Our Daily Nugget

We owe it to ourselves to find at least one nugget to focus on every day.  Whether it is trying a new exercise class, cooking a new recipe, learning a new skill, or increasing our vocabulary, our minds need to be challenged daily.

Our spiritual health deserves to be included as well.  I remember growing up being drilled on the reading-the-Bible-in-a-year program.  I’m not suggesting this is wrong, but what about a different approach?  Instead of a scripted paper directing my reading, I want to allow the Lord to direct my focus for each day.  My scatterbrain finds it much easier to take a verse or portion of a chapter and ponder it over the course of a day, and frequently my thoughts end up becoming blogs or topics that I speak about at church.
I had a nugget moment a few weeks ago while reading a book on my Kindle.  If the author ever reads this, I hope they forgive me because I can’t remember the name of the book!  The book was not religious—oh stop, yes, the pastor’s wife reads things other than the Bible (ha, made you smile)!

I ran across this paragraph:
When bones don’t heal properly, as a last resort, someone has to break them once more to reset them right.  Otherwise, that broken leg will keep us from being able to stand up straight and walk normally again.  Same with emotions.

When I read that I proceeded to turn my Kindle off, lay it down, and try to breathe normally.  This author just snuck up and smacked me! We can totally think we are over an incident because we “fixed” it ourselves, only to discover that true healing requires the Lord to reset our bones.  It may hurt like crazy, but in the end we will grow and be able to move forward.  He doesn’t put Band-Aids or a piece of gauze on our wound, He heals it from the inside out…completely.

I encourage you to look for your daily nugget.  There are endless possibilities for where it may take you!

Sales Meeting

When talking to people about the Lord, it can easily become a defensive conversation. We are all passionate about our beliefs and talking about faith can get very personal. Opinions can get loud and dogmatic or offensive.

We are all entitled to our own opinions and emotions. Start thinking of that as a positive thing!  How boring would this world be if we all felt the same and there were never comments, conversations, articles or sermons that made us think outside the box?

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells the parable of the sower. In verse 3 He says the “farmer” went out to sew the seed. The progress of the seed was determined by the seed and the conditions around it. When you share your personal testimony about your relationship with God, all you are responsible to do is sew the seed. You can’t force faith on anyone, you can’t control how it is received, or what the person feels about or does with the words you say.

You can’t sell people on God, because you can’t sell what you don’t own. Admitting we don’t control how someone responds to us while sharing faith is unsettling. We don’t like acknowledging that we can’t make something happen or fix someone when it is so obvious we can see what they need. Hope you sense the sarcasm.

We don’t own God, but we do own our own life story. When sharing, be honest, transparent and willing to open your heart. God is quite capable of tending to the seed and nurturing it. We should consider it a privilege that He even wants us to help with the process in the first place. I live in the South and farming is a large part of my community, maybe it’s time for me to start planting more seeds!

Dirty Boots

I read an article in Christianity today about a small town in North Dakota.  Their population has tripled over the last 10 years because of the oil industry.  This town has been flooded with workers seeking housing in a town that doesn’t have room for them.  There is no homeless shelter and the hotels stay booked weeks in advance.  Several churches have opened their doors for temporary housing for these workers until they are able to find a place to live.

I was thrilled by their Mayor’s comments.  First he mentioned that this was the perfect opportunity for churches to reach into someone’s life that might not otherwise have interest in religion.  He further told the magazine, “They (the workers) may not understand the whole process of trying God, but they will try the church.”

Everyone has this basic knowledge and pull to go to a church if they need assistance of some kind.  Even if they don’t “do” church, there is somehow an instinct to connect with a ministry if help is needed.  How much more should we as the body of Christ, or the “building” shine with big blinking, neon signs that read:
•    “I won’t judge you”
•    “I love you for who you are, right now”
•    “It is safe to talk to me”
•    “I survived, let me help you to survive”
•    “I honestly care about you”

Pastor Jay Reinke, another minister in the town said:  ‘A lot of people say, “Well, pastor, you can’t save the world.”  I’m not trying to save the world, but here’s a man standing in my office.  I can help this man.” We get so bummed out from the big picture of how impossible obstacles look that we can’t experience what is right in front of our face.  This town could easily have flipped out and refused to accommodate the new residents.  They could have viewed them as a looming mountain of despair.

Instead a few leaders focused on people and not situations, to be God with skin on to men desperate for basic human needs; shelter, food and more importantly acceptance.  The beginning of the article painted a humbling picture of the sun setting on a local church with a pile of work boots stacked outside the activity hall.  The heavy shoes were stained with oil and red dust.

That’s the perfect picture of humanity.  We are stained, tired old work boots BUT, they are left outside the activity building when we allow the Lord to stay in our hearts.  After all, he was looking for a place to stay just to be born.  When we allow Him residence in our lives, he doesn’t try to scrub us up, He just tells us to take off the old, dirty stuff, leave it and come in where life is being lived.

A Sweet Deal

Even though this is the age of technology, meetings, late nights at work, Facebook, soccer games, sub-divisions and networking; it’s really easy to feel lonely.  You may have hundreds or even thousands of contacts in your phone, email, and social networks.  You may be part of a large family that regularly meets for dinner.  You could be part of a mega church with thousands worshiping together weekly, but no one but you resides in your skin.  At the end of the day, when the noise shuts down and you crave those few hours of blessed rest, you alone are left with your thoughts, decisions and choices.

In 1 Peter 1:1-2 there is a precious reminder that none of us are overlooked, abandoned, misplaced or dismissed. I, Peter, am an apostle on assignment by Jesus, the Messiah, writing to exiles scattered to the four winds. Not one is missing, not one forgotten. God the Father has his eye on each of you, and has determined by the work of the Spirit to keep you obedient through the sacrifice of Jesus. May everything good from God be yours!

You may very well feel like an exile.  Maybe you feel insignificant or you have slipped from the Lord’s memory.  I know you are not alone in these feelings.  Depression is at an all-time high.  It can take medication, therapy, etc. to work through depression, but the biggest component of successful treatment is settling your mind on knowing that your Creator has His eye on you.

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you have been, what you have done, or even what has been done to you; our Daddy has our number.  He is a responsible parent (1 Peter 1:17) and wants our life to be energetic and blazing (1 Peter 1:13-16).

Let’s be honest, this is a hard concept to wrap our minds around, but allow me to take the pressure off—He never asked us to comprehend or understand it, just accept it as He offers.  It’s a gift. A gift is something given freely.  It’s a benefit, an offering…a relief.  In my opinion, we have a pretty sweet deal.  It cost God quite a bit to rescue us from this dead end life; do we realize how fortunate we really are?

Slow Down

1.  Slow down; God is still in heaven.  You are not responsible for doing it all yourself, right now.
2.  Remember a happy, peaceful time in your past.  Rest there.
3.  Set your own pace.  When people rush you, it’s okay to tell them.
4.  Don’t take simple things for granted:  watch water flow, corn grow, leaves blow and your neighbor mow.
5.  Taste your food.  God gives it to delight as well as to nourish.
6.  Notice the sun and the moon as they rise and set.  They are remarkable for their steady pattern of movement, not their speed.
7.  Talk and play with children.  It will bring out the unhurried little person inside you.
8.  Create a place in your home…at your work…in your heart…where you can go for quiet and recollection.
9.  Allow yourself time to be unproductive.  Rest is a necessity too.
10.  Talk slower.  Talk less.  Don’t talk.  Communication isn’t necessarily measured by words.
11.  Give yourself permission to be late sometimes.  Life is for living, not scheduling.
12.  Listen to the song of a bird—the complete song.
13.  Learn to stand back and let others take their turn as leaders.  There will always be new opportunities for you to step out in front again.
14.  Divide big jobs into little jobs.  God took six days to create the universe.
15.  When you find yourself being anxious, stop and ask “Why?”  The best musician is one who plays with expression and meaning, not the one who finishes first.
16.  Take time to read the Bible.  Thoughtful reading is enriching reading.
17.  Take a day off alone; make a retreat.
18.  Pet a furry friend.  You will give and get the gift of now.
19.  Once in awhile, turn down the lights, the volume, the throttle, the invitations.  Sit in the dark.  It will teach you to see and hear, taste and smell.
20.  Take a walk—but don’t go anywhere.  Journey is often better than destination.
21.  Count your friends.  If you have one true friend, you are unusual.  If you have more, you are blessed.  Bless them in return.

I’ve read through this list several times to discover that there are three items I need to work on.  First is #5.  I always rush through my meals so I can move on to the next thing.  I’m sure my body would be happier if I slowed down!  Second is #7.  I think I can speak for a lot of parents—it’s super easy to allow a toy to occupy your child’s time so you can do dishes, laundry and cook.  I can save some of that stuff for after he goes to bed!  Third, I need to spend more time reading my Bible.  I have been tracking my reading the last few days and I have really dropped the ball on this one.  I can get excited about reading a magazine on fashion, a devotional or a cookbook, but that energy kind of dissipates when it’s time to dig into the word.  What are some areas that you could improve on?  Be sure to recognize, and be thankful for, items that you are already doing!

I Will Go With You

Luke 9:23
“And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

One of the many Abraham Lincoln stories that have been told as true relates a day Lincoln went down to the slave block in Washington D.C. during the war.  He saw a girl being sold.  He took money out of his pocket and bought her.  Then he said to her, “Young lady, you are free.”  She said, “Please sir, what does that mean?”  Lincoln said, “It means you are free.”  She asked, “Does that mean that I can say whatever I want to say?”  He answered, “Yes.  You can say whatever you want to say.”  She asked, “Does that mean I can be whatever I want to be?”  He replied, “Yes, it means you can be whatever you want to be.”  She asked, “Does that mean I can go wherever I want to go?”  He said, “Yes, you can go wherever you want to go.”  And the girl with tears streaming down her face, said, “Then I will go with you.”

This young lady was rescued from a life of unfair treatment just because of the color of her skin.  After being set free she defined her freedom by following the man who provided it for her.
Jesus gave His life in the cruelest manner to provide freedom for us.  Freedom from emotional bondage, financial strain, oppression from relationships or religion…and the list goes on and on.  He has already defeated all these restrictions so we could enjoy every moment we spend here in preparation for eternity with Him.

All He asks in return is that we follow Him.  He will never take us into a place and abandon us; there has been too great an investment.  Step into the footprints that He creates, I’m sure you’ll find that it is a perfect fit.

New Year, New Attitude

We have all created those New Year’s resolutions that are frustrating, and impossible to keep. Here are 10 simple steps that I ran across recently that can help you be healthier, happier, and satisfied with your life.

  • Know yourself better. Figure out what makes you feel energetic and significant.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others.  There will always be someone richer, more attractive, smarter and more accomplished. Instead remember there are people that would trade places with you regardless of your situation.
  • Count your blessings. A few times a week, write down three things you are grateful for.  This is a powerful mood lifter.
  • Practice gratitude. Write a letter to someone who has made a positive impact in your life.
  • Take a brisk walk outside. Exercise is a natural mood lifter. Regularly breaking a sweat can be almost as effective in treating depression as taking medications.
  • Eat fish.   Omega-3 fatty acids have significant positive effects on brain health. They can lower incidences of depression and suicide.
  • Get adequate sleep. Seven to eight hours is essential to a strong immune system.
  • Strengthen relationships. Studies link a strong social life with increased happiness. People who have four or more close friends are more likely to describe themselves as happy.
  • Join an organization or club. Interacting with like-minded people provides some of life’s greatest joys.
  • Help others. If you made a list of the times you felt most happy, chances are some of them would connect to helping others. Many studies show that giving of one’s time, talent and money to others is one of the most effective ways to boost happiness.

Healthy Dining Out

We live in such a fast-paced society.  Families are always rushing to activities, appointments, commitments, meetings, etc.  Lunch time consists of eating at our desk or meeting at a local diner with potential clients.

Eating out has become a normal part of our lives to save time, multitask or because we are just too tired to cook at home.  Most of us try to be health conscious and make the best food choices possible.  Here are a few tips for dining out that will keep you on track to a healthier lifestyle.

  • If you are going to a restaurant that you are already familiar with, go ahead and choose what you will eat ahead of time.  This will keep you from making a quick last minute decision that will result in high calorie choices.
  • Drink a full glass of water before eating your meal.  This helps your digestive system process your meal and you will eat less because you feel full.
  • Try to avoid “all you can eat” buffets.  It is too easy to lose track of what you have eaten.
  • If dining with a group, order first.  You will be less likely to be influenced by what your companions order.
  • Order salad dressings on the side.  Dip your fork into the dressing first and then into your salad.  This will allow the flavor without the extra calories.
  • Choose whole grains over white breads.
  • When ordering meat or fish, ask for grilled or broiled.
  • When ordering a sandwich, replace the mayo with mustard.  Mustard has very few calories and will provide flavor to your meal.
  • Tomato based sauces have fewer calories than creamy sauces.
  • Slow down and enjoy your meal and the company you’re with!  When you eat slowly, your body is better equipped to tell you when you’ve had enough.  Ask the server to remove your plate so you don’t keep munching.

You Are More

There are some days when I am so overwhelmed by the love of God that I can’t even think straight.  I feel so overcome that I am unable to write about it, speak about it, sing about it, etc.  All I can do is smile, tear up, and sigh.  It is the ultimate, perfect contentment.  I can forget about my struggles, my finances, my faults, my daily rut, my burdens…and just feel loved.  I can cuddle in my Savior’s lap and just breathe.  I sense His patience with me, His passion for my existence, His desire for me to reach the potential He placed within me and His satisfaction to spend time with me.  It is so tangible that it is no longer just floating ideas, but concrete knowledge that makes my heart beat in the same pattern as His.

This experience hit me today when I heard Tenth Avenue North’s song “You Are More”.

There’s a girl in the corner
With tear stains on her eyes
From the places she’s wandered
And the shame she can’t hide
She says, “How did I get here?
I’m not who I once was.
And I’m crippled by the fear
That I’ve fallen too far to love”

But don’t you know who you are,
What’s been done for you?
Yeah don’t you know who you are?

You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.

Well she tries to believe it
That she’s been given new life
But she can’t shake the feeling
That it’s not true tonight
She knows all the answers
And she’s rehearsed all the lines
And so she’ll try to do better
But then she’s too weak to try

But don’t you know who you are?
You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create, 
You’ve been remade.

‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to

This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.

There is nothing else I can write.  This powerful song defines a relationship with the Lord and how much He loves us.

Fire in the House

The Bible is often referred to as a “living book”.  It is the only thing I have ever read that can show me love, healthy discipline, encouragement, and hope all in the same verse.  I can read the exact same scripture a month later and find something else that makes me go, hmmm….

My husband spoke about Daniel 3 a few Sunday’s ago.  The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is a very recognizable story that most of us learned at a young age.  As usual God showed me something new while my husband was reading his text. In verse 26 we read:  Nebuchadnezzar went to the door of the roaring furnace and called in, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the High God, come out here!”  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego walked out of the fire.

This verse seems pretty simple and straightforward, but there are a couple of things to ponder at your dinner conversation this evening.  Back in verses 19-23 we find that King Nebuchadnezzar is furious with our trio because they refused to worship a statue with the rest of the population.  The King has had a giant furnace erected to punish anyone who disobeys his commands.  As the story goes, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow to the idol so they are brought before Nebuchadnezzar.  He offers them a second chance, which they refuse.  The King then orders that the furnace be heated up 7 times hotter than normal.  The heat is so intense that it kills the guards that are dragging these guys to an opening to throw them in.
Check this out—you know God was up to something here because if the furnace took the lives of the guards before they could get close enough to carry out their orders, why didn’t the same demise come to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego?

This is certainly a real life example of Psalm 23:5:  “You treat me to a feast, while my enemies watch.”  King Nebuchadnezzar had declared that his power was greater than the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  He and the citizens of his kingdom were already witnessing the power of God!  I wonder if the King began to question anything at this point?

Let’s look at Daniel 3:26 again.  We already read where the furnace was heated to seven times hotter than its normal temperature.  It killed the soldiers who just approached it.  Here’s another point to ponder, how long did it take for the furnace to cool down enough that the King could go to the door to yell to our trio?  What was going through his mind during this time?  If he didn’t have any insecurities, why did he even take the time to yell for them?

I think my favorite part of this story comes in verse 27. All the important people, the government leaders and king’s counselors, gathered around to examine them and discovered that the fire hadn’t so much as touched the three men—not a hair singed, not a scorch mark on their clothes, not even the smell of fire on them! So visualize this.  All the really cool, smart people are analyzing the condition of the three defiant men.  Does it really even matter that there are no singed hairs or scorch marks, are they not missing the big picture that they are ALIVE?  Isn’t that just how we operate though?  We miss the big stuff for trying to pick at the tiny details!

So, not only did the Son of God hang out with them in the middle of their fire, when they came out they didn’t even smell like the trial.  Verse 25 tells us that the material used to bind the men burned off with no injuries to their skin.  Pretty ironic that this is the same fire that killed men who were too close. Sometimes our trials, our fires, are not for us.  They are to show someone else the power of God.  We throw hissy fits and holler for God to deliver us with one of those Scarlett O’Hara moments before we ever even get to the fire.

Deliverance doesn’t necessarily mean FROM the trial, but that you will come out of it without any negative traces of the event.  You will be hanging out with Jesus in the middle of it and allowing Him to shine through you when you come out of the furnace door.