Do you know someone who claims to be a Christian, yet acts anything but? They say they believe in God and go to church each Sunday. But, their words and actions tell a completely different story. You witness things they say and do on a weekly basis and wonder if they even know what the word “Christian” means.
Well, I am currently in that situation. (I have been for a while.) And, I have a feeling many of you have been in the same spot. You know that old saying, “Perception is reality.”? Well, it’s an old saying for a reason; because it’s true. It also makes me think of, “Walk the walk and talk the talk.” If you are a Christian, you should not have to tell me that, I should just be able to figure that out by your words and actions. (At least, in an ideal world, I would. Especially if I spend any significant amount of time around you.)
Part of me becomes dubious about anyone who must proclaim things about themselves. If they say something like, “I am a great person. I donate lots of money to deserving nonprofits.” I often wonder where their intentions lie. Are they telling me this to impress me? Do they think it makes them look good? Why would they ever say that out loud? Are they trying to convince themselves that they are a good person? Are they that insecure? I honestly do not get it.
At any rate, I am sharing all of this because it got me to thinking; I am learning a lot about how I want to live my life. Or, in this case, how I do NOT want to live it. The person I have been referring to above has been teaching me that I want to be sincere Christian. I want my words and actions to be clear. I want them to match up and not allow anyone to question or doubt who I am. I want to be kindness and love personified. I want to be a true reflection of Christ. This is called sanctification.
It is all a process in sanctification. I am becoming sanctified. Day by day. I am allowing the Holy Spirit to tear down the old me and renew my mind day by day. This process will continue until the day I die. But, man, am I ever grateful for it.
I am trying to take the lemons in my life and make lemonade out of them. It is my goal to use every possible opportunity I can to learn and grow in my spiritual life, and this is no exception. It is a good reminder to be able to look around at my environment and find places that I can work on. And, this is a huge opportunity for growth. Actually, this particular issue allows for growth on many levels.
What about you? Do you have any “lemon” areas in your life that you can make some lemonade out of? There can be opportunities that are glaringly obvious, and other tiny ones you have to dig for. Either way, it will do us all a world of good if we start to look at these irritants as opportunities for growth. When we start to make positive things happen from seemingly negative situations, that is where our power lies. That is where true growth happens. And, the lemonade you make from these situations will taste so, so good and satisfying.
It is that time of year again. You know—that time when we look back over the past year and start thinking ahead to the new, up-coming, year. Many of us will be making “New Year’s Resolutions” and trying to figure out ways to make said resolutions do-able and achievable.
Now, I am not here today to talk about looking ahead with hope. (Although, that is what you should be doing.) Nope, today I want to talk to you about looking back, about being retrospective.
When I was in high school, our yearbook was called “Retrospect”. I always thought that that was a cool and fitting name for a yearbook. Having a yearbook allows us to “look back” and contemplate and remember the past. And, if you enjoyed high school, this is a nice way to reflect on those happy times. If you didn’t enjoy high school, well, I suspect you would not want to even own a yearbook. Who wants to be reminded of anything painful?
Many people will tell you not to look back. There is a popular saying that goes something like, “Don’t look back, you’re not going that way.” The Bible even tells us in Luke 9:62, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” And, while I agree that it is better to focus on the future, I do believe there can be significant value in looking back. (Just don’t stay there too long!)
As I grow in my spiritual life, the main reasons I like to look back, are three-fold:
1. When I take time to consider my past, I can see just how much I have changed and grown. This is a good thing. It shows me how far I have come. Plus, it is great encouragement and motivation that will help to keep me moving forward and stretching myself. I long to be a reflection of Christ. And, while I will never fully get there in this life, I have a drive within to get as close as I possibly can.
2. Looking back allows me to see God working in my life. It allows me to see His hand at work. This is a marvelous thing! I can look back on situations that, at the time, I thought were horrible, but in hind-sight I can see the beauty that was created from them. It is a powerful reminder of how God can work everything for our good, if we let Him. (See Romans 8:28)
3. And, finally, mulling over my past grants me the opportunity to simply be grateful. As I shared in a recent post, having an attitude of gratitude is fundamental in our spiritual growth and in our everyday walk with God. Every chance we get to be grateful should be seized upon immediately. What better way to be grateful than by looking back at our past blessings?
So, as the new year fast approaches, I implore you to spend some time in active retrospect. Don’t be afraid to look back, draw out all the positive things over the last year, and use those things to grow into the person you long to be.
The key is to understand that you can’t live in the past. You can’t spend your entire life looking back and dwelling on things that have already happened. You need to move forward. But, by taking the time to consciously look back and use that occasion to grow spiritually, you can develop into the person you truly want to be.
Have you ever noticed that God spelled backwards is dog? I don’t think this is a coincidence. As a matter of fact, I think that God did this on purpose. Being a dog-owner, and lover, and having had multiple dogs in my life, I have realized that dogs are a reflection of God. (Maybe not a perfect reflection, as nothing and no one can be perfect but God—but dogs come pretty darn close!)
Having a dog in your life does more than just teach you about responsibility, as most of our parents told us as kids. Having a dog can teach you so much more than that. Having a dog can teach you about love, friendship, loyalty, and family. Having a dog can also teach you about God. How? Because God and dogs truly share a lot of the same qualities.
Here are all the ways I have found in which dogs and God are alike:
Dogs are loyal and faithful, just like God. Dogs are devoted to you, they are steadfast and trustworthy. That is just how God made them. You go to work in the morning and come home that evening. Who is anxiously awaiting your return? Your dog! Your dog will sit by your front door and wait on you forever, if that is what it takes. God is the same way. God is faithful. God will be with you always.
Dogs accept you just as you are, just like God. Dogs stick by you through thick and thin. They don’t care who you are, what you look like, what you have done, if you are rich or poor, if you are black or white, if you are young or old. They don’t care about any of those things. Neither does God.
Dogs are playful, and so is God. Dogs just love to run around, chase balls, or play tug-of-war. Now, you may not think of God as playful, but I beg to differ. Just think about some of the wonderful creatures God has created, like the otter, penguin, dolphin, and platypus. These all bring us delight and they must bring God delight too. I think that God has a great playful side and a great sense of humor. Also, since I know I enjoy laughing and having a good time, and I was created in God’s image, He MUST be the same way!
Dogs are courageous protectors, and God instills courage and protects us. If you have ever had a dog, you know that they are natural born defenders and would gladly protect you from anyone or anything that threatens you with harm. God is the same way. Once we enter into a relationship with God, He becomes our protector. Not only can God protect us, but He can give us courage as well. (David and Goliath is a great example.) Knowing that God is on our side gives you all the courage you need!
Dogs are joyful and give you joy, and God is joyful and gives you joy. As I mentioned above, dogs will faithfully wait for you forever. And, then when you do show up, they are there to meet you with the most joyful greeting ever. You know exactly what I am talking about, right? Their butts wiggle all around. They excitedly jump up and wag their tails. They display that same kind of joy whether you have been gone five minutes or all day. (This is just one of the many reasons dogs are so great, in my humble opinion.) The joy that dogs have is contagious. Just being around them will give you joy. And, once you have a true relationship with the Lord—well, nothing in this universe can give you more joy than the Lord.
Lastly, and most importantly, dogs love us unconditionally. Just like God. If you have a dog, you know that they love you no matter what you do to them or how you treat them. I have seen story after story of poor pups that have been abused. But, when they are rescued, they are still the most loving creatures. Sometimes it takes them some time, but they always love people again.
God loves us the same way. No matter what we do to Him, He continues to love us. We forget about Him, take His name in vein, scoff at Him, rebuke Him, and deny His existence. Yet, He still loves us. There is nothing, absolutely nothing you can do that will ever make God NOT love you. You are His child. He created you. He loves you and will always love you, no matter what.
So, what do you think? Dogs and God are extremely similar, aren’t they? Did I miss any of their shared attributes? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Before I leave, I must share with you a wonderful article I came across recently called “What a Dog Taught Me about God” by Phyllis Schomaker. Take some time and read it. You will be glad you did.
Also, if you don’t have a dog in your life, I highly recommend adopting one. Who couldn’t use more joy and love in their life? There are thousands of homeless doggies out there that are in need of a good, loving home. Check out Petfinder.com and adopt the newest member of your family today!
I must share something with you today—there is nothing, absolutely nothing in this world more freeing than praying about your problems and then handing them over to our Father God to take care of.
I am finally in a place in my life where I can do this—well, 95 percent of the way there! It is the most amazing and peaceful feeling there is. Just being able to put your full trust in God and knowing that He will take care of you no matter what is so liberating. It is a like a heavy weight has been lifted from your chest and you can breathe again. I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean that we can simply pray and then sit by and do nothing. We can’t just pray and then hang out on our couch and watch TV. We must do whatever it is that the Holy Spirit calls us to do. We must continue to spend quality time with God each day in prayer and by reading His Word. We must continue to grow in our spiritual lives and lead a life that is pleasing to God. We must fight the good fight. We must put our trust, hope, and faith in Him.
There is, however, one thing we can stop doing, and that is worrying! There are at least 30 different Bible verses that tell us not to worry or be afraid about anything. I think that God wants us to take all of these to heart. (Otherwise, why mention it so many times?) I find Matthew 6:25-34 is especially reassuring:
Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith? So, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
There is so much peace to be found in the Word of God. And, there is an even greater, more profound peace to be found when you hand your life over to Jesus and have a true relationship with Him. We all tend to make life so much more complicated than it should be or needs to be.
Do yourself a favor and let God handle everything. Let Him take control. Be free.
Thanks to Thanksgiving being in November, November has become known as the month for thankfulness. As I posted last year, One Day Isn’t Enough to be thankful. I think now is the perfect time to remind each of you, and myself as well, that having an attitude of gratitude every day is vitally important for our emotional well-being and general overall health.
Being grateful is defined as “warmly or deeply appreciative of kindness or benefits received; thankful.” As we grow in our spiritual lives, and realize how powerful and transformative gratitude is, we will embrace all it has to offer with arms open wide. Every experience we have, every situation we face, no matter how seemingly good or bad, is an opportunity to look for things to be grateful for. In every situation, a blessing can be found.
Oftentimes, these blessings can only be found as we look back. Retrospectively looking back allows us to find hidden gems that we couldn’t see at the time—if we only take some time to search for them carefully. I know that in my own life, I have repeatedly found this to be true. Every time this happens I think of the “beauty from ashes” Bible verse. (See Isaiah 61: 1-3)
When we have an attitude of gratitude about everything in our lives, it will change our perspective. We shift. We grow. And, ultimately, we will transform. And, that my friends, is exactly what God wants us to do. It benefits not only us, but everyone around us as well.
When we start looking at our lives through the eyes of gratitude, it can greatly change our views. All those little annoyances that drive us crazy every day, all those petty, insignificant jabs that life throws at us on a day-to-day basis, they can be gone in the blink of an eye. How? Gratitude! It is the way in which we can overcome all these things and more.
If you do some research online, you will find numerous scientific studies have documented a multitude of benefits come from practicing gratitude. Being grateful increases joy, pleasure, and optimism, as well as reduces anxiety and depression. When we are grateful, our physical health improves; our blood pressure lowers, our immune system strengthens, and our symptoms of illness are reduced.
Grateful people sleep better. (And, who doesn’t want that??) They get more sleep, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and wake up feeling more rested. If you want to sleep more soundly, this is the perfect opportunity to spend good quality time in prayer, thanking God for all your blessings.
Having a grateful attitude bolsters relationships. It lets us feel closer and better connected to our family, friends, and even strangers. It has been proven that when partners feel and express their gratitude for each other, they become more satisfied with their relationships.
When we are grateful, something magical happens. We become more loving, compassionate, gracious, helpful, and generous. In essence, we become more like Jesus. His love and light shines through us for others to see. And, then a domino effect starts to take place. When others see, and sense our gratitude and the joy and contentment it brings, they want to be like that too. It is such a beautiful way to live our lives and share the glory of the Lord with others. Don’t you want to try it?
I leave you today with a quote from Richard Carlson:
“Demonstrate gratitude for the simple things in life…a sunset, rain, insects, birds, children laughing, or a kind gesture…Appreciative people are happy; they see the beauty in life while others miss it.”
So, I have a confession to make. I am a very judgmental person. I am not exactly sure how I got this way, but, well, here I am. They say that knowing is half the battle, right? Well, I certainly hope so. And, knowing it, plus admitting it, well, that should count as at least 55 percent of the battle, don’t you think? I certainly hope so, for my sake!
Now, I must tell you that I try my best to NOT be judgmental of others in terms of how they look. I very much believe in getting to know people before I judge them—you know, that whole, “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing. And, I think overall, I do a fair job in that department.
Where I have my trouble is after that; once I get to know people. That is where my “holier than thou” attitude creeps in. I especially have trouble with those around me who claim that they are Christians, yet act anything but. (Have you ever heard that saying, “perception is reality”? Well, I have always found that to be true in my life.) And, sadly, there are many times in my own life, where I know I don’t act very Christian-like either. This is when the word hypocrite blares through my mind. I know that there are many times where I am nothing, if not a hypocrite.
And, I do NOT want to be this way any longer. I know it is not my place to judge. That is God's job. God calls us to LOVE each other, not judge each other.
The Bible is chock full of verses that tell us how we are supposed to be. Below is a small sampling:
I want to change. I do NOT want to be a hypocrite. The sad part is, I know better. But, I have to ask, why is changing our ways so hard?? I mean, it isn’t just me, is it? I feel like the proverbial leopard who can’t change her spots.
However, I have realized something that I must share with you. Change is possible. Actually, change is inevitable. But, how and when we change is up to us. As you grow spiritually in your relationship with Christ, your views change. Your perceptions change. Your thinking changes. Your inter-landscape changes. And, all of these things, and more change you as a person. But, you have want this change. And, you must work with the Holy Spirit to get to where you want to go. Also, it is important to note that all of this will take time. After all, patience is a virtue. (Just ask Job!)
As you grow in your Christianity, you come to understand that everyone on this earth is loved and treasured by God. He sent His son, Jesus, to pay the ultimate price for not only my redemption, but yours as well. That is where our value comes from—not from our achievements or who *we* think we are.
If you are anything like me, this change can feel like it is taking F.O.R.E.V.E.R. But, if you just continue on your journey and put your trust and faith in God, you will get there.
Do you remember being a little kid, trying your best to carry something big or heavy? Did you have a lot of trouble with that thing? Did you struggle with it? Did you take a few steps and realize that, even though you wanted to carry it and thought you could carry it, that you could not carry it? Then, if you were blessed like me, you would call your mom or dad to help and they would just carry it for you.
Well, even as an adult I can still feel like that little kid from time to time. As an adult, I often find myself trying to carry things that are much too big for me carry. You do too sometimes, don’t you?
I know you do!
In my analogy above, the object you are carrying around as a kid is a physical object. But, as adults we carry around things that are much heavier and much more draining. You know what I am talking about, right? These are the things that can start eating away at you every day, like: stress, guilt, bitterness, disappointment, and the like. They are all burdens. (And, if you are similar me, you may even be carrying around other people’s stress, guilt, bitterness, and/or other burdens too.)
I think this is just something we tend to do as we get older. We start carrying around all this…well, crap (for lack of a better word.) And, honestly, we don’t need to be carrying any of it.
Well, there is something we all need to be reminded of—and that is that whatever it is that we are carrying around right now—we can just hand it over to God.
That stress you feel from trying to do EVERYTHING and do it right—hand it over to God.
That preconceived notion that to be happy you MUST find your calling work-wise, and all the weight that comes along with that—hand it over to God.
That resentment you feel from being passed over for that promotion—hand it over to God.
That guilt you feel because you can’t be at your child’s soccer game AND take your parent to the doctor at the same time—hand it over to God.
That bitterness you feel towards yourself for that mistake you made—hand it over to God.
That disappointment you feel when life simply doesn’t go according to plan—hand it over to God.
One of the greatest things about being a child of God, is that Christ our Father, will gladly carry any and all of our burdens for us. We can hand Him all our stress, animosity, guilt, shame, disappointments, and the like.
I think that as Christians we all know this. But, for whatever reason, we tend to forget it. Or, maybe we just don’t know how to hand these types of things over to God.
I have found that the best way to hand them over to God is to just talk to Him about them. Spend some good, quality time with Him and tell Him what is on your heart and mind. Express to Him how you are truly feeling, in whatever way you can. Maybe it is through words, singing, or tears. Next, ask Him to please carry these burdens for you. Then, and this is key, hand them over to Him and STOP worrying and ruminating on them.
I want to leave you with ten Bible verses that reinforce the fact God promises to carry our burdens for us. Commit them to memory and start taking advantage of them today!
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.