Archive for the ‘Encouragement’ Category

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude” Colossians 2:6-7 (NASB).

I’ve been reading a lot lately about growing in God and getting to know His Word more. In the course of that reading and studying, I’ve found numerous references to being firmly rooted in the Word of God. It’s easy to say to be firmly rooted, but what exactly does that look like? I have heard so many different ideas about how to be firmly rooted, but I’m not just wondering about HOW to be firmly rooted. I want to know what that looks like to be firmly rooted.

This morning, I was reading Colossians 2:6&7, and I think I now have a better understanding of what being firmly rooted looks like. I may not have a full picture, but I do have a bigger glimpse of what that looks like. I believe there are three characteristics that someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will have based on these two verses.

1) Someone who is firmly rooted in God’s word will be walking in Christ. What does that mean? Well, that means this person is so in tune with the Lord and His Word that He lives out and copies the way Christ lived. That means, he doesn’t judge someone by past or present sins. This person accepts others as they are and cares about them regardless of their lifestyle, habits or character. Our Pastor actually spoke about this last night in our Wednesday evening service. One thing he said, really struck home to me. I’ve heard it before, but last night it sank in a little more. He said, “Acceptance is not approval.” I can accept someone without approving of his/her lifestyle. I don’t have to like everything about someone or agree with everything someone says to accept that person for who he/she is.

Being rooted in God’s Word also means that this person is more likely to be aware of and to actively seek to avoid compromising situations. It doesn’t mean this person hides in a hole and does nothing. No, instead, it means that this person is cognizant of the things that tempt him/her and then does what is necessary to avoid those situations whenever possible. What walking in Christ doesn’t mean is that this person is perfect. Unfortunately, nobody will be perfect in this imperfect earth.

2) Someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will be built up in Christ and established in his/her faith. This means that this person knows what he/she believes and continues to live in accordance with that. I can’t know what I believe if I don’t spend time in God’s Word and really take the time to study and understand what God is saying. If I do that, then I will grow in my faith, and I will know what I stand for.

3) Finally, someone who is firmly rooted in God’s Word will be overflowing with gratitude. That means, no matter what happens in life, this person is grateful for the good things he/she has, even when things aren’t going exactly as well as he/she would like. It means this person chooses to be grateful in spite of the bad things that happen. This is the part I have the most difficulty with because it’s really hard to be thankful when I feel like nothing is going right. But no matter my situation, I have a choice. I can choose to be grateful. Or I can choose to complain. Either way, I am the one who has to live with myself. Do I want to be joyful or miserable? It’s my choice. I want to choose gratefulness.

I’m so glad that I was able to read these two verses this morning because they encouraged me to dwell on what God has to say to me in His Word, and as a result, I am encouraged to stop looking at the past and worrying about the future. Instead, I want to focus on what God has for me today. I want to grow and learn. Most of all, I want to be firmly rooted in God’s Word.

Your turn! What characteristics you think someone rooted in God’s Word would have besides these? What other things can we keep in mind about growing in God? I hope to hear from you!!

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: limowreck666 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: limowreck666 via Compfight cc

Have you ever been mad at God – I mean really mad at Him? Have you ever had something happen that made you question why God would allow it? I know I have. I mentioned a few days ago that I was mad at God. See, things haven’t really been going the way I’d have liked them too lately. I have several situations come up where things just went a whole different direction than I expected. I might have mentioned a few times before that when things go opposite of what I expect, I tend to get upset. Well, in this case, several different things didn’t go my way, and I’ve been struggling with being mad at God. After all, He is all powerful, so He could stop those things from happening.

Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I have been spending time in God’s Word in the hopes that I would somehow figure it all out. The reality is, I may never know why things don’t go as I expect them to. Does that mean I should give up and throw in the towel and walk away? I don’t think so. In fact, I have been blessed because I have made the choice to stick with God.

This morning I was reading Numbers 11, and a verse popped out at me and hit me right between the eyes. I couldn’t avoid it because it was like God was talking directly to me. In this chapter, the people are complaining about the manna being the only food they were eating. They wanted some meat. Now, God was feeding them this great food that came directly from Him, and they were going to complain? (Sound familiar?) So, anyway, Moses goes and complains to God about how much the people are complaining and said he couldn’t handle all those people by himself. So, God told Moses to gather 70 elders and He was going to put His spirit on them so they could help Moses. Then He told Moses He was going to provide meat for the children of Israel, and that they would get meat for not just one day but for a whole month until they were sick of it. Be careful what you wish for right?

So, Moses, being a lot like me I think, asked God, “I have 600,000 people with me, and you say you’re going to give them meat for entire month. Should we go kill our flocks and herds so that we’ll have enough? Or should we get all the fish from the sea?” Obviously Moses was a bit skeptical about the whole thing. I’ve been there. And then comes the verse that smacked me right between the eyes. In verse 23 God says, “Is the LORD’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not” (NASB). God says, let’s just see if I can do what I say I can do.

I often find myself wondering how things are going to work out. I question God’s judgment and wonder how a certain situation can ever be made better. The reality is, it’s not my job to worry about that. God is in charge. When God is in charge, I have nothing to worry about. Things may not go the way I anticipate, but I have to ask myself, “Is God big enough to handle that? Do I really believe He can?” And the reality is, there is nothing in my life that God cannot (and has not) handle when I stepped out of His way and stopped fighting. I am learning that I don’t have to understand the reasons why things happen. I need to spend more time watching God work. And He always works.

Your turn, have you had situations where you felt like God was giving you more than you could handle? What do you do in those situations? Do you, like me, whine and complain? Or do you trust that God knows what He’s doing and let Him work? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit:  By Martin Wessely  (Unsplash.com)

Photo Credit: By Martin Wessely (Unsplash.com)

I am not one to try a lot of new things. I prefer to stick with the things I know and like, rather than try something that I might not like. However, lately, it’s been getting to the point where I am tired of the same old thing. I feel like I am trapped in a room, looking out at the world and seeing everything I wish I had the guts to do pass me by. A lot of that has to do with the fear of trying something new and not liking it or maybe even failing at it. I think for me, failure is the biggest fear I have. I think somehow, deep inside, I think it means that somehow I am lacking – that somehow I’m not good enough.

Much of my fear has to do with the fact that I have done so many stupid things in my past. I have a litany of events in my life that would illustrate the extent of how stupid I can really be. And for the past few years, I think I’ve done all I can to distance myself from that failure and make myself out to be this person who seldom messes up. It’s all about the image because if anyone saw who I really had been, they would perhaps not like me quite so much. Forget the fact that my past has taught me so many things. To let others see me as I really am might mean rejection. And I have faced enough of that in my life – at least that’s what I tell myself.

The reality is, my past is my past. I can’t change it, but I can look back on it and see how far I have come. Or rather, I can look back and see how far God has brought me. He took a scared, stupid, insecure little girl and He has grown me into someone who, while still scared, and still able to do stupid things, and often insecure, is also learning to be courageous and strong and to depend on Him. As a result, recently I have started to do things I never really expected I’d be able to do. For example, I went back to New York, where my roots are a few weeks ago. To say that was a step out of my comfort zone is an understatement. I was terrified. But I did it. That’s just one example, but I have others that I can point to. Except, that’s not the point today.

When I refuse to step out and take a risk – whether it be failure, rejection or something else unpleasant – I do myself a disservice. I put myself in a cage. I lock myself up into a tiny little box and instead of growing, I shrink. I go deep into myself and I lock everyone else out. And that’s a lonely life.

Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it (perfection) yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (NASB). Paul had a lot to be ashamed of in his past. After all, he persecuted, imprisoned and caused the death of many followers of Christ before he went through is own conversion experience. He could have chosen to hate himself, belittle himself, or lock himself away from other believers. Instead, he chose to do the opposite and as a result started many different churches, not to mention the prevalence of his letters being included in the New Testament.

Paul went on to say in verses 15-16, “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (or mature), have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained” (NASB). In other words, live up to who you are. I am a child of God. As a result that means I am sanctified, redeemed, and can rest in God. I don’t have to keep looking back in shame at my past. I can use it as a learning experience, but my life isn’t in the past. I am to be embracing what God has for me in the future, and that is that I am going to get to be with Him someday. And if that’s the case, then what do I have to be afraid of here? What am I avoiding?

With that in mind, I have a few “bucket list” items I am planning on this year, such as kayaking, driving to New York with my kids this summer, taking a chance and entering a couple of writing contests this year, and so much more. And I can do those things because I am free. Yes, I might fail. Yes, things can go wrong. Yes, I can get hurt and it’s going to be a risk. But, in the end, I am going to grow and learn, and most of all, I am going to escape from that cage I have locked myself into.

What about you? Have you locked yourself in a cage too? Are you avoiding certain things out of fear of failure or rejection? What do you do to get past those feelings and live the life God has called you to?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo Credit: celebdu via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: celebdu via Compfight cc

Sometimes God hands me the unexpected. I don’t generally like the unexpected because it’s, well, unexpected. Those who know me, know I like to plan things and when I plan, I try to control pretty much any aspect I can control. So, when the unexpected happens, there goes my plan, and there goes my equilibrium. I’ve been known to fall apart at the unexpected. But I’m getting better at learning to embrace the unexpected.

Just before my trip to New York a couple of weeks ago, I was approached by my daughter. She asked me if I could help her get in touch with her biological father. To say this was unexpected would be lying. To say it was unexpected at that moment in time, is not lying. I knew she was going to come sooner or later, but I had kind of hoped it would be later. But, it wasn’t, and she asked. As difficult as it was for me to say, and as much as I hated that it came at an unexpected time, I told her that I would help her, but that she needed to give me until I came back to do so, in order for me to have time to think about it, pray about it and basically prepare myself for the task. Without going into any detail because 16 years is too long to hold a grudge, suffice it to say, the situation with the father of my children was not a good one. There was a lot of grief and hurt and pain for me in that relationship, and to set that aside for the sake of my daughter was not an easy task.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago, when I finally got up the courage to reach out. It was not easy for me. It was extremely difficult. I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to reopen old wounds. I was terrified of what the response would be. I was worried that my daughter would be hurt in the process. So, imagine my surprise when the unexpected happened yet again. The first message was hard, but the kind response I received in return has made it that much easier. There was no judgment or unkind words. There was no accusation or denial. There was, however, acceptance and joy that after all these years, my daughter wanted to know her father. I don’t really know exactly what I expected, but I do know it wasn’t that.

I would love to say that it’s all “peaches and cream,” and that things are going to go well. It’s a little too early to know that at the moment. But, what I can say is that I am encouraged by the response I received. I am hopeful that things will continue to go well. But, one thing I’m starting to learn about the unexpected – bad or good – there is always a learning opportunity. There is always a chance to take the lessons and apply them. There is always room to grow – and without the unexpected, those opportunities might not exist.

Your turn. Have you been handed the unexpected? Do you embrace it or try to avoid it? What do you do when the unexpected comes your way?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Question MarkSo, here I am in Bath, NY, sitting in my hotel room after a morning of worship at my friend’s church. I expected to like it. I mean, what’s not to like about church? Personally, I generally love church. It’s probably the reason I spend so much time at mine. But what I didn’t expect was to hear the Lord speak to me through the words of another woman sharing her story. I expected to hear God’s Word today, and I got that. I expected to get something from the sermon, and I did get a little from that. The real wisdom, however, came from the words of this woman’s story.

I knew walking into the room, that I was going to hear a testimony today. I thought I was prepared to hear it – and to some extent I was. I didn’t expect to be in tears throughout it. I didn’t expect to learn anything profound from it. I didn’t expect to relate. I mean, my life is so totally different from the lives of these women – and yet, it is so surprisingly similar. This woman, this beautiful, kind, friendly woman, shared about the love of our Lord and what He has done in her life. She shared her good, but she shared her sorrow over the death of her beautiful baby boy as well. And she said, “If I were given the choice to have him back, but my husband and I to not be where we are at with God today, I’d say no.” She shared that God had used the sorrow to bring them closer together and make them stronger in the Lord and with each other. And so, as difficult as that was (and I’m sure still is), she calls it all good because of of how God has used it to help her grow.

I’ve never really looked at how the bad in my life has been used for good. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have, but I’ve never been able to reconcile myself to the fact that I had to go through it to get to where I am at today with God. But, looking back, I have to say, God has used every “bad” event in my life to bring me closer to Him. There are things that I have railed at God for and begged Him to take away. Things I have said, “Why me? Why do I have to go through this?” Or “Why now, God? Why does this have to happen now?” And I don’t think it’s wrong to ask why. But that brings me to the part of her story that made me think. It wasn’t so much that I hadn’t heard it before because I have. It was more that it hit me differently today. She said, “We won’t always know why something happens the way it does or why we have to go through something. But God uses those things”(or something to that effect – since I didn’t write it all down, you’ll have to accept my inadequate paraphrase).

The fact of the matter is, I don’t need to know why God allows things to happen. I just need to know that He can use them for good. And by now, you’d think I’d have learned that because I have had so many opportunities to do so. But sometimes I still feel like maybe this will be the time it doesn’t work out for good.

I’m glad that I went to my friend’s church today. I’m glad I got to hear this woman’s story. It affected me far more than she will probably ever know. I hope that I don’t forget the lessons I learned from her.

What about you? Are there things you’re asking God, “Why me?” or Why now?” What do you do remind yourself that these things can be used to grow you and teach you?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature

Photo by Paul JarvisI wrote a few days ago about the need to face forward while running and in life, so that I will not miss the obstacles that are in my path. I mentioned how looking down or to the sides could cause me to stumble. And that is totally accurate. But, the past few time I ran, I realized something else. I am a big picture person. I am the type of person who sees what the end product should look like and then I make a plan to get there. I’m very good at that. What I’m not good at is planning for the problems that might come up. See, I have in my mind this perfect plan where everything will just go as I intend and nothing will go wrong. So I keep my eyes on that big picture, and I plow forward. However, one thing I’ve noticed as I run is that, if I look too far ahead on the path, I “forget” about the obstacles in front of me. I “forget” to pay attention, and the next thing I know, I’m tripping over an obstacle in my path. Or, if I’m looking too far ahead, I miss the hidden obstacles. You know, the ones you can’t see because they’re buried under the pine needles or leaves.

This morning, as I was running, I tripped on one of these hidden objects. There was a root that was buried under a bunch of pine needles, and I hit my foot on that root. I didn’t fall, but I almost did because I was so busy looking ahead, I forgot to pay attention to what was right in front of me. I tend to do this in life, as well. I get caught up in trying to reach my end goal, that I sometimes miss the things going on right in front of me. Perhaps my daughter has an issue, but I don’t notice because I’m so focused on following my “perfect plan.” Problems don’t fit into my perfect plan. Or maybe there is someone in need, but I don’t notice because I’m so focused on my goal. Or maybe it’s just that I fall into a behavior that is not in my best interests because I “forget” to pay attention and avoid it. Whatever it is, I am missing the obstacles, and I get tripped up. When that happens, I guarantee you, I don’t respond in the most gracious manner.

So, what can I do to make this better? For one thing, I can choose to pay attention to what is going on around me. Believe it or not, running has helped me to notice things more because I have become more focused. I am learning to focus on what is going on around me, while still moving toward my goal. Because I am succeeding in this area, I am gaining more confidence in succeeding in other ways. But I believe there are a few things I can do to make sure that my plans are reasonable, and that I am better able to see and avoid (or better deal with) the obstacles in my path.

 1) Ask God to help me make better plans.

James 1:5 says that if anyone lacks wisdom, then we just need to ask God, and He will give it generously and without making us feel bad about asking. I don’t know about you, but I can always use more wisdom. In addition, Proverbs 16 has a lot to say about the plans of a man. Verse 1 says, “The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.” Verse 3 states, “Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.” And, finally, verse 9 states, “The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” So, if I am giving my plans to God, and letting Him lead me, then I have a better chance of succeeding because He is all-powerful and best able to help me to succeed.

 2) Ask for counsel from friends or others who may be able to provide insight.

When I just go off on my own thoughts and make a plan, I often don’t look at all angles. I might see one or two, but sometimes I miss the most obvious ones because I am so busy looking at the big picture. So, getting the advice of others can help me to make a better plan. This is in line with biblical teaching as well. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.” So, if I get good counsel, I have a better opportunity to succeed. This is really hard for me to do because I like to think I know what I’m doing, and I don’t like to bother people with my problems. But one of the things I have started to learn over the past few years is that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, that is often showing more wisdom than anything else I could do.

 3) Give myself grace when I fail.

I will never succeed all the time. There are going to be times that I fail. I have a tendency to give myself a hard time when I make a mistake, and I don’t let myself forget it. But I need to learn to give grace to myself when I fail, and instead of wallowing in my failure, I need to get up and try again. Failure isn’t permanent. I still have an option to get up and try again, and maybe the next time I will succeed.

So, the next time I make plans, I will ask for wisdom, help and not dwell on my failures. And maybe, just maybe, I will see success with defeating the obstacles in my path.

What about you? Do you find it easy to miss the obstacles right in front of you because they don’t fit into your plans? How do you avoid or deal with those obstacles? What has worked for you?

~Until Next Time,

 Karen Signature
unsplash_Path through trees - by Orlova Maria

Photo by Orlova Maria

I have shared before that I took up running. This is not the first time that I have done that. I first tried running in 2012. I hated it. I thought it was horrible and hated the way I felt when I was done. It just plain hurt. I stopped running for a while, but because I had promised my daughter that we would start running together again, I took it back up in September. I did well for a while. Then my daughter started flaking on me, as teenagers sometimes do. But I didn’t give up. I ran long enough to be able to get through a 5K, and then I quit for about a month and a half. I still hated it. I liked the way I felt afterward, but I hated it while I was doing it. Then I started up again mid-January. I’ve been running for about three weeks, and guess what! I have found that I am really enjoying it. I never thought I’d say that, but I enjoy the feeling of strength I get when I get done with the workout. I love that I feel like I have accomplished something. And it gives me time to think.

Those who know me well, know that my favorite place to run is a preserve near my house. There is nothing like running on a path through the trees, enjoying the beauty and sounds of nature. There’s only one problem. I tend to get distracted. When I get distracted, I take my eyes off the path and look around. I might hear a sound and want to figure out what it is. Or maybe I’ll see something out of the corner of my eye. Whatever it is, I take my eyes off the path. And that is when disaster can strike. See, I know the paths of this preserve really well, and most days that’s great. But after a storm, debris can get on the path, and if I am not paying attention, I can trip over it, or twist my ankle, or worst of all (or maybe just the embarrassing of all), fall flat on my face (and yes, that has happened to me). I can have the same issue if I am looking DOWN at the path right in front of me. If I am looking down, I am not giving myself the opportunity to see the obstacles right in front of me, and by the time I do, sometimes I can’t avoid them.

Recently, I was running through the preserve in the morning after it had stormed in the night. As I was running, I got to thinking about the fact that I have my best runs, and I have the least mishaps, when I keep my eyes on the path ahead. When I am looking forward, I see what is coming, and I have time to prepare for them. I am not blinded by what is immediately in front of me, nor am I distracted by the sights and sounds around me. That, in turn, caused me to think about life, and how much like running it can be. Allow me to explain.

In life, it’s so easy to get distracted by the things around me. What is that person doing, or what is that person saying, or why can’t I be like that? Or maybe it’s getting distracted by the stuff that looks fun, but in the end turns out to be empty and devoid of meaning in the long run. And when things go wrong, it’s so easy to be focused on the here and now, that I forget to think about where I am going. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (NASB). I am called to run with endurance the race before me…not looking at my circumstances, which can change with the wind, but keeping my eyes fixed on Jesus. I have a choice. I can either keep my eyes on my circumstances and wallow in despair, feeling sorry for myself. Or, I can fix my eyes on Jesus, and run the race, remembering that this world is not my home. My home is with Jesus. And that is what I need to run toward.

My circumstances lead to a bigger picture. When I look back at the things I have gone through, and the obstacles I have overcome, but could have avoided, I am reminded of how far God has brought me. I could stay mired in my fears and my self-doubt and my self-pity, but instead, I want to choose to run this “race” to reach the final prize, which is to be with Christ. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable reward, but we an imperishable. Therefore, I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (NASB). I want to run in such a way that I might win the prize. I have an aim, and that is to live for Christ and leave a legacy for those who come behind me. I want to be part of the “cloud of witnesses” for the next generation. So, I am resolved to discipline myself in such a way that I point others to Jesus. I am not perfect, and I never will be, but I want to strive to honor God in all I do, no just the things that I feel like honoring Him.

What about you? Are you being mired down by your circumstances, or are you looking toward the bigger picture, realizing that all things have a purpose? How do you remind yourself to keep your eye on the prize? What are you aiming for?

~Until Next Time,

Karen Signature