RE:FOCUS – Think On These Things

Our minds are constantly bombarded with all kinds of input, some good and some bad. We are influenced (sometimes subconsciously) by what we watch, what we read, what and WHO we listen to, and any other outside forces in our lives. Thought patterns of anxiety, impurities, selfishness, greed, hatred, destruction, laziness, and childishness have slowly and steadily taken control of our minds. The older I become and the more I learn about myself, the more I realize how important it is to filter the thoughts that I allow to run through my mind… and more importantly, the ones I choose to dwell on. You’ve probably heard someone say before, “you are what you think.” It’s true in a lot of ways. We’ve all made choices that we regret, but we also need to understand that the choices we make ultimately begin with what we think about. Our minds are true warzones with real fights going on each and every day… actually it’s more like each and every moment.

The mind is an incredibly powerful thing. If we do not control our minds (or submit to God’s control)… if we just allow ourselves to think on whatever pops into our heads, then our minds will control us. An unbridled flame becomes an uncontrollable fire, and it does so pretty quickly.

The answer? We have to allow God to reprogram our minds. And after the reprogramming, we can’t let up. It has to become who we are. Read Philippians 4:8 with me…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

Because of some of my life choices (that I will talk more about in part 3), Philippians 4:8 has become a favorite scripture focus for me. It is a good measure of anything in life… thoughts, motives, actions, things we say. Just using it to test our thoughts can stop us from doing some really stupid things that we will regret. For the next few Mondays, we are going to look at this verse piece by piece and talk about this test that God has given us to use in our lives.

Think on things that are… true.
I looked up the word “true” and found the following definitions and synonyms: valid, honest, reliable, genuine, authentic, sincere, loyal, faithful, steadfast, unfailing, sure, real. Do your thoughts match up with these descriptions? Or do they fit more with these antonyms for “true”: corrupt, counterfeit, fraudulent, deceitful, false, unreal?

The only real truth is God’s word. Unfortunately, we take a lot of the things we hear about on a daily basis as “truth.” Remember the movie, The American President? There is a quote in the movie that says, “…in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone.” Lewis was talking about how people are so easily swayed by whoever “takes the lead” and presents his case. We can see this in our thoughts. If we are not truly focused on God’s truth everyday, really learning and seeking to find out what He has to say to us in our lives, then we will be easily swayed to listen to anything that comes our way. Our “slow fade” culture has caused all of us to be desensitized in a lot of areas (some that you and I probably don’t even consciously recognize). However, when our lives are grounded on God’s truth, and that is the measure of everything that comes at us, it is easier to fight off the everyday temptations that try so hard to control us!

So, how can we fight this battle?

First of all, know that it can NOT be done in your own strength. Trust me… I have tried and tried. Sometimes, I think I am more stubborn than most people. I’ve tried “routines” to keep my thoughts clean (that I will talk more about later), and they never work. It’s like dieting to lose weight. If you just go on a diet, the weight will ultimately come back. However, if you make healthy eating a LIFESTYLE, there is more potential to keep it up. The same goes for thoughts. If you try to do it your way, in your own strength, the old thought patterns will come back. Only by staying focused on God’s word can you truly change your entire way of thinking.

Second, since you know that it cannot be done through your own strength, ask God to change you. Give Him control and ask Him to reveal the “input” areas that do not exemplify truth. And ask Him what He wants you to do with them… then DO IT! ☺

Third, pursue the truth. Offensively. Don’t sit back and wait for a temptation to come. Know God’s word so well that you recognize a non-truth when it comes. Then throw scripture back at the TV, radio, person you are listening to, whatever it may be. When scripture becomes so much a part of you that you use it in everyday conversation, you know you are growing.

Everyone wants us to think like they think. Some are more persuasive than others, but we all have had the thought, “if only they thought like me…” That’s why we need to be prepared now and why we need to be so enamored with God that all other influences fade away. The challenge for this week… look back up at the definitions for “true” and see where your thoughts fit. Then ask God to work on you. We’re all works in progress. 🙂

…take every thought captive to obey Christ. – 2 Corinthians 10:5

Next Monday… Think on things that are honorable and just.

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surrender

>

@font-face { font-family: “Times New Roman”;}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: “Times New Roman”; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; This morning, I have been sitting here watching the Center Grove live stream, worshiping to The Stand (one of my favorites)… “But what can I say? What can I do? But offer this heart, o God, completely to You.” I feel free to worship this morning, letting go, sensing total need for surrender. Baby Joshua was born 4 days ago. I’m just amazed at God. The past few months have been a struggle. Some physical pain, emotional pain, selfishness, anger, frustration, stress, high blood pressure… all of the necessary things to put me in the place I needed to be. Home. It was time for me to let go but I refused to do it on my own. Life was all about me, and had been for a long time. I refused to let go of my pride… so God took care of it for me. Let me go back a little…

After going through some counseling about 2 years ago, God began to show me that He was truly calling me to Himself. Unsure of what that meant, I continued with life as it was. I felt closer to Him, but still I was unable to let go of Paula. For these 2 years, I have at times felt up and at times felt down. The down times became absolute misery, but then some circumstance would throw me on a whirlwind again to make me feel like life was okay. Those of you who read this blog have probably noticed it. Over the past 2 years, I have left writing for a while and come back for a while, with all good intentions to be consistent in writing what God has placed on my heart at any given time.

Satan has been hard on me, and this continued self-serving has brought me to a place where I realize just how weak I am in my own strength. Circumstances I will face in life are completely beyond my control (which is hard for someone who constantly struggles with the need to be in control). I guess this is where God has wanted me to get to, but it has been a journey full of self-inflicted pain. Spiritual warfare, yes, but a lot of the pain and misery has come from selfish choices. Sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission. My family has suffered tremendously, and I am thankful for a husband who has always patiently waited for me to become who he believes God has made me to be.

Our little Joshua, this precious little bundle of joy that God gave us as a “surprise” gift, has worked miracles in my heart. There is no way to explain how this event in our lives has changed me and continues to change me. Let’s just say God knows what He’s doing with EVERY circumstance in our lives. He is so real! His blessings are real, his discipline is real, the temptations in life are real. The only way to fight is to stay close to God. In His word… listening to His voice… crying out in desperation that He will control you. And if He is calling you to do something, all of the things you fight normally in your spiritual walk will become at least 10 times stronger! He’s been calling me for 2 years and I’ve been fighting HIM instead of TRUSTING Him to fight the battles that come at me. However, during this time, He has taught me a lot of lessons and has shown me what He is calling me to do. For that, I am thankful.

Most of our struggles come down to pride. If we admit it or not, we are our own worst enemies. A lot of the disagreements we have are over our individual preferences instead of what we claim as the “godly” way to do things. We would rather be right and preserve our security than to be humble and listen to what our brothers and sisters in Christ have to say. We would rather do it our own way than to really listen to how GOD wants us to do things. So, how are you doing with your pride? Are you trusting God to fight your battles or do you still believe (maybe even subconsciously) that you can live this life in your own strength? I’m finally where I know it is not possible to live the life that God has for me in my own strength. And I’m thankful that He has gotten me here… but I had to surrender. 

So I’ll stand with arms high and heart abandoned… in awe of the One who gave it all.
I’ll stand, my soul, Lord, to You surrendered. All I am is Yours… 

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No Pain, No Gain.

>Sometimes life just hurts. We lose people suddenly to tragedy, sicknesses come upon us, friends move away. Sometimes things hurt so much that you just ache, inside and out. Recently, I’ve been dealing with facing a painful situation in my life and have gone through a lot of different emotions. Now I just hurt. And believe it or not, it’s a good thing.

My entire life, I have avoided pain. I completely blocked out something that happened to me when I was around 3 years old (the memory returned in my early 20s). Then, when I was about 9, my grandfather died. I refused to go to his funeral. We were really close, and I guess subconsciously I thought it would just go away if I avoided it…. This began a destructive avoidance pattern in my life. So many choices I made in my thoughts and actions were from attempts to avoid pain. (Look back at this week’s RE:FOCUS for more about how important our thoughts are.) For years, I have kept a wall up and held back love for fear of being hurt. I’m FINALLY getting to a point where I am actually letting my husband have all of the love that he has deserved, yet not completely received, for 12 years. It’s definitely been a growing process. And a sure sign of growth is when I realize that I am actually feeling something and not trying my best to avoid it.

In America, we tend to want to “feel good.” Whatever is right for the moment. This is the force that leads us to seek pleasure and avoid pain (well, that and our sinful, selfish nature). God allows circumstances for a reason. He’s always trying to grow us… but we have to let Him complete His perfect work in our lives, no matter how painful.

What is going on in your life? In your heart? Are you facing something painful, yet you’re trying to avoid the pain? Don’t go to your “happy place.” (We’ll talk more about that in RE:FOCUS in a couple of weeks.) Let go of your prideful wall and feel the pain. Then give it to God. You will grow stronger for it.

… But every falling tear is always understood.
Yes, life is hard, but God is good. – Pam Thum

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Love Me

>Do you sometimes feel like no one really loves you for who you are and not what you can do for them? Do you sometimes expect too much out of people? Maybe you even have trouble seeing God except through the lenses of “godly people” in your life. I struggle with all of this myself. A lot of it is self-inflicted, which I will talk about more later in this post. Today, I heard the song “Love Me” by J.J. Heller. She describes 3 different people, all who have struggled with feeling that nobody in this life has been able to show what love really means.  Here are the lyrics in the chorus:

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

The last verse is about a man in prison who is living with the deep regret of what he has done… then God speaks to him… and reminds him that He already knows…

Then he heard a voice, somewhere deep inside
And it said, “I know you’ve murdered and I know you’ve lied,
And I’ve watched you suffer all of your life.
And now that you’ll LISTEN, I’ll tell you that I…

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love, the love that you never knew.”

Wow… as I listened to this song, I was immediately struck by the fact that I have actually been feeling this way lately. What hit me the most was “and now that you’ll listen…” There is the self-inflicted part. You see, in my own mind, I sometimes get frustrated, wondering why the people in my close circle won’t love me the way I want to be loved. WOW how self-centered!! Do you know why people will never be able to love me the way I need to be loved? Because that is a part that only God can play. People are going to disappoint us every time if we put that kind of expectation on them.

Who do you have your high expectations on? Your pastor? Your boss? Your spouse? Another family member or friend? We have to get to the point where we realize that our complete faith & hope cannot be put on ANY human being on this earth. The only One worth having our focus is God. He is the only One who truly loves us for who we are. Don’t get me wrong. Those close to us should love us for who we are, but we all unintentionally look at each other through our own biased lenses. This means that even though we mean well, we still see those we love as what we want them to be.

What it comes down to is that we should focus on being who God made us to be, and know that He loves us JUST THE WAY WE ARE. After all, if we spend all of our time and energy on becoming what other people want us to be, how do we have time to stop and remember who God made us to be? He’s the only One that matters. Life is about relationships, but earthly relationships can never be what they are meant to be if the most important relationship is off-centered (hmm…self-centered?). Let’s focus on the One who deserves our focus.

www.growwhereyoureplanted.org

Facing the Music

>I am a mess. It’s time to get real.

You know, it’s easy to look fine on the outside, yet be in a bad place. When you realize (or admit to yourself) that you have been in a “slow fade” progression, you have to stop and face the music. Only God knows what is going on inside each one of us. There has been so much going on inside of me over the past few months that is far from what it should be… pretty much the opposite of the fruits of the spirit. It all comes down to an unsurrendered soul.

So, now I’m taking stock. Humbling my prideful heart. Recognizing, yet again, that the perfectionist is not perfect. Repenting. Confessing all the junk. Finding my way back to my first Love, my Creator.

For the past several months, I have been trying to fulfill something missing inside of myself instead of fulfilling what I believe God has called me to do. In a crazy mixed-up way, the very thing I thought was my “calling” turned out to be my own selfish desire… and the one I thought was my selfish desire has turned out to be where God wants me. Now here I am back where I belong…
       
           worshiping with my husband and supporting him in his ministry…   
                                                

                                      playing the guitar… singing… writing… praying.

God is good. He knows we mess up. He knows we get off track. He knows everything we think, say, and do. He still loves us… not in spite of who we are, but BECAUSE of who we are. Every struggle is a test. It is an opportunity for God to get glory because of something that only HE can accomplish THROUGH us.

So I am facing the music… literally and figuratively. Things I am called to do have been neglected because of trying to prove myself and coming up empty. The focus has been on the things and people, not on the GOD of those things and people. So I’m coming back around and surrendering this wandering soul. I’m going to give my all to Jesus. I’m going to correct the wrongs in my life. I’m going to sing. I’m going to play. I’m going to write. This is who I am… because of who He is.

“You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

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Refiner’s Fire

>1 Peter 1:6-9
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved for various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls.

Some thoughts from Sheila Walsh about this passage that really spoke to me:

“When gold is refined, it is a fiery process that separates what is true from the flaws and impurities that have become one with it. The process is faithful, but it is temporary. We are called to more. We are impressed with gold and fine jewels, but God is blessed by faith that has come through fire hot enough to burn away what cannot last in His kingdom. At times we are so blistered by the blaze, it seems no good can come out of this fire. In those moments, we must hold on by faith to what we know is true. When we cling to Jesus at the height of the inferno, we will see when the furnace has cooled what is left is faith – pure, genuine, and honoring to Christ.”

www.growwhereyoureplanted.org

still, part 2 of 2

>The journey that led me to October 2, 2009, was one that I have kept pretty quiet… until now. God allows everything that comes into our lives for a reason, and if we keep all of our struggles inside, how can we help others get through the tough times? So here we go…
………
It started out as a surprise on Monday, August 17. I went to the doctor and got the news… SURPRISE! We’re pregnant! It certainly wasn’t planned, but we were extremely excited… more than we thought we would be. So, we started planning… quietly. We decided to wait until we went to the doctor for our 1st ultrasound before we told anyone outside of family and very close friends. For 3 1/2 weeks, we were filled with thoughts of… a new addition to the family… boy or girl?… due in April!… will this be our last child?… need to find a bigger house!

Our first ultrasound was set for Thursday, September 10. Jeff and I sat in joyful anticipation as we waited for the nurse to call us.

Amazing how emotions can change…

As the technician pulled up the pictures on the screen, we giggled as we looked at the head, arms, legs, etc. Obviously, the baby was small at this point, but you could still make it out. The tech seemed to be focusing on something, and then finally she said, “I’m having trouble finding a heartbeat.” By now, I was about 8 weeks pregnant, so the heartbeat should definitely have been detected. After looking at one more screen, she turned off the monitor and just told us how sorry she was. Within 15 minutes, our excitement suddenly turned to shock and utter sorrow.

The next step was to wait for the inevitable miscarriage. For 3 symptom-free weeks, my inner struggle grew deeper and deeper. Could the doctor have been wrong? There were so many emotions… confusion, sorrow, guilt, anger, frustration, pain, indifference… numbness… too many to really explain.

On Sunday, September 27, reality hit. I began to have signs that ultimately led up to Friday, October 2. When I actually lost the baby that Friday night, it was incredibly difficult, physically and emotionally. My amazing husband helped me through it… helped me to understand the situation for what it was.

This was my second miscarriage. The first was October 22, 2006… in between Jeffrey and Katherine. We again grieved the loss of this precious baby, and also thanked God for our two beautiful children… knowing more than ever that they are both here for a purpose!

What started out as an incredibly difficult weekend became a blessing in disguise. I was able to celebrate “new life” by sharing in the experience of a very dear friend’s wedding on Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, hidden behind my guitar, I experienced an incredible time of personal worship… At a time when I had wanted to ask “Why, God?”… all He wanted was for me to be still. As we worshiped to that special song, Still, it became crystal clear that God works together every little detail. Maybe the details don’t always turn out as our finite minds would have imagined, but GOD works ALL THINGS together to accomplish HIS greater purpose!

We were never promised that it would be easy. We were never promised that difficult circumstances would not come into our lives. “Peace like a river” does not mean the water is always “still” on the outside. A river progresses through several different levels of rapids as it winds down its path… at least on the surface. But deep down, at the foundation, it is always… still.

Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10

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still, part 1 of 2

>This is going to be a 2-part blog, starting with the words to a special song… The past few weeks have been a journey for me, which I will explain more in part 2 of this blog… This song is an incredible reminder of the fact that God is ALWAYS in control and He wants us to just be still and know He is God! As you read, think about the words and how our loving Father wants to speak to you through them…

Still

Hide me now under Your wing
Cover me within Your mighty hand

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

Find rest, my soul, in Christ alone
Know His power in quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

I will be still, I will be still
Be still… Be still and know
I will be still… I will be still
Be still… Be still and know
Be still and know YOU are GOD

Find rest, my soul, in Christ alone
Know His power in quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with You above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still and know You are God

I will be still and know You are God
I will be still and know You are God

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“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10


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