not everything is as it seems

not everything

My husband’s friend, Mario, brings a large box of fresh oranges from his farm in Texas to our family on a regular basis. These oranges are like nothing I’ve ever tasted from the grocery store. They are sweet, juicy, fresh, and delicious.

However, by the outer appearance of this citrus that our family refers to as a “Mario Orange,” you wouldn’t think it would taste good. On the contrary, one might think it was squishy, sour, old, and moldy.

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Obviously, we can’t judge a “Mario Orange” from its outer appearance. With it’s bee stings, mottled appearance, and pale color, it isn’t what it seems.

People are much the same way. Some of the nicest, kindest, most gracious people I’ve ever met would not be considered the most attractive. On the other hand, some of the most mean-spirited,  rudest, and malicious people I’ve ever met have been the most physically attractive.

There are many beautiful people who are also kind and many “homely” people who are inconsiderate. However, an important thing to remember is this:

Not everything is as it seems.

That’s why it’s important not to judge someone based on their outer appearance. Instead, we should look to important virtues, such as:

  • God-fearing
  • honest
  • kind
  • loyal
  • trustworthy
  • faithful
  • generous
  • selfless

And the list goes on.

Proverbs 31:30 tells us that Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Proverbs 31 30

What if we saw people through God’s eyes? What if we saw people as being made in His image?

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Our worth does not come from appearance. Our true value does not come from how others perceive us.

If we realized this, we could see things as they really are.

 

 

 

 

 

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what is love?

what is love

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, the day when love is celebrated. But what is love?

The world’s definition of love:

Love is a loosely-used term in today’s culture. It is fleeting, and based on feelings and emotions. It is conditional, must always be romantic, is often selfish in nature, and self-centered. It can come and go at any time, and does not think in terms of longevity, but lives for the moment.

So what is love really?

Love is…

Loving someone even though they are flawed. I hear of single people stating they are waiting for the “perfect person” to come along. There are no perfect people. We are all flawed, all human, all broken. Someone will always have little idiosyncrasies that drive us crazy. Habits that are irritating, and mannerisms that are more than an annoyance. But love sees through that. It sees the heart of the person, flaws and all.

Loving someone through the hard times. If you ask people who have been married for a long time, they will tell you that marriage is not all roses and fun times. Illnesses, injuries, job loss, loss of loved ones, money problems – these can crop up at any time. Love stands beside someone through the surgeries, through the job losses, through the grief of loss. It doesn’t give up on someone, but remains steadfast.

committment

Making sacrifices. If you truly love someone, you will make sacrifices that are in your spouse’s best interests – even if it’s difficult.

Not dependent on feelings. Feelings are fickle at best. They come and go, are ever-changing, and can’t be trusted. Deep, abiding love realizes that feelings are undependable, and instead looks to commitment.

Not dependent on what you can get out of it. The Bible tells us to put the needs of others first and to put them above ourselves in Philippians 2:3. Love puts “self” aside and looks to what benefits the other person.

Forgiving. We all make mistakes. We are commanded to forgive others as we have been forgiven, even when it’s difficult. Love does not hold onto grudges.

1 Peter 4 8

Primarily evident in actions rather than words. Examples include supporting someone in their hobby or a dream, listening without interruption when they are telling you something that’s weighing on their heart, etc.

Loving as the Bible commands. Many verses in the Bible teach us how to love others. First John 4:19 says that we are able to love because God first loved us. Ephesians 4:2 tells us to Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” First Corinthians 13:4-5 says Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

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Sure, these are all nice verses, but how can we love like we are commanded? Only with the Lord’s help. People (including ourselves!) are not always easy to love. Only through dedicated and regular prayer can we love those whom we are called to love. Only as He grows us in grace and tenderness can we love like He does.

Thankfully, He does love us. More than we can fathom. More than we ever know this side of Heaven. And thankfully, God’s love for us isn’t based on feelings. His love is evident through His Son Jesus, today and everyday.

 

 

7 ways to inspire others

7 ways to inspire others

Several people have lately inspired me. My mom, whose severe disabilities stemmed from an accident, is one of them. While she suffers from chronic pain and has little use of her arms and legs, it doesn’t stop her from serving others. It doesn’t stop her from being a prayer warrior and a mentor. Her strong faith, in the midst of the challenges she faces each day, is such an encouragement.

A man at the gym where I teach cycling takes one of my classes. That may not sound unusual as cycling is a popular way to get and stay fit. The unique thing about David? He is blind. That doesn’t stop him from navigating the way from his apartment to the gym and joining in the class. A co-worker told me that he also does the weight circuits without assistance. He never complains and never gives up.

A friend of ours works as an oxygen deliveryman. What sets him apart is that during his deliveries, he stops to shovel driveways, change lightbulbs, retrieve the mail, and any other things he can do to assist his elderly and housebound customers. He doesn’t have to do these things. He chooses to serve others.

How can we inspire others?

Lend a listening ear. Inspirational people are good listeners. They take the time to really hear people.

Persevere.  People who inspire don’t give up. They continue to fight the good fight. Even in the midst of the hardest moments, they trust the Lord to see them through. And they encourage others not to give up either.

1 timothy 6 12

Care. Those who inspire care about others. They are concerned for their welfare and seek to help when possible.

Put others first. Those who are inspirational are not selfish. They seek the good of others above their own good.

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See the best in others. We are so often guilty of jumping to conclusions and finding the worst in others with the judgment of their motives. Instead, give people the benefit of the doubt.

Realize God has a plan for your life. Inspirational people know that, despite what obstacles they face, God is working all things for their good (Romans 8:28). Times can be tough and faith will be tested, but God will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

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Take an active role in the lives of others. Encourage them to be their best.

 

 

 

 

 

the importance of new beginnings

new beginnings

At the beginning of every New Year, many make resolutions that they aim to keep throughout the year. Decisions to make them healthier, fitter, more organized, etc.

In the classic 80s song New Attitude, Patti LaBelle sings of starting a new beginning with a new attitude “from [her] head to [her] shoes.” Every time I hear that song, it brings to mind a crabby lady in need of a personality overhaul.

But what about a new beginning in Christ?

Paul in the Bible received a new beginning – a “start over”, if you will. A harsh man who made it his life’s goal to persecute Christians, Paul was the furthest thing from one who could be used effectively by God. Wasn’t he?

On the contrary. God used Paul in a mighty way. After Paul’s conversion, he was one of the greatest apostles who ever lived. He endured beatings and spent much time in prison for the sake of the Gospel.

Could you be used for God’s Kingdom?

Probably not if you have a “checkered” past, right? If you’ve done things you’re not proud of, sinned in ways you don’t care to admit, you certainly can’t be used. And definitely, God isn’t going to forgive you for all of those things you did. After all, we’re not talking “minor” sins here.

Again, on the contrary.

God can and will use you.

We serve a  God who is One of second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances. Jesus took all of our sins, past and present, upon Himself when He went to the Cross. Your new beginning means your dry erase board is wiped clean from all of the junk that once cluttered it.

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So how can you have a new beginning?

Commit your life to Him. If you have not made Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life, that is the first step.

After you have made a decision for Christ, you are forgiven. You have a new beginning. You also have eternal life and will spend eternity with Him. Nothing can ever take you from His hand (John 10:28). But it doesn’t stop there. Find a Bible-based church where the pastor digs into the Word and preaches it each week. Find a mature Christian to mentor you in your walk.

Spend time in the Bible. The Old Testament is wonderful, and I would highly recommend reading it, but as a new believer, the best place to start is in the New Testament in the Book of John.

Turn your eyes toward Him. Listen and watch things that aren’t contrary to your new faith.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you (James 4:8).

This year, spend time in prayer to dedicate your life to a new beginning for Christ. As 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “the old is gone, the new is here.” And that is definitely something to celebrate!

2 Corinthians 5 17

 

 


 

 

Other posts in the “importance series:”

the importance of relying on God

the importance of gratitude

the importance of honesty

the importance of Christmas

The importance of Christmas

One of my favorite modern Christmas songs is This is Christmas by Kutless.  The words in the chorus are thought-provoking and profound:

What is Christmas?
If there never was a Savior wrapped in a manger
What is Christmas without Christ?

Indeed. What if a Baby, who would grow to be the Savior of mankind, was never born?

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For one, we would definitely not have the Christmas holiday. There would be nothing to celebrate.

I, for one, love the whole idea of Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving, my husband gets a calorie-burning workout hauling the numerous bins of decorations from our Christmas closet up the stairs. He then heads outside to set up “Wally and Eva,” our two laser light devices that shine brightly all over the front of our house and garage.

I love shopping for presents for my family and mailing packages to my extended family in several different states. My daughters and I find great joy in baking delicious goodies for our neighbors and close friends and delivering them a few weeks in advance.

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And don’t even get me started on Christmas music. Let’s just say my Christmas playlist somehow mysteriously (or not so mysteriously) found its way into playing two days before Thanksgiving. Nope, I just couldn’t wait. And I seemed to run even farther and faster on the treadmill while listening to that Christmas playlist.

All of those things in and of themselves are fine. It’s when we replace the real meaning of Christmas with temporary things – and put our focus solely on those things – that we find ourselves in error.

Anything can become an idol – anything that we make more important than God. Can Christmas presents, decorations, food, tinsel, and laser lights become idols?

Absolutely.

Especially presents.

Or add in the busyness of this time of year. The pressure to live up to expectations to create the holiday a certain way for others, as well as ourselves, can become a stress-fest.

Or the debt that we manage to accumulate while finding all those perfect presents for everyone on our gift list.

Do we even remember – and take time to realize – that the perfect present is right before us? The gift of eternal life.

So I’m reminding myself this year that it is all about the Savior that was born in the manger. It’s all about that Baby that was born on earth and grew to be a man who would give His life for all mankind. A brutal death with the sins of the world on His back, Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice.

For me.

For you.

For us all.

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This holiday season, let’s make Christ the ultimate reason we celebrate.  Let’s place Him in His rightful place of importance. Ahead of the trees, the food, the presents, the Christmas music, and the laser lights.

Let’s do more than celebrate Him. Let’s show our gratitude for what He has done for us. Not just on December 25, but on every day of the year.

 


 

Check out some of the other recent articles on this blog:

Interview and Giveaway with Author Debby Lee!

9 memorable Christmas traditions for families

8 great Christmas gift ideas for wives

5 things a man should never buy his wife for Christmas

Movie Monday – Christopher Robin

 

 

the importance of gratitude

the importance of gratitude

My oldest daughter is a logophile – someone who loves words. Every day, before I begin work, she opens a tab on my computer for Dictionary.com for the “word  of the day.”

Today’s word? Thanksgiver. The definition, according to Dictionary.com is a person who gives thanks.

An appropriate word for all times of the year, but perhaps more easily remembered during the Thanksgiving holiday.

Why should we express our gratitude to God?

Below are a few of the many reasons.

  • He is deserving of our praise.

Psalm 9 1

  • He tells us to “…give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18a). Not always easy in those times of trial that we all experience. But His grace and mercy sees us through even the worst of times.

 

  • He gave us eternal life. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) 

 

  • When we have a grateful heart, we are less apt to complain or look dismally at our circumstances, no matter how bleak they may seem.

Charles Dickens

  • It reminds us how dependent we are on Him.

 

  • His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

Psalm 136_1

  • It is a way to express worship to our Creator.

 

  • A grateful heart comes humbly before the  Lord and realizes all that He has done.

 

  • Gratitude reminds us of how much we have, not how much we lack.

Melody Beattie

One of the ways I have found to be especially important in showing thankfulness is by staring a gratitude journal.

It doesn’t have to be fancy. Any notebook will do. At the end of each day, list the things you are grateful for. It’s amazing the things we forget.

How often do I thank the Lord for His many blessings? The gift of His Son? Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross? That He chose me to be His? For food on the table? Good health for my family and me? His protection? My husband’s job?

Speaking of His protection, how many times does God protect us and we don’t even realize it? The car accident that could have happened. The illness we avoided. The lurking, unseen dangers that He has saved us from. By His grace, we emerged unscathed from potential dangers we never even gave thought to.

Not only today, but everyday, be a thanksgiver. Come before the Throne with humility, thanksgiving, and praise to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

How do you express your gratitude to the Lord?


 

For another post about gratitude, see Thankful for the Small Things.

For more posts in The Importance Series, check out the following:

The Importance of Relying on God

The Importance of Friendship

The Importance of Compassion

The Importance of Honesty

The Importance of Avoiding the Gossip Trap

The Importance of Influence

The Importance of Kindness

The Importance of Voting

 

 

the importance of relying on God

Relying on God

Everyday I rely on God for the big things: every breath, health and safety for my family, food, clothing, shelter, my husband’s job, help and healing for my mom, nephew, and niece for their chronic illnesses and pain; and the list goes on.

But what about the seemingly “small” things? The things that some people don’t even give a second thought to? What about relying on God for those things?

Take, for instance, my fear of needles. I have to prepare myself a week in advance for my annual wellness blood draw, and I have to lie down to avoid fainting during the procedure. It doesn’t help they can never find a vein, and that when they do, my little teeny selfish veins refuse to give up blood no matter how hydrated I am. Or the recent crown the dentist put on a cracked tooth. The several needles she used to numb me was traumatic.

But to others, needles are not a big deal. But for those of us with what I call “glitches in our systems” who have strange, but common fears like needles, relying on God to get us through the needle moments is huge.

Relying on God is an essential part of our faith. We need Him. Everyday. He tells us to trust Him, to rely on Him, that He will supply our needs and strengthen us.

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I’m thankful in a way that I do have needle phobia. When my recent crown was completed (my daughters called this my “coronation,” so I have officially been crowned, lol!) the gratitude and humility that washed over me was immense. Tears filled my eyes, as I praised God for yet again getting me through another “needle moment in life.”

Had I not struggled with the crown or the annual blood draw, or the times throughout my life when I’ve had IVs (pregnancy, appendicitis, and a dental surgery), then I would not have been overwhelmed with the gratitude of God’s provision for the small things as well as the big things.

So how do we show our gratitude to our Creator for all that we rely upon Him for?

  • Praise Him often. For everything we know about and everything that He has protected us from that we may not even have realized.
  • Praise Him with sincerity.  True devout humility to the One who gives us our every breath.
  • Praise Him with worship. Praise Him with a song and exalt His holy name. I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69 30

  • Praise His name when talking to others. Tell them of His wondrous works and how you relied on Him – and He came through for you.
  • Praise Him through a gratitude journal. Keeping track of answered prayers and the times you relied on Him is a good way to help remember all He has done.

What seemingly “small” things have you relied on God for lately?