The Net

The other day I was writing some teaching notes about the difference between encouragement and flattery. Last night I found this old journal entry from 2010 which put a different spin on the subject.

I wrote this entry after I had received my second Employee of the Quarter award at the retirement apartments where I was working in a major multitasking position known as the command center.

Journal entry from 2010

Most of my life I have been barraged by negative and destructive thoughts. My mind used to spin with these thoughts, but the past ten years I have worked hard to take these thoughts captive, submit them to Christ, and to pray for truth. But this time it wasn’t negative thoughts that tripped me up, it was positive ones.

Yesterday, I was talking to a good friend about pride. Today, I stepped into the net and got caught in it. As soon as I arrived at work I had to clean up a co-workers mistake, which is nothing out of the ordinary. We all make mistakes, but this morning I began to congratulate myself about how dependable I was. “Hmmm Jeannie, you haven’t made any noticeable mistakes in a while. It must be good for your boss to know that she can count on you to get the job done right. That is why she keeps entrusting you with more responsibilities and projects. Good job Jeannie!”

Not long after I had given myself one last pat on my back, I realized that I had forgotten to complete an assignment that had been given to me a few days before (that sure took me down a notch.) Then I couldn’t unjam the copier and had to call maintenance for help. (one notch lower) And just when I was beginning to wonder why I couldn’t measure up to my own expectations, I was confronted by my boss about a mistake a resident had made on her rent check. Because I had not noticed the mistake before I had made the rent deposits, the checked got kicked back from the bank and the corporate office was not happy about it. As my boss stood at my desk I heard the words no employee wants to hear, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to write you up for this.”  Even though her tone was sweet, the words hit hard.

As I reflected on this morning’s events, Proverbs 29:5 came to mind: “A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet (NKJV). It’s funny, I had never before thought about the flattering lips in this verse as being MY flattering lips. But it was obvious that my self-flattery had spread a net that had tripped me up.

So what is the difference between healthy self-esteem and self-flattery?  One is Christ-centered- “Look at Him!” The other is self-centered-“Look at me!

When we have healthy self-esteem (or God-confidence) we receive our value by knowing our identity in Christ. When we flatter ourselves we are trying to receive our identity through others.

God confidence makes us thankful. Self-flattery makes us prideful.

Having God-confidence releases us to celebrate our strengths, gifts, and accomplishments. Flattery causes us to compare instead celebrating.

God-confidence causes us to build others up. Self-flattery makes us jealous and will often cause us to tear others down.

God confidence brings unity, self-flattery brings division.

Although self-flattery, may at first, seem like a friend, it can quickly become an obvious enemy. For the next step after lifting ourselves up in our own understanding is often tearing ourselves down.

One is a notch; the other is a net. I don’t know about you, but I would rather focus on Christ and let Him raise me up, then get caught in the net of pride and make myself fall.

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”(Proverbs 16:18).

 

 

 

 

 

The Gate

Today’s post is about an inspiring encounter my dear friend Brandilynn had this Easter weekend. 

As I drove towards Tarpley, Texas on Easter weekend; an overwhelming sense of emptiness filled my heart. Like an empty cup turned upside down; I felt nothing left. I was excited for the weekend, yet felt afraid I wouldn’t fit in with the group. They all knew each other well and I was just new to this church group. They were like one big happy family that joked and bantered back and forth with inside stories I had yet to understand. The old familiar thoughts entered in. Was I good enough? Could I measure up? Would I be on the sidelines looking in? Could I make a difference? I asked God to equip me as I rounded the corner to “The Gate” that would forever change my life. I sat in front of this huge black iron gate that towered above me. As I entered the code and the gate opened; I couldn’t shake a sense of something great is about to happen.

 

I quickly unpacked my bags and got settled in. Everyone began arriving at the second of two cabins on the Lake Front Hill Country Getaway. …and so began my journey to receiving the greatest fulfillment in a group setting I can remember. This group is different I told myself. Everyone busily got situated into both cabins and later that night we sat around eating burgers and listening to Pastor Mark share a message on what it means for God to get the glory in your life. He shared that this weekend was about focusing on the Lord and leaving the worldly cares behind. We delved into discussions about God and Jesus in a way that felt different. James had been discussing feelings of LACK in the previous church meetings.He shared to take those feelings and just ask God…  “Hey, what is this Lord”?!  It amazed me that it could be simplified so easily into one action.

Problem: Feeling lack (of any kind)
Solution: Holding that up to God and asking him about it

Pretty easy concept! How I missed it all these years is beyond me.

That night, I had a lot of time to think about what God was doing in my life and in the lives of others around me. I woke up the next morning with only a few hours of sleep. I felt strangely energized as I met up with the others in the group. The day unfolded perfectly as we talked around the picnic table. Later we hiked a mountain that later became known as “Won Shoe Mountain” and at night sat around the fire in God’s presence. We laughed and cried and sang and talked. A sense of wonderment came over me when I realized that in our group of twelve. Like the disciples, Jesus sat among us! I could feel his presence like never before. I could feel LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, JOY, HONOR, HUMILITY, COMPASSION, FAITHFULNESS, COMMITMENT, ANOINTING, GENTLENESS, ENCOURAGEMENT, and DISCERNMENT, to name a few. I was amazed to hear, as we went around the campfire; the thoughts that others had formed about me. Nothing but the love of Jesus could allow them to see into my heart that way. As each person took their turn my mind ceased to function and my soul leaped forward. I realized this is a taste of heaven on earth, as I felt unending love in that moment. A sneak peak into the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE that God has in store for us all as we (in time) enter into the heavenly gates.

NO LACK existed!

The next morning I awoke feeling satisfied that I had opened my heart, mind, soul, body to God in a way that surpassed previous moments. I felt closer to God than ever before in a way that humbled; yet excited me. I drove out and back up to the gate with new purpose and an overflowing cup. I sat in front of the Gate for a moment… NOT wanting to leave.

I understand now entering the code to the gate…. symbolic for saying, God, I am here… ready to be in your presence. I leave everything behind at the gate entrance and enter into your kingdom and majesty and righteousness. I realized I had left ALL worldly things at the front of the gate. We can’t bring those things into his presence.

In closing, leaving you with one final thought. When you are sitting in front of that Gate… staring up and deciding whether to enter…  or sit back in the worldly things… will you decide to enter into God’s presence and feel his majesty and love surround you and change you in a profound way. Letting the world fall away off of you… your body, your mind, your heart, your soul. To renew and bask in the presence of God that seems to change you down to the very cells of your body… to fill your heart so full it is bursting with Love, Adoration, Kindness, and Acceptance for everyone and everything around you. …but even greater still a deepening love of the Lord your Father in heaven that cannot be contained or explained.

…as I drove out the gate… I looked on the side of the road and could see the worldly cares I had left when entering, still sitting piled up; that I had dumped right outside the gate. I paused for a split second in thought as my eyes welled up with tears of joy. I drove away… leaving the pile still sitting there. I won’t be needing those again I thought as sweet tears began flowing down my cheeks. A sense of an atmosphere shift lingered with me in the car. A heart overflowing and a feeling of pure love beyond measure.

To those that don’t know God….  the code you enter to “The Gate” is Jesus. Ask Jesus into your heart and the gate will open for anyone who will ask.

All the love in the world to you.

-Brandilynn Edgerton

A Written Proposal

Contributed by James Bennett

I started a letter to God in 2013 with thanksgiving and praise as I had been taught in my discipleship class. As I wrote, the Spirit of the Lord came upon me. His presence was closer and more evident than any time before, and different than any time since. The atmosphere was sweet and romantic, yet very intense. My body responded. I was weeping uncontrollably. Fallen tears soaked the pages and spotted my jeans. Struggling to breath, I resolved to write. What began as a letter of request had dramatically turned into the most honest love letter I had ever written. My heart broke open, and feelings I had never known before gushed out. Because it was a love letter, I will keep details personal between God and me. However, I will share that repeatedly, and in various ways, I expressed how I wanted God’s companionship in all areas of my life. I asked that He free me from the worry of lack of money. I longed for stability.

The original purpose of the letter was to request what I wanted in the following year. I was going to ask that God grant me more income for financial stability, a permanent home, and a wife. Yet, I was so moved by love that I forgot to include the details.

Actually I did not forget anything. I was intensely focused on what was important, and the small details were not. In fact, those types of details that you and I have all planned in life are really solutions on how to live without God. As I wrote, I was so moved by God’s love that I could only request that He meet my needs.

The following year, 2014, did not look like I thought it would, however, all of my needs were met. I took an $80,000 decrease in pay and could not plan 2 meals ahead. Instead of bringing me more income to free me from financial worries, God took income out of the equation altogether. He made it very easy for me to witness His provision, so that I could not miss where true provision comes from. He did this repeatedly over and over that year. I no longer worry about money. That does not mean I have an abundance of money. In fact, there are often times where I lack what is needed. Worry in these times has been replaced with a sense of wellbeing.

The beginning of 2014 started with me owning my own home, and ended with me having to sell it. God showed me how my home is not in what surrounds me, but what is in me. The Kingdom of Heaven is my home and home is where the heart is. No matter where I am living physically, I have access to this home that transforms the atmosphere around me.

I longed for companionship, yet I did not get married that year. I felt more alone that year than any year before. Like with income, God removed companionship with people from the equation so that I could clearly see Him. That year my relationship with Him grew deeper and deeper, as I imagine it would for newlyweds that relocate to a new city with no money.

The experience I shared with the Lord when writing that letter in 2013 changed me. I had never known Him to be so real. He later revealed to me that the letter was a proposal from my heart to His. I proposed to be married to Him and His ways forever. I also proposed to build a life together. This may not have been my intentions when starting the letter, but when we are in His presence our desires are purified. The solutions I originally sought after were displaced by the only true solution, the love of God.

 

 

Songs

When my oldest grandson was four my daughter called so he could sing me one of the songs he had just made up. But when I asked him to sing for me, there was silence.

“Rhett,” I coaxed, “are you going to sing me one of your songs?”

After a little sigh, he answered in a serious tone, “I cin’t, Mimi. My songs are all gone!”

At the time, I couldn’t keep from laughing, but later in the day, as his childish reply rolled over in my mind, I began to think about times when I felt as if my songs were all gone.

Last week I attended a Bible study where the leader had asked those in attendance to share their favorite songs and the stories behind them.

As the music played and songs were sung, often, karaoke style, my brothers and sisters in Christ shared their stories and their hearts. Many of the behind the song accounts were about how God had met them in dark and desperate times—times when their songs were all gone.

I fought back tears as hearts were exposed revealing how,in a single moment, the goodness of God had collided with the ugliness of life through music and worship. Hope invaded hopeless as tragedy, grief, despair, and desperation were shifted to peace, comfort, acceptance, and adoration.

These beautiful life-changing encounters inspired me, challenged me, and reminded me of how God had met me so powerfully during times when my songs were all gone.

I couldn’t help but think about when Paul and Silas were imprisoned. Being beaten and thrown into a dark, smelly cell with your feet shackled would definitely be a moment to quit singing. In the midst of their pain and prison the songs of their own understanding might have been silenced, but instead of shutting down they shouted up and exchanged their sorrows and suffering for new songs—God’s songs. In Acts 16: 25-26 the Bible reads About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose” (NIV).

Wow! Talk about a heavenly concert! Praises were lifted, foundations were shifted and ALL the prisoners were unshackled.

The other night, as I heard the testimonies of my sweet friends, praises were lifted, foundations were shifted, and shackles were broken. We were once again reminded of how our loving heavenly father invades our worlds and moves our hearts with His songs, especially when our songs are all gone.

I don’t know your current circumstances. But God does! No matter what you are going through, be assured that He has a new song just for you.

May you be abundantly blessed as your heart is lifted and your eyes are shifted to the one that adores you and sings over you!

Jeannie Boatright

The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17 NIV).

 

When Feelings Don’t Matter

 

When Feelings Don’t Matter

Have you ever felt unworthy? I used to feel that way daily. One morning, many years ago, I woke up thinking, “I’m such a mess. What can I possibly do for God?” I continued to beat myself up, listing all the reasons why I was unfit to do what God was calling me to do. I fully expected Him to agree with me and push me away. But instead, He drew me close and reminded me that whether I felt worthy or not, made me no less lovable or able to be used by Him. My worthiness was not based upon my beliefs about myself or in my abilities. I was worthy strictly because of what Jesus did for me and who I was to Him.

As I continued to pray, in my mind, I saw a little caterpillar, and I heard the phrase of a familiar old hymn “For such a worm as I”. I thought to myself, “I am that worm. God could just squish me.” But instead of seeing an all-powerful foot ready to stomp, I saw all-powerful hands reach down and gently scoop up the little insect and cup it as if in a chrysalis. The hands then opened back up and a beautiful butterfly took flight.

God is relational and full of compassion. He understands our hearts and our feelings. He laughs with us when we are happy and cries with us when life hurts. He calms our fears and holds our tears in a bottle. He cheers us on in our victories and even in our defeats. He understands when we are angry, and He holds us close when we are lonely.

He cares about what we feel and why we feel it. Through both triumphs and tragedies, many times, I have heard His tender voice say, “It’s OK. I know how you feel.” But the day I felt so unworthy I heard Him speak something quite different. As I saw Him release the butterfly, He tenderly spoke to my heart, “It doesn’t matter how you feel, for you are worthy, my child, just because of my love.”

May you always remember that you are worth more to God than you could ever think or imagine!

Isaiah 49:15-16

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me” (NIV)

May you be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie Boatright!

You’re Somebody

This morning I was reminiscing about a particular afternoon when God gave me a revelation of His love. I was sitting at work with the Dean Martin’s song You’re Nobody till Somebody Loves You blaring over the speakers in the lobby. As I thought about some of my past relationships I felt rejection and pain. By the end of the first stanza, I was wallowing self-pitty. “What is wrooonnng with me? Will someone eeveeer love me?!” my heart cried.

I began to think about how my hunger to be loved and valued had led me into deception and caused me much heartache. Then, Suddenly,  without even realizing what I was saying, I blurted out, “No! That song is a lie!”

The Lord then sweetly spoke to my heart, “Somebody does love you. I love you!”

Although Dean continued to sing in the background, I was hearing new lyrics: You’re Somebody Because I have Always Loved You

Most of us have experienced times when we have felt unnoticed, unheard, or unloved. If you can relate, I pray that as you read the following verses, you will be reminded of how much God loves you.

You’re Somebody Because I have Always Loved You

You’re somebody because I have always loved you.

You’re somebody because I have always cared.

You may not think you are lovable or worthy,

But I’m crazy about you and have so much love to share.

 

The world is not the same and you can change it.

Let my love flow through you everywhere you go.

You’re somebody because I’ve always loved you.

So find someone with whom you can share my love.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV).

                        Be abundantly blessed!

Jeannie Boatright