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Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Love Test

Love. 
Though wonderful to give, it can be hard to receive. 


How would you answer these questions about receiving?

1)  Someone pays you a compliment.  Do you say thank you and receive it, or in a nice kind of cordial way, reject their words?

2)  Someone gives you an unsolicited gift or money?  (maybe one that is timely in your season of need)  Do you humbly receive?  Or, do you try to find ways to give it back? 

3)  Someone that loves you gives you a hug.  Do you hug back?

4)  You're not feeling well and someone offers to help around the house or with the kids.  Do you decline their offer or accept their kindness?

5)  You discover at the register that you are 2 dollars short in paying for your groceries.  The person behind you taps your shoulder and with a smile offers to cover the difference.  Do you accept it?

6)  Someone notices that you are having a bad day.  They ask if there is something they can do to help.  Though you can think of three things right off the bat, do you verbalize your need?

7)  You're planning a party and you find yourself overloaded with the to-do list.  Many people have offered to help.  All you have to do is give them a call.  Will you pick up the phone and take them up on their offer?

8)  Your spouse does a household chore that you normally are the one to do.  Are you quicker to say thank you or quicker to look for what he/she 'didn't do right'.

9)  You go out to lunch with a friend.  They insist on treating.  Do you let them or fight them for the bill?

10)  Someone invites you over.  They know how hard you are always working and want to spoil you.  Do you allow them to cater to you or do you insist on 'at least just helping with clean-up'?


Gifts.  Love.  They are meant to be received.




Wednesday, June 29, 2011

List It

It's easy for me to forget. 

If I don't write it down, I'll forget to do things that really need to be done, buy things that really need to be bought, and forget to relay messages that really need to be communicated.  My husband chuckles when I open my day planner.  It's just a big long list of things to remember.  But, ya know what?  It works.  It helps me.  And, at the end of the day, I'm sure glad I took the time to do it.

A couple years ago I started a different kind of list.  My 'free list'.  I started to realize that there were many things coming to us that I paid zero for.  Our sofa.  Our table and chairs.  Food.  Rugs.  When I stopped and looked around, I realized how blessed I was.  And, I realized, too, how much of it I took for granted. 

So, I decided to start writing it down.  I literally started to count my physical blessings.  And, to my amazement, I could not believe the length of my list!  At one point, there was not a day that went by that something free didn't fall into our laps.  It astonished me.  Writing it down helped me visualize His Goodness to me, His involvement in my family's life, and the tangible and countable blessings of my God who said He would provide all my needs -- and wouldn't ya know?!

This kind of tracking is a great habit to get into.  To recognize the good things in life.  At the time, it was my 'free list'.  But, I have other lists, too.  Lists of other kinds of blessings like my children's health, my job, the very breath I have when I wake up in the morning. 

How long would our lists be if we took time to diligently write them all down?  To recognize every good thing in our lives.  We'd probably fill notebooks and go through several boxes of pencils!   It may just blow our minds!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Funks & Slumps

Habits.

Most of the time when we think of habits we think about physical things... our eating habits, our sleeping habits, or exercise habits, our bad habits like nail biting and smoking.  But, what about emotional and mental habits?  We might not label them that way though.  The poor ones we call 'ruts'.  We might say, I've been in a 'slump' or a 'funk'.

It's crazy to me.  I could wake up and have a list a mile long of things I could be thankful for.  The weather is beautiful.  My children are healthy and I just paid all the bills yesterday.  Many reasons to smile and approach my day with a joyful heart.  But, for some reason, I find myself downcast and frowning through my day.  What in the world??  What is that?? 

In part,
it's a habit.

A slump. A funk.  An emotional rut.  I have gotten into the habit of seeing life through grey-tinted glasses.  I have gotten in the habit of simply not looking up.  My emotions and thinking are not lining up with reality.  It's a season of rejoicing, but my heart and mind are acting like it's the season of weeping.  And, ultimately I'm being robbed of enjoying the present.

So, a decision must be made.

Break the habit. 

And, like any habit, it's going to take some deliberate action.  When I wake in the morning, instead of emotionally and mentally slumping, I need to start speaking what is actually True.

"Today is a blessed day.  I have a God that loves me.  I am special to Him.  He has made me and I am beautiful and accepted.  He has given me so many things to be thankful for such as............     He has given me reason to smile.  Reason to be confident.  Reason to be kind to myself and kind to others.  Reason to be gracious to myself and gracious to others.  He has given me a reason to live."

I must choose to break the habit.  I must choose to believe the Truth.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Reestablished

Renew:  Reestablish on a new, usually improved, basis
****

"Let's get things reestablished here."  the father said to His adopted son.  "You must understand that things are run differently in my house than what you came out of.  It's going to take some time for you to fully understand, but as you stay close to me and learn from me, soon your mind will be renewed."

So, the son stayed close to the father.  He began to see how his father worked.  How his father talked.  How his father thought.  He saw how his father interacted with his other children.  He saw how he handled the affairs of his business. 

He watched how his father laughed.  For the first few days, the son began to think that that was all his father ever did!  The father rejoiced and sang through the halls of the home all the time! 

He watched how his father carefully cared for each of his children and how each one was individually shown the love and care they needed. 

He saw the protection of His father.  He saw the gentleness.  The compassion.

The son saw it all.  The father never lied to or deceived his son.  And, the son grew to trust him.  He became comfortable with his father and freely asked questions.  He became comfortable to be himself and discover his father in an unintimidating and fearless way.

And, the father was right.  Soon, the son began to understand his father.  His heart had grown very fond of his father.  And his mind, indeed, had a renewed understanding of a happy home.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Memory Box

I heard some great advice once about keeping memorabilia.

Look through everything you have and keep only what can fit into one single box.  This way, you don't have 16 boxes of high school yearbooks, trophies, diaries, old test papers, textbooks, etc.  Keeping it all is burdensome, so, keep only what is precious. 

It's good advice for the memories we hold in our heart, too.  And, it may take some deliberate sorting.

Let go of the things that burden us and weigh us down, but, treasure the beauty we remember.

Like the saying the hangs in my grandmother's kitchen:   
"Forgive everything.  Remember the best."


Friday, June 24, 2011

Even When I'm Wrong, I'm Right

My husband has a motto.  It's become quite a joke between us. 

He tells me, "I'm always right.  And, even when I'm wrong, I'm right."

I roll my eyes and walk away.  What a goof.  I know he's only kidding. 

To live by that motto would be dangerous.  The idea that no matter what happens or what conflict arises, it can never be you that takes the blame.  You remove yourself from any sense of responsibility.  You refuse to man up and say... 'Hey, I'm human.  Humans aren't perfect.  And, I messed up this time."  To even say the hardest three words in the world.... I AM SORRY.

We can hate saying those words.  We'd rather explain and justify why we did what we did and said what we said, than to simply humble ourselves and say...  "I am sorry." 

We don't like it for probably a couple reasons. 

1)  Our Pride. 
     He's not allowed in the picture of apology

2) Not Understanding Grace

Sometimes we think if we risk humbling ourselves and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable this way, all we're going to receive is condemnation.  Maybe we've had some bad experiences in the past where we tried to say sorry, but all we got was a verbal lashing.  Our apology wasn't received.  Instead of being embraced and forgiven, we were rejected and condemned.  It didn't give us much reason to want to ever be sorry again. 

A new understanding of Forgiveness and Grace is available to us.  We must understand that we are LOVED.  We have a Father that will NEVER reject a repentant heart.  To Him, there might not be anything more precious or beautiful in the whole world.  And, when we find that He accepts us -- and I mean really truly accepts us, we will spit those three words out faster than a New York minute.  We will be quick to make our relationship with Him right.  We will be quick to make our relationship with others right.  And, we will be quick to say it...

I AM SORRY.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I'm Hungry!

I'm hungry.
I'll grab a bag of chips.

I'm hungry.
Something sweet will hit the spot.

I'm hungry.
Left-overs from take-out are looking good.

I'm still hungry
and the pie in there has my name all over it.

Why am I so hungry?
I'll just grab a handful of nuts.

I'm hungry...  well actually
my stomach is getting full but I 'feel hungry'.
What is wrong with me?
This chocolate bar will help me process the problem.

No solution. 
Still hungry. 
Well, not stomach-hungry.  Just...tastebud-hungry.
I'll just suck on a piece of candy.

hummm....That went fast. 

I know.  I'll read a book and take my mind off food.

(flip flip)
Darn it!  Reading makes me hungry!


I just won't think about it.


...Cheeseburgers... (stop thinking about food!)  Cake.... (oh brother, I could eat a double helping)  Chocolate Covered Strawberries!!!  (AHHHHHHHH!!!!!!) 

I'm hungry!  I'm hungry!  I'm hungry!




                                        
                                                 But, maybe it's not my stomach that's hungry...

maybe it's .....

my heart.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Interview

A man, who wore a ruby ring, went to dinner one night at the Desert Restaurant.

He ate and he drank.  And, he ate and drank.  And, he ate and drank some more.  By the end of the night, he had racked up a good size bill.  When it came time to pay, he was not mindful of the waitress' tip.  Though, she had served him all through the night and gave him excellent service, he left her only a small amount for all her trouble.  What a frustration for the young woman!

The next night, the man with the ruby ring came in again.  He stayed for many hours eating and drinking, and again left an insultingly small tip. 

This time, the waitress spoke up. 

"Sir, have I not served you well tonight?  Have I not catered to your needs?  If so, then it is only right to give what is appropriate."

The man stopped, chuckled at the young woman, put on his coat, and left.

How this infuriated the waitress!  She went home very angry and told the whole story of the man with the ruby ring to her husband.

The next day, the man from the restaurant had an interview that was extremely important to his career.   As he walked into the office, the man who was going to interview him noticed the ruby ring on his hand. 

"Hello." the interviewer said, as he tapped his face with his pencil.  "Please, sit down."

"Your interview today, sir, will consist of one question.  Tell me, what restaurant have you eaten at the past two nights?"

Slightly confused by the question, the man said, "Well, sir.  The Desert Restaurant.  Why do you ask?"

The interviewer closed his notebook and said, "Thank you sir.  That will be all.  Your interview is complete."

The man was shocked at the sudden conclusion of the interview.  "But, sir you have only asked me one question -- and that was about my dinner arrangements!"

"And, that, sir, told me all I needed to know." the interviewer replied.  "The waitress that served you is my wife."

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Good Morning.

Good morning.

Today is a Beautiful Day.  A day that I have prepared for you.  A day that I have already walked through.  I know what each hour, each minute, each second will look like for you.  I have already felt the emotion you will feel.  I have already carried the weight of the burdens you will want to pick up for yourself.  I already know what you will soon be talking to me about.  I know every word before it even makes it to your lips. 

I know the places you will go today.  I know the challenges and surprises you will run into.  I know the choices you will make and how the choices of others will affect you today.

I have watched over this day and will watch over you as you live it out.  I am with you.

So, go and enjoy your day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

What I Really Mean Is...

How easy it is to misunderstand someone's text or email.

The interpretation and tone of the content is up to the receiver.  Depending on how they read it, they can take it all wrong and the sender is then completely misunderstood.  What a communication break-down!  In the business world, it's often advised to just call the person so they can hear not just your words, but your tone as well.  This avoids a lot of confusion and misunderstanding.

Another Text can also be completely misunderstood.  We can pick up the Bible and read the words but completely miss what the Sender is really trying to say.  What's worse is we might then go and retell it to someone else, and then they tell it to someone else, and suddenly you have many people who have the Sender all wrong. 

The advantage we have in reading His Words over reading a text or email is that we can actually allow Him to interpret His words for us as we read them.  With the Helper's (Holy Spirit) help, we can read the words and understand God's heart in it.  In a sense, we are allowing Him to read it to us.  When we approach His Word this way, it helps us avoid a boat load of confusion and also builds deep intimacy with Him -- which is exactly His objective in the first place!  


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Picky Packaging

Strawberries.

I can say no more.  When they are in season, they are nature's candy.  The only thing I hate about purchasing them is that it's hard to find the perfect package.  There is always at least one that is rotten.  And, if I forget, in my haste I will put them away as is. 

Not good.

Good advice says to always remove the rotten ones before you put them away.  Otherwise, all the others will rot much faster. 

So, it's true...one bad one spoils the bunch.


Strawberries don't have a choice.  They get thrown together without being asked who they'd like to room with, hang with, or be in close contact with.  I'm sure if I had a chance to interview a few strawberries they would have plenty to say about their preference for what they are looking for in a roommate.

We should be picky, too.

Picky about who we are surrounding ourselves with.  Who we are giving ourselves to.  Who we are allowing to influence us, even guide and direct us. 

This can be hard, though, if you are needy.

When you are craving friendship or love or someone to make you feel worth something, you'll take the first thing that comes down the pike -- having the "beggars can't be choosers" mentality.

But, let me tell you.  We are worth more than that.  And, we don't have to compromise and go against our gut like that.

We are not strawberries.  We have the choice who to be in relationship with, be in friendship with.  And, if they are not good for us, we need to be honest about that. 

We are valuable.  We are more valuable than sparrows to our Creator that loves us. 

And, He has better options for us.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The First 60 Seconds

The first 60 seconds can determine it.  Your decision to swing one way or the other.  The choice to be honest in your actions... or not.

Suppose you hit a parked car.  No one sees you.  You could easily drive away unnoticed.  Your decision needs to be quick -- the owner of the hit vehicle has just left his house and is walking toward his car.  What will you do?  Will you admit your fault to the man when he approaches his car?  You will need to decide within the first 60 seconds.

A woman unknowingly drops a roll of cash from her pocket in the mall parking lot.  She begins to get in her car.  If you don't react to pick it up and give it to her, she will drive away.  You have the choice to either be honest and stop her, or let her leave and take the cash for yourself.  You have less than a minute before she is out of your reach.

What you do with those first 60 seconds says much about your character and integrity-- who you really are -- the real you when no one is looking.  Your reputation is not on the line.  No one will think badly of you if you decide not to be honest -- because no one will know.  (No one except the One who sees everything, of course.)

So what will you do?  What will you do with the first 60 seconds?


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just Hear Me Out

Hang Up.

It's the easiest way to get the last word.  You've made it clear that you are finished talking to the person on the other end of the line.  The conflict hasn't been resolved or worked through, you just decide that you've had enough and you're done. 

But, you didn't even give them a chance to speak.

You've already come to your own conclusions in your head.  You filled in the blanks for them, and that became your truth.  So, you spoke your mind and hung up.

***

I have done this with my Best Friend.

I've screamed and yelled and thrown my fists up.  I've given Him a piece of my mind.  I've told Him how disappointed I was in Him.  How He dropped the ball!  How He let me down!

What kind of Friend was He anyhow?!  I TRUSTED HIM!!!

And, to tell you honestly, I hardly wanted to know what He had to say.  I blasted Him with my frustration and hurt and hung up.  I wasn't at a place to resolve things with Him, I just vented and disconnected.  I never gave Him a chance to speak.  I never gave Him a chance to shine the Light of His Loving Perspective on it. 

I don't regret my honesty -- that was where I was at at the time.  And, I know He'd rather hear my honesty than get a forced smile from me.  He can see through me anyway, so faking it would be pointless.  I know He's not thrown off by my raw emotions.

But, then I had a choice.

Would I disconnect forever?  Or, would I answer the phone when He called back? 

Would I give Him a chance to speak? 
Would I give Him at least that much?

Or, would I give up on Us altogether?
Would I never answer the phone again?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Can I Have Your Attention?

I saw a show on TV once that did an experiment.

They posted a professional looking sign on a wall next to a door that said "No Exit".  Only a handful of people noticed the sign and didn't try going through the door.

Then they posted a handwritten sign saying the same thing.  This time, just about all the people who approached the door noticed the sign and turned around without trying to go through the door.

Their conclusion:  Handwritten signs are more effective.

My Father understands that.  He knows that the best way to get my attention, warn me, direct me, encourage me to change my course, or abort mission altogether is to Personally Handwrite them.

Sometimes it's a rough looking Sign that comes in the form of a trial in my life.  Sometimes, an unexpected Love Note that's addressed to me personally -- an encouragement that is strangely and wonderfully relevant to my circumstances.  And other times, a Letter that is given from someone that loves me -- who's not afraid to get candid and honest -- even when it's not what I want to hear. 

Personal, handwritten Signs.  What a beautiful way to get my attention.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What Is It With You?

Happy people can make you question.

What are they always so cheerful about?  Always a smile on their face.  Always a whistling tune coming from their lips.  Always a pleasant greeting and a countenance that radiates a flavor of happiness that you're not used to seeing. 

And, that's it. 
We generally aren't used to seeing cheerful people.

Extreme examples...We get in our cars and we get rude gestures from the car that passes us on the road.  We get in line at the grocery store and instead of smiles from fellow customers we get the "don't even think about cutting in line" look.  We go to our jobs and may deal with a grumpy boss or co-workers that talk more about you than to you.  We live in a dog eat dog world.  But, even on the less extreme, the general public is not very jolly.

So when we do see a cheerful person, we question it.  We start thinking they are either fake or just have no problems in life (lucky them!).

But, if we investigate, we find out the scoop. 

We find out that they are real people just like anyone else.  They have problems.  They have trials.  They have ups and downs.  But, they also have something else. 

They have JOY.  Joy, that even when they are feeling low, still oozes through their pores, because this Joy is not something that is a result of their circumstances.  It's an overflow of Who is with them, Who is alive inside of them.  So, even when they don't smile, they shine regardless.

And, we notice them.  We tilt and scratch our heads as we marvel at that Secret Ingredient that makes them different from anyone else we know.  It makes us thirsty for it.  It makes us hungry for what they have.  And, it helps us see that there is still Hope for all of us, as we come to realize that this Joy is indeed --  for all of us!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Let's Get Personal

If you want to get someone's attention, get personal with them.

***
When something doesn't pertain to our life, we can tend to move along without a glance in that particular direction.  It doesn't mean anything to us... unless it gets personal.

For example, you might know little about Breast Cancer.  You watch the marches on TV.  You see the pink ribbons.  But, it might not get your attention... unless it gets personal. 

Or, you hear the warnings about certain drugs, catch a clip on TV about child car seat safety, or read about the effects of obesity.  You might not take it seriously... unless it gets personal.

Or you hear about God.  You might hear words thrown around like His Love and Salvation.  But it doesn't mean anything to you... unless it gets personal.

And, that's the beauty of it.  He would want it no other way. 

He always gets personal...

... because that is the kind of relationship He wants with us. 

If He didn't get personal, we would never know just how much He personally cares about us.  If He didn't get personal, we would continue to think we were just a number to Him and we'd have the mentality that "God has bigger things to worry about than little 'ol me."  If He didn't get personal, we'd never know how wild and crazy He is about us -- each and every one of us, personally.  And, if He didn't get personal, we'd never know --

how personal we are to Him.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Using the China

I saw a cooking demonstration today.

Marvelous recipes.  Delicious samples.  But there was one thing more that I walked away with.

A reminder.

She told the crowd, "Life is too short.  Use your best dishes now.  Don't wait."  as she poured her delicious strawberry dessert into a beautiful bowl. 

Then she went on.  "Life is too short.  Use the best ingredients now.  Don't wait."  as she used the richest, most tasty choices of food that you can buy on the market.

She already knew.  She was confident that most of us in the crowd probably don't grab for the best.  Use the best.  Embrace or enjoy the best.

We wait.  We hold back. 

***

And, how true that is across the board.

Life is too short. 

Are we reaching for only the good stuff? 

Do we wait to say "I love you" like it's fine china -- only used on special occasions?

Are we savoring the sweetest ingredients that are in our life?  The irreplaceable moments with our children?  Time spent with our spouse or our aging parents?  etc.

Are we embracing only the best and discarding the rest?

***

Thank you dear cook for the reminder.

Life is too short.  Use and enjoy your best dishes and ingredients now.  Don't wait. 


Friday, June 3, 2011

ZZZZZZ...

How different life looks after a night's rest.

I'm not sure how, but somewhere between closing my eyes and reopening them the next morning, my perspective on things can shift.  I could go to bed feeling overwhelmed and defeated in life and then wake to see things with a different perspective.  It never ceases to amaze me.

*****

Sometimes all we really need to do is just SLEEP. 

I know.  In this world where we gotta keep things going and moving and pressing forward, it is hard to make rest a priority -- especially when you have a job (like being a parent) that might require you to give much of yourself on practically a 24 hour basis.  You give and give and give.  You work and work and work. 

But, we forget that we are not machines.

And, if we don't care for ourselves and allow the rest that is needed, we won't be much good for the task, or our jobs, or our service to others anyway. 

If we don't rest properly
  • Our minds won't be as sharp
  • Our moods and emotions can be unbalanced
  • Our eating habits could suffer as we might be tempted to grab the foods that give us quick pick-me-ups, and eat late at night --finding energy in food instead of sleep.

Sleep is powerful.  It is needed.  It can not be substituted.  And, it is a tool that offers us much more than we realize.

Good-night.