Monday, July 9, 2018

Drifting Away in the Waves of Life



I stood in the sand and watched my two kids who were oblivious that the momentum of the waves had moved them so far away from me. They were laughing and jumping as the ocean pushed them farther down the shoreline.

Earlier that morning, our family chose an empty stretch of sand and set up chairs under the protection of beach umbrellas in various primary colors. It was our home base for the day. The kids ran to the shallow water to jump the waves as they rolled to the shore. I watched as the waves came in at an angle, the strength of the water pushing the two of them down the shoreline, away from me and away from our sandy home base.

The ocean can deceive its visitors into feeling secure in the shallow waters while it pulls them away from those who can watch out for them.

I walked down the beach until I finally reached my kids.  I called their names over the roar of the ocean, motioned for them to come to me, and showed them how far they had strayed. They never even knew they had moved. They were surprised to be so far from where they started, but I assured them I had never stopped watching them and knew where they were the whole time.  Then I pointed to the line of beach umbrellas and guided them back.

When Life Happens

Sometimes, the waves of life move us away from God. Work and family are stressful, or we get sick, or death comes like a thief to steal someone we love. We drift away in the waves of life, moving away from our home base, not realizing how far life has taken us. We look up and suddenly see how far we’ve gone.  We look around in desperation, in grief, or maybe in anger. We’ve lost our way without knowing, but then we see Him.

God has had His eye on us the entire time.

Psalm 89:9 tells us our God, who created the vast oceans and the crashing waves, is in control.

You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.

Our God, who created you and me, knows the number of our days, and chose us before the foundation of the world, also knows what waves will come crashing in on us. He knows our hurt, our fear, our insecurity, our heartbreak, and our loss. When the waves of life threaten to overwhelm us, He says:

Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you… (Isaiah 43:1-2)

“Fear not,” He says, “I will be with you.” When you look up to find Him, He will be there.

His eyes have never left you.

When We Choose to Drift Away

Maybe we are having so much fun playing in the waves of life we don’t care where they take us.  We let the ocean pull us away from home and we purposefully play the prodigal running away from our Father. 

Don’t you know our loving Shepherd will leave the 99 to pursue the one who strayed?  To pursue me? To pursue you?

He never takes His eyes off us.

Come Back to the Living Water

Whether we are pulled away by the cares of life or allow ourselves to drift, we can become so consumed by the water we’re swimming in that we forget about the Living Water. The Savior of the World, the Living Water, never takes His eyes off you or me. He pursues us when we stray, and he points us back to home when we drift away. 

But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. (John 4:14)

Turn your eyes to Jesus, friend, because He never took his eyes off you.



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Reluctant Hospitality: When Opening Your Home Feels Overwhelming


I have a confession to make.  Practicing hospitality scares me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of hospitality. My shelf is full of books on the subject and I’m drawn to blogs that center around opening your home. My heart truly craves being hospitable to both friends and strangers, but sometimes I am self-conscious about my home and my ability to welcome people in. It’s a beautiful concept, but one I find myself struggling to put into practice.


About two years ago, my husband and I started building our home on some acreage out in the country.  We drew a floor plan on graph paper, then took on the laborious task of building from the ground up with our own hands. With each long day that we swung hammers, raised walls, put down flooring, and finally rolled on paint, I dreamed of all the people I would one day invite into this space. We would have more room, more outdoor space, and it would be better decorated and more welcoming. 

Now that we’re moved in, it has all those things, but it is also full of unfinished projects like baseboards and ceilings that still need paint, patchy grass that becomes a muddy mess with every rain, muddy floors from dogs that track in that muddy mess, and a honey-do list a mile long. There is always an excuse for me not to invite people. 

It all comes down to fear.

I’m afraid my house is never clean enough and I worry my guests will see all the imperfections.  I keep putting hospitality to the side until projects are done, or life isn’t too busy, or I feel like things are finally settled. 

Sometimes insecurity creeps in that has more to do with me than the state of my house. Truth is, I’m not the best at making new friends and social gatherings sometimes make me feel awkward and lonely. These same insecurities arise when I think about inviting others to my home.  What if it’s not the home they’re judging, but me?

So how do I get past this fear, especially when hospitality is a common theme running through scripture?

Years ago, I heard a speaker talk about loving others. He spoke of his desire to be a “there you are” person instead of a “here I am” person.  A “there you are” person puts the focus on others. It’s a beautiful description of loving our neighbor.  It is other-focused, instead of self-focused. 
It is Paul telling us, “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor” (1 Corinthians 10:24). It is Jesus ministering to the masses, and to the individual. It is scripture reminding us that loving others is part of the greatest commandment.

Being hospitable means putting others ahead of myself.  When I’m focused on the guest and his or her needs, the wall of insecurity and fear I built around myself crumbles.

What does real, honest, open hospitality look like? 

It is inviting people over for a pancake breakfast on a Saturday morning even though there are dishes on the counter from last night.  It’s a backyard bonfire, while your two elderly dogs and one skinny, yellow cat snuggle up to your guests.  It’s taco Tuesday, minus the crunchy taco shells you forgot to grab at the store. Sometimes hospitality looks like picking up a few pizzas and bringing them to a friend’s house, so she doesn’t have to pack up all her kids and haul them across town during nap time.
 
Being hospitable is not extravagant and it’s certainly not about putting myself or my home on display. True hospitality puts the focus on the people who walk through my front door. When I make loving my guests a priority instead of feeling stressed or self-conscious about the state of my home, I create an atmosphere of comfort and fellowship. 

Hospitality isn’t about me. Instead, it’s about seeking what is good for those God calls me to love.  It is being a “there you are” person. I invite people in because I am imperfect, and they are imperfect, but together we can create beautiful fellowship and beautifully imperfect friendships.

If you let people in your life, soon they won't be just knocking on your door; they'll be knocking on your heart.

And you'll welcome them in with open arms.



Friday, June 8, 2018

Life and Death are in the Power of the Tongue. Are you Speaking Life?


Today, someone I really admire gave me some encouragement.  It wasn’t prompted by anything I said or did; it was just given to me freely, without anything expected in return. And you know what? It was nice to hear.


I spend the majority of my day focused on others: my high school students, my husband, and my kids.  I pour out and don’t really stop to expect anything in return because it’s my job to tend to the needs of others. Encouragement doesn’t come often, but when it does it’s like taking a bite of chocolate cake.  I don’t really crave it, but when I take a bite, it’s like I should have been eating it all along.  Loving, kind, encouraging words just feel good. Maybe you can relate.


Words have power. They can build someone up or they can do major damage. Scripture is full of encouragement to use loving words, but also warnings to keep watch over our tongue because it is the most difficult member of the body to control. Sometimes the words just fall out of our mouths and before we know it, we’ve wounded someone we love.  James 3:5-6 tells us the tongue is a fire. “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” How do we keep more control over this dangerous weapon?  How do we use the power of words for good and not evil?

Hiding His word in our heart by memorizing scripture is a wonderful way to keep our words loving and positive.  Luke 6:45 tells us out of the abundance of our heart, our mouths speak. Speaking truth to ourselves, especially in times of stress or hurt, can help to keep us from setting fires with our tongues.

Speak Praise

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. (Psalm 71:8)

Sometimes I forget how big God really is.  It’s easy to think of God as a loving, gentle Father, because He is. But we also need to remember this is the same God who created all things, who is yesterday, today, and forever, who is holy, is good, owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who made the lame to walk and the blind to see, and sits on the throne. Psalm 147:5 reminds us, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”

When we acknowledge His attributes, it puts our own lives in perspective. He is so much bigger and holy than we can fathom yet loved us first and sent Christ to die for us.  Speaking words of praise exalts Him and reminds us to love Him, which in turn helps us to love others.

Give Thanks

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples. (Psalm 105:1)

Over and over we are encouraged to give thanks. There is no one more deserving of our thankfulness than the One who gave us life and every good thing. If our mouth is full of thanksgiving it is harder to speak unkind words and when we remember that God’s grace has covered our sin, it is easier to show grace to others.

Speak Life

The soothing tongue is a tree of life. (Proverbs 15:4)

Throughout our day, we have so many opportunities to build up by speaking truth and life into another. Take some time today to speak loving words to your spouse, your child, your friend, or a stranger.  A small gesture can make a significant impact.

Speak Peace

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

When something annoys us, or conflict arises, our first response can be to lash out.  You know as much as I do that no good thing ever happens as a result of hurtful words.  One of our roles as a Christian is to be a peacemaker.  Notice I didn’t say peacekeeper. A peacekeeper avoids conflict, but a peacemaker will resolve a conflict using truth, respect, and kindness. A soft word can diffuse a tense situation so we must use self-control and gentleness.

Love God and Love Others

Part of loving God and loving our neighbor includes watching the words we speak.  We must give our praise to the only One worthy of that praise, we should have hearts of gratitude that express thankfulness to Him who is exceedingly good, and we must be careful that our words build others up and not be used for destruction.  It is not an easy task to control our tongue, but having a mind and heart full of scripture plus a desire to seek His face everyday can help to ensure that our words are “like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24).

How can you speak life into someone today?