Sunday, January 25, 2015

Just Stop

"The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."  (NIV)  Psalm 9:9
It happened - the day of days.  It's a new year and I had many high hopes for a year filled with good things, great moments for Jesus.  I wanted to ensure that each day I lived my life as Jesus would want me to live it - full of love and patience, a life of servant hood.  Then Thursday happened.  As they say, best laid plans . . . .  and this one was completely destroyed.
Someone did something that disappointed me strongly at work.  Let's set some things straight - I usually don't disappoint easily - but this was a doozy!!  I became unglued.  I had started the day with high hopes for good things - I ended the day with hurtful feelings and saying EXACTLY how I felt to my husband.  Yes, he was patient (thank my Dear Lord for him), and listened intently.  He let me vent, and that I did.  I vented with hurt feelings, I vented with poor choice of words, I vented!  Inside, I couldn't understand how my best intentions could have turned bad/wrong.  My heart was filled with such disappointment and hurt.  I reviewed the entire situation over and over in my head - all throughout the night.  There was one thing completely missing - time with God.
As I thought about everything, I realized that when I was hurt, I didn't stop, I didn't pray.  I just kept on going, kept on reacting, kept on hurting, kept on blaming.  I kept on and I didn't JUST STOP.  Would anything have been different if I stopped and prayed before reacting?  As we all know - everything would have been different.  Because when I realized that prayer was my missing link in this situation, I began to do just that - I began to pray.
I prayed all the way into work on Friday.  I prayed for the person who hurt me, and I REALLY prayed for me - prayed for my forgiveness in reacting, prayed for guidance, prayed for a change of heart, prayed that Jesus would walk with me during this difficult time.  Many things happened during my time of prayer.  I prayed with earnest; I prayed with a gut-wrenching, outpouring of love for my heavenly Father.  As God always works in mysterious ways, He worked his miracles on me Friday.
The harder I prayed, the more God worked in me.  My heart started changing.  Yes, I was still disappointed, but I looked at things differently.  I knew that Jesus would be sitting right next to me that Friday, helping me for the better - not the worst.  That He Did!!  My day was tremendous.  Good things happened - including an apology from the one that hurt me as well as some positive outcomes to the situation.  As I drove home from work on Friday, I couldn't help but sing praises to God - I know who created a better day.  God orchestrated that day for me, as He orchestrates every day.  The day was good.
I learned so much from that 24 hours.  I learned that stopping and praying BEFORE all this happened was truly the right thing to do.  If I had done that, I am sure God would have shared a different perspective with me - right away.  I learned that by stopping and not reacting, my words and thoughts would not have been blame and anger.  I learned that "I" owned much in my Thursday not being great - I owned my emotions, I owned my choices, I owned not taking a few moments to stop, just stop, and pray. 
I am sure that there will be other difficult days.  Yet, I will try next time to stop - actually stop - and pray.  I will lay my soul at Jesus' feet.  I know He will love me as He always does, take me in His arms, and guide me on the right path.  I pray that if you have tough days, that you take the time to stop and pray.  Jesus truly is the stronghold in times of trouble.  Blessings for a week filled with peace, love and joy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Performance Appraisal

"If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.  Each one should test their own actions.  Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load."  (NIV)  Galatians 6:3-5
It is that time of year for us HR Professionals.  We all face it some time in the year - when we get to read performance appraisals.  Although each organization may have different processes, at one point or another, we have the "pleasure" of reading performance appraisals for our organization.  It is a neat position to be in and although it can be very time consuming and stressful, we do get an insight to people.
As I read the many reviews (and yes, I've only STARTED this process), I couldn't help but have some things come to mind.  Our process has a self-evaluation part where the associate actually rates themselves in the same areas that the manager will rate them.  Usually the results fall into two buckets:  one when the associate believes they are "larger than life", the other when they believe "I am never good enough". 
I couldn't help but think of my own performance as a Christian.  If Jesus were to give me an evaluation today, how would I rate my performance?  Do I think I'm doing okay?  How's my prayer life?  Do I love others enough?  What about sharing the good word of salvation with others?  Are my Bible Studies effective and insightful?  Yes, the list here goes on and on. 
The real question, though, isn't how I would evaluate myself, but more importantly, how Jesus would rate me.  It certainly helped me to put a few things into perspective, especially as I read our focus verses for this blog.  If we think we are something that we are not, we deceive ourselves.  Well, I'm sure I have the "fruits of the spirit" down pat. We should test our actions.  Do I believe I have the fruits of the spirit down pat?  As I review them, I certainly see where I can improve - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control?  Sure, I must have gentleness down pat - but then I think of a time where my words were not so gentle.  Self control - major fail on that one.  Yes, I have many areas where I can improve - and I'm sure Jesus sees that every day.
The good and blessed news is that Jesus forgives my shortcomings and provides opportunities for me to refine my skills - not just with the fruits of the spirit but in EVERY aspect of Christian living.  What a wonderful manager he is!!  He provides gentle encouragement in His Word and gives me all the love I need to succeed.  I am truly blessed.
So as we give ourselves a self-evaluation, may we look at our Christian life through Jesus' eyes, and may we continue to get better with each and every day.  One day, He will provide that evaluation for us, and I know He will say to all of you - welcome home!!  What a glorious day that will be.
Time for me to get back to performance appraisal reading!!  May you have a wonderful week in our Lord, filled with self-evaluation and the warmth of Jesus' love.  Blessings~~

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Help Me

"Do not be far from me, my God; come quickly, God, to help me."  (NIV)  Psalm 71:12
There are many days when certain thoughts fill my soul, when a glimpse at words or people bring it back to me and my devotion to Jesus.  Yes, times when the world around me looks bad or sad, and at those times I find myself praying for those around me and God's love to flow through them.  Other times find me relishing in good and pleasing situations, and again, my thoughts go back to Jesus for praise and thanksgiving.  All of it involves prayer.
So a few weeks ago, I began reading Max Lucado's "Before Amen".  I don't want to take away any of the thunder and highly suggest you read this book to help supplement your prayer life.  Yet, one item I want to share with you is part of praying is certainly praying for me, help that I need in order to guide me.  When I pray, I have a tendency to pray for those around me, my husband, my children, my mom, brother, nephews, etc.  God does answer prayer.  This week in particular, I prayed very hard for a difficult situation to end in a positive way.  God was there, listening and delivering as He always does.  Praise the Lord from whom all blessings flow.
I  am sure if I took a "peek" into your prayer lives, I would find much of the same.  Many times, as we fold our hands in prayer, our thoughts take us to those around us - those that need help, those that are bitter and need love, those that are struggling in health and need healing, etc.  It is good and right to pray for those in need.  So I beg the question, "Are those around us the only ones in need of help?" 
The suggestion Max provides to us in his book is to pray, "Help Me".  So I started.  I prayed for things that I needed.  Help with situations of focus and productivity in my life; help with my physical struggles; help with release from worry; help to sleep better . . . you get the picture.  My prayer was for the help I needed with the things around me, the things that effected me.  It was at Bible Study last Monday, as we sat down to discuss how Jesus is the Reason for so many things in our lives that I realized that although the "Help Me" prayer was wonderful and helped in many aspects of my life, that digging a bit deeper into ME for help was probably where God wanted me to focus my prayer.
How much deeper?  The HELP I truly needed was for restoration of my soul from my sins.  Yes, ask for forgiveness for the things that I do and don't do in God's name, THEN ask for HELP to guide me on a better path.  Help Where?  Let me share . . .
  • I can lose my patience at times, when things (and people) don't go as fast as I would like them to and my words can be hurtful.  I need HELP for more patience.
  • I am tempted to food that I know is not good for me - or my desire for a healthy lifestyle.  I need HELP to focus on better choices for my body.
  • My thoughts can take me to places and things that are negative and judgemental.  I need HELP to gain a positive viewpoint on situations and people.
The list above can be very long.  What has made an impact on me is that the help that I need is far past the daily list of things that I struggle with.  The help that I need is soul-searching help to be a better Christian woman - a better wife, mother, daughter, coworker, friend, etc.  I need God's help in many different ways.  I am happy to say that with God's help, ALL things are possible.  I find hope as I pray, hope that what I struggle with, the sins that I have, are forgiven through Jesus Christ and I can live a new life in Him.
Please pray with me, "Heavenly Father, may you help me in ALL that I need - not just the struggles I have internally and externally, but more so, help with the sinful life I can lead and help with restoration in you.  You are the great "I AM" - I know your help is close to me, ready to be shared when I ask.  May I continue to ask in Your Name."  Amen

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Memories to Movement

"I have set the Lord always before me.  Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken."  (NIV)  Psalm 16:8

The New Year means many things to people.  For some it is a time to set those New Year's Resolutions.  For others, it's a fresh start and new beginnings.  For other people, it can be dismal and dreary.  Not just because winter is settling in and, for us in New England, that means cold and snow.  It can be difficult to let go of the past and to move forward.  This was extremely evident in our household a few weeks ago, when we decided to clean out a room in the basement.

The room was stacked with boxes and stuff.  One can imagine with four children and two adults, we can accumulate much stuff.  Our oldest daughter, Sarah, moved out a couple of years ago into an apartment outside of Boston.  With not much storage space, she has kept a few boxes at our house until the day when she moves into something a little larger.  So, it was the day to go through the boxes and start deciding what she actually NEEDED and what she could part with.

Sarah enjoys holding on to stuff - memories.  For her, each item came with a memory, a part of her past.  It could have been a certain ticket stub, a paper she wrote for 8th grade, etc - all of them brought back memories.  For me and our project of cleaning & organizing, it was stuff.  For Sarah, she was parting with memories.  I mean really, a ticket stub - but for Sarah it was much more.

Watching Sarah's reaction (as well as my own), made me think of memories and movement.  When do we hold onto memories so tight that we don't want to move forward with anything new?  I have done this as well throughout my life.  Whether it was a special memento or a special moment, those memories had me holding on to the past.  Sometimes those memories are good ones, sometimes they are not so good.  Either way, memories can prevent us at times from making strides forward, either in relationships, work, or life.  Enjoying the old way we do things, enjoying the way things "were" can stop us from setting new sights to our future.

As this new year begins, it is time for me to step out of the memory box and into the movement arena.  This can be scary at times - okay, it can be scary ALL the time.  Yet, we have someone who is always there to guide us and help us into the movement arena.  As our verse for today points out, the Dear Lord is on our side - always a step ahead of us.  While we are stepping into "new" situations and "new" adventures, our Dear Lord is there with us.  We need to remember to open up to Him, share our hesitations and our hopes.  God's path is a good one - if our adventures and situations are in line with God's view of our lives, we are in THE BEST hands.  It is time for me to experience all that God has for me, and to step forward in the faith that He will be with me, therefore I will not be shaken.  I have many new ventures this year ahead of me and I know God will be there every step of the way!

I encourage all of us to see what our Lord has before us, to move forward.  Memories are good, as long as they don't inhibit us from seeing all the good that is in store for us if we move.  As for Sarah, she really cleaned out many of the boxes that day.  It came with tears from all of us as my zeal for "cleaning" met with her memories.  Sarah, I thank you for meeting me 1/2 way (or maybe even giving more than 1/2).  I know Sarah's future is bright, along with each of my children and the movement they have in front of them.  I also know that all who read this have a bright future as well, as we move into new situations.  How am I so sure?  Because we have God at our right hand.  Who better to take the journey with us? 

I pray that all have a wonderful year ahead, full of hope, joy, peace and love.  May we move forward in faith, praise, and thanksgiving. 

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.