Junk

I have a love and dislike relationship with my husband’s truck! Yesterday, I found myself wandering in a pick and pull (junkyard) for hours looking for a VERY specific part for Nathan’s truck. Now, for those of you who do not know me, let me assure you, that is a SHOCKING statement! I do NOT like junk, I do NOT like being around unclean things and I most certainly did NOT know what a pick and pull was prior to yesterday!

As soon as the vehicle was in park I said to Nathan, “I will wait here.” He gave me a look and I said, “fine.” I got out of the vehicle with camera in hand ready to take a picture to send my mom, only to be greeted by a sign that read in big black letters, “NO CAMERAS, NO PICTURES!” I am already a bit on edge so imagine my surprise when I learned that just to enter this place was going to cost $2 USD per person! I was baffled at the thought that I had to pay to look at junk! I confess I did say rather loudly, “I should have stayed in the car!”

To help make this experience even more pleasant, some nice soul (yes, that is snarky!) decided it was a good time to burn plastic. Don’t you know the wind starts to pick up and the smoke blows right at me! At this point I am choking and miserable. I said a quick prayer asking God, “to help me NOT freak out on Nathan!”  God, in His mercy, responded by opening my eyes to my surroundings. He brought to mind Job sitting on the ash heap as his once well oiled life was turned into a dump/wasteland.  [What amazes me about the book of Job is that it is the oldest book in the Bible. Job lived after the Tower of Babel (Gen 10) and before Abraham (Gen 12), I mention these details because this means God addressed human suffering from the beginning!]

As I was staring at all the junk, I could not help but to think of Ezekiel 37 and his vision of a wasteland with dry bones; I thought about Sarah, Hannah and Elizabeth, who we are first introduced as barren women. I also thought of Moses roaming the backside of the desert.

While I was walking around and watching Nathan dig and pray for this VERY specific part, God opened my eyes to see the junkyard as a metaphor for life. How many of us have circumstances where we are sitting on ash heaps? How many of us think our lives are a wasteland beyond hope? How many of us if we are honest think our lives are worthless junk, never amounting to anything? How many of us are going through a dry, barren and desolate time?

I do not know what Nathan said to interrupt me, but I could tell he was getting frantic he might not find this VERY specific part! It wasn’t much longer when Nathan let out a triumphant shout. He had found his VERY specific part! I hurried to give him the tools he had me carry. I will humbly confess, when I looked inside the beat up, foul smelling truck, I noticed what was left of the flooring and said, “there could be rats in this thing!” and at that, I freaked out! I said loud enough for anyone to hear, “I am SO glad that we are laying up treasure in heaven free from moths, rust, rats and thieves!” (Matt 6:20).  I will freely admit, the junkyard is a great reminder why we are to store up heavenly treasure rather than earthly treasure (Matt 6:19-21).

Each one of us has a VERY specific part in God’s story! Some of us have more miles than others, some of us have rougher exteriors, but the one thing that we have in common as believers is that we are NOT junk! No hurt, no pain, nothing that we go through is EVER wasted. Remember this: God never wastes a hurt! God also cannot and will not live with junk; you have inherent worth as being created in His Image (Gen 1:27).  I have NO idea what you are going through; however, for the person who endures and perseveres, the Lord will transform and restore. That does NOT necessarily mean God will restore in the same way as Job or reward with the VERY specific part for a truck. However, He will dust us off and give us new hearts. He will also give us peace with Himself and each other.

Father God, I thank You Lord that whether a person is a Jesus follower or not, they are created in Your image. Lord, I thank You for the VERY specific part each believer has in Your family, story and Kingdom. Lord while we may have junk in our lives, I thank You we are NOT junk! Remind this reader Lord, even if their life resembles a junkyard or wasteland, it does not mean it will always be this way. Lord, impress on this reader the importance of storing up treasure in Heaven rather than here on earth. Lord, thank You for Nathan. Thank You for his heart, humility and support in allowing me to share this experience! Thank You Father that You desire to pick and pull people from sin, junk, and darkness and place them into Your light and family, Amen.

For those wondering, Nathan has a 1975 Chevy 3/4 ton pickup truck that I have affectionally dubbed, “Gremlin.”

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Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn, 18 October 2017

 

 

Affirmation

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Yesterday in Residency my professor had us do a team building exercise to affirm members of the class. After the exercise was finished, my professor asked, “did you think it was hard to look the person in the eye when you were affirming them? We have no issue looking people in the eye when we are correcting or disciplining them, yet we tend to not make eye contact when we say something positive.”

In typical Mandy fashion, I blurted out, “I have NO problem making eye contact with the person I am affirming, but I have difficulty making eye contact with the person affirming me.” There were other people in the room who agreed with what I said.

All morning I have been asking God to examine me and reveal to me, “how well am I affirming those whom I come in contact with daily?” I think I am good at encouraging and affirming people who I do not see often or people I know who are hurting, but again, how well am I really affirming those I interact with daily/live with? Am I affirming my husband or am I tearing him down? Am I affirming my mom or am I impatient and mean? I do not have children, but I would like to think I would ask myself if I am giving my child as much affirmation as I am giving them correction/discipline?

How about you, how well are you affirming those you live with/interact with daily?

God truly has a sense of humor! While I am asking God to test me to reveal how well I am affirming others, the Lord is asking me, “how well are you receiving affirmation?” OUCH! I confess, I do not take affirmation well. When someone affirms me, I do one of three things: I deflect with a joke, say thank you quickly, or change the subject. I just realized, when someone corrects me or speaks sternly to me, I keep my head up and look them in the eye, yet when they affirm me I gaze avert or put my head down.

As I reflect over my actions, I cannot help but wonder how many times my fear and pride hurt a well intended person? When I affirm someone, I want them to receive the message even if they feel uncomfortable. Again, as I reflect on this, what right do I have to dismiss someone when I do not want them to dismiss what I have to say? That is hypocrisy at its finest.

As believers we are called to affirm and support each other. I hope, dear reader, you will allow the Holy Spirit access to examine your mind, heart and actions when it comes to how you give and receive affirmation.

Lord God, help us to give and receive affirmation in a way that builds the body and displays Christ to this dark and hurting world. Thank You Father for the gift of community. Father God, thank You for this reader and may You meet with them right where they are, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

Who Are You Representing?

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My mom had a motto growing up that I still hear to this day, “when you leave this house, you represent this family, how you act will determine how people view this family! Mandy, do you understand that you are a representative of this family?” I cannot tell you how many times I said to people when I did something foolish or ridiculous, “my family does not do this,” “I am not representing my family,” “please do not judge my family,” “only I do things like this!” My mom is one wise woman! No other line or motto has done more in/for my life than this!

Every single day you and I are representing something and someone; from the clothes we wear, to the car we drive and the food we eat. We represent our families, jobs, friends. Every moment of every day we are representatives of our beliefs. If you are a Christian, how well do you represent the Christ that you profess?

Are you representing Jesus authentically or are you selling some great version of yourself that only those super close to you would know is not 100% accurate?! Are you confident, timid, fearful, anxious, gentle in representing your faith? Do you fear judgment from others based on your faith and beliefs? If you are a Christian, whether you are in the home or outside of the home, you are Christ’s representative. How people view you is how people will view Christ. How you act will determine how people view Christ and His family (I told you my mom was wise 😉

Do not take my word for it, the Bible makes it clear that if you are in Christ, you are a new creation! Christ’s work on the cross has reconciled God and the believer. As such, you are Christ’s Ambassador and God is making an appeal of reconciliation through you to others (2 Cor 5:17-20). You, yes YOU are Christ’s Ambassador, you have the joy, privilege and responsibility of representing Christ! How confident are you that God will use you as an Ambassador to bring the message of reconciliation to other people? How motivated are you to represent Jesus in a way that brings Him glory, honor and praise?

Father God, I thank You Lord for Jesus and His Work on the Cross. Jesus, thank You for reconciling believers to the Father. Holy Spirit, thank You that You live in us, equip us and give us strength to be Christ’s Ambassadors. Lord God, I pray for this dear reader to represent You, to be Your Ambassador at work, home, school wherever this reader is located. Lord, I ask that You will give this reader confidence in their personal and public walk with You. Lord, I pray this dear reader will represent You well, Amen.

 

 

 

Goodbye August, Hello September

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Hello Reader!

Please allow me to pray for you:

Father God, I thank You Lord for getting this reader through August. I ask Lord that You will prepare this reader for September and all that this month will hold for them.  Lord, I ask that You will continue to make Yourself known to this reader. Lord, I ask that You will prepare this reader for weather changes, health changes, family changes that may occur this coming month. Lord, I ask that You will flood this reader with wisdom, help them to make decisions based on what they know about Your character and Your Word. Thank You Father, that You are not a God of chaos. Lord, I ask that you fill this reader with the peace that passes all understanding. Lord, with all my heart I thank You and praise for all that You have done, are doing and will do for this reader! Prepare them for the coming month, in Jesus’s Holy and Precious Name I pray, Amen.

 

How Do I Respond?

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I have always been an inquisitive child. I have always wanted and at times demand to know “why?!” I have a tendency to feel that I am entitled to knowing “why” and can become quite indignant when there is no answer. In my life, “why” always leads to asking more “why” questions, which breeds greater frustration and despair if the “why” is unanswered.

Job is a great example to me of a person who asked “why?” Job did not have the knowledge or foresight to know that God was allowing him to be tested by Satan (Job 1:6-2:10). Thankfully, Job never cursed God and died as was suggested by his wife and friends. Throughout the book of Job, we learn how Job went from knowing about the Lord, to knowing Him personally through his trials and tribulations! The “whys?” drove Job to God, not away from God.

When I get frustrated, angry and consumed by asking “why,” I tend to pull away from God, not draw closer to Him. In those times, I am reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (ESV). These verses humble and discipline me.

God is under no and I mean NO obligation to tell me/us “why.” God did not punish Job for asking why, but God did correct Job and his thinking. For Job and for us, God is sovereign and He can do whatever He wants. While there are some days I find contentment and acceptance with that thought, there are other days where I do not.

A few years ago, in my God Time (quiet time/devotional time) I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit saying to me, “Mandy, you are asking the wrong question, why does not matter. Stop asking why and starting asking, how do I respond.”

This was a light bulb moment for me. As I said above, God is under NO obligation to explain or answer why. However, God is obligated and will most certainly help me/us respond to any situation, circumstance, person, event etc. in a way that aligns with His Word and Character. Going from asking, “why?” to “how do I respond” takes the focus off of the situation and places the focus on God. By asking “how do I respond?” I become responsible for my conduct/actions. Human responsibility and God’s Sovereignty are married.

“Why” is truly an unending cycle if it does not drive us to God. The “whys” of life can only be satisfied when we trust and rest in knowing that Jesus is our Sovereign Lord and that He knows what He is doing. We need to trust that He will enable us to respond as He wants us to respond.

Father God, this life is NOT easy! It is not easy to ask “how do I respond” instead of staying in the mire of “why?” Lord, help us to respond to life’s adversities in a way that honors You. Lord, I have no idea what this dear reader is facing. I pray this reader will know that I am in NO WAY dismissing what they are going through, nor do I suggest they should never ask “why?” Lord, may their “whys” drive them to You! Father God, I praise You that You know both why and how this reader should respond to whatever it is they are going through. Thank You Lord for this reader. Thank You Lord, that even when things do not make sense, we know that Isaiah’s words are true. Lord, in all things, in all situations may we seek You. Lord, help us to endure adversity like Job so that when You say to Satan, “have you heard of my servant…” we will respond in a way that pleases and honors you. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

 

What are you murmuring?!

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I can be a champion of murmuring negative things to myself and about myself. It is amazing how I can let a negative thought tank me and if I let it, my entire day. Negative murmuring for me ranges from thinking I am fat to God cannot possibly use me. Zach Williams’s song “Fear is a Liar” is most certainly true and I wish I did not buy fears lies as often as I do.

We are repeatedly encouraged in the Bible to meditate on Scripture. In Hebrew, the word “meditate” means “to murmur.” When Moses tells the Israelites to meditate on the word of God, what he is telling them is to murmur it to themselves. He is saying they should repeat the word softly out loud to themselves (see Deut 6). Joshua  is commanded to be strong and courageous (Josh 1:6). He is also to mediate on the Word day and night and to not let the Word depart from him (Josh 1:7-9). The Psalmists also write about the concept of meditating/murmuring God’s Word.

There are times when I am experiencing a satanic attack where I murmur to myself, “I am a child of the most High God” or “Whom the Son sets free is free indeed” over and over again until it brings me peace. When I am saying God’s truth softly out loud to myself, I cannot be saying lies and negativity. I would like to encourage you to take inventory on what it is that you meditating on. What is it that you murmur or mutter to yourself? Is what you are murmuring positive or negative? Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal verses, truths and promises for you to murmur.  May we be a body of believers who want to murmur God’s truth and what God says about us rather than what the enemy, his minions and this world want to say about us or have us believe.

Father God, fear is a liar and yet all of us experience it. Lord, help us to meditate on Your Word. Help us to murmur Your Word day and night. May Your Word be so engrained in us that we cannot help but for You to be our first, middle and last thought each day. Lord may we NOT turn from Your Word. May we not look to the right or to the left but look to You, the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2). Thank You Father for the ability to be humble, open and transparent. Thank You for helping us to be honest about our vulnerabilities when it is so easy to run and hide. Lord, teach us to see ourselves as You see us. Help us to be obedient to Your Word and murmur Your Word even when it is difficult and unpopular. Thank You Father that Your Word NEVER changes. Thank You that You NEVER abandon us! Lord may we choose to murmur Your truth and murmur what You say about us (for ex in Eph 1:3-14) rather than what the devil and world say about us. Thank You that You do not leave us on our own. Lord, may You teach this precious reader how to murmur Your Word so that when the lies come, they can dispel them immediately. Thank You Father for being our all powerful God who knows us better than we know ourselves. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

Moving Targets

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I HATE inconsistent and undefined expectations! I HATE inconsistent and undefined expectations to the point that I call them “moving targets!” I HATE trying to guess what a person wants! I HATE wondering if it is good enough or meets what they are looking for!

I HATE moving targets to the point where I give them power over me (hence the word “HATE”).  I become agitated, irritable, angry and frustrated. The worst part is, I take this out on those around me (thus becoming a “moving target” to them) leaving a wake of hurt and destruction. This is wrong on my part! It is completely unChristlike! (I have NO idea if you have ever experienced this; if you have, then I am glad I am NOT alone!!)

Humility and contentment go hand in hand. I confess, when it comes to moving targets, I am prideful (opposite of humility) and discontented. Instead of being honest and saying, “I am afraid to fail,” “I do not know what I am doing” or “I need help,” I turn into a monstrous person who is not fit for society.  As much as I do not want to say that, it is true. My pride and discontentment by moving targets truly becomes all consuming. I get so frustrated to the point where I just want to scream and hit something. God knows the situation I am in and yet I act as if He has forgotten me or it is His fault there are no clearly defined or consistent expectations. At times, I do not seek God because I am so focused on getting out of the situation that I try to handle this in my own strength, power, might, wisdom, knowledge etc.

Even though God’s Word tells me how to live and respond in every situation, I fall short more than I can count or even realize. Currently, Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” is one of the most popular/trendy  verses.  Yet, it is in the realm of contentment that Paul makes this declaration. Paul is able to be content with much or little (Phil 4:11-12) because he knows that God’s grace is sufficient for him (2 Cor 12:8-10). I need to reclaim the real meaning of this verse and live content in whatever situation I am in (whether expectations are clearly defined or moving targets!).

The Bible is consistent, it is NOT a moving target. God’s Word is Truth and Standard. God is infallible and unchanging; man is fallible and ever changing.

Whatever moving targets that are in your life, I pray that you will know that God sees you, He hears you and He is not surprised by any of this. His grace is more than sufficient to help you (and me) live in humility and contentment.

Father God, confession truly is good for the soul! You know that moving targets, inconsistent and undefined expectations freak my soul and spirit! Lord, I pray that if this reader experiences this, they will know that You are with them. I pray this reader will find comfort in knowing they are not alone! I praise You Lord that Your Word is both Truth and Standard! I ask Lord, that for the reader who has NO idea what I am talking about, that You will give them words to encourage others who struggle in this area. Lord God, humility and contentment go together. Help me, help us be honest about what we are experiencing and not go at it alone. Help us to respond to moving targets in a way that pleases and honors You. May our responses to life’s situations be an encouragement to believers and unbelievers. Thank You Father for calming my anxiety, may You do the same for this reader. Lord God, may this reader hold me accountable to live in humility and contentment and may I do the same for this reader, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.