Thursday, April 11, 2024

Worship Yourself. 🤔 What? 🤔


This past weekend, I walked into a Walmart in Florence, Alabama and came face-to-face with an advertisement that stopped me on my trajectory to the pharmacy department.

The ad was bright, bold, large enough that you couldn't miss the wording, which caught my eye immediately. 

Here's what it read:

Worship

Yourself!

Sigh. 

Never in a million years did I expect to see this...

XXXXX

Worship: 

Google search from Oxford Dictionary - To ascribe value and worth to something, and to proclaim honor and adoration above all other; to show reverence as to a deity - 

Word Book dictionary - to love unquestioningly and uncritically.

To show "worth-ship." The state or condition of being "worthy."

XXXXX

I'm reminded of what Paul told the Romans in Chapter 1:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. (18-21, 25)

Now then...

I'm one of the first to teach the importance of walking out our God-given identity through Christ-Jesus. 

I recognize the need we have as followers of Jesus to understand this magnificent truth and how it transfers to living boldly and confidently, while we are in the world, just not of it.

I regularly declare that all human-kind is created in the image of the invisible God, and that alone gives us intrinsic value and worth. 

That simple truth demands our attention in a world where it is easy to dismiss others, or cause us to think less of individual lives (from pre-born infant to the infirm and elderly).

(created in the image of God)

However, when we acknowledge any kind of call to worship self, we cross a line that should never be crossed.

When the notion of worshipping ourselves becomes acceptable, pride, conceit and selfish ambition will rule our every relationship. 

To live in a world where we are competing to be like "god," sets us up for a downfall...

...and, according to Romans 1:18, invites God's wrath. 

We must remember that we are the created, not THE CREATOR -

We can not take a breath, but God allows...

Move arms or legs, but that He nods His permission...

...Our internal organs will not work, unless He chooses...

While, we are of great value to Him because of His great love...

While accepted because of the Beloved...

We are NOT, nor will we ever be, WORTHY OF WORSHIP. 


Jesus Followers....

We must kindly rise up against these anti-biblical lies and speak truth as we have opportunity to do so. 

Thursday, April 4, 2024

"I Didn't Do the Rules..." and Intimacy with Jesus

Key Verse:

Yesterday morning, in staff chapel at Ramsey Solutions (Dave Ramsey's headquarters) outside of Nashville, Bay reminded me of a family story that we tell often. 

It is worth repeating with a little twist giving it some spiritual significance.


It dawned on me as Bay was sharing the story that there is a TRUTH, we all need to be reminded of on a regular basis. 

First the story.

When our grandson, Ethan, turned four, he, along with his family, came to Colorado for a summer visit.

As a little guy, he loved riding Papa's horses; and, he'd stand for the longest time on the corral fence just watching Papa saddle and work with them in the round pen.

He always wanted to ride by himself, and, although he was still pretty young to do so, he seemed pretty comfortable in the saddle. 

So, one day, Papa let him ride our gentlest horse all by himself, following behind Papa up to the back of the property.

It was fairly obvious that this made E quite proud of his little self.

Before they left the round pen, Papa gave him some good instructions, reminding him how to use the reins as his "steering wheel."

Off they went.

They weren't going for too long of a ride, but enough of one that Ethan would feel like he was pretty big stuff.

I guess at one point, Bay gave E another reminder about the reins, but Bay's report upon their return boasted that E rode like a true cowboy.

However, Ethan had another story.

When I asked him how the ride went, he immediately responded (and here, I only wish I could give you a little audio of the way he said it for the full effect - think Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh), "I didn't do the rules...."

Somehow these "rules" he didn't "do," caused his riding enthusiasm to diminish.

XXXX

The following is the truth that resonated with me yesterday morning. 

How often do we, as followers of Jesus, attempt to "add to the gospel." 

We figure out (or, someone informs us of their interpretation) of the "rules" for Christian living.

Once saved, there is a "to do" list we must follow if we are going to be "good enough."

I don't think I need to create an example for you - it's as long as your perspective. 

The "rules" generally follow this format.

If I do ___________________, then Jesus is pleased and smiles down on me.

This problem is as old as time. 

It gets confusing, because there are certainly spiritual rhythms I keep (like having a quiet time every morning, or attending church on Sunday) that can feel like I'm following a law, but really those things only create space for me to draw closer in intimacy to the Lord.

When the laws we add start becoming 

Gospel + Something Else = Pleasing God

we begin to lose the joy that comes with faith.

When duty becomes our focus, it will destroy the relationship we have with the Lord.

Duty always destroys intimacy. 

Yet, as I grow in intimacy, the "want-to" to chase after anything that allows me to get closer to my Savior GROWS and GROWS.

Want-to is never birthed out of HAVE-TO.

Like Ethan we can get discouraged by the HAVE-TO-DO, which is man-created, not Spirit-led, by thinking we "didn't do the rules."

The result: 

Rules bewitch us, and, then...

They will always, always, always...

Steal our joy.

What, then, has happened to all your joy? Galatians 4:15a (NIV)

Instead, how do we then live?

One step at a time...

The same way we received salvation...

By grace, through faith in Christ alone.

As we do...we seek His desire and power to work out our salvation in us to do that which pleases Him...

I love how the Apostle Paul puts it in Philippians 2 (where I have been studying the last few days) - Verses 12b-13 (NLT):

...show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Bottom line - 

It's not about "doing the rules" or not...It's all about seeking intimacy with our Savior.

The rest falls in place.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Marriage 302: Further Ways to Tend a Marriage

I love Charleston (we're here for a board-recommended, wee vacation before moving on with our ministry trip). 

We visited here about ten years ago, and I fell hard. 

If I believed in reincarnation (I don't), I'd think that I might have once been a Southern Belle. 

Charleston is rich in history; masterful architecture; warm coastal breezes; splendid, colorful, southern flowers; and, don't even get me started on the food (if I were once a Southern Belle, I was a chunky, "robust" girl)...

So, speaking of food, on Tuesday we toured downtown, then ate lunch at Hyman's Seafood Restaurant. 

Built in 1890, Hyman's newest owners boast being 5th generation descendants.

The restaurant, itself, brags about being #6 on the list of Taste Atlas' 150 most legendary restaurants.

We sat at a table where Kevin Costner once enjoyed a meal. 

Eli Hyman, the current owner, came over to our table to greet us and make certain everything was to our liking - he stood and visited some bit before moving on to another. 

That's good service - and probably why we made sure to come back. 

As he walked away, he asked if we would add Israel to our prayers. 

Done ✔...as in we would do so right then before our meal, but we already pray on a regular basis for the peace of Israel.

You're probably wondering where all this is going and how it relates to marriage.

Well, in the center of our table sat a small box with different colored cards in it - 

Each one distributed great advice, and I collected them all to save.

One of those cards shared 40 different marriage strategies. 

Since I'm writing this blog while on "vacation," these thoughts seem appropriate and they are time-savers (yes, I'm taking the lazy-girl's-method-of-blog-writing this week).

They are good, though, and there are some I know I need to adopt.

They also fit the theme of last week's edition of "Just a Thought" and might give you another idea, or two, or three, to institute as a marriage-discipline (of course, there are a few repeats).

Here they are:

Start each day with a kiss.

Wear your wedding ring at all times.

Date once a week.

Accept one another's differences.

Be polite.

Gift gifts.

Smile often.

Touch.

Give back rubs.

Laugh together.

Send a card for no reason.

Do what the other person wants before he or she asks.

Listen.

Encourage.

Know his or her needs.

Fix the other person breakfast.

Compliment one another twice a day.

Call during the day.

Slow down.

Hold hands.

Cuddle.

As for one other's opinions.

Show respect.

Look your best.

Celebrate birthdays in a big way.

Apologize.

Forgive.

Set up a romantic getaway.

Be positive.

Be kind.

Be vulnerable.

Respond quickly to the other person's request.

Reminisce about your favorite times together.

Treat each other's friends and relatives with courtesy.

Send flowers for Valentine's Day and your anniversary.

Admit when you're wrong -

Be sensitive to each other's sexual desires.

Pray fore each other daily.

Say, "I love you," frequently.

Seek outside help when needed. 

(accredited to Steve Stephens)

If I have to leave with just one thought for today - it's this: 


Marriages last because TWO PEOPLE work at it - forever. 

Be intentional. 


Thursday, March 21, 2024

Marriage 301: Marriage is Not a Waxed Amaryllis

Just before Thanksgiving, my sweet sister-in-law, Sherri, gave me a waxed Amaryllis bulb she purchased at Trader Joes. That was my kind of a flowering plant. Other than making sure it had some good indirect lighting, I didn’t have to tend to it. I put it in the sun, and let it be. It blossomed around Christmas producing 5 gorgeous flowers. After almost two weeks, it lost those blooms. Still it sat in my window as we headed to Arizona mid-January.

From AZ, we traveled on to the Philippines, arriving home just before heading to a marriage conference where we were speaking the first of March, and when I walked into our home, I noticed my Amaryllis produced a second time with six more blooms. A pleasant surprise, indeed!


As we left on this current trip, there were two more buds ready to burst forth again.  


If only our lives were like that beautiful Amaryllis and needed no tending (though truth be told, eventually it will run out of carbohydrates stored in the wax and will have to be thrown in a compost pile).


Sometimes, I wish I could just simply go about the day, and all things “my life” would be taken care of like my spiritual growth, my friendships, my weight, the whiteness/cavity-free-ness of my teeth, my family, and my marriage. 


Yet, no matter how much I might “want,” those "wishes" will forever remain simple “wishful thinking,” unless I put feet to my desires. 



From the time of our “littleness,” most of us were taught physical disciplines. Things like the need for a certain amount of sleep, cleanliness (showers, tooth-brushing, clothes-washing, etc), exercise (ugh)… Our parents taught us these healthy habits so our bodies could keep ticking along to “old age and gray hair (Psalm 71:18).”



Over the years, the Lord’s convictions led me to spiritual disciplines. The following put feet to my desire to grow spiritually and more intimately with Jesus: morning quiet time, bible study, personal prayer time, journaling, and gratitude lists. In recent years, I’ve added the “holy habits” of lament, Lectio and Visio Divina, paying attention, and the old practice of Examen. Spending time each morning putting these things into play, keep my soul experiencing God on a personal level.



In my teen years, I learned the value of tending to friendships that required time spent together, deep conversations, good communication skills, honesty, vulnerability, and selflessness for “healthy friendships.” Oddly enough, developing these habits prepared me for dating…and, eventually became a starting place for marriage.


These are a few of the things I committed to when I said “I do,” and repeat over and over and over again each new morning.


These are the actions I walk out to “do the work” of marriage daily.


The fact is there really are marital disciplines/holy habits/daily rhythms that help our marriages to keep ticking to “old age and gray hair” (til death do us part).


Unlike my lovely Amaryllis, my marriage needs tending, and I MUST NOT let it bloom, then shrivel up, only to throw it away. 


But, there are other "disciplines" for marriages.


What are some of the other holy habits that help us keep our love fresh? 


I’ve thought about the answer to this question a significant amount, because this topic became part of the marriage retreat where we spoke recently.


What I’m giving you are some of ours, and some that belong to friends of ours - 

- you are more than welcome to borrow some of these, but... 

...only you can determine what things breathe oxygen into the fire of your marriage...


1. Intentionally speak life to one another - words of affirmation (which has to do with your spouse's character) and appreciation (a simple thank-you is more important than you may realize).



2. Regularly touch base to share Jesus together: what God is speaking into your life, to pray, and to worship together.



3. Date nights - you determine the frequency....but, sometimes couples are just too busy to carve these sweet, special times into their schedule. Your marriage will suffer all the more if you don't eliminate the busy, and simplify your lives to spend time together without the kids.



4. Monthly marriage meetings - intentionally discuss the answers to questions like: How are we doing in our marriage? What are we doing right? How can I serve you better? Here's what I think I could do better (this is a great opportunity to confess and own mistakes)...


5. SERVING ONE-ANOTHER. This is nothing more than basic thoughtfulness... I can't tell you how many times a day, my dear husband will ask: "Is there anything I can do to help?" Generally, there isn't, but the fact he cares enough to check in means the world to me!



6. Intimacy. Yes, sex. Nothing is as sacred than this gift from the Lord, nor leads to deeper connection at the soul level.



7.  Seven seems to be the magical biblical number, so let me just close with several under this number: 


  • go on adventures together (this has been huge in our marriage, and we combine it with our ministry...but life has never been dull and always keeps us on our toes, leaning into one another. 
  • eat meals at the table together
  • Sabbath together (go to church together - a non-negotiable)
  • vacation together (you'd be surprised how many couples DON'T!)
  • laugh together (I, personally, love this one...I have a tendency to be serious about life, but Bay has a way of keeping things light and fun and I love him all the more for it).
  • play, hike, kayak, ski, snow shoe, go for a walk, tennis, pickle ball...just get outside!
  • work around the house together (divide the chores and get 'er done...together).
  • board games

 I'll close with this - make a plan for moving forward with some marriage-disciplines; because unlike a waxed Amaryllis, your marriage needs tender, loving care. 

AND.....

Nothing 

Changes

If

Nothing

Changes


Thursday, March 14, 2024

Marriage 202: Conflict

Be not quick in your spirit to become angry,

for anger lodges in the heart of fools.

Ecclesiastes 7:9



Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.

Ephesians 4:26


Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

James 1:19-20



A soft answer turns away wrath,

but a harsh word stirs up anger

Proverbs 15:1




Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32


XXXX


As I type, we are on the road for a 30-day trip through the South to meet with supporters (a thank-you-tour-of sorts), speak at several incredible venues along the way, and spend a few days in South Carolina at the beach for a quiet vacation (hopefully not over-run by those on spring break). The original itinerary had us closer to 6-weeks out, but we recalculated and  shortened the length (grateful). Because we are driving long days and many hundreds of miles, we sort of sit in a petri dish for marital-conflict.


Not to worry, we’ve learned how to manage this well, over the years, so I am convinced we’ll have a great trip. 


XXXX


Today, we are enjoying scenic New Mexico. 


I am stunned by the beauty of what increment weather, the baking of sun, and the length of days created for us to enjoy along the way.


If the rocks could speak, they’d no doubt attribute their uniqueness, and wrinkly layers, to the work of “conflict.” 


XXXX


Just yesterday I chatted with a friend of mine who is in-training to be a Resident Assistant (AKA: House Mom) in a safe-house for rescued women from sex-trafficking. 


As part of her training, she joined in recently on a live and "hot" situation, in order to observe how other personnel in the facility handle these dear ones with care. 


These precious gals (the rescued) need help learning everything from how to use a toothbrush to learning to drive a car. 


So, you can imagine how important instruction into such a crucial life skill as conflict will be.


At this facility, they work to help these women understand the difference between toxic me-centered, fight-to-be right-conflict and healthy fight-to-understand-and-work-together-conflict. 



XXXX


These women aren’t alone.


Oh-so-many-couples marry never learning the difference. 


Truthfully, even Bay and I needed instruction years ago, as most of us do. 


Why? 


Easy answer - we all love to set up our own Kingdoms, where we are the King or the Queen, and everyone else lives by our rules.


Conflict occurs when our spouse doesn’t live by them.


However, when trust is established (and I know my spouse is FOR ME), when I agree to eliminating rats in the walls, and  when  I commit to doing the work of marriage, healthy conflict comes easier with a ready resolution promised.



The verses above need embedding on our hearts before we can even address conflict. 


They give us a base theology of how to gift our spouse with healthy conflict.


Anger isn’t the sin - what we do with anger determines the sin.



Even still, we must be slow to explode…and, then…


…we deal with the problem as quickly as possible (note: attacking the problem, never the person).


…we take enough time prior to conflict-engagement so we never enter the situation when emotions are running high and tensions are tight.


At this point, we are able to truthfully, gently, kindly, present our perspective and explain how things brought us to the heat of differing opinions. 


There are always two sides…so instead of just pointing fingers and placing blame at “the other,” we have to pay attention, examine our own hearts, and take ownership for where we are at fault.


Being quick to ask forgiveness and even quicker to forgive are essential. 


Can I remind you what forgiveness looks like? It looks like keeping no record of wrongs - never bringing the issue up again to ourselves, to God, to our spouse, and of course, never to others. Forgiveness looks like wiping the slate clean, and granting one-another a do-over. There are thousands upon thousands of begin-agains in every successful marriage.


There will always be potential for anger in relationship resulting in conflict…but…the Lord gives us a ready, strong, Biblical model that keeps us steady in conflict and much more able to come to a greater understanding of one another. 


XXXX


The result is a hopeful journey through life with incredible beauty formed in each of us.