Perspective

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Over the past year my life has been taken a detour. I started the year with a great job, in a great company and thought I had a promising future. As I begin the new year I am filled with hope of finding a new job and am wrestling with that mid-life question, “What am I going to be when I grow up?”

I thought I had it figured out, but HA! God obviously has a better idea. He just hasn’t clued me in on what that is yet.

If you are a student of God’s Word you know about detours. One of my favorite characters and stories, is Joseph’s. The poor guy was sold to be a slave by his brothers, was falsely accused of raping Potiphar’s wife, was then thrown in prison, then forgotten (for two years) and when he was finally remembered, he was summoned because Pharaoh needed someone to interpret his dream and FINALLY he is  promoted and put in charge of Egypt. Talk about the most ironic turn of events and most unexpected outcome…  that’s not even the end of the story. Unbelievable!

There are many stories in the bible that prove that life is unpredictable and the best part is… they bring us hope in our circumstances. God also gives us confidence that He will make all things work for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)

But here’s the thing, detours take us down roads we otherwise would not travel. Especially in our fast-paced world when our google maps (career, relationships, fast-food etc…) take us on the fastest route from point A to point B; we miss out on so much.

A couple weeks ago, my daughter and I found ourselves on a literal detour. We had the opportunity to see things we never would have otherwise seen. We also learned that it may have taken us longer to get to our destination, but we got to enjoy more time in the car enjoying conversation.

I’m not sure where this journey will take me and I’m not sure how long it will take before I see God’s plan revealed, but I am so grateful to have been given this time. Time with my family and the dedicated time needed to train a new puppy in our home. With each passing week I am getting the opportunity to catch up with people that I miss and friends I have not been able to stay in touch with. Not to mention, the pleasure of having quality time in my bible and uninterrupted, focused prayer time. I get to sit and read books, schedule middle of the day work-outs and increase opportunities to volunteer in my community and church. I see blessings everywhere and every day. With that great job that I had a year ago, I was missing out. Missing out on some pretty neat things.

So if you are on a detour – be encouraged, not discouraged. God allows detours, He has a plan for it, He is in it  and He will most certainly be on the other side of it. It will not last forever and while your waiting, seek Him with all of your heart. It brings you peace that surpasses all understanding and is a gift to be embraced.

Holiday Havoc

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If you are ridden with anxiety as Christmas events begin, I want to point you to a convicting story and remind you (and me) of those heart cutting words of Jesus in Luke 10:42, “but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

In this scene Martha, Mary’s sister, is frantically stressing out over the preparations and there’s little Mary, distracted and sitting around at Jesus’ feet. Martha pipes up, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

Allow me recite the voices in my head… [Insert whiny voice]… “How come you guys are sitting around watching that dumb football game when I’m stuck with all the cooking, cleaning, serving and garbage removal. How come for the past month I’m the one doing all the shopping, gift wrapping, tree decorating and cookie making?”

Yep, that’s me. Embarrassing isn’t it? I imagine God sitting on His mighty throne shaking His head. “Oh Sarah, when are you going to learn?”

So, just as God is God, he shows up in scripture at just the right time to remind me about what is important and how He wants me to conduct myself today and every day.  Which one of these verses speaks to you?

Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jeremiah 4:18 ““Your own conduct and actions have brought this on you. This is your punishment. How bitter it is! How it pierces to the heart!”

Galatians 6:4 “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,”

1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Titus 1:16 “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.”

So if you needed to hear this, as I did today, I hope that you and I will remember that we are celebrating the birth of Jesus, God’s son. God did not send His son to increase our stress, turn us into nagging, selfish, crabby wives and mothers. On the contrary, He wants us to mimic the thoughts, words, actions and deeds of Jesus so we can bring glory to him today and be a blessing. Let’s pass this chaotic Christmas finish-line with joy in our hearts, love in our actions and kindness on our lips.

Failure Rocks!

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Okay, I’m being facetious. Failure sucks! It makes you question a lot of stuff. “Am I stupid?”, “Is this REALLY what I’m supposed to be doing?”, “If not this then what?”

It overwhelms you with self-doubt. SELF-doubt. You not only start doubting yourself, your future, but your ability to be successful (at anything), but it draws up emotions – negative emotions – that otherwise wouldn’t have crossed your mind. Failing at something stops you dead in your tracks and spins you into a very unhappy place.  It begins with a pity party and if they devil can get a foothold, it will spiral into full fledged depression.

Why?

Why is really the question that we are seeking the answer to. “Why didn’t this work out the way I planned?”, “Why is this happening to me?”, “Why aren’t things going my way?”, “Why am I, I, I…?”  See the theme? At the center of MY failure (your failure) is something that didn’t go MY (your) way and according to MY (your) plan. Conclusion: Pride was/is the driver.

Does Philippians 2:3 NOT say, “Do NOTHING out of selfish ambition or vain conceit?” God sure has a way with cutting to the heart of it, doesn’t he?

So, here are the real questions that we need to be asking ourselves when we fail. 1 – What is God trying to teach me in this/What have I learned? and 2 – How might I realign my thinking (aspirations, plans, expectations…) to what God wants for me? How can I, do I, should I respond in a God-like way to this unplanned, unforeseen circumstance?

There is so much learning and character development that results from failure when we ponder and pray over these questions and get re-centered on God and His will, His plans and His desire for my life.

When this happens, the second part of Philippians 2:3 comes to the forefront, “but in humility, value others above yourself.” Humility – the exact OPPOSITE of pride.

Here is the takeaway in times of temporary setbacks, unmet expectations, disappointments and trials: Romans 5:1-4: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

Onward Christian soldier! It’s not about you [Me].

How To Pick Our Next President

Oval Office“Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17 NIV

I passively listen to the news as I get ready for work and one of the daily topics appears to be who just announced their candidacy for the President of the United States in 2016. Every one of their nomination speeches tout, “I am proud to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.” Immediately followed by their prescription, “This is what America needs… my agenda.” This is great! We need to know who these people are and if they have the credentials to fulfill our nations top job, but they are mere humans declaring what they believe is best for an entire nation; that’s a bold decree which takes courage and confidence. I applaud them all, yet pause to question, “Whose agenda is best for us?”

Have you read 1 Samuel lately? I’m in chapter 13 where Saul gets his undies in a bundle because Samuel doesn’t show up at his said time and he decides to take matters into his own hands and disobeys God (and Samuel) by offering a sacrifice. We do that don’t we? We get anxious when God is not providing answers and take matters into our own hands. Instead of putting our faith in God and waiting on Him. We are prone to run to our religious rituals as if to speed up the process or control outcomes. Little do we know that God could be testing our obedience and patience; a tough place to be when our circumstances overwhelm us. Saul was feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of the Philistines. The world is overwhelming right now, let’s not be prone to wander away from God and cling to the most enticing nomination speech.

We don’t need a leader rushes in and tries to “fix” things.  In Saul’s case, God gave the people a king because they were asking for it, yet the king (Saul) was more about himself than he was of God and for the people. If we evaluated our presidential nominee’s to discern who are the God fearing men and women that would certainly narrow the candidate pool.

As a follower of Christ, I want a follower of Christ to lead our nation. Each nominee brings an area of strength that will make them best in some areas, yet ALL have weaknesses. On the candid roster, we have a blend of strong business acumen, military and foreign affairs guru’s, medical and healthcare experts, tenured government officials who “get Government”, but we don’t have one that is best at everything. In a time when understanding the world and the enemies in it is critical, when healthcare is overwhelming – yet necessary – for reform, our government is corrupt, economy waffling and our national debt compiling… Who IS the best man or woman for the job?

Here’s my proclamation. If we chose a Godly candidate, God will use their strengths for our benefit and he will fill in the gaps where he or she lacks. We don’t need a King Saul in the office of President, we need a committed leader of faith. So evaluate carefully America. A Christian doesn’t come with a party label of Democrat or Republican, race or ethnicity, age, gender, net worth, education or social status. God can use them all if they are true believers.

Yes LORD, You Have My Attention NOW!

2015-06-20 10.21.12Let me set the stage. I was upset. OK, truth-be-told, I was downright mad. Why? We had a fight. The whole family – all four of us were fighting right in the parking lot of the rental car place. Please know that I had a head start on getting angry, because it was just last night when I first learned that I would be my husband’s chauffeur to the rental car place this morning. We talked about his trip to Minneapolis, but I heard that in the context of July, not June – not this week, not THIS weekend! Admittedly, my fault – I clearly missed it – but I was selfish, inconvenienced, facing the reality of unmet expectations – Mad!

TODAY was my family reunion and tomorrow is Father’s Day. How could he do this to me? “I” had plans and even though I was trying to get a grip on myself, my oldest daughter, unknowingly, stirred up all of my emotions and I lost the fight.

To my husband, she says, “Wait a second, where are you going?”

“Minneapolis!” He responds, “I have to work!”

She shoots back, “When was someone going to tell me this? I thought we were going to breakfast.”

“Breakfast?” I darted, “No! Dad’s going to Minneapolis and we’re going up north for the family reunion.”

In further shock and now in an even higher high-pitched tone, “WHAT! Are you kidding me? I’m not dressed for a family reunion, I thought we were just going out for breakfast and how was I supposed to know we had a family reunion? If we’re going to a family reunion, we have to go back home (25 minutes away) because I need to change, I’m not wearing THIS. Are you kidding me?”

[Insert additional drama from, now, four emotionally charged people.]

My husband asks, “What time does it start?”

10:00!” While looking at the clock that reads 9:52, “…And we’re an hour and a half away!”

I think you get the picture… We’re late and I’m upset that I don’t have a husband to join me at the family reunion, he’ll be gone for Father’s Day AND two teenage daughters with really bad timing to add to the dilemma.

As I drive away, the car is silent. I needed that, at that very moment, because my head was spinning. First, I wanted to justify that I had every right to be upset and that it was fine that I vented. After all, I had these feelings pent up for almost 15 hours so I was finding any excuse that I could to rationalize why “I” wasn’t the one who was out of line.

Then my irrational thoughts start moving to analysis of the problem. How did this happen? How did she not know? What do we need to do to communicate better? Why do I feel so angry with this whole situation? I ultimately knew that I couldn’t control any of it.

Slowly coming down from the adrenaline of it all, my attention was redirected to the radio; the Christian “Weekend Top 20 Countdown” was on. I knew that this is exactly what I needed, a song lyrics to help me get re-centered and help me come to grips with this. I was just starting to calm.

Then it happened. I’m stopped at the stop sign and I looked to the right as my eyes followed the car speeding past. Already looking to left and no cars coming, I pull out. Seconds later I hear, “Mom! Look out!”

I didn’t know what was happening and I didn’t know which way to look. I just kept my eyes forward, slammed on my breaks and prayed, “LORD, NO!”

I no sooner thought the words and a maroon mini-van came speeding, as if in slow motion, from my right. As I gauged its speed and the timing of it’s ability to clear my path in my peripheral vision I actually thought, “We’re going to make it!”

[SMASH!]

I felt a pressure on my chest; it was the airbag. Not fully grasping that, I looked to my left now, only to see the mini van sliding across the highway with the front-end now facing back at me. My car idled to a stop on the other side, debris everywhere.

People appeared from every direction. I sat in the drivers seat in shock, wondering what just happened?  Am I OK? Yes.   Are my kids ok? As I searched for the answer they were tugging at my drivers door. “Mom, open the door!”

I unlocked the door and my oldest daughter embraced me with a hug. “Mom, are you OK?” That’s when the tears started to flow. “Yes… Are you guys OK?”

That’s when I saw the mini van with it’s back door slid open and I thought, “Oh NO! Was there a baby in the car?” I tried to run, hollow heels were clicking across the pavement, and I quickly approached the van. Shaking, but speaking, she says, “We’re OK! Are you guys OK?” I looked in and there were two beautiful brown-eyed little girls looking at me and a reverse facing toddler playing with his Elmo shoe. They were OK.

“Oh Thank You God!”

So God got my attention and this is what he said, “This is how quickly you could lose them and your life be changed forever. You may be disappointed that the weekend isn’t what you had planned, but guess what, roll with it. It’s not worth the fighting, it’s not worth the hurt feelings and it’s definitely not worth the anger. Inconvenience? I’ll show you inconvenience, now you get to deal with insurance companies, deductibles, collision centers, lack of transportation and a $175 ticket for not yielding to the right-of-way that until now you took for granted. Oh, and by the way, it’s not about you, it’s never about you so you better get your priorities straight.” Love, God

So we made it to the family reunion; five hours late. There was an applause when we entered the room and it felt GREAT! My Facebook page is streaming with praise and relief which in and of itself warms my heart to have so many caring friends. As for the car ride to and from the reunion… none of us uttered another harsh word and we had a very spiritual and God-pleasing conversation about how lucky we ALL were. If I would not have slammed on my breaks, she would have t-boned us at 45-50 mph; it could have and would have been so much worse.

I’ll deal with all of this inconvenience and all things considered – I’m happy to. I have my life, I have my family and I have a God who loves me enough to get my attention and remind me what REALLY is important.

Jeremiah 29:11-12, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”

When Commitments Collide

The text message reads, “As soon my son walks across the stage and receives his diploma I will leave for class. He’s graduating high school tonight.”

My response, “No way. You stay until you get that Father/Son post-graduation picture and send it to me, THEN you can come to class. Class can wait.”

What was this father going to sacrifice? A grade, ridicule from fellow classmates, a missed lesson in ethics class, some lecture from me, the teacher, on being a responsible adult? In the overall scheme of things, so what, right? We’re talking about a family milestone and a chance for a Dad to give a huge “atta boy” to his youngest son; something far more important that any of the aforementioned consequences.

What saddens me is two things: 1) There are teachers out there that would have said, “Great! See you when you get here,” and then have some penalty for tardiness with strict academic by-the-book justification, and 2) Adult students who would have made class (a grade, image, etc.) the priority in their decision.

I may have been one of those rule-abiding teachers had I not had my wake-up call when I was in my own graduate program. I missed class for being out of town for a work conference and the following week I was vacationing with my family 3 hours away. As I stripped myself away from my family to “make it in time for class” I knew my life/my choice was out of balance. I contacted my teacher and told him I was turning around and that I couldn’t justify missing time away from my family when I had just missed class (and my family) the week before. He told me I was doing the right thing, but he needed to drop me a full grade for having two absences and he did, I got a B for the class. I obviously didn’t graduate with a 4.0, but I’m more proud of that ‘B’ than any ‘A’ I ever earned. I learned a valuable life lesson from that and still earned a graduate degree.

Don’t get me wrong, when you have responsibilities like school and work, the right thing to do is to follow-though and honor our commitments. I also appreciate this gentlemen for his willingness to compromise; trying to make both work, because I also value his sense of obligation to being in class too. After all, I too am away from my family to teach class. Time is precious and there is no responsibility greater than family and I feel truly blessed to have paid-it-forward.

After class he came up to thank me and thanked me. Sharing that his son was beaming when he saw that he was there for the whole ceremony. What really brought me to tears is that he said his son was fine with the fact that Dad had leave early to get to class, but when he saw that he had missed class and was there for the whole ceremony, he was extremely happy. That is what made this story all the more special and inspiring for me.

I praise God for giving me the discernment that this is where this Dad and student needed to be. I pray that this young man will make the right choice for his family when his adult commitments collide. To me, these smiles are priceless; a life experience that no tuition can teach.

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Rehash Your Life

On Life's Journey

“It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. 18 And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” Joshua 24:17-18

As I read Joshua Chapter 24 and how the LORD, through Joshua, spelled out deliberately all that He has done for them, it made me think of the recount God may give of my life…

“Sarah, I gave you breath, your parents, your siblings, that scar on your knee. I saved your neck from being broken when you did that dumb stunt in the barn and comforted you with kind nurses when you were hospitalized from appendicitis. I protected you from that boy your parents didn’t approve of, I gave you that internship that helped you launch your career. I brought you out of credit card debt, gave you a husband and two healthy, beautiful smart daughters. I drew you into fellowship with other believers, I orchestrated that conversation with your mother-in-law that ultimately sent you searching after Me. I gave you that strong-willed personality, your passions, your drive, your heart for people.”

I can go on and on, but here’s my point. It’s all His. Everything I have, everything I am, all that I have been through – good and bad – He has had a hand in it. He disciplines me because he loves me and He reminds me that I’m not created to be prideful, self-reliant, self-serving or arrogant. He keeps me on the right path.

So today I’m praising God for my life, and I have surrendered it to Him. But when the Isrealities made that profession, here is verse 19-20, Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

Remarkably, here is their response in verse 21-22, But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

We are witnesses, all of us who are believers… Live out today, our commitment and decision to serve the Lord.