Like a Yo-yo by Beth Smith     Part 2: What to Do

Okay, I’m a yo-yo. So now what? How do I begin this trusting God thing?

The Bible is full of stories of God’s yo-yo people. They obeyed God until things were good (up), then turned away (down). Then they would worship him (up). Then they would worship idols (down). Psalm 78:37 (AMP) says: “Their hearts were not right or sincere with Him, neither were they faithful and steadfast to His Covenant.”

Are we any more steadfast than the people of the Bible? Probably not, but here’s more good news. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV).

Romans 11:29 (AMP) tells us that God “does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call.”

Yea! God does not yo-yo! He doesn’t love us one minute and reject us the next. He doesn’t call us to belong to him then, when he sees what yo-yo’s we are, decide to cast us away. God is always steadfast. His Word is always trustworthy. God and his Word—these are our only hope for relief from the yo-yo syndrome.

We know what to do mentally and spiritually. Trust him.  But what else can we do to exhibit our steadfastness? Paul wrote, “Be earnest and unwearied and steadfast in your prayer life, being both alert and intent in your praying with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2 AMP). We need to pray, not once-in-a-while, not just when we’re needy, but all the time. That’s something we can do.

Paul also wrote, “And so brothers of mine, stand firm! Let nothing move you as you busy yourselves in the lord’s work. Be sure that nothing you do for him is ever lost or ever wasted” (I Corinthians 15:58 PHILLIPS). Has God directly or through his Word told us something we should do (or not do)? Let’s jump on it. Let’s be quick to obey.

Are you wondering whether or not God has good works for you to do? Check this out: “We are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2: 10 NIV). This can be good news or bad news. The good news is that God has prepared us and made us able to do the work he desires us to do. The bad news is that if we aren’t doing them, there’s a lot of stuff not getting done.

Isn’t it great that God can change us and use us as he himself breaks that yo-yo mess? We’ll never be perfectly steadfast this side of heaven. But the next time we feel ourselves “unwound,” or dropping to the bottom, let’s say what Psalm 42:5 (NIV)  says, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”

Photo by Geometric Photography on Unsplash

Like a Yo-yo by Beth Smith Part 1: The Don’ts

Once a few years ago I found a bag of yo-yos on sale for a remarkably low price. Why? Because they didn’t work at all.  I bought them anyway and gave them to some of my friends as a reminder that a “Yo-yo Life” doesn’t work either.

Because we’re human, we all suffer from the yo-yo syndrome. We feel

  • good, then bad;
  • happy, then depressed;
  • fearless, then afraid;
  • loving, then hateful;
  • confident, then anxious.

What do we do about these ups and downs? Sadly, we often do something like the old song says, “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places”. We turn to alcohol or drugs or food or screen binging or shopping or…anything that will satisfy our senses and numb our feelings. We need to get that yo-yo up! But none of our strategies last, so down we go again.

The ups and downs of life are a part of reality. We can’t run away from life anymore than we can jump out of our own skin. So, what are we to do? God is the only lasting answer. We must trust him with everything, and turn to him for help when the yo-yo is dropping instead of turning to short-term solutions.   

When we’re down, we tend to say, “Well, I guess I just need to try harder.” Ah, but here’s some great news. It’s not the trying, but the trusting that does the trick. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your paths.” The God who saves us by his grace is also the God who is powerful enough to sustain us and to keep us steady, to stop the yo-yoing up and down.

(To be continued…)

Photo by Geometric Photography on Unsplash

More about Mustard (by my mom, Beth Smith)

Back in my day, teenagers, including me, were wearing mustard seed jewelry, usually one tiny seed in a clear plastic ball attached to a bracelet or necklace. You were really in style if you had one! It came with a card that had Matthew 17:20 printed on it. Jesus said, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.

Well, personally, I didn’t move any mountains, but the mustard seed and the verse did help me learn that faith is important and powerful. I grew up thinking if things went well, I had faith. If things didn’t go well, it was my fault for just not having enough faith. That’s not true at all! The Amplified Bible describes faith as, “trust and confidence that springs from our belief in God.”

Maybe you’re thinking, “I guess I just don’t have faith.” If you’ve accepted Christ as your Savior, you do. The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith.” (Don’t get a big head about having enough faith to accept Christ. It was, after all, God’s grace that gave you the faith to believe.)

2 Corinthians 5:7 says, “For we live by faith, not by sight.” The New Living Translation puts it this way, “We live by believing and not by seeing.” The world says, “Seeing is believing.”  The spiritual world doesn’t work that way. First we must believe, then we’ll see. Our aim is to trust God and his Word without demanding any other evidence.

But how in the world do we do that?

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17 KJV). When we really know who God is, we can believe. We find out who he is by reading his Word and spending quiet time with him in prayer.

In Matthew 14:28-31, Peter walked on water, but then he felt the wind, became frightened, and he began to sink. Jesus reached out and saved him and said, “Oh you of little faith. Why did you doubt?” We waver for the same reason that Peter did. We forget who God is and what he is like. Sometimes we stop thinking about him altogether. We forget that:

  • He loved us before we loved him.
  • He loves us all the time.
  • Nothing can separate us from that love.

When we believe those truths, our faith becomes firm and grows just like the tiny mustard seed that, under the right conditions, becomes a mighty tree.

So, grow your seed! Be rooted in a healthy understanding of God’s love and grace, watered by the reading of his Word, and fed by a constant practice of faith.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2: 6-7).

photo credit: @jlanzarini via Unsplash.com

Pure Gold by my mom, Beth Smith

Early prospectors during the gold rush were fooled into thinking they’d found real gold instead of something called iron pyrite, worthless rocks with flecks of shiny material in them. So many were fooled that iron pyrite became known as “fool’s gold.” I want you to know where our real gold is—where we have a neverending supply of genuine gold—in the Word of God.

Remember the crippled beggar to whom Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6 KJV). What did the cripple do? He went “walking and leaping and praising God.” He received far more than he asked for. Would he have traded his healing for a truckload of gold coins? Of course not! Here’s a bit more from the Bible regarding gold.

  • The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Psalm 119:72 NIV).
  • I love your commandments more than gold, more than pure gold” Psalm 119:127 NIV).
  • Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable that silver and yields better returns than gold” (Proverbs 3: 13-14 NIV).

Are you a bit timid about mining gold from the Bible? If you don’t have a modern or revised version, I recommend that you get one and try it out. That can make a big difference.

Another important thing to remember as we go into our gold mine, the Bible, is that we do not go alone. John 14 says that the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. Ask him to help you understand what you are reading! The Greek word for the Holy Spirit is Paraclete, which means “one who is called along side to help.” He will help us if we allow him to.

On more than one occasion, I’ve “just happened” to read a portion of the Bible that was exactly what I needed in that moment. God will do the same for you. The next time you read a verse that makes you think, “That was for me,” you can be sure it was God at work. Our gold mine is filled with power for living in God’s world, in God’s way. “Every Scripture was given to us by inspiration from God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives; it straightens us out and helps us do what is right. It is God’s way of making us well-prepared at every point, fully equipped to do good to everyone” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17 (TLB).

It’s time for us to think not “Thar’s gold in them thar hills,” but, “thar’s gold in this here Book.” (It hurts me as an English teacher to write that way.) It’s not fool’s gold, but the real McCoy. So pull out your Bible and read on!

photo credit: @zlataky via Unsplash.com

Stirring Spoons by Beth Smith (My Mom)

When you simmer stew, if you don’t stir the pot, food can stick to the bottom and ruin the dish. Stirring also lets you check on what’s in the pot, culling anything that doesn’t belong.

  • Oops! That carrot got too brown. It must have stuck to the bottom.
  • Too much flour. Look at those lumps! Out they come.
  • My goodness! What’s that tomato stem doing in there?

God often stirs us to keep us from sinking down to, and sticking at, our lowest level. Or he may allow us to be stirred in order to remove what doesn’t belong.

What does God uses as stirring spoons? People and circumstances. A stirring may go like this, in your head, that is:

  • “If she asks me one more time to clean the garage, I’m going to throw something.” What’s in that pot? Anger?
  • “If he doesn’t clean that garage, I’m not going to cook for a week. He’ll starve.” (Hmmm, is that a little revenge floating to the top?)

Try to find what’s being stirred to the surface in the life of this fictional lady:   

“I’m never early, never late. Jane always admires my perfect timing when I pick her up. Ugh! I told those kids to bring in their bikes. I’ll be late now because I have to do it. I’m going to ground them for a week.

“Hi, Jane. Get in the car. No, I’m not late. You must have come out early. Well, good grief! Look at that stupid, careless driver! He didn’t stop at that stop sign, and look at him on his cell phone, thinks he’s so important. Humph! Where’s a cop when you need one? Well, if we just had a good governor, things would be different. Man! Politicians! Lazy bunch of no good…I hate that guy on the City Council, you know the one who…”

Stir. Stir. Stir! What came to the surface, provoked by nearby people and circumstances? Impatience, judgmental attitude, meanness, self-righteousness, pride, covetousness, anger?  We surely don’t want those stuck in us. So…

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV) says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV) tells us, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God uses stirring spoons, often those irritating people and circumstances to show us our weaknesses and to help us become more like him.

What do we do? Here’s a hefty starter list:

  • Thank God for whoever or whatever brought a sinful reaction to the surface. (We have to see it before we can get rid of it.)
  • Ask God to bless the person he used.
  • Give the reaction to Jesus with open honesty. Hatred, self-righteousness, pride…there’s no need to disguise it or analyze it. Just acknowledge that Jesus died for that sin.
  • Repent, be truly sorry, and desire to change.
  • Ask God to replace what the stirring spoon revealed with the fruit of his Holy Spirit.

This week when a stirring spoon comes along, let’s all follow those steps and rejoice that we aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot. We’re getting rid of a lot of junk. God is working on us for our good, and that’s worth the stirring.

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

Part II: Forgive by Beth Smith

In Matthew 6:14-15(NIV), Jesus said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  The longer we harbor unforgiveness, the deeper the root gets, and the more it affects our attitudes and our relationships. Let’s examine our hearts for any unconfessed unforgiveness. Then, finally once and for all, confess it and give the person or situation over to God.

To forgive someone doesn’t mean that we approve of their actions, nor are we excusing what was done. We’re not saying, “Oh, that’s okay. Just forget it.” We’re simply making a choice to forgive the person and leave him in God’s hands. Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. This is very serious business and vital to our relationship with God. Don’t let the devil or your mind tell you, “You didn’t really forgive. You don’t feel any different.”

Just say, “Oh yes I did! My feelings are up to God. I choose to forgive.” When we forgive, we become able to plant those seeds of love and reap a harvest.

  • We can sow peace. We don’t have to be right all of the time. We don’t need to argue about everything.
  • We can sow encouragement. We can look for the good in people and tell them about it.
  • We can sow patience. No, “they” do not need to do “it” right this minute.
  • We can sow gentleness. The seeds of a soft answer, a tender word, a pat on the back, or a hug can help overcome an angry situation.

Many years ago, I attended a Bible study that centered on improving marriages. (Deep inside, I felt that my husband Bert should be attending. Certainly, he needed it more than I.) The main points of the three-session seminar were the Triple “A” system. We were to concentrate on: adapting to, admiring, and appreciating our husbands. (Well, phooey, now I knew Bert should be doing it. He always got his way. I was the one who needed to be admired and appreciated.) But I did the Triple “A” system. I planted those three seeds. And guess what! After sixty-five years of marriage, Bert does the Triple A system better than I do. I may have sown the seeds, but, oh, what a healthy harvest God has produced for me!

Sometimes we may wonder if we are capable of planting good seeds. The Bible says we can.

  • Grace abounds to us so that we can abound in good works” (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV).
  • For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10 NIV).

What we do might seem as small as little seeds, but our acts of love, sometimes fueled by forgiveness, can produce a joyful harvest. What we sow, we will reap.