Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Freedom From Regret

Regret.  I wish I had no regrets, but the truth is that I sure do.  I always wonder when I hear someone say, "I have no regrets."  What do they mean by that?  With further questioning, I sometimes find that what they mean is, "I have learned from my mistakes, therefore I do not regret my mistakes."  Other times I find that what the person means is, "I have convinced myself that I have done nothing wrong in the past, and that even if I did it's in the past anyway."

Could either of these two views of regret be correct?

Here I go with the dictionary again:

Regret: 1. To feel sorry, disappointed, or distressed about. 2. To remember with a feeling of loss or sorrow; mourn.

Yes, the past is the past.  Yes, I have learned from my mistakes.  But yes, I do have regrets.  There are many times that I remember an event, relationship, words I said, words I didn't say, etc with a feeling of loss and disappointment.  I regret those times.  Though I am thankful for those lessons learned I sure wish I could have learned them another way.  Thankfully those lessons have many times prevented me from going down the same dangerous path again that would lead to further regret.

So what is the deal with regret, then?  Why are so many people afraid to admit they have it or even afraid to deal with it in order to move forward?

That is just it.  We cannot move forward, fully, until we have dealt with those regrets.  Sometimes the dealing-with-process comes with the need to appologize and ask for forgiveness - with both God and man.  This is not always easy, but it is the only way to freedom from regret.  This is what separates a regret that turns into a lesson eventually bringing good and a regret that continues to fester, churn, and hold captive the one who lives in it.  This festering usually leads to others getting hurt, as well, by my problem.  Everything we do affects someone else, other than ourselves, either positively or negatively.

Recognizing a regret for what it is - disappointment (in myself and/or others and/or circumstances) - is different than dwelling on that regret.

To Dwell: 1. To live as a resident; reside.  2. To be in a given place or condition.

So the question is am I dwelling in a regret?  Am I living there?  Or do I simply recognize it as a disappointment or sorrow?  Have I let it go and moved on?  Am I willing to?  Or am I simply either ignoring the issue or being held captive by it?

These are questions I have had to ask myself many times.  There is a process I have realized is necessary for gaining freedom from regret.  I guess it really comes down to being real about my past, taking it to the Lord, and asking Him to make me whole again each time.  As I was thinking more about this, I identified these steps:

1. Realize my need for Him: I have to realize that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).  This includes me - thankfully I am also "justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:24).

2. Seek Him: I should then ask the Lord, "Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me, and know my anxious thoughts" (Psalm 139:23).  What is going on in my heart?  What can I do about it?  The Lord can show me because He knows me even better than I know myself.

3. Seek forgiveness: I have to ask if there is forgiveness needed from me and/or for me.  "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us..." (Luke 11:4).  This must be sincere, but it's not about a feeling.  Forgiveness is a choice.  The feeling can come later...

4. My responsibility: I am then to do my part.  "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18).  I can only do my part.  I cannot make the other person forgive me, and our relationship may or may not be restored.

5. Move forward: "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13,14).  Stop dwelling in regret.  It just doesn't do anyone any good.

6. Rest in His peace: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful" (Colossians 3:15).

7. Enjoy freedom: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). 

This peace is true tranquillity that comes with the assurance that God is in control and that He "causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

"Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”" (Lamentations 3:22-24).

Now, go have a day without regrets, knowing that He walks beside those who call on His name.  Oh yeah, and be sure to call on His name.

Thanks be to the Lord, Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Intentionality in Relationships

As the years go by I have realized more and more how important it is to be intentional.  Otherwise before I know it I have totally neglected something or someone important.  I really hate when I do this.  I want to be a person who doesn't just think of calling someone and then lets life, as they say, get in the way.  I want to be the one who does call because I believe that the thought that came through my mind regarding that person was put there for a reason.  Why then do I often let those opportunities slip away?  I realize that I will never be able to never miss an opportunity because I am going to fail from time to time.  Still there has to be a better way than the societal norm.  Right?

My husband and I are going through a marriage Bible study right now at church with a small group of other couples.  We read the book we are going through and answer the study guide questions throughout the week and then join the group for a video segment and discussion.  As I pondered my own thoughts and listened to the others share theirs, I realized again just how important it is to be intentional in relationships!  Dare I say that the quality of a relationship comes down to intentionality?

Let me explain.

Intend: To have in mind; plan
Intention: A course of action that one intends to follow.  An aim that guides action; an objective
Intentional: Done deliberately

This is not just true for marriage, but I see the threads of this running throughout every relationship in my life.  My relationship with the Lord, with my husband, with my children, with my family, with my friends, with the lady scanning my groceries at the store, and even with anyone reading this post only grow when I deliberately follow through with my aim, my course of action.

So I guess the first step needed to determine ways I can be intentionally building my relationships is to examine each one and determine my aim.  How do I view this relationship?  What are my actions communicating - Do they show this person that I value him/her and our relationship or do they show this person otherwise?

When I am intentional in my relationship with the Lord, I am sure to make time for studying the Bible, praying, listening to Him, and keeping the communication open and continuous.  The result is then always a greater ability to be intentional in my other relationships, as well.  This is because the Lord is the one who fills my cup, so that His love can overflow onto others.

When I am intentional with my husband, I am more concerned about making his lunch for work the next day than checking my email.  I am more concerned with listening to him talk about his concerns and needs and coming alongside him as his help mate in every way possible.  I am more concerned with showing him how much I love him everyday through usually simple little ways.  This only nourishes and deepens our relationship continually over time.

When I am intentional with my children, I am sure to instill truth into their little hearts by taking time to read and play and teach and laugh and hug and kiss them.  I am more concerned with holding my older daughter when she "just feels sad," or picking up my little one when she just seems to want to lay her head on my shoulder.  I want to hear my children out and show them they truly are a blessing from the Lord (see Psalm 127).  Focusing on being intentional helps me remember this.

When I am intentional with my friendships and family relationships I remember to call them to see how they are doing.  I remember to write a quick email or message on Facebook to say "Hey."  When I am striving to be intentional I am better at thinking about these precious relationships and making plans to get together and invest in them.  Am I doing all of the talking when with others or am I asking them questions and listening more (my husband is SO great at this, and I long to be!)?  As a result, these relationships can grow into deeper and abiding friendships.

When I am intentional in taking time to make even the slightest difference in the life of someone I may only encounter for a few minutes at a time (or ever), I am more likely to not be consumed with only myself.  I am more likely then to think of others, too.  Perhaps even I can be a blessing then to that cashier at the grocery store and see the Lord use my intentionality for eternal purposes.

I even want to be intentional with my relationship with my readers.  This means taking time to think and pray about what I would like to write and discuss with you.  Otherwise, you probably won't come back to visit, and our relationship will not continue for very long.

Without the will and drive to be intentional in my relationships, I end up finding myself feeling alone.  It doesn't usually happen all of a sudden.  No, the withering of relationships happens over time like the withering of a flower.  When we don't water the flower and make sure it has food and good soil, it eventually withers and even dies. 

Some of my relationships have died in the past because of improper care.  Sure, the phone does ring both ways, and they could have reached out to me, as well.  However I can only be responsible for my end.  Furthermore, the point is not to just give up on the withered flower because sometimes flowers can be brought back to being vibrant again with a little tender loving care.

Oh how much I still have to learn, and oh how much I long to implement all of what I just wrote.  It takes time, and...a plan.  So here is my plan:

1. Seek the Lord in prayer first thing in the morning - even if only for a few minutes - and then more throughout the day through prayer and studying the Bible.
2. Have a list and a game plan for the day - allowing for unexpected times that require me to be flexible.
3. List ways I can show my husband and my children how much I love them, and act accordingly with at least one special way each day.  If I don't know, ask them.
4. When I think of someone, write down their name in a little notebook.  Then pray for that person, and take some action to invest in them in some way.
5. Ask questions during conversations with others to learn more about them.  Am I talking too much and not listening enough?    

Communicate with others.  Be real.  Ask for forgiveness and forgive others.

There are many responsibilities each of us have in life.  Those are real, and we don't need to appologize for having them.  However I seem to get an allergic twitch when I hear someone say, "I know you are busy..." to me.  I understand what they mean, but at the same time I don't want to be too busy for relationships.  After all, relationships are the only thing I can take with me into eternity, and my relationship with Jesus is the only reason for that!

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humililty consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3,4, emphasis mine).

And what about our own interests?  Well that is for another post.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Words Matter: Luck vs Providence

As I get older, I realize more and more that words really do matter.  I don't know why so many English words have multiple definitions.  As frustrating as this is at times, the reality remains that it is wise to chose our words carefully. 

With that being said, there are many times when I hear people say luck when they really do mean providence.  So if you are a person who talks about luck, luckily, or being lucky do you really believe in luck or do you mean to speak of God's intervention or providence?

If you really are talking about luck and not about God intervening, then fine.  Continue to use the word luck if it is consistent with your view of God not being involved.  However, if you are meaning to point to God's working in your life or in the life of another when you mention luck, then why do you continue to use this word?  Wouldn't the word providence be more clear and consistent with your belief that God is intimately involved in your life?

Luck is defined as favorable chance or chance happening.

Providence is defined as divine guidance or care.  When capitalized Providence also means God.

As a Christian, a follower of Christ, who believes that everything I am and everything I have is because of Him should I really use phrases like, "Good luck," or "As luck would have it..." or "I feel so lucky because..." or "Luckily...?" Am I really directing my thanksgiving to the Lord when I define my circumstances by luck instead of His divine providence?

How about I replace these phrases with ones such as "May the Lord guide you," or "Be blessed," or "The Lord opened this door for me (see 2 Corinthians 2:12)," or "I am so blessed because..." or "Thankfully..."  I know this is counter-culture and that some people may feel uncomfortable doing this.  Aren't we called to this, though?  Doesn't the Lord deserve the glory?

Because God is in control I can believe that:

"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD" (Proverbs 16:33).

Just a little something to think about, especially since we just observed St Patrick's Day.  By the way, St Patrick's Day is a story that is often not accurately told, but that is a-whole-nother post.

And yes, I am Irish.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh...Seriously

I am thankful for the fact that my children are very rarely sick.  In fact, they have never had a sick visit to the doctor or taken any medicine.  We are very proactive with our health and especially take care to always take the supplements we love every single day.  As a result, I really don't have much experience with sick children.  I haven't even known what it is like to clean up vomit.  That is until tonight...

As I was getting the children ready for bed my younger one started coughing.  I am not sure what made her cough, but then she began to vomit (forgive the grossness, but this gets better).  I tend to be excitable, and my older daughter usually follows me down that path if I am not careful.  Well, I excitably yelled for her to get me a towel quickly because her sister was throwing up.  I guess I scared her in all of my excitement, the older one that is, because she started to cry and just stand in one place. 

This was not helpful.

I appologized for scaring her, but reminded her that I desperately needed a towel from the bathroom, and she was the only one who could help me (My husband happened to be out with a friend - I can't wait to tell him the story!).  Meanwhile the little one threw up some more. 

Well in comes my older daughter to the rescue with the towel and the towel bar from the bathroom in hand.  Excitable Me says, "Hurry, please!"  Scared Daughter says, "OK!"  Then she doesn't stop in time and slips right into the vomit on the floor!  She was horrified and just remained in the same position in which she fell. 

What did I do?  I just started laughing.  It was not funny.  But it was.  I was so disgusted, but all I could do was laugh as both of my little girls cried - one in horror and one I guess because she just threw up. 

Then I wanted to cry as I cleaned everything up, bathed them, cleaned up more, and thought about how crazy this just was.

Hopefully we will have no more of that going on around here.

After the whole thing died down, I began to think about how much of a stress reliever laughter can be.  Sometimes we just really need to laugh.  Of course, sometimes it could be better saved for a latter time when it is more appropriate, but other times even in the thick of it we just need to let ourselves laugh.  In fact, I am still laughing, and I am sure I will be laughing when I tell my husband about all of this when he comes home.  Thank you, Lord, for laughter!  How would we make it through this life without it?

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under Heaven...a time to weep and a time to laugh..." (Ecclesiastes 4:1, 4a).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


There are two times throughout the year where I feel the most compelled to assess my life:  January and my birthday.  January is already behind us, but I just had a birthday.  Now is the time to look at what is working and what is not.  As a result I have a new "routine" for myself and for my children.

I have come up with ideas and tried to implement them a couple of times throughout the last few months, but I just kept feeling like it was not working out.  Finally I realized that perhaps I was trying to come up with my own plan instead of asking the Lord for His.  Aha!  Why didn't I think of that in the beginning?  Well I think I did think of it, but then maybe I got ahead of Him.  I can be a great planner, but at times I fall short in the actually follow through.  I really dislike this, and I am working on changing that with His help.

So, today was the first day of our new "routine," and I think it went really well.  I am calling it a routine because some flexibility is not only needed, but also desired.  I have small children, and life does not always fall in line anyway, so flexibility is a great motto.  I want my children to learn to be responsible and diligent in ordering their responsibilities, but also flexible and adaptable when God has other plans.  Otherwise it is all too easy to get bent out of shape when someone calls or comes to the door or needs more from me/us/etc then the plan alloted.  This is why I say "routine" and not "schedule."

I wrote out all that I have on my proverbial plate, picked which to do when, put in place the things that are always the same, and built from there.  I don't want to miss anything, so this was very helpful to me.  I am a list person anyway, so it was actually quite refreshing (don't laugh).  I prayed before, during, and after, because I really want this to be a plan that works for all of us according to what the Lord has in mind.  I also wanted my husband to approve - after all it is my joy to call him my "boss."

As a result, today was a day filled with prayer for our church, devotions - alone and with each other, exercise, play, learning, reading, eating a handful of times, cleaning, laundry, naps for the little ones, helping out a friend, phone calls, writing, and blogging.  Now I actually have time to relax with my husband and get to bed at a good time (I have been staying up way too late!).  I am very thankful and very excited.

I am so incredibly thankful that God is so ordered.  Look at everything around you.  Everything He made is so ordered and so creative.  I can see how refreshing it is to have order, as well.  I know we won't always have days that are ordered.  This is actually good at times because we grow through those not-so-ordered and not-at-all-ordered times.  However, on the rest of the days, I really desire to be a good steward of my time and efforts and fulfill the roles given to me by a God of order who longs for me to enjoy every moment of life and the precious ones He has placed in it.

Thank You, Lord.

Hopefully this plan of order will work...until the next time I need to change it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Freedom From Debt

Over the past almost four years, my husband and I have made a committment to not use credit cards.  Before this decision was made, we had racked up $20,000 in consumer debt.  I used to not think it was a big deal.  For me, I got what I wanted, and I figured that we would just pay it off eventually.  Over time, however, I began to become discontent with the looming debt.  My husband hated it, and he felt like he couldn't provide for us to pay it off.  This created stress. 

We are taught in our society that debt is necessary.  How can one survive without it?  Just think about how many credit card offers you receive in the mail or how many times you are asked if you have a certain store's card when checking out there.  It's everywhere!  We want, so we get.  We borrow, so we owe, and then we regret, and sometimes we even lose it to the bank.  Why the crazy cycle?  Perhaps we don't know or perhaps we have just failed to recognize the truth about debt.

"The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender's slave" (Proverbs 22:7).

After realizing that we did not want to be slaves to our lenders anymore, we wanted to find a way out.  We realized that by using our credit cards, we were not fully trusting the Lord to provide for everything we need.  We were trusting in chariots - our own strength and might - our credit cards.

"Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psalm 20:7).

How freeing it has been to be able to pay off debt and not accrue anymore!  We have seen the LORD provide for us in ways we had missed out on before because now we had to trust Him.  As a result we have so many precious examples of ways He has shown us His love for us through His provision for us.  It's been a fun and adventurous journey, and we are very thankful that we have paid off all but $1400 to date.  In fact, by the end of April, we plan to be completely out of consumer debt!  Praise God!

I was thinking about all of this lately when I was at church a few Sundays ago.  We were singing, "Jesus paid it all.  All to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain.  He washed it white as snow."  I have known for years that Jesus paid the debt of my sin, and I have rejoiced in this time and time again.  This day, however, it was all new to me again.  Being so close to being free from consumer debt, and after working so hard at it, made me realize just how enslaving debt is.  How much more the debt of my sin?  How much more did I need Jesus to free me from this once and for all.  I am so thankful that I asked Him to do this over fourteen years ago. 

"But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:22,23).

It is clear to me more now than ever that I would rather be a slave to God than a slave to a lender or to money itself.  God is a kind, gracious, loving, patient, and just master who provides, protects, heals, comforts, guides, disciplines, changes me for the better, and so so much more.

"No one can serve two masters...You cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24).

Yes, this is counter-culture.  This is unfortunately sometimes even counter-Christian-culture.  There is hope, though.  It's never too late to turn over a new leaf and cut up those credit cards.  I recommend a plan.  Crowne Financial and Dave Ramsey are great resources with Bible studies, lessons, and plans of action to help those who desire to be free from consumer debt.  And remember to pray and ask the Lord for help.

"Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.  Love does no harm to its neighbor.  Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:8, 10).

May this be the debt we now accrue, and for the glory of God and the furthering of His kingdom.

"Oh praise the One who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the grave ... Jesus."