Obedience to God

When you grew up, did you have certain rules you had to follow that were set by your parents? Rules that your parents expected you to obey? Growing up, my parents had rules for our home. There was no cussing, you had to be kind to your siblings, you needed to contribute to the chores around the house, do your homework on time, etc. It was expected that we followed those rules or there would be consequences.

In a way, it is the same with God. God has rules that He wants us to follow. Look at the ten commandments for example. These are rules that God has set that we must obey. But why is obedience so important? Growing up in a Christian home, I saw the world and the way that they lived and, at times, I didn’t understand why being a Christian had to be so serious all the time. I wondered why God set some of the rules that He did. For example, why does he say no sex before marriage? Or why is it bad to be drunk? After all, the world was doing it and they seemed to be just fine.

The more I grew in my faith, and as I continued in life, I realized just why it was so important to follow God’s rules and obey Him. God has a plan for our lives. That plan, is greater than any plan we could ever make. He sets those rules because not following the rules can ruin His plan for us.

Think of it this way, when you were a kid, your parents probably told you not to touch fire or play with fire. Why? Because if you played with fire too much, it can burn you or worse, set you on fire. Your parents want you to grow up unscarred and without pain. If they never told you to watch out for fire, you might be in a lot of pain and your life could be different today. You could be walking around as a burn victim with scars all over your body, but because your parents love you, they set a rule to not play with fire.

It is just like that. God sets rules for us to follow because He knows that playing around with breaking rules can hurt us. He loves us and wants us to follow His rules. I don’t know about you, but I would rather live a life that God has created for me than a life full of pain because of my own actions.

Obedience can seem unfair and may not make sense at times, but if we obey God, He will reward us with a beautiful future and a happy life.

 

“Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you possess.” Deuteronomy 5:33 NIV

Why New Year’s Resolutions Are Important

Every year we make new year’s resolutions. Some of us are successful in completing our new year’s resolutions while some of us are not. There have been years that my new year’s resolutions have fallen through the cracks and others where I have accomplished much, but why are new year’s resolutions important?

I’ve heard the argument that we shouldn’t make new year’s resolutions because we end up failing and, ultimately, become disappointed in ourselves. Some people say we are setting ourselves up for failure because we want to accomplish too much. I believe that new year’s resolutions are important to making us better people.

Making new year’s resolutions pushes us to work towards a better “me” and, even if we don’t accomplish those resolutions, we are still working towards a better future for ourselves. New year’s resolutions also allow us to take a look at our lives to see what needs to change. In taking a look at our lives, we see the negative that affects our lives and we strive for that better part of ourselves. As the new year comes along and you begin to view your lives to set those new year’s resolutions, think about a few goals to set.

First, make on big goal. Make this goal the main goal that you want to reach. In setting this goal, try to think of the following things. Is your goal:

  • Specific: What exactly do you want to accomplish?
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve reached this goal? What will you be able to do?
  • Action: What will you need to do in order to reach your goal?
  • Realistic: Is this goal reasonable? How do you know?
  • Timely: When will you reach this goal? What is your deadline?

After you have come up with your main goal, think about some smaller goals to set. Make goals for your family, your financials, home, work, health and (most importantly) your spiritual goals.

If the idea of goals scares you, think about it a different way.

  • What habit would you like to make?
  • What habit would you like to break?
  • What skill do you want to master?
  • What books do you want to read?
  • What new place would you like to explore.

Don’t let the idea of new year’s resolutions scare you. There is a lot of good that can come from a new year’s resolution. And if you fail, it is okay. Continue your resolution into 2020. If you think your main goal will take more than one year but there are steps you can take to break down that goal during this coming year, accomplish those steps. Use the new year to build a better “you”. See it as a fresh start.

And to everyone reading, have a blessed 2019!

Living Out Your Values

When it comes to being a Christian, there is nothing more important than living out your values. Values, defined by the dictionary are, “a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgement of what is important in life”. Values are the core of who we are. They are what makes us.

It is one thing to say we believe in God and follow the Lord, but if our actions do not reflect our values, the world can see our beliefs as fake or hypocritical. As Christians, it is our job to live like Christ and in doing so, we need to have set values to accomplish that goal. We don’t have to be perfect but we need to try.

Here are some challenges to living out your values.

  • Live out your values even when others do not live the same way. It is easy to fall into the temptations of the world. When others are not living the same way you are and the activities they partake in may look inviting, stay strong. Stick to your values and don’t break away.
  • If the temptations of the world become too hard to resist, turn to God. Ask Him to give you strength. Read your bible or pray during a time of temptation. Turning to God will be the best choice you make.
  • Set those values and base them off God’s word. If you do not already know your values, write them down. If you don’t know where to start, turn to God’s word. Base your values off of what He says and stick with the values. Your values should never change. They should be the core of who you are. Once you have those values in mind, write them down. You can look back at your values you wrote down to remind you of who you want to be and how to live like Christ.
  • Get an accountability partner. An accountability partner should be someone who you share the same values with and someone of the same sex. Find someone at your church to become that accountability partner. Together, keep each other accountable for living out your values. If you are struggling with something and need some extra encouragement, call your accountability partner. Work together to keep your values strong.

Don’t forget, we all mess up but it is never too late to continue to strive towards living out your values and living like Christ.

Lessons from The Greatest Showman

I love movies. It is a way to escape from life for a little while, a way to be imaginative in someone else’s eyes, and a great past time. However, it isn’t often that a movie hits home so much that I listen to the soundtrack every single day to encourage myself. I have my favorites of course. Like Fried Green Tomatoes and Road to Perdition. Movies that have touched my heart and movies that I feel like I can relate to on some level. The Greatest Showman is one of those movies.

In the Greatest Showman there are many wonderfully written songs. Songs that encourage the viewers and stand as an anthem for many people. But there is one song that makes me cry every time I hear it. Yes, I am a sap. I cry during movies, cry during songs and cry watching the news almost every day so for those who know me, this is probably no big shocker. However, it is the nature of this song that brings me to tears and how it relates to my life right now.

The song is called “A Million Dreams”. The backdrop starts with a little girl and a little boy who like each other but come from two different worlds. She is part of the high-class society while he is poor. The little girl, Charity, sneaks out of her home to see the boy. As they sit by the beach, she talks about how she doesn’t know what her future will hold for her. Like Charity, I am in a point in my life that I don’t know what life holds for me anymore. I don’t know what God’s plan is and I struggle daily to see how we can have a happy future.

Some of the lyrics read:

“Every night I lie in bed
the brightest colors fill my head
a million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
a vision of the one I see
a million dreams is all it’s gonna take
a million dreams for the world we’re gonna make”

The young boy sings about how he sees a future for himself and for Charity and that future is together. Throughout everything that my husband and I have been through the past year, it has been hard to see a future for us. What I mean by that is, it is hard for me to be able to see that we can own a home someday or live in our own home instead of living with family. I have struggled with seeing this future for almost a year. I get discouraged and frustrated because it is not what I want to provide for my family. However, the one person who has kept our dreams alive is my husband.

He has been the one to keep reminding me that we will move someday and have our own home again. He is the one who can see that future even when I cannot. I have been so focused on what I don’t have that I lose sight of my dreams. It is good to dream and good to hope. That is something that you should never give up on.

Trust me, in the dark and hard times, it feels almost impossible to hold on to your dreams. When you have lost everything and can’t see your dreams anymore, let someone else carry those dreams and remind you when you need it. But know this, God made us with dreams and hopes for our future. That is what makes us human. If it was wrong to dream and hope, it would say so in the Bible and guess what, it doesn’t!

Dream until your dreams come true. Ask God for those dreams and aspirations. Let Him write your book but tell Him what you’d like. It doesn’t mean that every dream will come true and your dreams might change but having dreams are important and a gift from God. Cultivate those dreams.

Thanksgiving: Is It a Hard Time of Year?

The holidays are here! Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas lights, Christmas music, snow, paid time off, and family time. I love the holidays. If it could be like this every year, I would be pretty happy. But, I will let you in on a little secret, there was a time where the holidays were not the happiest time of year for me.

After my parents split up, I hated the idea of spending the holidays with two different families. My anger towards some family members (anger stemmed from the divorce) seemed to rear its ugly head. I didn’t want to see them, didn’t want to talk with them and didn’t want to spend my most favorite time of year with people who hurt me. As time grew closer and closer to Thanksgiving, the once happy holiday became a time of anger.

I bet there are those of you out there who are reading this and you feel like this is you. Your relationship with someone (whether it is a family member or a friend) is rocky and the holidays are not the time you want to see them. You want to keep the happy holidays happy and not bring in the hurt into the mix.

I want to challenge you to set aside your hurt feelings this year. Try making that effort for the holidays. I know you are probably sitting there thinking, “I make an effort every year and it always ends up being the same horrible holiday”. Guess what, I said the same thing, but we are wrong when we think that way and I will tell you why. If we look deep in our hearts when we make that remark are we truly making an effort? When we make an effort to be kind to someone even when they have wronged us, there shouldn’t be a feeling of resentment or anger at the end of the day. When we make the effort, and I mean TRULY make an effort to be kind, to talk with that individual or group of people, we feel better at the end of the day. Things might not be fixed but when we make an effort, the day (and holiday) feel like it was truly a good and happy holiday.

The first year I tried to “make an effort” with a sour heart, I left feeling like my Thanksgiving was wasted and ruined. I complained to my friends and family that I should have never tried to make an effort and should have never gone in the first place. The second year I tried to “make an effort” I decided to be fake. I put on that fake smile, talked with everyone and left, still feeling like the holiday was a waste of time. The third year, before I even went over to my family’s, I asked God how to make the holiday a happy time of year. I was tired of leaving feeling empty and angry. Do you know what He did. He changed my heart.

It wasn’t the fact that my family had chosen to be rude or ignored me during the holiday. In fact, they tried to make an effort just like I had. My heart was the issue. The bitterness in my heart, towards those who had hurt me, ruined my holidays. That year, I left feeling whole again and happy. Sure, the hurt feelings are still there. Yes, they hurt me deeply. However, when we decide to make a heart change for the holidays, suddenly, the holidays end up being “not so bad”.

As you continue to work towards a better future for yourself and your family through healing, each year will get easier. It will take time and it might take some difficult conversations to move on, but when we make the conscious decision to change our hearts towards those who hurt us, one of the most difficult times of year suddenly becomes one of the easiest times of the year.

So as you go to your Thanksgiving dinners this week, let me challenge all of us (including me) to make that change of heart so that we can make an effort and enjoy the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

The Church as a Hindrance

The church is a good place for us to grow and worship together; but can the church be a hindrance to our spiritual lives? Yes, but let me first explain. The church has been a huge part of my life since I was born. I grew up in the church and have volunteered in the church for many years. My church family has been a part of my life through some very difficult times. They have been there to pray for me, support my family, and encourage us.

However, living a life full of trials and tribulations has shown me that the church can be a hindrance in one specific way. Those who are going through a difficult time rely solely on the church and not on God. What do I mean by this? When I was in high school, I went through my parent’s divorce. It was a nasty and hard divorce that left me and my family broken and bruised. I turned to the church first instead of turning to God.

See, when we go through a difficult time, God wants us to rely on Him and to turn to Him before anything else or anyone else. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.” NIV It is not that a church or the people in the church are bad or can’t help you but the church is not greater than God. No one is greater than God. So why, when we are in a tough situation, do we immediately call upon the church instead of God?

I think, often times, we turn to the church first before asking God for help due to of a couple of reasons. One, we can talk to someone face-to-face and hear their answer immediately. Sometimes God takes His time because there is another lesson He wants us to learn. It isn’t that He doesn’t want to answer or cannot answer us directly. If God decided to speak to me right here and right now about the troubles I’ve faced, He would do it. He did it with Moses in the burning bush and He can do it with all of us. The reason He doesn’t do that is because it would defeat the purpose of spending time with Him and would take away from the growth of our relationship with Him. In times of pain and sorrow or times of difficulty we should turn to God’s word and turn to prayer. God wants to hear from us just as much as we want to hear from Him.

Second, sometimes we can hide the bad stuff about ourselves and our situation to get a response that we want rather than the response God will give us. Have you ever heard the term, “it takes two to tango”? Well often times in a difficult situation, there are two sides to a story. Take my parent’s divorce for example. There were things said and done on both parts that ruined their marriage. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t due to one simple mistake or one word said. If I were one of my parents going through the divorce I wouldn’t want the people in the church to know all of the bad things I’ve done. I would want to tell them everything that my spouse has done to me in order to get the response and sympathy I am looking for. With God, we cannot hide the things we have done. He knows every flaw and every imperfection.

Third, we turn to the church first instead of God because we want something from the church and we want it immediately. If we are struggling financially or we need something physical that maybe the church can provide we ask them before we ask God. On this one, I am not saying that taking help from the church is a bad thing. The church has helped many people through some tough times. However, it is where our hearts lie on this one that truly matters. God is the one who provides all things for us and when we ask Him He will provide. If you are tight on money and don’t know how you will be able to provide food for your family, ask God to help you and then go to your church. They may have a food bank you can get food from. When you don’t have a job and you’ve been searching for months but haven’t had any offers, ask God and then see if there is someone in the church who knows of a job available that would fit. My point is, when you need something in your life (physical need or not) turn to God and ask Him what to do. Rely on God before you rely on the church. Relying on God to provide those physical needs is another way to build your relationship with Him. Psalm 91:2 says, “I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’” NIV

Like I’ve said many times now, it is not a bad thing to be a part of a church or ask a church for help but when we turn to the church before we turn to God, we are being hindered in our spiritual life. Remember that “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

 

Isaiah 40:31 “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” NIV

Our Words as a Parent

I haven’t been a parent for very long. In fact, my daughter will be two in November; so I still consider myself a new parent. During my time with my daughter, I have learned a lot about what it means to be a parent. Being a parent has more responsibilities that others don’t normally think of. Sure, there are the normal parent responsibilites of feeding your child, making sure they don’t get hurt, getting them to bed on time, etc. But the hidden responsibilities are often times the hardest ones.

The responsibilities I am talking about are raising your child to be respectful, gentle but strong, and using kind words. Often times these seem like they are daunting tasks and during my two years with my daughter, I have learned a huge lesson and that lesson has to do with my words.

Every parent will tell you to be careful with what words you say in front of your child but it is more than just cussing or using inappropriate language. It is the tone you use and the way we speak to our children in times of discipline. It even comes down to the conversations and tone when speaking with your spouse. These tones are things our children notice.

I’ve noticed, lately, that my daughter is not only copying the words I say but the tone in my voice and the attitude I have. Her attitude towards my husband and me has become a mirror of how I act towards her and my husband.

During moments of discipline, my tone towards my daughter is important. Often times, my tone slips from being a firm but gentle discipline to a harsh raised tone that often teeters towards yelling. So what are good tones to take with our children?

I am no expert. However, these are the tips I have learned with my daughter:

  1. Keep a gentle but firm tone- No parent wants their child to learn that it is okay to walk all over their parents so it is crucial to be firm in our direction. I don’t like disciplining my daughter (who does right?), but often times I struggle with being too firm or being too soft. Being too soft does not tell your child that what they are doing is wrong. They often believe they can get away with what they are doing because their parent (or guardian) is not serious in the command that has been given. So make sure to be that gentle but firm disciplinary.
  2. Yelling is a mistake- Yelling at a child and not staying calm can lead into a fearful child and/ or teach your child bad habits when it comes to communicating with others. I am not perfect and have definitely messed up in this area. I have lost my cool in stressful situations and instead of staying calm, I’ve yelled at my daughter. In return, I’ve noticed a tone in my daughter’s voice when she does not agree with me. When I tell her no or to put something away, her voice raises and there have been moments where she has tried to yell at me. Obviously the words are incoherent for a two year old who is still learning, but the tone she has learned is a dangerous one. It is instilling anger within my child instead of discipline. In those moments of frustration, stress and anxiety, we need to take a deep breath and calm myself before disciplining my child.

I want to raise a young woman who is strong but gentle. A young woman whose words are mighty like a rock but don’t tear others down. Part of being that young woman is using your words and your tone in a firm but gentle manner. It is better to instill those skills when our children are younger than to fight for them when our children are older. This is true for both young women and young men. We want to raise our sons to treat others with respect (men and women) and part of showing respect is being gentle with their words and their tone.

Ephesians 6:4 says, “do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” NIV This verse talks about how we shouldn’t exasperate our children but what does exasperate mean? The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines exasperate as three things.

a. to cause irritation or annoyance
b. to excite the anger of
c. roughened with irregular prickles

The definition that catches my attention the most is the “roughened with irregular prickles”. When we exasperate our children with anger or irritate them, we are causing them to become rough in an irregular way. There is a difference between being strong and being rough in our heart. I think of making my daughter “rough” and that is not what I desire for my little girl. In order to avoid her growing a rough and hardened heart, I need to show her how to be firm and gentle with my words and tone.

I want to encourage all the parents out there who are reading this. Strive, in those moments of discipline, to be firm but gentle with your words. Instill in your child discipline but do it so that they remain gentle and not rough in their hearts. When you mess up (because we all do), talk with your child. Whether they are old enough to understand or not, talk with them about how you lost your cool and that wasn’t the right thing to do. Tell them that your tone and anger is never acceptable and that we all mess up but the important thing to do is try to be gentle again. Showing them that we all mess up is, yet, another way to teach our children important values.

 

 

More verses to keep in mind:

“The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1