Footwear of Faith

Footwear of Faith
Marikina City Footwear Museum
A very small portion of the Imelda Marcos Shoe Collection

How many pairs of shoes do you personally own? Does your family jokingly refer to you as “Imelda”? Or are you a one-pair wonder who sees little point in owning more than one functional, comfortable pair of shoes? I, myself, am much closer to the one-pair wonder than Imelda Marcos (who owned more than 3000 pairs of shoes).

I tend to have one pair of shoes for every occasion: I wear flip-flops everyday🩴; tennis shoes for the gym 👟; ankle boots with my dress pants 👢; sandals in the summer 👡; heels for special occasions 👠; and winter boots when it’s cold outside❄️. Oh, I almost forgot: I also have an old pair of those “special” Sketchers® that never did firm or tone anything saggy. Oh well!

You might be wondering, “Why all this talk about shoes? I thought this was a devotional!” True. True.

Well, shoes have soles, too! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!😂 )

The truth is, as I prayed about this month’s theme of faith, God brought to my mind a few common idioms about faith, and they all involved feet! A person takes a step of faith; another is walking in faith; while someone else just book a leap of faith. Apparently, faith requires moving your proverbial feet.

Before we start selecting shoes for the journey, let’s first define what faith is and is not. In the New Testament, “faith” is an action word. And while we can easily translate the Greek noun pistis as “faith,” the English language has no way to accurately translate its verb form, pisteuein, which literally means “to faith.”

Most of the time, pisteuein is translated “to believe” which implies mere mental assent; however, it’s meaning is more complex than that. Pisteuein is an action-imperative verb which contains the concept of trust embodied in obedient action.

Just let that sink in for a moment. “Faithing” is not merely believing in something or someone: “Faithing” is demonstrating trust in something or someone through obedient action. Unfortunately, there’s no such word as “faithing” in English. Therefore, it’s our responsibility to ensure that we keep this full definition of faith in mind when we read the Bible. We must remember that faith is not something you merely possess, it’s something you do. You exercise your faith through your actions. 

Understanding the meaning of pisteuein can enrich your understanding of familiar Bible passages and shed new light on them. For example, John 3:16 is typically translated “whosoever believes in Him,” but it would be better translated “all the faithing-in-Him ones.” It’s so much more than mental ascent.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever known someone (or been the person) to request prayer repeatedly for guidance on a particularly difficult decision, but the decision is never translated into action? This is indicative of a lack of faith.

In other words, merely praying without taking action is akin to buying a pair of shoes and never wearing them. It becomes a wasted opportunity and a constant reminder of what could have been. Shoes are meant to be worn, just as steps of faith are meant to be taken, not pondered forever.

When we pray about something, God will reveal next steps. He WANTS us to know His will. As Daniel 2:28 says, “There is a God in Heaven who reveals mysteries.”  He desires for us both to know His will AND to demonstrate our faith through action AND to trust His sovereignty. 

I can pray about a decision all I want; I can discuss it; I can tell everyone about it—none of this requires faith. I exercise faith when I make the decision and take the corresponding action.

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.)

Photo of 4 hands spelling out the word LOVE

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 people go looking for love in all the wrong places. For with this singular word love, I can express my passion for my husband, my son, penguins, The Princess Bride, quality dark chocolate, NFL football, Ted Lasso, and air conditioning!

If I were to explain the power of love according to hit singles on the radio, it might sound a little bit like this:

Love is an open door…in the air. It keeps lifting me higher and higher. Love is higher than a mountain and thicker than water. It’s all we need, because we found love right where we are. It will keep us together! I love you. You love me…tender. The fact is, I will always love you, because you’re my endless love. And there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love. I’m gonna love you forever. Forever and ever, amen. I’m literally lost in love, but I still have one little proble: I wanna know what love is!!!

Stringing together lyrics from a few famous love songs weaves a fascinating tapestry of the feelings-based, self-absorbed, narcissistic version of love our society promotes 24/7/365. The problem is that this kind of love is a poor impostor of the real thing. And let me tell you, ain’t nothing like the real thing, Baby! 😉

In his first letter to the Christ-followers in Corinth, the apostle Paul, wrote one of the most famous poems about love ever penned—and I think we can all agree that it’s inspired! Check out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a:

Image of the word LOVE spelled vertically with the "e" extending upwards to a heart-shaped balloon

Love is patient,
love is kind.

It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,
always trusts,
always hopes,
always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Did you notice anything in this list connecting love to how a person makes me feel? No? Me neither.

Paul’s point here is crystal clear: Loving another human has nothing to do with meeting my own needs and everything to do with how I relate to and treat others in my life.

To offer clarity through contrast, Paul highlights what love is not. Love is neither envious nor boastful. “It is not arrogant or rude. It’s not irritable or resentful. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing.” In other words, love literally limits the influence of negative emotions on our actions.

Love is not a feeling: Love is a verb.

Offering Christian love—selfless, no-strings-attached, generous—to another living being is a free-will choice, and that’s what makes it so precious. When we choose to love, it’s always a risk, and it’s always a dare. There are no guarantees that our gift of love will be received; however, since love is not made of physical matter, the only way a person can know he or she is loved is through the selfless actions of another.

Words, while welcome and worthwhile, mean nothing without the corresponding actions to back them up: Love must be demonstrated to be known.

"The Lord Himself modeled this when, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

Are we literally called to die in order to prove our love? Of course not! But we are called to die to selfish desires—and our own personal agendas and expectations—and simply LOVE one another. Not merely with words, but mostly with actions. Not for recognition or kudos, but solely for the benefit of the other person. No ropes attached.

You might be wondering, “But what about me? Don’t I need love, too?”

Of course! And who better to supply the exact love we need to fill us up than the Lord God Almighty? Our Heavenly Father. It’s only because of our personal relationship with Him and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we are able to share any love with anyone at all! Out of the overflow of that relationship—knowing that we are drawing from a well that will never run dry—we are able to share unselfish love with others.

A Meditation on Love 🙏❤️🤲

Pause for a moment and inhale deeply. Hold it. Exhale slowly. Do this a couple times, and then offer this simple prayer:

“Lord, thank you for loving me as-is.
Thank you for not giving up on me.

You are faithful and your love endures forever. (lift your hands)
I lift my hands to you in worship and adoration. (open your hands)
I open my hands to receive what you have for me today. (bring your hands to your heart)
Fill my heart with your love once again, O Lord.
I’m completely yours.”

This devotional was initially featured in the ‘Rooted at the Throne’ series, a yearlong collection of devotionals curated by renowned author and speaker Rachael Carman on her previous blog.

Photo credits: 
Love spelled with fingers photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
Love word with heart puff licensed by Laura Zielke for this article

Stop Saying “Praise the Lord!”

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 Inigo Montoya confronts Vizzini, his boss, about repeatedly uttering “Inconceivable!” every time he notices something surprising happening right in front of them (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’m going to make the case that “Praise the Lord!” does not mean what we think it means. And I’m going to challenge you to think twice before saying it in the hope that you will replace it with something else. Got that? Ok, let’s unpack it.

“Praise the Lord!” is a literal translation of the Hebrew word hallelujah which is the first word in a number of the Psalms. It is formed by combining the verb “hallal” (to boast or praise) with “yah” (a shortened version of the name of the LORD). 

But our modern use of the phrases “Praise the Lord!” and “Hallelujah!” makes no sense, because hallelujah is a verb in the imperative mood. In other words, hallelujah is a command

In the same way we might tell a child “Clean your room!” the Psalmist commands us to “Praise the Lord!” A more precise translation of hallelujah is “Praise ye the Lord!” 

In other words, when you say “Praise the Lord,” you’re actually issuing a command: “You, praise the Lord!” (Or, as my friends in the South would say, “Y’all, praise the Lord!”)

A command to praise is typically followed by a recounting of His deeds (Psalm 135); a recognition of His majesty (Psalm 148); a recitation of His virtues (Psalm 145); or further instructions about how, when, and where to praise Him (Psalm 150). Think about this with me for a minute.

To praise the Lord is to honor and recognize Him for who He is, what He has done, and to trust His promises. Praise is neither complicated nor simplistic, but it does require engagement of the mind. I need to pause and ponder: “What attribute of the Lord’s am I wanting to praise? What has He done that compels me to praise Him? How is God making Himself known to me in this moment?” It is only after I’ve identified the reason(s) why I want to praise Him that I can truly offer a sacrifice of praise.

“Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
Hebrews 13:15 ESV

We praise the Lord when we ascribe His attributes back to Him. His character. His name. In fact, this is only this type of praise we can genuinely offer in midst of life’s harshest trials and tribulations.
We offer the sacrifice of praise with the sentences we speak; the words we write; the thoughts we think; the songs we sing; the dances we perform; the art we create; and so on—NOT through the mindless repetition of an idiom that seems like the right thing to say in the moment.

The fact is, praise itself is like an empty box, and the only way to give praise is to fill the box with actual praises, otherwise it remains empty. Cliché. Vain. Devoid of meaning.

For example, when your son, Micah, aces his math test, you don’t praise him by saying, “Praise Micah!” That doesn’t mean anything. Instead, you speak truth to him about who he is and what he did.

Similarly, when your daughter, Leah, is hired as the summer camp intern, you don’t praise her by saying, “Praise Leah!” That would be weird. Instead, you speak truth to her about who she is and what she accomplished.
In the same manner, when God shows Himself faithful, you don’t praise Him by saying, “Praise the Lord,” which doesn’t mean anything. Instead, you speak truth to Him about who He is and what He did. You could say something like, “Lord, you are amazing! You promised you would take care of us, and you did! You are awesome. Your ways are not my ways. You are sovereign. I honor you for who you are!”

THAT, my friend, is what it means to PRAISE the Lord.

I hereby challenge us to remove the empty cliché, “Praise the Lord,” from our vocabulary and replace it with authentic praise from our hearts. This might take a while and require re-training ourselves, but it is a worthy goal.
Imagine a scenario where a friend shares good news with you.

For example, “My son just got his driver’s license on the first try!” You could respond out of habit, “Praise the Lord!” But what does that mean? “Yay!”? If so, you’ve used the Lord’s name a in mindless manner. If not, you’ve commanded your friend to “praise the Lord.” Either way, you’ve tipped your proverbial hat towards Heaven with no personal investment, no acknowledgement of who the Lord is or what He has done deserving of praise.

Is that what you thought you were doing? Or were you attempting to praise God for something? If so, what? Say that!

Imagine how transforming this practice will be in our daily lives and our relationships. Instead of saying the word “praise,” we actually give praise to God. And in the giving, we glorify the Lord by expressing His goodness, His faithfulness, and His sovereignty. We testify to His greatness, and in so doing, edify each other in Christ—which bears witness to those who are seeking the truth about God.

Printable: 12 Alternatives to saying "Praise the Lord"

To help us get started with this new practice, I’ve created a free printable for you with “12 Alternatives to ‘Praise the Lord!”

👈 👉

Click to download a PDF of the POSTER(S) that accompany this devotional. 

12 Alternatives to "Praise the Lord!"

This devotional was originally published as part of a yearlong series of devotionals called “Rooted at the Throne.” Every month spearheaded by author and speaker Rachael Carman and featured on her blog. 

“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.

“The Power of the Other” by Cloud

Book Review

Have you ever wondered if your success in life is dependent on you alone? If your own grit, drive, and tenacity are the chief contributing factors to achieving your life’s dreams?
According to Dr. Henry Cloud, success in your career and your personal life will never be determined solely by what you do, regardless of your level of commitment or your work ethic. 

Why? Because, unless you are Mark Watney, alone on Mars, you live in community with others. And, believe it or not, your friendships are already

having a dramatic impact on how successful you will be at reaching your full potential and accomplishing your goals.

I just finished reading The Power of the Otherthe latest book by best-selling author and world-renowned psychologist, Dr. Henry Cloud. In this enlightening book about “the startling effect other people have on you…and what to do about it,” Cloud draws a clear distinction between four different types of relationships—three dysfunctional, one healthy— placing each one in its own corner, extrapolating the ways they contribute to, hinder, or possibly halt our personal achievements and overall success in life.

 

Power of the OtherThe Power of the Other

Each “Corner” is defined according to the level of connection we have the person. These levels of connection are based on how we feel during and after interaction with the person (valued vs. diminished; condemned vs. accepted; authentic vs. fake; and so on) and how this person’s influence directly impacts our ability to move forward in life.

As we begin to sort our relationships into four corners, based on the objective criteria Cloud presents, we learn that the healthiest and most authentic relationships exist only in Corner Four where there is emotional support, wisdom, community, truth, reality-based feedback, and caring communication. Corner Four relationships are the key to our success and a significant part of the foundation of a fulfilled life.

What makes Corner Four relationships so powerful is that they don’t end even after they end. The lessons we learn, the phrases that motivate us, are ours to keep forever.

This is an excellent book filled with practical information to assist you in re-aligning your relationships (1) to invest in and benefit from the healthy ones while (2) setting boundaries with or ending dysfunctional ones. I highly recommend this book.

Click here to order your copy of: The Power of the Other * 
Available in the following formats: Hardback, Paperback, Audio CD, Kindle®, Audible®

* Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” What I learned from this book has already had a tremendously positive impact on my life. I wrote the book review because I’m a learner, and it’s my mission in life to share what I learn with others. I hope you enjoyed the review. 🙂