Monthly Archives: February 2014

Success!

“…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” – 1 Cor. 10:31

How do you measure success?

I’ve struggled with this question lately, especially in writing a blog.

Up until a few months ago, I was a technological dinosaur. Email was as far as I ventured in the social media realm. But blogging has me in places I never thought I’d travel—WordPress, Facebook, Twitter. I avoided them like the plague, not wanting to put myself out there for all to see. But God had other plans for me. And so, here I am…a blogger.

Articles will tell you followers and views and likes and shares are how to measure success in the blogosphere. Stats are plastered on each webpage—from blogs to Facebook to Twitter to every other online community. It can be overwhelming. And, sadly, I find I can’t look away from them.

Stats

I peek to see how many people read my blog post and how many likes it receives. I eagerly await emails announcing a new comment and check the share buttons at the bottom of the page to know if people thought it was worthy of sharing with their friends. Frankly, this is embarrassing to admit—this obsession with approval.

ShareButtons

Do you find yourself doing the same thing—seeking approval?

This phenomenon is not just limited to the World Wide Web. It rears its ugly head in everything we do—our work, our home, our family, our friends, our church, our community. We crave attention, don’t we? I know I do.

The sad reality is too often I focus on myself. I wonder how my actions or words will be received. I get swept up comparing my work to others who are considered the best at what they do. A whirlpool of desire for acceptance, applause, and admiration sucks me in. And while spinning around and around in this inescapable vortex of selfish ambition, the joy in life is thrown out. I become trapped in a swirling circle of discouragement, insecurity and fear. Creativity gets sucked under and productivity drowns. And I have nothing to give.

Only then does it hit me—something critical forgotten: God is the reason for this blog!

The world’s definition of success screamed so loudly I bought into it and quickly forgot my purpose. This writing venture is a calling from the Lord. God has given me a story—the story of my life, yes, but much more. He has given me the story of life connected to the God of all creation– a testimony to His existence and His loving work in my heart. How profound the words sound or whether people are wowed should not be a concern. The purpose is bringing glory to the Most High God!

HE should be the focus–always. His truth…His calling…His outcome.

Only when we fix our gaze on God’s purpose in what we do can we bring Him the glory He deserves. Only when we prayerfully depend on Him to transform our meager efforts and humbly present them to Him as a precious offering will His true beauty shine through.

God’s own Word tells us:  “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

1Cor10.31

Not our glory. God’s glory.

Ann Voskamp said in speaking to writers: “We need to be passionately uninterested in the outcome of our words beyond our faithfulness in writing them. Success in writing is faithfulness and obedience to writing what God has called you to.”

“Passionately uninterested in the outcome…”

A far cry from obsessively checking the stats and seeking approval.

We must commit the results to God–to be faithful in following His plan and leave the rest up to Him. He alone has the power to bring His desired outcome from everything we offer Him.

1 Corinthians 3:7 says: So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”

Only God…makes things grow. Only God…brings the outcome.

How, then,  should we measure success?

By living our lives each day in faithful obedience to His call–for His glory.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Oh, how wonderful if we could fully grasp this truth. It would remove discouragement, dissolve insecurity, eliminate fear, and bring back the joy in serving Him.

The stats and worldly measures of success will always be before us, but we must strive to turn our heart’s eye away from them and focus on the LORD.

Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”

Success is measured not in outcome but in obedience.

The glory is His. The outcome is His. The privilege to serve Him is ours.

Dearest Lord, help us to serve you in faithful obedience in all we do. Help us leave the results of our efforts up to you and seek only Your glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

All Scripture is from the New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Ann Voskamp, “Conversation with Ann Voskamp,” COMPEL Training, November 18, 2014.

Internet photos by Sabra Penley.

Trees photo by Jeannie Fletcher, licensed by CC BY-NC 2.0. Dark frame, overlay and text added.

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Filed under Glory, God's Works, Self, Success

Wrapped in His Love

“I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” — Psalm 4:8

Tucking me in and kissing me goodnight, my mom walked to the door and turned out the light. With the click of the door behind her, I was alone. All alone…in the dark. There were things in the dark. Scary things. Unknown things. Things that wanted to get me. Every noise conjured up a frightening image in my young mind. So I wrapped my blanket up around me, careful to cover every inch of my body…protection from what was out there…in the darkness…that I couldn’t see. Somehow being shrouded in this cottony cocoon comforted me and made me feel safe and secure.

I’m no longer afraid when the lights go out at night, but I must confess, I still like having a blanket wrapped up around me when I lay in bed. It is, even now, somehow soothing.

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That childhood fear of the dark may be gone, but now my fears tend to run much deeper. I know there are scary things out there in this dark world. I’ve seen the hurting, the suffering, the hard times that people go through. I’ve gone through my own share. And, at times, I find myself afraid of the future—the unknown.

I bet you do, too. It’s ingrained in all of us, isn’t it? Fear of the unknown. We conjure up in our minds scenarios of what might be—those things that scare us. And anxiety, worry, and stress settle into our souls.

We want to feel safe and secure. We want to feel protected from whatever hardships might come our way. We want peace. But unlike a security blanket to a child afraid of the dark, we can’t just pull the covers over our heads and be soothed.

There is only one place where we can find the comfort we seek—in the presence of our loving Lord.

Psalm 4:8 says “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

The Bible says we have no need to fear the unknown. God is not surprised by anything. He sees it all—past, present, and future. And everything is under His control. No matter what we may face, God is right here with us and He will never leave us.

Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Deuteronomy31.6

Like a frightened child hanging on to her security blanket, we must hang on to God—trusting Him to rescue us from all our fears.

The Lord will cover us with His comforting presence and tuck us in with His loving hands. In Him we can rest secure and find calm and peace.

So when those ugly fears arise, let the following words of comfort wrap around your soul and envelope you in peace as you trust in Him.

Psalm 32:10:  “…the LORD’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.”

Psalm 91:14: “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.”

2 Thessalonians 3:3 : “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

Psalm 32:7: “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

Psalm 27:5: “For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent…”

Psalm 1:6: “For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous…”

Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 46:4: “I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Isaiah 51:16: “I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand.”

When fears arise, be comforted with the blanket of God’s presence. The One who is to be feared above all else will wrap you up in the safety of His love.

Dearest loving Father, thank You for Your loving protection that brings us peace and comfort. Help us to trust in You at all times so we may rest in Your everlasting love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All Scripture from the New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Comfort photo: By Sabra Penley, 2014.

Woods photo: “Shadows” by Chris Barry, licensed under CC-BY-2.0, text and dark frame added.

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Filed under Comfort, Love, Peace

The POONAPON Principle

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” – Ephesians 4:22-24

Denying self is hard work!

When God revealed my four focus themes for this year (denying self, sacrifice, humility, and love), I knew I was in store for a bumpy ride. After all, I’ve mastered the art of self-focus. Giving in to my heart’s desires is my default setting, my natural tendency. It is where my thoughts, words, and actions flow when I’m not making a conscious effort to follow Christ.

Denying self, this act of humility and sacrifice, is the center of living a life in devotion to God. It encompasses everything!

Giving up my own desires for the sake of Christ or the sake of others should be a part of all I do. It requires a constant remembrance of Jesus’ command (Luke 9:23) and the knowledge of what actions must be part of it. Effort and determination are required. It will not happen just because I want it to.

Change is never easy, and I find this to be especially true in learning to be sacrificial. It stretches me beyond my comfort zone into the realm of discomfort and sometimes pain. But as a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, this is my calling. Indeed, it is the calling of all of us who proclaim Him as Savior.

What does denying self look like?

It is described in Ephesians 4:22-24 as a three-step process. Something I like to call The POONAPON Principle. Why that name? Because it helps me remember the steps and, frankly, I just like the way it rolls off my tongue.

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Ephesians 4:22-24 says: You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

The three steps are:                                                                                      (1) put off your old self                                                                                   (2) be made new in the attitude of your mind; and                                           (3) put on the new self.

P…Put

O…Off

O…Old

N…New

A…Attitude

P…Put

O…On

N…New

P.O.O.N.A.P.O.N.

Simple. Right?

Oh, yes, the principle is simple enough. But putting it into practice? Not so much!

Let’s break it down into the different steps:

Step One: Put Off Old

First, we must identify what belongs to our old self and choose to stop doing those things.

But while we’d like to just say, “Stop it!”, and it be done, it doesn’t happen that way. We must make the determined effort to not do those things any longer. And then we must replace them with the right attitude and action.

Step Two: New Attitude

Once we recognize the old self, we must understand what we are striving for. What does being conformed to the image of Christ look like?

For this, we must go to God’s Word. God makes it clear how we are to live, what is right and wrong. We see God’s character in the person of Jesus Christ, and His very life and death teach us His ways.

Writing down or memorizing Scripture verses that speak to following Christ’s example and the ways of God can help us to change our thoughts, our mindset. The more we meditate on God’s Word, the more it will transform our thinking. We will come away with a new attitude—one centered on the ways of the Lord.

To complete this process, we must take action on what we have learned.

Step Three: Put On New

A void is made when we put off the old self. To avoid falling back into it, we must fill the void with the new self of living righteously. We have to make the effort to practice the ways of Christ so that we will in essence change our default setting—or at least be closer to it.

And let’s never forget that it can only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us. We cannot do this on our own. God doesn’t ask us to. He gives us the sufficient grace to be successful! We must depend on His strength.

The POONAPON Principle. It’s that easy…It’s that hard.

We have our plan to follow, and now we need to get busy. Transformation awaits!

Do you struggle with this putting off the old and putting on the new? What ways have you found to help you to remember this biblical principle and follow it? Would you share them with us? Please leave a comment below.

Dearest Father, thank You for giving us a plan to follow in striving to become more like Your Son. Help us to put off the old self, to change the attitude of our minds to be filled with Your ways, and to put on the new self. May we not succumb to our weakness, but rely on Your strength. Transform us, O Lord, we pray. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Photo by Sabra Penley, 2011

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Filed under Attitude, POONAPON, Self, Transforming

A Crazy Week

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

“What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time.” – Ecclesiastes 3:9-10

“…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” – Ecclesiastes 3:22

I’ve had a crazy week.

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Last Sunday, I checked out the calendar to see what the schedule held in store for the next seven days. Ugh!  I was not happy with what I saw! Every single day had something extra written into the allotted square. There was a doctor’s appointment, a women’s meeting, a counseling session, helping with an extra dinner at church, two meetings at my husband’s office, getting bloodwork taken, a birthday, a dinner with friends, and a Sunday School party. Those don’t include the activities that were added during the week: an unexpected trip to the dentist, my husband’s lunch with prospective students, and baking a cake for the church dinner. (My husband’s activities are included here because he isn’t able to drive, and I am his driver.)

Now, many of these things would not usually cause stress on their own. In fact, they often can be pleasurable. It’s not that I don’t enjoy dinners and birthdays and parties and getting together with friends; I just don’t enjoy them coming at once. Put them all together in one week’s schedule, and certain things are pushed aside and not achieved. Just the thought of it causes me anxiety!

How does this happen, this overscheduling?! Obviously, I’m the one who writes it on the calendar. Don’t I notice how full the days are becoming before I make the commitments?

Nevertheless, this frenzied week was upon me. And I wasn’t happy.

As I looked at the hectic schedule shouting at me on that calendar, I felt the stress pouring through my veins. My attitude took a nosedive and an overwhelming feeling took over. All I wanted to do was sit and sulk.

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That’s what I desire when I get overwhelmed. I just want to shut down and do nothing. Well, actually, it isn’t nothing. Sulking and sitting are actions…like a little kid pouting when he doesn’t get his way. Yep. That’s a pretty good description. I want to pout…and sometimes I do.

Can you relate?

It seems we need to get a handle on all of this—these out-of-control schedules that wreak havoc . So, what should we do when faced with an upcoming wild week?

I found some encouragement in Ecclesiastes 3:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”  “What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time…” “…there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work…” (Eccl. 3:1, 9-10, 22).

Many times we have more on our plates than we think we can handle. But His Word tells us that if God has allowed it in our day, He has a purpose in it and it is a part of His plan. We must remember this and gain a better perspective. Each activity needs to be seen as a God-given opportunity to serve Him, to find the beauty in what we do, and to rejoice in the experience.

I’ve often heard the saying: “How do you eat an elephant?…One bite at a time.”

This certainly applies here. A hectic agenda can be as overwhelming as trying to eat an elephant all at once. Yet, we can victoriously conquer a busy week by taking it day by day, hour by hour, activity by activity.

In praying about all this, I’ve found some steps to follow whenever faced with an overloaded schedule:

  1. Change what can be changed. Look to see if anything on the schedule can be postponed until a less busy week to allow some breathing room.
  2. Be sure to spend time with God every day. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting your devotions with God, thinking you just don’t have time. Find your guidance and strength for the day from the One who has the power to make it all work according to His plan. (Matt. 6:9-11)
  3. Take it one day at a time. Spend your time and place your thoughts on what must be done for this one day only.  (Matt. 6:34)
  4. Keep your focus on the current task. Don’t spend time thinking about upcoming activities. Stay present and do your best to glorify the Lord through it. (1 Cor. 10:31)
  5. Enjoy the moment. Don’t let an oversaturated schedule ruin the joy of each activity. Find the beauty in everything. (1 Thess. 5:16)
  6. Be flexible. As you go through the week, some things may get cancelled; others may need to be added.  Some usual weekly activities may need to be postponed until next week.
  7. Always be grateful and give thanks to the Lord in everything. (1 Thess. 5:18)

When a crazy week threatens to take you down, trust the Lord’s calming grace to help you stand firm and be victorious.

Dearest Father, when we are faced with an overburdened calendar and we start to be overwhelmed, give us Your perspective and guide us in each step. Fill us with Your strength and ability to be victorious and complete each needed activity with excellence, all the while rejoicing and giving thanks. Help us to keep our focus on You, Your purpose, and Your power, trusting You to make everything beautiful in Your time. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

All Scripture from New International Version of the Bible, 1984.

Calendar photo by Sabra Penley

“I No Want To” photo by Myrrien, licensed by CC BY-ND 2.0

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Filed under Busyness, God's Purpose, Joy, Overwhelmed