I read it again, this time emphasizing the “is” and “is” before following it up with an emphasis on the educationally-effective, negative commands.
In the devotional book, Sandra Stanley writes:
“When I compare myself to someone who seems to have more, I lean into envy. When I compare myself to someone who has less, I open myself to the temptation of boastfulness and pride.”
My reminders and my takeaways for today include:
…I can be patient
…I can be kind
…I do not need to envy others
…nor, do I need to boast to them
…I do not have to allow pride to puff me up
…stop comparing my perceptions of having more or having less
…I need to focus more on genuinely loving others as He desires me to do so
…real love = real growth in me through Him.
In the Challenge for today, Sandra reminds me that it’s easy to allow thoughts to drift in the direction of envy and pride. She also says that “it’s so much more difficult to intentionally speak words of kindness and patience.”
Not only do I want to intentionally speak words in this way, I want to be able to naturally think this way. Wow, I have a lot of work to do on the inside, so that what flows outward is true and genuine.
The Challenge helped me to take the words from the verse, and it made them real and action-oriented in relation to getting me to think about how I will embrace them as I grow my walk with God and with others.
I want to move toward being more of who it is He is calling me to be.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some of my insights and takeaways from a Bible Study called the Comparison Trap.
The study, written by Sandra Stanley and containing video lessons by her and her husband Andy, is about helping women to recognize the trap of comparing ourselves to others. It’s a 28-day devotional with four video lessons.
The study uses weekly video lessons and group discussion to kick off seven days of devotional time. A Scripture verse, a reading, and a daily challenge help women to discover the ugliness of comparing ourselves to others.
“Ugliness” might sound like a strange word to use to describe the discoveries, but it seems fitting at this point in the study (one of my own takeaways). Comparing ourselves to others leaves us feeling as though we are not enough, don’t have enough and can’t achieve enough, and it can also leave us feeling like we’re better than others or as though they have fallen short. …either option is pretty ugly, right?
Comparison also gets in the way of what God wants for us and how He’d have us walk with Him. It gets in the way of us being able to recognize where we are on our journey through life and why we are here. Comparison gets in the way of a lot, and there’s no win in comparison.
Last night kicked off a four-week, five-session journey with 43 women venturing into the Comparison Trap and some of life with one another. Feel free to check in with me as I share some of my own insights, some of our groups’ takeaways and some of the life change experienced along the way.
Since today is my first post from the study, I wanted to also share some of what our group experienced last night at the start of our short-term group.
Our time together started with each of the women choosing a photo Story Card which reminded them of something they wanted but didn’t have in their life right now. We, then, took 30 seconds to say our name, describe our card, and then share why we chose that card. This can be an intimidating idea to share—even for 30 seconds—in a room full of women (who are apt to start the trap of comparing), but I’ve always been awed at how many women step forward to share a hope or a wound. God starts relationships and takes steps toward healing in these moments.
Andy Stanley’s video lesson brought us to the Land of Er, where we see other women who are rich-er, skinny-er, happy-er, smart-er or more married-er. See! It can get ugly!
He pointed out that “there’s no win in comparison” in the Land of Er.
This led us into Ecclessiastes 4:4-6 where Solomon outlines some of the ugliness and frustrations of where comparison can take us.
And I saw that all toil and all achievement
spring from one person’s envy of another.
This too is meaningless,
a chasing after the wind. Fools fold their hands and ruin themselves.
Better one handful with tranquillity than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind.
Andy asked us to participate in an exercise where we have one hand open—ready to receive and give—and to have the other hand clenched tight. Choosing to live more open-handed can bring us satisfaction, contentment and peace, but living closed-off and tight-fisted can leave us feeling like a fool, at a loss within our circumstances, and missing out on the peace we so often seek.
My takeaways were many, and my page of notes was full. I look forward to the journey through this study as a facilitator, as a participant, and as a woman seeking God’s heart, His hope, and His will in my life.
If you’d like to watch the video, you can download the Comparison Trap app to get started. Better yet, buy the book and DVD, ask a few friends to join you in your family room, and start the study while doing life together.
In case you are wondering, the answer is “no.” I do not work for or with this company, nor have they asked for my posts or endorsements. I’m facilitating a journey for others and walking through it myself. I’m just taking some time to be real to share some of it with you.
I wish you could experience the richness, perfection of timing and incredible way in which the Lord pours out His love very personally to each of us. If you aren’t experiencing this in your life, please… get to know Him, as He desires to know you and walk with you in this way.
This past week marked the start of a “new” study for me. It’s a new study with a group of 23 women, but I did this study over a decade ago, shortly after I entered into a personal walk with Christ. I don’t remember much from it, except that it left me with a few incredible impressions about how God’s Word was completely woven together, and that His love and His message to us is poured out very intentionally in Scripture.
This morning, as I was working on Day 3 of the study, this sentence was on the page about Saul (who was later known as Paul): “NOTHING in Saul’s life would be a waste unless he refused to let God use it.”…and, yes, that word is in all caps in the workbook.
Those in my closest circles have heard me say, “God wastes nothing.” They’ve also heard me say something along the lines of “…anything He allows, He intends to use for our good and for His glory, IF we will only let Him.”
I SAY this a lot, but I needed to HEAR it this morning.
Once again, the Lord showed up to give me a loving encouragement. He did it by using Beth Moore’s words on a page, right after I read Paul’s words from His Word in Galatians.
What she said in this sentence… this concept… these words… somehow, has infiltrated my life (maybe it started when I did this study years ago…I don’t know…), and it is now a part of who I am. But it doesn’t stop there… Because of His amazing presence in my life, I’ve incorporated those words and woven them into His words and His promises for all of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
The Lord truly does waste nothing. Every single thing we experience in life is something He has the capability to use for our good and for His glory, if we will only submit to Him and allow Him to do so.
Winter’s snows have passed. Throughout the cold, harsh months of winter, I enjoyed watching the birds at the feeders.
I have a set of comfy, micro-leopard-print chairs in my library, one of which sits in front of a window. Between the chairs, a not-really-big-enough pedestal table holds my Bible, tablet and study materials, and also a coaster for the all-important cuppa coffee or tea. The cathedral ceiling rises high to the wrought-iron railing lining the loft, and the ebony oak bookshelves with their rolling ladder dominate one end of the room. It’s a haven for me. The room was once a vision and a dream, but now it’s a respite I enjoy.
The chairs used to face into the room, but the view of the birds was always at my back. It’s amazing how “doing a 180” can change a person’s perspective. Turning around one of those chairs opened up my pondering thoughts in a whole new way.
I can accomplish a lot of talking to God and listening for his “voice” from this place.
The two large feeders just a few feet from the window needed to be filled every 10-14 days during the winter. At any given time, there were a dozen birds there to choose between the black-oil sunflower seeds, the cracked corn or the millet. The finches, cardinals, wrens, sparrows, titmice, chickadees and even the occasional downy woodpecker would come to feast from the feeders, while the other cardinals and the juncos seemed content to patrol the snowy ground to catch what would drop. Now that the weather has turned, the community has started to change and move on, but I’m still blessed to see the cardinal family and their new addition, the towhees, and an occasional goldfinch join in to see what might still remain.
There wasn’t a time when they didn’t have food to eat during the winter. The feeders were always there with an adequate supply for them. On snowy and blustery days, there were dozens of birds flitting to and from the bushes to the feeders; on dreary and rainy days there were fewer birds, but still many who came to eat.
But the sunny days? The ones where the snow shimmered like diamonds and the sun warmed the spirit for a welcomed retreat? There was rarely a bird on these days. I’d go to the chair to enjoy my study time, and there would only be an occasional bird to distract my pondering mind.
It boggled me a little. Those sunny days were the days I felt so motivated to read and accomplish more page turning in the Word. I would SO want to sit there to study and watch the birds, but few would come. These were the kind of days I’d MAKE the time to pray for longer periods of time, take the time to talk longer and in a more focused way with God, and would always accomplish so much more. These were the days I loved getting out to walk in the snow or to take the dog out for her runs. The sunshine would bring light into my days like the bleak and gray winter ones could not.
The overcast and almost ne’er-ending days of snow would be the days I’d have to give myself a pep talk to go anything beyond my daily commitment to the Word. These were the days where the distracting voices or mental to-do lists would interrupt my prayers, and the conversations with God were much shorter. These were the days in which my grumbling “might” tend to increase. 😉
But the birds?…they’d be there in abundance…so much so that they often seemed to be fighting one another for a chance to roost on one of the 12 perches to indulge in the seed smorgasbord.
We share a Creator, so how much are we alike? You know…us and the birds?
How much do we yearn to get outdoors on a sunny day and stay close to home on a dreary one?
For those of you who run (um…that is not me), how much do you look forward to a run in the sun and fresh air as compared to a run on the treadmill on the cold and rainy days?
Don’t we all appreciate the crunch of the snow underfoot when the sun is shining overhead, yet grumble at just another winter’s day when the storm clouds skew our view of the sky?
Where were all the birds on those sunny days? Had they, too, been yearning for the sunshine and mild weather? Had they, too, been looking forward to a flight in the fresh air and sunshine? Were they, too, tired of staying close to home in the warmth of the bushes?
I just have to wonder if, they, too, were a little more motivated to meet with their Creator on the bright and beautiful days…
Spring is here.
The birds are moving on, so the feeders will come down for the next few months, as there are now plenty of chances for them to find their sustenance away from my window and my seat in the library.
Spring is here.
It’s not only time to “do a 180” and turn that chair back around, but it’s time to be obedient as I feel Him moving me with gentle direction and giving me plenty of chances to find His sustenance…not only in His Word and in my quiet time with Him, but also out there…out there where the birds fly.
Did you know that God is described as “awesome” in the Bible?
Yes, the actual word is used.
Psalm 47:2 declares:
“For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.”
It was last week in my once-a-week morning study with a great group of women where I realized that God was described as “awesome.” It was in our lesson on Nehemiah, which referred us to Nehemiah 1:5:
“Then I said: ‘Lord, the God of heaven,
the great and awesome God,
who keeps his covenant of love
with those who love him and keep his commandments,…’ “
I’ve read these passages before, but–obviously–I had not read them slow enough or conscientiously enough to see the word “awesome” in the way I do now. (I need to work on having “eyes to see” and “ears to hear.”) That particular word takes me back 30+ years to my teens.
You see, I am an ’80s teen. “Awesome” was a big part of our vocabulary, and it was another way of saying things like “wow,” “REALLY cool,” “pretty fantastic,” or “spazzy good.” In case we struggled with spelling, the cheerleaders at our high school (and yours, too, I’m sure) had a cheer that went:
“A-W-E, (!!) S-O-M-E; (!!!) Awesome! Awesome! Awesome are we!” (!!!!)
“Awesome,” in my mind, was more of a teeny-bopper word…until last week.
During the ’80s, I don’t think I EVER attributed “awesome” to God.
I use a New International Version (NIV’84) of the Bible for my regular study, and my exhaustive concordance is the same version. It lists “awesome” as being used 34 times in the NIV Bible. For comparison’s sake, the New King James Version (NKJV) uses “awesome” 39 times, the New American Standard Bible (NASB) uses it 32 times, and the English Standard Version (ESV) references “awesome” 33 times.
As a part of my homework for this post, I committed to read all 34 entries from the NIV.
I am in awe.
I knew and I know God is awesome, but after reading these 34 references to the word in the Word, I AM just IN AWE of who He is and how my still-’80s perspective of “awesome” falls SO far short of the real meaning of the word.
If you go to Blue Letter Bible , and you type in “awesome” and ask to see it in various versions (I pulled it up in the NASB for this particular example), and then you click the box beside STRONG’S (you can only do that on the NASB and the King James Version on this website; that’s why I used NASB…), you’ll see the word “awesome” come up in red. Just to the right of the word, you’ll see a tiny reference number. If you right-click this and open it in a new tab, you’ll see the same page I linked to above and here.
Scan down this page you just opened, and you’ll see the word broken down, defined and outlined. You can see there are some references to “fear” and “dread,” but you’ll also see references to verses and usages where “awesome” is used to mean, “to stand in awe of, be awed, to honour, to respect, to cause astonishment, and to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe.”
My takeaway — from the verse in Nehemiah we were going over last week and also after reading the 34 NIV references — brings me to seeing God in an even more astonishing and reverent, awe-filled way! He’s majestic, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, and…AWESOME! I knew all of that, but I never deeply tied who He was to the Biblical definition and understanding of “awesome” like I do now. My ’80s idea of the word just can’t match how I see it now.
I just love reading His Word. He never ceases to amaze me. Never. He knows me SO well, and even after many years of studying Him in His Word, I still get excited to learn more about Him…and also about words which describe Him.