Tag Archives: Christian

What a Difference a Decade Makes

As my 35th birthday approaches I reflect on the difference the last decade has made. Ask a 15-year-old or even someone in their 20’s like the volunteers I work with, and they will probably tell you that most maturing happens between ages 15 and 25. However I beg to differ. I have found no other decade thus far that has both matured me and made me more youthful than this last decade.

Perhaps it is because my family dynamics are better than ever or because I have mastered my job of 10 years, but my gut tells me it’s more than that. I know this maturity and this youthfulness has come from a deeper relationship with God as a result of many enriching friendships with genuine investment in my life. These individuals and church communities have been intentional about their relationships with me. They not only loved me with their own love but with the love of Christ. They met with me, prayed for me, encouraged me, counseled me. I wouldn’t trade the last absolutely excruciating years of spiritual stretching, molding and refining if it meant going back to where I was in my faith at 25.

As my church prepares to start discipling relationships, I am both fearful of failure and confident in God’s grace. The same grace he has given me in the last decade will be shown to me in the next…and shown to my discipleship partner as well. It is comforting to reflect on how God used many ordinary people in my life to do extraordinary deeds for him. Not once did he use a celebrity, a earthly king/queen, or a genius to disciple me. He used a dietitian, a wealth manager, a housewife, a manager, a college student, a pharmacist, and many others to disciple me. None of them were Bible scholars, sinless, and few were even in places of authority in the church. He can and will use me when I step out in faith.

Lord, I am so grateful for the way you have used the past decade to mold me into who I need to be in the next. I step out in faith to disciple others because I know you are the only tool I need. Thank you for your grace and mercy. Amen.

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Going the Distance

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me Heavenward in Christ Jesus.

-Philippians 3:13-14

The View from Claremont Canyon Trail

The View from Claremont Canyon Trail

Last week my good friend Maura and I went hiking at a very steep trail in Berkeley, California. Hidden behind a beautiful, historic hotel, I at first underestimated its difficulty. This, however, was my second time hiking it, and I was determined to convince Maura to only hike half-way. After all, we had some important work to do that evening. At about the half-way mark we stopped to look back at the view of San Francisco and the whole East Bay. She looked at me and said those magical words, “Do you want to go back now?” “Uh…yeah!” I exclaimed. She laughed to herself and said something to the effect of, “We can’t go back now.” After much coaxing I began following at her heels, but complaining all the way. Finally my pal wisely suggested we name our strengths instead of our weaknesses. We spend so much time focusing on our weaknesses that we rarely recognize our strengths.

So, on we hike up the treacherous trail leading to a nearly 360 degree view of the Bay Area. “Let’s start!” After a moment of silence we began pouring out the silliest list of strengths ever. “I can pick up almost anything with my toes.” “I have a big nose with big nostrils to breathe and smell.” On and on our list went until suddenly we reached our destination, the top of the hill. Once we changed our focus it was much easier to carry on. It seemed to only take an instant to reach the top. I even found myself saying, “Let’s go a little further.”

When faced with challenges, whether it be the ups and downs of the everyday or a more permanent road block, if we change our focus to the gifts God has given us, focus on our true identity and all the ways God has made us resilient, we will go the distance. The journey is not about how fast we get there, nor is it about weighing failures with successes, but it’s about our ability to get back up and try again.

Reflect on Biblical “heroes.” Are they known for their lack of failure and constant success? No, they are known for the changes they allowed God to make in their lives, and by their unique strengths which they grew to recognize and nurture. Now that you know you are a resilient Son or Daughter of Christ, will you go the distance? Or will you continue to focus on the barrier preventing your growth?

Music video by Building 429 performing Press On (Official Music Video). (C) 2014 Provident Label Group LLC, a unit of Sony Music Entertainment

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Leaving the Rut Behind

Stuck in a rut? Every couple of years, sometimes more often, I feel stuck in a rut. While meeting with a friend one day she asked me, “If you don’t like what you do right now, then what do you want to do? What would be your ideal job?” I described my top four or five things I enjoy doing, and suddenly I paused and said with surprise, “So I just described my current job.” Why do we become so dissatisfied with our circumstances, especially our jobs or our families, when often they are exactly what we want and need?

I heard my pastor tell the story of a young man who met a beautiful woman. Her skin was perfectly flawless, like an angel. The way she dressed was so chic and attractive. Her elegance took his breath away. Of course this attraction swept him off his feet. He immediately fell in love with her. The young couple got married, but soon after the man began questioning why his wife spent so much money on clothing and cosmetics. She always had to have the latest fashions and skin care treatments. His paychecks would have been better off going straight to the salons she visited on a weekly basis. Frustrated with his wife the man went to his pastor. Surely his pastor would advise him to correct his wife’s behavior, or better yet, tell him to file for divorce. After hearing all his marital woes, the pastor asked the man, “Why did you fall in love with your wife?” The man replied, “Because she was beautiful like an angel with flawless skin and elegant style.” The pastor persisted, “Is she still beautiful and elegant with flawless skin?” “Yes, she is,” the man replied. His pastor continued, “If your wife has not changed, who has?”

This was pretty much the question my friend asked me while discussing my discontent with my job. My response, in hindsight, was a poor excuse for a response. I basically fumbled for a decent reply to her question. Some of it made sense, but it basically comes down to losing sight of my purpose there. Today brought just one of many profound reminders of my purpose. In the afternoon I always await the smiling face of my coworker at the door of my office. She usually has something encouraging to say, and today was one of the best afternoon encouragement nuggets I’ve had in a long time. She told me how she’s experiencing God’s joy in her life even after recently struggling with some hard life changes, and for a few moments I loved my job. If I were to keep my eyes on Him even when my coworker’s smiling face was not at my door, I would always experience joy at my job, no matter the circumstances.

Is there an area in your life where you are experiencing discontent? Examine the reasoning behind it. Perhaps it is not your job or your spouse that has changed, but your focus that has changed. It’s not too late. Hit the reset button before bitterness and depression set in. This prayer will help you reset your thinking. Continue praying each morning, and celebrating God’s goodness and grace. You are sure to see a shift in your focus and in your joy.

Heavenly Father, help us to see the world through your eyes. May we no longer look through the lens of the world, but through the lens of Love. May we think of whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, any excellence, anything worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). When our focus is on You, the embodiment of love, our focus is to love. When we love we cannot help but experience joy and peace that passes all understanding. Fill our hearts today with the Holy Spirit, that we would give from the overflow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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Give me Attitude, Prayer Attitude

Ever been at a prayer meeting when someone breaks into tears of desperation? “Lord, we need you!” This heart cry made my heart ache. How could I pray without desperation in my heart? Words are not enough to show God how desperate I am. I need to change my attitude to that of desperation.

Time and time again David cried out for help, sometimes accusing God of turning away from him, even ignoring him. I never know whether to be offended for God when reading these Psalms or to be comforted that I am not the only who feels the way David did. God knows we need him, but when we come to Him in desperation, whatever the prayer request may be, He knows that we know we need Him.

When I heard this cry of desperation from my friend I remembered what I had heard on the radio just the other day. A speaker on one of those 30-second segments explained that the older she gets, the more she knows God, the more desperate she is for Him. She said this brings her comfort knowing that she will always know she needs Him. My friend’s cry for help was a shocking reminder that all of us desperately need Him no matter how good or bad our circumstances are today.

Heavenly Father, we need you. Alone we are damaged goods, but with you we are the Bride of Christ, made pure in Jesus’ blood. Lord, we accept your gift of salvation as we begin this Holy Week. We reflect on the suffering Jesus endured, His death, His resurrection, and our anticipation for His return. Only in Him are we made whole and clean. Help us to cry out to you with tears in our eyes, desperate to receive what you have for us today and desperate to give back some of what you have given. Help us to be desperate in our confession as well, that we may recognize our need for forgiveness. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Breathe by Michael W. Smith

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