Saturday, September 16, 2017

Approval Ratings

If you have been alive and coherent in the past 10 years, you have heard all about approval ratings.  From major news networks to social media outlets, anyone with any importance has an approval rating.  From the President of the USA, to the college football coach, to the latest single man chosen as the newest Bachelor {and from what I've been reading, he doesn't stay single or committed for long.  Don't judge me...the Bachelor is one of my guilty pleasures}. Everyone has something to live up to.  Now I know that these ratings have been around for much longer than 10 years.  Some of you are just older than me, so you remember further back, right?

Here's the thing about "approval ratings:" they are people's opinions of how you measure up.  Are you doing a good job?  Are people happy with you?  Does the world approve of you? Are you making a positive difference? While many of us would LOVE for the world to all love us and make us feel like we are doing a good job, we have to remember that every human's opinion and feelings are all molded and shaped through their own personal circumstances.  While circumstances do not define us, we can all agree they tend to lend focus to different areas for different people.  Which means there are absolutely no black and white parameters in which we can know how to make everyone happy.  Everyone is different, and we all hold different things close to our hearts.  What may be important to me just might be the least of your worries.  Did you know that Jesus didn't have the best approval ratings in his time?  He was not well liked.  Many people tried to make him look bad.  They called him a liar.  But did you know, He was the single, most significant thing to happen to the human race?  Even to those who hated him.

In my Bible study this morning, I had to answer some gut-wrenching questions which made me list what occupies my mind the most, what do I love, and what can ruin my day.  I really wanted to write the Sunday School answers because then I could feel a little better about myself.  No one wants to admit they can be shallow in that they seek approval or long to be significant, to make a difference, or to just be accepted.  Holy cow!  That's someone who seems pretty vain. The lesson was on worship.  As Christians, we tend to define worship by what goes on in the beginning of the church service each week.  But the true definition of worship [based on my google definition search] is the feeling or expression of adoration and reverence for a deity.  There were several other definitions which were all basically the same.  As the study went on, the author was sure to remind us that worship doesn't just happen to inside the walls of the church.  She said, "If you're breathing, you're worshiping." But the questions is...what is the object of our worship?

As I looked at my answers from the first page, it was clear that my worship isn't always directed at the one who thought I was good enough to send His son to die for me.  It was on the thoughts and approval of those who will fail me everyday, because like me, they are sinners and live in a broken, fallen world.  The trouble with trying to live up to everyone's expectations of me is that there are no clear, concise directions on what would make everyone happy.  You see, if I spent all of my energy focused on making my kids happy, it is highly likely that my husband will be left feeling very unhappy because they require completely opposite things from me.

The only way I will ever experience true joy and peace is to live in a state of worship of Jesus Christ.  The one who approved of me before I was ever created.  The one who thought enough of me to die for me while I was yet a sinner.  So on my absolute WORST, UGLY, DISAPPOINTING day, Jesus loves me.  I have surrendered my heart and life to Him, so my life must only serve to honor Him.

Now, where I go wrong sometimes is trying to do enough to make Him happy with me.  But that is a lie from the devil himself.  There is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING I can do to earn His love.  He gave it freely.  The only requirement on my behalf is to surrender to His will, and live my life in a way that honors Him.  Sure, I screw it up everyday.  But I know His love never fails.

So how do I get away from these approval ratings?  God doesn't ask us to live a life to get amazing approval ratings from the world's perspective.  He doesn't even ask us to be significant, to make a difference, to win, to be on top, to be liked by everyone, to write the best blog, to have the most friends, and the list goes on and on.  He only asks one thing of be OBEDIENT.  Obedient to accept Him as Lord and Savior over our lives, and obedient to each thing He calls us to.  No matter how big or how small.  You know how I know this?  This past week, God had laid the previous blog post on my heart to write.  I haven't written in so long, and truthfully just didn't feel up to it.  What is one stupid blog post about my own struggles going to do to make any difference?  So I finally decided to be obedient in a small step.  But let me tell you, the devil about made it impossible.  I was going to post it on Instagram and just share it.  But there wasn't enough room to write everything.  So as much as I hated to, I had to try to log on to the blog that I haven't even touched in 7 months.  I forgot the password, got locked out, only for my computer to freeze.  I may have hit the computer with a little extra pressure which then reset the battery.  I decided to quit.  It wasn't worth it.  But Rob reminded me that quitting was exactly what Satan wanted me to do.  I am not a quitter, and I often give the old devil more power and credit than he deserves.  So I continued on.  That insignificant little blog post lead several people to tell me how it encouraged them.  I had several facebook messages and such of people telling me that God had used my post to lift them up.  Listen, SaraBeth can't take any credit for that.  Because not only did I NOT want to write it, it seemed so small.  And who has time for the small things?  I want to be used in a big way.  But God took the insignificant and used it significantly in the lives of others.

So what is the point of all of this mumbling?  It is to encourage you {and me} to quit living your lives in hopes of garnering raving approval ratings.  Take all of that effort and energy, and start living a life in obedience to Jesus.  His gift of salvation is significant enough to save your life eternally.   He wants you to live life more abundantly {John 10:10 - The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.}  The world's opinion of you will quickly steal your joy.  It can destroy you.  Live that abundant life in Jesus.

Everything you do, do it with a heart of worship and obedience to King Jesus {Col 3:23-
And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;}.  Then and only then will you have the joy and peace you are searching for.  

Keep on keeping on.  Love Jesus, love people, and be obedient to the next step, no matter how big or small, He is calling you to take.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Waiting on the Lord


This young man has played football since he was four, sitting out only last season. That makes this his 10th season playing the game he loves so much.  Although his heart for football has always been bigger than life itself, he spent 9 seasons watching from the sidelines.  He always gave it his all at practices, knowing his size hindered him from an easy spot on the field.  Year after year, we went to the games, watching through tears as our boy had to watch his friends (some of whom got to start even their first year playing), live out his dream.  We would always encourage him to support his team, have a good attitude, and work even harder.  I NEVER, and I mean NEVER, heard him say a negative word about anyone getting to play.  He was always just grateful to be a part of the team.  It was like added family for him.  

When it finally seemed like it may have been his time, God called us to WV and to homeschool.  Both of which turned into a nightmare for Cade.  We watched our joyful, spunky young man turn into a slightly bitter and negative guy who was miserable with life.  Over and over, he reminded us that God may have called us to WV, but He didn't call Cade to WV.  As if things weren't hard enough, we added another sister to the family, and he was no longer the oldest.  Things couldn't get worse for him in his eyes. Zoe got to go to public school (state requirement for foster care), and Cade watched bitterly as he had to remain home.  I have only seen him in such a dark place once before...when Faith died.  My heart was broken for him.  

After much prayer, Rob and I decided to allow him to go to high school.  We felt like he and Zoe could keep an eye on one another, and he desperately wanted to play football.  He started summer workouts (6 am mornings in our house every day of summer), with an eager heart.  Mine was not so eager. I was TIRED!  I worried about him not knowing anyone, being small, and being disappointed once again.  I knew he couldn't take anymore disappointment in WV.  Every day, when we would pick him up, he was on cloud 9.  Even though he knew he wouldn't start, he was just grateful to have a chance to make friends, be a part of a team, and work towards being an active player his sophomore year.  We met the coaches, and I was immediately impressed with the care they showed Cade.  Cade never once felt like an outsider, but everyone, including the kids, made him feel a part of something he hadn't felt in a while.

As the summer plugged along, we continued to see Cade grow in confidence, work ethic, and gratefulness.  He was still continuing to deal with some bitterness about adding a sibling, which was hindering his walk with the Lord.  God allowed him to go to Snowbird with our youth group from FL.  We spoke with Tim, our youth pastor and dearest friend who has taught us so much, and he offered to spend some time with Cade.  That week, God showed him that he had to love his new sister, because Jesus loved us even when we didn't deserve it.  He came home renewed and with a different attitude.  As he returned to football, it was becoming more clear he was going to get a chance to play.  Second-string was a highlight for him.  He was ECSTATIC!  

School began, and he was too excited to start his freshman year.  He had made a ton of friends, and walked in the first day as if he had been here all of his life.  He was thriving!  He got added to the Varsity scout team, which gave him more practice time.  He shared with us that even though it was only "scout team", he saw it as an opportunity to grow, to learn, and to get better.  He was so grateful.  The JV team dresses out each Friday night for the Varsity games, and we watched as he cheered relentlessly for his new brothers on the field.  He was patiently waiting his turn on the field once JV games would start.  

The first JV game was scheduled for Labor Day.  Our family had already made plans to travel that weekend, because our schedules are so busy, we HAVE to make time to spend as a family.  However, the game interfered with our trip.  Cade made the decision to stay back with some special friends, so he could play in his game.  We made plans to leave TN early because there was no way I was missing that game!  We left Thursday morning for Pigeon Forge, only for Cade to call us late Thursday evening with news the game had been cancelled.  I was furious and heartbroken for him.  He had given up time with his family doing fun things, to reap the fruit of what he had been working so hard on.  We tried everything we could to get him to TN, but nothing was going to be possible.  I was mad...Cade was ok.  He said "Mom, it's ok.  I'll just stay here and rest."  I am so thankful for special people God has given us here who love our kids like their own.  They are a blessing!!  And his attitude spoke volumes to my bitter heart. 

Fast forward to last night.  We experienced a first in all the years of being Cade's parents.  We got to see our boy start on kick return, defense, and play off and on offense.  He made numerous tackles (mostly on kids twice his size), blocked 2 passes, and even ran the ball for 5 yards.  I couldn't have been more proud.  This is what he has dreamed of since he was a toddler.  While all of that was more than exciting for us and for him,  God spoke to me and showed me something I have been struggling with myself.  Often times, we have dreams.  We work so hard to see them come to fruition.  But many times, we have to sit on the sidelines of many seasons until it is our turn.  We still have work to do, to be prepared, to get stronger and more confident.  Sometimes we have to watch others live our dreams, and it is so easy to be mad, bitter, discouraged, and angry.  We quit because it is hard.  We become ungrateful for all that God is trying to teach us, and how He is trying to prepare us.  You see, last night wasn't about the fact that Cade had the greatest night of his life.  Yes it was awesome!!  But it was more about God's timing.  After all of those years of preparing Cade for his time to shine, God was teaching him and showing him how to be the best he could be when his time came.  Rob and I are having to learn that in our own lives in this season.  It seems like we are on the sidelines, waiting for our moment, but we have to be patient, listening to the Savior as He teaches us and prepares our hearts for the big game. 

This verse was in a devotion this morning and I thought it was fitting:
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret— it only causes harm.”
Psalms 37:7-8 

We are learning to rest in the Lord.  And wait patiently for Him and His timing.  He knows best, and his timing and plans are perfect.  He knows what He is doing.  

My prayer is that while we are waiting, like Cade, we will learn to be grateful in all things, see every opportunity as a chance to grow in Jesus, and become more like Him.  Then when it is our turn to hit the field, we will glorify Him and make Him proud.  

Are you sitting on the sidelines?  Seek Jesus and be willing to play with your whole heart!  Even if it doesn't look like you think it should.  God is good, all the time!  Wait on the Lord and do NOT grow weary.  Due season is coming!

Isaiah 40:31 
31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

Galatians 6:9
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.