Thursday, June 4, 2015


I was asked to give a talk on faithfulness in my life for Girlfriend Cafe at Capital West Christian Church on June 3, 2015.  Several people said they were sorry they missed it so I am posting it here.



    Thank you, Julie, for introducing me; that is a valuable friend I have right there.  I also want to thank Kelly for asking me to speak.  I am humbled and honored that you see enough faithfulness in me that you asked me.  My first reaction when Kelly asked me was, “Well, I don’t mind the speaking in public part, but I’m not sure I have anything to contribute to the topic of faithfulness.”
    For whatever reason, I was feeling down and insecure that day so I immediately felt unworthy.  But God has given me people in my life who see things in me that I don’t see in myself.  After talking to Todd...and Julie...and Kelly, here I am.
    Faithfulness is a huge topic.  I didn’t know where to start.  Maybe I needed to begin with a verse and see where that led me.  I looked up the word “faithfulness” on Bible Gateway.  Did you know there are 68 verses that use the word “faithfulness”?  I didn't even look up "faithful" or "faith" because there were so many on "faithfulness."  Some of them refer to a person like Abraham or David, but most of them refer to the character of God.  I noticed three main patterns as I read through those verses.

   The first thing I noticed is that faithfulness is often paired with the words “kindness” or “righteousness.” Genesis 32:10 says, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.”  1 Samuel 26:23 tells us, “The LORD rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness.”  And we know that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
    The next pattern I noticed talk about love and compassion in conjunction with faithfulness.  I was surprised at how many verses use almost the exact same wording.  “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.”  He is slow to anger and abounding in love. Man, I love that.  Anybody else thankful that God is slow to anger and abounding in love?
     The last thing I noticed is that God’s faithfulness can’t be measured nor can it be confined to man made limits of time and space.  Psalm 36:5 (among others) says that “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”  (I have a hard time speaking that verse without singing it.)  Psalm 100:5: “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever, his faithfulness continues through all generations.”  That is something that always gives me comfort:  my God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He does not change.  The same God who parted the Red Sea is the same God who made the walls of Jericho fall down, the same God who raised Jesus from the dead--He is the same God that I talk to today.
    So here is my conclusion after reading through the verses on faithfulness:  God is faithful to me, to us, to His people everywhere.  ALWAYS.  His faithfulness has no limits.  He never changes.  He is always faithful, and I know He is always with me.  Jesus said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
    But sometimes I can’t feel His faithfulness.  Sometimes I don’t feel Him near me.  Why is that?  Is that a problem with God...or a problem with me?  The Word shows us that God is always faithful.  I am hoping that it’s okay for me not to read all 68 verses on faithfulness to prove God’s character.  (But feel free to look them up on your own later!)
    So that means when I can’t feel God, the problem must be with me.  Like I said, He isn’t the one who is moving or changing.  When I don’t feel His presence, it is because I have moved away from Him.  That led me to this verse:  “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.”  That is James 4:8.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.  That has been repeating over and over in my head the last couple of weeks.  Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

    The rest of what I have to say tonight is ways I try to draw near to Him and live out faithfulness in my daily life.  I want to say upfront that I don’t always get this right.  Sometimes I am cranky.  Sometimes I get angry and lose my temper.  Frequently, I am prone to worry and insecurity.  So I think of faithfulness in my daily life as a goal, a target to aim for.  Sometimes I hit the target, and sometimes I miss the mark entirely.
    One big way I try to stay close to God is through regular Bible study.  There are two defining moments for me that really shaped how and why I study the Bible.
    I had heard the story of Jesus in the wilderness for 40 days before, but I clearly remember the first time I ever really studied it.  I was completely struck by how Scripture was used in that story.  The devil used Scripture too.  He twisted it and used it out context, but he was quoting Scripture.  Of course, that was no match for Jesus.  But that left a huge impression on me.  If the devil tried to use God’s Words against the very Son of God, he is most certainly going to try to do the same to me.  Not only do I need to know WHAT the Scriptures say, but I also have to know the right context.  I need to know when it is being used incorrectly.  This is when I first started reading the Bible myself on a regular basis.
    The other moment was several years ago when I heard a missionary speak.  He spoke for a long time, but I only remember one thing from what he said.  He was talking about someone in his country who had been arrested just for their belief in Christ.  Basically, this person was forced to live in a very small cell.  There was not even room to stand all the way up.  The only thing that he had was the Word of God that he had memorized and hidden in his heart.  He repeated God’s words to himself over and over, day in and day out, and that is what sustained him.  What if that happened to me?  Would I know God’s Word well enough to use it in difficult circumstances without an actual Bible in front of me?  At that time, I think I could recite exactly zero verses from memory.  That is the moment when I actively began memorizing verses.
    I used to write them out on index cards.  I reviewed them frequently.  I tried to learn one new verse each week.  That worked pretty well, but that was B.C.  (You know, Before Children.  They change everything--even the way you study Scripture.)  After I had kids, I just couldn’t keep up with that in that way anymore.  I had memorized quite a few though that I can still draw on.
    The way I study the Bible has changed over time.  As I have prepared for this talk, God keeps leading me back to my study time so I’m going to share what I do with you.  I don’t know if what I do will work for anyone else or not, but this is what works for me right now.
    First of all, I make space in my day for it.  I plan for it.  For me, that means getting up early.  Sometimes that means really early.  I have not always been a morning person.  I’m sure my mom would be quick to point out how much work it used to take to get me out of bed.  But I have become a morning person.  I really look forward to that quiet time with my God each day.
    I do my Bible time first each day.  That way, no matter what else happens, the rest of the day, at least I got that done.  When I don’t do it first, it is all too easy to not do it at all.  Plus, it sets a tone for the rest of my day.  It gives me perspective and perhaps a little more grace, a little more kindness and joy for the rest of the day.
    So what do I do in my Bible time?  It’s not the same every day.  Some days it is fairly short, some days longer.  I usually start with a daily reading.  I have been using this version for a couple of years.  It is the One Year Chronological Version.  The NLT version is pretty easy to read.  It is already split into daily sections, and it arranges the events into chronological order.  If I’m reading about King David, it will give me a section from 1 Kings and then the same story from Chronicles and then may have a psalm that he wrote during that period.  It has given me a new understanding of how it all fits together.

    I also go through my notes from the last week’s sermon.  I always take notes during the sermon because it helps me pay attention.  If I’m not actively writing things down, my mind wanders and I’m thinking about my grocery list or where we’re going for lunch (or how I can convince Todd to take us out to lunch) or just watching around me.  So during the sermon I write down the main points, any thoughts or connections I am making and any Scripture references.  When I go back through it later in the week, I read back through my notes and I write out any verses mentioned.  Even if it is a verse I already know, I look it up and copy it word for word.  It ties back to the memorization piece for me.  I know I learn things best and remember things best by writing them down.  I figure every time I write it down, it helps me know it a little better in my heart.  I also want to make sure I have the exact wording so I’m not putting my own spin on things.
    Other things I might do during this time are various Bible studies--I'm working on a Lysa TerKeurst book right now; I always feel like she is speaking directly to me--or write in my journal or work on my blog or just pray.  I know what I do is fairly involved.  It is no secret that I like to study.  I know I’m a nerd, and I’m okay with it.  I own that about myself.
    My goal every day is to finish all this before anyone else is up.  My day goes better if I do that.  It is tricky sometimes because my kids have always been early risers.  They are both usually up by 6:30.  For them to sleep past 7 (even when they don’t have to be up) is rare.  That means I have to be pretty intentional about getting up before them; it is not going to happen automatically.  On school days, I just set the alarm and get up, but there’s just something about getting up to an alarm on a Saturday or a summer day.  I just don’t want to do that!
    This is what I do instead.  As I’m going to sleep, I ask God to wake me up the next day.  It’s an idea I first got from Ginger Harland a while back.  It sounds something like this:  “Dear God, would you please wake me up in the morning before everyone else is awake so we can hang out and spend some time together?”  Yes, those are usually the words I say.  I ask God if I can hang out with Him.  And you know what?  God likes hanging out with me too.  I think this type of request is honoring and pleasing to God.  When I remember to ask God to wake me up in order to hang out, He has NEVER failed to wake me.  Never.  Why?  Because He is faithful.  When I forget to ask Him, he doesn’t wake me.  It is that simple step of me asking that shows how when we draw near to God, He draws near to us.  He is already there, but He wants us to seek Him, to show that the relationship is important to us, too.
    God’s timing always amazes and amuses me.  It is not the exact time each day, but it is consistently 30-45 minutes before everyone else is up.  As I’m finishing up my quiet time, I find myself thinking, “The house is so quiet.  I could read or crochet or go back to sleep…”   And then I hear doors open and feet coming down the hallway.  It makes me smile every time.  It’s as if God is telling me that He didn’t wake me up so I could spend time by myself.
    There are some days when I’m still writing or reading or whatever when one of them gets up.  That’s okay too.  I like that they see me reading and studying my Bible sometimes.  They see how I live that out.  

   That is my study time.  I know that was a lot, but that is what is working for me right now.  Maybe early mornings won’t work for you; maybe you prefer to listen to an audio Bible; maybe the idea of writing all that stuff down makes you break out in hives; I don’t know.  Those ideas may not work for you, but I challenge you to ask God how He wants you to study His Word and when you can spend time just hanging out.  If you ask with a sincere heart, I think God will answer you.

    Faithfulness is not just about reading your Bible; it’s also about daily life.  I strive to live my life with integrity.  Doing the right thing--big or small--at the right time just because it’s the right thing to do. I am not saying this is easy to choose the right thing, but I love the peace and sense of freedom that comes with this.  I can avoid a lot of guilt and shame just by making the right choice and following through with it.  My parents have always been great examples of this.  You do the right thing, even when you think nobody's watching.  I remember one time I asked my dad why he always drove the speed limit: he just shrugged and said, “Because it’s the law.”  That’s an easy one for me to follow anymore because I go everywhere with Trooper Tellman in the back seat.  “Mom, you’re driving 62, and the speed limit is 60.  You said that we have speed limits to help keep us safe and you are WAY OVER.”  Sigh.  Thanks, Son, I did say that.  I will slow down because I am WAY over.  Believe me, they are watching me all the time.  Even when they aren’t listening to me, they are still watching me.  They look to me and to Todd to learn how to deal with stuff in everyday life.  How do we react?  How do we treat each other?  What do we do when life is hard?  Do we help other people?  Do we mean what we say?  If I say one thing and do something else, it takes them about 20 seconds on average to point that out to me.  That is as good as it gets when it comes to being held accountable.  If any of you need some accountability partners, you can feel free to borrow my two anytime you want!
           The kids and I play a lot of games at home.  I think there are a lot of life lessons that can be learned while playing games.  Sharing, taking turns, winning, losing...they are not particularly good losers (and who is, really?).  Sometimes they accuse me of cheating when the game is not going well.  I always make sure to tell them that my integrity is worth more than cheating at a game.  Even though I am not sure they really understand what that means at this point, it is a good way to reinforce that integrity matters, even in the small things like a board game.
           A few weeks ago, I was leaving Hy-Vee after having breakfast.  I had picked up a couple of things before I checked out.  When the cashier gave me the total, it was only like four dollars when it should have been eight or nine.  I told her that I also has breakfast, and what my order had been.  She had to walk all the way over there to know how much to charge me, and she was really irritated about that.  She was mad at me for being honest.  I could have totally walked out the door without paying for my breakfast, but it's the little moments like that.  Even when you think no one is watching.
    I surround myself with Scripture.  Whether it is a saying that hangs in the house or listening to Spirit FM or a strategically placed handwritten note or a week-by-week verse on my desk at work, I need those reminders throughout the day that God loves me.  He has a plan.  I am not alone, and I do not need to be afraid.
    Some days that is not enough.  Jeremiah tells us that our hearts are deceitful.  Our feelings can lie to us. Sometimes I need my people to point me back in the right direction.  If I am stressed or angry or anxious, I know I can send a text to one of several people (many of whom are sitting in this room right now). Sometimes it might just say, "Rough day."  Not only will someone pray for me, but they almost always send me a verse back.  That is so encouraging.  Having people in my life who support me and draw me back to God is a big part of living out faithfulness in my daily life.
    From the very beginning of our relationship, Todd and I have put God at the center of our relationship.  It has never been a question about whether we should go to church or not.  We just do it.  We don’t have to ask each other.  We don’t have to wonder if the other one is going or staying home.  It is just part of our routine.  Now we don’t typically go to church when we are out of town, but anytime we are home, we are here.
    We also pray together.  Usually we do this on the weekends; we have a harder time doing it during weekdays.  But we come together, we hold hands, and we talk to God together.  We pray for each other, we pray for our marriage; we pray for our kids, other family and friends, situations in our life.  Two are better than one, but a strand of three cords is not easily broken.  Even when we disagree about everything else, we agree about God.
    We make time for just the two of us.  I can always tell when Todd and I haven’t spent enough time together.  We are more easily irritated, and a lot of things turn into disagreements that would probably be fine otherwise.  Lately, it is been more difficult to find an entire Date Night.  So I have recently implemented the Date Hour.  About once a week after the kids are in bed, we turn off all electronics (even the TV) and just hang out for a while.  We have been playing cards, but the activity doesn’t really matter.  Just the intentional act of saying, “This relationship is important to me, and we need to make time for it.”
    As for my kids, I think we show them faithfulness just like any other parent would do.  We love them.  We provide for their needs.  We talk to them.  We spend time with them.  We support and encourage them.  We challenge them to think about others and how their actions affect someone else.  We teach them about God.  That’s just part of the package.
    Whether it be my family or my friends or my job, I strive to live out faithfulness by taking care of the blessings that God has given me.  Recently I saw a sign that said, “Be patient with the blessings God has given you.”  I didn’t buy it at the time, but I wish I would have.  Now I don’t remember where it was, but that is still a good reminder for me.  God didn’t have to give me these people or the job I have or anything else for that matter.  And there's no guarantee how long I get to keep these people or these things.  I want to appreciate what is before me, and not take it for granted.
    I want to thank all of you for coming tonight.  I appreciate your listening to me.  Like I said earlier, I don’t always get these things right.  I make mistakes.  I sin.  I am forgetful and distracted.  But I pick up the pieces and I keep trying to hit the target.  At the end of my life, I want to be like Paul and hear God welcome me into Heaven with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Thank you.

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