Caution: Contents May Be HOT

Caution: Contents May Be HOT

(Photo credit: Alisa Anton)

I know the Bible talks about milk and honey being pretty great, but have you ever finished a hot coffee before your kids woke up for the day?

(Yeah- me neither! But a girl can dream!)

Coffee is one of the first things on my mind in the morning, and I like it a certain way: spoon full of sugar, enough creamer to make it just the right color, and piping hot. More often than not however, the day pulls me in different directions before making it too far into my favorite mug, and it ends up reaching room temperature before I can satisfy my caffeine craving. I end up popping it in the microwave once or twice (or five times) before I finally finish my cup and go about my day. But I always heat it up. There is just something about sipping lukewarm coffee that furrows my brow and turns me away.

My morning ritual seems to have something in common with scripture:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NLT

Lukewarm just isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for me in the mornings, and it isn’t enough for God.

Have you ever felt lukewarm?

A need arises within your small group from church, and you fill it. But you catch your older child disobeying and you snap at him. You volunteer in the children’s ministries on Sunday morning. But you indulge in trashy TV on Monday night.

It’s easy to do- to see our good deeds and believe it’s enough, or that it justifies the decisions we make that don’t quite line up with scripture. God created us and knows our humanness. He doesn’t expect perfection, but I do believe He intends for our motives to matter as we strive to live a God-filled life.

See, being a lukewarm Christian doesn’t just turn away opportunities for us to grow closer to God. Being lukewarm can turn others away from us, or worse yet, away from the Lord. Keeping alive that fire in your heart for Christ matters! Your temperature affects everything you touch.

There’s no room in our lives to hear and believe everything God says but then live how we lived before we knew His truth. If God’s way is hot and our old ways are cold, then guess what that would make us? Lukewarm.

Sometimes intentional sin can cause us to become that way- like dropping ice cubes in your hot coffee. But sometimes it’s not always willful acts that put the chill on our souls. Sometimes it’s just leaving our mug on the counter and getting distracted.

Whether you’re putting ice cubes in your “spiritual” coffee, getting distracted from that coffee, or just plain getting your real life coffee dumped on you by your wild little toddler, I have no doubt that God is working in you. As you gauge whether your motives and your soul are cold, or hot, or somewhere in between, know what God desires of you: He wants to be your priority, and for your soul to be on fire for Him and Him alone!

“Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord.” -Romans 12:11-13 NIRV

I know our days are busy, friends! But instead of opening the next app or tab on your browser, try instead to take a moment and ask yourself:

1. What in my life is putting the chill on my soul and my desire for God?

  • Is it a social media addiction?
  • A difficult child or relationship that is stealing your peace or focus?
  • A friend that encourages ungodly talk or behavior?
  • Your choice in indulgences (TV, movies, books)?
  • Gossip?
  • Excessive worry?
  • Comparison and jealousy?
  • Lust?

2. What sets my soul on fire and nurtures my relationship with God?

  • Regular Bible time, or regular time in prayer?
  • Reprogramming every car preset to Christian radio?
  • Building a relationship with a Christian friend?
  • Joining a small Bible study group?
  • Praying about what worries you rather than just talking about it?
  • Deleting an app that distracts you from spending time in prayer or has ungodly content?

The lists are personal and go on for each of us. Wherever you’re at in your walk with God, I hope you will be encouraged and hold on to this truth today:

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

P.S. Is there anything you can add to the lists above? Share your thoughts!

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I’m THAT Neighbor….

I’m THAT Neighbor….

The outside of my house, if you can see it, gives the impression that we grabbed only our most precious belongings and fled in a hurry with no intention to ever return.

See, since the birth of my tiny princess last summer, some things have been neglected around here. Landscaping is a pretty easy thing to put off to the back of your mind. It doesn’t fall out of the cabinets when you open them. It doesn’t clutter your countertops when you’re trying to work. You don’t trip over it when you’re trying to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There are just other things that come before getting to it, and by the time I get to those other things I have one of two kids making a bee line for me, and alas! The landscaping waits.

Photo by Quanzhao “Ari” He

As the state of things has gotten unruly enough to catch my attention, I decided to enlist the help of a green thumbed friend of mine. She asked for pictures so I went around the house snapping away, surprised at every turn just how wild it had really become. It became apparent that when I let this task get away from me it didn’t just affect the things that were already planted- but new, unwanted things had begun to grow.

Photo by Kelli Tungay

Tangled. Messy. Wild. Out of control. All words I’d use to describe the overgrown mess just beyond my front door. There are plants growing from between the branches of other plants; the wanted and the unwanted twisting around each other until the untrained eye is unable to decipher where one begins and the other ends. Complicated.

The truth is though, if I look behind my front door and in the mirror, sometimes things look messy there, too. When I neglect my time with God and am not careful where my thoughts are running off to I get twisted up, tangled, complicated. Negative thoughts sprout from the good and take on new life. The good and the kinda/sorta bad things that I start letting my guard down to get intertwined. Half truths I start to tell myself become whole lies. And before you know it, I’m struggling to feel connected to the One I can’t live without.

Our thought life, which directly affects our behaviors, seems to be its own living thing. The tasks and ‘To Do’s’ we chase after often keep us distracted from seeing that it requires care and continual maintenance, too. 2 Corinthians stresses the importance of keeping an eye on this:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can take down the obstacles that keep us from connecting with God by taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ. From good thoughts flow good actions, right? So that means that from bad thoughts…. You get it.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking “is this really that bad? There are worse things….” and talking myself into the gray area of sin. But when I catch my thoughts and hold them up to the Truth to compare, right and wrong become more apparent. The thing is- I can only do this by knowing- REALLY knowing- God’s word. And that can only be accomplished by dedicating time to be spent with God and His Word on a regular basis. Maintenance. Pruning. Trimming away the unwanted, making room for the good to grow.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s a snowball effect- a tower of building blocks. When you add perseverance, godliness grows, and mutual affection, and the golden virtue- love. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t get caught in the thinking that you can control your thoughts or actions without laying down the groundwork of faith, goodness, and knowledge first.

It’s a lot to realize there are other factors that control our actions behind the scenes. But knowing how to get to the root of these things makes it possible to part the messy vines and start to see what’s growing underneath. It makes it possible to see how the Holy Spirit can work within us when we cling to our connection with God regularly– and it can lead us toward squashing bad habits and changing behaviors. We can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it casually- it takes perseverance.

So before my neighbors try to machete their way to my house to check on us, I’m going to go and get on the landscaping. And while I’m at it, I’m going to work on a little mind and soul maintenance, too- trimming away, and making room for the good to grow.

Have the Attitude of Christ

Have the Attitude of Christ

In case your kids need a memory verse this week…. 😆

Mine do! 🙋🏻 But I needed this scripture the most of all, let’s be honest…..:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:14-15‬ ‭NIV

#MondayMantra

Baptized!

Baptized!

How can a girl write a Christian blog….. and not be baptized? (Sort of.)

Fair question! And it’s one I no longer have to ask myself.

After being raised in a faith where traditions and rituals felt prioritized over pursuing a relationship with God, I struggled with the idea of grace. I had always felt I needed to earn God’s love, approval, and blessings. It led to a lot of guilt, confusion, and my eventual break from that church in my early adulthood. I stayed away from anything that resembled religion for a while. But day after day, my overwhelming need for a relationship with my Creator was recognized.

About 5 years ago I began to feel a tug on my heart to go to my current church. It seemed to be growing at a staggering rate and I knew there had to be a reason. I walked through the doors without knowing anyone else behind them. After some time spent uncovering God’s will for my life I planted my roots there, and began to grow.

Photo credit: Ben White

The transition was difficult for me considering my faith background and I struggled deeply with the idea of baptism as an adult, knowing that I had been baptized as a baby. My family, holding firm to their religion, didn’t seem to recognize this sort of thing as valid, correct, or even really “real”. It complicated my decision all the more but I continued to pray for guidance and help unpacking my mental “baggage” on the subject. By this time my husband was in he midst of making this decision for himself as well.

I’m happy to say that after much, much prayer and a whole lot of support from some amazing friends we’ve made along the way, my husband and I were baptized together on June 16, 2018! One of the coolest parts for me was that my son (7.5 years old) was standing right there, front and center, watching this beautiful decision unfold for each of us.

(Photo, left to right: my son, Evan our pastor, and myself)

While there is much more to my story and the struggles involved in how I came to pursue a relationship with the Lord, I’m happy I get to share this part with you today. We will save the other pieces for another time! I’m so excited to share this with you all and appreciate the love you’ve shown me right here on this blog of mine. It has quickly become a part of my story as I pursue God’s calling for my life.

God bless, friends 💛

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭2:8-9 NIV

Pray for Lisa

Pray for Lisa

As the name of my blog is ‘Jess Kidding’ I typically try to keep it pretty light and fun around here. But last week a sweet friend of mine was struck by tragedy.

Lisa and her family took time out of their busy lives on July 4th to take their kids to see the fireworks. After it was over and she and her family were crossing the street to leave, two cars were involved in an accident that changed her life.

Photo credit: Perry County News

Lisa, her mother, and two of her four beautiful daughters were struck by one of the cars, but not before Lisa was believed to have pushed one of her little girls out of the way at the last moment. Lisa’s mother and two daughters were/are being treated for their injuries. While they have a lot of recovering to do, especially her mother, they are expected to be okay. Lisa on the other hand experienced the worst of the trauma. She is currently on a ventilator with a traumatic brain injury, and we are all waiting for her to wake up for her expected outcome to be determined. Unfortunately, it’s recently been brought to light that the drivers were under the influence of drugs when the accident occurred, creating more mixed emotions on top of the grief her family is already experiencing.

I ask that you please take a moment to pray for Lisa and her family:

Lord, we pray that if it is your will Lisa wake up and recover with the strength we know she draws from you. We pray that her family will recover to full health as well. Lord, please give everyone affected by this tragedy hearts of grace and forgiveness toward the drivers, and toward themselves for any regrets they’re holding onto during their relationship with Lisa. May they have the chance to build new memories with her again. We pray that this event will show everyone involved their overwhelming need for you, and that this brings each of us into closer relationship with you. May this tragedy turn into a triumph and be used to glorify your name. We love you, we lay this all at your feet, and we trust you with the outcome and every step of the way. Amen.

A Go Fund Me page has been created for Lisa and her family. If you feel called to give, please see the link below:

Lisa’s Go Fund Me

Love you, sister 💛

*UPDATE:*

Lisa has been opening her eyes for short periods of time, responding to yes/no questions, and even giving a thumbs up. God is so good!!!! Please continue to remember her in your prayers- she is fighting! 💛

Code Word: Pineapple

Code Word: Pineapple

I struggle with my temper. It’s my weakness.

Slow drivers? Move over. Waiting in a long line? I don’t have the time. Automated phone menus? WHYYYYYYYYYY. (Seriously, WHY??)

So when the week of our family vacation was drawing near, I prayed: Lord, help me to go with the flow and let go of my expectations.

Because, as Shakespeare wisely said, “expectation is the root of all heartache.”

How true is this?! What frustrates us most (or me anyway)? When things don’t go the way we thought they should.

This is why in the midst of my spiraling frustration on one of our first days of vacation my husband sputtered out the need for a code word to be used when stress starts to get the better of me. Before I could even finish asking what the word was going to be, he loudly proclaimed “PINEAPPLE!” 😂 Well, okay. 🤷🏻‍♀️

The discussion helped to bring me back around and even make us all laugh a little. Between long periods of time in the car, trying to coordinate plans with the rest of our family, and making other vacation decisions, the code word came in handy for all of us and helped to diffuse each situation. I mean who can be upset when you’re mid-sentence and your husband or 7 Y.O. son interjects with “PINEAPPLE!”

And honestly the more I thought about it, the more I relate to it. Sweet on the inside, prickly on the outside at times. That can be all of us now and then. So how oddly appropriate for my husband to choose this word?

How many times have you found yourself edging toward anger when your circumstances weren’t meeting your standards? It’s easy to slide into the stress zone when it happens, but I recall what Jesus had to say:

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

‭‭John‬ ‭16:33‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Perspective. Changes. Everything. So what if instead of bulldozing into each frustrating situation with the thinking of “this isn’t going my way”, I approached it instead with “this is one of those trials Jesus said I would face”?

“Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

If I expect everything to go as planned, I’m in for a rude awakening when it takes a turn. But if I expect my circumstances to shift and waver then I can have an attitude made to adapt.

And, oh yeah- Jesus has already “overcome the world” so I’m pretty sure he can get me through traffic jams, phone robots, indecisive family members, and backseat temper tantrum throwers.

It isn’t fun admitting to a flaw, but I’m resting in and relating to this as I write this post:

“… to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh … I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:7-10‬ ‭NLT‬‬

What great opportunity my weaknesses create for God to work in me! And what great common ground they create to relate to others who struggle in similar ways. I’ve done a lot of praying over the years for God to remove my various flaws and make me a more qualified Christian, but as I grow in Christ I see where he uses them instead to help me work toward my calling. This doesn’t justify the times I snap at my family or require the use of a silly code word, but it does provide a chance for God to take my humanness and use it to teach me how to be holy. As I’ve heard it said, we’re not expected to be sinless, but to sin less and less, and that’s the goal day after day.

So if stress gets the better of you sometimes, feel free to borrow my family’s tropical code word. I hope you rest in knowing that your flaws don’t disqualify you from the love of the One who knew your every future imperfection before He made you!

🍍Hope your summer is sweet, friends.

Roots

Roots

Happy Saturday! Or Caturday, for you fellow cat lovers out there. 😻🤷🏻‍♀️

I just wanted to quickly share with you a passage that I have been reflecting on this week. God bless, friends!

“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:14-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬