“Being Brave Is Hard”

Being Brave Is Hard

Being Brave Is Hard
by Laura Zielke

God doesn’t always ask us to do the easy things.
Sometimes He asks us to do the hard things.
I mean HARD. Really hard!
Something we could NEVER do under our own strength.
Something we would never do without HIS prodding.
Something requiring EVERY OUNCE of courage we have (plus more).
It will be UNCOMFORTABLE.
CHALLENGING.
DARING.
TOO BIG.
And it will have serious CONSEQUENCES.
Consequences we CANNOT control.
Consequences which may
—or may not—
be in our favor.
It’s almost TOO MUCH to ask.

But then, the choice IS ours, isn’t it?
We have FREEDOM of choice.

We could choose to OBEY.
To be BRAVE.
To let God take care of any CONSEQUENCES.
Because it’s not about us, is it?

OR

We could choose to SHUT DOWN.
Close our eyes. Plug our ears.
Sing “fa la la la la” until it all goes away.
Because,
in the end,
it’s all about us, isn’t it?
Our comfort.
Our strength.
Our reputations.

Bottom line:
It’s a choice.

Oh, LORD.
Make me strong!
Make me HEAR your voice.
Help me KNOW it’s YOU,
not I,
who is calling me to this
difficult task.

Help me rely on YOUR strength.
Guide me by YOUR Spirit.
Give me words to speak–
only YOUR words to speak.
Keep ME out of it.

And somehow…
Some way…
Make YOUR will known.

Even if it means people think differently about me.
Even if the consequences are unfavorable.
Place YOUR words in my heart, and light them on fire.
Let them burn in my soul until I have garnered
the strength to speak them.
Out loud.
To deliver YOUR message to the recipients.
And let me leave NOTHING out.
Let me speak every word.
And then let me walk away in peace.
For I have done what was required of me.
And I answer only to YOU.

Amen.

“But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word
or speak anymore in his name,’
his word is in my heart like a fire,
a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
indeed, I cannot.”
Jeremiah 20:9

3 Types of Joy

3 Types of Joy

I’d like to tell you a story: Three friends met for lunch at the golf course ⛳, and each one was full of joy. Reggie, after slightly puffing out his chest, exclaimed, “Well, guys, I “hate” to rub it in, but my team made it to the Final Four …AND my company gave us tickets to the playoffs!” He leaned back in his chair, placing his hands behind his head, and challenged anyone to top that! 

Tyrone replied, “Jealous. Not jealous. That’s cool, man! But…I have some pretty good news of my own: My wife told me this morning: ‘We’re having a baby!’ ? I can’t believe it! I’m gonna be a dad!” ? ?? He was beaming and smiling from ear to ear. 

“Congratulations, man!” Jim chimed in, “That’s fantastic! When is she due?”

Their conversation continued for a few minutes until Jim changed the subject: “So, I hate to break the mood, but I need to let y’all know that we finally got the pathology report back yesterday. Turns out, I have prostate cancer. ? It’s treatable, but it looks like I’ll be practicing my putt at home for a while.” 

“Wait!” you interject. “I thought you said all three men were ‘full of joy’! How is that possible when the third man is sharing a cancer diagnosis? I’m sure he was ‘exuding’ something, but there’s no way it could be JOY!”

As a matter of fact, he was full of joy—just a different type than the other two—we’ll look at that in a bit. But first, I want to share with you about a discussion we recently had on my Facebook page.

As I prayed about and contemplated the word JOY for this month’s devotional, I spent some time in the Bible and a few minutes on Google. Did you know there are 19.5 million articles explaining how/why joy is better than happiness?! Good grief! Just so you know, I’ve decided NOT to add to that total. You’re welcome! 

While I was clicking around, I came across a number of images and memes promoting the popular motto: “Choose Joy!” Upon reflection, I wondered if it were literally possible for a person to CHOOSE joy. Rather than ponder this by myself, I chose to pose the question to my Facebook friends—a fantastic cross-section of folks from across the U.S. (and the world)—to see what they had to say…

Click here to continue reading this reflection on JOY at “Rooted at the Throne” hosted by Rachael Carman. 

Love Songs & Unselfish Love

Unselfish Love

Love is in many ways fine:
      Like a nickel, like a dime.
But love is more valuable to me
      Than one, two, or even three…

And so begins one of the most *ahem* “memorable” poems I’ve ever written.  (I won’t make you suffer through the rest of it.) Judging by my handwriting at the time, I’m guessing I was around nine or ten years old when I penned that masterpiece. Back in the day, apparently, those two silver coins represented huge value for me, because I compared them to the one thing everyone on the planet desires: LOVE.

It should come as no surprise that my nickel and dime view of love wouldn’t last forever. As I entered the teen years, my experience of love shifted from coins in my pocket to “teardrops on my guitar.” (Well, make that my pillow. Taylor Swift, I am not.)

All the Feels

In high school, hormones had me convinced that love was a feeling (or more than a feeling)—one I couldn’t fight anymore. When “the feels” eventually subsided or my heart was broken, that all-consuming “love” evaporated into thin air. And then, I was all out of love, and so lost without ____________ (fill in the blank). Emotion took me over—tied up with sorrow; lost in my soul. And time? It kept flowing. Like a river.

As I matured, I struggled to wrap my mind around that crazy little thing called “love.” It’s such an ambiguous term, we shouldn’t be shocked that people go looking for love in all the wrong places. For with this singular word love, I express my passion for penguins, “The Princess Bride,” dark chocolate, football, and family.

If I were to explain the power of love according to hit singles on the radio, it might sound a little bit like this… Click here to continue reading my devotional at “Rooted at the Throne” hosted by Rachael Carman. 

Stop Saying “Praise the Lord!” & Give Authentic Praise

Stop saying "Praise the Lord!"

You keep using that word.
I do not think it means what you think it means.
Inigo Montoya

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes from the movie “The Princess Bride.” In this scene, the Spaniard confronts Vizzini, his Sicilian boss, about repeatedly blurting “Inconceivable!” during scenarios playing out before their very eyes (or behind them, as the case may be). Vizzini, Inigo concludes, is clearly confused concerning the meaning of the word “inconceivable.” His observation is simple, yet profound. For with it, he shines a spotlight on one of humanity’s most annoying tendencies: the habitual repetition of a common word or phrase by someone who lacks a clear understanding of its meaning.

As children, we initially learned how to speak by mimicking sounds and words and phrases. Unless we make a conscious choice to stop, think, and choose our own words, we may accidentally adopt a favorite phrase without giving any thought to what it means. Take for example this exclamation: “Praise the Lord!” Although you will find it throughout the Old Testament (most frequently in the Psalms), it is often misused in Christian circles today.

In this post, I will make the case that the expression “Praise the Lord!” does not mean what you think it means. And I will challenge each of us to think twice before saying it, in the hope that we replace it with authentic praise. Join me over on Rachael Carman’s blog “Rooted at the Throne” to Continue Reading. 

Printable: 12 Alternatives to saying "Praise the Lord" 12 Alternatives to "Praise the Lord!"

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Insights: A Prophecy of Pentecost?

Insights from the Word

As often happens when studying various passages of Scripture simultaneously, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to new insights and correlations. It’s no wonder we say that the Word is alive!

I’m currently leading a weekly in-depth, verse-by-verse study of the book of Acts at my church, and for my own personal study and reflection, I am reading through the book of Isaiah. I love the juxtaposition of studying both Old and New Testament books at the same time. It’s like ham and eggs—different, but complementary! This morning, however, I ate an omelet!

Lemme ‘splain! No, there is too much… Lemme sum up:

A couple of days ago, I taught on the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:1-13. We observed that there were three external signs given to Jesus’ disciples as sensory evidence of the internal arrival and infilling of the Holy Spirit: Sound. Sight. Words.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Acts 2:1-4

Insights from the Word

This morning I read Isaiah 32 which contains prophetic words concerning the “Kingdom of Righteousness” as well as a warning to the “women of Jerusalem.” Isaiah 32:1 says, “See, a king will reign in righteousness, and rulers will rule with justice.” This could be interpreted as a Messianic prophecy.

Then the eyes of them who see will no longer be closed,
and the ears of those who hear will listen.
The fearful heart will know and understand,
and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.
Isaiah 32:3-4

I realize this is plucking a verse out of context; therefore, I am not going to force this to mean something it doesn’t. But there is no denying a strong correlation between the two passages: Sight. Sound. Words. And something happening internally—an increase of knowledge and understanding.

Was this a prophecy fulfilled at Pentecost? Possibly. One could postulate that the “king reigning in righteousness” is Jesus and that the “rulers ruling with justice” are the Twelve apostles sitting on thrones at the renewal of all things (cf. Matthew 19:28). Or, it’s just as possible that this prophecy has nothing to do with Pentecost.

Either way, though, these verses in Isaiah describe what happens when we receive and are filled with the Holy Spirit: We see things more clearly. We hear the Lord. We know and understand Him and His Word. And we are given words to speak the truth clearly to those who the Lord brings our way.

Amen, and amen.

“Me in Three Words” Challenge

Me in Three Words Challenge

Yesterday, I was listening to a webinar where the host challenged us to e-mail five of our friends with this request: “Describe me in three words.” The original purpose of this exercise was to help listeners narrow down the focus of a book or blog or talk in order to write in our own voice—not someone else’s. Since completing the challenge, though, I have realized this is an amazing method anyone can use to monitor where they are on the path to becoming the person they’ve always wanted to be. 

*** If you take the challenge, let me know by commenting below. ***

The result of this exercise is to learn how others see you and experience you. Don’t be shocked if you’re surprised with some of the responses. The fact is, we are often “stuck in the past” with distorted images of ourselves which no longer match our current life situation. Over time, with great effort, we change. We grow. We mature. We develop. We blossom.

Oftentimes, “new” friends see character traits in us that we can’t fathom in ourselves. They see us for who we are, not who we used to be. This can be a refreshing shift in perspective, or possibly a snap back to reality for those of us who think we are doing better than we actually are. Reality checks, though sometimes painful, are super-necessary in life—especially for the person who wishes to become the best, most authentic version of himself or herself.

“Describe Me in Three Words”

Do you recognize yourself in their words, or are they sharing something with you that you thought you’d lost years ago? Do they see the real you? Are you ready to embrace that person? Or possibly do you need to change the reflection? You’ll never know unless you ask. 

All I did was ask, and I kept it very simple. Here’s the email I sent:

Dear ____________,

I was listening to a webinar yesterday, and I was challenged to write to five friends with this request: “Describe me in three words.”

Will you do that for me? Pretty please?

Thank you,
Laura

I encourage you to give it a shot. First start with five of your more recent friends (people who have known you less than five years). After that, if you’re feeling brave, move to long-term friends (people who have known you at least 5 years). And if you’re still feeling brave, email your family (but only if your relationships with them are healthy—no need to reinforce negativity or dysfunction). If you think someone is going to be insulting or sarcastic, don’t bother adding them to your email list for this experiment.

Three Words Can Change Your Perspective!

Taking this challenge was scary, but I’m glad I did it. My friends’ responses showed me that I’m on the right track for becoming the woman I’ve always wanted to be…and that’s a good thing, considering I’ll be 50 next year!!! Finally, I’m getting there. I haven’t arrived, for sure; however, I’m on the right track, and on some level, that is comforting. 

Identify your themes. Look through the list of words you’ve received and group similar words/concepts together. For example: If one friend uses the word “compassion” and another friend uses the word “compassionate,” then you would group those together. Another example: If one friend says “contemplative” and another friend says “deep thinker,” group those together. Once you have the words grouped by theme, take a good look and see which themes occurred most often.

My top three themes were: 

Compassionate ~ Studious ~ Deep Thinker

The “compassionate” description surprised me more than “studious” and “deep thinker”—although I never knew my friends thought of me as “deep.” I have to testify that if I have any compassion in me, it is from the Lord. And I would also like to mention that “compassion” was not on my husband’s list of three words for me!
*cough* *man flu is real* *cough*

I hope you take this challenge and start with your newest friends! Then work backwards if you feel like it. The goal is to start off the year with a more objective, realistic view of who you are rooted in truth.

*** If you take the challenge, let me know by commenting below. ***

You’ll find the results are definitely insight-full.