etc…the great irony is that the more marketers try to convince us that we need these tangible expressions to prove our love…the more we instinctively know in our hearts that they are missing the mark of what real love looks like.

In case you’ve gone under the spell of the marketer’s anemic version of Valentine’s Day and are a tad bit confused on how to best demonstrate true love to those you truly love….here’s the final word on expressing genuine love (not just on Valentine’s Day…but 365 days a year.)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13

Now this is the way to show someone you love them. :)

On Valentine’s Day.
Every day.

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Can You Hear What I’m Trying to Say?

10waysI’ve written on this topic before…but recent events (conversations…?) have convinced me I still need to work on this skill a whole lot more. ;)

According to author Stephen Covey in his title, “The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness” communication is the most important skill in life. Covey writes that people spend about two-thirds of their time reading, writing, speaking or listening. There is one of these areas, however, that takes up between 40 and 50 percent of individuals’ time every day. Can you guess which area?

It is listening. Covey shares that most people “think” they know how to listen because they do it so much. But the truth is, the majority of us listen solely within our own frame of reference. This author explains that there are five levels of everyday listening beginning at the lowest level include:

1. Ignoring
2. Pretend listening (patronizing)
3. Selective listening
4. Attentive listening
5. Empathic listening

The first four areas in this continuum fall within one’s own frame of reference. Only the last, Empathic listening, does a person actually “transcend your own autobiography…out of your own history and judging tendencies, and get deeply into the frame of reference or viewpoint of another person.”

Covey underscores that the primary need to feel understood is like the body’s need for air in the lungs. Unless and until a person feels understood (and listened to), you will get no farther in communication with that individual.

Read on to learn Stephen Covey’s practical insights on how to further develop your ability to listen empathetically (and well).

· Be sincerely open to what others see and why they see the world as they do.
· People react to new information based on their previous experiences and personal history.
· There are always multiple ways to interpret information, keep this in the mental forefront of every conversation.
· Frequently, communication breaks down because of how people define the words spoken. However, when a spirit of empathy is present, true understanding heightens.

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