Skewed Priorities…

Author, Colleen Fraioli
Author, Colleen Fraioli

Last month I fixed dinner for some long-time friends. The house was clean, decorated, and the food just needed to be prepared.  Without warning, I could almost hear that foreboding music from a B movie, and a food mutiny took place before my eyes.

Pasta over-cooked itself. Lettuce and tomatoes refused to stay in my hand. Pots with clanging lids jumped out of the cabinets just to rattle me. Italian dressing escaped its bottle and seeped all over my counter. Inanimate objects, like pirates in cahoots against me, headed for the booty of my demise. Being the courageous culinary expert that I am, I wilted on the couch, ready to cancel dinner, and turn on Food Network.

God, I love my friends. What is sabotaging our evening? 

In His kind and gentle voice, Jesus spoke some things I needed to hear in that moment;

“Colleen, you are too worried about the food, you are worried about the conversation.  Truth is, you are actually upset about not being invited to those two weddings, and no friends’ Christmas parties this year, but we will talk about that later.  Basically, you are carrying the weight of self-imposed expectations I never put on you.

You fancy yourself a Mary – sitting at my feet, serene and unmoved – but right now you are acting just like Martha. Stressed, bothered, irritated, and distracted from Me. She came to me in an emotional meltdown over her imaginary what-ifs, and completely lost sight of why I was there. Is this sounding remotely familiar?”

Yes Lord, it is.

I still had 20 minutes, so in an attempt to get off the ledge, I took a moment to read the passage so vividly before my brain. In Luke 10:38-42, Jesus didn’t say:

“Martha, stop everything and go lie down. You deserve a break!”

Rather, He pointed to the real culprit.

“You are worried and bothered about so MANY (unnecessary) things! Just a few things are necessary. Actually only one. And Mary has discovered it.” 

You are right Lord! I have been behaving as though you are not present. I have been more concerned about how I am perceived than about You and the people I love. 

Timidly, I ventured back to the helm of my kitchen. Things didn’t look as bad as they seemed before. I methodically reclaimed each portion of my meal; scraping burnt garlic bread, corralling wayward condiments, and praying for the people that would grace our home in a matter of minutes.

As I did, the meal took its rightful place on the back burner, and our friends became real people with real needs and no checklists.

When they arrived, apart from my slightly askew hair, no trace of drama remained. We had an evening free of marauding intruders and bad music (Pandora helped). At one point while we all were laughing and reminiscing, I sat back in my seat and smiled, inwardly thanking Jesus for each person, and for straightening my priorities…just living the thing.

 

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Enough!

Ann Marie
Living free!

I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime after the ‘you’re-so-cute-and-can-do-no-wrong’ baby stage of life, the message I began to get from too many people in my sphere of influence and the world in general changed drastically to, “You… are… not… enough!”

You’re not progressing fast enough; not doing enough, not cool enough, not attractive enough. You haven’t accomplished enough. You’re not ambitious enough, don’t have enough, and don’t give enough. YOU are not enough!

You’d never be able to tell from the outside, but by the time this loud, outgoing, extrovert was a teenager I was already serving a life sentence in the ‘Prison of Performance’. I felt I always failed to measure up, could never live up to the expectations of others, and certainly not the unrealistic expectations I placed on myself.

Sadly, though I felt I was in solitary confinement, I’ve come to realize that there are so many, from all walks of life who shared my incarceration. And some of the worse wardens, the ones who mercilessly wield the measuring sticks are prisoners themselves, just as insecure as I was, and hearing the same tapes echoing in their own heads over and over, YOU are not enough!

In John 4, the apostle writes about a not-so-coincidental meeting Jesus had with a woman who could have written the book on not being enough. In a time and culture where ‘success’ for a woman was marriage and as many children (preferably sons) as possible, she was a spectacular failure. Five men had married, rejected, and divorced her…FIVE, and the man she was with now didn’t even bother to do her the courtesy of marrying her.

Life in her ‘Prison of Perpetual Shame and Humiliation’ had her showing up at the town well to get water at a time that almost guaranteed she would not encounter anyone from the city. How could she have known that an appointment had been made for her to come face to face with God Himself in human flesh and hear His truth, YOUAREENOUGH!

Enough for me to love you without apology, despite your flaws and failures, and to orchestrate an encounter that will change your life for eternity.

“And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’” John 4:39

The prison doors swung wide open and this woman was free! Oh, how well I know that sweet feeling of freedom! It was ‘a tough row to hoe’ as we would say in Jamaica, but the truth of the Word set me free too, for,

“…you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free… Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed…” John 8:32 & 36

Maybe I haven’t done all I could do, I certainly haven’t done all I will do, but who I am right now, in this moment, IAMENOUGH! …just living the thing.

A Lie Is Being Told!

Author, Wendy Morgan
Author, Wendy Morgan

There is a lie being told!  It is being told in secular as well as Christian circles, on greeting cards and inspirational posters, and don’t get me started about how many times you see it on Facebook.  Calling it a lie may be too harsh because it implies intent to deceive, so let’s call it a misrepresentation.

I’m talking about the saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” You usually hear it when you are in need of encouragement or comfort.  It is usually spoken out of genuine love and concern or maybe because someone doesn’t know what else to say.

Many people think it’s Biblical, and it sure sounds like something from the Bible but you won’t find it anywhere in Scripture. The often misquoted verse is;

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you get tempted beyond what you can bear.” 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Paul is clearly talking about temptation, not suffering.

When someone is told that God won’t give them more heartache, pain, suffering or burdens than they can handle it often has the opposite affect than the intended comfort.  It can be discouraging, making you think that you should be able to handle whatever it is just because God has allowed it.

Most of the time the polite response is, “I just wish God didn’t think I could handle so much.”

But what they really mean is, “Are you kidding me? I can’t handle any of this!”

That was my first thought when I was diagnosed with cancer. I had always considered myself a strong person, able to take care of anything, however I realized right away that I didn’t possess the strength needed to deal with the “hard” that came with cancer.

Thankfully there is this promise in Matthew:

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

This verse gives us the blessing of knowing that we don’t have to ‘handle it’ or carry our burdens alone.  At times in our lives God may give us burdens that are much too heavy for us, but Jesus promises that in Him we will find rest for our souls.

He is calling us to lean into Him and find that He lightens the load we are carrying; that He will make life bearable when it seems anything but.

Knowing that life will bring things I can’t handle just makes me rely on a loving God who can. So the next time you hear that phrase just give it a new spin …..God will give you what you CAN handle with Christ, Who will give you strength, as you’re… just living the thing.

Discipline; A New Word for the New Year…

Author, Sonna Evans
Author, Sonna Evans

A little over four years ago I went up to the mountains to visit an old friend. During our visit, she told me about her ‘celebration color’. Each year she would choose a specific color and when she saw something in that color it would fill her with happiness. She surrounded herself with that color as a remembrance of joy.

I love how God gifts us with creativity in different seasons and for different reasons, so I asked God to help me be more focused and maybe even creative; not one of my strengths.

He gave me a word. COURAGE

Wow!  Courage.  That’s a big word. As I contemplated the word courage over and over, God gave me direction. There were all sorts of new things I was encountering that year: saying goodbye to kids who were moving out, living as a newly single person after 20 years, finishing my bachelor’s degree, thinking about a new job. It was a perfect word for that season, and God gave me all the courage I needed.

This led me into a season of GRATITUDE, the next year’s word. Boy was I grateful. I was so full. God had seen me through so many difficult moments, how could I not be grateful? I flew through the year with an attitude of gratitude.

Year three was JOY. This was an exciting word for me. What did God have in store for me this year? As I walked into this new season with anticipation, He truly blew my socks off. After finishing school and a career of 23 years, He moved me into a new job that used my skills and abilities, and where I was able to share freely the reason for the joy I have. My youngest child went away to school which left me home with an empty nest, but my nest wasn’t empty, because my heart was full.

Last year’s word was a little more demure. ABANDON. This word can be taken two ways;

  1. Leave something behind, and
  2. Give up control.

As the year began I thought more about the latter, what did I need to give up control of? I think God had both meanings in mind. I’ve given up control of certain things that I needed to surrender to my King, but I also had to leave something behind. Not as fun as joy, but I believe the harvest of my abandon this year will be bountiful.

This brings me to my word for this year. DISCIPLINE.

As I said, I am not so excited about this one; less one thought. If God has directed me to this word, then He has an amazing plan and I need to be willing to walk through difficult places to see His handiwork.

Is God directing you somewhere as we begin a new year? Take a moment today to be still before Him and listen to His voice as He directs you to how you should be…just living the thing.

Illusion castles…

Adrienne Yerzy
Adrienne Yerzy

It’s not often that I hear a song and play it on repeat, but recently I found a song worthy of repeating. Have you ever heard “Once and For All” by Lauren Daigle? The chorus has struck a chord with me, specifically the following lines:

“Be lifted high as my kingdom fall
Once and for all, once and for all.“

It’s easy to live under the illusion that I am in control of my life. I make plans to reach a certain goal, then I begin the process of executing a strategy by which I will successfully reach those goals; and the strategy is my favorite part!  Success by definition means that I have made it from point A to point B effectively achieving my stated goals in a timely and organized manner.

It is pretty frustrating, and sometimes devastating, when I cannot accomplish a goal. I think that if I try harder, push through, re-strategize, or argue better, THEN I will be successful in achieving whatever it is I’ve set out to do. But that does not always work in real life. And feeling like I’ve failed crushes my spirit and steals my joy. I hate that “f” word. In fact I don’t know what is worse, failing at accomplishing a goal, or not having goals to accomplish.

That phrase “Be lifted high as my kingdoms fall” rings true to my core because it reminds me that no matter how hard I try, how many successes I accumulate, how high I try to rise, my little kingdoms have to be under God’s kingship, not mine.

If God is King, then whether I am successful at something, or not, whether I am moving forward or waiting, it is under His jurisdiction and authority. So, with a lot of focus and intention, I’m working on trusting God. No matter what I want to succeed in (career, relationships, family), only He knows my future, so I need to want what He wants and trust that He knows best. I need to refocus on the King and not on my little…my very little… kingdom I try to create for myself.

That means I need to give up control. Yes, I flinched as I typed it. Honestly, I’m hoping that God doesn’t read this and decide to test my willingness to trust him, because there are a few things in my life that I LOVE and do not want to give up, or have Him take away. Ever!

But I am coming to a point where I have seen God be faithful enough times, that I am determined to trust him, to let my kingdoms fall out of my white-knuckled grip, and reach out to Him. Honestly, “reaching out” is a much more generous phrase for what I’m usually doing “flailing my arms around begging for help and love.” But it is a learning process, and I guess that’s what it means to keep on… just living the thing.