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five minute friday

Cheer up, buttercup! {Five Minute Friday}

Today as I rode in the car with my girl, she shared that she was feeling down.  She’s had a rough season in her current sport, and it’s been hard to maintain a joyful attitude.  We’ve prayed often for her to find true joy in the gifts she’s been given.  We’ve prayed that her heart wouldn’t get bogged down in the analytics of her athletics, but that she would rejoice in what her body can do, and always point others to the One who gives her the ability to do it, whether in word or countenance.  I fight the urge to just tell her, “cheer up!”

 

She’s a wise young woman who speaks the truth she’s studied to learn.  She told me she was having pep talks with herself, but they only work for so long.  Teasing her, I asked if she’s going to the One who will give her true joy, or if she just needs to have more self-pep-talks.

 

The thing is, I can tease her, but I’ve got to be honest, I’ve heard a lot of “pep talks” from pulpits, and platforms, where well-meaning teachers tell us we need to “pull up our boot straps” and “just do it,” when it comes to walking out the Christian life.  Sermons peppered with encouraging verses and uplifting music end with a sort of “rah, rah!” send-off that leaves us thinking we should be able to muster up the happy thoughts, and avoid doing bad things, and all will be well in life.

 

The thing is, true joy isn’t something we can magically manufacture.  It is a dear gift from the God of all joy, who longs to fill us with good cheer, and not in the manner of a happy Christmas carol.  He longs to give us hope when we can’t seem to say kind words to our kids when they irritate us, or stay away from that food choice that causes us to feel rotten, or smile when we can’t accomplish a feat in work or play that we feel we should.  And I’m concerned, because if we’re selling this message to those in the church, then chances are, those who don’t know Christ feel this burden heaped upon them, too.  Then we wonder why they don’t want what we’re “selling;” but it’s no different than what they’ve got.

 

true joy good cheer

 

Be of good cheer, my friend… and by that, I mean, admit you can’t “bootstrap it;” you can melt into the love and graceful care of your good Father… the one who really will hold us close and give us hope, when we’ve got no ability to muster it up.  It might not look lighthearted on the outside, and it might not even feel it in your temporary “feel-good-mind…” but there is Hope, and it brings Joy.

 

Are you walking through darkness?  How do you find cheer in its midst?

 

much love,

 

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{On Fridays I try to keep up with a wonderful group of writers who challenge themselves to free-write for five minutes on a shared topic. Click to Kate’s page Five Minute Friday to see what others are saying!}

Miss the Mark {Five Minute Friday}

In high school, my two best friends came at a time when I had been broken and beaten down, and had newly moved to a new state and found a fresh start.  But I was in a strange school, a strange church, and I had strange new things to learn about what love, and truth, and “safe,” meant.  These two swept in and captured my young girl’s heart, bringing laughter and prayer and encouragement, not to mention a tripled wardrobe, and Friday night dates for shared fettuccine, with salad and breadsticks.  We attended each other’s youth groups, started a Bible study in our school, and sang together – barefoot – but that’s another story.  We drove to the beach, sunroof open and our favorite a cappella music blaring, and we ate ice cream and we cried when our hearts were broken.

 

Sometimes, though, because our lives were so interwoven, the hurts we knew were caused by each other.  Sometimes, in our effort to be all that our young hearts and minds already sensed we were called to, we would miss the mark of the heart of it all.  We agonized over right and wrong and we held each other to a higher standard than the rest of the world (I am good at pushing, even when I can never live up to those standards), and many times, I remember my sweet mama saying, “Honey, you need to learn to accept, and to give, grace.”

 

Flash forward, and I’m a mama with a girl (and four boys) of my own.  I have high standards.  I know that the stakes are life and death, and I don’t want to waste a moment.  I’m sharpening arrows (well, I’m presenting them to their maker to be sharpened), and I have high hopes those arrows will fly straight and find the hearts of those who so desperately need love.  As our world grows darker, I have a growing sense of urgency for those who have answers to step up and be light.  It’s easy, though, for me to trample headlong right over hearts and forget again the grace.

 

center_of_the_mark_acs

 

I don’t want to ever miss the mark.  I was created to offer truth in love.  To embrace the never-ending, never-wavering pursuit of my Papa, and to offer it right back out to those around me.  It’s not cheap grace we receive or give; it cost the Creator everything.  It requires of those who yield to it, everything.  But that everything is not an effort to grasp that love, nor a tool to win or earn it.  That everything is a response that can be the only fitting one, to ultimate grace.  Grace says, “you are enough, because I made you enough.”  Grace says, “run after me, because I am all.”  Grace says, “yes, die to self, but gain LIFE.”  I want to say hard things, but say them for the good of another.

 

Those heart-friends and I shared a favorite song all those years ago, and its refrain still plays in my head:

 

To Love God, love people
That’s the center of the mark

In this life some things
Are bound to change
But one thing remains the same
We all need love

Time goes on, it moves like a hurricane
And through all the wind and rain
We all need love

As this world just keeps on turnin’
round and round
There are treasures to be found
If we just let compassion lead the way
Draw back your bow, let love go
Shoot straight for the heart
With all of your might, set your sight
Take aim from the start
To love God, love people
That’s the center of the mark

Every day, through what is and is to come
When all has been said and done
We all need love

So Jesus came, a gift from the heart of God
He gave us His life because We all need love

And the love that death could not
keep in the grave
Is alive in us today
So we must live to show the world the way

For the world is the target
And the arrow is the cross
As we set out on this journey
Lets obey the call from the heart of God
Let us Love at any cost

Songwriters: KOCH, DONALD A/KOCH, DONALD A/HARRIS, MARK
Center Of The Mark lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group
Is there a way you’re being challenged today, to live out a lesson that maybe you “learned” ages ago, or maybe is brand-new to you?
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{On Fridays I try to keep up with a wonderful group of writers who challenge themselves to free-write for five minutes on a shared topic. Click to Kate’s page Five Minute Friday to see what others are saying!}

Decide. {Five Minute Friday}

CHOOSE!  My daughter likes to firmly assert this command when, in typical “me” style, I hesitate on whether to pull out into traffic, turn at a given intersection, or I’m trying to decide on one flavor of tea over another.  She’s teasing me, making a movie-reference, and at the same time often gently challenging me out of analysis paralysis, into moving on with life.

 

I’m at my worst in a fabric store; I want every. single. one.  Still, after years of not sewing consistently, I can’t walk into one and not long for the patterns and textures – it could be granny-flowers or hipster corduroy –  I’m sure I could make into something lovely for my home.

 

Sometimes, when there’s too much of a good thing, it isn’t a good thing.  One year my mom thought it would be a great idea to put a ten dollar dollar-store gift card into each kid’s stocking.  Ten dollars.  At the dollar store.  Even after multiple attempts to encourage them that they could save their balance for later, I nearly dragged my children from the aisles of mostly-meaningless STUFF they would not want past the day we took it home.  There was too much; too much choice.  My second nearly had a breakdown from the overwhelm.

 

for_His_glory_dancing_with_my_father

 

Last night, some sweet friends and I gathered to study the book of Esther together and pray for each other.  As we shared our personal needs, a pattern emerged.  For the most part, each of us had at least one request for help in “balancing our time,” choosing between several good opportunities to serve our families, our churches, or our workplace.  As go-getter-women, we each struggle in some way with having to decide which opportunities are ones worthy of our investment.  And there’s this thing that’s difficult for my mind to process: that there isn’t always necessary one choice that has to be the one.

 

Esther is a story of how God’s people have once again turned from their faithful, gracious, giving God.  When He has lavished them with provision and love, protected them from attack, and given them His attention and love, they have chosen lesser things.  We do this, don’t we?  We go for the cupcake when we really need an apple and maybe a glass of water with lemon.  We plunk down in front of a movie instead of losing ourselves in a work of great literature.  We spend an hour gabbing with a girlfriend over our woes instead of writing a note to a friend in need of encouragement (ouch, pointing back at me again).

 

Esther, this chosen-by-God Hebrew girl, finds herself in a beauty pageant in which the prize is to wind up in a harem.  By all accounts, she makes a choice to honor the wishes of her adoptive dad, when he asks her as she enters this new life, to keep her heritage a secret.  In a harem.  A woman’s worst nightmare.  What’s incredible, though, is that in Esther, and throughout time, God doesn’t act solely in response to our decisions or even the decisions of those around us, be they wise or ridiculous.  Of course, there are often-to-always consequences for our choices.  But because of the very nature of who He is, this not-like-us God works through even the stupid choices, to get things done according to His agenda… the one in which He works all things for good, for His children, and for His glory.

 

So yes, I have to choose.  Daily, especially in this privileged land, I must decide between a myriad of options for everything from what I eat to what I wear, what I listen to, to where I go.  And really, I need to choose, as the proverb says, wisely.  I need to seek His heart and ask Him exactly what He wants me to do next.  But His word tells me if I’m His girl, I’ll hear the whisper of my Papa’s heart, over my shoulder, telling me what His will is.  And more, His history tells me that even when I don’t listen, when I decide to go for the lesser, He is gracious beyond what my short-sighted eyes can see.

 

What choices are in front of you that give you opportunity to choose the higher road, the most soul-nourishing, the most honoring, the most loving way?  Have you experienced grace when you made the lesser choice?

 

Thankful for grace…

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{On Fridays I try to keep up with a wonderful group of writers who challenge themselves to free-write for five minutes on a shared topic. Click to Kate’s page Five Minute Friday to see what others are saying!}