Lemons and Lemonade
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance." James 1:2-3
We had a women’s event at church this weekend called Lemonade, and the theme was “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” I’ve heard this saying hundreds of times, but for some reason, as I was planning and prepping for the event, I kept mixing it up and saying, “make lemons out of lemonade.” I consider this a happy accident because it really got me thinking of how we view the lemons in our lives.
At the very beginning of the book of James, he says, “whenever you face trials of many kinds.” He doesn’t say if, or maybe you will, or when you possibly. He says whenever, in other words, trials are inevitable. They will come no matter what so how are you going to react when they come? If we keep reading, we know that we are supposed to persevere, consider these trials as joy, and stay faithful. Make lemons out of lemonade!
But, you know what? Life isn’t all bad. Sometimes, we already have lemonade and have developed a habit of looking past the sugar and water and only seeing the lemons. We focus on the sour things in our lives and disregard all the good that God is doing. Do you do that? Do you tend to focus on the lemons in your life? Maybe the circumstances in your life don’t need to change, maybe you do.
Here are three bad lemon habits that you might need to break so you can focus on the lemonade in your life.
Maybe twenty good things happened to you today, but you’re only focusing on the one bad thing that happened. It’s all you can think about so you end up forgetting about all the good things that have happened. Take some time to physically make a list of all the good things in your life or even that day. Seeing this list will be a reminder that the good outweighs the bad and it will help redirect your mind to the good.
Psalm 31:19 “How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you.”
Maybe there’s a situation in your life that has fifty different outcomes and one of them is bad. Do you assume that one bad solution is going to be the result or do you realize there are so many other possibilities? Maybe you need to write down all the good outcomes or maybe you just need to replay all of them in your mind. Trust that God has everything under control and he doesn’t have the worst thing planned for you.
Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Are you having a bad day? Is it because it’s a legitimate bad day or did one bad thing happen that you’ve chosen to dwell on all day, therefore resulting in a self-driven bad day? Maybe one bad thing happened that you keep replaying in your mind and it’s blinding you to everything else. Spend time in God’s Word. Focus on the truth of Scripture and distract yourself from that one bad thing that you are allowing to ruin your day.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
If you see any of the above in yourself, I encourage you to stop turning your lemonade back into lemons and break these habits with the help of God! You’re never too old, too young, or too far off to get his help. Start developing a habit of looking for the good in your life!
The Beauty of Snow
"Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow." Isaiah 1:18
Words cannot describe the beautiful perfection of the white snow gently falling against the black dresses and black suits as our family huddled together to say our final goodbyes. It looked like a scene from a movie. Quiet. Calm. Surreal.
Last year on this date, some of us gathered for a small private family funeral for my grandfather. It had been a long four years of suffering, worrying, caring, and countless doctor visits. We know that others would have loved to join us, but I think we all needed a chance to let our guard down and grieve together. My mom and her sisters had spent hours and hours selflessly doing whatever they could to help him and they honestly just needed a break.
While we were inside the funeral chapel worshipping, remembering, and crying together, a small blizzard had rolled in. When we opened the doors to head out to the gravesite, we were met with snowflakes falling as the white sky blended in with the white ground. The words of Amazing Grace gently cut through the quiet as God's presence sprinkled down on our family.
I am so grateful for the snow falling that day. It's beauty and peace will forever be in my heart, and every time it snows, I am reminded of God's presence and forgiveness. Just as the snow falls to cover the ground, Jesus' blood covers our sins so they can't be seen anymore.
My grandpa wasn't perfect, but who is? He didn't have the easiest life, but he persevered. He never gave up. I don't know if he always had Jesus by his side, but I know that at the end he did, and that's what matters. The amazing thing about Jesus is that you can come to him at anytime, and he forgives you and invites you to spend eternity with him. He washes you as white as snow.
Whatever you're going through right now whether it be anxiety, frustration, worry, or loss, know that God is with you. I pray that the beauty of the falling snow is a reminder of God's presence and that knowledge will bring you peace that passes all understanding.
The Spin Factor
"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." Ephesians 4:25 NIV
Have you heard of a fidget spinner? It looks like a toy that spins and is supposed to direct all of the fidgety energy so a person can focus. Well, from a former teacher's perspective: Worst. Invention. Ever.
Maybe they work for some people, but I remember when these first came out, my fairly good hearing could pick up a tiny squeaking/scraping noise, and I would ask the class what was going on. Of course, someone would confess that they had a fidget spinner. The spinning may have been calming to them, but annoying to everyone else.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone trying to justify their sin? They are kind of like a human fidget spinner. They direct all of their energy to the "because" "but" "if" reasons to comfort themselves, but they're not fooling anyone around them. They're just sending out a wave of awkward red flags. Anyone listening can hear the "squeaking" of their justification.
In the book of Ephesians, Chapter 4:17-32, Paul is pretty clear about instructions for Christian living. He says over and over that as Christians, we are to be like Christ and put off the old way of life. Others live in sin, but we know better.
First of all, I think it's important to examine our own lives and make sure we're not spinning anything to continue in sin. Do you find yourself having a little personal discussion telling yourself it's okay to do something? Maybe watching certain movies, sharing crude jokes, drinking a little too much, gossiping, starting arguments on social media? Spend a little time in confession and asking God for help with these things.
Next, what do you do when you know someone is spinning a story to you? I know it's difficult and awkward, but here are a couple basic responses.:
Some words of caution when talking to someone who is spinning their sin is that you must be patient and hold your temper. From my observations and experience, people can get very defensive when justifying their sin. The smallest question can trigger anger or a long rant on why they are right. Be calm, be kind, and show them the love of Christ. As Christians, we should encourage each other to make right decisions and be good examples. Sometimes, it's hard, but let God be your strength and courage!
Blood is Thicker Than Water
Begin today's devotional by reading Philippians 1:1-11
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "blood is thicker than water." This phrase means that when it comes down to having to choose loyalty or make a decision, family is chosen above anyone or anything else. Maybe you've felt it in your own life. I know I've had various situations where I wish I could be in two places at once, but honestly, the family choice is the only answer.
I also have some friends who may as well be family. We have been friends for so long, and will be for the rest of our lives. Even if we see each other once a year, we pick up right where we left off, know what each other is thinking or feeling, and are so close that other people assume we are cousins or related somehow.
I love this section of Philippians where Paul is so thankful for the church in Philippi that he says, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy." (vs. 3-4). Are there people in your life that make you feel the same way? Every time you think of them, you are thankful to God and filled with joy? I hope so! If not, I encourage you to pray that God would surround you with family and friends who love you with an inexplainable unending love.
In addition to family, and close friends who could be family, have you ever gone on a mission trip or traveled somewhere and met other Christ-followers? Did you have that instant connection or that feeling like you've known each other forever? I know it's happened to me throughout my life.
Several years ago, my husband and I went on a mission trip to Mexico. There were two host missionary families that we connected with and still stay in contact with today. When we met them, it seems like we skipped right to the "we're family now" feeling before the week of serving even started. And we aren't family, we're not blood-related...or are we? We are blood-related. And that blood is the blood of Christ!
The blood of Jesus has given us each grace and hope and true meaning in our lives. And God has given us countless brothers and sisters, blood-related family, that we should love and encourage with everything we have. It is unfortunate when petty issues divide us, and unforgiveness reigns. We need to rise above whatever differences are going on and realize that blood is thicker than water. Right now, is just a breath of time, we have all eternity to spend together so let's start the healing process.
Spend some time thanking God today for those He has put in your life. If there is anyone you need to forgive, ask God to help you. If there's anyone who you need to ask for forgiveness, ask God to help you.
I encourage you to pray the last verses of this passage over each of them.
"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God." (vs. 9-11)
Stop Being Surprised
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33
Several months ago, we decided to rent a storage unit to start clearing out our house and get a head start in the moving process. We figured we'd only have it about three to four months until our house was finished being built. Then COVID came, delayed everything, and nine months later, we were finally getting the last of our belongings out.
As we pulled up to the unit to get the last of our things, we noticed part of a guitar stand on the ground and my side of the unit door was unlatched. "Wow," I thought, "we must be getting really tired of moving to be so careless."
But, alas, we were not careless. The latch on the other side of the door was cut so when we opened the door, we saw that the remainder of our belongings were strewn about the unit, leaves were everywhere, and several tubs were now empty. It was so disheartening. We are still not exactly sure what is missing, but honestly, part of me doesn't want to know and learn that something precious is gone forever.
It's hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that someone was sitting in their house on a Sunday night and came to the decision that a fun activity would be to get some tools and go break into several storage units and steal things. On the other hand, do you read the latest news articles? Or even just read the headlines? It's pretty obvious that people make bad decisions all the time. Evil is everywhere.
In the book of John, Jesus says that in this world, we will have trouble. He doesn't say 'might' or 'possibly'. He says 'we will'. In other words, we are guaranteed to encounter trouble. So, why do we act so surprised when there is trouble? When there is cheating, hate, deception, and so many other awful things. We live in a world that has become blind to sin so certain things shouldn't shock us.
I'm not saying we should accept the bad or condone it, but how should we react? Jesus says that we will have trouble in this world, but we can also find peace! And we can find our peace in Him alone. Instead of adding to the chaos and sin, let's shine His light of peace. Let's counteract with love, compassion, and simply being the bigger person. We need to stop being surprised by sin and stand strong.