Choosing Worry Over Trust

CT.3-7
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

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


But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well.
~ Matthew 6:33

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

My takeaway is short and sweet today:  When we worry, it’s often because we don’t trust God enough.

Someone once shared that concept with me, and it’s just stuck. If we’re seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness (the condition or state we’re in that is approved of and acceptable to God), then we will be in a place where worry won’t be necessary. If we’re seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness, we’ll know and trust that He’s got control over what I can’t control.

Sandra says “worry is a crutch for things we can’t control.”

Have you ever tried to walk with one crutch? It’s awkward. You feel lopsided.

When we worry, we aren’t trusting God to take care of the circumstances. Worry is lopsided. Worry is a crutch, and it makes life unbalanced and uneven.

Don’t worry.
Be trusting.


 

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The Quest for Real Happiness

CT.2-3
Photo and artwork belong to ComparisonTrap.org

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.

How?
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.

 


 

 

 

Finding Hope in Finding Authenticity

Romans 12:2.Pattern from Death ValleyAuthenticity.

It just keeps coming up!

In mid-September, I found myself noticing blog posts, Facebook statuses and tweets on Twitter that seemed to lack a lot of authenticity (from my perspective). I’d read what was written and my first take-away — no matter how good the message — was, “This is more about them promoting themselves than about ________.”

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I read from a few news sites and blogs each day; I check my email twice a day, my Facebook timeline a couple of times a day, and I jump in on Twitter for the newsfeed periodically. You probably do much of the same. Social media and internet news & info has become a big part of our lives, hasn’t it?

Most of the people I follow on my Hope Surrendered Facebook page and on Twitter are good, Christ-loving authors, writers, leaders, pastors, ministry directors and believers I started to follow because their work reflected their walk with the Lord in such a moving way. I’m not sure what was happening in September, but with many of the blogs, posts, statuses and tweets I was seeing, it just seemed to be about THEM, not the God they professed to be serving. Was it just September? Was it just me? I seemed to have experienced a shift where their posts were not primarily about reflecting their walk with the Lord, but about promoting themselves by promoting their walk with the Lord. It irked me.

Pretty judgmental, huh? Yes. I was.

I even posted about it on my Hope Surrendered facebook page at the end of September with a blurb saying, “Today, I am struggling a bit with what I see out there with other Christian bloggers and writers. I have had to ask the question, “When you press “Tweet,” “Post,” or “Publish,” are you promoting yourself or promoting how the Lord is working through you?”

I just didn’t sense authenticity. I liked what they had to say, but I didn’t like the self-promotion that seemed to be going on along with what they had to say. In my mind, it had become bigger than what they were saying.

Then, I realized I needed to stop.

I needed to stop, because I needed to check myself to make sure they were not me.

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We all do it. We post our selfies, our blogs, our statuses, our tweets and our photos not to just express ourselves, but to gain the attention of others. We label it as PR, marketing, promotion, and we justify it as necessary to get our word out.

Was I allowing myself to get out of hand with this? Or, was it just them?

Where is the line?

What is too much?

Is it obvious that I’m trying to balance it out with other things so people don’t see through the promotion?

I found myself asking these questions and searching my own “promotions” for the answers.

But, then I searched me. I searched my heart and looked at my intent. I didn’t like what I was starting to see.

I found myself writing some really deep and profound posts. They were good, but they were GOOD because I had allowed Him to work through me and was willing to share His work in me with others. …nothing wrong with that, as most of that GOOD was because of Him, not me.

But, what wasn’t good was how many times a day I’d check back to my posts to see if someone “liked” them, “retweeted” them, “favorited” them, “shared” them, or commented on them. That wasn’t about Him at all, but about me. …not good. …not good at all.

And, I stopped. I just stopped writing. I had to. I had to figure this out.

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My purpose in starting Hope Surrendered last April was about being able to share the Lord with others so they might find hope through my struggles, my attempts at obedience (to the Lord), my solutions (that came from Him), and my not-even-close-to-perfect walk. I wanted others to see that no matter what challenges would be found on their path, hope, peace and joy were truly possible.

I was doing that. I took the time to go back and read and study my posts, statuses and tweets. Yes, there was a bit of self promotion in there to get His words out through me, but it didn’t cross any lines. My posts were true to my original purpose.

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Any blogger, writer, author, publisher or business owner out there will tell you that marketing, promotion, stats and readership are important. Yes, they are, and I don’t disagree with that fact, but I was skewing my after-posting focus. It was beginning to shift away from my hope where others would see His purpose in their life and toward a focus of checking upon my success. I was crossing a line even if it wasn’t reflected in my posts.

I was crossing a line.

As good as my intentions were, there was a level of pride present in my head when I found myself needing to check and recheck the potential promotion and stats that might have happened after I’d post something.

I needed to stop in order to be able to search myself. For the long-run, this writing venture would only be as successful as my continued foundational reasons for getting started.

What wasn’t ok and what I needed to fully realize was that this writing venture was supposed to be bigger than me. It was supposed to be about Him. That was one of the main reasons I didn’t attach my own name to Hope Surrendered. …I felt it was irrelevant WHO I was; what was relevant was WHO I HAD BECOME through my walk with the Lord.

And…there’s another thing you should know. No one other than my husband knew who Hope Surrendered was at that point. No one. I thought I could be a writer known only as Hope Surrendered without having to give her a real name even though she had a real identity.

And, that’s where I got caught up in the authenticity-thing. I think that’s why the Lord brought out my sense of irritation with others’ promotions. What had started as an irked feeling about seeing how others promoted themselves (by promoting their really good works), led to me realize that I was falling into a trap in my mind by checking and re-checking my stats. I knew it would only be a matter of time until they were me from a promo perspective. If that would come to be, then what I was writing about would be more about selling MY ideas, MY accomplishments, and MY solutions to others by propping ME and my hopes up as the purpose of Hope Surrendered. I could see that coming, and I realized I needed to proceed with great caution…if He would have me proceed at all. I am sure the Lord knew all of this, too, thus the reason for him bringing it all up by showing me what irked me (He has a way of doing that, doesn’t He?)

And…then I realized by keeping ME out of Hope Surrendered, I really wasn’t being fully authentic. I really wasn’t being accountable to anyone else because Hope was mostly a mystery writer.

What a realization!

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For some of you, Hope Surrendered is just something you read, but for others, it has become one way of helping them to find hope.

For me, it’s not just about words on a page or stats on a spreadsheet; it’s about reflecting the Lord’s work in my life to others.

My time away from writing has shown me a renewed calling, a sense of purpose, a need for humility, a need for balance between getting my work out there and trusting He will put it into the hands that need it, and about being true to who I am.

So, I’m back to writing. This time, though, I’m committed to showing you more about who I am and how I work through my own hopes and surrenders with the Lord. I’m also opening up Hope Surrendered to my family, friends and acquaintances who might be curious about her connection to me…and about my connection to her.

Doing so will keep me accountable to others and to Him.

(Forgive me, dear friends and family…it does take a little promotion to let you know what’s been going on with me through Hope Surrendered!)

Doing so will help to reflect my desire for authenticity.

As Believers, we are called to live in a way that pleases the Lord:  “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

In contemplating why the Lord allowed me to walk through all of these authenticity thoughts, I’m brought to Romans 12:2 in which Paul warns us:

“Do not conform 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.”

I am realizing that the Lord allowed me to contemplate all of this in order to, once again, see His ways above my ways and His Will above my own will.

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Note:  If you would like to use the image associated with this post to share with others or to offer encouragement, you are more than welcome to do so.
You can copy it or forward it from this website, from my Hope Surrendered Facebook page, from my Google+ page or from my Twitter images.
I only ask that you not alter the image in any way so that it continues to be referred back to Hope Surrendered. Thanks so much. 

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Finding Hope in Shattered Dreams

Shattered Dreams - Copy

Fantasies and fairy tales are not everyday occurrences. We all know this; the reality of our lives confirms this.

So, how do we find hope when our dreams have been shattered, crushed, or devastated?

I don’t know.

I’m being perfectly honest with you. I just don’t know. A lot of writers want to put out the perfect “do this,” or “rely on this” blog post or book to lead you to the cookie-cutter answers, but the reality of how one finds hope after dreams have been shattered does not come in a neat little package.

What works for one person may not work for another. What worked for me the last time it happened, may not work for me as I see it unfolding again.

Where is the hope?

One of the thought processes I’ve had to fall back upon has been reasoning that the Lord MUST have something better planned for me than what I’ve lost. Before you jump all over me for that reasoning, please let me remind you that my writings on this site are about my journey of surrendering my hopes with the expectation that doing so and doing so unto the Lord will lead me to something better.

Despite the losses, I’ve been fortunate enough to also experience blessings — ones which I might have never seen had my original dream come true. In hindsight, I’ve seen a glimmer of why His answer sometimes seems to be “No.” I just refuse to believe that the “No” He speaks ends with just His “No.” I’ve chosen to believe that His answer is really, “No, I have something better planned for you.”

James tells us that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

Jesus, Himself, tells us to remain in Him with His words remaining in us, and when we do, whatever we wish will be done for us. (paraphrase of John 15:7)

When our dreams are shattered and it looks as though our plans and hopes — even the fully God-honoring ones — may not come true, how do we reconcile that with verses like these?

We just do. These verses and the ones that surround them and are cross-referenced from them, talk with us deeply about lining up our desires with His will. Our dreams are ours, but “thy will be done” in our lives is about letting go of our hopes in order to make room for His hopes in our life. Just as a good, earthly father wants what is best for his child, our Heavenly Father wants the same for us — His children. He doesn’t fall short, but to grant us our dreams just because we’ve dreamed them, might do just that. We might miss the something-better He has planned for us.

I think a lot of us do miss it. We miss it because of our grief, our anger, our hurt feelings, our inability to forgive, the ease of falling back upon the familiar ways, the focus upon Self and not upon others, and even the vengeance we might hope to sow. The something-better that He might wish to lay out before us might not happen, because we are too tied up and invested in the shattered dream that is now past. The choices we make today are not ones that follow the God-honoring path He had us upon. The choices we make today may just shatter more dreams if we aren’t cautious.

This isn’t what has to happen, though. We can look through the shards of shattered dreams and find pieces in there that look like blessings. These pieces might resemble something of the past, a chunk of the present, or a hope for the future. In the whole messy pile of shards, we can still find joy. Happiness might come from a dream-come-true opportunity, but joy comes from Him. He is our vine; we are His branch (John 15:5). His joy is carried through the vine and dispersed to the branches who seek to thrive and prosper on His Word, His ways, and His will.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,     

neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth,     

so are my ways higher than your ways     

and my thoughts than your thoughts.” ~Isaiah 55:8-9

How thankful are we that His ways are well beyond our ways? So, too, must His dreams be greater than our dreams! Despite the hurt and the devastation, we can rely on Him.