Monday, February 20, 2017

What's In Your Cup?

We've all heard the biblical term 'My cup runneth over'. Even secular people use it to define that life is good and everything is running smoothly. But have we thought about what having a 'full cup' really means, and what, exactly, is in our cup?

A cup overfull with blessings is a good thing. God wants us to have 'runneth over' cups, so we can share the overflow with others, hence filling their cups. In fact, the more we try to empty our cups of blessings, the more God wants to fill them!

But a cup that is full of hate, anger, and resentment is like a cup full of that gooey stuff from the coffee machine in the movie Monsters Inc.- kinda hard to fill a cup with blessings when it's already full of gunk.

My cup has both blessings and gunk in it. There are people I haven't forgiven (yet), people I need to ask to forgive me, as well as fear, anger, and resentment towards life situations. This gunk hinders more blessings from pouring in and taints the blessings already swimming around in there, so I'm better off cleaning out my cup and washing it before letting God fill it again. 

I've gotten so used to the gunk in my cup that I forget it's there- until God gives me a taste of His pure water- then I go back to my cup and wrinkle my nose at the gunk I didn't truly see before.

That's when the good stuff is supposed to happen.

Yet sometimes it doesn't. Forgiveness on either the giving or receiving end is hard, because God says to reconcile with the person- yes, you heard me, reconcile, as in go to that person and talk to them; It's the world that says forgiveness can be found in a room by yourself, but the biblical way is to go to the person and ask for forgiveness- or give it. It's in Matthew 5:23-24. In fact, God says to do it before you go to Him to ask for blessings.

Yikes!

I don't know about you, but I know some of the people I need to forgive (and ask forgiveness from) are not gracious people. One of the reasons I haven't asked them yet is because I expect confrontation or a snarky response! 
But that's also why my cup has gunk and why God can't fill it with His blessings as much as He'd like to. I'm my own hindrance.

What's in your spiritual cup? Is there more gunk than blessings? When the blessings overflow, do you share the runoff with others? Do you share the runoff with others who aren't in God's will yet? Ooh, that last one has to be the toughest!

Yes, there's still gunk in my cup. But I've had a taste of God's water, and I want more. But I have to want it more than the gunk in my cup- all I have to do is forgive, be forgiven, and let go of the fear and anger I've gotten used to. Only then can God let the blessings runneth over!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Hospitality Gift

My husband and I are hospitality oriented. I'm a more homey, welcome-to-my-fridge type, while my husband is more the let-me-be-your-butler-for-the-evening type. But there are ups and downs to having this gift.

We love making others happy. Seeing someone who is clearly enjoying themselves is the best part of serving. We like feeding people our homemade goodies, but we also like the anticipation of hosting an event. We might have to make five-hundred hand-made meatballs, but we are grinning our faces off as we make them, knowing people will like them at the first taste. We like decorating and preparing for guests as well as serving them!
And guess what? There is no greater compliment to me than someone who is clearly exhausted who falls asleep on my couch! That tells me they feel safe and comfortable enough in my home to do so!

We miss a lot of events. Whether it's a community or church event, hospitality people are in the thick of it. We are there setting up, decorating, preparing and serving food, breaking down and cleaning up afterwards. Most of us are doing at least two items on this list, most times more. Who has time to listen to the speaker or engage in great conversations when there's people who need a place to sit and eat? Most of us forget to get something to eat ourselves, and wind up falling over after the event because there weren't enough 'leftovers' for the volunteers. 

No, I'm not kidding.

I saw this happen at the many churches I visited. When it happened at my church, I made sure to state that feeding the helpers first is key to keeping everyone going- not to mention it will attract more helpers! Once fed (before the crowd comes in), people will be much more congenial when serving others. It took a while for them to get used to the idea- it went against the 'serving others first' mindset- but when I explained that eating first is a better blessing to the attendees than being served by grumpy, starving, and fainting servers. They relented- and never looked back.

Hospitality conventions don't exist. Why, do you ask? Ever try to serve those who love to serve? You can't. We're too busy trying to help. "Sit down while I get you something..." "No, you sit down and let me get you something..." "No, you.." "No, you!" 

99.99% of the time we are the party hosts. Why? Two reasons. One, we love serving people in our home, and the second the evening is over and everyone goes home, we can just go upstairs and collapse. Two, no one invites us anywhere because they're afraid we'll judge them on their hospitality skills and lack of homemade everything-must-be-from-scratch foods. 
Yes, people told us this! 
For the record, we don't judge anything that we're eating for free, and it's nice to have take-out or store-bought instead of home-cooked meals once in a while.

We have trouble not helping. The host tells us to relax, but we see the chips are low or the Stove Master looks a little overwhelmed and we want to help. No, we need to help- and they won't let us. This is exactly what we do when we have guests, but when the slipper is on the other foot, it drives us crazy not to be able to do something. Anything

On the opposite side of that particular coin...

We are never guests at a party. Oh, we might get invited, but either we volunteer to come early and help with the event, or we're asked to help at the last minute, 'because we're so good at it'. The former is self-imposed, so it's our own fault for asking, but the latter can be quite problematic when we need some down time to be fed instead of being the feeders.

We bring too much. Hospitality people try to think of everything when it comes to potlucks. We don't just make enough potato salad for the ten people you invited, we make enough to feed twenty-five, just in case someone invites a friend or you get raided. We also bring enough plasticware, napkins, and plates (just in case you run out) and we keep a plethora of dressings and condiments in the trunk in case the host forgot to buy something. 
This usually sparks us to have a party at our house the next day because we have a lot of extra potato salad and party goods!

These are the triumphs and perils of being hospitality oriented. If you see many of these happening in  your life, you're one of us, if not, that's okay, I'm sure you know at least a few people around you who are. Be kind to them- they are a tired bunch! 
Perhaps I should write a book called The Care and Feeding of the Hospitality Oriented, but it might not be out in print for a while. I have to make dinner for my family and at least five next-door neighbors for the next month or two!

 might even make extra. Party, anyone?




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Dollar Dilemma

Ever notice that those TV evangelists are starting to sound more like Monster Truck Rally announcers?

Iiiiit's Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! Now you, the faithful listener, can have unlimited cash flow! All you have to do is give me a dollar, and God promises He will give you back one-hundred fold- guaranteed! One dollar nets one-hundred dollars- and it's all guaranteed by God! 

Oh wow- all I have to do for unlimited money and blessings is to donate as much as I can to their church? That sounds awesome! After all, if I give a dollar, I get one-hundred dollars back! How incredible is that?

Remember folks, the more you give, the more you get back! Do it now! Send your money to....

Wait. The more I get, the more I get back...right? But why isn't that church giving away their money as well? Wouldn't the same rules apply to them?

Apparently not. They have upkeep, after all. Someone has to shine the silver cups and communion plates- and keep those one thousand windows shining and sparkly. 

But isn't that what tithing is for- upkeep of the church and staff? Why do they need the extra?

Perhaps to keep the preachers' three corvettes from falling into disrepair. 

I look at my handful of dollars. All of my liquid cash flow. It isn't much, but it keeps gas in my run-down little car. Does God want all of my money? Will He really give me one-hundred dollars for every dollar I give away?

God doesn't give a hoot for our money. He wants us. The giving of money is only one means of giving ourselves to Him, especially if we treasure that money more than our own worth. That's the only time God wants us to give up our worldly riches. Tithe is different; those monies are for the church expenses and upkeep of God's place of worship. It's the extras that they ask for that makes no sense.

As for that one-hundred fold payback, The bible never said it would be cash- he said it would be repaid one-hundred fold- meaning it will come back to you in a form that might not necessarily be monetary. Oh, He could send you money (and sometimes does), but He'll also send you other blessings! Remember finding that secret sale when you bought your favorite outfit? Or that break that got you a promotion? Or even that phone call from a friend that inspired you in an unexpected way? All of these are paybacks without price tags. One time I was gifted with a professional deli slicer!

Blessing others in turn blesses us. Many churches have forgotten that lesson. 

And there's nothing wrong with having money. It's what you do with it that counts.

Before I became a Christian, I had money. Not a ton mind you, but I was considered upper-middle class in my early twenties. I had no debt, money in the bank, and had a good job. But I was bereft of Spirit, as I didn't give to others as often as I could have. Not just monetary-wise, but time-wise as well. 

I became a Christian. I went through a lot of financial trials. To this day twenty-five years later, I'm still going through things financially. I panic when the bank balance drops too low. We live week to week and month to month. We have debt due to a dead car, bad windows in the house, and unexpected, uncovered funerals. God isn't trying to make me suffer, He's trying to teach me something. Depend on Me- not your stupid bank statement

The lesson is finally starting to sink in. 

If you had given me a million dollars twenty years ago, I'd have bought myself a house, a car, and gone on vacation. Any leftovers would go straight into the bank and stayed there. Not a bad plan, but a worldly one.
If someone handed me a million dollars now, once the debts were paid and some was invested so my husband could 'retire' from the factory, I would donate to renovate our church (we're only using 1/3 of the building right now- not enough seats and no kitchen), and use that renovated church kitchen to start community programs to teach low-budget cooking and feed the hungry. My husband could start full-time ministry, or start that dream cafe and do part-time ministry. The rest would go into the community itself, Helping people in need and supporting the local library and recreation center- possibly with a new playground.

Which seems like a better investment to glorify God?

I admit, I like money way too much. I can be very generous when money is plentiful and the bills are paid, but I think God wants me to see things His way- He wants me to give when I'm financially struggling. It's not a dollar dilemma, it's heart handling.

Don't fall for the hype that spouts guaranteed God money. God cherishes us. That's all He cares about. And His hundred fold blessings will be worth more than any monetary windfall we could ever get, because those blessings change us as people; He gets into our heads, our hearts, and our souls. He changes us so we can change others. He qualifies the called.

And that's something money just can't buy.




Monday, January 30, 2017

The Master Plan

For years I'd been wandering, wondering where God would put me. I prayed but didn't listen for an answer, and would follow any lead that I thought God sent me. It didn't matter what came down the pike, because I thought God sent me an answer to prayer.

*BUZZ!* Wrong answer!

Oh, I was really good at making plans. I had plans, back-up plans, and back-up, back-up plans. I had a binder filled with plans of the great ideas I was going to do, and everything I was going to accomplish. 

With all this frenzied planning going on, I was too busy to hear God laughing.

Was His laughter mocking me? No. He was laughing because my plans aren't His plans. You see, I had a Master Plan, but I forgot to plan with the Master

No wonder He was laughing when I kept revising plans over and over- and failed over and over. The look on my face must have been priceless!

It's like us watching our kids try something new and quite impossible. "Okay Mom, watch me lift a car like Superman!" And we smile as our toddlers try to lift the family mini-van. They're so cute when they try, but you know they'll come running up afterwards, asking why they couldn't do it. Your chuckles aren't mean- you just wish they had talked to you first.

So there stood God, grinning as I tried plan after plan. Only when I failed a plethora of times did I come to Him, finally willing to listen.

God did and does have a plan for me. Oh, He won't tell me all of it, but He gives bits and pieces when I need them. I'm not the best student either, so sometimes I need to go back and ask Him again-"Are You sure this is where You want me?" 

I have to be patient and listen for His answer- Which is not easy sometimes.

I'm a planning master. When I'm 'in the zone' (or should I say 'in His zone') things run smoother than cocoa butter on a warm baby's butt. I love when that happens. But when my plans take me off track? Let's just say it's a bumpier ride than a jeep with no shocks going up a mountain of cobblestones.

Maybe you're like me and make plans until you're exhausted. Maybe you've even heard Him laugh as you tried to lift your mini-van. Just remember that you can always go back to Him and ask why things didn't work out as you planned- the answer might just be because He was left out of the planning process!

If you get an answer right away- great! If you don't, just step back, take a deep breath, and pray. But more importantly, listen. He's there for you. He just might need a minute to stop chuckling!


Monday, January 23, 2017

Give vs. Get

I love Youtube.

Oftentimes I look for clean comedians because I love stand-up; I love the jokes, but hate the language that most comedians use. Yesterday I looked for Christian comedians, and found one of my favorites, Michael Jr.

Michael is one of my favorites because he likes to play with words just like I do. It's so easy to mess with the English language! But then he adds some awesome revelations that blow me out of the water. Yesterday was one of those times.

I'd been having trouble when going to church. People seem to ignore me, or not have time to talk when I start up a conversation. Sundays are the only times I get any face-to-face-time with other Christians. But lately I'd been feeling disgruntled, unappreciated, and unacknowledged. 

Acknowledgement is important to me. I run the bread ministry- everyone takes bread home with them every week, without a single word of thanks. I also sing before communion services, and again as they pass out the elements each week. My husband is a deacon and works diligently for the church, and my kids do a lot concerning clean-up and helping in other ministries. We attend church each week, and everyone loves my husband and kids.

So why won't anyone talk to me

I sequestered my grumpy self on the couch on Saturday, deciding to watch a little clean comedy. But I received much more than laughter.

Michael Jr. spoke about Giving vs. Getting when you walk into a room. "Go into the room with your mind on giving instead of getting and see what happens" was the essence of his lesson. This blew my mind because I'd been going into church with the exact opposite attitude for months- after all weren't me and my family doing enough in church?

*BUZZ* wrong answer!

Fine. So I took a deep breath, cleared my negative thoughts, and went to church the next day with this new mind-set. 

I gave smiles to everyone. I gave questions, asking how someone was doing, then gave my ears to listen to what they had to say. I gave thanks and appreciation to those who helped me with my ministries. I gave a testimonial in church giving thanks to God for getting me started as a self-published author.

And in so giving, I got a lot back.

People asked me about my gimpy knee and how I was doing. They asked to see my books (I brought the sample proofs I ordered, though that was not my intention to show them off- my pastor asked to see them last week- I wasn't intending to do a testimony about the books either!), people hugged me, and congratulated me. For the first time in a long time, I'd felt like I was part of the church- not just a worker bee in a hive.

Now if I can just behave myself and keep that mind-set to 'Give' and get rid of the 'Get', I'll be able to bless a lot more people and not get grumpy about it.

So thank you God, for letting Michael Jr.'s videos pop up on Youtube. And thank you Michael, for not only giving me a laugh, but helping me become a better, more giving Christian! 

Monday, January 16, 2017

What Do You Really Mean?

My mom taught me a poem when I was a kid:

A son is a son until he takes wife,
A daughter's a daughter the rest of her life.

Sweet, right? My mom was telling me that no matter what, we'd have a lasting girl-bond. Awesome.

But through the years of teenagerism, I forgot most of the poem. I was in my late teens when she asked me if I remembered it. So I recited:

A son is a son until he is wed,
A daughter's a daughter...until she is dead?

Okay, so it still rhymed, and the message was kind of the same, but alas, I had completely missed the mark. My mom was too shocked to reprimand me- or was she just laughing too hard?

Similar words, completely different interpretation.

Most people assume you meant things the way they themselves have interpreted it. I was a newcomer to a Bible reading group, and we were asked to read and talk about Acts 1. The leader asked what was the former book talked about in Acts 1:1, to which I promptly replied 'Theophilus'.

Well, the lady sitting next to me went into a tirade about how there's no book called Theophilus, and have I ever even read the bible before? She looked at me as if I was some kind of hell-bent renegade heathen ready to be roasted in Satan's flames.

The fact that I was new to church and hadn't read the bible before never even occurred to this lady. She was basing my answer on her interpretation that everyone in Bible study has already studied the bible. Go figure!

I misread the verse in Acts 1:1. He was talking to Theophilus, not talking about 'The unabridged, unpublished works called Theophilus'. But being a Bible noobie, I simply didn't know better. Too bad, too- despite the hard-to-pronounce title, it might have been an interesting book.

I'm not the only one who misunderstands the written word either...

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This is why writing humor comes naturally to me- there's just so much to misunderstand in the English language! One word could have a ton of different meanings- you just have to put the word in the proper perspective first.

Having a son with Aspergers helps me in this area too. I have to be concise with what I say, otherwise he gets mixed messages. Aspies also have a hard time reading body language, so I often have to exaggerate my gestures and expressions so he gets my point. 

Doing so has also helped in the humor department, because most humor is about exaggerations and over-emphasized expressions. People laugh harder when I tell a story in person! The gestures and expressions help to clarify the meaning of the story.

Hearing can also be misunderstood. Amazing Love has the chorus 'Yoooooou are myyyy King, Jesus yoooou are myyyy King' But when I was listening to it on the car radio (and quite distracted by driving) it sure sounded like 'You are mocking, Jesus you are mocking' Yikes!

(go ahead and take a minute to find that song and listen- I know you want to! I'll wait.)

The three factors of misunderstanding-  speech, sight, and hearing. All can be used to make things clear, or muddy them beyond comprehension. Even the Bible states that things will become more understood as the Second Coming approaches- and how many times have you heard of someone misinterpreting the Bible? More than you're willing to count, I bet.

Don't be afraid to ask someone to clarify something for you if it's misunderstood. Ask until you understand. If you're the one being asked, be kind in your tone, and patient with the one asking. And if you don't know the answer, lead them to someone who does- or at least will know more. You never know where a question about God will lead, whether you're asking or answering. But either way, you will be blessed!




Monday, January 9, 2017

Defining Purpose

It's a brand new year and most people do a life reboot- reevaluating goals, making new resolutions (and breaking them 2.3 seconds later), and making plans to do better this year.

Others decide to dig a little deeper and seek out purpose. But what is our purpose- especially for us Christians?

I came up with this to help me, and I'm sharing in hopes to help you.

PURPOSE:

P- Pray
U- Understand God's Word
R- Record key scriptures
P- Plan goals
O-Outline action steps
S- Set a realistic schedule for actions
E- Examine your progress

Before you do anything, pray. Pray for His help to find your purpose. Pray for change. Pray for the right changes. Pray for the energy to do what you need to do for God. Pray for guidance, pray for wisdom, and pray for using time wisely- including time to rest and read the bible.

Understanding God's Word isn't always easy. Digging deeper takes effort; it helps to have a study bible and the internet to help define what scriptures seem confusing.
Speaking as a word smith, when reading different renditions of the bible, some verses seem to say different things to me- but when I dug deeper, God's Word became much more clearly defined. For instance, when I first read the bible, I didn't understand why they used 'fear' a lot. But after digging, I realized 'fear' didn't always mean afraid- many times it meant respect! Big difference.

Writing down scriptures that speak to you can be a huge help in getting you through tough times, or encourage you to move forward. Little notebooks are wonderful tools for this, and I have one filled with gems of wisdom when I get in a spiritual bind- which happens a lot.

Instead of making resolutions, plan goals instead. What does God want you to do? Where do you feel called? When can you take time to fulfill these goals? How can you glorify God in your plans? Once you find your purpose, God will help you fill in the blanks.

Having an outline helps you get to those goals. Start with your purpose and work towards your goal. If you have trouble planning from A to Z, work backwards from the goal, taking small steps until you're back to your purpose. It's better to work backwards from Z to A for me- but of course I'm weird. Do what works best for you. Just get those plans defined, steps written down, and get ready to take action!

If you're anything like me, you have an over-zealous streak that thinks you can do more than you actually can do, so you over-schedule yourself, then burn out a week later. Setting a realistic schedule for action steps will not only boost your confidence, but you'll gain a sense of purpose you might not have had before. 
Accomplishments on a regular basis feel good! So why schedule the joy and glory out of your true purpose by doing too much too fast? You can't grow a tree in a week (just try begging a tree to do so and see where it gets you), and people can't function properly if they work themselves to exhaustion. Work at your own true pace- so what if it takes two years instead of one for you to do something? The point is you'll be a lot farther in accomplishing your goals in a year than you are now! 

When you're in a lull or a rut, it helps to take a look back and see just how far you've come. Even if you're behind schedule (especially if you've overestimated your time and energy like I usually do), it helps to see just what you've accomplished in the time that's passed. Don't see it as 'I'm behind and have so much more to do!'- see it as 'Wow- I've gotten this much done! I should tweak my schedule, now that I know what my pace is.' and move forward. You're not running a race- and God is very, very patient. Ask me how I know.

So what is your purpose? What is God calling you to do? I hope this post helps you define what God has in store for you- because no matter what that purpose is, you will be awesome doing it!