Walk the Talk

image_gallery“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 gives us guidance of what to give our children in order to equip them to live faith-filled lives, but what happens if we don’t start well?

I’m the baby of my family by several years. When my sisters and I were little, I was often left out of situations and experiences, but I was a witness to much. One pushed the other and broke a window. (It wasn’t as violent as it sounds.) One took the farm truck and got stuck in a field road. They had friends at the house even though our parents had said no visitors. Chores didn’t get done. The list goes on.

They knew things I did wrong, too. To tattle or not to tattle? To follow the example or follow instruction?

I didn’t tattle often – because I got bribes. The funny thing is my parents found out most everything anyway. When there’s a broken window or a truck out of place, it doesn’t take long to discover.

Fast forward a generation. I don’t think I’ve ever told my daughters “do what I say, not what I do,” but I know there have been many contradictions between what I said and did. Despite all their good qualities and habits, there have been times I’ve thought, “Of all things, did they have to pick up that from me?!”

Our lives will be contradictory. We don’t realize every contradiction, but what do we do with the ones we notice? Consider what hypocrisies annoy or pain you in others. What contradictions are in your own life? You don’t have to be perfect, but in order to teach your children (and others), you have to be willing to be taught. Start today.

What’s Your Filter?

Cupofdirtywater_zps02c58d15We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10)

Same God, Different Christians

62e0069d78ce2f22a84bf424a23eccd2I took my daily walk along the beach, all the way to the turnaround point…the end of the property, marked by large rocks. I don’t know who owned the rest of the shoreline. It had no houses on it, and sometimes a few people were on the beach or in the water, but they looked local, not like me, a visitor.

This day, I saw a man and two dogs. At first, I saw only one dog in the water with him. I stopped to watch for a moment, because the dog was a lab and reminded me of my own. The lab stayed close to the man’s side as they swam into shallow water. That’s when I saw the second dog, a German shepherd, probably less than a year old. He was running back and forth along the water’s edge, very excited but also very unfocused. The shepherd met the lab and owner as they came out of the water. As the shepherd jumped around and played, the lab looked at his owner for instruction and affirmation. The owner leaned down and talked directly to the shepherd, then whistled and spoke a command that I assume told both dogs to follow him into the water again. He was training them. The lab stayed by his side. The shepherd began to follow but only made it a few feet into the water before deciding he’d rather run along the shoreline. I assumed the owner had brought along the older lab as a role model for the young pup in training. The lab stayed focused. The shepherd stayed unfocused.

They had the same trainer but were at different phases of their lives and training. I’m sure their dispositions were different, too. One had more experience.

I thought of how we as Christians must look to observers at times. We all talk about God, but our behavior is very different and quite confusing. When people look at some Christians, they might think they get an accurate picture of who God is, but then someone else responds to Him and represents Him differently. We know why. We know we’re different people; God created us to be unique. We’ve had different experiences, different amounts of training. We have different baggage and temptations. It makes sense to us. We can be different but serve the same God. But to others, our differences might seem confusing, as if we don’t respond to God well, or, as if He’s incapable of creating any kind of consistency in us.

Our faith isn’t just about our behavior, but we have to acknowledge that our behavior is often the only tangible thing people see of us. We have to be willing to show them more, to be authentic with our struggles and obedience. To answer questions and not get defensive when people seem to accuse us or God because of the discrepancies they see. God is a creative God. We are different. But He is the same God.

He knows who is watching us at all times, and He knows how to use us–our obedience and our distractions–to reveal Himself to others. Are you willing to follow Him through the good times and the messy times, not just for yourself but for others to see, too?

Adventures in Faith: Soaring!

adventures in faithToday is the final post in the Adventures in Faith series. Thanks for joining the journey. Let’s continue together with new adventures, beginning tomorrow!

Children, come and listen to me. I will teach you to worship the Lord. You must do these things to enjoy life and have many happy days. (Psalm 34:11-12)

Ponder It.

What’s one adventure that thrilled you?

What’s an adventure that challenged you?

Consider how you grew through each.

Receive It.

When Mom looked out the kitchen window, she saw us in the second-story barn window. My older sisters held me by my legs and arms, and they swung me back and forth several times before tossing me out the window.

What she couldn’t see was my landing. The garage obscured her view. She charged out the door in a panic, rounded the corner of the garage and…saw the hay truck stacked with straw and me rolling in laughter and delight. What a great day! Mom, on the other hand, didn’t share my joy. She was relieved I was okay, but her initial fright gave her enough momentum to yell at all of us and demand we stop the fun.

Bummer! I was having a blast. It might not have been the safest way to pass the time, but many of the “fun” things we did on the farm weren’t necessarily safe. Some of the most memorable experiences are the adventurous ones. We’re creative through adventures. We learn through adventures. And we often struggle through adventures. Struggling often produces growth.

Adventures often involve risks and usually involve excitement. Approach today with an anticipation of adventure. Learn. Struggle. Be creative. Make some memories.

Live It.

This is it: the launching pad of the next season of your adventures. Your adventures didn’t just begin, and they’re not going to end anytime soon, especially as you commit and yield to God’s will. He has a journey of adventures for you. Embrace every single one. Soar!

For more stories about life growing up on the family farm, check out Farm Days.

Adventures in Faith: Opportunities for Adventure

adventures in faithShout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy; come before Him with singing. Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to Him; we are His people, the sheep He tends. Come into His city with songs of thanksgiving and into His courtyards with songs of praise. Thank Him and praise His name. The Lord is good. His love is forever, and His loyalty goes on and on. (Psalm 100)

Ponder It.

What’s one opportunity you missed and have regretted?

What’s an opportunity you are very grateful you didn’t miss?

What’s an opportunity you would love to experience?

Receive It.

We have a lot of opportunities throughout life and throughout every day. We have the choice not only to take or refuse the opportunity but also to take or give credit for the opportunity. We sometimes feel we’ve “made our way.” We take credit when, in reality, we haven’t gotten where we are on our own. In fact, we don’t achieve in isolation. Even when we think our efforts paved the way to where we are, opened the doors, and made the right choices, we’re surrounded by others. Our lives aren’t lived in isolation. Our paths are paved with relationships. Sometimes, we feel we’ve messed up everything. Taking responsibility is one thing, but thinking we’re powerful enough to mess up everything is the same as thinking we’re powerful enough to achieve anything we want. Whether we think too highly or not highly enough of ourselves, we have pride issues, and just about the time we excuse our pride as necessary confidence, we’ll trip over the stumbling blocks pride puts in the way.

We are never so low that we cannot go higher, and we can never get to a height from which it’s impossible to fall. We have responsibility, but God gets the credit. Obedience is the responsibility; guidance and provision only comes from God. He defines who we are and determines when we’re letting pride slip into our lives. Whether we’re giving ourselves too much credit or not enough credit, our credit is misguided. It’s not about our credit; it’s about God’s glory. So, when you’re faced with an opportunity, give it to God. Let it filter through His fingers and will. Let Him decide how you’re supposed to best respond. When you’re faced with an opportunity, get prayed up and prayed for. Each is indispensable, and neither should be done just when you feel it’s an emergency. God’s presence and will isn’t just the only way when we can’t see another way. It’s the only way when we can see thousands of ways ahead of us. Many ways may look beautiful to us, but only God’s way is undoubtedly, incomparably, the most beautiful ever.

Live It.

Place one of your hands under a faucet and let water run over your palm. Try to hold as water as you can. Turn off the water. As you watch the remainder of the water run down the drain, commit to not wasting a single opportunity God gives you today. Opportunities slip too easily through our hands.

Adventures in Faith: Bench, Floor, or Field?

adventures in faithThere are different kinds of gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve but the same Lord to serve. And there are different ways that God works through people but the same God. God works in all of us in everything we do. Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, for the common good…Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7,27)

Ponder It.

When have you felt like you had to sit on the sidelines, and what was your response?

When have you been in the middle of an exciting game, part of a healthy team?

Where would you rather be, on the bench or the floor? Why?

Receive It.

There’s a difference between the players on the bench and those on the floor…but they’re all part of the team, and each and every person plays an important part. At least, God intends for them to play an important part. They can choose not to fulfill that important part by pouting or getting defensive. They can feel they were wronged or that they’re under-appreciated. Just as we can in the body of Christ. God gives spiritual gifts to each person who believes in Him. He didn’t leave anyone out, including you. The problem is usually in discerning what our gifts are and how to use them. We get confused about our gifts and respond to how we think we’re supposed to use them or how we’re insufficiently using them when we’re actually misunderstanding or under-appreciating what we have and what we’re doing.

For example, we sometimes assume our spiritual gifts are something we’re passionate about doing. I’m confident God fans the flame of passion in us, but what if we’re not ultra-excited about something: does that mean we’re not gifted for it? What if that just means we’re being stubborn and not accepting God’s will? If I’m gifted to teach, will I be excited about teaching every moment of my life? I may be gifted in advising others, but will I whole-heartedly want to always listen to people whine and complain? Probably not! We’re human, and we need to not base our gifts and the use of our gifts on our emotions and experiences. Whether we’re on the bench or the floor, we need to give teamwork our all. All of our gifts work together, and each of us is essential to the fully-functioning body of Christ. You’re human. You’re going to doubt yourself. But don’t doubt God. When you question your giftedness, you question God’s ability and wisdom. He knows what He’s doing. No exceptions. God expects you to use your gifts for His glory. Your gifts are yours to use, but you’re not the source. God is. He gave you the gifts. He knows exactly where you fit. Let God settle you into your gifts as He settles His gifts into you.

Live It.

Work together today. Invite someone into your life, and serve. Accept someone else’s invitation for you to serve. Don’t insist on doing it your way. Do it God’s way.

Adventures in Faith: Hiking

adventures in faithSo be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you, and follow the commands exactly. Live the way the Lord your God has commanded you so that you may live and have what is good and have a long life in the land you will take. (Deuteronomy 5:32-33)

Ponder It.

What is the most challenging hike you’ve accomplished?

When have you had a downhill experience, physically or spiritually?

How does the security of your footing change when you are confident with God’s commands and uncertain about what you’re doing and where you’re going?

Receive It.

When you hike in the hills or mountains, you’ll get a fresh perspective with every twist and turn. The goal is to get to the summit, where you’ll have unobstructed views, being able to see for miles with fresh air swirling around you. Even though your muscles and lungs burn along the path, you accomplish something with each and every step. You stop for a break, sip water, refuel with a power bar, and continue to ascend. Every step takes you a little closer. You watch your step. Your excitement and anticipation grows. With every challenge, you grow. You develop. Then you reach the top and savor the moment. You breathe and take it all in. You soak in the sights…and the accomplishment.

But you can’t stay on the top forever. You have to get back to where you live. It’s time to move back down the mountain. It seems easier. After all, going down definitely seems to involve less resistance. Shouldn’t it be almost like coasting? The truth is, many more accidents happen on the way down the mountain than on the way up. We don’t pay attention. We’re not as careful. We’re tired, and the climb down is anticlimactic. There’s really not a lot to look forward to it—except survival, a bath, and a good meal. But if we don’t pay attention to where our feet go, we’ll step on loose rock, we won’t have our feet firmly under us, we’ll slip. And falls on the way down can be disastrous because they’re more difficult to stop. Momentum carries us. We can slip into others. We twist an angle or stress a knee. Tired muscles ache and cramp. But we can’t quit. God will guide and give us everything we need, but we can’t get lazy. Focus. Be intentional with each and every step.

Live It.

Take a hike. It doesn’t have to be extremely challenging or time-consuming. Let God guide. Be careful with your steps but also bold as you proceed. When you move forward in God’s will, you can be secure even with the uncertainty involved. You won’t always be safe, but you can step into God’s confidence. He will show you sights and sounds you wouldn’t have experienced without Him.