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Archive for the ‘True Followers’ Category

I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge yesterday.  I’ve had that privilege quite a few times in the past, but the last one was more than 30 years ago.

It is still a magnificent structure, and the view is spectacular, when you can see it.

Just as we arrived at the bridge a big sign warned us:  Heavy fog ahead.  Low visibility.  And there was fog, but it had thinned.  Our first view of the big red span was mostly shrouded in fog, but it quickly dissipated.  It was more like driving through wispy clouds, with the bridge sometimes almost obscured, but increasingly adorned with hanging white puffs. (more…)

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Naty and I sat and talked tonight for several hours.  About God and loving Him.  About right and wrong.  About what God wants for our lives.  About having strength and courage to do the right thing.

Mostly we talked about relationships–and the challenges she and her friends have to do relationships well, to think rightly about dating and marriage.

A few of our thoughts, plus a few more of mine, and certainly not exhaustive:

1.  The purpose of life is not marriage.  Sure, marriage is normal and usual, and a gift from God.  But the purpose of life is to know, love, seek and serve the God who created us.

2.  The priority of life is God and to become the person He created you to be and to do what He created you to do.  Discover your gifts—and grow and develop them.

3.  Live in the present.  Where does God have you right now?  Yes, plan for the future, but live in the now.

4.  Focus on being the right person, not on finding the right person.

5.  It’s best to marry your best friend—so work on growing as friends.

6.  Seek to know someone in many different circumstances, with different people.  Do you like what you see?

7.  When it needs to end, be kind, but have courage to stand.  When it does end, do not think you have to own the pain of the other person as your fault, unless of course it clearly is.  Believe that God will bring good even from their pain—and your pain.

8.  Stay out of bed.  Keep your pants on.

9.  Be kind and respectful and thoughtful in your words and actions.  Give lots of grace.  Look for ways to encourage and lift each other; never put each other down.  Forgive freely.

10.  Live out 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 in all your relationships:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.

What about you?  What would you add?

C2012 Judy Douglass

Related articles:

3 Realities that Have Helped Us Have a Great Marriage (1)-Compatible

3 Realities that Have Helped Us Have a Great Marriage (2)–Complementary

3 Realities that Have Helped Us Have a Great Marriage (3)–Complimentary

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Cyrus the Great of Persia

Surely the HR director in Heaven has a list of qualifications for those who will serve in Kingdom work.  I can’t imagine that it doesn’t include some high standards:

Holy.  (1Peter 1:16)

Humble.  (Ephesians 4:20)

Contrite. (Psalm 51:17)

Serving (Mark 10:43)

Loving (John 13:34-35)

Oh dear.  These requirements seem impossible, and there are many more.  To say nothing of being actually qualified to do the work.

And yet, I have seen God use people—even in amazing ways—who in no way measure up to these standards.

I remember observing the leaders in a ministry I was briefly acquainted with.  It was obvious that God was willing to use them to bring real change to the lives of those entrusted to them.  And yet there were character flaws that it seemed to me should have disqualified them.  They were clearly inadequate and unworthy.

Then I read these amazing verses:  “(I)who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid….” This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him… I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me….” (Isaiah 44:28; 45 1,4-5)

Cyrus, a pagan king, who does not acknowledge God, is called God’s shepherd and anointed, and in other translations, His servant.  He was given a holy task to subdue the surrounding nations and to rebuild the temple.

Amazing!  God must be willing to use anyone!

Oh yes.  He has even been willing to use me.  And though, gratefully, God has been faithful to grow me into greater Christlikeness, so that some of those qualifications listed above are sometimes a little evident in my life, I still marvel that He would/could ever use me.

I am clearly inadequate and unworthy for Kingdom work.

But that’s the wonder of it.  God doesn’t wait until we are qualified, or adequate, or worthy.  He pours His grace on us and His Holy Spirit into us—and accomplishes more than we can ask or imagine in building His Kingdom.

Through me.  Through you!

And I?  I am on my face in gratitude.

What about you?  How has He used you by His grace and His Spirit?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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I have always been amazed at the idolatry of the children throughout the Old Testament.

The prophet Isaiah repeatedly mocks them for carving idols to worship out of half a log, and cooking dinner with the other half.  How could anyone think that “god” could save them?

I was sure I could never worship an idol.

Until I discovered I had serious idolatry problems.

The reality:  Sometimes I thought I had to have something to be happy, or fulfilled, or satisfied.

That something could be a thing.  Like a car.  Like my red Mustang convertible.

Or like a house.  Big enough, nice enough.  With a red kitchen.

Or a place.  Like getting to live in Texas again.

Or, most often, a person.  Like my not-yet-husband, when he decided in summer #2 of our 5-year dating relationship that we should take a break.  It was a hard summer.  I lost weight.  I got very little work done.  I cried a lot.

These are idols?  Yep.  Anything that I put higher in my affections than God becomes an idol.  Anything that I think I must have becomes an idol.

We know that God told us not to have any gods higher than him—that is, no idols.  Over and over He reminds us that He is El Elyon, the most high God.  He says these beautiful words to us:

“’To whom will you compare me?   Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.  Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:  Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength,  not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:25-26)

Yet we are so like the children of Israel, constructing our own idols, pursuing what we think will satisfy or rescue.

I know.  I just did it again.

Our most common idols are people.  No, not those celebrities—how ridiculous is that!  But the people we love.

Our son is going through a hard time.  I thought he was doing well, making good progress.  But I see he is making some choices I don’t prefer.  My response:  Oh no!  He can’t!  I can’t bear going back to what it used to be like!  I can’t stand for him to not choose God’s best!  I can’t do this.

There he is again—up on the throne of my heart.  His becoming the man God made him to be had become, once again, an idol.

Fortunately, God has given me a very visual response when I become aware of my idolatry, when something or someone replaces God as King of my heart.

I choose to visualize my actually lifting this idol off the throne of my life and placing it on the altar as an offering to God.

It is a powerful picture for me.  This time it took me a little while to make the transaction.  And I have had to do it several times.

But oh the freedom when God is in His rightful place in my life—on the throne, in control.

And my idols?  Still important in my life.  But not an object of worship.

How about you?  Do you have any idols that need to move to the altar?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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There’s Meaning in a Name

I love the meanings of names.   In Scripture and throughout history, names have been intentional, descriptive, even prophetic.

I often ask people if they know what their name means, and startle them when I tell them.

Michael and Michelle mean “like God.”  So I might ask, “How are you doing with that?”

Or Stephen and Stephanie mean victor’s crown—as in the original Olympics.  So I tell them their name says they are winners.

We were intentional in naming our children, continuing to pray that their names would be borne out in their lives.

Deborah means bee, but we named her after Deborah the prophetess, judge and military leader.  Then we gave her Ann, meaning grace, as a middle name.  We figured anyone named after a prophetess, judge and military leader would need a lot of grace.

Michelle, daughter #2, gets to live out being “like God.”  Her middle name, Elizabeth, means consecrated to God.  We are grateful that she desires to discover and follow God’s path for her.

Our son, Joshua, was named by his birth mother.  I don’t know if she realized what a powerful name she gave him—it is the same as Jesus and means Jehovah saves—but we believe God will use Joshua to touch a lot of lives with the love of Jesus.

I’ve always been grateful my parents named me Judith.  I love the meaning:  praise of the Lord.   So my purpose in life has become to fulfill, to live out my name.   I praise Him a lot.

I praise Him when I am in need:  The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him. (Psalm 28:7)

I praise Him when I am discouraged:  Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  (Psalm 42:5)

I praise Him for all He has done for me:   Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.   Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits… (Psalm 103:1-2)

I praise Him because He is worthy of praise:   Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.  (Psalm 72:19)

Almost every day I say, Lord, may my life be praise to You.

What about you?  What does your name mean?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Judy Downs

I was pretty sure I was something special.

I was the only writer/editor at Arrowhead Springs.  I was the associate editor of Collegiate Challenge Magazine.  My boss was Bill Bright.  My first year on Campus Crusade staff included trips to Seattle, Berkeley, UCLA, Balboa Beach, Palm Springs—all to write up activities of CCC among college students.  Pretty heady stuff for a just-graduated, new-on-the-job young woman.

I loved my job!  And, deep inside, I thought the ministry got a good deal when I said “yes” to God’s call.

However, apparently my arrogance was not buried so deeply inside me.  Others could see my self-important attitude.  And they were offended by it.

At the end of my first year on staff, Dr. Bright invited me into his office.  We talked about the magazine, articles he and I were writing, the effectiveness of this tool on campus.  Then he asked a penetrating question:

“Judy, are you walking in the Spirit?”

Pause.

“I think so,” I stammered.

He responded, “Others are not so sure of that.”  He elaborated on the pride that was evident to others working beside me.

Bill Bright

Then he asked, “Are you sure you are called to be on Campus Crusade staff?”

That was easy for me to answer:  “I am sure that God called me to this ministry.”

His next words reminded me of Jesus with the woman caught in adultery:  “Then neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  Dr Bright said kindly, “Then go and walk in the Spirit.”

A sobering conversation, for sure.  But transformational for me.  No, I haven’t always walked in the Spirit since then.  But I am consistently conscious of the incredible grace God has extended to allow me to serve Him in ways I have.   I know that I am unworthy and inadequate.  Yet, as I live by His Spirit, He continues to give mercy and strength and wisdom and ideas—and even fruitfulness.

I am grateful Bill Bright did not shrink back from the hard question, but I am so glad he also offered mercy and grace at the same time.

What about you?  Has someone asked you a hard question?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Texans are often characterized as independent, strong, loners.

Maybe that’s where I got it—growing up in Texas.  Or maybe God just put it in me.  I like to be independent.  I love to be by myself—even for weeks.  I have always had to deal with wanting my own way.

But God has refused to let me live in my independence.

He has repeatedly clarified for me that I cannot do anything all by myself.  He has created me for community and he has amplified the holes in my life so that I will be forced to let others in to fill in those many gaps.

I am so grateful for those he has put me in community with.  Here are just a few and some of the life lessons I have learned:

My family:  Steve believes the best of others—and especially me—all the time.  He always tells me I can do it—whatever it is.  Debbie loves what is right and has often called me on less than stellar behavior.  Michelle has helped me to enjoy the journey and appreciate the process.  And Josh has revealed to me God’s unconditional love, that He never gives up on me and that He loves to meet with me on my knees.

Some very close friends:  Susan floods my mind with her ideas and holds me accountable when I get too independent.  Jan has walked and worked by my side for many years, loving me and my children amazingly well.  Tricia has listened and encouraged and prayed through dark times.  Dayle has reminded me to laugh even when life hurts.  And many others…

Special mentors:  I had the privilege of working with and observing Bill Bright for 39 years.  He lived out  real faith and great compassion and a passion for excellence.  Vonette Bright has demonstrated such faithfulness and astounding energy.  In so many ways God has used them to transform me.

The staff of Women’s Resources:  They have been amazing servants and helpers and prayer warriors.  But most of all they have owned the vision to help every staff women be and do all God has for her—and have pursued that best contribution in their specific arenas.

Our mission’s Executive Team and Area Team Leaders’ wives:  These women have broadened my understanding, given me global eyes, stretched my faith, become my friends.

My prayer teams:  These warriors have held me up, interceded, encouraged, advised.  They have been faithful partners in my life and ministry.

And I’ve only just begun.  There are so many more on the job, in my church, next door, around the world.  Can I live just “me and God”?  If necessary, of course.  But God has put us in community, in His body, needing each other in so many ways.  He wants us to lean on and learn from and walk with others.

Yes, He is the source of all I need for life, godliness, ministry.  But most often His Spirit is poured out into our lives, filling our gaps, by the sisters and brothers God calls us to live among.

What about you?  Who’s in your community?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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It helps to resign as the controller of your fate. All that energy we expend to keep things running right is not what keeps things running right.  (Anne Lamott)

Story of my life.

From the day I was born, I wanted my own way, I’ve been told.

Growing up, my getting my way pretty much determined the peace and happiness in our home, I’ve been told.

As a teenager, getting my own way included secretly seeing a forbidden boyfriend for most of a year.  I never told.

About that time a friend took me to a Christmas camp—to learn to ski and to meet cute boys.  Which I did.  But I also met Jesus, though I didn’t realize it at the time.  What I did realize was that I made an exchange:  I told God I chose His way instead of mine.  It was a very real transaction.

I thought it was a done deal.

I soon discovered, however, that it is never a done deal.  Every day of my life—sometimes many times a day—in little things and big decisions—I get to choose.  Will I insist on my own way, or will I choose His way?

Like when I was sure God was calling me into full-time ministry.  My fiancé was sure God was not calling him to that.  Such a hard choice.  God’s plan was better.

Or when a man with less experience than I had was given the job I thought I should have. Such a growing time.  God’s plan was better.

And when I wanted out of a relationship with the man who took five years to decide he wanted to get married.  Such a long time.  He was worth waiting for—God’s plan was definitely better.

I could go on…and on.  The longer I walk with God, the more quickly I remember that His plan is always better.

But sometimes it still isn’t easy at all.  Like now.

People I care about are breaking apart.  Selfishness and childishness make appearances.  Hurt and anger respond.  Loss and undoing seem to be winning.

So much sadness—for them, in me.  I want to fix it.  I try.  I talk.  I plead.  I pray.

Then I read Annie Lamott’s penetrating words.  I can’t keep things running right. (Even when I’m sure I know what’s right.)

And I come back to what God has told me over and over:

I am the Lord.  In its time I will do this swiftly. (Isaiah 60:22)

His plan is always better, I’m telling you.

What about you?  When has God asked you to make a hard choice?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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I should have known it would happen.  It almost always does.

The problem with writing and speaking and teaching is that God seems to want to check me out:  Do I really believe this?  Do I live this way?

So last week I wrote about “What I Do When Someone Hurts Me.”

And Sunday night my husband and I taught at church on unselfishness and humility in relationships.

So why am I surprised that today I got to live them both out together?  I suppose I should be grateful He combined them into one opportunity for me to know if I am being authentic—walking my talking.

Someone who matters to me hurt me yesterday.  Today I went through all five of my actions to take when I am hurt.  One by one:

1.  I told God my real feelings about it all.  No holding back.  Raw emotion.

2.  I thanked Him–by faith–that He was in this situation.

3.  I looked for some glimpses of good, and I actually found some—at least the potential for good.

4.  I forgave the person who hurt me.  Not hard to do.

5.  I spoke blessings over this loved one.  Also not hard.

Then I realized that I—in my selfishness, my holding on, my grasping—was part of the problem.  I needed to humble myself, ask forgiveness and open my hand to the Lord, so He could give or take as He chooses.    So I did, rather reluctantly.

All okay now?  No. Not yet.  But better.  It is a process, a journey.  Tears return.  God has tissues.  The open hand already wants to hold on tight.  God’s grace entreats me to  let go of my rights, my desires, my needs—and trust Him.

People say I’m known for my realness.

I guess God wants to hold me to that.

What about you?  Has someone hurt you?  Are you holding on to that hurt?

C2012 Judy Douglass

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Life includes plenty of pain.  Much of it comes from the realities of life in a fallen world:  illness, accidents, natural disasters, financial crashes…

Sadly, too often, our pain is caused by other people.  I am horrified at what people will choose to do to each other:  theft, lies, abuse, slavery, rape, sexual trafficking, torture…

But the most painful is usually that inflicted by those we love—and we think love us.  That pain is often unbearable, barely endured, deeply grieved, scarcely survived.

God’s Word has given me real help.  I may not be able to control the cause of my pain, but I can choose how I respond.

So here are some responses that have made a difference for me.

1.  Tell God the Truth

How do I feel about what this person has done to me?  God knows what is in my heart and mind, and He can handle my rawest emotions.  I tell Him the truth.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. “ (John 4:23)

 2.  Thank God in the pain, the hurt, the person who has hurt me.

Thanking God helps to refocus my mind and heart.  It tells God that I know He is God and He is good.  And giving thanks opens the door for what God wants to do in the situation.

“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

(More on giving thanks: In All Things)

3.  Look for the good that God is doing.

Sometimes the good is hiding for a later time, but often I can see glimpses of positive results:  changes in my life or the life of the one who hurt me; insight into my past and my future; resolution of unhealed wounds; opportunities to encourage others.

“I will never stop doing good to them…” (Jeremiah 32:40)

4.  Forgive the one who hurt me.

Really?  Do they deserve to be forgiven?  Probably not.   But I’ve been given repeated admonitions to forgive and a powerful model.

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’” (Luke 23:34)

(Some help: A Prayer for Forgiving)

5.  Bless the person who hurt me.

Once again, God is clear in His impossible requirements.  He tells me to bless my enemies, and yes, even this one I love feels like an enemy when he hurts me.

My tendency is to strike out verbally, to accuse, to blame—to curse.  But God says to leave the consequences to Him—He is a much better justice maker than I am.  When I choose to bless, amazing things happens—my attitude begins to change, the person receives my blessing and that blessing invariably comes back to me.

Jesus:  “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.“   (Luke 6:28)

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9)       

(More on blessing:  Scattering Blessings) 

When I do these things, does the hurt go away?  Not usually.  But these responses open my heart and mind to receive the love and grace God wants to pour all over me.  And grace and love are powerful healers.

What about you?  How does God help you when you have been hurt by someone you love?                         

C2012 Judy Douglass

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