Monthly Archives: February 2012

Infectious Attitudes

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James 3:9-10 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers this should not be.”

I have a dear friend who got me thinking last week about infectious attitudes.  She did this through an event she recapped in the funniest way.  I asked her permission to share her story with you, because I think, like me, you just might relate. This is how she told it.

“Katie, you’re going to die when I tell you what I did the other day.  I’m so embarrassed over what happened that I don’t even want to tell you.  (She certainly had my attention now – she continued)  I was  driving morning carpool, enjoying the ride and talking with my son, when it happened.  I made a turn from a stop sign, and as I turned, I noticed an older gentleman walking his dog in the middle of the other lane.  As I got closer to him, I could see he noticed me as well, because he was screaming at me to slow down and obnoxiously waving his hands to emphasize his anger with me.  As I passed by, completely annoyed at the ugliness I had just witnessed, I couldn’t help myself –  I had to turn around and give that man a piece of my mind.  After all, I wasn’t speeding, and he was walking in the middle of the road!  As I rolled down my window to make him see the error of his ways, my plan backfired.  Embarrassingly enough, we ended up having a shouting match with absolutely no resolution.  As I drove away from him, I was so mad at myself for turning around!  I should have let it go.  But, I didn’t!  Instead, I let his mean get all over me!”

Can you relate? Oh, how I can! I loved her analogy “I let his mean get all over me!”  Have you ever let someone’s mean get all over you?  I have many times.  It’s certainly not something I’m proud of, it’s just the truth.   As a result of my retaliations, I always had regrets.   Regret for not holding my tongue.  Regret for not having self-control.  Regret for not honoring my heavenly Father with my actions.  It reminds me of James’ words, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers this should not be” (James 1:26, 3:9-10).  No, it should not be.  Mean for mean is unspiritual.  But, how do we fight our flesh?  Simply put, as followers of Christ, we must be willing to accept the offenses of others with humility and silence our precious pride. 

In the Gospels, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, and to treat others as we would have them treat us.  It’s radically different from what our society tells us to do!  When we are offended we must be willing to turn the other cheek and stand with Jesus.  Please know, this is not a weak form of complacency.  It’s a strong, self-determined, God-motivated love for Christ.  Can you imagine the impact we, as Christians, could have on our culture if we truly practiced everything Jesus preached?  Our Christ-like attitudes just might become contagious!  

This week I challenge myself and each of you in the body of Christ to start a revolution.  “Clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12).  “Rid yourself of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from your lips” (Col. 3:8).   Immerse yourself in His word which breeds wisdom that is “pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit” (James 3:17).  In doing so, you just might infect someone’s attitude with the life-giving Spirit of Christ.

Until next week, striving to start a revolution…Katie


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Filling Your Love Tank

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Ephesians 3:17-18 “be rooted and established in love so that we may have the power to understand how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.”

God had me thinking about the concept of love recently.  I don’t know if He used last week’s date of February 14th to peek my interest in the topic or if it was just time for me to reflect on how His abounding love has transformed my life.  Regardless, as the hoopla of Valentine’s Day came and went, I realized just how much my image of love has changed.  Believe me, it’s been a long, hard lesson for a self-confessed “love junkie” like me to learn.  Let me explain.

For many years, I looked to those around me to fill my need for love.  I would crave the attention, adoration, or affection of my family and friends; then, however much I received, or didn’t receive, of this love would determine my emotions and subsequent actions.  I don’t want to sound dramatic, but it was like an addiction – one that left me looking to anyone for my next “fix.”  I found myself in a self-centered cycle of sin which, looking back, brought with it many self-inflicted scars.  You see, the pressure I put on those around me (in particular my spouse) to satisfy a need only my Heavenly Father could fill was like putting a square in a round hole – as much as I tried to make it fit, as much as I wanted the love of those around me to fill me up, I was always left with some empty space.  This emptiness would inevitably leave me looking for someone to blame.  Praise God, after much soul searching and mis-guided finger pointing, I found who the guilty party was – me!  I had placed myself in a position where my so-called “love tank” would never get filled, and I knew I needed to make some changes.  Our compassionate God gently spoke those changes to me through His precious Holy Word.

 As Believers, we know God is love (1 John 4:8), and we were created in His image (Genesis 1:27).  Therefore, to experience love is an essential component to our being.  In fact, even a study in Forbes magazine called “The Science of Love” concluded love was more of a “primal drive akin to hunger, than it was an emotion.”  Knowing this, what happens when we run on empty in that department?  I mean, let’s face it, we are sinful people having relationships with other sinful people, and, on top of that, we live in a sinful world – most likely, no one is getting their fill of love purely from those around us.  The fact is, while we were made for love, we were made specifically for God’s love, and only He can fill our alleged love tank.  Don’t get me wrong, as humans, we can enjoy, esteem, and cherish the love of our family and friends, but we are not to rely on it.  We must, as our Father tells us through the disciple John, “rely on God’s love” (1 John 4:16) alone, and trust me, it’s an incredible, unconditional, individual type of love!  

But, there’s even better news – the only prerequisite God requires of His children to experience His amazing love is for us to open up our hearts to Him through our time and cultivate a more intimate relationship.  After all, we can’t truly receive the love of someone without knowing who they are.  The apostle Paul tells us we must “be rooted and established in love (or God) so that we may have the power to understand how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18).  We can’t grasp the love of our Savior without developing roots where it can grow.  Rest assured, when it grows, you are blessed with the most incredible taste of true love – a love which surpasses this life into eternity. 

How is your love tank these days?  Are you  trying desperately to fill it with the love of those around you?  Or have you found, the only true spiritual gas station for your tank?  I have to be honest, while my image of love has changed over the years, it continues to be a daily struggle for me to look only to God to fill me.   My flesh can be strong.  Without consistent redirection, it can guide me to the wrong fueling station, leaving me with that familiar feeling of emptiness.  Where are you fueling up?  Do you need redirection?  Have no doubt, there is a station close by where your love tank can be filled, and its Attendant is always waiting with a surplus of fuel!

Until next week, making my way to His station and standing at His pump…Katie

Stepping Into God’s Zone

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2 Corinthians 12:10 “That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Well, He did it again.  God stepped into my comfort zone and challenged me to step out.  He enjoys doing that every now and then to make sure I stay on my toes, because, admittedly – I like to be comfortable.  I’m not fond of embarrassing, awkward, unpleasant or self-conscious situations, and I certainly don’t take pleasure in willingly putting myself in those circumstances.  But God does.  I’ve found it’s where He does His best work.

God took the initiative to confront me through a comedian named Michael Jr. who recently spoke at our church at a special Sunday night service.  His presentation was hilarious, but even better was the message his material brought – step out of your comfort zone and God WILL have your back.  He went on to explain how God had blessed him with this amazing ability to make people laugh.  It was a gift – a gift Michael Jr. knew needed to be shared with those who were hurting the most across America.  So, he decided to step out of his comfort zone and see if his gift could make a difference.  In his words, he decided it was time to stop “getting laughs and start giving them.”  So, on the road he went.

God led him to several different venues – a homeless shelter, a shelter for abused children, a clinic with HIV patients, but one of the places that pushed Michael Jr. out of his comfort zone the most was a highly secured prison facility.  It was where God wanted him to go, but certainly, not where he wanted to be.  He tells the story of walking into the prison, and for the first time on this journey, being scared.  He had no idea what he was going to say to these men.  He began to pray, “Lord, you have brought me here.  What am I going to say to these men who are facing life sentences behind bars?  How can I give them laughter?  How can this gift you have given me affect these men?”  Michael Jr. literally had no material as he walked into the room filled with men who had absolutely no expression on their faces.  He says he stepped on stage full of fear feeling completely alone.  But he wasn’t alone.  God was there, and He had been preparing for Michael Jr.’s arrival.  You see, as Michael Jr. looked out into the audience of men, one man in particular caught his attention.  It was a man with long white hair and a white beard.  Seconds passed.  Michael Jr. says he still didn’t know what he was going to say or how he was going to get these men to trust him enough to laugh.  He then, on a whim, decided to ask the older man what his name was – his answer – “Moses.”  Michael Jr. knew immediately his Lord was not only there, but He had his back!  He finished telling the story in a hilarious way, saying he looked at the man and exclaimed, “Moses, I want you to do me a favor.  Tomorrow, I want you to go to the warden, look him straight in the eyes and say, ‘warden – let my people go!’”  The entire room broke out in laughter, and by the end of the show, lives were changed.  Did you get that?  As a result of his discomfort, as a result of his obedience, lives were changed.  Are there lives around you that need to be changed?  Is God calling you to possibly change your life by doing some work for Him?  Rest assured, you don’t have to visit a prison to make a difference.

Stepping out of your comfort zone has many different facets.  It can be the more obvious physical step of faith – serving at a local shelter, volunteering in your community, going on a mission trip, or befriending someone who is different from you.  However, stepping out of your comfort zone can also be an emotional step of faith – letting go of anger or bitterness and allowing joy to dwell, offering forgiveness in what seems to be an unforgiveable situation, allowing peace to reign in a season of chaos, or being kind to those who are cruel.  Both types of steps require spiritual courage, and both can be difficult.  After all, it’s scary when we step into the unfamiliar territory of what I can only call the “God zone.”  God’s zone challenges us.  It makes us rely solely on His power, and that can be frightening.  Remember when Moses was called by God to save the enslaved Israelites, he exclaimed, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 4:13). Even the Apostle Paul was scared to step out of his comfort zone as seen in his letter to the Corinthians, “I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:3).  When God calls us into His zone, we subject ourselves to rejection, disappointment and hurt, so our flesh pulls us in the other direction.  But God wants us to put our insecurities into His mighty hands.  He wants us to celebrate our weaknesses instead of running from them so that His power may be made perfect.  Both Moses and Paul saw this incredible  power first hand.  In fact, as a result, Paul gave us some words of wisdom when we doubt our ability to step out of our comfort zone, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

If we want to experience the magnificent power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, it is essential for us to step into God’s zone and out of our accustomed one of comfort.   God will be there waiting for us.  Remember, when we make that courageous move, He WILL have our back.  May we hold each other accountable in making those steps of faith.  For as a result of our steps, lives will be changed – and that life may be our own.

Until next week, desperately trying to take a giant step into His zone… Katie

Running Through Stings

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Romans 5:3-4 “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character, hope.”  
My husband, Allen, and I are training for our second ½ marathon (we ran our first one a little over 13 years ago, so we felt it was time to torture ourselves again).  Anyway, for the past ten weeks we have been diligently hitting the treadmills or the streets, trying to prepare our bodies for the day of the race. We have scheduled our long runs to be on Sunday afternoon, and I have to say, I rarely look forward to them, as they have cut into my routine of church, lunch, and nap – not run!  Nevertheless, a couple of Sundays ago,  our training schedule had us making our first 11-mile run.  I wasn’t looking forward to it!
As always, the first few miles weren’t bad at all, but once we hit mile 8, we certainly had to push ourselves to finish.  Then, while we were closing in on mile 10, our run was unexpectantly  interrupted.  Allen had stopped, hunched over, and was grabbing his eye.  I kept my feet moving (I feared if I stopped, I might not start again).  I looked back at him and asked what was wrong.  No answer.  He was still stooped over, and I could see him rubbing his eye intensely.  Now, a little worried, I jogged back to him; and once there, I knew my feet had to stop along with his.  After Allen struggled with his eye, he finally regained his composure and was able to tell me what was wrong.  Something had flown into his eye and stung it! I thought he had to be mistaken, bugs don’t fly into your eye and sting it, but he was right.  Some sort of bug had flown in, out of nowhere, and landed on his eyeball and stung it – it was bloodshot and already beginning to swell.
I asked Allen if he wanted to stop or walk the rest of the way back (after all, he couldn’t see out of his eye), but he was determined to finish the run.  We started back, slowly but steadily picking up our speed, and before long, we were finished.  The pain in Allen’s eye was still there, and you could see the effects of the sting; but his vision had cleared up.  We laughed at how odd that was – a bug flying around, that happened to land on and sting his eyeball.  It was definitely an interruption we hadn’t foreseen and certainly one we couldn’t have planned on!   I thought isn’t that what our life here on earth is all about?  Those crazy, painful interruptions we don’t see coming.  They hit us head on, skew our vision, and stop us in our run with Christ.
Over the past year, I’ve seen many of those stings in my circle of family and friends, as I’m sure you have – the sudden death of a loved one, the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease, the illness of a child, an addiction gone awry, the aftermath of a natural disaster, the loss of a job – the list goes on and on.  And while Jesus is clear to His followers that we will face suffering on this earth, His foresight doesn’t make the hurt and the heartache go away. In fact, sometimes the wounds those stings leave on our lives are devastating, and we are left with a choice to pick back up and continue running with Christ or to stop the race all together. I’ve seen both choices made, and only one breeds hope and eternal life.
As Christians, we are told to rejoice in our sufferings (1 Peter 4:13) and to consider it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds (James 1:2).  However, how do we do that?!  The answer – we can’t!  We weren’t made to.  But our Savior was.  It is only through the power of Jesus Christ we can allow our “suffering to produce perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope” (Romans 5:3-4); and, therefore, “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).  We must endure this life in order to reap the extraordinary benefits of the life to come.  But that endurance must be sought.  In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us to “pursue endurance” (1 Tim. 6:11) – “endurance that is inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess 1:3).  Strong’s concordance tells us this word endurance Paul speaks of means “the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and suffering.”  Read that definition again.  Have you seen this type of spiritual endurance in action?  Over the past few years, I have.  I’ve seen it in men and women of faith who have prepared themselves for the stings of life through their complete devotion to our Lord and their unwavering faith in the hope He promises.  How grateful I am to those who, through their pain and anguish, have given me a glimpse of our Father’s love through their loyalty to Christ!
Yes, we will suffer, but we suffer with hope.  We continue running through the stings, and we endure the after effects – being certain that one day “He will wipe away every tear from (our) eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things (will have) passed away” (Rev. 21:4).  What a beautiful picture we are painted of our eternal destination!  In the meantime, through our tears and our heartache and our pain, we keep our eyes focused on the prize that awaits – assured we aren’t running this race alone.  For we have a great cloud of witnesses running alongside of  us, and the mighty power of our Savior within us.  Thank you Lord.  Thank you.
Until next week, running the race (stings and all)…Katie