The Study With Friends community includes a team of bloggers who bless us with authentic and honest musings about how their faith informs their life, and how life informs their faith. These blogs offer insights and advice from the heart. They are experiential. For instructional insights, visit our bible study page.
Many years ago, I quit my job because of significant stressors arising from said job. I felt really guilty, as a lot of training and education went into my attaining this job. I really did not think God wanted me to quit, but I was so depressed and stressed that I hated going to work to a job I once loved, (some parts of which I still loved). I had prayed and prayed and saw no clear answer over the course of several years. Then one day, my “Ananias” called to ask how I was. I burst out crying on the phone, as I had had a particularly difficult and complicated night the evening before. I told my friend I needed a “mental health day.” Wisely, she asked me to explain what I meant by that. I told her how unhappy I was, how much I had prayed about quitting or staying, and how I did not hear a clear answer either way from God. My friend’s sage advice, prompted by the Holy Spirit, I am sure, was “Sometimes you have to take the first step in faith and see where God leads.”
Our friendships grow and change over our lifetime, with some staying, some going, and some being just for a season. We know this, but our relationships can still be a source of much confusion when we’re in the thick of a conflict or when a relationship ends entirely. There have been some relationships in my life where I have felt hurt that the other person let me down, or didn’t meet my expectations. I’m sure this is a universal experience! God gave me a wonderful gift when He helped me to realize that I needed to adjust my expectations of others. I could let it bother me that someone didn’t do what I thought they should do, or I could accept that my agenda is mine, and not theirs.
For Christmas last year, my niece gave her parents a gift of discovering their ancestry through DNA testing. My brother and I laughed when he told me this, as our father was a first-generation American, his father coming from Germany and his mother from a German village in Switzerland. Our mother was second-generation American, all her grandparents having emigrated from Germany. Big surprise: the test showed my brother is 99+ percent German. This got me to thinking of my spiritual heritage…
But God’s desire is not for us to compare. His word tells us to be happy where we’re at, to be content with what God has given us and what He has taken away. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” (Philippians 4:11-12) His desire is for us to be joyful and content in every aspect of life. But why is it so hard? If you’re anything like me, those little devils of comparison chirp their discontent ALL DAY LONG. “Your house could be cleaner. You could be in better shape. You could be a happier mom. You could read more books. Your hair could be prettier. You could be more charismatic, because you’re socially awkward.”
Early each holiday season when the lights and ornaments are brought out from storage and we fill the house with festive decorations, we also bring out an old baby doll our girls used to play with. We swaddle the doll in a faded, worn receiving blanket, place it in a shoebox covered in brown paper with a shiny red bow, and slide it under our Christmas tree. It’s a simple representation of the gift of baby Jesus.
The brown paper box is meant to be a manger, so it’s also filled with “straw” made from ripped strips of yellow construction paper. Many of these strips of paper have statements written on them.
My sister tells the story of meeting a Hollywood actor and producer in a little semi-rural town in PA. A gentleman approached her for assistance and she blurted out, “You’re Mark Harmon!”
“Well, yes I am,” he countered. “And you are…?”
“Me? Oh, I’m nobody!” replied my sister.
Alan Shlemon’s family was originally from Baghdad, Iraq. Before they came to this country, they believed that America was a Christian country. Alan explains that over the years of living here, what he found instead was a country with many people who are ‘nominal’ Christians. “They don’t attend services regularly. They don’t know much about […]
It’s hard to remember the last time I was truly joyful. I’m a generally happy, positive person. But when was the last time I truly exuberated joy? I’ve heard the difference between happiness and joy described many ways, but this is one of my favorites: Happiness is an emotion that can disappear as quickly as it comes, but Joy is a choice.
It was amazing how the faux brick surrounding the colorful mural blended in with the surroundings, making the mural itself stand out even more. So, I’m thinking, as human beings, should we be blending in like the “brick” or working to stand out like the mural? It’s so much easier to blend in even when we are forty-something years old and middle school is far behind us. We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves; we don’t want to upset people; we are too busy with our own day to respond to, or even notice, the needs of others. Standing out is difficult. It takes energy. It’s uncomfortable. Yet, that’s exactly what Jesus asks us to do.
Recently I attended a women’s retreat at a campground in the northern part of lower Michigan. The trees were just beginning to turn; as we drove further north, the display of color became more and more amazing. Here and there red leaves and pink, yellows and gold, and brilliant orange peeked out among the greens. As I gazed on the beauty around me, I was appreciative of our Creator God. Then it started to rain.
Light splashes here and there on the windshield became a steady drizzle, then a downpour. Gray clouds turned dark, and fog rolled in as the temperature began dropping. We could no longer see the color because of the darkness. It was still raining when we arrived at camp, and the ground was turning to muck. I thought of the umbrella hanging in my closet at home, and was glad I had packed a hooded, all-weather jacket.