We’re all like broken cell phones

The first cell phone I ever used was a flip phone the size of a brick. Mom carried it her purse. A few years later, we got a new phone. Much smaller. It didn’t flip open, but it was still the size of a brick. And we only used it for emergencies.

When I returned home to Kansas from my freshman year of college in 2002, I got my first phone that was just for me. At least, I think I did. That was a while ago.

With as much as my family drove, cell phones were a necessity for us as early as when I was 15. But for my entire life, I had always been tacked on to my parents’ cell phone plan. I didn’t get my own cell phone plan until a few years ago.

Seriously. Like 2014.

I switched carriers, started an account with a new provider, and got the free phone they offered with their new contracts.

Then, I left my job. I started working for myself. And that free phone crapped out. So I had a choice. I could go with another two-year contract, or I could try something I’d been wanting to do for a while—buy an unlocked phone.

Google Nexus 5X

Google Nexus 5X

Long story short: That’s what I did. I bought a Nexus 5x at the beginning of 2015, and it’s been one of the better investments I made in the last few years.

But I learned something. Those old free phones you’d get with two-year contracts never broke while they were under contract. Nothing ever went wrong with them in that two-year span. And by the time the two years were up, you’d get the chance to upgrade.

I had to buy my own phone, unlocked and not on sale, before I shattered the screen.

And, no, it wasn’t under warranty. No, I didn’t purchase the extra protection option. So I was pretty much out of luck when I dropped it on the wooden floor and watched the screen splinter like a broken windshield.

Fortunately though, it still worked. I could still do everything on it that I’d been doing before (email, social media, marketing, phone calls, texting, etc.). It was just harder to read because of the spider web cracks shooting across the surface.

The phone could still do its job.

But then—I was waiting on a very important phone call from a client. It was an interview I’d set up earlier, and I needed to talk to this person. If I could get the job finished, I’d get enough of a paycheck to fix the phone! So I needed it!

But here’s the problem. See, somehow my phone number has gotten onto somebody’s telemarketer list. I don’t know how. Maybe it’s the election too. But I get phone calls ALL the FREAKIN’ DAY LONG. From every state. And I don’t know any of the numbers. And every time I answered, it was a survey or an electronic call. So I just got into the habit of screening my calls. If I don’t know the number, I let it go to voicemail, and if they don’t leave a voicemail, I don’t worry about it.

So, my client called. And his number showed up on my screen. But the broken screen made the numbers look wonky, and I misread them.

Fortunately, I double checked at a different angle. I realized it was him calling, and I answered. I got my interview done, got my project submitted, got paid, and got my phone fixed. Yay!

But that got me thinking: Isn’t that just how sin works in our lives?

ezekiel36-26-1It shatters our perspectives on what’s right and what’s wrong. Our life still works. We still function. But our vision is askew. And when we face a choice of whether to turn right or turn left, we see the choice through the shattered screen of our broken perspectives. We misunderstand. We don’t comprehend. We think what’s good is bad, and we think what’s bad is good.

I might have missed that uber-important phone call if I hadn’t mistrusted my phone.

In life, we might miss opportunities God has given us if we refuse to understand that our hearts are selfish. We might take a wrong step and lose our way if we don’t mistrust the world. If we try to follow Jesus but keep looking at life through the filter of our flawed perception, we’ll never be able to grab hold of the life God wants for us, and we’ll leave the pile of blessings He wants to give us on the table.

And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. Ezekiel 36:26-27

We’re all broken phones, folks. We function just fine, but we don’t see life truthfully. None of us sees the world as it is through our own eyes. None of us can see our sin for what it is without Jesus’ example.

So do what I did. I took my phone to a professional and had it repaired.

That’s what Jesus offers. Not only will He give us new life, new hope, new mercy every morning, and a new purpose, He’ll also give us a new perspective. And that’s something nobody should try surviving life without.

If I’m a winner, why do I live like a loser?

conquerors-warriors-winners-discouragement_1170x350

I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure at life. It’s not even worth trying something new because I’ll ultimately screw it up and let everyone down. Ever feel like that? I’ve had a month of feeling like that, which is utterly ridiculous because it’s been a great month. A successful month. A month full of positive momentum. Yet emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I’ve been stuck in this unending quagmire of discouragement.

God is gentle with people many times. He calls to us softly in that still, small voice of His. He beckons us closer to Him with promises of peace and assurances of unconditional love.

Well, I’m not people. And gentle promises and soft speeches rarely do anything for me except make me suspicious, and that’s probably a character flaw. But thankfully my God knows how to talk to me. He’s my Shepherd, and He knows how to get my attention. And usually it involves a two-by-four.

I was out on my morning walk yesterday, and I’d started the morning slow and draggy, uninspired, discouraged, beaten down for no real reason. I just felt mopey. But I’d decided to start walking in the mornings, so I got ready to go. To make matters worse, my MP3 player died for no reason, which put me in a bad mood. Walking my two miles was going to be harder without something to listen to.

So I just chalked it up to the kind of day I was going to have, and I started down our old loose-gravel road, struggling against a hard south wind. But because I didn’t have anything else to listen to, I just decided to tell God about all my problems.

The whole two miles, I just told Him what was on my heart and how sad I felt and alone and discouraged. Like nothing I do matters. Like nothing I try succeeds. And somewhere along that two-mile stretch, WHAM! This verse hit me like a ton of bricks:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

That’s Romans 8:37, if you care to know. And it echoed in my empty brain for about five minutes while I walked, stunned into silence. The realization that accompanied left me shaking. Because if I believe that, if I truly believe that God has made me more than a conqueror, I should be living like it. But I wasn’t. I was living as though I’d been defeated.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?[/su_pullquote]

It’s so hard to see the light sometimes. It’s so hard to focus on everything that’s right, especially when you feel overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong. That’s when discouragement hits. That’s when it takes all your strength to pull yourself out of bed in the morning. That’s when you tell yourself that you can’t win, can’t succeed, can’t do anything right. You’re choosing to see all the obstacles in your path instead of the bright, shining path God has opened up for you.

I am a conqueror.

Not will be a conqueror. Not used to be a conqueror. I AM a conqueror. Not in my own strength or abilities or talents. Not by any gift or virtue I possess but through Jesus. God has made me a conqueror through His power. So why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?

Maybe that bright shining path Jesus provided only stretches out for the current day, and I can’t see tomorrow. Isn’t that all right? Isn’t it enough to know that you have what you need for right now? It’s difficult to live that way. It’s hard for this control freak to wrap her brain around it, but there’s no better way to live.

Why be satisfied with the little shack you can build with your own hands when God wants to help you build a mansion?

Against all odds, God has provided for me today, and He has promised to provide for me tomorrow. Do I really need more than that? Do you?

No more choosing to see the obstacles. No more choosing to see what’s wrong. No, that doesn’t mean I ignore them, but I can acknowledge an obstacle without letting it discourage me. God has made me a conqueror. God has made me victorious. Through Him, I can do impossible things.

And so can you.

Remodeling is never easy and always messy

remodel-renovate-mess-life-God-heal_1170x350

I have never built a house or a commercial building, although I know quite a lot about their plumbing systems (how many people do you know who can say that?). But one thing I do know is that there’s a major difference between new construction and renovation.

In a lot of ways, new construction is easier. You can begin from the beginning. You can establish a new foundation. You don’t have to worry about working around existing systems that are already installed. Oftentimes new construction is cheaper for that reason. But even though building new sometimes is easier and cheaper, it’s not always the best option. And that’s true for things other than houses and buildings too.

In relationships (romantic or otherwise) or even in your own life, you can’t just start over. You can try, but you’ll often find that past experiences have left scars you have to work around. Building new isn’t an option, and you have to renovate instead. And the honest truth about renovation is that it’s messy. You have to clear old stuff out of the way to make room for new stuff. You have to rebuild foundations. You have to fill in cracks. You have to make a bigger mess before you can start making it better.

The Bible talks about this in Hosea 6:1-3. The prophet says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. He has torn us to pieces; now he will heal us. He has injured us; now he will bandage our wounds. In just a short time he will restore us, so that we may live in his presence. Oh, that we might know the Lord! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn or the coming of rains in early spring.

Maybe some people will read that and think negatively of God, but is it really a negative statement? How many times do we need to have our lives torn apart before we realize what really matters? How much agony do we need to experience before we get our heads out of our backsides and start paying attention?

If you’ve got a splinter in your finger, you have to dig it out, and often that hurts more than the splinter itself does. If you’ve got an organ that’s not working or a growth that needs to be removed, the process of surgery usually causes more pain than the organ or growth did. But you’ve got to get it out.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]You can’t just wipe the slate clean. You can’t just build new. You have to remodel, and remodeling is messy. [/su_pullquote]

If a relationship in your life is causing you pain, don’t just give up on it. Don’t just walk away from it. If your perspective on life or God or people or work or whatever is making you bitter and resentful, don’t just give up. Your emotional response to a bad situation is an indication that something is broken and needs to be fixed. Sometimes it’s the people around you. Many times it’s your own self.

You can’t just wipe the slate clean. You can’t just build new. You have to remodel, and remodeling is messy. But when you’re finished, isn’t it amazing? Once you complete a remodeling project, it’s incredible to see it, compare it to what it used to be, invite people in to marvel at it.

That could be your life. That could be your relationships.

If it feels like God is hurting you today, don’t walk away from Him. That means He’s working on you. That means He’s remodeling your life. Instead of running away from Him, work with Him. Find the spots that need attention and get your hands dirty. Get the old stuff out. Make room for the new. And get ready to invite people inside to show them what God has done with a space you thought was hopeless.

The choice you need to make this Thanksgiving

Every family has traditions. Even if you aren’t a traditional family or even if you don’t have a lot of traditions, you still have things you do as a family that nobody else does. It’s part of your family culture. And one of the biggest family days in the year happens tomorrow.

Today is the day before Thanksgiving. Maybe that day doesn’t mean a lot to some, but if you come from an old-fashioned type family where you serve a great big meal (traditional or not) on Thanksgiving day, the Wednesday before is more than just a day. It’s the day you spend in the kitchen.

Some families do their cooking/baking on Thursday mornings, but in our family we usually eat pretty early on Thanksgiving day. So most of the prep work has to be done the day before. Even when we’re not serving a traditional meal, we still have quite a bit of preparation to do ahead of time.

But what happens when the prep work and the planning gets to be more important than the purpose for the day itself?

2EW0RA30JPToday’s verses are Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.

This is one of those Bible stories you hear a lot, but it’s one I need to pay more attention to. I have a tendency to be like Martha, especially during the holidays. I get busy. I rush around, crazy and wild, trying to get as much done as I possibly can, and I do it because I want things to be perfect for guests and other family members. I love having people in my house. I love preparing meals for other people, whether it’s in my house or at their house, or just working together with someone to serve someone else. I love it. But it takes a lot of work and a lot of planning, and if nobody does it, it won’t get done.

So my busy little spirit can understand Martha’s irritation with her sister. And it’s not that Martha was wrong exactly. She just got her focus off of what really mattered. The meal wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things. She had Jesus in her living room. And, yes, she wanted to serve Him. Yes, she wanted to use her gifts to bless Him. And that’s exactly what she should have done, but she let the stress of that amazing opportunity turn her into someone she wasn’t. She let the pressure to perform make her say things she didn’t mean.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but has anyone else ever been there during the holidays? You know it’s not about the food or the presents or the decorations, but you let the pressure of the holiday season wear on you until you get grumpy because things aren’t working out the way you want.

News flash. Things rarely ever work out the way you want. So you’ve got a choice to make.

Thanksgiving, and other holidays, are an important time to be together. Maybe you’re with family. Maybe you’re with friends. Regardless, it’s specific time set aside for a specific purpose–to be thankful, to recognize that there are things in life more important than work or money or possessions. More important than whether you have turkey or ham or if you get a slice of pumpkin pie or if have to sit at the kid’s table or not.

When you start feeling stressed out or irritated (and you probably will), ask yourself what’s really important. Don’t get so caught up in putting on a good show or providing a good meal that you forget why you’re doing it in the first place.

The monsters are only scary because you’re small

When I was little, there was a movie playing in the theaters. I remember it clearly. I don’t think we went to see it in the theater because I was too young–or I just had too much of a crazy imagination that it wasn’t wise.

My parents had quite a job with me and my brother. We had loud, visceral reactions in movie theaters. So I’m pretty sure we didn’t go see a lot of movies. Instead, we waited until they were available on VHS (yes, I’m dating myself).

shrunkthekids.jpg2But I clearly remember the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. What a traumatic movie! If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s one of those classic 80s family movies that every kid needs to see, just in case your eccentric headcase dad builds a shrink ray in his attic and you need to know how to survive.

I remember a lot of things from that movie, but one of the cool things that stood out to me was how the miniaturized kids tamed an ant to help carry them across the backyard. The blades of grass around them were massive–like ginormous water slides. Seeing the world from a miniaturized perspective turned even the simplest, least scary things into a nightmare.

So what does that tell us about perspective? As normal, non-shrunk people, we think we’re pretty big. The things that scared the kids in that movie (ants, cigarette butts, Cheerios, etc.) wouldn’t have been a problem for them if they’d been regular sized. But what happens when we, as regular-sized people, encounter problems and difficulties that seem way too big for us?

shrunkthekidsToday’s verses are Isaiah 55:8-9.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

God sees things differently than we do because He’s bigger than we are. Those problems and challenges we encounter that seem insurmountable are nothing to Him.

Sort of like in that crazy movie. To us, a blade of grass is nothing. It’s small enough to us that we can get around it, lift it, move it, step on it, whatever. To a miniaturized person, a blade of grass is a massive obstacle. Normal life is exactly the same.

You’re going to run into obstacles and challenges in life that are too big for you, and there won’t be anything you can do about it. You’ll encounter heartache and frustration and confusion and anger, and you’ll reach the point where you understand that some things are just out of your control. And at that point, you have two options. You either give up, or you let it go.

Don’t give up. Giving up never helped anybody.

But letting go? That’s a different story. When you let go of what you’re trying to do or understand, that’s when God can come along and help. Because as long as you stubbornly hold on to it (whatever it is), He’ll let you keep trying to do it by yourself. And you’ll fail.

But when you let go and give it to Him? That’s when He can turn it into something better than you can imagine. Why? Because He’s bigger than you can imagine. The worst obstacles in your path are nothing to Him. The greatest fears and frustrations in your life aren’t even a blip on His radar.

He sees your life differently than you do. He sees the challenges you’re facing differently than you do. Because He’s bigger and greater and stronger than anyone else you have ever known.

Don’t be afraid to let go of your dreams, your goals, and even your fears. Don’t give up, but stop holding on so tight. It’s tempting to do that because the bigger the challenges in your life, the harder you tend to cling to your own strength.

Stop it. Your own strength will fail. Instead, cling to the One whose strength will never fail. God knows what’s happening in your life. He knows the end of your story, and He knows His plans for you. And guess what? They’re awesome.

So maybe life is overwhelming. Maybe you have obstacles in your path that just seem impossible to overcome. Maybe there are monsters in your way. But maybe they only look like monsters because you’re too small to know better. Maybe those impossible, overwhelming things really aren’t that big either.

With God on your side, you can do anything. So don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. And let Him have the chance to prove it to you.

A bad attitude makes you miss out on God’s best

Our attitude directs our actions. Maybe that’s a generalization, but I think it’s a pretty true one. Your attitude about a situation or a person or an event usually determines how you respond to it.

My attitude is usually pretty good, but generally speaking, my life rocks along without too many bumps. Sure, I have struggles and issues like everybody else, but my plans usually work out the way I want. I’m a planner, remember? I like to control everything, so I make a habit of thinking far ahead and knowing every step I can take to make something happen or to prevent something from happening.

But all of that changed recently with two little words: jury duty.

Yes, my civic duty as an American citizen. My opportunity to participate in the American legal system. And, honestly, something I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year of high school when my government teacher talked about it.

But here’s the deal: This is the worst week it could have come up. There are so many things happening, so many things to deal with, so many things to handle, I just don’t have the time to go to jury duty. And it’s really, really tempting to start feeling sour about the whole thing.

dare_to_complainToday’s verses are Philippians 2:14-15.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.

Ouch.

Does the Bible ever step on your toes? Yeah, it does that to me too. I think I’m doing all right, and then wham! I read a verse that makes me stop in my tracks.

Even when I complain, I don’t intend to. And here’s the kicker, I usually only complain when my attitude needs adjusting.

I’m exactly where I need to be. God has provided for me in so many ways, and when something comes along that I didn’t expect–something I don’t want to do–what’s my first reaction? I grumble. I complain. I groan.

Sure, maybe it’ll be a headache. Maybe it’s not what I had planned for tomorrow. But what’s more important in my life? Doing what I had planned? Or doing what God has planned?

Yeah. Rhetorical question.

I started this adventure because I felt God calling me to step out on faith and trust Him. Since then, lots of things have happened that I didn’t expect, most that I didn’t plan for. This is no different.

So what if I don’t get to do what I wanted tomorrow? God has something better for me. He always does.

Wherever you are today, don’t let your attitude lead you to ignore God’s best just because it might inconvenience you. Maybe the next step He’s putting in front of you isn’t what you wanted, but if it’s what He’s directing you to do, it’ll work out better in the end anyway.

Never overlook a small blessing

I am easily distracted by shiny things. Or by cute things. It’s like my attention is full and focused, and I’m running at 110% capacity. And I’m stressed out because things aren’t going my way. Or I’m worrying myself into a nervous breakdown because I have too much to do. And without intervention, I send myself tumbling down that dark, isolated tunnel of anxiety.

But if someone comes along and shows me a cute puppy (like what happened yesterday), all of a sudden, life gets better. Or at least, life seems to get better. Because, hey, I’ve got a cute little puppy to cuddle. How bad can life be?

I was kind of upset at myself later. I mean, what kind of goofball gets in a better mood just because of a puppy? It didn’t change my day. It didn’t change the amount of work I have to do or extend the deadlines on my late projects. Does that make me superficial? To change moods so rapidly for such a silly reason? Or is there more to it?

My coworker's adorable little Yorkie/Cocker Spaniel puppy

My coworker’s adorable little Yorkie/Cocker Spaniel puppy

Today’s verse is Zechariah 4:10.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.

Something God is teaching me more and more every day is that He is just as present in the small things as He is in the big things. Granted, I know that. But as I’ve said before, there’s a big difference between knowing God is there and living like it.

When I get stressed out and anxious about the stuff going on in my life, I’m not looking at God. He’s not my focus when I’m worrying. My focus is myself when I’m worrying.

I’m only thinking about what I can accomplish. I’m only thinking about what I can do in the time I have or with the resources I have available. I’m focusing solely on myself and what I can do in my own strength. And that’s the not the way I’m supposed to live.

I have access to the greatest wealth in the universe. I have an all-sufficient, all-powerful, all-knowing Father who wants me to ask Him for help. And I’m foolish to forget it so often.

I’m completely convinced that God sends small things to stop us in our tracks in those moments when we’re stressing out about something. On those days when the anxiety is overwhelming, have there ever been moments when something funny has happened? Or something cute has come into view? If you think about it, I bet there has been. Maybe it was something that just made you stop. Maybe it was something that took your eyes off yourself and your own issues for a fraction of a second.

In those times when you’re drowning in stress and sorrow, when you get the chance to think about something else for a little while, don’t push it away. Don’t assume it’s not worth your time. Don’t see it as a waste of time. Look at it like a gift.

I got to hold a cute little puppy for a few minutes on a frustrating Thursday afternoon, and once I gave her back (reluctantly), I was in a much better mood. Why? Because I’m a terrible person? Or because I’m not dedicated enough to my job?

No. For a few minutes, my job didn’t matter. My deadlines didn’t matter. My performance didn’t matter. And I just got to stand and hold a beautiful, sweet little creature that my God made. And it helped me put the rest of my day in perspective because I stopped making my day the center of my world.

Give yourself a break. That pile of paperwork will still be sitting on your desk when you come back. But what I’ve learned about being a workaholic is that the longer you work, the less effective you are. People weren’t created to work 24/7. Some of us try because we’re gluttons for punishment or because we have this weird idea in our silly brains that running ourselves into the ground will please God (that’s a lie, by the way).

Stop pushing so hard. When a little thing comes around that makes you happy, take a few minutes and enjoy it. Then go back to what you were doing, and you might find that your focus is vastly improved.

Don’t overlook the small things. Sometimes small things bring us the greatest joy in life.

And if you’re stressed out at work, let me just say that getting a puppy is the best thing you could do. Because, seriously, who could be stressed out when you look at that face?