God’s Word > Your Emotions

God’s Word > Your Emotions

Who hasn’t had moments where you had a rush of emotion and sent a text or made a decision from that place? Maybe it turns out okay. And maybe it doesn’t. I wanted to do that the other day when I had an upsetting conversation with someone. I felt completely justified in my feelings and drafted an email in response. But something stopped me. Or rather someONE: I think the Holy Spirit put the brakes on the email I wrote. I should say thanks because I’m guessing it wouldn’t have gone too well. We’ve all seen the damage that angry people can do with an email, amiright??

My emotions were real and important and need dealt with, but not all of them are godly and helpful in responding to a situation. Emotions are more like kids on a car trip: you can’t let them take the wheel but you can’t throw ‘em in the trunk either. Truth be told I’m more of a trunk-thrower, but lately I’ve been feeling some things deeply and learning to submit these emotions to the Word of God BEFORE I move on them. I did that this morning, and as I looked back I thought I’d share exactly what I did with God and the Bible in case it would help you process yours.

I began my morning reading and prayer time feeling kinda distant and angry…not at God – just in general as a result of a situation at-hand. I started by writing out the Lord’s Prayer from my heart to God, which is always where I go if I don’t know how to start praying. Today it reminded me that God is my Father, so I can tell him how I feel. So I did.

    1. I wrote out a prayer with aaaaalllllll the feelings: no holding back. I started with “Father – I am angry…” and then went on from there. I told Him all about the things I felt and then some details about why I felt each way. I said things like “I feel devalued.” “I feel discriminated against”…Some of these feelings I thought I had every right to feel and all the evidence supported my POV. Others were mildly embarrassing, and I wouldn’t try to justify them to you at all. Yet there they were. I didn’t judge my feelings: I just told God what they were as honestly as I could. 

 

    1. Then I made myself a list of all my feeling words. I wanted to kind of get a vibe of all of them together: (You get a super clear picture here don’t you?!)
      • Angry
      • Insulted
      • Jealous
      • Minimized
      • Devalued
      • Alone 
      • Unsupported
      • Discriminated-against
    2. Next I asked the Spirit to bring scripture to mind that I should read in this emotional place.
      This is the tricky part if you don’t regularly read scripture. God can point me different places through the Holy Spirit just because I’m familiar with what’s in there. He has better access to speak to you, prompt you or bring a scripture to mind if you’re building up experience in His Word (That’s why I’m always encouraging people to read their Bible!!!). If this isn’t you I still encourage you to ask in prayer because something may come to mind. But if not, you can also reach out to a friend or a pastor, asking “If you felt like this; (give ‘em your list), what part(s) of the Bible would you read?”

 

    1. I read the scripture. For me, today, it was Philippians 2:1-11. This passage is a favorite of mine, so it is easy for God to use to reach me. I thought of it right away when I asked. As I was reading it I just wanted to stay open to anything the Spirit might say so I; a) wrote out the passage piece by piece just to let it soak in; b) thought about why this would come to mind in my current state and jotted some notes about that. For me, today, it was Philippians 2:1-11. This passage is a favorite of mine, so it is easy for God to use to reach me. I thought of it right away when I asked. As I was reading it I just wanted to stay open to anything the Spirit might say so I; a) wrote out the passage piece by piece just to let it soak in; b) thought about why this would come to mind in my current state and jotted some notes about that.

 

    1. I summarized what the text of scripture said.  For that passage I wrote: “This says if I want to be great then it cannot come from anything selfish: it must come from a desire to serve my Father’s will. The path to significance will always be through lifting others up. What’s good for others should be the basis of my actions and decisions. If I want to be like Jesus then I need to be okay with lower positions than I might think I deserve. When I am like this in my attitudes and actions then I become trustworthy with authority because I am only concerned about God’s reputation and not my own.”

 

  1. Last, I prayed and asked God what actions I should take/not take as a result. 

      For me this was (these are based on the scripture I read):

      1. I will publicly praise ______ (a person’s name) this week somehow. 
      2. I will keep my mouth shut about my complaints because they appear to be rooted in concern for my own reputation. I’ll trust God with that instead. 
      3. I will not send an email to _____’s boss about what’s been taken from me. I will ask God to fight for me and for the chance to enter a productive face to face conversation instead. 
      4. I asked God to return what’s been taken from me only if I am the one who can get the most glory for HIM with it.

    It’s so hard to do this while we live in a culture that encourages emotions to run the show. I still feel what I was feeling. (Though the intensity did lessen just processing them with God). The best advice is not necessarily to ‘follow your heart:’ the Bible actually says we have good reason to suspect our emotions might not be the things that lead us to life:

    “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,

        and desperately wicked.

        Who really knows how bad it is?

    But I, the Lord, search all hearts

        and examine secret motives.” Jeremiah 17: 9-10

    My emotions are helpful and I have to be honest with myself and God. They were not zapped away with this exercise, and I might need to go back to them with God again. But just the practice of putting them underneath God’s Word is huge: it reminds me there’s a Truth higher than whatever emotions are pulsing through my heart today. 

    Fasting – Ugh, the waiting.

    Fasting – Ugh, the waiting.

    Fasting: never been my favorite spiritual discipline. Simply put – fasting is refraining from eating food for a spiritual purpose: it’s not a physical diet (down with diet culture!). It’s something we are given the privilege of doing as a follower of Jesus in order to grow in intimacy with our Father and to see spiritual breakthrough. As someone who’s trying to not just read the Bible, but actually DO its words, I have to admit that Jesus assumed fasting would be a part of the DO-ing of our faith. For Jesus it was a “duh, of course” you will. In Matthew 6, Jesus laid out three practices that he assumed were occurring in the life of every one of his followers: He said “When you give..When you pray…When you fast.” WHEN you fast. 

    Truth is, I knew I didn’t practice these words with any kind of diligence and deep commitment. So when my mentor texted me on New Year’s Eve with an invitation to join into her annual New Year’s fast, I immediately felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to say yes. I sat there with champagne in one hand and a cookie in the other and agreed to start the next day with them.  I thought I was going to hate it. Three weeks is a long time. But instead I began 2021 feeling very close to Jesus.

    Also – I still don’t like to fast. 

    I did a variety of types: some days were only liquids. There were a handful of categories I gave up for the entire period (breads, sweets, alcohol – all for spiritual, symbolic purposes that mean something between me & God). Other days I’d fast certain meals to focus on certain prayers. I read a great book on fasting during these weeks to stay encouraged (find the Amazon link on my book reco page!) and we had a group text to share prayers and pick each other up on bad days. Each of us had chosen certain themes or focus areas for our entire 3 weeks of prayer. We often prayed for each other’s issues. (Bonus; fasting as a group builds deeper relationships). 

    I finished feeling sure that God would release blessing of all kinds into my life: 

    Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

    Matthew 6:33

    Fasting is seeking the Lord over top the other things we crave for ourselves. It goes on the pile of evidence-that-God-really-does-come-first-in-your-life. Instead of starting the year praying only for what I wanted to happen in 2021 (which certainly isn’t bad!), I started the year actually seeking God first. It felt good. But here’s the thing I have to report back 6 months later;

    I’m still waiting. 

    Almost none of the tangible things I prayed for has come to pass. Is 6 months a long time? Not with eternity in view, but there are days it feels long to me. 

    Fasting is not a way to manipulate God to give you what you want, but it does come with a promise of reward. 

    But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

    James 4:7

    There’s a tension here, and there’s no way to resolve it. Jesus calls us to fast in obedience and then also says we will be rewarded. Fasting in scripture is CLEARLY part of significant breakthrough and direction. We can absolutely enter a fast with an expectant heart, but we cannot dictate the conditions, the timing, the manner or the methods of God’s breakthrough and blessing. We fast in trust. And then we wait. Even as I sit here not yet seeing the things I have asked of God…

    I will obey. 

    I will believe there are and will continue to be all kinds of spiritual realities impacted by this fast in my life. 

    I will remind myself that faith always includes the tension of things I don’t yet see.

    Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

    Hebrews 11:1-2

    I’ve put off writing this because – truth be told – I wanted to report back with an update that I’d seen all the things I have asked for! Truth is, I’ve seen some movements here and there in a few directions but no major breakthroughs. Truth is, some days I cry because things don’t seem to be going where I thought God was leading. Truth is, I have days I doubt the fast mattered. But I keep going back to something the book I was reading reminded me of:

    God highly prizes – and never, ever forgets- true faithfulness.

    Months – even years- after a fast, God will see me down on my knees in front of my pantry saying to Him “I want you more than I want food. As hungry as I am, I am hungrier for your hand on my life and your mercy, guidance and love. I want YOU more than any of this.” His memory doesn’t fade, and his concept of time is not like mine. God never forgets.

    Fasting is definitely one of the things I’d put in the column of “easier read than done,” but I believe it is worth it. Our Lord is true to his Word. So while today I haven’t seen breakthrough, the reality is that I just haven’t seen it YET. 

     

    Go On… Risk it.

    Go On… Risk it.

    Today I went on a hike and had a sweet and incredible experience with my girls and the Lord. It was so fitting because I’ve been reading the book of James for the past week which kept reminding me that our faith must have clear evidences in our real lives…. or it isn’t real faith. That usually comes down to a risk of some sort. Like it did for me today. 

    “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

    “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

    Matthew 7:7-10

    I went on a hike with my girls on some paths I’ve walked many times. I shared a story with them about how a couple years ago I was on the very same path and the woods looked very brown and bare – just like it looked right now. I explained how I’d heard God whisper to me “I’m still here in all my fullness. Just look.” I began to pluck tiny plants or flowers I saw in a few nice colors, and soon I began to wonder whether God could give me the whole rainbow of colors before I left the trail??

    I hesitated to believe that the thought was from Him: the woods at first glance truly were brown and lifeless nearly everywhere I looked. But He was impressing on me to believe: to keep picking up each color in the faith that He could deliver all of them on my short walk. I wanted to believe that He was here – in all his fullness- even when it looked barren around me, but am I nuts? Really, God? Where in the world are orange and purple going to come from?

    Well, in a short time I’d collected every color except blue. I couldn’t imagine how He’d deliver blue. Blue! But again I felt Him urging me to risk believing it was Him. To risk being disappointed if it wasn’t. To risk looking around expectantly as if He was really going to do it somehow. I actually said out loud “Ok. I believe you. You’re going to give them all to me. I’m going to find the blue somehow.” I came to the end of the trail a little bummed I still didn’t have blue. I stopped at the end of trail, ready to turn back to the car, and I glanced down. 

    There they were: a tiny cluster of blue belles at my feet! I burst out laughing and got tears in my eyes. He had delivered the whole rainbow! God was there; in all his fullness — even when it didn’t seem like it at first glance. 

     So today… I told my girls that story and (of course – duh!) they wanted to do the same. Should have seen that one coming. And again I felt my hesitation. I felt protective of my girls young faith. I wanted to protect them from any kind of disappointment in God. I began to think “well, I don’t want them to feel let down by God. What if it doesn’t happen? I don’t want to challenge God or anything. Maybe we shouldn’t.” But I went ahead sensing again this was a risk I should and could and needed to take on God. I know it doesn’t seem like a big risk, but it was. It was a lot for me to think He’d do it again. Why would I think He’d care about this? Why would he?! But I think in the end, He just wants us to risk the real belief…that He’s there, listening, cares…and He’ll use anything to enter that exchange with us.  

    So I agreed with them; “Ok let’s look!” And soon enough – you guessed it – we had everything except blue. 

    We got to the end of the same trail and turned back just as I had a couple years ago. We were disappointed. No blue in sight. And my daughter Zoe said to me “Mom we think it’s over, but I wonder if God thinks it is.” I told her that was a great thought to always hold onto about God: When we are done, He’s usually not. 

    We neared the parking lot. I was having a silent conversation with God telling him how much I wanted my girls to have easy, daily, childlike faith in little things like this. I wanted them to go on walks with Him the same way I liked to do. I wanted them to ask and think He was right there, listening. And truth be told, I was bummed too. I’d wanted him to show Him presence and voice and sweetness to me, too, in this beautiful little way. 

     No sooner had my doubts been (silently) voiced to God but my daughter, Hope, yelled “Guys! Look!” I turned around just as she opened her cupped hands to show us a beautiful BLUE butterfly!

    Given the time of year, it must have been the only one in the entire woods. She reached up and caught it out of thin air.

    Tears sprang to my eyes, and we all realized at once what had happened! God sent us our blue! He just did it in a way we didn’t expect. Different than last time. And just as incredible, just as beautiful.

    When, oh when, will I stop being the one to the words of James this week were directed….

    But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 

    James 1:6 

     When we read words like this we are prone to underestimate our own doubts and unfaithfulness. We are prone to read “ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find” thinking that we do that all the time. But the truth is most of us don’t. We don’t risk the disappointment. We don’t risk the hope. We don’t risk the impact on our kids. We don’t risk actually putting our faith to work even on a Sunday walk in the woods. 

    I’m glad I decided to risk it. I’m glad God is so patient with me. Real faith sure is easier to read about than do.

     

    Love: Am I actually doing it?

    Love: Am I actually doing it?

    Since it’s near Valentine’s Day I thought it would be worth reading about love in scripture and actually putting the Biblical definition of love to work in my closest relationships this month. Join me in my little experiments to actually LOVE the way God defines it. (And hint: it doesn’t involved champagne or chocolate. But for the record…I am PRO-champagne-and-chocolate!)

    We talk about love as if its just a feeling, but the Bible says love isn’t defined by our emotions at all. I know – gasp! We can love without “feeling it” all the time. We can love without the perfect relationship or the perfect circumstances or the perfect spouse (good luck with that one). I’m convinced our definition of love has gotten mixed up much more with our culture than it is with our Bible.
    It’s easy to read about love. It’s easy to watch Netflix shows about love. It’s harder to actually DO love to those around us. If we want to love someone according to the Biblical view on love, it’s going to take 3 things that are much easier read than done.

    Love, according to God….
    SEES others.
    GIVES things up.
    DOES real stuff.

    We get a pretty straight-up definition of love-according-to-God in the New Testament, but you can see this definition of love at work all over the pages of the Bible – especially in the life of Jesus.
    “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters. If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” 1 John 3:16-18

    Love is not about us having the right feelings for someone else. If we actually love someone according to the Biblical definition then it may actually have the consequence of changing feelings! This is kind of a mind-blowing shift, y’all. It really is.

    Let me tell you about how love was done to me a few weeks ago. My husband, Bill, is the one who did it and refreshed my memory about what God’s kind of love looks like. Here’s what went down:

    He sent me to a hotel room by myself for a night to work. He saw I was stressed about finishing two major projects. He noticed I couldn’t get stuff done as effectively working at home with four kids in and out of quarantines and online school. So he booked a hotel room for me, packed me a snack bag and did Dad-duty until the next day at noon.

    He saw me. Really saw me. He didn’t focus on the fact that I hadn’t cooked dinner in 5 nights or the extra stuff that wasn’t getting done for him or around the house…but instead he really saw what I was going through.
    He gave things up for me. He took time to figure out what to do. He worked from home the next morning (which as I well-know is VERY hard and inefficient with all the kids there for “virtual Wednesdays.” He gave up his evening to do all the kid-stuff. He skipped his workout and drove around the city instead. He sacrificed to give to me.

    He took action. He had to actually DO something you could see. There was a reservation in my email inbox. There was a snack bag. You can see the actions of real love. It doesn’t stay “in my heart” or as a “good intention.” Something gets done that can be observed with your eyes! Love does.

    And wow did my feelings become involved on the backside of those actions. I felt so loved. My husband’s random, Tuesday-night act of love wasn’t “romantic:” it was much better. It was love. And the impact? Well besides serving me and my work, it also softened my heart in a way that roses don’t (though I admit I love roses too). And it motivated me to want to love him like that, too.
    If we want to feel the emotions of love, we have to do the actions of love. And the good news is that we can love like God loves no matter how we feel at the beginning of it!

    This is not just for our marriages and romantic relationships. What if we dared to love people like this who believed in different political candidates or policies? What if we took a few minutes at work to love the guy who actually sorta drives us completely nuts? What if love wasn’t about US or our emotions at all? What if it was a weapon that God has given us to change our hearts and the hearts of others? 

    So let’s do this. I’m making a post-it note right now for my desk. I’m putting my husband, kids and a couple others on it (that I’m not especially excited to love). I wrote the words SEE/GIVE/DO on the top to remind me to watch for something they need, be prepared to GIVE UP something of my own and actually follow through with a plan – no matter how small – to love them in a tangible way. 

    I’m going to practice loving better. I suspect it might be easier read than done.
    But let’s go try.

    Easier Read Than Done

    Easier Read Than Done

    Sometimes it’s easier to hide behind a book – especially if its the Bible where there is plenty to learn. But that’s not real faith.
    You’re browsing through a year of my struggle to live out what I read in the Bible. 2020 would have been worthless if I spent the entire year studying the Bible and never made a move in my real life based on anything I learned. I love to learn every little thing about the words written in their original context and languages. I could spend 6 months perfectly exegeting a text. (And if you know me, you know I might). But it’ll all come to nothing if I don’t ever risk anything on the God I’m getting to know in those pages.  

    I am on a quest to know Him – God, that is. I believe that quest leads anyone on it to come face to face with the Biblical scriptures and wrestle with who Jesus is. That’s why I’m passionate about studying the Bible. However, the Bible isn’t meant to reside in our minds: it’s supposed to push us to believe. Belief can always be seen in the rest of your life: knowledge cannot.  

    We think of belief as internal, but it only starts internally. Real belief always seeps out in tangible stuff. Like websites. This website and its contents are me believing the Bible; allowing the words of God in my life to grow into fruit.  

    Real faith has “fruit,” says James (2:14-26). Fruit is just the metaphor for the process of letting Gods Words grow from a seed in a small, dark, buried place inside you to something that can be seen, touched, tasted, enjoyed. Your faith and mine should be regularly maturing into fruit, and that only happens through small everyday actions and risks. I always try to keep growth going until I see the fruit. For some things (or in some years!) that takes longer than others. 2020 served up enormous internal and external hurdles, and this is me, believing anyway…. 

    This is me believing that God sometimes frustrates our steps to direct our path.

    Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

    Proverbs 19:21

    In 2020 I kept hitting the same wall as I explored a few professional opportunities- I didn’t have a website. Although thats very specific, it was blocking some opportunities. But I didn’t think I had the skills, time and energy to figure out how to develop one with no team, all on my own. After taking a minute to feel discouraged and wallow there, I started believing that sometimes God puts up walls to direct us to the next turn. So I started asking questions, meeting with people, praying. And here we are. 

    This is me believing God over his enemy. 

    Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 

    James 4:7

    Many many days (probably including today) I’ve heard the small voice inside saying “Who cares about your writing?! No one wants your content. Doesn’t mean anything. Better stuff out there. There are lots of people teaching the Bible and doing it better than you.” I’m sure you hear the same kind of voice occasionally, too (especially when you start to MOVE). When the voice comes I close my eyes and hear God saying… “Just keep going. It matters to me.”

    This is me believing I am creative. 

    So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

    Genesis 1:27

    Most of my life I haven’t thought of myself as “creative.” (Meaning I really stink at drawing, painting and pottery). As I learned new skills to bring the things in my brain to life, it felt so good. Writing content, designing the pages of a study, setting objectives, picking colors, fonts, pictures, etc… it all made me remember that I am an image-bearer of The Creator, and we are all made to experience the deep satisfaction of creating.  

    This is me believing that God made me exactly the way he wanted me.  

    For you created my inmost being;

        you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

        your works are wonderful,

        I know that full well.

    Psalm 139:13-14 

    I am free to be myself here and not be told that I’m “too much” of something and “not enough” of something else. I’m done listening to that: I believe God knew what he was doing with me, and that he likes who I am (even with all my quirks). 

    This is me believing my gifts are valuable. 

    Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

    Ephesians 4:14-16

    It’s time for us to grow up in our faith and stop wavering at the first sign of trouble. I owe it to you to offer what I have. And I need what you’ve got! (As I saw firsthand through the graphic designer, photographer, programmer and friends who came alongside to pray and encourage me this year). Because we all need to grow up stronger. We have to be brave enough to offer what we’ve got!

    This is me believing that one risk of faith leads to what’s next. 

    By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

    Hebrews 11:8

    I got a great piece of advice from someone months back on my journey. He smiled and said “Creative people have to keep going. You tend to have to make something before you know the next thing to make. One thing leads to the next.” I left thinking... this is just like faith. Learn, risk and move. Learn, risk and move. God doesn’t lay it all out at once. 

    I’m a geeky type who really wants to know the Bible, but I am very well aware that the point is to live it. I want you to take the time to study the Bible with me and to really understand it. But ultimately that just isn’t enough. We’ve gotta go live it. And, frankly, sometimes it’s easier read than done.