Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And the Moral of the Story is...2013

The past two years I've done a post to close the year about what lessons I've learned over that year.  These posts have been hugely meaningful to me, obviously, but have also been some of the most loved posts by my readers. So here is my post for 2013.  When it comes to New Year's Resolutions, I'm finding that the best ones are to simply remember and put into practice the things the previous year has taught me.

Things I've Learned this Year

1.  Demons are real.  Angels are real.  But most of all, Jesus is real.  Our earthly world is merely an illusion, not just spiritually, but scientifically as well.  I think when we get to Heaven, we are going to be shocked at how big a role spiritual forces played in this life.

2.  If God ordains something for you, He'll make it happen.  This year God led me to an opportunity to preach and lead worship at a church for several weeks, to a regular gig preaching at a nursing home and led me to write an entire book in several weeks.  None of these things were pre-planned or required much effort at all on my part to make happen.

3.  One of the marks of a mature Christian is to be able to disagree with another Christian, but still love them, care for them and support them.  There are several people that played huge roles in my life this year because even though they believe the Bible says that women should not be preachers or pastors, they still supported me and loved and cared about me.  I'm thankful to have that level of mature Christians in my life to serve as role models for me.

4.  Ministry is best done with other people.  Preaching/teaching can be a very lonely ministry.  I praise God for giving me my friend Carol to go with me to the nursing home and leading the worship part.  I love doing ministry with her.

5.  Your home church is home.  I spent a lot of time away from my home church this year, both because of other ministry opportunities and because of illness.  Though the people I've met at other churches are wonderful, they still aren't my home church.  I couldn't do what I do without a home.

6.  If Jesus calls you to do it, you don't need to defend it.  I wrote a blog post on this earlier, but I've found the best way to defend my calling when others question it is to direct any of their concerns to the One who called me.  Jesus ordained you to do it.  If you were sure it was Him, then you don't need anyone else's approval or permission.

7.  Focus is critical.  I've always thought discipline was the key to success.  It's important, but not as important as focus.

8.  It's important to keep a record of all the things God does in your life.  If you want to build your faith fast, keep a prayer journal so you can cross off the prayers when God answers them and write down all the times God provides for you or acts in your life.

9.  If people can't deal with and resolve conflict, they aren't someone you want a close relationship with.  If they can't talk through something, ask for what they need, accept fault, forgive, and love you throughout the process, then respect yourself enough keep your distance.

10.  Everyone needs to be in counseling.  You are thoroughly screwed up and as one screwed up person to another, I'm telling you...you need to do yourself a favor and get help for your issues.  Even if it is just once a month or once every three months, you need the humility to admit you are a work in progress and the confidence to know that you can change.

11.  "Some people are just assholes."  Speaking of counseling, this is something my counselor told me in one of my last appointments with her.  I had worked on relationship skills for so long and I think she meant this as one of her parting words for when I feel like I'm doing everything right, but the other person doesn't seem to be responding.  It was hugely freeing to hear those words and so far, they have maintained my sanity many times.  Some people will always be jerks or put you down or look for some reason to discredit you.  If I'm doing my best that I know how to do, that's all I can do.

Lessons I'm Still Learning

1.  Let people dig their own graves and keep your mouth shut.  That probably sounds harsh, but it's true.  Most people who are being obnoxious will eventually dig a grave big enough for them to fall into.  You don't need to help them.  In fact, if you help them, they will just blame the hole on you.

2.  Healing and resting are just as important work as whatever work you are resting from.  Having two surgeries this year is making me learn that letting myself heal is actually hard work, but it's important.  I've always been strong and healthy, but if I want to stay that way, I need to treat myself gently.

3.  The Lord will lift you up in due time.  People may not appreciate you.  They may not see your value or your talent.  Other people may try to make you look bad or have it out for you.  They may think all kinds of horrible things about you.  Let them.  They'll just look all the more foolish when the Lord lifts you up like He promises He will.  And those who look better than they actually are will eventually get exposed as well.  God promises it.

4.  There are some people that seem supportive of your dreams, but as soon as you succeed beyond their comfort zone, they will try to drag you back to where they think your "place" is.  This one is hard for me because I don't want to believe that the people who were so supportive before are now trying to hold me back.  But one person's success often exposes other people's insecurities.

5.  The truth is going to tick a lot of people off.  People like their delusions.  They get upset when you wreck them.  Don't feel bad when you wreck someone's delusion, but also expect them to get mad and look for some reason to be mad at you.

6.  Satan loves to sabotage communication.  If he can get in there and cause a fight, he will.  Especially between Christians.  And Satan has a way of blocking people from seeing the love being given to them.

7.  No one knows what they are doing.  Most of us walk around feeling like an impostor and fear being "found out".  We may go to school or seminars or read books to give us guidance or build our confidence.  But when it comes down to it, none of us know what we are doing.  And the people that do think they know what they are doing have deluded themselves into believing that.

8.  It doesn't matter what kind of music the church has or how good it is, or whether they have liturgical dancers or wave flags or mumble 400 year old hymns.  If you can't show up and worship God, that shows a critical flaw in you, not them.  The Lord has been teaching me this for most of the year and He is still working on me.  I'm just waiting to see how He is going to use this.  I have little tolerance for anything now where worship is not the first and foremost goal.

9.  Just because you've been a Christian for 70, 80, 90 years doesn't mean there aren't still things for you to learn.  There are people at the nursing home I preach at who show up because they say they learn so much from me.  It's humbling to think that there are things I can teach people in their 90's or who are over 100 about Jesus.

10.  Satan doesn't pick sides.  In fact, he wants to control both sides.  Whether it is politics, abortion, gay marriage or what translation of the Bible we should use, there isn't the evil side and the Godly side.  There are Godly people on both sides and evil people on both sides.  All Satan is interested in is division and destruction.  It doesn't matter to him if he has to be a democrat or a republican or both.  His goal is hate and death and he'll use both sides to get it.

I'm sure I'll think of things later that I could have added, but these are what came to mind first.  I encourage you to write out your own list of what you've learned and stick it somewhere where you will be able to find it next New Year's Eve.  A lesson learned means a mistake we won't repeat.

Thank you for following my blog this year.  I wish you a blessed and prosperous 2014.  Jesus is my motivation to write, but you, my readers, are my encouragement to keep at it.  I thank God for each of you!  Happy New Year!

Here are links to my previous years' reflections:

Moral of the Story 2012
Moral of the story 2011

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