You can build on the truth

Life is nuts. Or is it just me? Maybe I only spend time with super busy people, but it feels like everyones’ lives are spinning out of control in the chaos that is our world. We have less time to produce, less time to rest, less time for family, less time for friends, less time for everything in our lives, yet somehow, in spite of working harder and longer than any other civilization in history, we get less done.

The American Dream? Right. It’s a Ferris wheel, spinning around and around and going nowhere. That’s how life feels most days. I don’t mean to be a downer, but can anyone else identify with this feeling?

Chaos. Futility. Constant exhaustion and the overwhelming certainty that you’ll amount to nothing but failure at the end of your life, regardless of how hard you work.

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

A kitten at Safe Haven Farm giving me a dirty look

When I find myself sinking into that mindset, it’s time for a walk. I need to get away from my computer, get out of my own head, and go somewhere else, a place where I can recognize what’s really true and what really isn’t. For me, that’s outside on our patio with a kitten in my lap. For you, it may look different (although you should never discount how soothing the interaction with an animal can be).

Regardless, you have to stop moving. You have to stop thinking. You have to be still. Only when you’re still can you truly let your brain process, otherwise it’ll keep running in the background.

Once I’m still, then I can think. Then, I have to go back to basics.

What do I know for sure?

So much of what I worry about and stress over are unknowns. They’re the things I can’t control, the outcomes I can’t manipulate, the opinions I can’t change. No, none of that is my responsibility, but that doesn’t stop me from freaking out about it. And once I start thinking about all those things, I wind myself up into a ball of nerves and frustration, and before I know it, I’m snapping at people and just feeling generally angry. Then, whatever productivity I might have had goes out the window.

If you can’t identify things you are sure of, there might be something else going on. But I’m willing to bet that everyone knows the grass is green. Everyone knows the sky looks blue. Everyone knows gravity is constant, or at least constant enough to keep us from being flung off this spinning dirtball into the void.

Basics.

The sun will set tonight. It will rise tomorrow. And you can’t do anything to stop it either way. In one minute, sixty seconds will have passed. You need to drink water, or you’ll end up dehydrated. You need to eat, or you’ll starve. And everyone needs hugs, even people who don’t think they do.

What are the basics you know?

ps46-1-3I also know that God is in control. I know God is good. I know He has never promised to leave me. He’s promised to work all the crap in my life out for good, to bring glory to His name and to provide a beautiful future for me. I know He has my best interests in mind and that He’s the only one big enough to weave all the disjointed strings of my life into a masterpiece.

Maybe you don’t know all that. And that’s okay. But I do. There’s no promise that God has made to me that He hasn’t kept. He’s always there. He always keeps me on track. And everything I do, I want to do for Him, because He’s the only one who can make everything work out.

Those are my basics. Those are my certainties. That’s bedrock, where I start building again. Life and the world and people and circumstances can knock down everything I’ve built (and they have), but nothing can touch that foundation. Lord willing, nothing will.

There are several times in the Bible where God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” He says it so many times, and I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget. But if we can just remember to be still—to stop moving and thinking and running ahead—and remind ourselves who God is and what He’s promised, life won’t feel so chaotic anymore.

Because once you know one truth, you can build on it. Because rock is solid, storms won’t move it. Because storms won’t move it, you can build on it. Because you can build on it, you can restore what you lost.

Because God is God, we can trust Him. Think about what you can build on that truth.

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! Psalm 46:1-3

Life is nuts, but God is good. And even if it doesn’t feel like it, He’s got it all under control. So stop chasing your tail. Take a minute. Remember who He is, and if you don’t know who He is, learn. Then, ask Him for help. He won’t turn you away, and He won’t ignore you, not if you truly come to Him for help. He may not give you the answer you want, but if you really trust Him, you’ll do what He says.

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Never underestimate the power in a kind word

Slogging along through life gets really old really fast, especially if you’re stuck in a period of waiting for God to act. You know He’s going to do something, and whatever it is will be amazing and wonderful and life-changing. But until you get there, you’re just stuck. And it’s everything you can do to just keep functioning.

So what happens if someone comes along and notices? What happens when they demonstrate that they care about you or about how hard you’ve been working? how does that make you feel?

For me, it’s energizing. I can have my head down, buried in Word documents, cranking out word count like a fiend, but if someone comes along and mentions how much they enjoy what I’m writing, suddenly it doesn’t feel like work anymore. Suddenly, it doesn’t feel like my feet are stuck in the mud. The mud just becomes an obstacle to overcome, and it feels like it’s worth it.

person-woman-hand-rainyToday’s verses are Acts 4:36-37.

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.

How would you like to have nickname like that? This guy Joseph, who the apostles nicknamed Barnabus, was such a cool, uplifting guy that they called him The Encourager. Wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of reputation? The kind of vibe that just cheered people up wherever you went?

The thing people don’t always understand about encouragers is that they aren’t always obliging. They don’t always tell you what you want to hear. Instead, they tell you what you need to hear, whether it’s fun or not. They are kind people, overall, and they care about you, but they care enough about you not to lie to you or coddle you. They love you enough to tell you the truth.

Sometimes that’s not easy to swallow, as the Apostle Paul eventually discovered in his relationship with Barnabus, but it’s what you need to hear to get you back on track with God. If your perspective is off, you need someone to smack you upside the back of the head to help you get straight again.

Who are the encouragers in your life? Yes, there’s a place for the cuddlers and the caretakers. There’s a time when you need someone to hug you and feed you cookies, but those times should be few and far between. More often than not, we need our encouragers to come along and challenge us to pick up our sword and get back into the fight.

They’ll do it kindly. They’ll speak truth in love to you. Even if it’s not what you want to hear, it’s probably what you need to hear.

So are you feeling down? Are you tired and weary? Yes, rest, if you need to, but if you don’t? Find an encourager. It may not be the happiest conversation you’ve ever had, but I guarantee it will change you–or at least it will change the way you look at your situation. And really, that’s what most of us need anyway.

Softening a hard heart is like rewiring a finished house

My parents have started watching this television show about home inspections. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about, honestly. But then, I’ve never purchased a home. This show is interesting because 80-90% of the issues these home inspectors have to fix stem from one recurring problem: The builders did it wrong first.

If the builders had built the house to code or laid the foundation correctly or repaired electrical or plumbing problems the right way, the homeowners wouldn’t be having trouble. And no one would have to come along behind them to fix everything that’s wrong.

And, let’s face it, it takes 10 times more effort to go back and fix a problem afterward than it does to do it right the first time.

626111_35347132Today’s verses are Colossians 3:23-24.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on what you have to do. It’s so much more fun to do the things you want to do, but life isn’t always fun. And it’s not always supposed to be.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve been entrusted with a lot of responsibility, and not just in your day job but in your daily life as well. Part of that responsibility is living your life in a way that demonstrates God’s grace and Jesus’ love to the people around you–especially those people who you don’t particularly like. The other part of that responsibility is being a good employee.

Whatever you do, whether you’re a doctor or a lawyer or a chef or an engineer or a stay-at-home mom or a writer (aka a glutton for punishment), you are responsible to do the best you can. And, no, you’re not supposed to do the best you can for the sake of your career or the sake of your boss or the sake of your coworkers. You’re supposed to do the best you can for God Himself.

Maybe your boss signs your paychecks. But all authority comes from God. If you’re a Christ-follower, your first authority is God. You do what He says first before anyone else, and if He says to serve your boss to the best of your ability, that’s why you do it.

What if that boss is hard to get along with? What if that coworker is impossible? What if that job has just become so exhausting and so tedious and so frustrating that you just can’t stand it for one more day?

You have to be willing to work. Period. Laziness doesn’t belong in a Christ-follower’s life. (Please don’t mistake rest for being lazy. That’s another blog post, but believe me when I say they aren’t the same thing.) You have to work. Everyone has to work. God has given us dreams and goals and gifts and abilities and talents that are unique to who we are as people, and we need to be willing to work to achieve them. Because if we’re willing to work and if our hearts are focused on keeping in step with the Lord, He will work events in our lives out to give us the desires of our heart. But it doesn’t just happen. You don’t get rewarded just for sitting on your blessed assurance and expecting a miracle.

At the same time, there has to be a line in the sand somewhere. In my life, God has often used exhaustion and frustration to show me that it’s time for a change. But that’s a choice you have to make personally.

If your situation is so exhausting, so frustrating, so irritating that you can’t stand it anymore–move. Step out. Step back. Change your situation. Make the choice to move on.

If you can stand it, stay. And stop complaining. Because the more you complain about your situation, the more difficult it becomes to work with a willing heart. And if you can’t work with a willing heart for the Lord’s sake, you’re going to start forfeiting blessings.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to do that.

So if the job is tough, power through it. But don’t do it haphazardly. Do it right. Build your foundation solid. Do the job the way it’s supposed to be done, without cutting corners or taking shortcuts. Do it because God has told you to do it.

Just be sure to keep your heart soft. Be willing to work, and be willing to work for the right reason. And if you can’t, you might seriously need to take a long, hard look at your life. Because if your heart is hardened, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of effort to break it open again.  Sort of like trying to rewire a finished house because it wasn’t done right the first time.