Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

When is it wise to just shut up?

I like to talk, especially if I’m talking about a subject I love. Like writing. Or science fiction. Or anything BBC.

Talking is fun. Sharing stories is fun. Boy, have I got some whoppers too. I don’t like being in front of people, but for the sake of a good story, I’ll shove my introvertedness to the corner and let it go (no Frozen reference intended, but oh well…..).

But are there times when talking hurts more than it helps? Are there times when we just need to shut up, even if we know the answer?

Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Bright, beautiful macaws at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Proverbs 10:19.

Too much talk leads to sin.
    Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

Sometimes the Bible is really blunt, and it makes me laugh. And then I get to thinking about what it’s talking about, and I stop laughing.

Have you ever been in that place? Where you cross the line from just shooting the breeze to saying too much? I’ve been there. And I’m pretty sure I’ve turned bright red.

But then, I’ve met people who say too much and don’t seem to care. They can talk-talk-talk away about a subject they don’t really understand, offering their opinions about it as though it’s fact just because they believe it. But when someone confronts them with facts, they don’t back down. Usually they just change the subject.

I like to be in the loop as much as the next person. I like to know what’s happening around me in the news, at my office, in my family as much as anyone. But I don’t know everything. And talking about it like I do isn’t helpful. It’s hurtful, because I end up making assumptions about people that may or may not be true.

I work in marketing. I’m not a very good marketing person, but I know how to turn a phrase. And one thing I had to learn very quickly was negative perceptions can damage a brand irreparably.  It doesn’t matter if you have the best product on the market, if your ads are unprofessional or if your sales people are unprofessional, people will think your product is sub-par.

It works the same way in groups of people. You may know a person who is awesome, full of compassion and integrity and love. But all it takes is someone else spreading rumors behind his or her back to turn that earned reputation on its head. I wish it weren’t that easy to do, but it is.

It’s human nature to believe the worst about each other. That’s one of the reasons why 1 Corinthians 13 is so important–talking about how the love that comes from the Spirit always thinks the best about each other. Thinking the best about each other, speaking well of each other, doesn’t come naturally to us.

It’s human nature to tear down. It’s human nature to manipulate and gossip.  It’s human nature to want to be at the center of controversies. But if you belong to Christ, you aren’t subject to your human nature any longer. That doesn’t mean your human nature shuts off. No, that means it has to shout louder to get your attention, but if you belong to Christ, you have another option. You don’t have to stick to your human nature. You can do what Jesus would have done.

Instead of spreading hearsay or your own assumptions, you can speak truthfully. Or not at all. Think about what you say before you say it. Words are tools–powerful creations that can help or hurt, so use them wisely.  Use them sparingly.

I’ve been in that place before where I’ve said too much and I’ve had to take responsibility for it. It’s not fun. And it takes time to rebuild trust after hurting people with what I’ve said.

So don’t even go there. If you’re prone to talking too much, be vigilant about it. Maybe you think you’re doing everybody a favor by bestowing your wisdom, and if you really are sharing your story with humility and love, then awesome. But even then, there’s a time and a place for it. If you feel God telling you to share, do it.

But if you’re just trying to get attention, if you’re just wanting a moment of spotlight, or if you’re trying to start something? Take it from someone who’s been there and done that, have the wisdom to keep your mouth shut.

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

Do we need to ask God’s permission?

Have you ever felt like you’ve been weighed down with responsibilities but don’t have the tools at your disposal to actually make anything happen? I’ve been there before, and it’s a really frustrating place.

Well, I learned something yesterday. And I’m sure it’s something I’ve always known, but it never really clicked with me before. Definitely there are some exceptions, but generally speaking the people in your life who you are subject to aren’t unreasonable. Yes, there may be some people who have it out for you, or there may be some people who are just jerks. But generally speaking, everybody’s boss wants to be a good boss. And that means it’s their job to provide you with the resources you need to do your job. Anything else is unreasonable.

Sometimes it’s tempting to think that your boss is just demanding results without trying to understand your limitations. That’s probably rarely the case.

The trouble comes when we start looking at God the same way. There are lots of examples in life where it feels like He has commanded us to do something but He hasn’t given us anything to do it with. And that’s not true. That’s our fear and our insecurity talking.

God has given us everything we need to accomplish the tasks God has set out for us to do, and that includes the authority to do it.

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 10:18-20.

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”  “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

Did you know Jesus did this? He picked 72 more disciples and sent them out to spread the word about Him? And obviously these people got an opportunity to see God work through them in miraculous ways. These guys came back after seeing everything God did through them and were so excited that evil spirits obeyed them.

Does anyone out there remember the really funny Bill Engvall/Travis Tritt song, “Here’s Your Sign”? I kind of feel like this is what Jesus is saying to these 72 disciples. Of course, God worked through them. Jesus had given them authority over all the enemy’s power. He wouldn’t have sent them out if He hadn’t.

I get stuck in a very traditional, hierarchical view of life. In work, in church, everywhere, if someone is older than me, I automatically assume he or she knows more than I do and I bow to their opinion. And that’s not wrong. No, in many instances, that’s right. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize that just because someone is older than me or has a higher position than I do doesn’t automatically make them better qualified to answer some questions.

And I think it’s good and beneficial for us to be subject to those kinds of people throughout our lives. It’s a good way to learn patience and submission and compassion, to learn how God can bless us when we submit to authority that really doesn’t have a clue.

But when it comes to doing what God has called us to do, do you realize that we don’t have to ask permission? We don’t have to wait for a sign? All we need to do is do it.

So what desire has God put in your heart? What path has God set you on? Are you waiting for His permission before you embark?

There are many reasons to wait, and if God is telling you to wait, then for heaven’s sake stay where you are. But is He really saying to wait? Or are you just waiting because you’re afraid?

If what you want to do matches up with Scripture, if it’s not going to compromise your faith or your testimony, if you believe it’s the direction God is calling you to go, you don’t have to wait for permission. God’s standing on the sidelines with a checkered flag screaming at you to floor the accelerator, cheering you on.

Don’t sit still. Don’t accept the status quo. Don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again. You were meant for more than this. You have all the authority you need, and you have God on your side. So what are you waiting for?

The crooked path to the top of Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Opportunities aren’t accidents

Have you ever had the opportunity to sit back and watch God work? There have been moments in my life where I’ve been able to see Him working in ways that only He could, but  I can honestly tell you that I’ve never seen Him so obviously than in the last six months.

God has opened so many doors. He’s been so present and has provided for me in so many different ways that I can’t even begin to explain it all. And I can trace it all back to a single moment in January this year when I finally said Yes to what He’d been telling me to do since last August.

God has plans, and they’re good plans. And He doesn’t just dump people into the midst of His plans when they aren’t prepared or equipped. Maybe they aren’t prepared or equipped when it starts, but by the time God says go, they’re ready.

But no matter how life works out, one thing is certain: We can plan and prepare and try to make up our own minds about our futures all day long, but God is the one who truly calls the shots. And we can either get on board with that or we can keep hurtling helter-skelter down a path we’re forging on our own, blind and ineffective until we wear ourselves out and end up going back to Him anyway.

The crooked path to the top of Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

The crooked path to the top of Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 10:23.

I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.
    We are not able to plan our own course.

So much of life is waiting. I’ve blogged about that before. I hate waiting. I hate it. I want to be up doing something, preparing for what’s ahead so I can anticipate and control a situation and pretend like I have some type of command.

I’m trying to learn to love waiting, and in the last six months, I’ve made great strides toward that because it’s become more apparent to me than ever how and why God makes us wait.

I was talking to a friend in the Starbucks parking lot the other night about baking cakes. When you mix up a cake and throw it in the oven, it would be so much easier to just eat the batter right then. Cake batter is awesome. But it’s not cake. If you want cake, you have to wait (yes, even if the cake is a lie, you still have to wait).

God often calls us to a time of waiting so we can develop and grow and get stronger and learn what we need to learn. Maybe we just need to learn how to trust Him.

Waiting isn’t punishment or a curse. It’s a gift, marvelous, quiet downtime when you realign and get your thoughts straight and focus on grounding yourself in truth. Because when God says jump, you’d better be ready to jump.

When God is ready for you to go, you need to go. And when you say yes, don’t think for a moment that things will slow down. Actually, they’ll get faster and crazier and more awesome than you imagine.

God has planned the direction of your life, and it’s up to you to say yes to His will. Or do you think He forces you? No. God doesn’t force us to do anything, but He won’t always intervene when we end up stuck in the hole we dug for ourselves.

What is God telling you to do today? Is He telling you to wait? Is He telling you to jump? Whatever it is, just say yes. Do what He’s telling you to do. Stop fighting Him.

If He’s opened a door and made a way for you to do something, do it. Make sure it’s from Him–make sure it’s in line with Scripture and it won’t cause you to compromise on the truth of Scripture–and go for it with everything you have.

Opportunities in your path aren’t accidents. They’re strategic. God has created you unique. Whether you believe it or not, you have gifts and abilities that no one else has, and God wants you to be able to use those talents to reach other people with His love.

Don’t doubt the gifts God’s given you. Don’t take credit for them either, but don’t doubt them. Doubting them isn’t humility; it’s insecurity and fear. God has made you to do awesome things for Him.

Don’t doubt Him. Don’t doubt His plan. It’s okay to be afraid, but don’t let that fear keep you from saying yes to God.

The moon over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

How long will your legacy last?

I got into an altercation with a lightning bug yesterday.  Or rather my windshield did. I probably don’t have to tell you who won, especially since my windshield was moving at 70+ miles per hour when the altercation took place.

All these years living in the country, so many summers speeding down back roads speckled with fireflies, and I’ve never hit one. Until last night. And I’m not sure if it makes me morbid or not to admit that I found the glowing green speck on my windshield fascinating. After all, it’s not often that you see a bug splatter against your windshield and leave a glowing spot of goo.

But it didn’t last long. Probably not even 15 seconds. In 15 seconds, everything that firefly had stood for was no more than a dried-out speck on a car windshield. Lost. Forgotten. Not even a shadow of what it had been before.

I don’t know about you, but when I hit that proverbial windshield at the end of my life, I’d like to leave more than a glowing green mark that fades after 15 seconds.

The moon over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The moon over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 6:19-20.

Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.

How many of us are working hard to build something we can leave behind for the people who come after us? I know that’s always been important to my parents. They’ve worked hard throughout their lives so that they would have something to leave to my brother and me.

But so many times I think we get caught up in thinking about material possessions–like houses and land and clothing and furniture and money–and we forget that all those things are temporary. Earthly treasures don’t last forever. They wear out. They break. Or people steal them away.

Would it be so much better instead to leave something behind that people couldn’t steal? Or that time couldn’t destroy? It’s not impossible, and it’s not as difficult as you might think. You just have to change the way you think about treasure.

I do believe that there will be a standard of living in heaven, but that’s another topic for another blog. Eternity will be bliss, that’s a certainty, but there will be some people in heaven who have more “treasure” than others simply because they took God at His word and lived a life making deposits in their heavenly account instead of focusing on their earthly one.

What is heavenly treasure? Well, that’s a great question, and I’m not qualified to answer it. For me personally, the treasures I most want to enjoy when I get to heaven are the priceless relationships I’ve built on earth. But the Bible is pretty clear that choosing to live a life that honors God results in treasures stored up in heaven.

But there’s something that living a life that honors God gives you on earth. If you choose to live the way God says is right, yes, you’ll gain rewards in heaven, but you’ll also receive blessings on earth. And the thing about God’s blessings is that they never run out, not as long as you keep on living for Him.

What better legacy to leave behind than a history of God’s blessings? What better inheritance to pass on to your children than your own personal faith that God is worth it?

Sure, money is nice. And a house would be great. But what good would those things do me in the end? More money to spend. Another house to pay taxes on. That’s actually probably what the money would go to–taxes.

How are you living today? Are you living so you can leave your children your wealth? Or are you living so you can leave your children your faith?

People who live for material possessions and leave behind material possessions often have legacies that last as long as a firefly. In a flash, they’re gone. If the only thing to your name is what you own, you won’t be remembered very long.

But if you live the kind of life that honors God, if you love people, if you do what God says is right, God won’t let your memory be forgotten. And your memory could be responsible for bringing hope and light to other people’s lives–and not just for 15 seconds.

How do you stop being afraid of change?

Do you live a steady, predictable life? I know a lot of people who do. Even in my own life (which has its tumultuous times), there is some comfort in routine. It’s nice to get up and know exactly what you’re going to do, exactly when you’re going to do it, and exactly how you’re going to do it.

You don’t face challenges. You don’t face uncertainties. You don’t have to worry that you’ll encounter an obstacle you can’t overcome because you’ve faced it all before. And while that’s nice in many ways, you never grow.

Routine is a blessing at times, but when you get stuck in it, routine can do more damage than good. But that doesn’t make facing a rapidly changing world any easier. And believe me, your life is going to change. Even if you stick to the same old routine for as long as you can, something always changes. And when that moment comes, if you aren’t ready for it, you’ll be swept away.

A mountain on the hike to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

A mountain on the hike to Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Isaiah 26:4.

Trust in the Lord always,
    for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.

Change is a part of life, and the best way to get through it is to base your life on something that doesn’t change. It’s like building a structure on a good foundation. If your foundation shifts and moves, your structure won’t be able to withstand the storms that beat against it.

So what does that look like in the life of a Christ follower? Well, there’s a reason God is called a Rock throughout the whole Bible. Rocks are big and strong and they last a long time. God, in this verse, is called an eternal rock.

A big, solid, strong rock that isn’t going anywhere. He won’t change. He won’t alter His course. He won’t fail when you need Him. If you have that certainty in your life, you can face any change that comes at you. But what does that look like? Because you can talk about building your life on the solid rock all day long and still have no idea what it means.

Making God your rock means that you stop relying on your own strength to get you through difficult times. The change that’s coming for you? That situation you don’t know how you’re going to handle? You don’t have to face it by yourself, and you don’t have to handle it in your own strength. God is offering you His strength, and all you have to do is accept it.

But to accept it, you have to be willing to do things God’s way. You can use a chainsaw all you like, but it won’t do you any real good until you plug it into a power source. It’s the same way with God.

God has given you resources and all sorts of tools in order to live your life, but if you insist on doing things your own way, you’re going to keep bashing your head against a wall.

The idea of change can be scary, but if you are firmly grounded in what God says is right, you can stand up to any challenge. There’s nothing life can throw at you that is bigger than God.

So don’t be afraid of change. Change is going to happen for good or for bad, and if you run away from it, you’ll stay a child your entire life and you’ll live a childish faith.

Embrace routine while you have it. It can be a blessing. But embrace change too because it’s in the moments of change in our lives that we learn how much like a Rock God really is.

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

How do I rest when life is too busy?

I could stand a little peace and quiet. How about you? I just came off a ridiculous weekend. Awesome and fun and exciting. But I’m tired. Even though so many exciting things are happening right now, there are still days when I just wish I could tell everyone and everything to be quiet and leave me alone so I can rest.

But even then, as much as I need rest, I usually don’t allow myself to take it. Because there are so many things going on, if I’m not involved surely something isn’t going to be done right. Can anyone else identify with that feeling? It’s okay if you can.

We can’t just run at top speed all the time. Well, you can. Been there, done that, don’t want to do it anymore. I’m not an expert, but I can speak from experience. And if you’re one of my performance-driven perfectionist brothers and sisters, I just want to ask you one question: What is the foundation for your hopes?

Everybody has hopes and dreams, expectations of what life is going to be like. I haven’t talked to anyone who didn’t have a hope of some kind. So take a long, hard look at what you hope for and figure out what you’re basing that hope on.

Is it something solid? Something proven? Something trustworthy? Or just some vague, general feeling?

Personally? I’ve got a lot of things I’m hoping for. I’m hoping that my mom’s re-evaluation at the Mayo Clinic in September comes back saying that she’s okay. I’m hoping that this crazy business venture I helped start in January really does manage to work. I’m hoping that two years from July 6 I’ll get to hug my best friend again. And those are just the top of the list.

Those are all great things to hope for, but it’s one thing to hope that all those things will happen. It’s something else to know that even if they don’t, everything will still be okay anyway.

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Puffin floating on the water at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:5.

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
    for my hope is in him.

Hope is one of those fuzzy conceptual ideas (it floats, it has feathers, etc.) that it seems few people have a practical idea of how to implement. I’d crack an Emily Dickinson joke here, but I’m not sure if anyone would get it.

What does it look like to live a life where your hope is in God and not just some of it–all of it? We sang an old song at church this weekend that got me thinking about this.

I haven’t got it figured out yet, but God has taught me a lot about hope in the last few years. And I can tell you that if my hope is truly in God, I can let go.

Yes, I hope my mom’s test results will come back good. But you know what? They haven’t come back good since March 2013 and everything is still all right. We still have everything we need. He’s taking care of us. And He’s still obvious in our lives.

Yes, I hope that this crazy small press we started is going to work. I would love to see it flourish and grow. And I’d love for my novels to make it big. But if they don’t, I’m okay with that. If the business doesn’t work, I’ve learned so much, and it’s already been a fantastic adventure with three of my close friends.

Yes, I hope my best friend makes it across the pond safely and that God protects her in all her global wanderings in the next two years. But if that doesn’t work out the way I want it to, you know what? She’ll still be okay.

Because she belongs to Him. Because my business belongs to Him. Because my mom belongs to Him. Because I belong to Him. And God never treats His creation carelessly.

Remember that when life doesn’t go the way you want it to. Remember Who God is. Hope is less about the promise itself and more about who made it and whether or not that person can be trusted.

No matter what happens, if you put your hope in God, that means you aren’t relying on your own strength to make something happen. You aren’t depending on other people for an outcome. You aren’t building your foundation on unstable ground. And if you aren’t spending your time and energy and resources trying to make something happen or worrying about whether or not someone will come through, you can spend that time doing what you need to do–rest.

God can be trusted. Not only that, but God is the only one big enough to take the broken pieces of life and fit them back together again in a way that’s better than they were before.

So rest easy. Put your hope in God, and if your confidence falters, read up on how God has come through for other people throughout history.

Be honest with yourself. You aren’t big enough or strong enough to change anything. You don’t have as much control as you’ve convinced yourself you have. That doesn’t mean you sit back on your blessed assurance and do nothing. But it does mean you can let go of the things that are to big for you anyway–those giant things you couldn’t control anyway? You know what I’m talking about.

Stop trying to make them happen on your own. Have confidence in God and rest easy.

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

Can I trust God with my dreams?

I am not scared of horses. I like horses–just from a distance. I didn’t grow up around them, so I wasn’t used to them. Since I really hadn’t had any experience with them, I had no reason to trust them. So when I ended up hiking through a Guatemalan jungle some time ago and I was given the option to ride a horse or walk, of course I chose to walk.

And if any of you know the story, you’ll know I ended up riding anyway. I’ll be the first to tell you I did not want to get on that horse. I had absolutely zero faith that it could support my weight. I had absolutely zero confidence that I was strong enough to stay on it or that I had enough balance to stay upright.

But I ended up on the dang horse anyway. And you know what? It did just fine. And so did I. The horse got me to the village, and then when the time came to get on another horse (that’s a whole different story in itself), I wasn’t nearly as hesitant. Why?

Well, the other horse held me up just fine, and I didn’t have a problem riding it. The other horse had shown me it was trustworthy.

Maybe that’s a lame example, but it’s what I think about now when I think about how I trust God…. or how I don’t trust Him.

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Isaiah 12:2.

See, God has come to save me.
    I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.

I was talking with my best friend the other night about trusting God and what that looks like in our lives. There are so many areas in my life where I don’t have a problem trusting Him. But then, there are a few places where I just can’t let go. I want to hold on to my own plans, my own expectations, my own dreams and not let Him take over. Probably because I’m afraid He’ll take them away and not give them back.

What’s the reason for that? Why do I trust God in so many areas but not in those few? Well, to put it simply, God has already shown me that He can be trusted in those areas. He’s shown me that He can be trusted to mend broken relationships. He’s shown me that He can be trusted to never forsake us. He’s shown me that He can be trusted with my finances. And, most recently, with the coming release of my first novel, He’s shown me that He can be trusted with my dreams.

But that’s the thing. He’s shown me. Eventually I had to come to a place where I handed those worries and fears over to Him and let Him have His way. And when I did that, He proved to me (over and over and over again) that He is faithful and trustworthy to do what is best for me.

Granted, it didn’t always look like it would be what was best. Honestly, there were times when I was absolutely sure God had completely lost His marbles. But looking back now I can see exactly what He was doing. I can see His fingerprints all over my life, leading me to where I am today.

I know why I am afraid to turn over those areas of my life to God. All that remains is convincing my stubborn heart to let go, to pry my pointed fingers off the edges of those dreams and turn them over to the Lord of my life. It isn’t easy. If it were easy, I would have done it years ago.

So if you’ve got dreams you’re holding on to, don’t beat yourself up. Believe it or not, I really think it’s normal to want to hold on to your dreams. But the truth about dreams is that they will never become reality as long as you hold on to them. The truth? You have to turn loose of your dream and hold on to God, the only one who can make dreams come true.

Ask yourself. Would you rather huddle around your small little dream and keep it safe where you can control it? Or are you willing to let it become bigger than you? It’s a scary thought because as long as our dreams are small, we can manage them. But God doesn’t give us dreams as pacifiers. They aren’t cheap plastic toys He throws at us to keep us from fussing.

God gives us dreams so that we can accomplish amazing things for Him. We were created to bring glory to His name, and we can’t do that if we’re trapped in a prison of our own fears.

God is worthy of your trust. Think about all the times He’s come through for you. Think about all the things He’s done for you, things that shouldn’t have been possible, things that defy explanation. Now think about that area of your life that you’re holding back from Him. If God can provide for all the other areas of your life, don’t you think He can handle that one too?

Don’t let your fears control you. Don’t let what you don’t understand discourage you. God has a plan, and He’s working it out. And because He is good all the time, you can trust that His plans are good. So don’t be afraid to trust your dreams to Him, especially the dreams you think have no chance of coming true.