Lessons from a Hummingbird

imagesI remember it like it was yesterday. My husband came in from the garage and told me that a hummingbird had flown into the garage and he was trying to get it out. The problem was that every time he tried to catch the hummingbird to help it out of the garage, it would flee from him.  Deciding that he would just leave the garage with the doors wide open, he came in the house so the hummingbird would not feel threatened.

As we periodically checked on the hummingbird, we found that he was flying up high and would not fly lower to where the open door was.  We watched as he flew into the walls over and over again in trying to fly away. This went on all day and we decided to just leave the garage door open overnight in the hope that the bird would eventually find his way out.

Freedom was just a wide open door away. Yet that hummingbird indexkept flying to places where he could not escape. The next morning when we came out to check and see if the bird had finally flown away, it was to find his lifeless body lying on the floor. We were so sad to think that freedom was there for the taking, but he could not see it.

I have found many people live the same way. God has offered them freedom from the bondage of sin. It is there for the taking, yet, so many live in such a way that they will never find that freedom. They keep repeating the same sins over and over again without realizing they can be free. They keep flying into the same walls in the same direction, instead of changing course and finding freedom. They become bound by legalism and doing things that burden them and tie them down instead of finding their freedom in Christ.

One of my very favorite scriptures comes from Galatians 5:1. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” I like the way it is stated in The Message, “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone put a harness of slavery on you.”

The older I get, the more I realize that so many Christians become entrenched in the “shoulds” and “oughts” that they forget about grace. They become so legalistic that they forget Christ paid the price for our freedom with His blood. God’s grace. What a beautiful, transformative concept for us.

I think with sadness about a little hummingbird who could have lived in freedom, but instead died, never realizing freedom was his for the taking if he would just change his perspective. Then I think of all of the Christians I know who have bought into legalism in the church and have forgotten about the freedom we have in Christ.

I pray that I will always live to follow Christ with his freedoms, rather than be willingly enslaved by legalistic chains that would bind me forever. I certainly hope that I am not like a hummingbird that God is watching and just shaking he head over, because I cannot change my perspective and fly free.

John 8:36, Acts 13:38-39

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Does Praise and Worship Really Matter?

This morning I was very tempted just to stay home in anticipation of bad weather. Instead, I braved the gloomy skies and headed out to church. I was so blessed to participate in praise and worship and be reminded of how great and good our God really is! There is something refreshing about praising God and taking the focus off of myself and putting it on my Creator instead.

I want to start off this year by talking about why praise and worship is so important to me.

Praise and worship takes the focus off of me and puts it on God instead.

I confess. I truly am a self-centered person. I think about me a lot. I think about how things impact me. I think about my feelings and my reactions to things that happen in my life. And I think that is pretty typical of most people I know. Without consciously intending to do so, we are pretty self-centric. When I am participating in a time of praising God and worshiping Him, it puts my life in perspective. The time of praise in music, the participation in a time of communion, the listening as God’s Word is put forth and dissected for our edification . . . it all puts the focus on God and not on me. And every time I am blessed.

Praise and worship helps me lay down my burdens and cares.

When I focus on my praise for God, I forget about the bad day I may be having, the woes of a rough week at work, or the challenges of daily life. Worship helps me to remember that all of these things are temporary and more important things exist. Worshiping God helps me remember that my relationship with Him is the number one thing in my life.

Praise and worship helps me see a broader picture.

Participating in worship and praise with other Christians reminds me that the church is not just for people “like me.” It is for everyone. As I sing songs that have been written by a variety of people, I have a sense of connection in knowing other Christians around the world are also worshiping and singing in praise. As I listen to God’s Word, I realize that it is for everyone. I think about those I know serving in Africa, Mexico, South Korea, Taiwan, and New Zealand, and I realize we have a common bond in Christ.

Praise and worship points me to the future and eternity.

This morning one of the songs we sang gave me goose bumps as I sang the phrase, “He shall return in robes of white, the blazing sun shall pierce the night, and I will rise among the saints, my gaze transfixed on Jesus face.” Worship reminds me of my hope in Jesus. It reminds me that this life here is just temporary and better things are to come. It reminds me that some day I will live in the presence of God and will join the multitudes in praising my Creator.

I hope I can always see the wonder and joy in praise and worship of my Heavenly Father. May this year be blessed for you as you contemplate the joys of praise and worship.

 

Psalm 28:6-8; Psalm 68:4-5; Psalm 96:3-5; Ephesians 1:3

 

A Little Kindness

It was December of 1991 and I was one stressed out Mom that Christmas season. I had four children, ages 8, 7, 5, and a newborn infant. I remember needing to make a Target run and loading up all four kids in the car, getting them corralled to go in the store, and shopping for the items I needed. My stress must have been showing for sure! As we were shopping and I was telling my children for the umpteenth time that no they could not have a toy, a lady approached me in the aisle.

She was very kind and said, “I remember what it was like to have kids and try to go shopping.” She held out her hand and offered me a small box. “I would like you to have this. Each year I find someone who I think needs a small blessing and I share a Christmas ornament with them. This year I would like to give this to you.”  As I stammered my thanks, she quickly left and departed the store. My day, which had been extremely hectic, all of a sudden took on a different trajectory as I thought of her kindness.

IMG_3722Each year as I put that ornament on the tree I think of her kindness and wonder how many other young moms she encouraged through the years.

Frequently we think we need to make these grand, generous gestures to brighten someone’s day, but in actuality we always have the opportunity to share a kind word, give a smile, extend a small courtesy, or even, gift someone with an ornament.

In this season, when so many are focused on the hustle and bustle of Christmas, the gift giving, the parties, and the financial stress, we need to remember what this season should really be about. It should be about remembering Christ, the son of God, who turned his back on the glories of heaven and came to earth in the humble body of a human child. It is a mystery we may never fully understand, but we celebrate it with every Christmas season. It should be about remembering the promises that were fulfilled with his birth, life and death. It should be about remembering the blessing that we need to share with others in our lives.

And during this season, you never know what difference a small kindness can make in someone’s life. I am still grateful for the kindness shown to me on a busy, stress-filled day in 1991.  My prayer is that I will remember to be kind to others and make a difference in their life, too.

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. Aesop

The Holidays Are Coming

holiday_stress_shutterstock_62603809I love the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of my favorites. For many people the holidays are a joyous time to be around family and friends, however, for some individuals it is a time of stress and turmoil. For the perfectionist, unrealistic expectations of the perfect house, perfect gifts, and perfect entertainments can take a toll. For the lonely and those who have recently lost loved ones, the holidays can accentuate their very aloneness. For others, the thought of being with certain family members makes them cringe. The reasons for holiday stress are many and varied, but most of us experience it to some degree.

One of the hardest things I have learned is to Let Go of Unreasonable Expectations. Here are some expectations that contribute to stress during the holidays. Continue reading “The Holidays Are Coming”

Welcome Home

October  27 is a bittersweet day for me. It is a day that leaves me kind of weepy, sad, and nostalgic all at the same time. It is also a day that reminds me of the joy of having Christ as my Savior and the hope of heaven. Eight years ago today my husband of 28 years woke up in a glorious new place, and sometimes I envy him for getting to experience what I long for someday. Then five years later to the day, and almost to the same minute, my Mom silently drew her last breath and was welcomed into heaven.

Tom & LindaI miss them both, and selfishly, I would love to still have them here by my side. But the reality is that life goes on without them. I have had bad days and good days, but the good ones outnumber the bad ones. I have learned I am stronger than I ever thought I could be. I have grown a little wiser and I have learned some lessons about life.

Here are some of the lessons I learned: Continue reading “Welcome Home”

Me Too – Why we are silent

In the past year we have seen the Bill Cosby scandal, the Fox CEO Roger Aile scandal, and now, the more recent Harvey Weinstein scandal. The hashtag #metoo has been garnering loads of attention since the Weinstein scandal hit the news. The dam has broken and the rolling tide of Me Too has become a force of its own.

Social media has been inundated with the two simple words, “Me Too” to emphasize how many women have had issues. I am seeing men respond, “Well, men get harassed and abused, too.” They do but not even close to the magnitude that women are. Since I am not a man, I can only speak to the women’s issue. This issue has been pervasive in society and swept under the rug for generation upon generation.

I had to sit back and ask myself, why now? Why is all of this coming to the forefront now? It has been happening for generations. Why have we not spoken before? Continue reading “Me Too – Why we are silent”

A Different World

In the past few months, we have been surrounded by crises and events that seem unimaginable. Hurricanes have left havoc and despair in their wake, earthquakes have caused unimaginable damage and death, shootings have shook us to our very core, racism has reared its ugly head in ways that should have been put behind us years ago, and politics . . . well, I do not even want to go there. Continue reading “A Different World”

Selective Forgetfulness

confused-lady-clipart-1Forgetfulness seems to be an unremitting part of my life. I wish I could claim it is just because I am growing old, but unfortunately, forgetfulness has been a constant companion throughout my life.

As a young child and teen, I would forget to do chores my mother asked of me, I would forget answers for tests I studied so hard for, and even forget to come to a complete stop at the stop signs. As a young woman I forgot to turn my clock, thus being an hour late for my own bridal shower, forgot to pick up my son from daycare, and forgot dentist appointments.  Even now my children and friends remind me that I shouldn’t forget . . . well, whatever it is I should remember. Continue reading “Selective Forgetfulness”

Four Things I Learned from Failure*

youre-fired-300x241When my husband and I were dating  and just getting to know one another, we shared about the various jobs we had in our past.  My husband told me that he was fired from his very first job.  He thought everyone should be fired at least once in their life because you learn many lessons from it.

This past week I had a conversation with someone who is graduating from college soon.  She is anxious about stepping out into a new world and having to make it on her own.  Her biggest question to me was, “What if I fail?”  My reply was, “What if you do? Most people fail at something.  It’s how you handle failure that’s important.”  Failure happens to most of us at one time or another and in our culture we consider failure as something to be avoided at all cost.

My contention is that we need failure in our lives occasionally.  It is through failure that we learn. When a baby is learning to walk she doesn’t automatically take off.  She fails a few times first.  She takes a step and falls down, but as she learns to take the next steps she figures out what works and what doesn’t.  She may learn so well that she may eventually even learn to run.

There are many things we can learn from our failures, but here are four key things I have learned from mine.

  1. Humility

Sometimes we fail because we are unwilling to listen and learn from others.  I have seen this play out on multiple occasions.  It is pretty humbling when we fail, especially if we have neglected to let the wisdom of others guide us.  I have to tell you, I have “eaten crow” on more than one occasion.  But if we learn humility we are far more likely to succeed in our endeavors.

  1. Perseverance

When I was learning to drive, I was ready to quit after my first time behind the wheel.  It was a disaster.  But with encouragement from my instructor, I persevered and eventually was able to drive on my own.

Henry Ford said, “Perseverance is a positive attribute we need to learn as we mature. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Sometimes we initially fail in our attempts, but with practice can succeed. The saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is apt for most of us.

  1. Adaptation

Sometimes we experience a huge failure, such as a failed marriage, a failed career, or any other of a myriad of things.  But we learn that even though we fail, our life goes forward.  We may experience the pain of failure for a while, but to survive we must make adjustments and adapt to our new environment.  Individuals who have learned to adapt to new circumstances thrive more quickly than those who can’t get past their moment of failure.

  1. Courage

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  It takes courage to get back on our feet after a failure.  When we can get up and try again, we grow stronger.

Peter had a colossal failure when he denied Christ three times prior to Christ’s crucifixion (John 18:15-27).  Yet he grew to be a key figure in helping spread the gospel in the world around him.  While the source of his courage was the Lord, the fact is that his failure taught him a valuable lesson about faithfulness.

There is no doubt that I have failed many times in my life.  And, to be perfectly honest, there will probably be times in the future that I also fail.  But I can’t let my failures define who I am and what I do.  When I fail, I try to put everything in the proper perspective, learn from my failure, and find the courage to move on.

How do you handle failure in your life?  Do you let it define who you are?  Do you become so bogged down by failure that you can’t move forward in your life?  When we put our failures in God’s hands, it’s amazing what He can do with us.  I want to be like Peter, who after a huge failure, regrouped and let God use Him in mighty ways.  What about you?

*This article was originally published on August 30, 2011 on my cwrn blog.