From Ruined to Redeemed

If you’ve ever felt like part of your life was in ruins, then you certainly aren’t alone. Maybe you’ve uttered things like this:

My marriage is broken.

My health is disintegrating.

My finances are in shambles.

This relationship can never be repaired.

My kids are a wreck.

I’m completely devastated.

Yes, we’ve all been in a place at one time or another when we would definitely say something or someone in our life is in ruins.

When thinking about our response to something that’s in ruins, I’m reminded about the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament. Upon hearing the news that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins, having been burned with fire, this was his response:

When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4 NIV)

I think there is something here we need to recognize in how we ought to respond when face-to-face with devastating news that crushes us to the core. He acknowledged his hurt and pain. He wept. He mourned. Even went without food for a while! But he did all this…before God. 

When we are smack in the middle of an impossible situation, we bring our hurts before God. We pour out our hearts to him. We don’t have to hold it all together for fear of what might come out of our mouth. I love Nehemiah’s transparency before the God of heaven! He doesn’t hold anything back. He empties himself completely before God.

But the story doesn’t stop there. If you continue reading, you’ll come to chapter 2, verse 17. This is where we gain even more insight into our next step when we are on the brink of despair:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” (Nehemiah 2:17 NIV)

First of all, who are the them he is referring to? He is speaking to his people–fellow Israelites who were exiled with him years before. God’s people!

When we’re faced with devastation, we don’t go running for comfort and support to people who aren’t believers in Christ. We rally around those who are on the same journey of faith.

And then Nehemiah takes a step of courage.

A step of faith.

A step towards healing.

He doesn’t stay stuck in his despair. 

He begins the process of rebuilding.

To stay stuck in misery and hopelessness would be disgraceful. He doesn’t want to stay there! And he realizes he can’t do it alone.

Dear friend, I urge you today that if you are stuck in despair and staring at broken pieces of your life to pour out your heart to God. He knows your pain and hurt. Give it to Him.

But don’t stay there.

Just like Nehemiah, look around you. Lean on your brothers and sisters in Christ. Accept the fact that you can’t rebuild in your own strength.

It might be a long journey to recover from what you’re going through, but I can promise you God will lead you one step at a time, just as he guided Nehemiah through one brick at a time.

He’s a master at taking things in ruins and redeeming them for His glory!

pileofbricks

 

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Who Are You Competing Against?

2 Corinthians 10:12 “…When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

 

Just a few hours after the 10K, the race results glared on the screen in front of me. Every single person who finished the race could be searched. From the winner all the way to the last person who crossed the finish line. Plugging in my name, I viewed my results. There in front of me I could see my total time and average pace.

Just as I was starting to feel good about my accomplishment, I looked at the next column over and saw another set of numbers: Number in age group; my placement in that specific age group; my placement in the entire race. A lot of other women in my age bracket finished sooner than I did! Now I didn’t feel so good about my time. Shouldn’t I be able to run at a faster pace like these women my same age? Feelings of defeat washed over me.

To make myself feel better, I searched the results of women 20 years older than me. Now as I scrolled through finish times longer than mine, I felt a sense of pride. Well, at least I beat these women.  I didn’t come in last place.

Unless we’re the first one to cross the finish line, there will always be someone faster than us. But if we focus on comparing ourselves to these people, we’ll be left with disappointment. The opposite is true as well. If we compare ourselves to slower runners just to feel better about ourselves, we get puffed up with pride and a false sense of security.

In the same way, we sometimes mimic this behavior in other areas of our life. When we compare ourselves to people who are more successful, wiser and richer we find ourselves feeling defeated. I should be further along, like her.  Before we know it, we continue the comparison game. To brush off these feelings, we turn our attention to those whom we feel are beneath us. Those who may be struggling in areas we are strong in. Those who are just beginning a journey we’ve been on for years. At least I’m better than those people.

Oh how foolish we are to do both of these! Gazing at others ahead of us—through the lens of comparison—leaves us discontent. Looking at those who are struggling—through a lens of judgment— leaves us prideful.  Instead of comparing, shouldn’t we focus on where we are? Shouldn’t we strive to live the life God has called us to? Using the gifts and talents He’s blessed us with to fulfill our purpose—instead of comparing them to others.

When we stand before God one day we won’t be standing alongside anyone else. Each one of us must give an account for the life we lived. God won’t scroll through a list of people and say, Look, you should’ve done better than her. And he won’t say, Great job, you performed better than these other people.

Most runners embrace a PR approach in races. Personal Record. Instead of comparing our finish time with other runners, we compare our finish time to our own time in a previous race. We attempt to beat our best time. The person we aim to compete with is ourselves.

Maybe that’s how we should approach this journey of faith we’re on. Instead of comparing our lives to others, we focus on making progress with our own struggles. Instead of judging others, we embrace humility, thanking God for rescuing us from our previous ways of sin. And when we conquer one area of sin, He takes us further and shows us something else.

READY? Can you identify an area of your life where you compare yourself to someone else? What effect does this have on you? Ask God to reveal a current struggle you need to commit to him.

GET SET. Galatians 6:4 “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction for a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” (NLT)

 GO!  Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times I’ve foolishly compared myself to others. Free me from any chains of discontentment or pride. Give me direction to focus on the life you’ve called me to. Help me walk in humility. Give me victory over the sins I struggle with. Amen

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If you liked this devotion, check out my Book!

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Who’s Ahead of You?

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Just when you think you’ve arrived at your fastest pace, whoosh! Another runner speeds past you like a bolt of lightning. You can almost feel a breeze from the force of their speed. You see them quickly disappear from your view and before you know it, they’re long gone. How in the world does she keep up that pace? I’ll never be able to catch up!

Unless you’re the first one to cross the finish line in a race, there’s always going to be someone running ahead of you.  We are definitely called to run at our own pace, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others who are ahead of us. Beginning runners seek out training tips from veteran runners. Runners who’ve sustained their first injuries could gain valuable wisdom from others who survived those same injuries. The first race ushers in a wave of anxious nerves. What should I expect? What should I wear for this kind of weather? Who else out there would know answers to these questions? Runners ahead of you! Their pace may not necessarily be faster than you, but they’ve pounded the pavement far longer than you have. Instead of putting them in an unreachable category, those of us who are behind them could instead reach out and ask for guidance and insight.

Dear friend, if you’re a follower of Christ, there’s always going to be someone ahead of you—further up the path of life. People who have been following Christ for many years longer. People who have long ago passed through the very same season you may be walking through now. People who have much wisdom and insight to offer if only we will ask. As you enter into a difficult season, perhaps a wave of anxiety is rushing into the depth of your weary soul. How will I ever get through this? Will I ever make it to the other side? And then you may wonder with great curiosity. WHO do I know that perhaps has ventured through this same kind of challenge?

Let me tell you without a doubt that someone is ahead of you that can gently and lovingly guide you. Maybe it’s an older mom who survived the season of raising teenagers. Maybe it’s the woman you’ve heard about who survived her nasty divorce and is on the other side now. Whatever challenge you may be facing, you’re more likely to gain peace and strength with someone else helping you through. So go ahead. Reach out. Ask. Humbly wave the white flag of your soul and courageously say, “I need your help!”

In the Bible we meet a young man named Timothy, a new believer who needed some guidance and direction. The apostle Paul was running his race ahead of Timothy. Paul poured his very life into this young man! Without Paul, Timothy would’ve floundered in his faith. Grown weary. Lost his hope. But instead he clung to Paul. He humbled himself and listened with a teachable heart. And then he flourished into a bold teacher of the gospel. He could keep running his race at a fierce pace because he walked in the footsteps of Paul. Who’s ahead of you?

READY?  Identify an area of your life where you feel challenged and could use some guidance. Ask God to show you someone who has walked through a similar challenge. Are you willing to reach out and ask for help? Pray and ask God for strength and wisdom to take the next step.

GET SET.  Proverbs 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

GO!  Heavenly Father, this life can feel so difficult at times! I feel weary trying to navigate through the hard times on my own. You’ve called us to carry each other’s burdens, so I humbly ask you to show me someone who’s ahead of me who can walk alongside me during this season of my life. Help me set aside any pride that may stand in the way. Amen.

womenrunningindesert

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Come As You Are–A Muddy Mess!

Trudging through ten miles of muddy obstacles at my first Tough Mudder gave me new insight and perspective. But the thing that got my attention more than any of the obstacles was what took place afterwards.

Just imagine hundreds of people caked with mud. Dirty hair. Mud-streaked faces. Once brightly colored outfits now grimy.

Like a herd of cattle, we were ushered to an area where makeshift hoses were available to shower off the mud and dirt. Men and women huddled together, waiting their turn for a hose to begin the transformation from muddy to clean.

 

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With the wind blowing and my body beginning to shiver, I looked around and witnessed something absolutely amazing. People were desperate to get clean. They didn’t care what they looked like. They didn’t care that they were a muddy mess.

Everyone reeked. But two truths were obvious to all:

People accepted the fact they were filthy.

They wanted to get clean.

Nobody appeared to be embarrassed or ashamed of the muddy mess they wore. We were all in this together.

As I watched this group of dirty people coming together to get clean, my eyes were opened to the fact that this was a beautiful picture of what the church of Jesus Christ should look like.

People coming as they are…

Messy

Dirty

Ugly

Worn

Exhausted

All desperate for one thing: To get the dirt off and be washed clean.

Sometimes we Christians come dressed up in our best outfits and put on masks, deceiving others into thinking we have it all together. We often want others to think we are polished and perfect. We hide our mess. We hide our sin. We hide our shame.

We’re dying inside but we tell others I’m fine.

We’re exhausted from the storms of life yet we tell others I’m doing great! Life is good!

Before the living water of Jesus can wash us clean, we have to confess the deadly dirt of self.

Before we can walk in freedom, we have to stop dragging our chains.

Before we can thrive in the body of Christ, we must dive in with humility, admitting our needs.

Come with your mud.  Come with your stench. Come as you are. He wants to cleanse you from it all.

This is truly a picture of what the church ought to look like! People coming as they are. Not afraid to come with their dirt. Not ashamed to reek of sin. But humbly receiving the cleansing power of Jesus.

But sadly, many churches today expect you to come cleaned up already. To come with your best dressed outfit. To come with your polished-pretty face. To come with an aroma of sweet-smelling perfume. To come with no trace of sin. No muddy tracks.

This should not be!

That is a description of religion. Not a real relationship with Jesus.

Maybe your image of the church is more like this picture:

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Everyone in their best-dressed outfits, clean-cut, having the appearance that everything is perfect.

All the while hiding their mud-streaked, sin stained hearts. Outwardly perfect, inwardly a muddy mess.

How many followers of Jesus Christ are truly living in authentic, transparent relationships? How many are living out the command in James 5:16?

“Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.”

Sitting still in my best-dressed outfit and never sharing my struggles with others doesn’t bring healing!

I’ve got to get up from my comfortable seat, engage in real relationships, and humbly confess my struggles.

Where are you, dear friend? Are you hiding behind a mask? Are you putting on your outwardly best to cover up your very worst? If so, then it’s time to get real. It’s time to come in your mud-streaked dirty-soul clothes. Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be ashamed. We are all in this together. Come as you are.

Jesus promises us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

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I pray the image above will replace any false image in your mind of what the church should look like!

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Your REAL LIFE?

A few months ago, I asked people on Facebook if they ever felt discouraged scrolling through countless pictures where everyone looked perfect, polished and everything seemed so positive. And then I came out of my comfort zone and posted the following pics:

reallife1 reallife3 Dirty dishes…Overflowing laundry

reallife2 reallife4 Nasty sink…No makeup

 

The response I got from people was overwhelming. Many said my post and pics were refreshing and encouraging to them. Some agreed that they too felt discouraged by the false reality they see on Facebook.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the lie that everyone has it all together. Or that what you see on Facebook is what your life should look like. (And if you really want to take it a step further, check out Pinterest!)

Perfect kids. Immaculate homes. Tantalizing meals that could be on the cover of a magazine. Flawless and polished selfies. Yep. I’ve seen all of these. And yes, I have posted all of these. I’ve proudly posted my kids’ achievements, my exciting celebrations, and of course the perfect date night pics with my husband. I’ll even admit to taking 10 selfies before choosing the best one!

There’s nothing wrong in and of itself for us to post these things on social media. So please hear me out on this. I’m not saying we should all stop posting the highlights of our lives to share with friends and family.

But what I am saying is this:

 Let’s not compare the highlights of other people’s lives with the messy reality of our own lives. For every “highlight” pic you are viewing there are probably 10 other pics of real life you’re not seeing.

For the perfect date night pic you see of your friend, you’re not seeing the pic of the argument that spun out of control on the way home from that date.

For the polished pic of your old high school buddy, you’re not seeing the pic of what she looks like in the morning before she gets her makeup and hair in place.

For the pic of your neighbor’s kids playing their best at a competitive sports game, you’re not seeing the pic of that same kid having a melt-down the next morning getting ready for school.

For the pic of your co-worker’s gathering at her house with everything perfectly in place, you’re not seeing the pic of her house the day before where everything was a disaster and she was yelling at her kids and husband to help her get everything ready. (Why do I know so many details about this?)

For the pic of your friend’s perfectly healthy dinner, you’re not seeing the leftovers she served her family two nights in a row. Or (gasp!) the cheeseburgers and fries she desperately gave her kids from McDonald’s drive-through on the way to soccer practice.

It’s easy for us to fall into a rut of thinking that everyone has it all together. That nobody struggles with anything. That something must be wrong with us. And when we are bombarded with perfect images plastered all over social media, we buy into the perception of this false reality.

Our comparison of reality to something false only breeds disappointment, discouragement and insecurity. 

So what can we do differently? How do we avoid this trap?

I don’t think we should just delete all our social media accounts and say forget it. No, I think there’s a better solution.

Instead of always posting your BEST moments, how about courageously choosing some that aren’t so great? Choose to be REAL.

If my 4 pictures of a messy house and no makeup brought so much encouragement and refreshment to so many people, then what would happen if more of us did the same? What if we chose to be REAL and it trickled down to countless others who are definitely feeling the same way? Think about the ripple effect it could have.

Go ahead and be brave!

Show that pic of your dirty laundry (okay, maybe hide your husband’s underwear.)

Show that pic of your burnt dinner.

Show that pic of your living room littered with toys.

Show the clutter plastered in the floorboard of your car (yes, I’m talking about the fast-food wrappers, empty water bottles and sticky sippy cups.)

Show your “bad-hair” days!!!

It doesn’t even have to be a picture. Maybe a simple statement that you’re having a rough day…with your kids. With your spouse. With work. With life.

Will you join me? If you’re on social media, how about using the label #RealLife with your posts or pics? Whether it’s once a week or every other day, join me in encouraging others with reminders that we all struggle. We all have messes to clean up. We all have challenges with our kids, spouses or co-workers.

We don’t live in a false reality. We live in REAL LIFE!

RealLife

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Check out my book, Embracing The Race: 40 Devotions for the Runner’s Soul

 

 

 

Branches of Humility

In the dead of winter, the trees stand barren. Without any budding leaves, they appear so dismal.  Almost as if they are whispering pangs of loneliness. Just months prior their leaves danced in the sunlight, thriving with life. But one by one, their leaves dropped to the ground as autumn exited and winter made its grand entrance.

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But these barren trees in the bitter cold are a reflection of something powerful. A symbol of a deeper story that relates to each and every one of us. Don’t miss this! It’s something you’ll never forget once your eyes have been opened.

These winter trees symbolize seasons of humility. Every fiber of life seems to be disappearing right in front of our eyes. Life slows down to an abrupt halt. Just like the trees, we stand bare. The cold winds of the unexpected blow harshly deep in our souls and we feel so barren. Helpless. We can’t hide anymore. Just like the colorful leaves of autumn disappear, we’re left with nothing. We don’t feel alive. We don’t feel pretty. There’s no beauty in our days. Stripped bare of anything promising, we have NOTHING to offer.

But take a closer look at those leave-less trees. There’s something intriguing about them. On a bright-sunny day, although blistering cold, there is a unique beauty that silently whispers. Faint glimmers of hope. The sunlight twinkles more brightly through those barren branches. It seems more powerful because there’s no leaves to block its path. A transcendent splendor. You can see every tiny branch, shooting in multiple directions off the main trunk of the tree. These tiny twigs you wouldn’t see if they were covered with flourishing leaves.

Every. Single. Part of that tree is visible. Nothing is hidden.

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You don’t see the winter trees bending over to hide their barrenness. You don’t see them withering away for lack of fruit. You don’t see them cutting themselves down. What are they doing?

They are standing still. Standing tall. Roots stronger than ever. They aren’t going anywhere.

They must wait. In the right time, spring will come again. New buds will grow. Slowly. One at a time.

The once barren branches will produce something beautiful when the season is over. This season of winter prepares them for spring.

We too must wait patiently through our seasons of humility. Those times when we feel utterly hopeless. Helpless–desperate for any sign of life. And just as the sunlight shines brighter through those barren branches, the love and grace of God illuminates more powerfully through our surrendered souls. A mysterious, marvelous beauty. When we have nothing to offer, this power is magnified immensely. For all to see. For all to be pointed towards our amazing God.

I’ve learned that it’s okay to be in a season of humility. When things come crashing down all around you. No fruit. No life. Everything looks dark and gloomy. It’s okay to say God, I have absolutely nothing to offer you right now. I’m bare inside and don’t feel happy. 

He welcomes our seasons of humility. He beckons us to surrender everything to Him. His astounding grace and mercy is lavished on us during these times. The end result is breath-taking. A gift only He could articulately design.

What about you? Are you walking through a season of humility? Do you feel barren and hopeless? Ashamed? Unworthy? Insecure?

Stand still, dear friend. Stand tall like the trees of winter, knowing that your roots are in place. Growing stronger with each passing day. Although you feel stripped with nothing to offer, please know you are dearly loved by our amazing God. Let His light shine through you. Soak up the warmth of His light. Breathe in the life of His presence. He’s got you. And remember…..winter doesn’t last forever. Spring is coming.

wintertree

James 4:6 God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

http://www.reststopforthesoul.com

 

 

 

 

 

Are You on Empty?

I’d just come out of Kroger and was ready to head home. The trunk was full of groceries. My heart full with excitement and joy. We were getting ready to go out on the lake with friends. Listening to the radio blasting with my favorite song, I glanced over to my left and noticed a black Jeep stopped in the middle of the parking lot.

An empty gas can was perched on top of it. Nobody was in the driver’s seat. When my eyes continued to look, I noticed a young woman sitting on the edge of a curb, just feet away from the stopped vehicle. Her head was buried in her hands. She appeared distraught, her body slumped over in defeat.

I pulled over towards her and put down my window. “Is someone coming to help you?” I asked her. When she replied with a desperate, “No”, I asked her if she needed some gas. She shared with me that she’d just left an abusive relationship. She was trying to get to her parents’ house. They were an hour away. Her boyfriend had taken her wallet in an attempt to get her to stay. This young woman had no money. She was stranded.

My heart full of compassion, I immediately realized God had allowed our paths to cross. I filled her empty gas can so she could get her Jeep to the gas pump. And then I offered to fill it up enough to get her to her destination. She humbly accepted.

With one hand she pumped gas, and with the other she wiped tears that would not stop flowing. She knew she was doing the right thing, yet her heart ached. She was torn. She repeatedly blurted, “This is so embarrassing; I’m so sorry to bother you.” Yet I took the opportunity to speak encouragement to her, sharing with her that God had rescued me from my past hurts. I assured her I’d pray for her safety. And for God to guide her in the days ahead.

Driving away from there, I followed through with my promise to pray for her. And as always, God spoke to my own heart through this incident. I wouldn’t have known this woman needed help if she hadn’t placed the empty gas can on top of her vehicle. If she’d remained in her vehicle, with her gas can in the back, nobody would’ve known she needed help. The empty gas can was like a white flag flying overhead shouting “I need help!”

When we are desperately hurting and at the end of our rope, we have two options: We can remain isolated from others, letting pride dictate our actions. We can keep our hurts inside and attempt to handle it ourselves. All the while whispering to ourselves, What will people think?

Or we can humbly ask for help. We can speak up and share our heart’s deepest hurts. What does that look like? It means we cry out in desperation to God and say Okay, I’m on empty. I need to be filled up. And then it may mean we call a trusted friend we can confide in. We humbly admit, I’m at my wit’s end and can’t do this alone. Just like the young woman who was stranded, we put out our empty gas can and ask for help.

So where are you,dear friend? Are you running on fumes, almost on empty? Is there an area of your life where you feel stranded and there seems to be no way out? If so, then I urge you to surrender.

Surrender to your pride.
Surrender to God’s grace.
Surrender to a fellow believer who can walk beside you.

It is only when we admit our emptiness that we can truly be filled. Just as I filled the young woman’s car up with gas, the empty places in your heart can be filled.

Filled with truth.
Filled with grace.
Filled with hope.

Or maybe you are filled up and need to be on the lookout for those who are empty. Believe me, if you look around close enough you will see them. They are there. Maybe they won’t be as obvious as an empty gas can on top of a vehicle in clear view, but if you look close enough you will see the signs:

Of desperation.
Of despair.
Of emptiness.

Either way, I encourage you to allow our Heavenly Father to fill you up if you’re on empty. Or to allow Him to use you in order to fill someone else up.

James 4:6 “God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”

gas can