The Danger in Comparing

 

Our girls have always sung: all over the house, at church, in the store… it shouldn’t have surprised me.  I was the child who clogged through every store my mother took me.

I remember our oldest 3 girls singing VBS songs in a grocery store and getting a bit loud, I thought, to serenade a woman standing nearby.  I tried to hush them a little, but as the woman passed me to leave she leaned in close and in a low tone she said, “Just think, they might be the next Point of Grace.”

It took my breath away, the way you know God just used someone to speak important truth to you.  The truth was that they were made to sing out loud, and it wasn’t my place to muffle them. I felt a little panicked, suddenly wondering if I was equipped to teach them what they would need to know.  I started praying right then and there that God would provide by enabling me or sending whatever teachers He will, and He has done both over the years.

My husband started them singing at the camp Annual Banquet each year, and I don’t remember how they began singing at church, but nowadays they sing at no less than 20 churches or events a year.  Their harmony is beautiful.  I don’t turn on the radio at home very often because who needs that when you have live music most of the day?

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It is a joy to watch and see how each one of the children develop in their gift each year, and even the older kids notice and appreciate as their younger siblings reach new levels. Lilly is 14 now, and has been coming into her own.  She is developing her own style and writing her own music.  I’ve seen our oldest listening, shake her head in wonderment, and I’ve known that she was comparing.

“My voice isn’t anything special,” she began to believe.

She forgot about the man who said that whichever sister is singing alto is “Amazing”.

She didn’t think about the woman at church who said she knew my Angel Girl would be able to pick out the elusive harmony.

She never considered how she has been becoming the teacher her sisters all go to when they need help understanding music theory.

I encourage her, but sometimes you need to hear it from someone who isn’t ‘just Mom’.

The comparing… it chokes dreams.  It kills confidence.  Instead of trail blazing, you fall to the rear because that is where you feel more comfortable. You might even talk yourself right out of the plans God has for you, but you and I, we’ve been chosen to be the bearer of the blessing others need.

In the Old Testament, God chose Esther.  He used Esther’s humility to save an entire nation.  He used her position: as the king’s favorite she had potential sway. He used her wisdom: a young woman who respected and listened to the uncle who told her that if she refused, God would use another way and she would forfeit the plan for her life.  He used her Jewish influence–the nation of Israel fasted and prayed with her in preparation for a risk that was greater than any you and I are likely to encounter: to go to the king without an invitation, and it could have cost her life.  She gave what she had to God as an offering.  She said, “If I perish, I perish.”  She didn’t say someone else was better equipped.  She risked everything and history documents how she blazed that trail.

While my Angel Girl was counseling at camp this summer, they put her on worship team. Every chapel, she had the opportunity to lead the singing with her peers while playing the keyboard and/or singing for worship.  I was glad.  I knew it would be a good experience, and I just kept praying God would use it as He weaves together his will for her life.

Angel on Worship Team

She said she played so often that the nervousness which normally paralyzes her concentration and her hands when she plays in public had disappeared by the end of summer camps. And then there was that voice she kept hearing over the monitor… the one she didn’t recognize as belonging to any of the other singers, and then one day she realized it was her own.  “In a good way,” she smiled.

Angel at bleachers

My daughter has been given a song to sing out loud.  So have you, whether literally or figuratively.

Your abilities? They don’t belong to you, as much as society will tell you that they do and that it’s your right to do with them as you please.  No, they were given to you by God and for God.  Don’t think about what other people think. Don’t belittle your gifts.  Don’t allow your song, whatever it is, to be muffled by comparing it to the abilities He has given to others.

Don’t fall back.

Don’t forfeit the plan.

Keep your gaze on the King.  He is your compass.  Orientate your thoughts, your feelings and your feet toward Him, and Keep. Moving. Forward.

You may never know all the lives you touch, but someday you’ll catch a glimpse of yourself the way God sees you.  You’ll hear your own voice in the so called monitor and be surprised {in a good way 🙂 } and you’ll be glad you chose to sing.

 

 

 

The Best Thing We Gained at the Fair

Have you ever noticed how kids have a very accurate internal clock, like, from the get go?

We took our oldest to the county fair when she was about three and the next summer, days before the fair was going to start, she started asking me about that place with lights and food and rides? We definitely went to the fair again that year,

and the next,

and every year.  🙂

Nowadays the fair falls the weekend after youth camps end so it’s easy for all of us to anticipate.  It’s a tradition.

When our oldest kids were little, and there were just a handful of them (instead of 2 hands-full) we would buy a sheet of tickets and let them ride a few kiddie rides.  As they got older, the more mature rides cost more.  With more children, one sheet didn’t provide enough tickets to go around.  We learned to be content walking through all the exhibits, petting the animals and having a treat.  My husband loves the malted milk shakes… it’s once a year. 😉

{Farm to Table Children’s Exhibit}

 

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{Miss our goats this year!}

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{Still wearing the camp swimming arm band… and look at that adorable face!}

This year, the big kids were hankering to do some rides and I promised them we’d save up for them to buy an arm band to do unlimited rides.  Tuesday of this week was that day.  However, rather than simply purchase the arm bands and send them off to get hot, dizzy and tired, we gave them the $20 we’d saved for each one of our flock.  We told them that they could pay for the arm bands themselves, or…  they could spend it (or save it) on whatever they pleased.

Somehow, with the $20 they gained in their hands, fair rides didn’t sound so appealing to them anymore. They suddenly appreciated the effort that it would take for them to earn that money back themselves.  Somebody mentioned having money for Christmas presents.

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No one went on rides.  When dad bought his malt, they bought their own ice cream (while mom *cringe* said nothing about all the sugar) and they enjoyed eating them together.  Dad got to taste every flavor because dads are good at sweet talking a taste.

We took in the exhibits.  We petted the animals.  C2 won a frisbee from The Pulse Radio. We won a $10 gift card for Cub Foods.

Yes, we brought home a lot of extra stuff, but the best thing we gained was the reminder that God is a Good Father when we lost. a. child!

Yes! Standing in a crowd with other people, holding tickets as the union for the grocery stores had a big drawing, Ella had a winning #.  She claimed her prize.  The giveaway ended, and as we started to walk away from the booth, I did what I always do:  I counted heads.

“5, 6, 7…” someone was missing.  I have had kids coming and going from camp all summer.  Every week we’ve had a different number at home, so the counting thing has been a little strange.  This is the first week we’ve had all the kids home since the beginning of June.

I re-counted with names and I panicked.  C2 is 4, and I didn’t see his little buzzed head or tye dye shirt.  We had been standing there, all together, the whole time!  How did he slip away?  Where could he have gone?

It’s amazing the clarity with which one can remember the details of a beloved in a moment of bereavement.  His big, tender eyes, full of wide wonderment filled my mind as I hollered his name and scanned the crowd.

I prayed.

While hubby turned the whole crew around, I spoke with the man at the grocery booth, and he said someone had taken a child to the fair office –{he pointed}– >>> that way.

We found him with an older couple, sitting in front of the information booth, and quietly crying as hard as he could.  He was hugging 2 stuffed animals from someone’s game booth.  When he saw us he flung himself into Dad’s arms and held on for dear life, and I silently praised God for keeping him safe.  As we walked away, the older couple who had cared for him said to him,

“Now, remember, your parents will always come for you.”

It was all I could do to restrain myself from snatching him up.  I let my husband hold on to him, but my arms ached to hold him, and I know that is how God feels about every son and daughter who wanders away from the safety of His will.  I can picture Him at the ready, even watching us as we consider stepping away; how he wants to snatch us from danger, but allows us to choose our own footing.

He’s the Good Father.

You’re never really a lost child when you belong to the King.  You can be rebellious, and you can suffer the consequences, but your Father knows where you are.  He has his eye on you and He’s listening for your repentant cry.  When you’re ready to find your way home, He will always come for you.

Always.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them gets lost, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountain and go in search of the one that is lost?  And if it turns out that he finds it, I assure you and most solemnly say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not get lost.  So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones be lost.” Matthew 18:12-14 (emphasis mine)

Always.

 

Growing in Patience

 

patience

 

Patience.  I chose this picture because the cup in the cold window reminds me so much of me and my own need for more patience.  I love a big cup of herbal tea, but I leave some good head space when I pour my cup so that when it has brewed I can add some cold water to cool it down and get to enjoying it.

I’ve been asking God what He wants to teach me, and here it is: Four. Little. Words.

“It’s not about you.”  

When I was young my mom used to do this thing when I wanted something and she was stressed.  She would say, “Linda, the world doesn’t revolve around you.”  I hated that.  So much so that it was on my list of “Things I will never say to my children.” (And I haven’t.) It made me feel selfish and despicable inside, even when there wasn’t anything wrong with what I was asking.

When I sensed the Lord whispering this to me, “It’s not about you,” in response to my searching, it really brought up that dreadful feeling I used to get as a child.

“Lord, I know that.”  I responded.  “I know it’s not about me.”

Right?  I waited.

I felt as though I was being held under a microscope, and the discomfort of being wrung out so that my mess was on display.

And then a new understanding overtook me while my mind was suddenly flooded with thoughts of the times I tend to be impatient. (Psalm 139:23,24) I know it’s not all about me, but my reaction to my circumstances prove that my heart and my head are not always in sync.

Beloved, you and I are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

We were made by God, not for ourselves, but for Him.

Luke 1:74-75that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

We are here for His Purpose.

Put another way, 2 Corinthians 5:15  “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

We are His agents, on His Mission, with His Perspective.

The gospel is meant for you and for me, but it does not stop with us.  We are to be about His business of reconciliation.  Our mission is to serve people by loving them and leading them to Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

This reconciliation is possible because of the cross.

Jesus loved us, served us, reconciled us, indwells us, and works through us!

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The King James version, when listing the Fruit of the Spirit, does not say “patience.”  It says “longsuffering.”  That sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?  The Greek word means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, forbearance, slowness in avenging wrongs . . . .

I am reminded that I, like Paul, am running a race that I want to finish well,  (2 Timothy 4:7). God is so gracious to give us gifts to help us in this race.  The fruit of the Spirit go hand in hand.  They are dependent upon one another and work together.

Love helps me extend patience toward other people who I find challenging along the way. Seeing people the way Jesus does, and remembering that “it’s not about me” lets me love them the way He loves me.  This is forbearance.  This is steadfastness.  Sometimes, as Elizabeth George put it, it is “waiting for the judge.”

I feel the need to point out that sometimes the one we need to love and forgive is ourselves.  When we get stuck, we surely are making “it” about us and we aren’t able to move on to the good works God has planned for us to do.  Also,

“To the extent that we resist reconciliation and forgiveness, we (the church) lessen the visibility of God’s grace to the community.” ~Jake Anderson

We need to see ourselves the way Jesus sees us if we want others to be able to embrace God’s grace for them.  If you’re holding a grudge against yourself, repent.  Forgive yourself because God does, and move on.  Go forth!

Joy helps me have patience to keep running when I am experiencing less than ideal circumstances.  On days when it feels like I’m being rained out of the race, it’s not about me.  Giving thanks brings me back to God’s perspective.  This is endurance.  This is also forbearance.  This is longsuffering.

Peace helps me experience patience during seasons when I wonder, “How can what’s happening to me right now really be part of God’s plan for me to carry out His purpose?” When life doesn’t make sense. When my heart breaks. It’s not about me.  I can trust God.  I am reminded of the lyrics to the song, “Trust in You,” by Lauren Daigle:

“When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move
When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through
When You don’t give the answers as I cry out to You
I will trust, I will trust, I will trust in You!”

This is constancy; This is steadfastness!  This is abiding.

Patience isn’t always what you feel.  Sometimes it’s what you do.  It can be obedience. Obedience is not always what you want to do. It’s just that–obedience . . . you choose it, and God changes your heart along the way.

So, when you take time to consider, when is it that you are not patient?

  • When I am under physical stress: hungry (low blood sugar), sick, tired, or in pain.
  • When I am in emotional distress: some kind of emotional pain, when I am offended (can you say PRIDE?) or when someone/something has pushed my buttons.
  • When I am experiencing spiritual or mental stress.  I feel that these two are closely intertwined: experiencing a need for spiritual renewal (not spending enough time with God), experiencing worry (a sin), and when I am caught off guard (sidelined by something difficult without having time to prepare myself).

I realize that these are situations which tend to initiate a turning inward to focus on myself.  What are some practical ways I can help myself to walk in patience?

  • Prayer.  This is the most important place to start.   Daily, I need to ask God to change my heart, give me a “longer fuse,” and give me the attitudes He wants me to have.  And then I need to ask him to give me wisdom and open my eyes to the practical ways I can be more patient.
  •  Taking care of myself!  Intentionally getting enough sleep, planning ahead for meals, eating right, and drinking water through the day will help me avoid the physical stress that can make patience more challenging for me, and help me be more present for my family.
  •  On the emotional front, spending time with God every day keeps me healthier. Giving Him my hurts instead of dwelling on them, obeying scripture that tells me to pray for my enemies, and remembering to dwell on all things lovely (Phil. 4:8) are all part of my heart care.
  • Removing opportunities to sin.  Ah.  This is challenging!  I need to constantly evaluate myself. One example is that if I notice that I suffer with impatience when the whole family is going out, people are running late, gloves are missing, etc… I can help myself avoid this scenario by having everyone pack “to-go bags” the evening before.  I can lay out gloves in pairs and put the “little people’s” shoes in order.  I need to develop more systems to help myself avoid stress and chaos.  It will be better for the whole family.  I sometimes get sidetracked by the urgent, feeling discouraged when it feels like my children are slow to learn the practical skills I am responsible to teach them (like cleaning up after themselves!)  When I stop to remember that the greater responsibility is for my attitudes and actions to point them to Jesus, the every day messes fall into their proper places.
  • Following  Jesus’ example.  Jesus kept the main thing the main thing.  He came to do the will of His Father.  He was God, yet he had a flourishing prayer life.  He said he did only what he saw his Father doing (John 5:19).  He didn’t veer from the plan.  He wasn’t side tracked by his enemies who abused him or by his disciples who sometimes loved ignorantly.  For the joy set before him, he was steadfast.  Our joy is in Him.  If we remember this we can keep the main thing the main thing.  We can remember that our purpose is to bring Him glory by carrying the gospel beyond ourselves “because of the tender mercy of our God . . . to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” (Luke 1:78, 79),  and we can do it with patience.

 

This devotional was written to use in conjunction with  A Woman’s Walk with God, Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit  by Elizabeth George.  The other devotionals in this series on the Fruit of the Spirit can be found on THIS PAGE.