The Quest for Real Happiness

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This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
~Matthew 5:8

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Three… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

One of the biggest takeaways for me in today’s devotional is the photo above. The locked gate has two sides and two perspectives. Some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps us from getting to the other side, but some of us might look at the closed gate and see that the lock keeps in what it’s meant to keep inside its bounds.

Which one do you see?
I hope you can see both.

With the ugliness in our culture and in our world, these are times when we need both sides of that gate to exist. The challenge with the gate is in finding our purpose, our joy and our happiness within the confines and within the freedoms the gate might offer. It can seem like an elusive search.

In today’s verse, the word blessed can also be translated as happy. This isn’t just your “chocolate makes me happy” kind of happy; it’s much more.

It’s the most supreme happiness.

Strong’s Definitions defines the original word makários (from the Greek word μακάριος) as supremely blest. If you go to Blue Letter Bible, you’ll see that Vine’s Expository Dictionary defines the same word as the nature of that which is the highest good. This is a pretty special word, and it means a pretty special way of being blessed.

These are the people who will see God.
These are the people who will behold Him.

The first qualifier to being blessed this much is being one who has put their faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. Without this, there is no blessing. With this, we can know the eternal blessing of forever being in His presence, but we can also learn to fully experience His blessings and presence on this side of eternity. We will find a special happiness when we do.

Whaaaat? When? It can sound pretty big, but it’s something every Christian with a personal relationship with Jesus wants to have happen to them. I know I’ll walk in His presence someday, but I’m working toward that dwelling place right here on this earth and in this lifetime. It is possible to achieve a truly happy version of that right now.

Do you know that?
Are you working toward that?
Do you live a version of that now?

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
~Proverbs 4:23

For the purposes of this study and where we are in walking through the Comparison Trap, it’s about ridding ourselves—as best as we can—of the temptations and comparisons all around us. Doing so as a follower of Jesus will allow us to start to have a pure heart… one pure enough to allow “us to recognize God’s gifts, to discern his will, [and] to feel his nudging.”

Sandra Stanley closes today’s devotional with a sample prayer. Do more than just repeat the words… approach them with a purely guarded heart:

“Heavenly Father, I so very much want a pure heart. I commit today to doing the work it takes to clean out the comparison and other temptations that make it harder to see you and your will for me.”

When we start to figure all of this out, we’ll see that the locked gate provides us some guarded protection in this life by keeping out what will keep us from being pure AND by keeping in all He wants us to know in order to be supremely blessed by knowing, feeling and walking in His presence.






Transforming the Web of Comparison

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This is the continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—
his good, pleasing and perfect will. 
~Romans 12:2

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day Two… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

Sandra Stanley just jumps right in and hits Day Two’s devotional hard as she warns us about the tangled web that awaits in comparison:

The struggle with comparison is really a struggle with lies.
It’s a lie that we don’t measure up to those around us.
It’s a lie that what others have diminishes what we have.
It’s a lie that the pretty photos we see of our friends’ accurately depict their everyday reality.”

It’s imperative that we renew our mind. Before we can renew, we have to be willing to admit that culture often swings us in a way that is contrary to the path on which God would lead us. Once we’re willing to admit this, we’ve got to make the choice to do something about it. This is necessary if we’re really going to be serious about renewing our mind.

Sandra defines renewing our mind as an ongoing process of identifying the lies we believe and culture bombards us with, and then replacing those lies with God’s truth. We’ve got to get into the Word to do this. It’s imperative.

One of my favorite parts of the Comparison Trap study and devotional book has been the daily Scripture reminders. For those of us going through the study, we’re finding they make us think!!

One of the struggles I hear from women is that they want to know more about where God is leading them and why He’s got them on this particular path at this point in their life. I ask Him the same questions, and I often feel as though He’s trying to transform me… to really transform me, my mind, my choices, my perspective, my obedience, my submission to Him, my hopes, my journey and my relationship with Him.

When I’m more in tune with Him, I’m more in tune with where He might be leading me. Being more in tune with Him is best accomplished through a relationship with Him. That’s best accomplished by spending time in His Word to hear His truth.

I’ve written about this verse before during a time I was searching for authenticity and searching for His leading through some of my own challenges in needing to be transformed.
You can read about it here.

Romans 12:2.Pattern from Death Valley
This photo and artwork belong to me. I took the pic on a trip to the salt flats of Death Valley a few years ago, and while I was dwelling in the desolate beauty of the land here, I couldn’t get this verse out of my head.



What He Sees When He Looks at Me

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This is a continuation of an earlier post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

In him we have redemption through his blood,
the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace
that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:7-8

Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life.
John 6:47

The Comparison Trap:  Week Two, Day One… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

Week One of the study concluded with the weekly gathering of the women to discuss our discoveries and takeaways and to jump into the Week 2 video lesson. It was a good one. Watch it, it’s only 20 minutes long! You can get an app for your phone at the web link above to watch the video for free. The video is powerful.

The video got serious pretty quickly as Sandra wrapped up the first week of helping us to zero in on our tendency to compare, and Andy jumped right into letting us know what God really thinks of us. Some of the video content may have opened old wounds for some women, but for me, it was a reminder of how His presence can heal all of those wounds if we will only embrace His opinion of us.

So, “where do we look to determine how we’re doing in life?”  There’s a voice in our head that tells us to look around at others, and it convinces us that we need more of what others have in order to be acceptable, respectable and lovable.

Andy Stanley took us to the Scriptures into Galatians 4:4-5 to talk about the law, rules, and the mirror which reflects that something is wrong. We all struggle to keep “God’s law,” but we struggle to also keep the standards we set for ourselves. On our own, we aren’t ok, and we never will be… there’s plenty around us to remind us of that. It’s yet another trap of comparison.

But we’ve been redeemed for a price. We’ve been purchased by means of a trade. The value of any specific thing is the price that someone will pay for it.

The images of the lesson made me really wonder what someone would “pay” to know me and have me in their life. What price would I bring? The only way to understand my true value would be to auction myself off to the highest bidder.

This is the Gospel.

That auction DID take place. I was redeemed for a very specific price, in a very specific way, by a very specific person.
God sent His Son into this world to buy me back and to purchase me.
He was the highest bidder
He did that for me.
He did that for you.

My faith placed in Him gives me the status as a daughter of God.
I am the daughter of the living God.

When God sees me, He sees a woman of great worth.

Oh, how I struggle to believe and embrace this at times in my life, but renewing my mind to this truth—to His truth—and to how important I was to Him that He would purchase me with the price of His death on a cross… it is just overwhelming to think about.

He loves ME that much. Wow…

He loves YOU that much. Wow…

Instead of taking cues from those around me to determine how I am doing in life and to determine how valuable I am, I need to take my cues from the One who made me, loves me and redeemed me.

I’m excited about the impact of the week to come during this study. The verses above from Day One of Week Two mean everything to moving forward toward more understanding. In the Devotional Book, Sandra suggested that we read them slowly to let their truths settle into our heart.

Do that.
Do it again.
Let them settle.
Let yourself smile.
Let His peace overwhelm you.
Let His love wrap around you.

He wants you to know that, in essence, He says to you, “You are fine, because you are mine.”



Dressing Up My Selfish Ambitions

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This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating.

But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts,
do not boast about it or deny the truth.
~ James 3:14

The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Seven… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

“I quit.
Mom, I am done.
Please don’t make me go back there.
I don’t want to do it anymore.
Please, Mom.

We went through this a lot. My daughter was probably about 10 or 11, and she was an award-winning drama queen when it came to the ups and downs of gymnastics. This was the umpteenth time I’d heard it by this point, and there was just NO WAY I was going to let her quit.

“I know she loves her sport; it’s just tough to learn that new skill.”
“Her negative coaches don’t help matters, either.”
“It just seems easier for her to quit than it is to go back into that gym, to push through the mental challenges, to force her body to do something it isn’t naturally gifted to do, and to deal with their continual ‘you’ll never be good enough’ projections.”

This is what I’d tell myself all the time.

Similar to many of you reading this, I approached sports from the perspective that quitting is something you just don’t do. There may come a time when participation has run its course, but one just doesn’t quit.

“…especially my daughter.”

My not wanting her to quit when things got tough was mostly about teaching her hard lessons, but I do admit:  part of the reason I didn’t want her to walk away during these emotionally charged times was because it wouldn’t make me look good, either.

“What kind of parent allows her child to quit gymnastics over THAT?”
I regularly asked myself this question.
“Only a not-so-good one…”  is what I’d tell myself.
“…Only one who wasn’t completely dedicated to helping their daughter reach their potential…”
I sounded so smart to myself.

The fear of wondering what others would think was part of the reason I’d spend the 40-minute car ride home convincing her that everything would be ok, and that things would look different in the morning.

They did. She was usually ready to head right back into the gym, and I didn’t have to tell anyone that we were leaving the gym and quitting. I was pretty good at dressing up my semi-selfish ambitions.

NOTE:  She stuck with it for 13 years, reached Level 10, and was an all-around champion in our state many years in a row. Gymnastics did, though, run its course due to a devastating injury. She didn’t quit; she walked away, because it was what she knew needed to do at that point in her life. Through two seasons in a wheelchair and a struggle to heal her injuries, her mind and her body, she re-prioritized her focus on the sport and made her way back into the gym as a coach. Today, she’s a coach who works to inspire young gymnasts, and she’s a coach who helps parents understand the ups and downs their daughters experience in the sport. She’s the one who looks good, and she’s the one who has pushed herself to success. I celebrate her joy with her today, and today, it’s not at all about me.


The Sprint to Compare My Prayer

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This is a continuation of a previous post about a Bible study in which I’m facilitating and participating. 

Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.
~ Philippians 4:6

 The Comparison Trap:  Week One, Day Six… Some of my reminders and my takeaways from the daily devotional include:

I just love this verse and its instructions on bringing our prayers and praises to the Lord. I can’t help, though, when I read it, to know that I fall short in accomplishing it.

“Do not be anxious about anything…”
Ok, then… I’m not doing that.

“…but in every situation…”
Ok… I’m not doing that, either.

“…by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving…”
My journey with the Lord has helped me to feel better about that next part, as I certainly do a lot of asking, but I also do a lot of praising…now! (Please know, though… It hasn’t always been this way. I’ve had to consciously choose to offer up those praises, and it’s been a process of repetitious reminders to get to this place in doing so.)

A cherished friend of mine has always been good at adding the “thanksgiving” to her prayers. When our girls were little, we’d gather with a few other ladies for some mother-daughter time, and her continual reminders for us to offer up praises helped to shape my prayer life in a significant way.

There was an early time in our relationship with one another where I felt like I was falling comparatively short in the thanksgiving and praise part of my prayer life. I envied how it seemed to be so natural to her. I felt so far behind that I consciously tried to make up for it by practicing my prayers at home and in private just to see how much thanksgiving I could plug in to them.

I took what should have been something I celebrated in her, and I made it a competition in my heart. I practiced, and I brought Him my prayers and thanksgivings, but in doing so, it became more about matching her said-out-loud praises. I was doing it for the wrong reasons.

But somewhere along the way, after spending many years loving to listen to her prayers, I stopped comparing my ability to praise Him, and I started to celebrate her ability to do so. It opened up my heart, and it changed me from the inside-out. I finally got to a point of being able to praise Him, because I had a lot for which to praise Him! Instead of continuing in the race, I began dropping to my knees for the right reasons.

Moving away from the trap of comparison and moving more toward genuine love and conversation with God brought new life to my friendship with her and new life to my desire to connect with my Lord. Looking back, I know He was using that season to prepare me for the dark season to come, when being able to find the blessings would be oh-so important to my spiritual survival. I’m glad that along the way, I stopped comparing my prayers to hers and instead learned to celebrate her and see how He was using her to lead me.

The comparison trap can cause us to feel like we need to catch up, and when we’re willing to examine our hearts through His lens, we can see more clearly where it is He is trying to lead us.