I’m feeling bold today so here we go. It’s been a long week. I’ve seen so much interpersonal conflict around me in the last three days and it has ALL … Continue reading Choose Grace
If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place… Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for … Continue reading For Such a Time as This…
Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning. (2 John 1:6 NLT)
We are told as Christians to do two things: love God and love others. By focusing on those two things we will end up obeying the law of God and the law of man without even realizing it most of the time.
There are many things that can hinder us from fulfilling this command, many things that can negatively affect our perspective and perception of others without us realizing it.
In photography, the lens is how you see the world. The quality and integrity of the lens is crucial. Everything depends on the lens, even the quality of the final image.
If your lens is cracked, smudged, or otherwise compromised, your image will be unclear or even indistinguishable from the view/reality you saw with your eyes; your perspective will not translate into a beautiful finished image like you had planned. It will be distorted. You will be disappointed, possibly angry, and unfulfilled. There was nothing wrong with the subject you were attempting to photograph, but the lens made it appear to be flawed.
Similarly, forming a first impression of someone happens automatically. You meet someone, and based on the first few minutes of your interaction you form an opinion. Those first few moments do not provide insight into a person’s context, character, or true self. You merely catch a glimpse instead of knowing and understanding them fully.
Once an impression is formed, overcoming that perspective can be difficult no matter what experience may prove to be the truth.
I mention these things because I have been pondering what the Bible has to say about bitterness, anger, resentment, and how those things affect our perception of people and circumstances.
When we hold grudges and harbor bitterness, anything the “guilty” person says or does will be viewed through a cracked lens. The perspective will be skewed, and the relationship may be further damaged because we aren’t seeing things clearly.
Perhaps this is why Jesus told us to resolve our issues with people directly and promptly (Matthew 18); to get rid of all anger and bitterness (Ephesians 4:31) ; to get rid of the plank in our eyes before judging the splinter in the eyes of another (Matthew 7:3-5); with these things in our heart, our lens is cracked and we cannot perceive the actions and words of people correctly and therefore cannot love them as we are commanded.
When we are bitter, angry, or resentful we cannot love God and others the way He desires and commands us to do. We cannot fulfill our mission.
Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:35)
Resentment prevents you from seeing situations clearly and in proper context. Resentment is a dangerous thing.
Many times in my life I have seen the aftermath of built-up resentment that is never resolved biblically. It has split churches, destroyed friendships, and created friction in families.
Someone can do something or say something to you with great intentions, but because you are harboring unspoken resentment and bitterness you will read between the lines in order to justify your feelings. We’ve all done it!
Rather than going to the person as soon as the alleged offense occurs to find out their true intent and to clear up misunderstandings, you choose to remain silent and allow bitterness to eat away at your heart, all while pretending that everything is fine on the outside.
Pride is a dangerous companion to resentment.
This is a human flaw that we all deal with at some point in our lives, and that’s exactly why Jesus spoke about this issue in Matthew 18:
“If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.
But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.
If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she won’t accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.”
There are so many verses that tell us to not be bitter or resentful, but to love; here are a few:
Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. (Ephesians 4:3 NLT)
And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. (2 Peter 3:14 NLT)
This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. (1 John 3:11 NLT)
But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another. (1 Thessalonians 4:9 NLT)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Don’t let bitterness, resentment, anger, or irritation destroy you. Don’t let them destroy relationships or communities. The enemy LOVES when Christians do this! Don’t let him have the satisfaction.
Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. (Proverbs 29:11 NLT)
And this is his commandment: We must believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us. (1 John 3:23 NLT)
I strive to take the following steps whenever I am in situations where I am hurt, and I do my best to not assume anything about the person. These have helped me tremendously and I hope they are useful to you as well:
- Consider the context: What is the person going through? If you don’t know, then offer grace and understanding instead of becoming angry immediately. Ask questions instead of assuming.
- Remember that no one is perfect, including yourself. Offer grace.
- Think about the true cause of the offense: why is it bothering you? Was your pride hurt?
- Always assume the best about the people you love and not the worst.
- Communicate! In person is the BEST way to do this, but if the other party won’t consent to doing so, make your written communication clear and your emotions known, remembering that words are powerful. Text leaves so much to the imagination and it can often make issues far worse than they were at the beginning. Talk about things immediately, don’t blindside someone years later.
- If the person matters to you, make the effort to humbly make things right. Put aside your pride.
- Don’t allow misunderstandings and misperceptions destroy relationships. Life is too short and too precious to allow bitterness and resentment to steal our joy.
We are here on earth to love one another, to encourage, to build-up, to lead others to Christ. Resentment prevents us from fully loving God and others, and it lets the enemy win.
Choose love, choose joy, choose humility. It’s worth it.
A few months ago I made the decision to no longer intentionally drive above the speed limit (note: this only applies while driving in town…I know, I know…for some reason, the interstates are a separate thing in my mind which isn’t right, but that’s how it is right now… 🙂 ) because I realized that it is a sin. It’s become quite the “respectable sin” in our society, and I’ve become increasingly aware of it in my own life.
I’m a California girl. Everyone speeds there. I lived in Southern California for seven years prior to moving to Pennsylvania, and there, if you don’t speed you get run over (on the interstates, at least). It became a way of life…but that is all changing now.
Believe it or not, this didn’t start because of a speeding ticket (I’ve only had two in my entire life, and neither of them were recent).
This started because we live on a road where the speed limit is 25 miles per hour. And there are great reasons for that speed limit: the road is narrow, it’s a neighborhood, there are children, and there are many hidden driveways all along our road. However, because people often use our road to bypass part of Hersheypark Drive, they are always flying down our road.
Having lived here for six months now, it has come to irritate me greatly. It took me awhile to put words to my irritation, but here’s what it comes down to: disrespect. I felt disrespected by the non-residents flying down my road.
This led me to realize that whenever we speed, we are being disrespectful both to the residents of that area AND to the local law enforcement officials…and to God. So, I decided to stop.
It has been a process, and I’ve learned a few things along the way:
1–I care FAR too much about what strangers think of me…
It is amazing how much I’ve been tempted to speed because someone gets really close to my tail and I get anxious–not because of safety, but because I don’t want them to (1) think I’m a bad driver or (2) get angry and call me names that I can’t hear anyway. It sounds ridiculous written out, but it’s true! Why on earth do I/we care so much about strangers being upset with us because we are obeying the law? (Working on this…)
2–It is AMAZING how many people speed…
I can honestly say that I’ve felt very isolated in my quest to obey the law. Related to number one, it is amazing how many times I’ve been passed in recent months…and it has been humbling. And it has surprised me, because the local police here in Harrisburg/Hershey are ALWAYS looking to catch speeders. Always. I think they’re bored 😉 But seriously, I didn’t realize before just how many people choose to disobey the speed limits continually.
3–Speeding doesn’t really save that much time…
That’s an argument I hear quite a bit from those who choose to speed–that it saves them time. From my observations lately, unless you’re doing 100 mph, you will likely not save more than a couple of minutes. Yesterday I was passed by someone on a two lane highway who was in SUCH a hurry…we got to our destination at the exact same time due to lights and other cars ahead of him doing the speed limit. 🙂 And yes, that made me happy inside. Working on that, too.
I’m sure there will be more lessons learned as I continue my quest to not speed…but this is what I’ve learned thus far.
When I read the book “Radical Together” by David Platt, among the MANY awesome quotes that I wrote down, there was one quote that really resonated with me:
“We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in order to experience the great things of God.” (page 9)
What a profound statement that encapsulates so many of the issues I see in the Church in America today…we are so focused on programs and entertainment rather than being missional and building the Church like Jesus did, and it is detrimental in so many ways. Simple is the way to go. We have to be willing to let go of “good things” to make room for what God wants to do.
I also think we can rephrase this slightly to apply more broadly to our lives:
“We must be willing to sacrifice good things in life in order to experience the great things of God.”
“Sacrificing the good for the great” is a phrase you will hear in our home quite often these days, because it has really challenged how we approach life and it’s helping us to learn to say “no” much more. It has helped us to look at our lives with a long-term perspective rather than focusing on the “instant gratification” that is so pervasive in our society.
What does this currently look like in our daily lives?
- Sacrificing (insert item/activity here) for the “great” of being debt free in a year. Financial freedom will allow us to more freely serve God wherever He leads, so we’re running with “gazelle intensity” toward that goal.
- Sacrificing that piece of cake/junk food for the “great” of losing weight and being healthy.
- Sacrificing (insert activity here) for the “great” of having a strong and healthy marriage due to time invested in each other.
- “Sacrificing” every other weekend to be relief houseparents at the Milton Hershey School for the “great” of investing in the lives of these precious children.
Taking the time to evaluate where we are spending our time and money has really changed our perspective…and I’m really excited to see what God does as we continue to seek to serve Him more fully with our resources.
In January 2011, I spent some time pondering what I wanted to accomplish during the coming year. I set a few goals that I successfully accomplished–being intentional about frugality, specific friendships, and a few other things. Intentional was the key word for 2011. And I believe that we succeeded.
Brennan and I were intentional about simplifying our lives in order to be less busy and more effective/efficient. We were fairly successful and found a great joy in living simply. The word “no” is an amazing thing! 🙂
So, for 2012, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to focus on at first…until Jon Acuff, a great author and speaker, issued a challenge to his readers called “Finish Year”. Essentially, he discovered that while he is great at starting things, he never finishes anything, and he challenged us to make a list of things that we want to finish this year. This really resonated with me, and I began thinking/praying through what I want to finish this year. Brennan and I have also set joint-goals of things that we want to finish together.
I am going to try to blog at least once a month with my/our progress for accountability purposes, and in hopes that this will encourage someone else to finish something.
So, here are the things that we are going to finish this year:
Brennan and Lesa:
* Finish one book a month minimum
* Finish emergency fund ($1,000)
–Open new savings account specifically for the emergency fund
* Finish paying off credit cards by December 2012
* Finish using all Groupons/gift certificates
–print them all out and schedule on calendar as “date nights”
* Finish protecting important documents by purchasing a “fire safe”
* Finish losing 30 pounds and keep it off permanently
* Finish organizing clothes in bedroom (i.e. figure out solution with tiny closet) and keep them organized
* Finish YouVersion Bible reading plan
* Send 60 thank you notes this year (5 per month); finish sending wedding thank you notes (30 left…terrible, I know!)
* Finish purchasing “secret sister” gifts so that I am always prepared (this is a year-long church ministry)
* Finish organizing attic and put everything in plastic containers for protection from mice/temperatures
If I successfully accomplish these goals, I will add more throughout the year…but this is a good place to start. I have many more ideas that I can add!
2012 will be another year of living intentionally. We are going to be forced to become more disciplined in many areas of our lives once we are on a regular Milton Hershey School house-parenting schedule (every other weekend) due to the time commitment that ministry will involve, and I am looking forward to the challenge that will bring. Already, I know that this will mean less mystery shopping and (hopefully) a different work schedule to allow me time to take care of our home and various errands during the week more efficiently.
This year will be another year of continuing to live frugally, as our goal is to have no credit card debt by the end of this year. The task is daunting and will require great discipline, but the freedom that will come from being debt-free makes it all worthwhile! God has abundantly blessed us and continues to provide for all of our needs, and we can’t wait for the freedom to give even more to provide for the needs of others! Gazelle intensity!
I recently read that we can live with the pain of discipline or we can live with the pain of regret, and I’d much rather have the former. With discipline comes peace and joy, and that’s what my heart desires! As the Bible says, discipline isn’t always fun, but in the end it is fruitful.
Most importantly, we want to remain intentional about keeping God at the center of our marriage and our lives, because without Him, we will fail miserably on our own. He alone needs to be our focus and our purpose!
Let “Finish Year” begin! 🙂
I got this book in the mail this afternoon, and I have already finished it. I couldn’t put it down. The book “I Am Second” is filled with stories of hope, of eventual joy and peace, and of the power of Jesus to change lives dramatically when we put Him first in our lives and make everything else “second”. I was absolutely intrigued from cover to cover.
The stories are well-written and compelling, and they are all so unique not only in their circumstances but in their diversity of characters. Some are famous, some are lesser known. Some are athletes, and some are ministry leaders now because of their life stories. All of the stories point to Jesus and His transformational power that is astounding.
One story in particular that really spoke to me was the story of Jeff and Cheryl Scruggs–a couple who got divorced, found the Lord individually, and eventually remarried. What a powerful example of God’s incredible life-changing power!
By reading these very real, very honest stories, God’s strength, love and power is made so evident; my heart was filled with hope, with love, and with awe at the God of the Universe who loves us so much that He brings us out of our despair in order to bring us freedom. His grace is abundant!
I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone… who is in need of some encouragement, or perhaps needs to see examples of how God works in His children. If you love reading true stories, you will love “I Am Second.”
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
…so here goes. 🙂
I used to be so good about blogging and journaling. I’m not sure what has changed, or why I’ve found it so easy to just not write at all. However, I realize that it is an important exercise and I need to be writing things down so that I don’t forget what has happened.
Life has been GREAT. Not challenge-free, of course, but truly great. We can’t complain.
Most recently…we got nearly 10 inches of snow this past weekend. The last time that our region had an October snow was in 1972, and they received 2 inches. So, to say that this was record-breaking is an understatement. I’m having a hard time thinking about winter coming, so I’m not going to take the next few weeks of 50-60 degree weather for granted! Here in Hershey we are definitely ready for “normal” weather for our area…not 70+ inches of rain in a year!
Brennan and I are LOVING living in Hershey. We are SO close to work, we have great neighbors, we love our new place, and it’s been an absolute blessing to live here already. It’s amazing how God brings us exactly what we need!
We are five days away from celebrating our first anniversary…and I am amazed at how this year has flown! A year ago, I was in Red Bluff, crazy busy, just ready to be married and have the wedding planning/executing over and done. Now, we are happily married, enjoying every day, and are SO thankful to be done with wedding craziness! 🙂 We’re celebrating our anniversary on Friday/Saturday by staying at a very nice place, and we will eat our (currently frozen) cake and sip our apple cider (from the wedding) on Sunday. It’s going to be a restful, wonderful weekend, celebrating the blessings of our loving Lord who brought us together!
We are praying through several decisions right now in terms of ministry opportunities, and it’s really exciting to see what God is bringing our way.
We’re being very intentional about slowing down our schedule and spending more time at home, which has been very good for me. I’ve literally started writing down “stay at home” days on my calendar because I have a tendency to fill up every spare minute with some activity…and I’m worn out. It’s incredibly difficult, but I’m getting better at just relaxing at home every once in a while!
Speaking of resting, I finally sought out medical assistance for my knee which was injured on November 20, 2008 in a car accident. I have an MRI on Thursday morning to determine the next course of action, which may be surgery if it is indeed a tear. God is in control, and we are trusting Him with logistics (living/working on the second floor, for instance)and finances!
God is at work all around us, all the time, and I’m loving watching Him work. When I moved to Harrisburg in 2008, I never expected to find such diversity here in terms of people and countries represented. But, I am constantly finding out about other cultures who are making their home here–such as Haitian refugees, Burmese refugees, etc. And I love it! God is bringing people from all over the U.S. to Harrisburg to plant churches and to reach out missionally to these people, and I am excited for us to be part of this!
Brennan and I are heading to California in January to celebrate Christmas…two weeks late. Why? Because we are saving $800 in air fare! It is incredibly expensive to fly anywhere at Christmas-time, but especially to California since it’s such a tourist destination. So, we decided to think outside the box and found tickets for $400 total roundtrip for BOTH of us! God is so good! I can’t wait to see my family!
It’s been a great first year of marriage, and I can’t wait for each one to follow.
Just a few thoughts on this Monday morning…
Time seems to crawl so slowly as you are living day by day, but when you look back it is amazing how fast it seems to fly. This year marks ten years since high school graduation, nine years since my first summer in Williamsport, PA as a missionary, six years since college graduation, and three years of living in Pennsylvania.
It truly feels like yesterday that I packed everything into my car and headed across the country with my mom, taking our time to enjoy the beauty of the United States. It doesn’t seem possible that it has been three years now.
In those three years, I have changed SO much. I am still trying to figure out what “career” fits me best, but determined two years ago that politics are not for me. That’s a huge change from who I used to be.
I traveled to Haiti last May and was forever changed by the realities there…I will never look at wealth/poverty the same way again. I traveled to Brazil last May and my church planting philosophy was forever changed…I want to plant churches the way that Jesus did: by being missional, not attractional.
I’ve had one full-time job, two part-time jobs (at the same time), have been a temp and have been unemployed. I’ve moved three times already (not including the move to PA) and will move again in September.
I’ve grown in my photography skills and have learned what I like to photograph and what I don’t enjoy.
I’ve established incredible friendships with godly, supportive, encouraging women here, unlike any friendships I’ve ever known. They have blessed my life in countless ways and have helped me grow through challenges.
And, perhaps the most obvious change: I am married. Eight months after moving across the country, following God’s calling, I met my now husband. How amazing our God is–that when we follow His call and live according to His Will, He blesses us more richly than we could ever imagine! We have grown so much as a couple in the past nine months of marriage, and I am SO excited about the growth to come! Brennan is my greatest support, my best-friend, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
Pennsylvania is my mission field. This is where God has called me to serve Him and to build His Kingdom. I came here with only that purpose in mind, a purpose from which I have strayed in the past year. I’ve allowed life to become “too busy” and realized recently that I need to constantly remind myself that I am here to help plant churches, to proclaim Jesus in every aspect of my life, and to bring glory to Him and Him alone through my actions/activities. Everything else needs to take second place to my mission here, now “our” mission here.
Three years…and what a fabulous journey these years have been.
Well, I have officially decided that I am moving to Pennsylvania…this is a decision that I’ve been thinking about for nearly 6 years, and especially in the past six months (since I went there in October)…
And I have decided that this is what I’m going to do! The Lord has opened some doors that I can’t deny, and I’m going to go for it. 🙂
I’m VERY excited!