Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1
It seems like everybody has that friend who just always has the right thing to say at precisely the right moment. I admire those fast thinking, quick witted folks who just spit out the perfect set of words in a flash and leave everyone else speechless. I especially enjoy hearing that person when they speak words that are kind and truthful. More than once I’ve observed as a person like that has left a group of people just scratching their heads in silence thinking, “humm, good point, why didn’t I think of that!” Let’s be clear…I am NOT that person! I’m more like the one who mulls the conversation over and hours later thinks, man, I should have said___!
Instead of being the person with the right words, I’m beginning to realize being quiet is usually a much better choice for me. The story about the temptation of Jesus appears in three of the Gospels and each contains a huge detail I’d never noticed before. Satan is talking away to Jesus, he’s wheeling and dealing and carrying on but Jesus doesn’t really speak back. There is no conversation, no argument, no points to defend or no rebuttal on Jesus’ part. Jesus doesn’t enter conversation at all. Jesus does speak, but he doesn’t converse. After Satan huffs and puffs, Jesus speaks one line of truth. He doesn’t make something up. He doesn’t embellish or brag or even make Satan feel like the “despicable nothing slug” he really is, he simply quotes one line of scripture. He doesn’t use extra words because he grabs the perfect ones right from the book of “the only great words we ever need” book; the Bible. What a genius idea!
After this was pointed out to me in a sermon by a wonderful priest, he said some words that hit my heart. He said, “Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!” At first I smugly sat in my pew thinking, well of course not, I certainly would never enter into a debate or a battle with Satan. But, as he often does, Jesus showed up in my heart with a gigantic flash light and showed me exactly where I let it happen again and again. Of course it’s never a toe to toe confrontation like the one Jesus and Satan had but the little battles creep in and bring their ugliness along. Through some prayer I came to realize that I do listen to Satan. That voice that says, “you aren’t smart enough” or “go ahead and try to do that; you’ve failed there before and you’ll fail again” or the one that goes “yeah, this whole ministry and blog thing; do you really think you’re qualified to do God’s work”. He starts battles that leave me wondering if I’ve been a good enough wife, mom, teacher or friend. He creeps into my head with thoughts about past mistakes, weaknesses and calls to my mind the dozens of times a day I fall desperately short and I listen. In my head I make excuses or even agree with him for a bit.
Since this Gospel has been a big part of my Lenten Prayer, the Lord has led me to a few things. First, I need to be like Jesus and silence his voice with one well chosen line from God’s truth. Second, like Jesus, I need to recognize whose voice it is and quiet it immediately. I’m not called to argue or defend or refute. My job is to stand on the truth of God and walk away from the conversation. I have this sign with my middle lovelies. I’ll clamp four fingers down onto my thumb like an alligator closing it’s mouth and say “ZZZT”. All talking stops! Lately when I hear that voice that tells me things that aren’t true, I give Satan the ZZZT sign. I’m also making a list of one line truths from Scripture to go along with my ZZZT. A raw and honest look at how it works; when I looked at the gorgeous pictures from Jason and Katie’s perfect wedding day I heard that voice say, “Geeze Sheri, you should have worked harder and lost more weight before the wedding because that dress would have looked so much better in a smaller size.” I quick did my ZZZT and said “You are precious in my eyes and glorious because I love you. Isaiah 43:4” I’ll be completely honest, I had to repeat it a couple (or couple dozen) times before it choked out that ugly voice but it’s my beginning at ending the conversations! Where do you need to begin?
A Seed To Plant: Make a list of those conversations you need to put a stop to and then google a line from Scripture that tells the truth. Stand on that truth and remember Jesus didn’t enter into conversation with Satan and neither should we…ever!
Blessings on your day!
…”Speak Lord for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9
When I was growing up, if I would misplace something and say, “I can’t find it!” my dad would always say, “I’m sure it will be in the last place you look.” He was right…it always was but as a kid that line really bugged me! I
think it probably bugged me because what I would have rather heard him say was, “I’ll help you find it.” That simple statement of the obvious and the reality that I was on my own was his very simple way of letting me know I was responsible. If I wanted that missing object badly enough I had to invest the thought, energy and action into finding what I was looking for.
I heard someone say a couple weeks ago, “God just never listens to me!” I’m sure we’ve all felt that way a time or two when things got bumpy but the question that should always follow that statement is , “How well do I listen to God?” As Christians we can be assured of God’s presence in our lives but sometimes we have to do what my dad always pushed me to do and take responsibility for finding His loving presence in our lives. God speaks to us, but it’s not a bold, booming deep voice from the clouds. God speaks to us daily if we’re seeking and listening. There are four ways He makes us aware of his presence, His voice, and His will.
The first place God speaks to us is through Scripture. Once while I was in the middle of a struggle, I tried a dozen things on my own to make it better and finally after no improvement I did what I should have done first and gone to God’s word for strength, comfort and counsel. When I did finally ask God to speak to my heart, I landed in James and these were the words I read; Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. I heard that loud and clear!
The second way God speaks to us is through circumstances. Sometimes we call them coincidences, but God deserves the credit for those things, not fate. God so loves each of us, He arranges and organizes events and circumstances all the time just to show us how much He loves us and cares for us. Keep your eye out for them!
The third way is through people. Sometimes the right person with just the right word comes along at just right time and it seems to change everything. That’s God, speaking through others. A lady shared a story just recently about being in the hospital and as she was being prepped for surgery a nurse walked in to assist and they just “out of nowhere” started talking about trusting God and feeling His peace. She said it completely removed her fear and she rolled down the hall with an amazing sense of calmness and confidence.
The fourth way God speaks to us is through prayer. My husband and I couldn’t have raised our children together if we had never talked. I can’t teach a room full of middle lovelies if we don’t talk. I think we understand that we would stumble around in such chaos and frustration if we didn’t communicate with each other. Prayer is our communication with God. It’s the most important conversation we have each day but yet it’s the one that sometimes gets pushed to the side when we get busy or frazzled. The biggest mistake we make is to think we don’t have time to pray. That would be like trying to drive somewhere and being too busy to put gas in the car.
If you feel like something’s missing in your life seek the giver of all good things. He will be the last place you look and now you have four choices.
A Seed To Plant: Pick one of the four and start seeking Him. I’m willing to bet the more you seek Him in these four places, the more you’ll find Him.
Blessings on your day!
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Isaiah 40:29
When my oldest son was in the fourth grade, I volunteered to help him and his friends make a piñata for their class Halloween party. The boys had a great time slapping on the newspaper strips drenched in the gooey flour paste. Each little narrow strip of newspaper was slopped on the outside of a Mylar balloon until the boys thought they’d covered every visible speck of silver balloon. After getting the boys and the table cleaned up, I picked up the piñata to set it in the sun to dry. As I reached down to grab it, I nearly threw out my shoulder the thing was so stinkin’ heavy! Holy cow…how could something made out of such tiny strips of weightless newspaper collect into a creation weighing as much as a toddler? The best laugh of all came the following week at the party when it practically took a sledge hammer to break the thing.
I had the pleasure of taking a class about teaching Scripture to kids. It was an excellent class and the instructor was so dynamic, passionate and enjoyable. One of the underlying themes of the class was that using Scripture and helping kids LOVE IT involves lots of little things. Bringing Scripture to life is not about unveiling the complexities and all the history, it’s about revealing the little ways God uses His word to reach us, draw us in and shower us with His gifts. As I was coming home, I drove past a lawn decorated to the hilt with Halloween decorations and I remembered that silly jack-o-lantern piñata the boys made more than a dozen years ago. That 30 pound piñata took on a whole new meaning as I began to realize that our journey toward heaven is a little like that piñata. The creation of that big, strong piñata, began with something that was tiny, weightless and of little value by itself but yet, it became so much more!
We can get pretty caught up sometimes in the big stuff of life, like money, careers, politics, mortgages, position and on and on. It’s all legitimate and needs our attention for sure, but our journey to heaven is supremely about the little stuff. Jesus worked some breath taking miracles, He did some unbelievable healings and He orchestrated some amazing conversions but His message to His followers always focused on the little things. He took more than 600 Jewish laws and condensed them into TWO commandments for us to follow…talk about simplifying things! He used parables or stories of the common, to teach and reach souls for His Father. He even pulled some children onto His lap to show us exactly who we needed to imitate. Jesus was all about the little things!
Our lives should be like that piñata…a combination of little things, done lovingly for Christ in order to make us strong enough to withstand the blows of disappointment, difficulty and discouragement tossed in our path by the evil one. During the class I was touched right to my core when the instructor was talking about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The message of that story is simpler than greed and jealousy and betrayal. It’s not a story of good son vs bad son. It’s about a little choice with enormous consequence. I was dawn to tears when the instructor spoke in a voice so peaceful and loving and taught that the prodigal son was saying to his father, I want your “stuff” not a relationship…he was in effect saying; father, you are dead to me. In a quivering voice, the instructor reminded us that the father in the story is indeed our God and Father and many times we act just like the son demanding God’s stuff; His love, mercy and grace without wanting to work at a relationship with Him. What God demands of us is simple and small compared to what He blesses us with yet we still sometimes let days slip by without carving out that chunk of time to sit in quiet, uninterrupted prayer. He isn't asking us to live the life of a Cloistered Monk, He just wants us to invite Him into our day and trust Him.
What little things can you begin with? Can you begin with or add a few more minutes of Scripture each day? Maybe it could be a little time helping a neighbor? How about a little time praying for that crabby co-worker instead of complaining about them? If there are a hundred steps between me and God, I know that if I take the first little step toward Him, He will take the rest toward me. He's asking for little things from us so He can build us up and give us strength...and we'll be way stronger than a jack-o-lantern pinata.
A seed to plant: Do 5 little things this week that will strengthen your relationship with your Creator.
Blessings on your day!
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