There Are No Mundane Tasks

Never A Dull Moment – Week 1, Your Turn to Talk

We made it: one whole week of journeying together, seeing God in the daily, being consistent (for me… sort of!) in our times with the Lord!  Don’t miss the key point wrapped up in that little parenthetical, my Friends.  We do not have to be perfect.  It is OK when things don’t go exactly as planned.  There are days when we are going to feel overwhelmed, but Isaiah 43:10 says we WON’T BE.  I have a business partner who says, “overwhelmed is a choice” and she’s right.

Did you keep going?  Did the Holy Spirit remind you of Himself?  Did you throw up a prayer as you were running out the door?  Are you reading this today?  Good for you!  Way to persevere!  Running the race looks gangly and awkward sometimes, but you just don’t stop.  There’s a reward waiting at the end AND there will be lots of awesome along the way!

So… your turn to talk.  The challenge for today is to consider the “mundane” tasks for which you are responsible and then open your eyes to see the blessings they represent.  I love looking at life this way.  After all, if we are created to do good works which God planned in advance for us to do (we were, see Ephesians 2:10) and if all our days are ordained (they are, see Psalm 139) then there are no mundane tasks, right?

Happy journaling!

Week 1/Day 1: Yet Another Reason to be Speechless

It is so fitting that this is Week 1/Day 1!  Holy moly!  If you know me in “real life” – or have seen me on a platform speaking somewhere, for that matter – you know that the whole “Speechless” deal is VERY tongue in cheek!  In fact, part of the reason my speaking ministry was christened “Speechless Ministries” is because I clearly am not without words.  If you invited me, you intended for me to SPEAK.  And, gracious, if you didn’t, well, bless your heart, you were surely shocked when I arrived!  LOL!  But here’s the thing: there is simply too much to say when it comes to how God blesses me, the life that He’s given me, and the doors that He’s opened for me.  Psalm 40:5 is the ministry’s theme verse: Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you have planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.”  Indeed, that God loves and cares for me, speaks to me, and uses me… is almost the only thing that really renders me speechless.  Really.

My parents we NOT surprised when I declared a Speech Communication major in college!  My mother’s exact words were, “I always knew you would try to get someone to pay you for talking!”  LOL!  I LITERALLY have a magnet on my refrigerator that says “Dear Lord – Please put your arm around my shoulders and Your hand over my mouth.”  If you’ve seen me perform “Southern Style” you are well acquainted with “JO-LEE!”  Lawd, that woman can talk!  😉  She’s a little over the top, but it’s ALL real life, my dears!

NADM Refridgerator Prayer

Who He is to me, what He has done for me; His faithfulness to me has made me BELIEVE.  And because I believe, I have to speak!  (2 Cor. 4:13)  What about you?  What has God had you “take note” of lately?  How has He made you believe?  Where are your words leading you these days?

O Father, our prayer echoes Proverbs 25:11.  Let our words be fitly spoken, like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Put Your arm around our shoulders and Your hand over our mouths.  May every word we speak, speak life and may the law of kindness be on our tongues for Your glory and for the benefit of the people You’ve given us to do life with.

Down with Anxiety Girl

Anxiety Girl

I am still slowly picking my way through the book of Luke with my online Bible Study Peeps at Good Morning Girls – and let me first say that slowly processing scripture for yourself is the way. to. GO! I am so enjoying how God is whispering His truths to my heart as I take time to listen to what His living and active WORD might speak into my little life.

This morning found me focused on Luke 21:12-33. My heart was so struck by Christ’s distinct calm in the midst of describing terrible worldwide, as well as, personal calamity. Oh, please take the time to read it right now.;ESV;CEV;HCSB;NLT

My take away – and my encouragement to you – is very simply: down with Anxiety Girl. Back away from the cape. Do not worry or fret over even the terrible things (much less the frustrating, inconvenient things). They are coming regardless of our worry, firmly in God’s hand and so very temporal – they WILL pass away. As someone so aptly noted in my “face to face” Bible study this week: we win in the end. And, I would add, Anxiety Girl will have nothing to do with it!

When I look around at all that is happening, think about all that will happen and add to that my tendency to stress over things that MIGHT happen, this passage so encourages me to: trust God – PERIOD, to seek His face and His wisdom and most importantly to PRIORITIZE HIS WORD. That seems so basic, as a 25 year veteran to Bible study, but it is so easy to lose track of in the daily. His word is the ONLY thing that will never pass away. Even the most terrible things will one day be history. The concerns I have for my Kiddos, now 7 and 10, will one day be blips – if even that – on the timeline of my days with them, but His Word, His promises to us, His assurances, His example, His sovereignty will never change. Please do not hear me saying that life is not really, really hard some days. I know that it is much easier to type this when all is well, the coffee is hot, the job is secure, the Kiddos are well and the bills are paid than it is to LIVE it when none of those things are true. But even then, something in my heart is so longing to just let. it. go. Even when Anxiety Girl’s get-up is right there ready for me to don, I think I am finally ready to give just trusting Jesus a shot. I think it will be really, really awesome. I think if I seek Him first, Jesus really will give me all the rest as well (Matt. 6:33). I think He will really be able to orchestrate all my stuff way better than I can and I think I really believe Him when He says that tomorrow will worry about itself (Matt. 6:34).

I can fret with the best of them, but Jesus so reminded my heart this morning, that if I seek him first and prioritize His word in all things – in my daily mundane stuff, in my relationships, while the Kiddos and I are coming and going, when Kep wants to talk, when Kevin needs extra TLC, when Caleb needs a happy Momma helping him study for the Social Studies test, when the checking account balance doesn’t look like I want it to, when I feel like I have too much on my plate, when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m stressed, when I’m calm, when I think I know what’s going on and when I have no idea – if in ALL THINGS, I seek Him first and prioritize His word, I will be prioritizing the eternal and giving my family, friends and neighbors something that will never tarnish or fade. I am ready to take Anxiety Girl DOWN. My heart knows that I can’t keep all these plates balanced and spinning. Jesus just stepped in this morning to remind me that HE CAN. Blessings, fellow Super Girls. Give Jesus the cape… He’s got this!

Wide-Eyed Wonder

If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light.  If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. – Luke 11:34, The Message

When I was in high school I had a really good friend who often said I wore rose-colored glasses.  He was a really smart guy and a year older than me.  So, I think I took that oft-heard comment as an indication that in order to be “really smart” and “mature”, I would need to eventually take off those glasses.  Over the years, there have certainly been times and seasons when the glasses seemed to be slipping.  But this morning as I read Luke 11:34 from The Message, it hit me that I don’t ever want my “positive outlook” to leave me – or even become dull from years spent in this crazy life.  Certainly, there have been experiences and circumstances that I wish were different.  I do expect the best, goodness, and honesty from people I meet along the way and when they behave differently than I expect, it is shocking and disheartening.  But Jesus said to live “wide-eyed in wonder and belief”.  Jesus said that if I live “wide-eyed in wonder and belief”, my whole body – my whole self – will fill up with light.  I don’t know about you, but that’s how I want to live!

I want my whole outlook to be hopeful.  I want to believe and see God move and trust His heart for me.  I want to be a doer of His word and trust Him for the results even when I don’t see them.  I want to extend grace to the people I meet and forgive them when they stumble because I have been extended great grace and I have stumbled many times.  I want to be known as His girl because I am filled with His light.  And I want to see others like God sees them: precious creations, made in His image; masterpieces worth dying for.  So, “mature” and “really smart” or not, I will keep looking around with wide-eyed wonder and belief, holding unswervingly to the hope I profess, knowing that the One who promised is faithful.  My prayer is that you will do the same.  Who doesn’t want to be filled with light?

Propitiation: A Big Word I Didn’t Know I Knew

I often say that God did all the hard work for our salvation.  He chased us throughout history, always loving us first; always making a way.  He proved His love for us in that while we were still sinners He sent His Son to die in our place.  He, by the power of His Holy Spirit, draws us to Himself, convicts us of our sin and even cries out on our behalf in prayer when we don’t know what to say.  Jesus stands at the right hand of the Father telling Him over and over again as we come to His throne with our humanness – in our sin – what it is like to actually walk around on this ball of dust held captive by skin.  He does the chasing.  He does loving.  He did the dying and the resurrecting.  He does the drawing.  He does the mediating.  By comparison, our job is so simple.  Our job is to recognize Him as Lord, to see that He loves us, to hear when He calls and to confess our sin – every time.  Our job is to repent and rest and be quiet and trust; to obey and follow and stay focused on Him.  He does the forgiving, the leading and the directing.  Our job is to receive it from Him.

I am working through a pretty hefty book right now by John Stott called The Cross of Christ.  This morning’s lesson is on “propitiation”.  How’s that for a vocabulary word?  It’s so funny to me that I am studying this now because 5 years ago, before sitting under the teaching of my current Pastor, I would have had to look it up in a dictionary.  (Don’t worry… you don’t have to get yours.  I am about to tell you what it means!)  Now, it at least doesn’t scare me!  To “propitiate” means to assuage or appease someone’s anger; to gain or regain the favor or someone else.  Turns out what I “often say” can be summed up in one really big word.  I don’t like thinking too terribly much about the anger of God, but to use my own terminology, “propitiation” simply means that God did all the hard work to save us.  To quote, Stott, “It is God Himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God Himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating, and God Himself who in the Person of His Son died for the propitiation of our sins.  Thus God took His own loving initiative to appease His own righteous anger by bearing it His own self in His own Son when He took our place and died for us.”

I don’t know about you, but that blows me away.  God took His own loving initiative to do the hard work for me because He knew I would never be able to do it for myself.  He bore His own righteous anger at MY sins because He knew I would never be able to withstand it on my own.  And then He, Himself, in His Son, Jesus, died for my sins so that I might be His very own daughter – chosen, adopted, blessed, gifted with every good gift, abundant and eternal life, the Fruit of the Spirit and the very fullness of Christ.  And my job is to simply accept His gift of grace and mercy, rest in His salvation and trust Him with all that I am and all that concerns me.  My job is to simply gaze into my Father’s face and fall in love with Him.

O Father, captivate me.  Even when I struggle and pull away – as children sometimes do – hold me fast.  Change my heart and draw me close.  Whisper my name in the winds of life in this world and the downpour of my daily.  Continue to do the hard work of drawing me to Yourself and make me more and more like Jesus as I keep my eyes fixed on Him.

The Perfection Problem

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

 My relationship with perfectionism is a lifelong one.  I don’t think either of my parents would say that they tried to instill it in me, but somewhere along the way, I certainly picked it up!  Way back when I was getting ready to graduate from college and start life in the “real world” I dressed up my perfectionist tendencies in the form of a well-crafted interview answer:

 Interviewer: What is your greatest weakness?

Me: I think it is my tendency toward perfectionism.  I want things to be done well and I strive to be the best I can possibly be.  If I am going to do something, I want it to be done right.  If I am going to be something, I want to be the best.

Pretty good answer, eh?  I mean who wouldn’t hire someone whose GREATEST WEAKNESS is perfectionism?!  Ugh.  Me… I would not want to hire someone whose greatest weakness is perfectionism.  I honestly do not want to BE someone whose greatest weakness is perfectionism.  So, why in the WORLD would I want to work with someone who had the same neurosis?  Perfectionism makes me question EVERYTHING.  It makes me feel like NOTHING is ever good enough.  It cripples me and keeps me from trying new things.  It makes me slow to start for fear that the finish will not be well.  Gracious.  Wonder how many jobs I lost because of that “well-crafted” interview answer?  Anyway…

 Just in case you haven’t picked up on it already, I have long since realized that my “greatest weakness” – my tendency toward perfectionism – is not REALLY a strength… no matter how I tried to spin it for my potential employers.  In reality, I knew even way back then that wanting everything to be “perfect” was not really a good thing, but I figured I had to say SOMETHING in an interview and I SURE wasn’t going to say that REALLY my greatest weakness is my perpetual tardiness or my inclination to overreact or propensity for procrastination!  I knew THAT wouldn’t get me the job!  And those things only touch the TIP of the iceberg!  But I digress (another trait I have!).  That’s another blog for another day. 

The point here is: perfectionism and I go way back.  And whenever it comes up, especially in Bible study, I get a little antsy.  I start thinking of my self-imposed checklists and all the blanks I have left unfilled in 25+ years of Bible studies, the dates left unchronicled in my journal, the Sundays I skipped, the prayers that went unprayed and on and on and on.  Not to even mention all the harsh words spoken, angry thoughts, inconsiderate ways and unkind actions I’ve taken over the years – all as a professing Christian.  I am in no way, shape or form perfect, but in Matthew 5:48, Jesus said to “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Yikes.  Just YIKES!  I know intellectually that I can never REALLY BE “perfect”.  As my children say, “Only Jesus was perfect, Mom.” 

So, what do I do with a verse like Matthew 5:48?  Well, the first thing I do is praise God that I am under the blood and grace of Jesus Christ; that EVERY sin, when confessed, will be forgiven (1 John 1:9).  Then I remember that, in Christ, I have been chosen and adopted and am now a child of God.  As such, I am blessed, redeemed, forgiven and DEARLY loved.  (See Eph. 1:3-8, Eph 5:1 and 1 John 3:1)  God doesn’t do things half-way, He LAVISHES His love on me as His child and completely transformed me when He saved me (2 Cor. 5:17).  I figure, if I can love my Kiddos so much that it literally makes my chest hurt even when they make mistakes, don’t use proper table manners, forget their backpacks, lose their jackets, talk ugly, act crazy etc. etc. etc. then SURELY the God of the universe will do what He has promised and love me unfailingly even when I mess up.  He SAID to come to Him and repent.  He SAID that He would never leave me of forsake me (Deut. 31:6).  He SAID that He would catch me when I stumble (Psalm 37:24).  He SAID to fight the good fight and press on (1 Tim. 6:12 & Phil 3:12).  Obviously, He KNOWS that this life will be, on many days, an uphill climb.  He KNOWS that we need grace and mercy for every day (Lam. 3:22-23).  He KNOWS that we NEED Him to remember that we are but dust (Psalm 103:13-14). 

So, when He says to “be perfect as I am perfect” I know He means to keep choosing Him – every day, in every encounter, with every thought, in word and deed.  I know He knows me better than I know myself and was well aware of what He was getting and who He was saving when He went to the cross on my behalf.  My part is to keep my gaze fixed on Him; to keep letting my heart be changed by His Word and His Holy Spirit.  And little by little, my freshly washed heart will overflow with more Christ-like behavior, more loving thoughts, more gentle words and a more radiant face that reflects His glory – rather than my own worry, distress or frustration.  I praise Him that my “wholeness [my “perfection”] is firmly rooted in [Him].  To live a life of perfection is not to make all A’s or to never miss a Sunday at church; rather it is to live a life true to [my] identity as [a child] of an utterly untemptable God who never changes, shows no partiality, and has no darkness in Him at all (Melissa Moore Fitzpatrick, “Perfection: Part Two” in James: Mercy Triumphs, 149).”  Thank God that IN CHRIST, “perfectionism” can actually be a good thing!  In Christ, striving toward perfection is RIGHT because it means drawing to the Only One who is truly Perfect.

The First Day of a New & Better Way

What Would Your Relationships Be Like If You…

  • Treated everyone, including yourself, as a person in process rather than as a machine that performs?
  • Showed in your words and actions that you valued relationships more than time?
  • Listened long enough to understand what another person was thinking and feeling?
  • Gave up harsh and condemning words and learned to speak softly?
  • Focused on finding solutions to problems rather than finding someone to blame?

From Love as a Way of Life by Gary Chapman

This is the book my Sunday school class is currently studying.  At the same time, as you know, the Ladies Bible Study I attend is studying the book of James.  Tuesday, because both studies asked me to, I wrote James 1:19 TWICE!  My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.  Today, MasterWork, our Sunday school curriculum, took me to James 1:2-4.  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

I am glad that the same God who holds the stars in place and created everything we know of (and things we cannot even imagine!) is ALSO the God who knows me better than I know myself and actually cares about how I interact with the people around me.  So, again, by grace, I say:

I hear you, Lord and I so want to be a doer of your word and not just a hearer. (James 1:22)  Even on days when the “job” of Mommy seems a little bit like a trial, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  I know that my Kiddos have taught me more in 8 short years than I have learned in the 30 before about being the person You want me to be.  The role of “Mommy” is the one I KNOW cannot do well without You.  It’s the one that motivates me more than any other to be better: more loving, more patient, more compassionate, kind and gentle, more self-controlled, more peaceful and more joyful… more like You.  Because more than anything, I want these Kiddos You’ve entrusted to me to see who You are when they watch who I am. 

It’s been said that when it comes to what we pass onto our children, more is “caught” than “taught”.  I want Caleb and Keppley to “catch” abundant life in Christ.  I want them to “catch” that His Word is living and active and makes a difference.  I want them to see that their Mom is different now than she was without Jesus and that it’s better this way.  So, even though my toes are feeling a little squished these days, I am thankful.  The God of the universe is meeting me where the rubber meets the road!  He’s challenging me to let His Word, which is planted in me, do a great work and grow into an oak of righteousness that will yield its fruit in season.  I am thankful because I don’t want my faith to just be something I “do” on Sunday mornings or slap onto my bumper or pull out when I’m in crisis.  Since this is the life [I] have chosen, the life of the Spirit, [I want to] make sure that [I] do not just hold to it as an idea in [my] head or a sentiment in [my] heart, but work out its implications in every detail of [my life].  (Galatians 5:25)

So, I wonder what my relationships with my two favorite Little Loveys would be like if I remembered that God’s not finished with us yet?  I wonder how different things would be if I showed them every day that my relationship with them is more important than my schedule; if I really listened when they talked, sought to understand their point of view and learned to speak softly?  I wonder what our relationships would be like if we stopped trying to figure out who’s to blame and started just loving on and being thankful for each other?  I’m not really sure.  But I can’t wait to find out!  Tomorrow morning when they forget their glasses, beg to snuggle with Daddy for just a few more minutes, REALLY dislike the shirt I picked out and suddenly hate Pop Tarts for breakfast, I am going to take a new approach.  I will remember that they are 5 and 8.  I will take one second to see how sweet they are with Kevin in the mornings and how good he is with them.  I will have a “back up” shirt ready to whip out and seek to understand their sudden boredom with toaster pastries.  And I will hustle them out of the house with a smile and a “still small voice”.  (No laughing!)  And so will begin the very first day of a new and better way.  For with God, all things are possible!

Yet Another Reason to be Speechless

So… does anyone but me think it is a HUGE coincidence that both of my COMPLETELY UNRELATED Bible studies had me write out James 1:19 today?!  For those of you that may not have a Bible handy, it states: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”  Oh my! 

At this point, I figure I have 2 options:

  1. Close both studies and move along quietly as though nothing happened OR
  2. Hear the WORD, let the Holy Spirit dig around in my messy heart and respond in obedience.

By grace, I am choosing Option 2!  Go ahead… laugh!  I am!  Those of you who know me well, know that I MIGHT be able to muster “slow to anger” on my own and I could PROBABLY at least do a pretty good job faking the “quick to listen” imperative, but I am WOEFULLY ill-equipped to handle the “slow to speak” part.  I mean, seriously!  I come from a long line of chatty folks who always have a joke to tell, a tale to weave and a story to embellish – usually dramatically, with outrageous facial expressions and sweeping gestures.  My Dad’s laugh is huge; he’s the life of the party!  My Mom always says that if you tied her hands behind her back she couldn’t talk at all!  And my brother can talk ME under the table… yes, really!  And we all “come by it honestly”.  All that background to say this: you know if I – of all people – choose Option 2, it is a “God Thing”!  And that is exactly what I am hoping for!

I am SO thrilled that God has given me the opportunity to use my propensity for the spoken word (isn’t that such a nice way to say it?!) for His glory and to encourage my Brothers and Sisters in Christ.  But I know better than anyone that my mouth also gets me into big trouble!  One of my most common prayers is: “O Lord, anoint my tongue and inspire my words that they may be apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11 NKJV).”  In more light-hearted moments, I have also prayed the prayer currently posted on my refrigerator door: “Dear Lord, put Your arm around my shoulder and Your hand over my mouth.”  Either will work and both get the job done because God is faithful!  However, to know that He has obviously placed His Word before you for some serious consideration is a little different.  It’s not flippant.  It’s not something that can be brushed off with an easy, “Well, that’s just who I am.”  And so today, I choose Option 2.

I have experienced the trials my big mouth and thoughtless words can bring and trust that those trials have tested my faith and are making me mature and complete (see James 1:2).  I know that my easy words don’t always come out the right way and are an overflow of a heart that needs purifying (Matthew 12:34).  I know who I am and am thankful that God loves me anyway.  I am thankful that He would even take the time to speak into my life through His Word.  So, by grace, because of who He is and in His strength, I choose Option 2.  I don’t want careless words to fall from mouth.  I want my words to build up and encourage and affirm.  I know from my own experience that “anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:20)”  More often than not, it brings about hurt feelings and broken relationships and regrets.  So, by grace, and because He said so, I choose Option 2.  I will take note.  I will be quick to listen, slow to speak (Lord, help me!) and slow to anger.  I will “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and I will humbly accept the word planted in [me], which can save [me] (James 1:21).”

If you are a praying person, please say some for me.  As you know, it will not be easy for this girl to slow up her speech!  But it will be best and I will be glad I did.  It will glorify and honor God and it will benefit those around me.  If you are a competitive person, you try it too – and let me know how it goes!

Keeping My Lips Sealed,