Uncertainty

The walk of faith isn’t a walk of faith if we know exactly what is going to happen.   Life is like a baseball game, and we are up to bat:  it could come like a straight and true fastball, flying over home plate — and then dive at the last minute into a sickening curve.  There is unpredictability, confusion, and uncertainty.  Yet it’s all part of the game.

Just think if a baseball player knew exactly what the pitcher would throw every time he went to the plate.  He would have the highest batting average in history!  What makes a player impressive is how well he faces the uncertainty that comes with every pitch.  His reflexes and intuition are a product of years of practice and training.  He can stand the challenge of unpredictability because he has prepared.

Just like anyone else, I wish that I could map out my life — or at least the next five years — and follow that little plan until the next ten years loomed before me.  Unfortunately, God doesn’t work that way!  While he gives us dreams and goals, he does not tell us exactly when or how those goals will be accomplished.  It’s up to us to prepare for the opportunities — and the trials — that may come our way.

Many of us hear the phrase, “God has a great plan for your life.”  In one way, this is true.  God does have a purpose for us that will bring Him the most glory, and make us most effective for Him.  However, that plan isn’t a heavenly blueprint just waiting to be found in the pages of the Bible or in a daily prayer.  There won’t be that day when you know exactly WHAT you are going to do, WHEN you are going to do it, and WHERE it will take you.  God shows us His ‘plan’ little by little, requiring our faith in Him in order to reach the next step.

Many people spend their lives searching for this plan.  They take personality and ‘spiritual gift’ tests to determine the plan on their own.  I have nothing against these tests, as I have taken several of my own; however, we can’t go through life using an Extroverted personality and Encouraging spiritual gift as excuses not to serve God in other areas.  These may be strengths, but God wants well rounded people.  He doesn’t want us selling out and falling short. 

We may not know what the future holds for us, but that can’t be a limitation on our effectiveness for Christ.  If anything it needs to be our buffer, pushing us to a greater trust in Him.  From experience I know that we can respond two ways to unpredictability:  depend on ourselves, which results in confusion and unhappiness, or depend on Christ, which brings great peace. 

So when you step up to the plate, don’t shy away from the ball… swing!  Opportunity sometimes only crosses the plate three times.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”  (Psalm 28:7)

To Think About

  • How do you deal with uncertainty in life?
  • Do you view unpredictability as an opportunity to trust God?  Who are you trusting in?
  • What are your goals?  Are you trying to get a ‘grand plan’ or trusting God as you move forward with what you know now?

Singing in the Rain

It is very gray and wet today in Petoskey.  Out the office window I can see the clouds gathering over the bay, where the rain makes the water ripple in little circles.  Pretty in one way, but rather dismal in another.

On these “gray days” I often wake up with a groan and bury my head back in my pillow.  What a way to start out the day!  No one likes to start the morning out with a sad, dreary outlook.  However, too often we wake up with that ‘rainy-day’ mentality — even when the sun is shining outside!

When our circumstances aren’t what we would prefer, it is natural for us to become sour and morose.  We want to pout or get angry, and our stormy attitude affects everyone that we come in contact with.  Emotion takes the lead and we follow where it wills.

One of the hardest things to conquer as a girl can be emotion.  Naturally emotional, many young women  allow their feelings to rule their behavior.  When it’s raining outside or if it’s in our hearts, it is our instinct to let those feelings run free and wild — no matter who we run over in the process.

Reining in our emotions is one of the greatest keys to success in life.  When a girl has emotional stability, she is strong in the face of stress, pressure, surprise and difficulty.  She is able to keep her head and heart in place.  Emotional control (also called self-control) is necessary in order to be effective in anything.

Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum: a life lived with free vent to emotion and feeling.  Women who live this way will be tossed by every passing whim, confused by circumstance, distressed by pressure, and unable to deal with the turbulent storms of life. 

The girl who learns to “sing in the rain” can overcome circumstances with a cheerful attitude.  This young woman will be sought out by friends, family, employers and opportunity because she is able to conquer feeling with faith. 

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature [womanhood], to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.  Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  (Eph. 4:13-16)

To Think About

  • Do you allow your emotions to rule you, or do you rule your emotions?
  • How can you strengthen your emotions under stress and pressure?
  • How does your goal to become strong emotionally bring glory to God through your life?

Lassie, Come Home

thanksgiving-012That adorable little ball of fur on the left is my Sheltie, Lassie.  She will turn three this spring, just a few days before my own birthday, and she is a happy little creature without a care in the world.  Thanks to mom feeding her while I am at work, she is a fat little thing, too! 

Lassie’s main vice (besides yapping) lies in her timid nature.  She is deathly afraid of strangers and strange places.  She has an emotional breakdown every time I take her for a ride in my car.  She hides under furniture and shakes like we’re having an earthquake whenever she is confronted with something new. 

Sound familiar?

I hate to subscribe to the idea that in time, the owner begins to assimilate to her dog, but I see too much of myself in Lassie’s nature.  Physically, we have the same profile (check out my nose) and when it comes to our personalities, I see many of the same tendencies that Lassie displays when life throws her a curve ball.  She never goes and fetches.  She runs the other direction.

My world and Lassie’s are obviously very different.  She doesn’t have to go to work or do chores — she just has to be.  Well, she does have to be good, in addition to just being, and as a whole she does a fair job at that.  The test comes when  I give her a command:

“Lassie, come here.”  I see her round eyes recognize my voice — but then she surveys the situation.  Is there anyone around?  Anything new, strange, or fearful?  If so, she doesn’t come, but lingers timidly in the corner.  “Lassie, come!”  She takes a few steps forward, but quickly darts back when she hears footsteps nearby.  Her ears flick back and forth and I can tell I am not the only voice she is listening to.  Third time:  “Lassie, I said come here!”  She then has two reactions:  a mad dash into my arms, or a fearful huddle in the corner.  If the latter, I come thundering into the corner to collar her into obedience. 

What Lassie always misunderstands is that I call her to give her blessings.  I give her commands so I can enjoy her company, pet her, feed her, and brush her.  It is she who makes it an ordeal by her fearful disobedience.  When she continues to ignore my commands, the difficulty is prolonged as I have to punish her before I can give her what I wanted to give in the first place. 

I don’t know about you, but I see this as a fair example of my relationship with God.  He calls — and I survey the situation.  “Is it safe?  Will I be embarrassed?  Will I get hurt?” If I don’t like it, maybe I don’t go.  He calls again:  “Phylicia, follow me!” I start to follow, but I get dissuaded by fear and pride.  So God comes thundering into my corner, to pull me out of my huddle and show me what I could have attained with much less hassle.  I end up with my ears pinned back and my tail between my legs.  It didn’t have to be that way.

So tomorrow morning when I feed Lassie, that’s what will be on my mind.  Maybe I can’t help looking like my dog, but I can certainly put a stop to acting like her.  I just have to get out of my corner… before the Master has to drag me out of it!

First Priority

Love, genuine love, is not a feeling.  I have said this before, and I must say it again — not only for my readers, but also for myself.  Love is greater than emotion:  it is the choice from which our feelings will follow.  When I think of love, my mind pictures romance.  Yet romance by itself is only one small part of love.  Love is at heart a practical discipline. Practical, in that it is practiced, and a discipline in that it requires us to push ourselves in order to maintain it.

When we say we ‘love’ someone, we may mean it, but whether we truly love them is proven by our actions over time.  Love is an effort, not an accident.  This is why ‘love at first sight’ is not possible — that is attraction.  So no matter what we hear about love in the songs and movies, true love is nothing like those descriptions. 

I hear people speak of how much they ‘love God’ quite often.  I hear the ‘love of God’ preached even more often.  It makes me ask the question:  do most people even know what love is?  Think of the world’s definition of love.  To our society, love is (to put it as tactfully as possible) based on physical interaction alone.  It is based on conversation, personality and instant gratification.  When this ‘love’ no longer satisfies, or necessitates an effort, the participating parties go their separate ways.  With people so saturated in this mentality toward love, how will they ‘love’ God?  Most likely the same way:  based on feeling, condition and instant gratification. 

Due to society’s deluded perception of love, they treat God’s love in the same way they treat their relationships: as temporary and ‘replacable’.  Due to that same misconception, they also have trouble believing God when he says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.”  (Jer. 31:3, ESV)  These days that kind of love doesn’t seem to exist.  In a seeing-is-believing world, people often give up on faith and settle for feeling instead.

God calls us to a different kind of love.  It’s the kind of love He had for us, when, despite scorn and beatings, and a horrific death, He died so we could be His.  He calls us to the love based on effort and action, founded on choice and courage, and grounded in faith and freedom. 

This kind of love doesn’t just happen.  Sometimes our feelings will sway us to take the easy way.  But His voice calls out, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  (Matt. 6:33)  He must be First Priority to remain First Love; and when He is First Love, He will also be First Priority.

An Iron Pillow

 phykotah2

Friendships are wonderful.  They are simply a blast.  Yet, I think girl friends are the best friendships of all (outside the family, which we will discuss later).  There seems to be an uncanny connection between coffee, chocolate and the giggling girls who use both!  I know that with one of my best friends if we are together, there’s usually only one thing between us — a table with coffee sitting on it.  Or chocolate.  Preferably both.  (That’s me and her above)

There is a reason girl friends are important.  This reason rests on the nature of women and girls.  Females are wired to be conversational:  nurturing, emotional and caring.  Face to face encounters are what they thrive on.  It makes us feel like someone wants to be with us, is genuinely interested, and is enjoying our company.  My friend and I work out the world’s problems in the Roast and Toast cafe!

Men are wired differently.  Have you ever noticed how they talk?  Picture first a bridal or baby shower.  It sounds like a hen house, with every voice raised to congratulate and encourage, all asking the whens and wheres and particulars of the specific occasion.  Men don’t do that, which is good, or we wouldn’t marry them.  When men talk to each other, or even to us, they often turn somewhat sideways rather than face to face.  Their emphasis is not on an emotional connection, but rather on an informative one. 

The reason I bring these things up is to reveal the importance that women place on conversation and social interaction in a relationship.  For most women (although I have met a few exceptions) talking about their lives with someone helps them to understand and deal with issues they may have.  In the world, these issues are never solved because their friends simply tell them to ‘believe in themselves’ and ‘do what feels right’.  However, for those of us fortunate enough to have godly girl friends, we have the duty and the blessing of encouragement in Christ within that relationship.

The Bible says that “iron sharpens iron”.  You can’t sharpen a knife with a pillow, you have to hone the blade with something that provides resistance.  It will grate on the blade at first, but when time has gone by, the knife will be of use because of its sharpness.  In a true friendship, the friends help each other grow in their walk with Christ by being honest.  This does not mean we look for faults to correct, but if our friend asks for accountability, the door is open to speak with her. 

But we can’t be all sharpness, either.  Our job isn’t to simply hone our friends into the women they are ‘supposed to be’.  We must also be there for comfort, hope and a cheerful word.  We need to have a softness about us that will temper the necessity of a harder word later on.  It is a combination of both honesty and compassion — one of the hardest combinations to maintain!  This goes beyond the cafe table to every area of life. 

So there is a challenge for you, me and every other woman, young and old.  Can you combine gentleness and honesty?  Can you be an Iron Pillow?

This Is Your Time!

Whether you are in high school or graduated, if you have committed to maintaining your heart purity for a man who will commit to you, there will be waiting involved.  During this time, we have established several things:

1) Marriage isn’t the goal.

2) Good male friends can be beneficial and healthy.

3) Jesus Christ must be your focus and the Love that satisfies.

4) Finally, this isn’t a time to ‘twiddle your thumbs’ – and this is what we will talk about today.

I am naturally a procrastinator, and have tendency to do the things I like before the things I don’t.  Thus, all the things I don’t like end up having to be done on the same day.  This wouldn’t happen if I did them during the week, but as it usually occurs, my weekends are spent catching up and trying to finish everything before college, church and speaking deadlines.  I’m working on it! 

Now apply my method of organization to your life as a young woman or man.  If the years before marriage are spent daydreaming over a mate who isn’t there, or spent ‘just being a teenager’, or wasted on more trivial things than how to run a house, cook, and clean, what do you think will happen when you ARE married?  Serious catch-up time!  You will be learning by the seat of your pants, and wishing that there had been a few less movies and a few more hours in the kitchen.  Am I a gourmet cook and amazing laundress, who cleans the bathroom every day and scurries about like a magical Mary Poppins?  Far, far from it.  And none of us will ever have every day to be and get things done perfectly.  But these years are years of preparation, not just play.

How do we maximize this time?  There are several things I think are essential for any girl to learn if she hopes to get married.  I have not learned them completely; most are very much still in the works.

Cooking:  “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is actually very true.  Henry Ford proposed after eating his girl’s apple pie.  Bob Evans married his wife because of her buttermilk biscuits.  Learning to cook is essential to raise healthy children, have a happy husband, and to keep the family finances within budget as well.  Meal planning and using the grocery flier is necessary to make economic choices.  Fast food and eating out are fine once in while — for dates, or when you are in a hurry — but if it is a regular occurrence, the bill soon racks up.  Cooking from the home is a talent too many girls lack and all should learn.  I’m one of them! 

Cleaning:  I don’t know about you, but I hate cleaning bathrooms.  It never lasts longer than three days anyway.  And dishes too — every meal there they are again!  Unfortunately, this will be the story of our lives for… the rest of our lives!  Proper, thorough cleaning has to be done not only for a good presentation, but for health and comfort.  And not surprisingly, there is a way to clean a house that is indeed the ‘right’ way.  Swiffers and dust wipes aren’t going to cut the mustard — or the dirt.  They are great for quick cleanups on an already mostly-clean room, but for a regular cleaning hands-and-knees mopping, dishcloth dusting and edge vacuuming are what make the difference.

Sewing:  I hate sewing.  I don’t have a bit of patience for it, and I always do it wrong. I was the one that sewed the sleeves shut on a jacket and put the interfacing on upside down.  But still, this is a very beneficial talent to have.  My mom taught herself and has been able to sew costumes, nightclothes, dresses, formals, and all the valances in the house.  My best friend is an amazing seamstress.  Not only does she sew her own clothes, but she designs them as well!  While these days buying patterns, buttons and fabric can make sewing just as expensive as buying clothes, there are many times this talent is of great benefit to the family.

Budgeting:  Learning about money and how to use it is the most important thing to learn in these years.  I am still learning it myself.  With the economy in its current state, and with our new president soon to bring much ‘change’ to the nation, we need to be prepared to be frugal.  And we need to know how.  I am reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” on my mother’s recommendation, and I would suggest it to other girls as well. Learning these things now is essential, because learning them on the fly in a marriage will just cause extra stress and strain.  One of the primary reasons for divorce is finances. Educate yourself in budgeting and using funds — help your parents with the bills, and watch how money is spent and what it is spent on.

Interpersonal Communications:  Can you talk to a bank teller?  Can you talk to the JC Penney clerk?  Can you call a company on the phone and get the refund they didn’t give you?  Can you talk to an angry person without getting angry yourself?  If you can’t communicate, you can’t marry.  Them’s the breaks, Binky.  Communication is what makes the marriage.  ‘He says, She says’ has to be constantly worked out with understanding and love, and if confrontation makes you angry, or incites a collapse into tears, not much will be accomplished.  This is the time to learn to listen, and think before speaking.  This is the time to develop excellent phone and computer skills.  This is the time to learn how to get what you need from a clerk, teller or other employee.  I was terrified of clerks when I was younger.  What finally broke this was working in a retail environment.  Suddenly, I was the clerk!  I was forced to learn to communicate in many different ways.  I think this is unfortunately a weakness of many girls.  Practice now!  This is the time.

Work and Education:  I guess you could call me a stay-at-home daughter if you wanted.  I am living at home, and staying with my family.  However, I am not ‘staying’ at home in the sense that I am there all the time.  I work Tuesday through Saturday, and Mondays assist as stage manager to a drama troupe.  Sundays I have a few ministries at church to help with as well.  I am also midway through my second year of online college.  I do not intend to have a career in any way, but I have other reasons for getting my degree.  Homeschooling is becoming more and more threatened, and with our government changing hands, it may one day be illegal to teach children in the home without a Bachelor’s degree.  Am I wasting money on a chance occurrence?  Not in my mind.  I am maximizing my time: working to pay for college and insurance on my car,  teaching young ladies in the drama group, helping in my church and gaining a degree in something I love.  If you are at home, rather than just waiting to get married, make the most of these years.  If you don’t get married, what would you do with your life?  Do it now! 

What this comes down to is faith.  My dad told me this.  Did you see Facing the Giants, the movie?  The old man in the movie told a story.  There were two farmers whose land was suffering because of a drought; both men prayed to the Lord, asking that they might have rain.  One farmer prayed and kept waiting for a downpour.  The other prepared his fields to receive it.  This is what we are to do.  God blesses those who ask in faith and then go to work for Him, maximizing the talents they have been given.  Don’t just sit!  Go, seek, find, pray, work and learn.  This is your time.

He Is Always With Me

Conferences are one of my favorite things in the world to attend.  The picture here was taken when I was at the Winsome Women conference on Mackinac Island this past spring.  It was my fourth time and my friend’s first.  As I was flipping through some of my sermon notes, I noticed I had the notes I had taken at the conference and thought I would share a few with you.

Perhaps you have heard of the writer and speaker Liz Curtis Higgs.  She wrote the “Bad Girls of the BIble” series, as well as a newer book called “Embrace Grace”.  Single until late in her thirties, she truly understands how to make the most of singleness and marriage.  It is her message I am going to share with you because it truly touched my heart, and I hope it touches yours.

He Is Always With Me                          May 15, 2008

“…”Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.” Jn. 8:4

Liz shared the story of this woman with us… “The woman caught in adultery was worthy of condemnation, but Jesus, the one who could have cast the first stone, chose to overlook and forgive her sin…”  Romans 5:8 says, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

There is a difference between Conviction and Condemnation:

Conviction — draws you near God;  Condemnation — pushes you away

For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  John 3:17

We are actually in a more amazing time now than 2000 years ago with Jesus, because each believer has the Holy Spirit residing inside her.  The Good News is:  God is always with you.  The Bad News is:  God is always with you! He is there in temptation, available for strength — and He will convict you when you fail.  Yet you have no reason to fail, for He is right beside you! No matter who you are, His is a “one size fits all” kind of love. 

What about singleness?  You are married to your Maker — which sets you free from a need to be completed by a man.  What does your Husband do?  He rules the universe!  We are loved and cherished by Him — He doesn’t push us to love Him, but He doesn’t back off either.  When you are tempted to self-pity, and Satan throws stones of doubt at you, remember:

A man has already died for you.

God does not condemn you, but He will convict you.  Just as He does not condemn you, so you should not condemn others.  You have no need to fear nor feel alone, because He is always with you.  He IS your strength and He will guide you through all your days.  Trust Him.