I read a devotional recently that has been rambling through my brain. For me, those are the times that God is speaking to me, trying to work on something within me that needs refining.
The heart of the devotional was about who we are as Christ-followers and how His Spirit speaks to us – through loving words and ways rather than in condemnation or shame. It touched on the essence of James 1:9 “..be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry,” in essence because in that slowness to respond, we allow His Spirit to respond through us rather than spewing forth the crushing blows we often let escape our lips as humans. Hasty responses take that opportunity away from Him and are a result of living life on our own and not with His Spirit.
I touched on this in chapter 4 of my book – how important the words of affirmation are to our children, words like “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” and “I’m sorry,” and how these words are really the essential glue in all healthy relationships.
However, it goes even far beyond that. Hasty words leave a permanent mark in the hearts and souls of the recipients. I have struggled with the aftermath of being the recipient of hasty words all of my life. I’ve come to realize that a lot of my struggle comes as a result of my artistic personality. Take my wife, for example; her personality is logic driven. She has dealt with the hurts in her life from the standpoint of logic – seeing why the offender acted as they did, fully comprehending who she is in Christ, knowing she is not as those hasty words and actions of others might imply. Because of this understanding, she has been able to move past those hurts into healing. For me, on the other hand, the struggle is deeper. Being an artist, my personality is driven by emotion. My creativity thrives on what I feel – it’s the place where all of my songs are born. It’s also the place where all of my hurts are lodged. I can’t reason my way to healing; I have to daily take those struggles to Christ and allow Him to speak truth to them until it sinks in deep enough to allow the sting of those hurts to diminish.
In my case, when I react hastily to situations, I tend to react from this place of hurt, allowing negativity to pass from me to the person I am in relationship with at that moment. This, in turn, opens the distinct possibility that they will respond to someone else with the same negativity they received from me, in essence passing that along. So rather than having been an opportunity for me to pass on the love and spirit of Christ in this endless ripple of my actions, I have passed on something destructive.
There is more at stake from the ripples we make than just simply passing through this life. We can be part of a miracle; the sharing of God’s light and love to all we encounter, whether those with whom we have a close relationship or those we meet casually along our journey. What will you choose today?
It’s Monday morning again…..the beginning of a new day and a new week. I am an artist right down to my body chemistry. I really have a hard time starting the day alert and alive. I tend to really come to life around 6:00 pm and have a hard time winding down before 12:00 am. I’ve come to terms with this and work my schedule accordingly. But I still have to wonder if some of my morning blues could be changed with “mind over matter”. Psalm 118:24 says: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive; to let the passion for the mission God has given us be more dominant than the negatives that come our way; to want to jump up every morning and rejoice in a new day. In our own strength, it can be a daunting task.
But then that’s the key, isn’t it? It’s not by my own strength. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). And “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13). God’s voice is the only one we need to listen to. The closer we get to Him, the louder that voice will become over all of the other negative voices that try to discourage us on this journey.
So take courage, lean on His strength and rejoice in each new day He has given you!
“We’re part of a miracle….a complexity I can’t understand, me this grain of sand, now a pearl in the hands of eternity…it’s such a miracle.” A pearl is a precious thing, something that starts out as an irritant and ends up this beautiful treasure. I think it’s a great picture of who we are and the transformation that happens as we accept God’s gift and grow in His grace. God is eternity and He does have us in the palm of his hands, ALWAYS.
How can we be sure? Scripture speaks of it over and over again. Psalm 37:23-25: says: “The steps of a man are established by the Lord and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong. Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand. I have been young and now I am old. Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread.” And Psalm 18:30 tells us: “As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried; He is a shield to all who take refuge in Him.”
Having this assurance, we can go out and live our lives with decisive purpose, becoming the necessary vital part of the design – making and being the difference in this life that the Creator defined before the natural ever existed.
Live Large in His Grace!
This is a piece of today’s daily devotional from ‘Jesus Calling:’
“…Instead of single-mindedly pursuing some goal, talk with Me about it. Let the Light of My Presence shine on this pursuit so that you can see it from My perspective. If the goal fits into My plans for you, I will help you reach it. If it is contrary to My will for, I will gradually change the desire of your heart. Seek Me first and foremost; then the rest of your life will fall into place, piece by piece.”
It really is all about relationship with God – living out each day in the light of His grace rather than daily measuring our performance or lack thereof to a set of rules and requirements. Especially in times where the future is uncertain (like it seems my life has been for the last seven years), we need to cling to the fact that God does have a plan for us and as we draw closer to Him in relationship, we’ll be able to see those pieces fall into place one by one.
Live encouraged today!
I just finished watching “Trouble with the Curve.” What an awesome movie – if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. As the story developed, I was struck AGAIN by the ever-present issue of children not being whole because their fathers weren’t there for them. All the daughter in this movie solely craved was to be wanted by her father, to hear him say that he loved her. All her father lacked was the ability to talk to his daughter, to transparently share his feelings and tell her the whole story. It didn’t matter that there was more to the story that he was concealing – there was an apparent good reason for his absence. She didn’t know the reasons, so in her mind his absence was complete and outright rejection. Nothing she ever achieved, no matter how grandeur or impressive, was satisfying to her because he wasn’t there when she needed him (whether emotionally or physically) and he never expressed those valuable words – “I love you,” “I’m proud of you.” He might have communicated it to everyone else, but he didn’t voice it to her. Yes, this is the story line in a movie, but I hear it over and over again as I interact with people along my journey – this is a true and present reality for so many of us today.
I talk about working through this more in my book, but I have struggled through the same issues all of my life because my father never said those words to me. No matter how hard I worked for him, no matter how successful his company became under my direction, he never verbalized those words. As if almost by saying them I would stop being as diligent with my efforts. Now, my dad is not a bad guy at all – he’s got other amazing traits. I don’t know what issues he has struggled with that have kept him from declaring his pride to me directly, to transparently talk with me and work to have a relationship with me. I’ve been told that he has expressed his pride in me to others, but it doesn’t really matter. At almost 52 years of age, I really still yearn to hear my father say just once that he’s proud of me and the work that I accomplished as well as the man I have become.
Yeah, I know….. just get over it, right? Just be a man and suck it up. Just have confidence in yourself. Or as a Christ-follower, just lay it all at God’s feet. Forgive and forget. Nice platitudes. But the fact remains – I, like millions of other approval seeking children, have a void. Yes, God can and will fill it. He proves himself the Father to me every day, but the reality is that each generation that doesn’t hear those words of approval from their father does undoubtedly suffer. Now more than ever, it is imperative that fathers step up to the plate and start being what God intended for them to be – emotionally and physically present for their children, involved with their children, in open dialogue with their children, and in close relationship with their children – whether you’re a single dad, only having the kids part of the week or are in a solid marriage where you’re in the home every day. Children hearing the words “I love you” and “I’m proud of you,” especially from their fathers, is essential for the next generation to be healthy. It is essential for the generation after that and after that and so on and so on.
You see, we leave a legacy whether we realize it or not. I’m not talking about money or wealth. I’m taking about something far more important. It will either be one with long-lasting negative effects or one with confidence building positive effects. The choice is up to us as dads. And if your kids are grown and gone, it’s not too late. Make that stand today – pick up the phone and shower them with words of praise and adoration. That is really all they are waiting to hear.
As we contemplate our goals and all of the things we hope to accomplish this year, I think it is pertinent to evaluate our relationships. What do we want those to look like by the time this year is over? How do we want them to grow? Do some need to be improved and strengthened? Do some need to be maintained? Do we need to add some new ones? Maybe even need to end some. Are relationships even worth it at all?
Are we as individuals really important? Can we, in the large scheme of things, honestly make a difference? Isn’t that what we actually want to accomplish when our life is at an end – to have made a difference, to have our life here on earth count for something, for it to have mattered?
As I share this excerpt from my book with you, I encourage you to earnestly examine what you can do this year to leave that positive lasting legacy. Our life here on earth truly does matter!
ARE WE AS INDIVIDUALS REALLY IMPORTANT?As we continue along with the ever-changing progressions in the melody of this masterpiece work called life, we will all experience the wide diversity of genres and flavors that have been meticulously arranged by the sovereign Composer. As joyful as a carol or as solemn as the blues, with the serenity of a church hymn or the havoc in modern punk, whether the fellowship of a quartet or lonesomeness of a solo, these contrasting bars of notes create the very chords of our lives. Every intricate sequence determines who we are and who we will become, each section dependent on the notes that came before to carry us onward, the riveting brilliance of each individual’s life song producing a magnificent score in the orchestra of humanity.
Life IS painful. Relationships DO hurt. But EVERY ONE of us is a key integral note with a specific part in this masterpiece work that comprises the song of life. Just as George Bailey came to realize in “It’s A Wonderful Life”, a fictional movie with real life/real world relevance, the providence and fate of an entire town was counterbalanced by the life of one single ordinary person. The life and outcome of virtually every individual he interacted with was profoundly affected by his presence on earth. The very people they became in regard to behavior, disposition and temperament were also positively and vastly altered by their relationship with him. Even the lives of people in his town that may not have known him were undeniably improved by his existence. The movie depicts (as is true in real life) that if dozens upon dozens of lives are significantly touched by one single person in a favorable way, a corresponding equal result of detriment and loss could be the impact experienced by the absence of that life. Theoretically, the lives of many more individuals who were associated with the people that he connected with could also be positively or negatively shaken contingent on his contribution to the song of life.
Our lives really are interconnected like notes throughout a magnificent composition. They are like an ongoing, ever-changing song, in part being conducted by the Sovereign Composer with unmatchable eloquence, and in part by the notes themselves as they decide how they will respond and to what measure they will allow their significance to be executed in the ultimate achievement. “There’s more at stake from the ripples we make, than simply passing through.” Regardless of who we are, we will all generate ripples, whether seamless or flawed in the sea of humanity. In this chance of a lifetime and creative work of God, we have the opportunity to build relationships that have LASTING ripples – not only with people in our direct immediate circle, but ripples with enduring implications for multitudes of others down the line in coming generations.
Psalm 139:23-24 tells us “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
These verses humble me. Do I really want God to search me and know my heart (even though He already knows what’s there)? It really is not pretty when you get down deep and find the hidden hurts yet to be surrendered to Him and the hidden sins yet to be confessed to Him.
Do I really want Him to test me and know my anxious thoughts? I have so many anxious thoughts these days I try to keep at bay with my faith, especially on this journey as an independent author and musicianary. I know He is with me, He guides my steps and that He has a plan specifically for me. The earlier verses in this very chapter tell me so. But the reality of everyday living can feed our anxieties if we don’t turn them over to Him.
Are my motives pure – do I want people to hear God or hear me when I speak and sing? Are there any offensive ways in me that would hinder His message from coming through loud and clear?
When I put “me” aside and become totally transparent, allowing God into those places I’d rather keep hidden, I open the door for Him to continually mold, change and grow me into the person HE wants me to be to fulfill the purpose HE created me for.