Real Life

How Studying the Bible Changes You

I was so perplexed and started to grow angry. Was she kidding? No, there was an unpleasant glint in her eye that gave credence to her words.

My daughter had been given permission from the guy at the top of the bridge to have her baby’s car seat in the plane. When we arrived in the plane, the stewardess informed us in no uncertain terms that this would not be possible. She condescendingly told us it was a full flight and she highly doubted there would be room for his seat. But the plane was far from full. So not only was she rude but she lied. We did question why permission was given at the top, which seemed to set her against us. She continued her churlishness with us throughout the flight. This same stewardess was quite rude to the rest of family behind us as they made legitimate requests. It’s hard to believe that someone like that has a job working with people.

A few moments before the flight started, a man came and very kindly explained that, due to Covid, car seats were no longer allowed on the smaller planes. While this didn’t make any sense to us at all, his calm and kind manner as he explained was comforting after the stinging meanness of the stewardess. (They all seemed to be rather confused as to protocol regarding car seats and the rules about them. It was very disorganized. It does seem like we now live in a world where anything and everything can be blamed on Covid. It’s actually very strange.)

As we taxied on the runway and then took off, I could feel myself growing angrier and angrier at this woman. I wanted nothing more than to be rude back to her. But about fifteen or twenty minutes in, as I started to settle down, it dawned on me that she was very likely unsaved and that I had a Christian testimony to keep. While I (to my shame) did not go out of my way to “kill her with kindness”, I did manage to hold my tongue and to mumble a “thank you” a time or two as she brought things by.

I do long for the day that I can overcome my flesh in these situations and actually be extra kind when someone is so incredibly rude to me (or my child.) But Sunday was not that day.

The next morning, I was reading in Matthew and I came across these verses in chapter six–

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

I thought about this lady from the day before and remembered the danger of holding grudges. I thought of how anger and bitterness shatter all relationships–whether it be with a stranger, a customer, a person at church, a friend, or a family member.

Unforgiveness and bitterness destroy everything in their path. It can never be allowed to set up residence in our soul. Even over the small matter of an extra-ordinarily rude stewardess. At that moment, I chose to forgive her. I wished I had been able to do that on the plane so that I could have been a better testimony. I will probably never see her again and that chance is gone.

So, honestly, I am not a big one for flying. Flying with masks is far worse. But the thing that had me the most worried was that all of the women, save one, in our family were on the same plane for four different flights. About two weeks before we had left this hit me and I grew incredibly worried about something happening to all of us at the same time. Enter Matthew, chapter six again. It was from the end of that chapter that I drew much comfort and chose to trust the Lord.

You see, in the Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge we have been reading Matthew 5-8, which contains the Sermon on the Mount. There have been so many times that what I have been reading and studying over this past month have been practically applied to my daily life. I gave just two examples above but there are so many more. The scriptures have exhorted, reminded, encouraged, and rebuked me. They truly are life-changing.

Any good in me, any right response, is the Holy Spirit working through the Word to transform me and make me look more like Christ. It has nothing whatsoever to do with me or my efforts to be a “better person”.

I wish I could get every single person who claims to love Jesus to actually study the Word. It would change the world because it changes the individual.

If you’d like to study the Bible but aren’t sure where to begin, I’d like to invite you to join this year’s Bible Reading Challenge. It’s a great time to join because we will begin the book of Ruth on April 1st. You can find the details here. I would love to have you join me in studying God’s Word.

But any study of God’s Word is life-changing. The key is to get started. Paul tells us in I Timothy 3:16-17–

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

If we want to be transformed by the Word, it will require study and meditation. Cursorily reading it isn’t a bad thing but it could be compared to a lollipop in its sustenance regarding our spiritual health.

Life happens. Every day we face various trials and challenges. Big ones and small ones. We face rude stewardesses, customer service reps, and clerks. We find out a company scammed us or cheated us or didn’t receive our payment. We learn that our child or spouse or family member did something very disappointing. We find out that someone passed away, is getting divorced, or has been diagnosed with illness.

God has told us how to respond to these things and so much more in His Word. But if we don’t know it, we are missing out on the greatest strength and guidance God has offered us. Let us not ignore this wonderful gift God has given us for this life.

 

 

Those Deceptive, Capricious Feelings

In the past year or two, God has been showing me how much I have lived by my feelings. Oh, when I compared myself to the world, I looked pretty good. I didn’t live by my feelings so often that it was ruining my life. Not like some people. Or was I? It has been something that I have been thinking on for awhile but it intensified greatly when I started experiencing extreme anxiety during this past summer.

I became aware that I was most definitely living by my feelings. I was allowing them to control me. They were ruling my thought life, my choices, and…well…pretty much my entire life.

When I felt anxious or scared–which, at one point, was almost every second of the day–I became a different person. I was allowing these feelings to change me. To direct my path.

But I guess most of us do this in one way or another. We don’t “feel” like doing anything productive so we scroll through Facebook or mindlessly watch TV. We “feel” like eating that second helping or that third cookie and so we eat instead of practicing self-discipline. We see something in the store or online that we “feel” like buying so we buy it, even if we can’t afford it. We don’t “feel” like talking to that annoying person (who needs Jesus) so we walk the other way. We “feel” scared to share the Gospel with someone so we just don’t. We “feel” angry with our spouse or our child and this dictates how we treat them–whether through yelling at them or by giving them the silent treatment. We “feel” scared or shy or excited or frustrated or sad–and these feelings dictate our choices and responses.

It’s a very human thing to do.

But it is not godly.

Living life according to our deceptive, capricious feelings is a very natural way to live. But it is not a godly way to live.

Recently, my dear friend, Becky, passed away after a 2 1/2 year battle with cancer. Before she died, she wrote a post (find it here) for the “Changed Lives” series. One thing she wrote really struck me while I was in the midst of my battle with fear–

“Then one day while pondering all this, I started asking myself, “Do I really believe God is Who He says He is”? I grew up in a Christian home singing the hymns of the faith, hearing the Word preached, memorizing Scripture, and hearing of other fellow believers’ experiences of God working in their lives and carrying them through life’s storms. But now that I was put into this position, what was going to be my anchor? Do I really believe God about His character, His promises?

Then and there is when I made up my mind that I do believe God, and Who He claims to be in His Word. That is when I found peace, His peace the passes all our understanding! And along with that came the deep seated joy!”

Becky lived out this peace and joy. Oh, she had moments of doubt and fear. Life wasn’t perfect. But when I’d visit with her, I’d come away encouraged by her love for the Lord and her trust in Him, in spite of all of the hardness life sent her way during that time. There was genuineness to her joy that only God could have given. There is no other possible way.

As I thought of what she wrote, it became clear to me that Becky had to make a choice. She had to make a choice that went beyond what she felt about her circumstances.

We are called to do the same.

Satan would like nothing more than for us to be imprisoned by fear or anger or a desire for pleasure. He wants us clad in iron chains or to be so far down in a dark, miry pit that we are rendered ineffectual for Christ. And it’s easy to land there if we are controlled by our feelings. The power that sin and Satan have in our lives is directly correlated to the power we give to our feelings.

I am not sure that we can ever master control over our feelings on this side of heaven. In fact, I’m sure we can’t. But we can certainly make progress.

However, first, we need to be aware that we are doing it. I believe living by how we feel has been so thoroughly ingrained in us, so consistently lived out by those around us, so pushed in the media and entertainment worlds, that we may not be aware that this is a problem.

Feelings change. But the Word of God never changes. Feelings lie and deceive. But God’s Word is Truth. Feelings often lead us in the wrong direction. Scripture always leads us the right way.

May we think through our lives and reflect on what our many choices each day are based on. Are they based on the truths and commands and promises found in scripture? Or are they based on how we happen to feel at the time?

 

A Quick Update

Good morning! I won’t be writing a regular post this morning but, instead, wanted to fill you in a bit on what’s happening with me. My next four to six weeks are extremely busy. Let’s just say between the extra work load at the office we are experiencing currently as we prepare for Christmas decor and snow removal and with several added and unexpected things thrown in there, I am more than a little overwhelmed.

With that being said, I am not sure how much I’ll be around until mid-November. I may be able to get a post off at the end of the month, but we shall see.

I did want to let you know that one of my dear friends is coming to take my spot in the office of our landscaping business at the end of the month. It was just so amazing how God worked it all out. Of course, we still need to make sure she actually likes the job, but we are both very hopeful it will be a good fit.

I wanted to personally thank those of you who have prayed for me with all of the changes this year and who have prayed along with us for just the right person to fill that spot. I know a few of you have been faithfully praying and I am so grateful. God has been so good through the whole year, showing Himself so faithful and teaching me so much.

Looking back over this past year, I can truly see His hand working it all out in the way it needed to be. As one of the owners, I really needed to be in the office, familiarizing myself with the new program. And, while I don’t love billing and invoicing (my responsibilities this past year), I did love working with our office staff. They are a fun group of people that loves the Lord and it’s a great environment. While I won’t miss the job, per se, I will miss working with them.

Through it all, God has even provided an opportunity for me to speak at an upcoming national Landscape Technology conference. (This is taking me wayyyy out of my comfort zone and sometimes I am not sure I should have said yes! While I love speaking opportunities with Christian ladies, this will be a completely new thing.) But I can see how this door was opened for me and I am hoping I have some real opportunities to be a light for Christ and to share the Gospel while I’m there. If you regularly pray for me, you can add this to the list. It’s in February.

As I think about not having to be over in the office three days a week, my thoughts have been turning in my head about what’s next. I have had several ideas and plan to introduce anything new to my subscribers first before making it public via social media. If you’d like to stay in the loop of what’s happening with Growing4Life, this would be a great time to subscribe to the blog (if you haven’t already). It’s super easy to do and you will find the sign-up box in the upper right, immediately below the photo of the Bible.

One thing that has really hit me as I have been thinking about all of this is that the time is so short. How can I best make an impact for God’s Kingdom with whatever time is left? This is the question that needs to be answered.

While I sort through all of those ideas, I do have a few things that are already in the works–

I plan to once again offer a Bible Challenge. The 2020 Growing4Life Bible Reading Challenge will be a bit different next year and I am super excited about it. Stay posted for details on that.

And I am thinking about doing a Christmas story again this year. I do love writing fiction and really enjoy this little taste of it that I get each year.

 

So, that’s a little about what’s going on here. Thanks, as always, for reading. So many of you are such an encouragement to me and I appreciate you taking your precious time to read what I write. I don’t take that for granted. I know there are lots of things to read out there and it’s no easy task to sort through all of that and decide what you will actually spend your time reading.

So thank you! And have a great day! :)

 

What I Learned from Jury Duty

A few months ago I got the letter. I was called to serve the county as a juror by showing up at the Courthouse at 8:15am on Monday, February 4, 2019.

I sighed. Jury duty is such an unknown. Will it be for one day or will it be for two weeks? It had been quite a few years since I had been called and my memory was not serving me well. I really didn’t know what to expect.

But whatever I did expect was nothing like what actually happened–to say the least. But we will get to that.

A month or so after that first letter, I received another letter. “You do not need to come for jury duty until Thursday, February 7, 2019.” I was so excited. I didn’t know why they changed it, but that meant I got half of my week back. I thanked the Lord and prepared to go on Thursday.

Going into a room of strangers and having to come to a consensus on a decision with them is not my idea of a fun time so I really wasn’t looking all that forward to this. But Thursday came and off I went to the County Courthouse to do my civic duty.

Here are a few things I learned that day–

1. I can live without my cell phone for a whole day. The first thing I saw when I arrived was a sign that said “Absolutely no cell phones on Floor___”. Ughhh. Now the day was going to be realllly long. I traipsed back to the car and said good-bye to my connection to the outside world.

After it was all over I realized that, not only did I survive a whole day without my cell phone, but I actually kind of enjoyed it. There is something extremely freeing about being without it. I do appreciate my phone and the communication it allows me with family and friends near and far, but to take a break for an hour or two or eight is definitely not a bad thing. It is truly amazing how your concentration level deepens without that thing calling your name all the time.

As I headed back to enter the building, I ended up behind two twenty-something girls yacking away. They lead me to my second lesson…

2. Give yourself plenty of time. I thought I had left in plenty of time (and I did) but I did not plan on a) having to park so far away, b) having to walk back to the car parked so far away to put my phone in it and then walk back to the building or c) having two girls ahead of me that took–literally–5-7 minutes (or more?) to get through the security at the Courthouse.

There were two rather elderly people manning the security and, although friendly enough, they moved about as fast as molasses in the winter. They pulled things out of purses, requested the girls remove their cigarettes from their jacket pockets and a few other various items; unhurriedly putting some of the unapproved items in plastic bags and tagging them for pick-up on their way out. It felt like an eternity. At this point, I am noticing that I am the only one in line behind them. All the other jurors must already be in place. I had no clock but I knew time was ticking away. When I finally rushed upstairs, I found my room and hesitantly entered, expecting to be greatly frowned upon for my tardiness. It was then that I learned another lesson…

3. Friendliness goes a very, very long way in setting people at ease. I walked in the door to receive a big smile from the lady there. “Hello, can I have your name?” She kindly joked and made conversation with all of us sitting there so stiffly and, in so doing, washed away a great deal of the nervousness most of us were experiencing. I knew the importance of friendliness before that day but it was a definite reminder that this goes a long way to make people feel at ease and cared about.

And, as believers, who should be more kind, thoughtful, and generous than we? It always greatly pains me to hear that so many in the world view Christians as unfriendly, stingy, and mean because of how some Christians act. How tragic! Today, let’s determine to be friendly to that mom in the store with the screaming toddler or to the grumpy store clerk. Let’s be extra-kind to the irritating co-worker or the mean neighbor. Let’s give a decent tip to that waitress who works hard for a low wage, depending on tips to make a decent living. And–perhaps the hardest thing of all–let’s treat our families with kindness and courtesy. Let’s not be one thing when we are out and another when we are at home. A real challenge, for sure, and one I am sure we all need to work on, but so very important. But I digress…

Anyway–

As we all sat there, the judge came in and told us that we would be serving as jury on a civil trial and it was a bit different than normal. Along with this information, he assured us that we would only be there for one day. I thanked the Lord right there and then (silently, of course!) I was just so relieved. And then the judge started asking a few questions. Does anyone know anyone related to the case? Did they ever hear of this case? A few raised their hands and were excused to leave. That left twenty of us. We walked into the courtroom to take some questions from the lawyers. After they had asked us questions, a few more were excused to leave. That left fourteen. At that point, the judge asked us if any of us would like to be excused due to personal convenience or schedule. (I mean..yeah…I wanted to go home, but I didn’t really have a pressing reason…) None of us raised our hands. “Okay, then we will just have fourteen on this jury. Let’s just pull up two more chairs.” Uhhhh….what..??

Which leads me to my next lesson…

4. When your mind raises a question it is probably for a reason. It was around this time that my mind started to turn. Either things had drastically changed since I was here the last time or there was something unusual about this case. It just didn’t seem quite right. I think this is often how God gets our attention about a false teacher or teaching. Our mind raises a question but we squish it down. Instead of researching and looking for the truth, we just ignore it and hope it will go away. Unfortunately, those questions often do go away, and in that process, our discernment muscle becomes weak and useless.

Okay, so back to the story…

Without giving too many details, the case was one where all fourteen of us had to come up with a single amount of money to award the plaintiff.

We spent the entire morning listening to both sides and then it was lunchtime. They brought us subs which we ate in the actual courtroom while we deliberated and tried to come to an agreement. We had about an hour and ten minutes to agree on an amount. Thankfully, in civil cases, you only need a majority. We needed 12 of us to agree. Doesn’t seem too terribly hard, right? Which leads me to my next lesson…

5. Every single person is remarkably different with greatly varying life experiences. Again–I knew this. Very well. But I was reminded of this as recommendations were hundreds of thousand dollars apart and consisted of everything in between. That was because everyone came at it from different perspectives. We finally were able to get nine of us to agree. But there were five more who wouldn’t budge. They felt very strongly and they refused to move even an inch. I started to realize that we would probably be there for most of the day and great frustration started to settle into my heart. It was just about that time I learned another lesson…

6. Just when you are ready to give up hope, there is light. Oh, this doesn’t always happen, of course, but, eventually, there is a little light or a silver lining or a bright spot that helps carry us on in a hard time. In this particular case, just when we were ready to throw our hands up in despair at ever agreeing, the judge came in and told us we don’t have all day (?? Another indication that this was not a normal trial!) and that we should all fill out these little pieces of paper with our juror number and the amount we thought should be given. I wrote down what I truly believed was the right thing to write down and I thought that was that…

However, I had one more important lesson to learn…

7. Be ready to defend your answer. Would I have written down the same answer if I knew I was going to have to give my reasons for writing it? I think I would have because I believed it to be the best answer, but I would have definitely thought twice.

But let me back up for a moment. We filled out our little papers and went back to our seats in the jury box. Those involved in the case gathered back into the courtroom. And then the judge proceeded to read each juror number and their answer.

It was around that time that the judge finally filled us in on what was going on. It was a new-ish thing to do–at least in our county–and had only been done a few times before. I am not sure of the real title of it, but it was like a “mediation trial.” They had gathered a jury to hear the case and to give their opinions, in order to give both sides a “reality check”, as the judge called it.

It is actually a fantastic idea. Instead of taking three to five days to listen to testimonies of doctors, police officers, and others involved (along with wasting hours of time and thousands of dollars) we listened to one testimony and saw two PowerPoint presentations. From this we made our decisions and these decisions were read by the judge. He was going to then take both parties, now that they had heard realistic settlement amounts, and try to come to some kind of settlement with them. It was a rather old case and I think all parties involved were ready to wrap it up.

After he had explained this to us, he did something else very unusual. He allowed the lawyers to ask the jurors questions. He even asked us one or two himself. It was completely unexpected but also very interesting. It was at this time that I was asked why I had written the specific amount that I had. I had to explain why I had written what I had written. I did feel like I gave a decent answer and I do hope they found it helpful.

But this made me think of how often we say or do things without being able or ready to give a defense. Especially as believers we should be able to take people to the Word and explain. It reminds me of I Peter 3:15–

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

Yes! I was caught off-guard and had to defend my answer. So, too, we may be caught off-guard as believers. It is so very important that we know why we believe what we believe, so that we are ready to give an answer at all times.

And, there you have it. An unusual day in the life of me. Thankfully, before we were excused the judge told us that this did count as official jury duty and we wouldn’t be called for another three years. Whew!

 

It’s Just a Car

The other night we arrived to set up a booth for our company at a local community fair just as it began to rain. The sky had looked threatening on our drive there, but little did we know what those clouds held. We were no sooner under the tent when rain began to pour out of the sky. Not drop, not shower, not stream, but pour.

As we stood there under our {aluminum} tents watching the rain, the storm that was bringing it drew closer and closer. Until suddenly it was right over us. Lightening with incredibly loud, cracking thunder immediately following. No counting the seconds in between to see how many miles away it was because there were no seconds to count!

At that point, I decided to take the short run to my car and wait there. Aluminum or no aluminum, I was going to get in my car. So I ran over and hopped in the passenger’s side to wait it out. I had no sooner closed the car door when I saw something flying towards my window. Someone else’s tent, complete with metal poles, had lifted in the wind and was attacking my car.

My daughter had seen it all happen and, as she opened the door to wait with me, she said, “Mom, you do not want to see what that just did to your car.”

It was raining too hard to even look at it, so I took the next few minutes to sit in the car and reflect on the unseen scratch. This car was purchased only a few months ago with no dents or scratches. It wasn’t new but it was new for me. Of all the cars we have ever owned, this one is my favorite.

But it is just a car.

I thought of those people who are impaled by umbrellas on a windy day at the beach. Could I have been hurt by that tent? Not impaled, but perhaps hurt. I missed that flying tent by just a few seconds. Literally. None of the many people huddling under tents at that fair had been struck by lightening or had been hurt in that frightening storm. There were just so many things so much more important than my car.

As disappointment washed through me, thanksgiving for God’s physical protection came along with it. So, too, did the realization of how minor this really was. I have some friends and family members going through some really serious trials right now and remembering them shrank the car incident into barely nothing.

Funny how perspective can do that for you.

No deep spiritual lesson today–only a reminder to “not sweat the small stuff”.

It is so easy for us to get so riled up about the stuff that doesn’t matter. And, normally, I would have a tendency to do that, but, oh, how things change when trials abound that are so much bigger and of so much more eternal weight.

Our goal should be to keep perspective even when we don’t have that comparison. To not sweat the small stuff, even when all seems right with our world.

No easy task, of course. But it sure does make life more enjoyable, doesn’t it? And, more importantly, these small annoyances and frustrations are good practice for us in learning to submit to God’s sovereign will and to maintain our testimony when things don’t go the way we planned.

As I climbed out of the car, I hesitantly turned and looked at that scratch. My daughter was right–it was pretty bad. I wondered how long it would take to get on the schedule for repair and also about who would pay for it. But, lo and behold, God had a great surprise in store for me!

The owner of the tent that hit the car? It was our mechanic. Of all things, it belonged to our mechanic. And they are fixing the car at their cost this weekend. I am still marveling about that one.

 

 

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