Does it ever feel like events or circumstances in your life are just random fragments with you as the only thing they have in common? And then on closer inspection, a connection begins to come into focus between seemingly happenstance events. How can this be?

Tonight my daughter said, “Sometimes what we perceive others think about us is actually what we think about ourselves.” Without even knowing it, she encapsulated my thinking over the last couple of weeks.

Read: Proverbs 27:19

Here is my proposition this week: the circumstances in our lives are connected by the belief system formed in our hearts and minds over time. It is a belief system based on what we believe about ourselves and how we fit into the world around us. It can be changed as we become aware of areas that are not healthy thereby improving our experiences in community.

Read: Judges 6:11-18 – consider reading from 1-18 to get the full picture if you have never read this account of Israel’s history.

If you haven’t seen “The Greatest Showman” and you have time this week, it’s a great movie that deals with this issue in a remarkable way. But maybe your schedule doesn’t allow that. Listen here to one of the most insightful songs on that soundtrack, “This is Me!”

Who is speaking the most cutting words to you? Perhaps it is you and you need to drown out those words with a flood of truth.

Looking forward to this week and what we learn together!

Today I will worship at home. There is nothing better than gathering together with others to give praise to our God!

Reading: Psalm 147

Photo by Chad Kirchoff on Pexels.com

Home! That is where I am headed today. There is a level of anticipation and excitement that I can’t quite contain. Even though it is cold and wintry in Indiana and I am leaving behind the sunshine and 80’s of Florida, I love what I will find – family, home, church.

What are you anticipating today? Maybe life is handing out more than you can handle right now. Whatever is on the horizon, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Earlier this week I shared about my bout with Comparison. It was discouraging and demoralizing. What did I do?

I stopped. I turned my thoughts to him and poured out my heart. I shared with him all that comparison was telling me and asked him to realign my thinking. And he was faithful to do just that.

I started noticing and looking for his perspective. He led me to a blog someone had written on comparison. It reminded me that I am enough and I am going in the right way. He also showed me the quote I shared on Tuesday. See it here. He reminded me that he loves me and I am his child.

Fill your mind with truth today whether that be music, scripture, wholesome reading, good conversation with a trusted friend. Our feelings follow our thoughts and our thoughts follow our words. Make your words, even mental talk, life giving today!

Reading: Hebrews 11:1-3, Philippians 4:8-9

Comparison kills YOU. It is a cancerous growth that metastasizes from “I don’t have enough.” to “I am not enough.”

Slowly we begin to believe that we are a mistake, that we will never be enough. The slide downward is slow and slippery; the mud and mire of comparison pull deeper and deeper into the pit of despair.

Read: Psalm 40:1-8

This psalm contains a beautiful strategy to extract oneself from the mire of comparison. Let’s note a couple of tactics together.

Begin by turning to the Lord; tell him about Comparison’s attack. He will deliver you and set you on solid ground.

Once on solid ground, a new song is available to you. Think of it as the shower of the Holy Spirit washing off the mud of comparison. It is a song of praise to God. Praise for his deliverance, praise for your intrinsic uniqueness, gifts, skills, talents, situation, purpose….Sing it loud! Sing it often!

Thank him for his plan for you, recite his wonderful deeds in your life and in the lives of those around you. Commit yourself to living your journey with him by your side.

It may take minutes, hours or days but joy will return. The longer we allow comparison to hang around, the longer it takes to return to a state of joy. But do not despair, there is a way out; he is right there to walk it out with you.

Comparison is a lack of regard for others and their journeys. Loving others is impossible if you see the people around you as a threat rather than people with potential.

Read: Matthew 22:38-39; Matthew 5:43-47

I have to chuckle a little to see that my post on loving others falls on Valentine’s Day. This is the day when we send the obligatory flowers, cards, chocolates to the people we love and gratefully ignore the people we don’t like.

Maybe you are thinking, “Comparing myself with another doesn’t mean I don’t like them. ” Hmmmm…I wonder about that. Maybe it’s just me, but when I get knocked around the comparison court, I don’t have very nice thoughts toward my opponent. I’m either wanting to best them or I’m feeling badly they bested me. Muttering under my breath, stomping as I turn circles isn’t the best environment for love to grow.

Here is a little trick I have tried and it works for me. When comparison comes knocking, try responding by showing interest in the one you would otherwise compare yourself to. Ask about their day, job, kids, grandkids – whatever you can to connect in a positive way. And find something to appreciate about that person and let them know. You might just find they are more human than you thought.

How can you love someone today that you would rather overlook? Why not send them Valentine wishes?

Comparison is a lack of trust in God’s ability to provide for you and meet your needs.

I often look at what is happening around me and wonder if I sidestepped somewhere. After all, it looks like everyone’s life but mine is neatly organized and moving in a really beautiful direction. I easily overlook any cracks in the lives of others by focusing on what looks really broken in mine.

Recently I read the following on a friend’s Instagram story:

What if everything you are going through

is preparing you for what you asked for?

Mikefoster2000

So, what if? Does that make a difference in how things are shaping up? Does it make comparison a little less attractive? The only way to get to where you want to go is through the means of training. And sometimes training means time in the woods or the desert in lonely situations.

When I read scripture, I read that God sees me all the time and can take care of me no matter where I land – Psalm 139; He has a good plan for my life – Jeremiah 29:11; He rejoices over me – Zephaniah 3:17; He will provide for all my needs – Luke 12:22-34.

I could go on and on. The way I see it, when we surrender our lives to the Lordship of Jesus he begins the process of shaping and forming us into his likeness. Not in the way we look, but in our character. But he never leaves us alone and he hasn’t forgotten about us.

As I thought this over, my mind kept going to the end of the gospel of John when the disciples met Jesus by the Sea of Galilee after his resurrection. This is the place where Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Peter answered, “Of course, Lord, you know that I love you.” In verse 21 of chapter 21 Peter asks Jesus about John.

Read: John 21:18-23

If you don’t read anything else this morning, read these verses. Peter was concerned about John. Jesus had just revealed to him how his, Peter’s, life would play out. And Peter asks “what about him?” and points a finger toward John. Basically, Jesus says “That is none of your business. You just do you.”

God is providing for you and taking care of your needs. Comparing your journey with someone else reveals a lack of trust in God’s plan and provision for your life even when His word to you explicitly says the opposite.

Are you in a rut of comparison? Stop. Turn your eyes back to Jesus and ask him to give you a fresh vision and eyes to see where you ought to be headed. It’s never too late to get back on track. And who knows, maybe what you are experiencing is in direct answer to your prayers.

I am experimenting with the coolest machine ever! Dave bought me a new sewing machine last April that also does embroidery. It isn’t just the kind where you can make a nifty border, but an actual embroidery machine. Now, it isn’t the biggest. Actually, it’s the smallest. But I hadn’t used it until today. So I whipped out the attachment, took off the packing tape and started practicing. What does one do when practicing? Well this grandma is embroidering her granddaughter’s name.

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I did something stupid. It wasn’t a life changing level of stupidity, just not life giving. It didn’t hit me until the words were out of my mouth and then it took me another 18 hours of pondering and feeling the nudge of the Holy Spirit to confess and ask my friends’ forgiveness.

Here’s the thing. We ALL do and say unnecessary things. Sometimes they are hurtful and sometimes just not life giving. In this, we are all on a level playing field.

It isn’t that we do/say the thing. It is what we do afterwards that matters the most. I had to think of King Saul and King David today as I thought about what I had done.

They both made mistakes. They both disobeyed God’s commands to them. They both chose themselves and their own way. But when confronted, their responses were completely different.

Read: 1 Samuel 10:8; 13; 13:8-14; 15:3, 15-20, 30

You really should read the whole chapter of 1 Samuel 15, but I know that is fairly long. Notice how Saul responds to Samuel when he is confronted. He makes excuses, blames others, says he has no choice and then pleads with Samuel saying, “I know I have sinned. But please, as least honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel by coming back with me so that I may worship your God.” His concern was not that he had disobeyed but that he would be dishonored in front of others. And he doesn’t even claim God as his own.

Read: 2 Samuel 12:7-13; Psalm 51:4

David’s response is so different. Immediately he acknowledges that he had sinned against the Lord. He didn’t offer an excuse. He didn’t try to persuade Nathan that his deed was necessary. He just admits he did it.

David is called a man after God’s own heart. It certainly isn’t because David was perfect. But his heart was perfectly attuned to God’s. He knew that God desired a broken and repentant heart, a spirit of humility that quickly acknowledged guilt and turned from sin.

Who do you emulate – Saul or David? When you feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit do you acknowledge the misdeed and confess or make excuses and point fingers. One leads to life and the other leads to death. You choose.

Another opportunity to worship in community. People are scary. I agree. So wherever you are today, embrace life and faith. Meet Jesus on your recliner, in your pew, or at the beach. He is everywhere present. There is no where we can go that he is not already been.

Reading: Psalm 139

Photo by Chad Kirchoff on Pexels.com

Saturday already again! Since I am currently hanging out in the sunny south, I will enjoy the 70 degree weather and maybe make a trip to the beach. What does our day look like? Do you have expectations for what you might accomplish on the weekend? Maybe it’s your day off and you have a long list of to-do’s.

No matter what your day brings you, I pray that it might be filled with joy. Enjoy whatever comes your way knowing that very little of what we do is eternal. Hug your kids. Kiss your grandchildren. Have coffee with a friend. Go to the beach. Or for the northern folks, light a fire….roast a marshmallow in the house.

Reading: Psalm 117

Tomorrow we get to worship with other believers. What can you do today to prepare for this wonderful opportunity?