Friday, July 14, 2017

The Trouble with Having More

"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." (Matthew 6:24, NIV)
Lately I have been thinking about life, my blessings, and the dreams that I hold in my heart. The future keeps advancing without skipping a beat and I can hardly keep up.  Summer is half gone, my youngest child has just reached adulthood, and the reality that college will come sooner than we are prepared has me in a state of wondering not only how we will fund her education but also our retirement.  The golden years are fast approaching and before you know it we'll be sleeping toothless while our dentures soak in a vat of Efferdent.

As advertisers and social media steer my gaze toward lavish vacations and material luxuries that cost more than my first house, I realize that I will never keep up with the Joneses.  Thing is -- I'm not sure I even want to.  A lifetime of acquiring things, especially those I could not afford at the time, has resulted in a mountain of debt we are still paying off -- debt we should never have taken on for things that failed to satisfy our deepest longings.  The trouble with having more -- at least for me -- is that it often results in more worry, not less, and greater poverty instead of more wealth.  Don't you find that a bit odd?

The Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35), and I am finally embracing that truth and the belief that we can never outgive God. I am learning to loosen my grip on material blessings rather than allow them to possess me. I never cease to be amazed at how much joy and blessing I receive when I open my hands and my wallet to those in need, or to causes that matter to me.

In the past three years, since our move to Virginia, we have learned to live modestly and find contentment in a simpler lifestyle. I drive a 21-year-old station wagon with no car note but a whole lot of character. Recently, as I contemplated moving back to Tennessee with my daughter and the expense that would be involved, I decided that even if we didn't move I would still need to leave the job I love and take a better-paying job in order to pay for college, a reliable used car for my daughter, and save for retirement.  But as I contemplated the trade-offs and the justification for leaving my job in ministry in order to improve our financial position, God began to show me that it really isn't up to me -- it is up to Him to provide all we need.

The temptation to leave my job in search of a better-paying corporate position -- though my motives are justifiable -- has been strong.  But the conviction that my God is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine, and that He has chosen me to serve where I am in this season of my life, is even stronger.  I cannot improve on God's best for me, and I honestly believe that if I were to leave in search of greener pastures I would experience disappointment, stress, and discontent, despite a bigger paycheck and a benefits package.

For the first time in many years I am content and at peace with my decision to continue serving God where He has planted me.  We continue to make financial progress, and I know that eventually we will be debt-free.  In the meantime our children have learned valuable lessons as a result of our costly mistakes, and have learned to save and live within their means at a much younger age than we ever did. Trust is my choice, and faithfulness to provide for us is God's promise.  I have no doubt that as I continue to seek first His will and righteousness, all these things (our needs and even some wants) will be given to us as well (Matthew 6:33).

Copyright © 2017  by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Sin of Comparison

They say confession is good for the soul, but lately I feel that's all I do.  Whether I am confessing my frustration on the job or my envy of what others have, I find that a negative attitude is more likely to occur when I compare myself with others. Pride and envy arrive as uninvited guests to my pity party and stay as long as I allow them to. Fortunately, though, I have learned to disarm them by counting my blessings and thanking God for his favor and provision.

Pride is an ugly thing and comparison is the manifestation of a prideful heart.  I am reminded of the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. Sadly I am prone to act more like the Pharisee when it comes to my attitude toward others. Who am I to judge? But aren't we all guilty of comparing ourselves with and judging others from time to time?  That doesn't make it right.

The happiest people I know are those who have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (See Philippians 4:11-13.)  When I remember to trust the God who knows me best, loves me most, and gives me all I need, then I am content. But when I begin comparing myself to others, judging them against my standards rather than his love for them, that's when I get into trouble.

What if instead of comparing ourselves with others, we begin praying for and treating them as we'd have them do for us? At the end of the day it doesn't matter what others have or who they are, but rather who we all are in Christ.

Copyright © 2017 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Wonder of Waiting

If you are like me, you have probably done a whole lot of waiting in life--waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to come along, waiting for a big fat check in the mail, or waiting for a dream job that you not only love but that actually pays the bills and leaves you enough surplus for a rainy day. Perhaps you are waiting for the sun to come out and chase away the clouds of despair over a wayward child, a broken heart, or an empty chair formerly occupied by a loved one.

Waiting is one of the most difficult things we will do in life, even if we are women and men of faith. But if we learn to master the art of waiting -- of waiting on God, seeking His will above our own, and resting in His plans and purpose for our lives -- we will look back and see that whatever we had hoped for was certainly worth the wait. You see, God has a way of doing some pretty wonderful things when we wait on Him to work out things in our behalf. That is not to say that we are to just sit and wait -- sometimes we need to step out in faith and actively participate in what He is doing. But I have learned that when a situation does not resolve itself the way I think it should it is best to step back, pray, and give God permission to do His will, even if it means I don't get my own way.

Lately I have been praying about employment and the possibility of relocating to another city. I have mailed resumes, networked with friends and potential employers, and made my list of pros and cons. At no time have I felt apprehensive that moving would be wrong, but neither has God opened doors to indicate that moving would be the right thing to do. Rather He has opened our hearts -- my daughter's and mine -- and granted us wisdom to consider what is best in the long run and the impact a move would have on our family, our church, and our financial well-being. I may not have yet received a job offer, but I have peace knowing that we are where God wants us to be and that in His time, He will provide the job I am meant to have.

God has never failed to give me His best when I have surrendered my plans and desires to His perfect will. Sometimes God has allowed me to fail miserably, fall flat on my face, suffer a broken heart, and experience financial reversal. But God has also been faithful to pick me up, love me in spite of my foolish ways, supply all my needs, and do immeasurably more than I could ask or imagine.

God has surrendered me with visible reminders that He always has my best interests at heart and that He will give me His very best if I wait patiently for Him to work all things together for my good. My husband, children, current job, and even my sweet cat are proof of that!

Waiting for God to do wonders,
Dee Dee

Copyright © 2017 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Curing Mrs. Cranky

Ever have one of those days when you are cranky -- miserably cranky?  A day when nothing makes you happy... not worship, or a leisurely walk on a beautiful breezy morning, or even a nap?  Today has been one of those days for me and nothing -- NOTHING -- has helped. Usually when my attitude turns sour I can turn on a little praise music and enter into a litany of thanksgiving for all the blessings I DO have.  But today that hasn't cured my crankiness.

Scripture tells us that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Timothy 6:6, NIV). I have a daily quiet time, attend weekly worship, give generously, and do all I can to walk in obedience to God's word.  Though not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I do strive to live a godly life. But that's only half the equation.  What about contentment?

Paul, though persecuted, imprisoned, and subject to all manner of suffering, seems to have mastered contentment.  "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13). If I am a surrendered believer yet still struggle with contentment -- or at least with being cranky on occasion -- does that make me less a Christian?

When I am cranky I want to isolate myself from those around me because I know that nothing positive is going to come out of my mouth.  Every word will be nagging and nit-picky. The tension becomes more than I can bear. Sometimes my attitude, if it is driven by fatigue, can be greatly helped with a nap and a re-boot of my day.  But when it can't....

What even makes us cranky in the first place?  What causes us to complain and criticize when most of us are blessed beyond measure?  Perhaps these verses from James 4:1-3 may shed a little light: "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures."  Hmmm.

Lately I have been praying big prayers, looking to God for provision and big answers, and wondering why he has been silent. I have had a running conversation with him about his will over mine, and with myself about the possibility that the two might be in conflict. Lord, I hope my prayer is in line with your will.  I feel caught somewhere between faith and unbelief -- between dreaming of what could be and the reality that the present might be all there is for now.  Here's the bottom line:  if my prayers are in line with God's will, then no amount of fretting will usher in his answer and provision before the appointed time.

Jesus knows that stressing over the details of life can make us all a little cranky at times, and mercifully he forgives us when we allow our preoccupation with worldly cares to steal our joy. In Matthew 6:33-34, he gently reminds us to "seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

If there is one thing I have learned, God truly is able to handle the details of our lives with little help from us. He is working behind the scenes in ways we cannot see, making a way for his will to be accomplished, even when we are not sure what his perfect plan is.  He wants to bless his children, even if that means his "no" is our greater "yes."  The question is, do we really trust him to do what is best for us?

Copyright © 2017 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Not My Own

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.  (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Bereans Study Bible)

It has been a beautiful spring day in my neighborhood, a perfect Friday to cap off a busy work week. Many thoughts are running through my mind as I write this -- the physical I had yesterday, a closed door, financial needs that I'm confident God is going to supply, the lack of time I have to write and maintain two blogs, the joy of seeing trees and flowers in bloom at the end of a dreary, dark winter. 

How thankful I am to be alive! How grateful I am to have a reason -- several, actually -- to get out of bed each day.  To work at a job I love, watch my children grow into responsible adults, and to have the love of one man for over thirty years are blessings I do not take for granted. I have had many jobs I did not love, have survived the challenging years of raising teens, and have had my heart broken by "could have beens." God has been faithful in the good times and the bad.

I learned a long time ago that life, as hard as it may be at times, is much better lived on God's terms than on mine. A life surrendered to His will is a far greater adventure than I could ever have imagined. 

I am not my own. My possessions, my health, my job, my children, and my spouse are not my own. God reserves the right to rearrange the life I love any way He chooses, at any time. Surrendered to Him, I am fearless. Trusting in Him, I am triumphant. Living each day to the fullest and for His glory are my highest aspirations.  

To be fully His rather than to be my own is a joy, not a burden, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

Copyright © 2016 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Why I Gave Up Cable TV

"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15-17, ESV).
People already think I'm weird because I went vegan in 2016, but even stranger perhaps is my decision to give up cable TV, or at least most of the channels our family has enjoyed these past three years. Not that there is anything wrong with watching television -- I am simply not disciplined enough to step away from it and give my attention to more beneficial activities and interests.  I did subscribe to a basic programming package that will give us network and public broadcasting channels. After all I do need to know what tomorrow's weather will be and the news that affects my family. But the cost is exorbitant, the value limited, and my time too precious to be spent on something of so little benefit.

But why did I really downgrade my cable subscription?  Because I am convinced that God has bigger plans for me than to mindlessly watch hours of sappy love stories, and because the hard-earned money he has entrusted to our family can be better invested in doing his will and enriching the lives of others.

It is hard to hear God's voice when the TV is on all the time. It is easy to let TV become an excuse to put off exercise or that important project that needs my attention. TV has stolen too much from me -- dreams, inspiration, time, and money.

Is there something that is robbing you of the truly important things, like relationships with family and friends or that special task to which God has called you? TV, social media, and even "good causes" can distract us from the more important things.

"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:1-2, ESV).

Copyright © 2016 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This Is a Test...This Is Only a Test

Here I sit, in exactly the same predicament I faced this time last year, wondering how God is going to pull off the miracle I need. It's true, you know. History does have a uncanny way of repeating itself. Question is, as I go through this test will I have the patience to endure it and better yet, keep in mind that God has come through so many times before?  Or will I do what I am so prone to do -- take charge and try to come up with the solution all by myself? That seldom turns out well for me.

Life is full of tests. Tests that make us squirm and steal our joy. What if in the heat of the furnace we could remember, "This is a test.  This is only a test"?

I don't know how God is going to work this out. I only have to know that He is. I don't have to do anything but pray, wait, and trust him -- to guide me, to open and close doors, and to supply my every need according to his glorious riches (Philippians 4:19). He is able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).  "He knows the way that I take, and when he has tested me I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

What impossible problem are you facing today? Do you have the faith to take God at his word and to believe in what he has promised to do for you?

Even for the most seasoned believer it can be hard -- so very hard -- to surrender ourselves to God's unseen plan and trust him with the outcome. But with God, the one who works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28), nothing is impossible.

Copyright © 2016 by Dee Dee Wike. All rights reserved.