Comparison: Thief of Contentment

Part 1

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This winter is one of the best compared to most Chicagoland winters. Blue skies and fluffy white clouds fill our days instead of the usual dreary gray. Snow is minimal and sunshine abundant.

Comparing our current beautiful winter with past crummy winters makes us happy. Yet, sometimes comparing can leave us feeling discontent.

I see it all the time at the gym. A women looks out of the corner of her eye at another woman to see how she measures up.

Unfortunately, I sometimes participate in this harmful game…more often than I’d like to admit.

Why? What’s the point? We either end up feeling better than, equal to or worse than someone. How is this beneficial?

Here’s what Paul wrote about comparison in 2 Corinthians 10 v.12:  We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

Comparison is not wise because we are focusing on others and how they make us feel, instead of focusing on God and how He feels about us. Psalm 139 vv.13-14 reads:

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

God created our inmost being. Just as a carpenter skillfully builds a home or a painter creates a masterpiece, God’s hand was in designing you and I. Isn’t that incredible? God loves you and I so much! He desires us to be beautiful from the inside out.

Think about your closest friends. What do you like about them? Do you like them because they look good or because they possess qualities you admire such as kindness and thoughtfulness? Usually we are drawn to friends because of who they are.

A woman may look like Cinderella, but act like her evil stepmother and visa-versa. People can become more beautiful or more unattractive as we get to know them. The people who inhabit a special place in my heart are kind, thoughtful, loving and some make me laugh so hard I could cry. But what does God value in a person?

God cares more about our hearts (1 Samuel 16 v.7). He could have made Jesus the most beautiful man on the planet, but instead Jesus is described this way in Isaiah 53 .2: He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

I guess looks weren’t God’s top priority for Jesus. Yet, Jesus was loved by those closest to him. Some were so drawn to him that they dropped everything to follow him (Luke 5:11). Jesus was a selfless servant. Matthew 28 v.20 reads: the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Next time you or I are tempted to compare ourselves with another person, we can focus on the fact that we’re a designed by God with great care. We can thank God for our good qualities and remember Jesus example. We can celebrate our individuality, flaws and all, and serve others without comparing.

I will, however, continue to enjoy this beautiful, non-typical Chicagoland winter! Knowing that I can roller-blade in March instead of shoveling snow is one comparison that will always make me smile.

I’m So Perfect…NOT!

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Have you ever felt like you can’t keep it together?  

Me? Well, I’ve been struggling with insomnia, which causes me to feel irritable, sometimes depressed and well…a bit wacky.

Do I love God? Yes!

Do I read His word and pray? Yes!

Do I praise Him? Yes!

Do I still feel exhausted, irritable and at times depressed? Yes!

These can co-exist!

If we admit it, we want the pretty package.

We want beautiful shiny wrapping paper, fancy ribbon (I prefer the ribbon with wire in it, so you can really fancy it up), and great presentation. We all want to make a great impression.

But what happens when the ribbon is cut and the paper is ripped apart? 

When the package is opened, we can be left feeling vulnerable and exposed. People can see what’s really inside. That can be a scary place, but it can also be liberating.

That’s been my experience. I’ve prayed and seen Dr.’s and followed their advice. Yet, I’m still often wide awake in the middle of the night.

The ribbon is cut off.

I wake up and peel my eyes open another morning.

The paper is torn.

 I don’t always like feeling vulnerable, but it causes me to cling to God like never before.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12 v.9  

Recently, I woke up feeling as gentle and lovable as a hungry grizzly bear . (Tick-tock, tick-tock is not my favorite song in the middle of the night.) Add to that a PMS migraine. Girlfriends, I know a lot of you are feeling my pain. Needless to say, I didn’t wake up singing “Oh What A Beautiful Morning”.

What’s a girl to do?

First, I prayed I’d be loving as I helped the kids off to school (I think I was), then I sat at the top of my stairs with tears streaming down my face as I prayed.

Next, I went back to bed. No! Did I just admit that? (A good German woman is always efficient and organized, and doesn’t need naps.)

Oops. Fail.

After a little more rest and an Exedrin Migraine, I sent the grizzly bear away. I was left with a slightly messy-haired, pajama wearing mama. (At least I didn’t bite anyone).

Then, I did the next efficient, hard-working German thing: I looked on Facebook.

Oops. Fail, but not really.

A few of my friends were chatting about their rough mornings and I felt a little less alone. Then someone posted a picture Jen Hatmaker (a well-known Christian author and speaker) took of herself wearing an uncoordinated outfit, with a mess in the background. Smiling I thought to myself, “I like this woman. She is real.”

Light bulb moment!

I could be messy. (OK, maybe some of the time- I am still German.)

I could laugh at myself.

Soon, I hope to feel like this…

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but until then, I will enjoy the mess.

Friend, maybe you are feeling a bit like me.

Be encouraged. You are not alone. We can love God and struggle at the same time. God cares more about what’s going on inside.

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”–1 Samuel 16 v.7 NIV

We can trust in God’s care and allow him to help us through difficult times. We don’t have to have it all together.

It’s ok not to be perfect. After all…that’s God’s job.

Calling All Prayer Warriors

football_7504cThere are people who want us to live in fear. They want us to fight, disagree or just continue talking about what we should do in light of recent events. This makes them feel powerful. Someone once said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” Some people really believe this statement.

Comments and videos are being posted all over Facebook, YouTube, and Yahoo. Some are full of fear of terrorism, while  others are full of compassion for the refugees. Some people are expressing both fear and compassion. Most people have strong feelings and concerns about what to do with the Syrian and Iraqi migrants.

Philippians 4 vv.6-7 (NIV) reads: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Let’s take a minute to re-read the verse above. We are told not to be anxious, but to pray and then we can have peace.

Pray? Yes, and pray about everything!

Therein lies freedom.

Therein lies peace.

God knows everything! He knows more than you or me or even the experts. He sees the whole picture. There is such incredible power in prayer.

Let’s be proactive and not reactive!

So here are a few things we can pray about:

Dear God,

  • Thank you for all the times you protect me. Even for the times I’m not even aware that you are watching out for me.
  • Please show me how I can help those in need right now (whether through prayer of financial means).
  • Give leaders around the world wisdom on how to deal with the Syrian War and the refugees.
  • Change the hearts of those who wish to harm others. Let them see you clearly and experience your magnificent love.
  • Lord, help me forgive where forgiveness is needed.
  • Thank you that you are in control.
  • Lord, I trust you.

I’m done swimming in my emotions. I’ve reached the shore and am sitting on a rock. I am grounded and resolute. I am going to pray every time another post pops up warning us of danger or telling us how we should feel or respond to the current crisis. Some posts or videos can be helpful and informative, but ultimately it’s not my opinion or others opinions that matter, it’s Gods.

The single most powerful thing we can do now is pray. Prayer unites. Prayer centers our hearts, concerns and fears on God. Through prayer God can move. He can move our hearts to action where it’s needed. (Here is CNN’s link on How to Aid Migrants if you are looking for ways to help: http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/28/world/iyw-migrant-how-to-help/index.html .)

So what are you praying about? Please share your prayer requests or prayers in the comment section and share this post if you feel it may encourage others. Also, remind others to pray!

Let’s get our prayer game on!

Do you need to rest?

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Psalm 23 vv.1-3a (NIV) reads:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
    He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
    he refreshes my soul.

Have you ever tried to put an unwilling toddler down for a nap? It can be quite unsettling. We know the child needs to rest, yet he or she has too much to do. There are drawers to be opened and clothes to be tossed over the shoulder. The most effective way to do this is to use both arms to complete the task. (Not that I would know anything about that. Eh-hem.) There is also toilet paper to be unraveled and thrown onto the floor. So the fight continues until eyelids become too heavy to force open by sheer will.

Some of us can relate to this feeling. We know we need to rest in God’s care. We know that He is in control of everything. Yet somehow we believe that we can solve the world’s problems the moment we lay our heads on our pillows. Or maybe we would rather jump on the bed or just read a book, than take a moment to pray. We might say to ourselves, “I’ll think about it tomorrow” as Scarlett O’hara said in Gone with the Wind. Either way, we can be so distracted. How can we rest?

What problems are you facing? Are you stressing about them, trying to forget about them or praying about them?

Psalm 23 v.1 reads that God is our shepherd. We have everything we need in him. All we need to do is surrender to his loving care. Then, we can rest knowing He is watching out for us. He is watching for wolves. He is watching for coyotes. He is watching us jump on the bed (ok, I wouldn’t advise adults to do this…beds are expensive to replace.) He wants us to know we can rest, not just sleep, but truly rest.

Psalm 46 v.10a (NIV) reminds us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

We can confidently follow the shepherds’ lead as we lie down in the lush green grass. We sense our racing pulse calming as we watch the sun dance on the water. God can bring a stillness to our soul as we cease our own striving. He can then refresh our souls, as we are reminded in Psalm 23 v.3a.

As we sit by the water, we can regain our focus on God. We can trust the shepherd. We can, like an unwilling toddler, learn to rest when we stop striving and rest in God’s care.

How have you been encouraged to rest in God’s care? Are there any verses or quotes that have helped you?