Friday, February 1, 2019

Flaws, Failures, and Faults

Do you ever have one of those days? Weeks? Months? Years?

We all experience failures. We know that we are flawed. Our faults seem to stand out glaringly in life. Sometimes, we can be entirely too hard on ourselves.

One of my children is that way. She is a natural perfectionist and has always had extremely high expectations of herself. She beats herself up for the slightest mistakes. My goal is to help her learn how to not be so hard on herself. I haven't always responded with the grace and gentleness that this guidance should have.

We had one of these small situations come up today and it got me to thinking about how hard I've been on myself in the past. How many times have I allowed negative thoughts and self-beratement follow a failure or the pointing out of a flaw or fault? Way too many to count! However, I now don't let myself get lost in the negativity.

What's changed? A few things.

(1) First, I've learned to recognize and root out shame. A study I completed in 2017 defined shame in a such a succinct way I understood it more fully than I had every before. To paraphrase, shame is a belief that there is something inherently wrong with you that can't ever be fixed or cured. That if others knew you, really knew you to the core, all the things you've done or thought, they would reject you.

There is no hope in shame. There is no deep down joy in shame. There is no confidence in shame. There is no freedom in shame.

When you're able to break free of shame (which often takes a bit of promise and definitely takes a willingness to be COMPLETELY transparent and vulnerable with at least one God-grounded, trusted person), you no longer beat yourself up over your flaws, failures, and faults. You realize these are all a part of being human and you are no less valuable or worthy of God's love than anyone else.

(2) Second, I have learned to be more intentional about taking my thoughts captive and making them obedient to the Lord and what He desires me to think about. This is sometimes a daily battle and I can't do it on my own strength, but it's a choice that transforms my thinking, which impacts everything we say and do.

(3) Third (not lastly, but I'll leave it here), I spend a lot of time with God. Reading His word and soaking it in. Memorizing it. Meditating on it. Discussing it. And talking with Him. Spending time crying out with my doubts, discouragements, and distress. Laying it all in His very capable hands and trusting Him with it all. Then listening.

I think this is the most difficult part of our relationship with God. Getting quiet and still enough to hear from Him. There is so much in this world distracting us with information and noise (sometimes just in our head) that hinders our ability to hear that soft, gentle voice and guidance in our spirit by the Spirit. God is always communicating with us and shame (and other pain, ideas, and beliefs) blocks or filters His messages to us. In spending both quality and a quantity of time with the Lord, we will learn to hear Him and live in the truths of His love, healing, and redemption of every aspect of our lives.

How has God used your flaws, failures, or faults to grow you and teach you?

What's your story in how God has released you from the shame this world tends to heap on?

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Of Socks and Shoes (and toothbrushes and soap)

We live in a time and place where we have unlimited resources to help us prepare for parenthood. When I was expecting and then a new mom, I read and read and read. There were books and magazines, and a handful of blogs. Now there are an amazing number of blogs, Facebook groups, Instagrammers, Pinners, etc. Any question you might wonder about parenting, you'll most likely find in abundance.
Regardless of how much we talk to other moms, read about being a parent, or research all the right decisions, the truth is nothing can prepare someone for motherhood completely. There are just things you could never expect (or, even if someone told you, you might brush off or not realize how that piece of advice might be experienced in real time). 

One of those things for me is how often I have to repeat myself. Now, I'm sure part of this is my own fault. I am somewhat strict as a parent, but certainly not exceptionally strict. I believe in grace and apply it liberally. Not that my children don't have responsibilities or face consequences when they break rules, but I try to be flexible when a situation deems it. (Okay, quite often I'm also just plain distractible.) I also don't tend to dole out punishments for small things.

But really...

How many times do I have to say "put your shoes on" when I've given them a 20 minute countdown 'til time for us to leave?

How many times do I have to ask, "Did you wash with soap while you were in the bathtub for 2 hours?"

How many times do I need to remind my children to brush their teeth after breakfast AND before bed?

Honestly, after a decade (give or take) of hearing these things, you'd think they'd get it.

But that's my job. 

To hold them accountable to good habits and responsibilities.

To remind them to do things they get distracted from (especially since I understand this one in spades!).

To keep teaching them, guiding them, and leading them to become responsible, people-loving, God-honoring adults.

And I know they will get it!

My 15-year-old is a big encouragement. Not that we don't deal with typical teen issues, but she seems to have integrated all the everyday lessons I've been trying to impart her whole life. Her younger siblings have them in part. Of course, the youngest needs the most guidance. So I cling to the success I see and keep on (deep breath) patiently reminding and checking in to make sure things are done that are supposed to be done.

And isn't that the way the Lord is with us? There are so many lessons I've learned and relearned (and relearned) in my life as a believer. How quickly I forget His truths and start to depend on myself and my limited knowledge and strength. Over and over and over again.

Yet, the Lord is ever-patient. He continues to guide and teach and correct and lead me. I'm so thankful He does! Aren't you?

So the next time your telling your child put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher, brush their hair, or actually put their clothes away when they take them off, remember how long-suffering and gentle the Lord is with you. Filling up with His grace will help you (and me) extend grace to our children and gently keep them on track.

So, what are the things do you get to teach your children over and over?

And what is something you've ever grateful the Lord teaches and reminds you over and over?

Friday, January 25, 2019

God and Depression


Having a relationship with God brings joy, right? While this statement is supported throughout the Bible, the truth is we live in a broken, fallen world. You may have experienced loss, abuse, trauma, or other difficulties and challenges. Depression often hits us as a result of tough circumstances. At other times, though, depression can strike when everything seems to be going well. Fortunately, the Bible also addresses these situations.

A quick perusal through the Psalms gives us many examples of when David and others were in angst, to the point of death and despair. Paul also expresses his great struggles and times of desperation for God to deliver him from either his circumstances or thoughts and emotions. God is not silent on depression, but provides tools to help us to go through and get through. When you're feeling depressed, down, or discouraged, there are helpful things to remember and that you can do.

Things to remember:
      (1)   God is not mad at or disappointed in you. God understands the depths of our hearts and sent Jesus to experience the trials of living in flesh. When we are depressed, He meets us with compassion and encouragement.
      (2)   God has not left you. Over and over again, God tells us in scripture that He is with us and won't leave us. While He may often feel far, the truth is He is always with us, no matter what our circumstances, struggles, thoughts, or feelings.
      (3)   This moment and feeling will not last forever. While some battles with depression are deep and long, they do not last forever. Reminding yourself of this fosters hope and is helpful in getting through the most difficult moments.

Things you can do:
      (1)   Talk to someone. God created us to be relational. Romans 12:15 says to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. Our burdens are lessened when we share them with others. We can gain a different perspective, insight, and the encouragement needed to walk through even the toughest valleys in life.
      (2)   Be intentional about gratitude. When depression takes over, our thoughts gravitate toward and get stuck on the negative. We have a hard time seeing the blessings in life. Even starting with the basics of thanking God for who He is and what He's done in the past (see Psalm 138 for example) will begin to transform your thinking and make it easier to identify other blessings.
      (3)   Pour in truth. Exhaustion is often a close companion to depression and it may feel impossible to even muster up enough strength to open and read the Bible. Thankfully, we live in a time where the Bible and biblical teaching are abundantly available. Turn a Bible app on read, search online for your favorite Bible teachers or preachers, or find some godly teaching on podcasts. God's word is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12) and will began to transform you.

These few reminders and suggestions are helpful when going through depression and other difficult times. If the list seems overwhelming, simply pick one to start with. And if you would like to share your story or struggles or talk to someone, feel free to comment below or email me through this link.

I pray you’ll experience God’s love and compassion for you in a fresh way as you seek Him in the midst of your struggles.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Revelation Devotion Finale


Closing

I hope you’ve been blessed by this 12-week devotional study based on the first three chapters of Revelation. I certainly have been. God has been faithful to lead, guide, and reveal more about Himself through the examining of His Word. He has also used this most powerful two-edged sword to pierce into my soul and call me to examine myself. The goals of seeking who God is and who He desires me to be have been met, but only in part. The journey of getting to know God greater, developing a deeper intimacy with Him, and transforming to become more like Him is a process that doesn’t end as long as we’re on earth. Any time we open God’s Word with ears to hear, eyes to see, and a moldable heart, He will use it to transform us. My prayer for each of us is that we continue to seek Him, love Him, obey Him, and glorify Him to greater and greater degrees.

To God, who was and is and is to come, who is holy, who is Lord Almighty, be glory and honor forever and ever. Amen.
  

Holy, holy, holy is the
Lord God Almighty,
who was, and is, and is to come.

Revelation 4:8



If you are interested in having a printable copy of this devotion or a book version to share with others, email me at tracy_wainwright@yahoo.com

I hope you'll join me next week for the start of a new devotion from James 1.


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Independence Day!


Hope you're day is full of celebrating the great freedoms we have, honoring those who've paid for our freedom, and enjoying friends and family.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Revelation Prayer Devotion Day 12


Day 12

Scripture focus: And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of our nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Revelation 3:14-22

Application: I believe we could sit in this one passage for a full twelve weeks. There is such great richness in it, beyond what we even see on the surface. We miss the contextual information the first century church would have had when they read this letter. Briefly, from what I’ve learned there is a lot in this letter referring to the geographical location and culture of the city of Laodicea. As He often does, the Lord uses specifics to an individual or group to personalize His message. Laodicea had no good water source, where one nearby city had hot springs known for their healing properties and another a fresh, cold water source known for its purity. Hot and cold aren’t opposites here, but equally beneficial. Lukewarm, on the other hand, is useless, as is lukewarm faith. Also, Laodicea had thriving cloth and eye ointment industries. Yet, Jesus calls them naked and blind. How often do we have what we need physically yet miss out on what we need spiritually? In each of these cases the Lord uses what would be familiar to the hearers of this letter to get their attention. He does the same with us. But even more so, He uses His Word.

One of the sentences in this passage that sticks out to me is: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” Could it be that when we are most self-sufficient, we are most spiritually deficient? There is not a direct link between financial wealth and lack of faith, but there is often a correlation. Remember the “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle” passage. Why is there such a connection? Because when we experience success on our own, we tend to lose our dependence on God. But the truth is, we couldn’t do one thing without Him. There’s no way for us to even cause ourselves to continue breathing or our heart to keep beating if the Lord does not sustain us. Much less get out of bed and work. Yet we take these things for granted and give ourselves entirely too much credit. Granted, there is choice involved in what we do and how we spend our time and talents, but it is God alone who gives us our time and talents. We tend to forget that we have a thousand reasons to praise Him each and every day. Every breath and heartbeat are cause for worshipping the Lord.

Oh, that we would be on fire for God, desire to be filled with His presence, seek to do His will, and be a vessel to bring Him glory every day! That we would share the cool, refreshing, revitalizing truth of the Living Water with others wherever we are. That we would spend more time clothing ourselves with His righteousness than we spend on our physical clothes. That we would focus our eyes on Him and see as He sees. And what He wants us to see. That we would open ourselves and even welcome the loving discipline of the Lord. That we would be zealous and repent and open the door when He calls out to us. Oh, to experience the indescribable presence of the holy, Lord Almighty! This is the call He makes each and every day.

Prayer: Lord, let me not forget what you have been teaching me through Your Word. Plant it deep into my mind and heart and transform me by it. Help me to always evaluate my works according to the fruit they produce for Your Kingdom. Stoke the fire in my heart for the Gospel and embolden me to live in such a way to bring glory to You every day. Give me the wisdom, power, and steadfastness to conquer in this world and one day sit with You on Your throne, to ever bring glory and honor and praise to Your name.

Reflection questions/prayer prompts:

What temperature am I? Do I burn for Jesus and bring healing? Do I pour out the cool, refreshing Water on others with my words and actions?

In what ways do I place confidence in myself and my abilities instead of in God?


Where is my greatest spiritual need?

In what areas or my life and/or ministry could I see more clearly?

Lord, help me not to shrink back from Your discipline, but embrace it as You mature my faith and multiply my fruit.

What can I change to hear God’s voice more?

How can I praise God and bring Him more glory today?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Revelation Prayer Devotion Day 11


Day 11

Scripture focus: And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Stan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie – behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and they will learn that I have loved you. Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Revelation 3:7-13

Application: What Jesus says and does is final. There isn’t a power on earth or in heaven that can undo what He does. This is how the letter to Philadelphia begins, with Jesus reminding the readers of His holiness, truth, and power. This is the second letter with no condemnation in it, but only encouragement. Like the letter to the church in Smyrna, Jesus’ followers are facing trials. Yet Jesus knows. And in comparison to the little power the church has on its own, the Lord declares His undefeatable power.

Another theme we see popping up again in this letter is the emphasis on patient endurance. Something many of us would rather not discuss. Much less consider praying for. Instead, many joke about not praying for patience because God will bring circumstances that provide the opportunity to learn it. None of us want to wait and develop patience. We live in an instant gratification culture. We aren’t used to waiting for much of anything. In the world of drive-thru food, instant microwave cooking, and free two day shipping, we don’t have too many occasions to cultivate an attitude of patient endurance. Yet, when we examine scripture, we find that patience is a fruit of the Spirit, a characteristic of love, and a sign of spiritual maturity.
Patient endurance is not only a virtue, it’s a sign of trusting God. Trusting that He is still in control. Trusting that He is good. Trusting that He is love. Trusting that He has a perfect will in each of our lives. Trusting His Word. Trusting His ultimate power. We may face challenges and difficulties, experience disappointments and hurts, but God will keep us under the shadow of His wing. He has opened the door to salvation and eternal life through His own blood, and no one can keep us out.

It is so hard to imagine what heaven will be like. There are many descriptions of heaven, but I don’t think there’s anything that comes close to actually describing what it will be like. However, the glimpses we’re given through scripture are enough to keep us focused on eternal things. We will be honored and repaid for hardships due to following Jesus. We will receive a crown. We will be a pillar in God’s new temple. We will have God’s name written on our being. We will be in the glorious presence of the one and only true and holy Lord forever.

So no matter what you’re facing today – whether financial hardships, difficulties on the job, family stress, illness, hard relationships, failures, lostness of loved ones, chronic pain, death, or other major losses, let Jesus’ words be a reminder that He’s always with us, He knows, and He still has the power to bring about our good and His glory. We are but a mist and our troubles, not matter how painful at the time, are light and momentary compared to the glories of heaven. Let us rejoice in who He is and what is to come!

Prayer: Almighty God, You alone are worthy of praise. You alone sit on the throne of creation and no one can defeat You. You alone hold the key to heaven and You alone open and shut doors in my life. Thank You for Your great love. For Your great promises and salvation. I hide under the shadow of Your wing in the midst of troubles of this life. Help me to keep my focus on You. To be compassionate and sincere, but not faltering in my faith. While it feels like I have so little power on this earth, I know that Your power is within me to endure as I follow You and proclaim Your name in all the earth. Show me how You desire me to bring glory to you today, where I am, as I am.

Reflection questions/prayer prompts:

Lord, turn my eyes to gaze upon Your holiness and truth.

In what ways have I not kept God’s Word or denied His name?

Jesus, Reveal to me those around me who don’t know You and prompt me to pray for their salvation.

How can I cultivate patient endurance?

How can I not only hold fast to what I have in my relationship with Jesus, but grow in it?

What area of sin, complacency, or comfort do I need to conquer by the power of Jesus’ blood?

Holy Father, thank you for loving me as I am and too much to leave me where I am.