Approval…

I just came across this verse and it blew me away. I had to look it up in multiple translations. Could it be true?? Is this REALLY in the Bible? Yes, yes it is.

Your approval means nothing to me,  because I know you don’t have God’s love within you.” John 5:41-42 (NLT).

Wow, now this was Jesus speaking, not John. He does KNOW all things, so I trust Him that he knew. Seems like an extremely “judgy” statement for any human to say to any other human though. Who are we to judge? But, this was JESUS. He KNEW they didn’t and He had the authority to state it. He was speaking to the Pharisees after they were harassing him for healing the blind man on the Sabbath. Breaking the Sabbath rules.

In my journey to seek God’s approval over people’s, the text I tend to refer to is this one:

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10 (NLT)

Paul wrote that after basically cursing anyone, including himself, if they preach a different kind of Good News than the one they did that day, about Jesus being the only way ANY of us can receive salvation.

I love his boldness for Christ. And, I know he’s right. But, when I found the text Jesus spoke to the Pharisees today, I was reminded that if their approval meant nothing to Him because He knew they didn’t have the love of God in their hearts than seeking approval and guidance from those we know DO can’t be a bad thing. Rather a tool.

How do we know who does? Do they portray the fruits of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23? And give Him the credit for it? Do they apologize when they don’t? Do they lift Jesus above themselves? Will they hear you out and pray that God speaks to your heart like they know He can, because He has? Do they love like Jesus? And admit He is the ONLY way?

Another way we can know who to seek guidance and approval from would be to ASK God. He promises to give us wisdom when we ask Him for it.

Do any of you need wisdom? Ask God for it. He is generous and enjoys giving to everyone. So he will give you wisdom. James 1:5 (ERV)

Ask Him who has the love of God in their hearts. This doesn’t mean God doesn’t love everyone. He loves everyone. But, not everyone has received that love to love themselves and others with it. Even if you have ONE of these people in your life, you are blessed.

In the same vein, stop asking those who don’t.

A person who HAS the love of God within them will not tell you what to do just as long as it benefits them. They may share their experiences and what they’ve learned through something similar. From pain comes wisdom. They may share something they receive after asking Him, but they’ll want you to receive that confirmation and peace in the answer too. They will ultimately pray His will and relationship into your life even if it’s not what they themselves would choose.

They may have Godly advice, but they will turn the hardest choices and decisions over to God speaking to you. They will KNOW He knows best, not them. They KNOW that your life path is supposed to be different from theirs. They KNOW you have a purpose to fill where God places you. And they’ll want you to experience the joy and peace and adventure that following Him over anyone else will provide. Even if it seems like the harder path, and it usually does. They’ll also know that you doing what He calls you to do brings us all one step closer to Jesus’s sweet return, because you will be getting His Word out wherever you go.

Jesus KNEW the Pharisees didn’t have the love of God in their hearts and actually said it, out loud. Ask HIM to help us know who does.

Many tend to give the “peace out” sign when it comes to seeking approval or guidance from anyone. But, remember, He did give us each other to be His hands and feet and ears and hearts. I am blessed to have some people who I have no doubt have the love of God in their hearts. I can tell by the way they love Him and me. So, these people are safe to ask. These people are safe to share with. Because I also trust they know I want a heart like theirs (His).

Got Haters?

Man, just when all hope seemed lost. I prayed, I asked for prayer. I cried. I fought it. I was shown relief. Again.

By a woman I just started following this year. A woman who lost her daughter. A woman who has been blamed for the publicity she’s received over this devastating loss of her daughter. The publicity she would give back in a heartbeat. For her daughter’s heartbeat. The hardships and the lessons being shown during and because of it has touched me deeply.

Today, she shared the story in the Bible about the friends who brought their friend to Jesus. Through the roof. Heads down, not worried about what others thought or what the homeowner would think. By the work it would take. By the degree of difficulty. Not deterred by the people in the crowd probably thinking (like we all have)..”Really?? How dramatic can you be? We’re all here to hear Jesus!”

Not deterred. Not afraid. Unrelenting friends. Who bring their friend to Jesus, even though we’re sure they had their own issues they themselves wanted help with. They didn’t ask Jesus for help first. They didn’t ask Him for help after because of their efforts. They just wanted to help their friend. They couldn’t fix his problem, and knew of only One who could. May we all be and have some of these friends!

Jesus had haters. Everywhere He went. They followed Him. They watched Him. They hung on His every word, even trying to trip Him up over and over again. They didn’t care that He literally healed people. They just looked for problems knowing full well they couldn’t. Anything to bring Him down.

What bothered them the most was when He said He forgave sins. The blasphemy!! Even when they didn’t say it out loud, they thought it, and Jesus Himself would point it out. He called out His haters, time and time again.

Why did He do this? I think one of His reasons was so we’d know we aren’t alone when we have them. And, to let us know He sees our hearts too.

 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” — John 15:18 (NIV)

Short. Simple. Clear. We will have haters. Even if we love them. Even if we try everything we can for reconciliation. Even if we ask them not to be. Even if we apologize for our human part. Even if…

Jesus didn’t have anything to apologize for. He knew their hearts. And called them out.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?  Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? — Luke 5: 21-23 (NIV)

He knew EXACTLY who He was. He wants us to know who we are too. To Him. To others. To ourselves. And WHO is in charge. We think we have so much control over all these things. We only have control of ourselves and when there are demons running through our bodies and veins, not much of that. (Which He healed and still does too).

Today, a friend prayed with me. Another texted me. I know my husband prayed over me. Another new friend posted a Bible study. One I needed to hear and see so badly. God made sure I was online to see it. It spoke straight to my heart and I’m so grateful.

These friends carried me to Jesus today. Through the roof, through their own uncertainties and needs, no matter what, not worrying about others, only me and Jesus. “Here, Lord, have her, heal her, comfort her, remind her” was their cry.

These people are gifts because they were pointing me to the Greatest Gift. The One I try so hard to show others. The One who I often times in all my hard stuff, forget is still ministering to me so that I can still minister to others. Just like the woman who tragically lost her daughter and the man who couldn’t walk for who knows how many years can share in a way only they can after Jesus met them there…

That He’s still MY Hero, not just everyone else’s.

That even when our haters might be our own children or spouse or sibling or parent or one we hoped was a friend, He STILL loves us more and most.

In those times when you don’t just FEEL turned on, but ARE turned on. He’s asking you to draw nearer. To come closer. To let Him love you. And to trust that one sweet day, because of what HE did for us, all the hate will be gone too. That hate that hurts His heart even more than our own.

Until then, remember…. Jesus had haters too. So much so, they eventually killed Him.

Yet, He still loved each one enough to die for. And, He did.

 

You Never Know!!

You know when you’ve had a really hard and confusing couple weeks, even sleepless nights, and the Lord finally tells you what you need to know?

Yeah that. That’s me today.

Lesson #1: You never know what someone is going through!

They can have what looks like the best year ever. Blessing after blessing all the while being hit by things you never see and would never know if you aren’t close to that person. The devil doesn’t let up. He gets angrier. He hits you where it hurts. He knows your every weak spot too. He’s relentless. But, that’s only because he relentlessly hates us.

Lesson #2: Every friendship isn’t meant for you any more than every romantic interest is.

You can be friendly to all, but friendship is mutual. Friendship comes when both are at a place to share openly. To learn about the other. To share with each other. To start building trust. That is a healthy friendship.

Each best friend you have now gave of themselves too.

Just like with romantic interests, the timing might be off, locations may impede or promote the relationship, interests may not be the same, etc…

God Himself knows who you need in your life. And that includes friends. When it’s real, you’ll both know. He’ll clue you in.

Rejection in your love life can hurt immensely, rejection or replacement by friends can too. But, know that HE will replace who you wanted so badly with someone better suited for you in the timing that you both need it. HE will heal you, teach you, relieve you, and help you through the stages of grief. And, grief is also normal and needed.

Feeling anger and jealousy and confusion isn’t of our Heavenly Father. He is love, peace, joy. So, heal. Ask Him to help you. And love anyway…. because you just never know!

Thank you, Jesus, for these lessons that I had to live to learn. May they help others too and possibly prevent some of their sleepless nights… You just never know..

 

Dating?!?!

beauty from ashes

I’ve never been a good dater. And, I’ve never been interested in “playing the field”. My “dating” past before marriage consisted of about 4 long term boyfriends. I must be more of a relationship person than a dater because dating does not come naturally to me whatsoever.

Nonetheless, it’s been three years since my divorce and  I do have the desire to remarry one day, so dating has to happen, right? Once again, God tells me to trust that He is working and that He will teach me along the way.

One thing I’ve learned through my dating experiences is that I’d rather hear crickets than be with the wrong guy after what I’ve been through. Maybe one day I’ll expound on this story, but in short, I’ll just add that I never knew the extent of what human beings are capable of until I went through my divorce and started dating again. It has literally pried my eyes open. Which was shocking, scary, and painful, but God knew I needed to know.

Dating is tough personally for multiple reasons. I’m a mom and I work full time, therefore I have limited free time. I want to be an example to my girls. I want to protect my girls. I want to honor God. I want to grow together in a healthy way. I don’t want to get hurt…..who does?  I don’t want to hurt others. I also don’t want to settle for anything less than real love. The counterfeit comes off pretty perfect at times. And, I have been fooled before, hook, line and sinker.

Because of all this, I pray for discernment and God’s will every single day. I ask Him to expose and remove the deceptions and distractions. I ask Him to cover me in His grace and wisdom and help me to enjoy the process, which is so difficult for me. I ask Him to help me!

Another thing I’ve learned is that the perfect man for us will not be perfect, and I can’t expect him to be because I’m not. He’ll have flaws, struggles, and baggage just like I do. But, we will be able to share these struggles with each other because……he’ll be a communicator.

We’ll connect. He’ll be a listener. He’ll make me laugh and smile. He’ll be strong enough to handle my sadness and fear when it flares up because…..he’ll be my friend.

He’ll love me in spite of my insecurities and my past. He’ll hold me just because he wants to. He’ll encourage my passions and love my love for Jesus. He won’t push me, he’ll relax me. He won’t rush me, but walk alongside me. He’ll know that love is sacrificial. He’ll pursue me. He’ll understand me and appreciate my personal weirdness.

He’ll pray for me. He’ll be proud of me and my story. He’ll love the Lord and want to follow Him all the days of his life. He’ll love us so gently and consistently that trust and peace will follow.

This may sound like a lot of pressure to put on a man, but I yearn to do the same things for him. To love him well and to love him anyway.

Blending two people and two families isn’t easy and I don’t expect it to be. But, I also believe that with the right partner, it can be beneficial and beautiful. And that’s what God specializes in: Beauty from ashes.

Value of Friendship

friendship

I was asked to speak at a women’s event at church last night by my friend, Sheila. I thought I’d share on my blog as well. Good friends are priceless.

I’m honored to speak about friendships…Especially, friendships among women. What a treasure they are. I absolutely love it when women choose to relate rather than compete. It inspires and refreshes me. I have a true passion for women’s hearts and it burdens me to witness criticism and competition among women. We tend to instinctively compete and compare when it comes to motherhood, appearance, finances, careers, even passions. Just life. It’s exhausting. Personally, I think this desire to compete is driven by a deep desire to know we are loved and reminded that we are lovely. The fact of the matter remains that we are all in this together. Woman to woman. Friend to friend.

We have the power to choose whether we will help each other or hurt each other. Whether we will encourage or criticize. Whether we will uplift or press down. It saddens me to see how often the latter is chosen. Let’s do what we can to change that.

We have a very real enemy and he wants us to step on each other to get ahead, to be seen, to be heard. We have a Savior who wants us to help each other through this hard life. His way is seeing, relating, empathizing, listening to, praying for, and speaking the truth to in love. These are the ways we can truly help each other through our struggles. Clearly, it’s our choice as to whose way we pick when it comes to treating each other. We can step on each other or we can love each other.

In John 16:33, Jesus says In this world you WILL have trouble. But, take heart! I have overcome the world.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts; we WILL have troubles in this life. Being a true friend will not only make a positive difference in the lives of our friends, but also in our own. God designed relationships this way. Being a friend is being the hands and feet of Jesus to a fellow daughter of God. We all have value. I know this, because we are all valuable to Him. He died for each one of us. His death proves just how much we are worth to Him. Therefore, we should love each other. Relating instead of competing is one of the very BEST ways we can show Christ’s love to each other as women.

We are born into this world hungry for love. I know I was.

I speak from the experience of a daughter who craved her daddy’s approval more than anything else. I still crave his approval, I’m 37.

I speak from the experience of a child of divorce and all the difficulties associated with it. I was in the 8th grade and everything changed. It’s still hard today.

I speak from the experience of a girl who was in her twenties and still hungry for love. I met someone who said he loved me and I believed him. Looking back, he tolerated me. I thought it was enough. I didn’t know any different. So, I fell in love, got married, had 2 daughters and it didn’t work out. Nothing I could do would make it work out or get any better. I felt abandoned, alone, unlovable and hungrier for love than ever….and that’s when Jesus touched me. Literally. His presence enveloped me in my weakest, saddest, darkest moment. I’ve been pursuing His presence ever since.

I speak from the experience of a working mom, a single mom, a devoted mom, a tired mom. A mom that wants to raise my daughters the very best I can. A mom who wants to live by example so badly and pour the love of Jesus into them daily so that they never feel unlovable like I did. A mom who feels like I fall short all too often. A mom thankful for God’s grace…..everyday.

I can only speak for myself, but I’ll bet some of you can relate.

I grew up feeling like more of a burden than a blessing. God made me feel special. The enemy did his best to make me feel unlovable and unwanted. But, the healing touch of Jesus and the consistent loving hearts of my friends have saved me, more than once, and they continue to….Praise God!

I still have a deep desire to be married and to have the complete family unit, just as God desires and blesses. My friends know this and they want the best for me, just like Jesus does. They remind me of my value when the loneliness and despair sets in. And, they do. My friends remind me that I’m a daughter of the Most High King and He is protecting me while WE wait for a Godly man who views me the same way.

My friends remind me of how much I am loved, past, present, and future when I forget. They inspire me and they lift me up. They value me and that feels wonderful. Looking back I can see where certain people were placed in my life like pawns to encourage and pray for me and my girls. I am forever grateful. And it makes me want to be a true friend to them in return and others in desperate need….as I was.

We make friends during different seasons in our lives….elementary school, high school, college, neighbors, co-workers, church, friends with young children, friends with high school kids, even empty nester friends. Different friends come with different seasons in our lives. Some turn into lifers and some flow in and out of our lives as we go our separate ways. That’s all normal. That’s just life.

One of my deepest desires for my daughters is that they make and keep friendships that point them to Jesus. That in each season of their lives, God will place pawns that point directly to Him. That they will desire these friendships and keep them close to their hearts. That they will be the kind of friend who loves, relates, comforts, and reminds others of Jesus. Let’s all be those kinds of friends…

I have been blessed to make these kinds of friends. If there’s one thing we do when we’re together it’s relate. We talk dating, marriage, motherhood, work/life balance, seeking a deeper personal relationship with God, finding a few spare moments of quiet time, lack of sleep, health issues, mood issues, whatever the struggle…we relate and love each other through it. These women are some of my truest treasures. My personal prayer warriors. They inspire me, cheer me on, pick me up, and love me just as I am. Who does that sound like? It sounds like Jesus to me. He loves us exactly as we are, and too much to leave us there. He carries us.

Proverbs 18:24 in a few different versions –

The Message – Friends come and go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.

NIV – One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

NLT – There are “friends” who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.

These verses are powerful. Friends are family that we get to choose.

To have and be a friend that sticks, loves, accepts, prays, and perseveres is nothing short of a gift from God. Cherish your girlfriends. Our best friends know how busy we are. They don’t demand our time. They make an effort to be in our lives, but they also cut us slack when it’s needed. Because…they KNOW how busy we are. Our best friends know this because they relate. And like a warm cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire place on a cold and drizzly day, their friendships comfort us. We know they love us.

Can we humble ourselves and relate to each other? Can we hug and listen to another tired mom? Can we text a random Bible verse to someone that comes to mind? Can we pray for each other? Can we vent? Can we laugh our worries away? Can we just relate? I’d rather relate with you than compete with you any day…I’m already tired. Let’s just love each other instead. Because, that’s what friends do.

Once again, I’d like to thank Sheila for planning this event and asking me to speak and share “whatever is on my heart”. I started writing in a blog last year. I love to write and I have shared quite a bit of my heart in it, but I’ve never spoken publicly before.

Sheila knows my heart, she is a true friend. We met a couple years ago, right after I moved back to Burleson after my divorce. We both wanted to start a Women’s Bible Study group here at the Burleson church. Our pastor said we both called to inquire about starting a Beth Moore study one day apart. He told us we should meet and do it together. We met at Starbucks and the rest is history. God is good. I know He brought us together. She has become one of my dearest friends.

I look around this room and I see precious women with precious hearts. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about women on my journey, it’s that regardless of our relationship status, we are all hungry for love. We can’t expect that hunger to be filled by our moms, dads, husbands, kids, or even our best friends. They can all contribute, and they should. But, God is our only source of unfailing perfect love. Our friends and families may have or will let us down. We aren’t perfect and we shouldn’t expect them to be either. Only God is perfect. Let’s keep pointing each other to Him, after all that’s the most loving thing we can do for each other.