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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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10-Day Challenge

take every thought captive

I could not win today, at least not for a period of time. That is how it felt after a very long day, but I am learning to let feelings come and go because once more…

“Feelings make terrible leaders.” – Mark Durniak

So now you and I both know that feelings cannot be fully trusted, but you know what? Your heart can. That is why my favorite nugget of wisdom of all time is Proverbs 4:23. When you guard your heart, you CAN trust it and part of that guarding means that you watch carefully and intentionally what comes in and what goes out.

Kind of like a filter or a net.

Guarding does not come with ease. It can actually be quite uncomfortable and truth be told, some days I am lazy. I don’t really care to show up to my post. I call in sick. I have a headache. I stayed up late. Work has me swamped. Whatever. Secretly, I must enjoy being buffeted by my feelings because surely if I didn’t, I would practice “Take every thought captive and obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

My friend Leslie read those words out loud last night and I swear Holy Spirit was whispering in her ear, “Say it. Out loud. So she can hear it.” He obviously knew I was there. That I was sitting smack behind her. He knew I would perk up in my seat and when she was finished, lean forward and close and ask, “Um, what scripture was that again? And did it just say EVERY?”

“Yes. Take every thought captive.”

Surely He can’t mean every as in ALL. I have A LOT of thoughts.

This whole thing is no longer fair. I felt like a three year-old child throwing herself down on the floor in the middle of the building. Sometimes it just sucks to love Jesus.

Let me tell you why.

There are days, hard days, where people and I don’t necessarily mesh. I could give you a list, I could feed you from the smorgsaboard of why’s and what’s and I can make it sound good and appetizing. You would likely eat the crap I’d serve you and call it nutritious AND delicious because I know how to plead my case. Yes, people and life WITH people is challenging. But here’s the thing…

I am finding I cannot afford to have a single not good thought in my head about someone. Even the woman today who ran my red lights at a bus stop as I drove one of our school buses. The very woman who endangered the life of one of my students and then laughingly waved hello and goodbye as she looked up at my window. I could not afford to call her the names I wanted to in my head.

I. Could. Not.

I know what it does to ME. It makes me angry and angry makes me say, out loud, not nice things. It tempts me to go home to my family, all worn thin like paper and grumpy, and transfer my bad day to those who innocently say, “Hello Mom! How was your day?”

They have learned over time there are days where it’s best NOT to ask Mom anything and those days are very hard pills for me to swallow when it is all said and done. Regret is not a friend. But this whole things goes much further than me. If I do not take every thought captive and I allow just one nasty thought, that for a moment I believe is justifiable, take up space in my head, I might as well charge rent and make some money. One thought leads to two. And two leads to four. Get my point? I was not created to be critical, especially of others. That is NOT the mind of Christ. I was created to be loving and encouraging and to see correctly, as in originally. Though rightful blame can be assigned when wrong is done, I need to position myself to think the best of others so not to separate them from my heart. Even if I don’t ever see them again, as in the woman from this afternoon at the bus stop, I want to champion FOR them in the spirit and believe they are doing the very best they can.

Every thought.

That means, every one. Because sooner or later, every one leads to a thought about EVERYONE. I personally cannot afford to think less than the best about my neighbor because there are days that I need my neighbor to think the best about me. Days where I screw up and get lazy. Days where I forget, days where I need someone to remind me once more, “August…you are good.”

“For as a man thinks in his heart, he is.” Proverbs 23:7

Likewise…”For as a man thinks in his heart about his neighbor, he will call his neighbor up to be.”

That one’s from me. You are welcome.

Think well of others.

Much Love,

August

 

Say No to Say Yes

I’m kind of sensing a theme in my life lately. Maybe it’s the fact that last weekend I was on crutches and had to wipe my calendar clean to rest or that Friday night our son ran over his little sister with the four-wheeler (she is A-OK) and we had to call it a night and cancel plans. I am not positive, but there has been a definite knocking taking place on the door of my brain that’s saying, “Hey McFly?!?!”

Slow the hell down.”

Recently I bought a PAPER PLANNER for many reasons, one being that I actually LOVE crossing things off my list (don’t judge me, it actually boost my productivity). Yesterday I took it out and opened it to March and actually X’d out most of my weekends with a highlighter. I am finding that my weeks are often busy with work and other events that when the weekend comes and I don’t have at least ONE day that is S-L-O-W, as in H-O-M-E, I easily lose my shit.

So think this through with me people. If one knows that they cannot do ALL things and that they are wired for reprieve, as in a BREAK, you would suspect that they would be proactive in making time for that to happen, right? Right, but wrong. I HAVEN’T been proactive. I just thought it would HAPPEN, as in osmosis. Like buying and carrying a planner would help me become more productive and organized, right? Bawawawa…

I was given a white, silk ribbon years a go at a woman’s conference. It had these words written on it, “Proverbs 4:23” I looked up the verse and this is what it said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do in life flows from it.”

Now I have a tendency to be sort of gray, not so much black and white, so I try to keep in context content, but the long and short of this is THIS verse pretty much is black and white. If you can give me another perspective, I am all ears, but to me it literally means, “This is incredibly important, so pay attention. Before you do anything, do this FIRST. Rank this as your highest priority. Your heart is your prize. It is the core of WHO you are. Watch carefully everything that goes INTO it and watch carefully everything that comes OUT of it, every thought, every emotion… because everything, AS IN ALL, will filter through your heart. You will not be able to compartmentalize. It will ALL be attached. Attach it well.”

That’s my synopsis, my cliff-notes of Proverbs 4:23. Perhaps someday I will add another tattoo and THIS will be the verse. I say it out loud multiple times a day, no lie. It feeds and nourishes my soul and reminds my spirit the importance of walking in my identity.

Guard. Be intentional and diligent. Be mindful. Make your word count; your yes be yes and your no be no. Ask yourself the hard questions and then have the guts to honestly answer and assess so you KNOW how to say NO so you can say YES.

Part of guarding for me is being mindful of my time. Why have a home and a family if you don’t actually take the time to enjoy them? Appreciation leads to gratitude and it’s hard to be offended, jealous or defeated when your heart is full of gratitude. If you need practical, THIS  is it. You can actually put feet to this little nugget. Say no more. You may have to give up good things, but my friend Roni reminded me that there are a lot of good things, but we all have our quota for the day or for the week.

Know yours.

Much Love-

August

 

you just didn’t love right.

I still remember sitting at the round, white table in the hard chair with a cushion that had its edges picked at by a fidgety adult or a curious and unruly toddler. I was teaching a Bible study and was reading from the bible out loud as part of my “lesson” when these words jumped out at me. I had read them numerous times before, but this time, my axle stopped rotating. The entire cosmos inside of me shifted.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40

love

greatest meaning NONE greater

It made me stop and challenged me to re-evaluate EVERYTHING.

How I loved. Who I loved. Why I loved. What love is.

This is a really big conversation to have. In fact, I could write a whole entire book on this scripture alone and perhaps someday I will. I am not a head-knowledge-type-of-person. KNOWING stuff does not excite me and serve as some shiny badge and I will not be mastered by it so when I begin to feel overloaded by all this STUFF, even Jesus stuff, I shut down. I crave a very simple relationship and though I love to be challenged in my thinking so I can grow in how I respond, I believe deep in my spirit I have overcomplicated the very person of the Lord.

So long and short is:

Love is not contingent on how I feel or what I think.

Love does not require me to achieve or meet some standard; there is no winning it and there can be no losing it.

Love is a choice, much like forgiveness. Choose to accept it, choose to extend it. It is not pushy, aggressive, demanding or manipulative.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. -1 Corinthians 13:7

There is a lot to learn about love, but the most important thing I have learned over these years since sitting at that table, in that chair is this: Love is a person, the very person of Jesus and as I walk with Him and posture my heart towards Him, I learn to simply trust that He will show me how to love not only myself but others. There are many aspects of His nature to discover and I am only beginning to scratch the surface of WHO He is.

I had a vision a couple of weeks ago. I was praying for someone and they were really heavy on my heart. They were walking through hard things and all I felt I was to do was walk WITH them. Call them up, listen and pray. That’s it. I am finding my mouth is closed more and more as I try to listen to the heart to better understand it.  As I was praying for them, I had this feeling of fear come over me and before I knew it, Jesus was before me and I said, “This is the only way I know how to love right now.” I was afraid it wasn’t right, that it wasn’t enough. Maybe I should point out the error of their ways. Maybe I need to give them “tough love,” but I just couldn’t.

I wanted to sit and listen and pray. I just wanted to BE with them in it.

In my angst, Jesus took my hand and He smiled a sheepish smile. He shifted His weight back to lift me off my seat and said, “You will not hear from me, “I’m sorry, you just didn’t love right.””

“August, just love.”

In His words were others, things that never needed to be said in order to be understood. The more I spend time with Him, the more I will learn to rest in the assurance that the posture of my heart is MOST important. The posture of my heart to see people as He sees them will never lead me astray or wishing I had done more in order to do right. I do not need to love like my neighbors loves, but I am commanded to love. I will trust Him to show me how.

 

the word became flesh

I do not accept challenges nor do I play games. I do not cut and paste and then post. If it’s not personal, I’ll be honest, I just don’t have time nor do I want to make it, but when my friend Noel tagged me in a 10-day challenge to share my favorite scriptures, I looked at it as an opportunity. You want to know what my favorite ones are? Great. But let me tell you WHY they are my favorite.

Here we go.

I grew up Presbyterian. I also think there was a time we were Luthern too, but at this point, it’s all blurred. Church meant we went at Christmas and Easter, but I did go on and off as a child for a period of time with my mother who wanted my sister and I to have a firm foundation. The people were nice and our pastor was a African American woman named Myrtle. I loved Myrtle for many reasons but now, as a adult, I really have come to appreciate her. Myrtle was a pioneer.

I wasn’t really into the Bible as a child. My father’s mother Helen however was and she gave me a tiny, white leather bound Bible with my name etched in gold lettering. Her home was dimly lit and quiet and she often spent time reading hers and I think she had hoped I would do the same. I did not like reading and I dreaded memorizing scripture and Sunday school class so when I was called on, I’d pick at my shoe or at the braid of the girl beside me to create a distraction. I’d do anything to get out of reciting verses because that is what it felt like to me. Recital. On some stage, regurgitating words that I had no understanding of and then getting graded. Would I receive a sticker this week? Likely not. Why? I had no relationship with this Jesus who seemed so far off and I didn’t know how to relate to Him through a book. Head knowledge has always been a nemesis. I wanted to KNOW the Word Himself and that was WHO I wanted, the very person of Jesus. I wanted real. I wanted relationship.

“So the Word became flesh and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14

These words still sit humbly in my spirit. The Word became flesh. He made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. We are loved, THAT much.The Word did not just come as a baby, a book or a house guest who would leave. He came to reside IN me, the actual person of Jesus.

10 years ago I couldn’t fathom some far-off God being so hands-on present. I sat at a ladies retreat, done. I showed up because showing up is what I did and was in the midst of ruining the entirety of my life as I knew it. I was far removed from reality, but I do remember sitting in that chair, knuckles white to the bone from gripping the edges. I wanted to be anywhere but there when I heard a voice pop into my conciousness. It sounded much like my own and it said, “If you would just come to me, I would help you with all this.”

Envision a juggler and a poor one at that. That was me. Poorly juggling…

That voice. I would not say those things to myself, would I? Was it my conscience? I decided to take a chance that THAT voice WAS Jesus. Why not? I WAS at a ladies retreat and at that point, I had nothing to lose. Overtime, I have learned to distinguish His voice from my own and from others. I am learning still.

I have invited you here because I’m more of an outpost, meaning I relate better to people who are kind of on the fence when it comes to religion and church. I have an evangelistic, empathetic heart and don’t really know what to do with it besides wake up each day and LIVE. I believe God is everywhere and in everyone. I believe He is in it all and can use it all…both the good and the not great and is continuously present. When we choose to SEE and HEAR, I believe we can encounter a supernatural God in our every day lives. He is boundless and full of mystery and wonder and I will not place the limits of my knowledge of Him to the confines of a book. I will however hold the Bible in high regard and esteem. I do not think you can fully know the Father without having an overall understanding of it because the many pages that lie within it pour the foundational framework of His heart from which we walk forward. He is consistent and multi-facited and His nature and character are continuously revealed while inviting the reader into a new discovery and another conversation. I for one, am indebted to its teaching but my Bible is not the One I worship.

The very Word of God Himself is.

One thing that has become glaringly obvious to me is that there are certain things you just don’t mess with when it comes to people: Money, Politics and Religion. It no wonder why Jesus continuously challenged the leaders of His day. Want to see everything on the inside of someone rise to the surface? Talk about one of these three subjects. You don’t have spend a lot of time on social media to watch a newsfeed fill fast with arguments and debates when it comes to theology. Everyone thinks what they believe is THE way; we respond to be right instead of responding to better understand and when we do, we build walls instead of bridges. We all live in some shade of gray and don’t even know it.

Jesus, the true Way, please show us. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13

In my 20’s, I was not a fan of religion and not because of God, but because of an experience where someone vehemently picked and chose scriptures to win and prove their point about my choices. They bypassed a relationship WITH me in order to stand firmly in what they believed in and only wanted a relationship when I saw their light. I remember thinking, “If THIS is Christianity, I want nothing to do with it.” I think we can easily contradict the gospel if we do not carefully guard how we present it. The Bible was meant to be used in the context of relationship, a door that opens up conversations not only WITH God but WITH others. We close those doors before they have a chance to fully widen by the way in which we present the message. We lose our ability to influence when doors are closed and in my opinion, too many doors are shut tight.  

Then I think of Jesus on the cross. I think of Him whispering these words after greatly suffering, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34.  Those words shift the posture of my heart. If He could be rejected, humiliated, tortured and abandoned and still choose forgiveness, why can’t I? Forgiveness…asking for it and extending it is the CORE of Christianity. We often don’t know what we are doing; we rarely seek to understand our own motives.

Are we motivated by fear or love? Answering that question is key.

I hope we can take an intentional step back and see one another as He sees us. Wonderfully, thoughtfully and intentionally made. I hope that we can see His original design for mankind and understand that indeed, the Word HAS been made flesh. Maybe we would treat each other differently if we looked for Jesus in each other instead of focusing on the mud and the muck that often forms the heavy film of distraction.

So friends, I encourage you to listen. I encourage you to dig deep. I encourage you to guard your heart. Lift your head up and SEE. Open your ears and HEAR; walk by the Spirit. Let living Love lead you into a deep and meaningful relationship that surpasses the bound book you have been beaten by or that you hold your hands so closely to.

There is more.

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