Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hope

Hello my dear friend….
It was so good to talk with you today. My heart sits heavy and yet at peace – heavy at the trials which fill your days, and yet peace at the hope to which you cling.
Reminds me of 1 Peter. For there I see the same, hope and trials, interwoven together. For as we both know, these challenges are not new. Others have walked this road on which you travel. And even more will one day find themselves on its path as well.

But I wanted to share a verse. It made me think of you…

Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for (1 Peter 1:3 MSG)

Do you see why we can hope? Do you see how we can keep hold of hope no matter how hard the moment gets?

Because Jesus was raised from the dead.

When your days get long and life threatens to overcome, always run to Jesus. There my friend is where you’ll again find solid ground on which to stand.

When I look at my risen Jesus, I see a God who loves me, independent of me. Scripture states Jesus died for us “while we were yet sinners.” God doesn’t love me because of me. He loves because that’s who He is. Nothing I do and nothing I face can change that. Jesus proves God cares.

When I look at the risen Jesus, I find a God who understands. He sees you my friend. He sees your sacrifice for others that goes un-noticed and gets taken for granted. He’s felt that way too. He sees your pain in this challenge you didn’t ask for. He too asked for a cup to be removed, but also chose to still trust and surrender. When I gaze at Jesus, I see nail pierced hands. I see a God who understands my suffering.

When I look at my Jesus, I witness a God of power. For the cross and the grave were overcome. The cross led to the grave. But the grave led to the resurrection. This power that raised Jesus from the dead, this power is at work on your behalf. It conquered death. It conquers all! Our God is able my friend. He will see you through.

When I look at Jesus victorious, I know only God has the final say. This disease does not rule. Though it shouts and screams and looms large, it has no control. Our God who conquered death, who conquered the grave, who conquered the enemy once and for all, this God controls my life and the lives of those I love. Not a disease. Jesus is living proof that God has the final say.

So fix your eyes on Jesus my friend. He is the source of our hope. He is the proof of God’s love. He is the assurance that you can endure. You will reach the other side of this storm. I don’t know when, or even how.
 
But I know He’ll see you through…. Love you!
Juli

 
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lists

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 2 Peter 1:5-7


I like lists. I gravitate to structure and order, so when I see a list in scripture, I like it. In my goal to learn and accomplish, a list breaks down the steps, increasing my understanding, and thus makes it easier for me to achieve. So I liked those 3 steps to a good day which I shared earlier this week.

2 Peter has another list that I’ve enjoyed pondering the past week. It’s found in chapter 1, verses 5-8. This week I’ve been pondering the wording in the Message:

So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing the others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, no day will pass without its reward as you mature in your experience of our Master Jesus.

This list starts with basic faith, believing God is Who He says, believing God will do what He says. This is the foundation for everything else. All of the others feed off that belief. They complement that belief in making us a more well-rounded believer.

When I read this passage in other translations it’s presented more as a sequential list. Each trait comes from the previous. But like it says here, each trait helps develop the other so maybe it’s more like a web? I don’t know which is better or if that even matters. They are all things we should pursue.

Listen to these words. I love the combinations in the Message:

Good character
Spiritual understanding
Alert discipline
Passionate patience
Reverent wonder
Warm friendliness
Generous love

When we believe God is who He says, we align our life to His. He changes our nature and our character develops, our choices change.

When we believe God is who He says, we get connected to the Holy Spirit. He teaches us and counsels us so that our understanding of God’s ways grows.

When we believe God is who He says, we start listening. We have alert discipline. We listen for His directives and because of our love for Him, our gratitude for all He did on our behalf, we are motivated to obey. We choose His structures for our lives because we understand they lead to freedom.

When we believe God is who He says, we can wait. We remain passionate in our patience in that we don’t lose focus. We can trust His timing. We find the strength, the stamina, the perspective to endure. We know this life is not the end and we know who’s in control. We know who’s already won.

When we believe God is who He says, will do what He says, we are filled with reverent wonder. We worship. How can we not? We get overcome with the goodness and intensity of God’s love, the immensity of His suffering on our behalf, the completeness of His power, and the awesomeness of His so-beyond-us character.

When we believe God is who He says, our hearts turn to others. Warm friendliness. We recognize every person is an original creation by God: unique, valued, and neutral. We understand the enemy and people aren’t it. We gain God’s heart and perspective for others. We start to like each other.

And finally, when we believe God is who He says, we get active in sharing the love we’ve received. Generous love. How can we not extend to others the same gifts God’s bestowed upon us? We realize everything we have, everything we are, are simply gifts from our loving Creator. We become vessels instead of end points.


Which phrase grabs your heart? Which trait challenges your path? Do you really believe God is Who He says? Do you live like you believe God will do what He says?


Lists make things look simple. But they aren’t. Well, maybe they are. At the foundation of each, isn’t it simply the choice to believe?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 1 Peter 3:10-11
 
What thought first filled your mind when you awoke this morning? What goal do you have for today? No matter what your plans hold or what is going on in your life, I bet we all share a common desire. I bet each and every one of us, at the end of the day, hopes to be able to say it was a good day.
 
But what does a good day look like? How do you go about ensuring a good day?
 
I’m so glad you asked! Because I found this little tidbit tucked into 1 Peter 3, although it’s actually a quote from Psalm 34:
 
Whoever wants to embrace life and see the day fill up with good, here’s what you do: Say nothing evil or hurtful; Snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth. (Message)
 
A good day requires 3 things!
 
1) Say nothing evil or hurtful.  Notice that evil and hurtful are both listed. You can say true things in ways that cause hurt. So this counsel says to avoid that. The first step to a good day is to watch what you say. Scripture tells us to be slow to speak. It cautions of the power of words. How will you use your words today? How can you build others up? How can you speak truth in ways that encourage and bear fruit instead of destroying or tearing others down? What needs to be said and what needs to be left unspoken? These are the questions we must consider first if we want to have a good day.
 
2) Snub evil and cultivate good. Notice there are two actions here. Both are intentional choices about our actions. We must work to shut down evil, in our life and in the circumstances around us. At the same time we must cultivate or work to promote good. This is more than just sitting back and taking care of just me. Is gossip spreading around you? How can you stop it and change the conversation to a better focus? It’s more than just not participating but intentionally working to change it. Our actions are to be purposeful, intentional, and effective at stopping evil and promoting good. This is what makes a good day.
 
3) Run after peace. Sometimes people think peace means an absence of conflict. But this is more than just being agreeable. When do you run after something? When you want to catch it. If you want to catch something, you are willing to go wherever you need to, to do whatever you need to, to get it! That means you have to work at it! What do you need to deal with so that the small thing gets resolved before it turns into a big thing and disrupts the peace? What relationships much you work on to ensure that peace is maintained? What preventative measures must you take so that peace occurs? If we want a good day, we must work at relationships and anticipate problems to deal with them before they occur.
 
Do you want to have a good day today? Then be slow to speak; think about what you’ll say and how you’ll say it. Be intentional with your actions; think about how you can stop evil and promote good in your sphere of influence. Finally, be committed to peace; think about what problems might arise in your relationships and be diligent to deal with small things before they become big things.
 
Words. Actions. Relationships.
 
Manage these things well today and you’ll be able to reach your goal; You’ll have that good day you desire!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Mindset Part 2

Last post I shared about the two mindsets, as described by Dr. Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. But I ended by sharing how God is steadily moving me out of the fixed mindset and into the growth mindset. Today, I’d like to tell you how.

First, as I read the book I recognized some significant parallels.

The fixed mindset is an either/or. Either you are smart or you aren’t. Failures show you aren’t. And you’re only as good as you’re last success. It is all performance based which makes your value conditional. It’s all up to you. This parallels the legalistic mindset that ruled my life for years. God’s acceptance depended on my latest obedience or sin. I recognized how high God’s standard rose – holy perfection. I had to constantly strive to keep God’s favor. But fear and failure haunted me every day.

The growth mindset embraces process. You have a starting point. Mistakes are simply redirects on the learning curve. Through diligent work, you can go farther, become better, grow and learn. The working out of our salvation, made possible through grace, parallels this. When we begin life as a new believer, we have a starting point. But as we learn the Word and let the Holy Spirit work within, the old life gets transformed. We grow. We change. Sins and setbacks are forgiven, simply steps out of our past way of life into the new. We see this all throughout the New Testament, as people experienced grace and forgiveness through Jesus.

So how did I get out of one into the other? I finally admitted I could not achieve the perfection required. And I also realized that God didn’t expect me to. That was false doctrine. Ephesians 2:8-9 explains that it’s not up to me, but rather an acceptance of God’s gift of grace- my acceptance of Jesus’ death on my behalf.

We get there through Jesus’ death on the cross. As Jesus died in my place, he provided payment for my sin, the justice God’s holiness demands. When I accept Jesus’ gift of grace, I receive His righteousness. As I grow in my relationship with Jesus, as I become, what I’m growing into is the fullness, the manifestation of Jesus’ righteousness in my life.

I never can fulfill the demands of legalism, of the fixed mindset. I will never be only successful. I am not perfect. I can’t be. And realizing that God loved me anyway, THAT brought freedom. For what it did was remove my value from performance and actions. God loved me outside of what I did, not because of what I did. He knew all along that I could never achieve the perfection and holiness His character requires. But He felt I had value; I was worth the rescue, the redemption. My value is not from within but from without.

I have value simply because He made me. I’m an original, like a piece of art. I’m not a copy. I’m His masterpiece. Recognizing this about God and His intentions for me, freed me from my legalistic mindset into a growth mindset of grace. It was once I started drawing my security from God instead of from my performance that the shift began. The book says you can change your mindset by dealing with your thoughts… and I guess to some degree that is true. But this is really a surface picture of a much deeper issue – the source of our value, the source of your standing with God.

I still have to fight the mental tendencies, but they are no longer winning. I’m taking risks. I’m trying new things. I’m embracing the process regardless of the result. Because in the process, I’m changing. I’m growing. And it’s a wonderful thing!


Do you struggle with failures? Know that the high standard you feel you can’t reach does exist. And you’re right. You can’t reach it: No matter what you do or how hard you try. The only fulfillment of that standard is through Jesus. Accept His righteousness. His blood was so pure it washes every sin, no matter how dark, no matter how red. 

Stand before your Creator in His righteousness and receive the love of God. Bask in that security. And then live free!- free from shame, free from fear, free to grow! 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mindset Part 1


Over break I read a book that’s left quite an impact. The book is called Mindset by Carol Dweck. It identifies two “mindsets” from which most people operate. I will try to summarize the main concepts today, but highly recommend checking it out in detail for yourself.

Basically, Dweck presents two mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

In a fixed mindset, people believe human qualities are carved in stone. You do not change the core level of someone’s intelligence or their personality. You are smart or you aren’t. Failure means you aren’t.

In a growth mindset, people believe qualities can be cultivated through effort. Intellects and personalities can be developed. This group doesn’t view failure as failure but as learning. Making mistakes are simply opportunities to get smarter.

Your mindset becomes critical when you face challenges in life. It makes the difference between perseverance and quitting when you struggle. It speaks to where you draw your validation from.

The fixed mindset person feels they are only as good as their last success. Any failure or imperfection speaks against their value. Thus, they confidently approach that in which they know they can succeed. They are rarely risk takers. Perfectionistic and driven, they can accomplish much as they focus on successful results.

The growth mindset person lives on a learning curve rather than a balance scale. How they are today has little influence on where they might be tomorrow. Challenges excite them and mistakes show you how to develop better. They are open to feedback and focus on the process as much as the result.

As I read this book, huge insights were gained into my past and my present. I saw myself as a student, as an adult, as a parent, a wife, and a teacher. But I didn’t have the same mindset in every situation.

As a teacher I operate very much from a growth mindset. I find intelligence in every student I meet. I believe all of them can reach my high expectations with the right scaffolds and guidance. With hard work, on their part and mine, we achieve great things each year. It’s exciting. It’s fun. We grow! And I do too! I'm continually trying new things, pushing myself into new challenges, finding more and better options to help them succeed.

But I had to admit that much if not most of my life, I’ve operated from the fixed mindset. All of those more negative traits summed me up pretty well. Any time I faced something new or something I didn’t understand, I felt threatened. I feared failure and the resulting lack of validation. If something didn’t come easy, I wanted to quit. I was very disciplined and could push myself hard in areas I felt safe. But in areas I couldn’t easily understand – like MATH – I would avoid like a plague. (This girl never took Calculus) I gave up on piano when it was no longer easy. I stopped playing basketball when my mistakes let my team down. I eventually gave up on track when I stopped winning.

As an adult, I didn’t like trying new things if I didn’t understand them first and know I could succeed. My fear of failure made me a control freak parent and wife. I could go on and on and on.

But this mindset is exactly that – a mindset… a way of thinking. It speaks to where one draws their validation. It speaks to one’s self esteem, and self-perception.  And I must confess, the fixed mindset is not a forgiving one. It’s a very cruel task master!
Since reading the book, I can recognize my mindset better. Let me share a recent example.

Two nights ago I started a class at my church. Focusing on Bible Interpretation, I discovered I’d signed up for an almost “seminary”-like class of Hermeneutics. I can’t tell you how many times the question What have I got myself into? flitted through my brain. The girl next to me totally intimidated me when she whipped out her coding sheet for how she highlighted scripture. The instructor, who I love and know is quite an academic, wrote and spoke in Greek. As we practiced the first assignment, a scripture I’d read probably a thousand times in my 40+ years as a Christian, I struggled to grasp one key section of the passage as well as to fully understand what exactly I was looking for. Fear came knocking as my discomfort rose.

But I recognized it! And the self coaching began.

“You don’t belong here” = Yes you do. God’s given you this opportunity.

“You aren’t as smart as her” = I can do this. I might not have the training she has, but that just shows what I have to learn. That’s why I’m here!

“Look how smart everyone else is! This is all so easy for them. Listen to their answers!” = Look at what I’ll become! I’m going to be able to do this too by the time we finish!

Voices I have listened to and succumbed to all of my life now had answers. I had the right mindset. I would not let fear rob me of this gift God had provided.  My level of understanding that night spoke to my experience not my intelligence. It was my starting point on a learning curve, not a declaration of my value. Unless you’ve lived in the fixed mindset, you have no idea how freeing that is!

So what made this difference?


Yes the book helped. But it only gave me terminology. This change happened way before Christmas break. Join me on Friday to see how God moved me from the fixed to the growth mindset- in my life as well as my classroom.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Yet Again

It felt way too familiar. The pain. The grief. The frustration. The hopelessness. Yeah, I know this place. I thought this was over. How in the world did I end up here again?

Can you relate? Are you walking a road that never seems to go anywhere except to cycle back to where you’ve been before? A chronic illness that will not end? A struggling relationship that will not mend? A sinful bondage you cannot overcome?

I know all too well about “again.” My oldest son died just a month after we discovered my other son had the same disease. How many times did I have to ask my son’s forgiveness for losing my temper – again?!? In my family and in several of my closest friends, depression flares and strangles again, and again, and again. I step on the scale to discover those 10 pounds are back again.

Again.
It can be a difficult word, a difficult place.

Scripture encourages us to persevere, to keep the faith, to maintain for the marathon not the sprint. Yet when you find yourself in a hard place again, that can be so hard to do.

I know. I was there again last week.

So what do you do? How do you get yourself over the hurdle of discouragement at knowing this familiar, painful place?

First, Remember!
God got you through it before. God sustained you. He met you. And He’s a God that does not change. If He did it before, He’ll do it again. God is always enough. Infinite, He never runs out; never quits; never ends.

You are back here in this hard place, back in the frustration, which means you left it for a bit-even if just for the brief moment you closed your eyes in sleep. You made it through yesterday. God will get you through today.

Second, Focus!
Today as I prayed through my repeat challenge, I realized I had a choice. I’d been focusing on my problem. I’d been lamenting the familiar pain and doubt. And as I lifted my voice in worship, my perspective started to change. As I sang about my Rescuer, the One who saves, and the power of my God, my focus shifted off my problem and onto my Answer. Don’t stare at your Goliath. Develop tunnel vision for your God. Focus on His power, His goodness, His already-won Victory!

This is how you face the repeats, the constant, the continuous.

You remember
and you focus.

Yes, the enemy might be at you again, but we know Who already won.
So just tell the enemy that… again.

 

 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

A Word for 2015

I shared last, that as 2014 came to a close, I set aside time for reflection and retreat. I wanted to meet with God and hear what He had to say about the coming year ahead.

As the year drew to a close, I never heard God speak. But I saw Him. So many times on our trip to Florida I received gifts from His hand. One favorite happened one evening as my husband and I raced to catch the sunset.

This tradition started years ago on a family trip to California. While in the LA/San Diego region, we discovered an apparent tradition of the region. Right at sunset, you would see cars suddenly pull off to the side of the road and everyone just stop and watch the sun dip under the horizon. In such a fast paced area of living, we marveled at and embraced the tradition. It became our nightly ritual to stop for Starbucks and then find a new place for the three of us to view the sunset. Ever since then, whenever we are on a west coast, we try to keep the tradition.

So this night we targeted Howard Park, and exactly 20 minutes before sunset, raced off to find the park. Our GPS said it would take 17 minutes to get there. Abandoning the idea of coffee, we focused on getting there in time. The race is really part of the fun J With no time to spare, we finally reached the coastal edge of the park and whipped into a parking spot. This is what we saw.

 


Any of you who know our story remember how the Blue Heron became a symbol quite early on of God’s faithfulness. The timeliness of itsappearance has encouraged, instructed, and inspired my faith for over 15 years now. And once again, seeing one this close – maybe 10 yards away, I knew this was no coincidence. Rather, God joining us as we celebrated the setting of this past year.

But even though I felt God's presence, throughout the whole trip my desire went unfulfilled. Last year God had impressed the word risk-taking upon my heart. In obedience I was to stretch my wings into new areas, not for the result, but for the process. Throughout the year I grew in areas within my faith, my church, my career, my marriage, and even in my own personality. I found great comfort understanding what God wanted me to do.

But that longing for a repeat, a new word for 2015, didn’t happen.
Until after 2015 began J

This year, God’s word for me is listen. He doesn’t want to work on just one area of my life, one trait, one aspect. He wants all of it. My direction this year is to listen, to slow down and pause. To pull Him in, to live dependent upon His instruction in every area of my life.

Today He confirmed it with a scripture as well: Romans 6:22 (MSG, emphasis added)

But now that you’ve found you don’t have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way!

I share all of this to encourage you to press in for your own word for 2015. This is so much better than a resolution. This is seeking God’s direction. It’s not you picking a goal but asking God to set it for you. I pondered many words while we were away, but this word didn’t come from within. It wasn’t anywhere near my thoughts. This came while God was talking to me and suddenly, in my heart, I knew it was His word.
 
It's okay to wait. Maintain your trust that He will speak. He promises we'll find Him when we seek Him. Be patient. Be open. But be persistent. I’d love to hear what your word is if you’d care to share. Leave a comment below or send me an email. Let’s encourage each other together.

Here’s to all God’s got in store for 2015!
juli