A couple years ago, a dear friend introduced me to the wonder of grinding fresh wheat flour. Unfortunately, she had acquired some wheat that had not yet been cleaned of all the chaff. A relatively easy task, was easily quadrupled in time as we labored over each kernel of wheat, making sure every kernel was free of chaff. Unless the wheat kernels are separated from the chaff, the wheat is not ready to be ground into flour.
This past experience returned snuck to the forefront of my memory as I recalled Jesus' conversation with Peter predicting Peter's denial of Himself in Luke 22:31. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat." Strikingly, Satan sometimes asks God for permission to test us (recall Job's testing) and sometimes we need the sifting. This concept was first introduced to me by Beth Moore in her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, over four years ago. So should we ask for sifting? What a dangerous prayer! Many would say it like this, "Oh Lord, refine me." The refining is so difficult. But it comes with a promise.
I love Paul's prayer for the Thessalonians in his first letter, chapter 5:23-24
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
 This is the prayer I need to pray. Notice that it begins with the proclamation that God is peace. He provides me peace and He is at peace with me because I believe Jesus' sacrifice for my sin makes me right with God (Romans 5:1). It is this God, at peace with me, that will make all of me holy, pure and blameless. He will use daily challenges and life's obstacles to make me holy. Do I truly embrace this? When my compassionate one is having an "emotional moment," crying and yelling at her sisters and I feel helpless, myself ready to scream, do I see this as God making me holy? When I'm impatient with friends spinning their wheels in their own poor choices and I want to yell, "Just stop it," but am called to love, encourage and pray. Do I welcome this sifting? Every obstacle in life, no matter big or small, is an opportunity to be transformed into the image of Christ. Unless I am sifted, like the wheat my friend and I cleaned, I am not ready to be used by the Lord.
Last, don't overlook the promise at the end of the verse; God is faithful and He will do it. He will do the refining as I look toward Him.
This reflecting makes me realize, it's always so easy to see other people's sin. I can see God using circumstances to refine others, somehow, I think I'm missing the refining He wants to do in me. Why is it always so easy to see other people's sin? Peter didn't recognize his sin until the rooster crowed the third time. I'm not much different. How do I prevent this? When we look at others we have a different perspective. Imagine looking at a VanGogh from two inches away. Now step back two feet. You see a different picture. Do I step back from my own life often enough to see a different picture? Driptime is a great time for this. Use this time to examine your life. Use Psalm 139:1-2, 23-24 and 1 Corinthians 11:28 to evaluate your circumstances and listen to God. I've been woken up in the middle of the night lately with revelations I believe are from God. Most recently, He revealed to me us use my circumstance to practice being gentle in spirit.
Also, do I have people in my life who love me enough to speak the truth in love? Someone who loves me enough to step up to the plate when I need a 2x4 over the head to realize I'm being stupid and need to stop and repent? These people are grounded in God's Word and tell me the truth from His Word, not what I want to hear.
Jesus went on to tell Peter, "But I have prayer for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." Jesus prays for us and cheers us on through our times of sifting. We need to trust, persevere and when necessary, repent. Turn 180 degrees to the Lord and after we've been strengthened, encourage the church.
I am so thankful that Peter was sifted! When you read the first 12 chapters of Acts, you see how mightily God used Peter to build the church through Peter's leadership, witness, preaching and even miracles.
Take two steps back from your life's circumstance and examine it. Ask God to speak to you (1 Samuel 3:9) and listen. How is God using this circumstance to sift you? Pray for strength to persevere and claim a verse to repeat out loud every time the battle gets too hard.

Digging holes

One of my favorite family movies is "Holes." A wrongfully convicted boy is sent to a brutal desert detention camp where he joins the job of digging holes for some mysterious reason. The comical warden of the camp, Mr. Sir, explains why the boys are digging holes:
"You take a bad boy, make him dig holes all day in the hot sun, it turns him into a good boy. That's our philosophy here at camp green lake."
Digging holes would build character. Character is forged in adversity. Think on the apostle Paul. Ironic that the book of Philippians is likely one of the most quoted books of the Bible for it's inspirational, encouraging verses yet when you look at it in context…the wake up call. Paul penned these inspirational words from prison, in chains. Talk about adversity. Yet, here's one thing he says,
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. Philippians 4:12
Often, I've looked at this verse in terms of financial state. Today, I look at it in the context of stage of life. Whether you're a college student, starting your first job, in a taxing career, just married, feel "bare foot and pregnant" with kids crawling and running all over, a "soccer mom" taxiing children all over the place, sending your children off to college, experiencing an empty nest or spending your days serving the Lord, have you determined to be content in your life stage? Or do you find yourself, as I do often, thinking if only… or someday when...
Every stage of life has some obstacle. These obstacles will build your character. I've heard it said once that who you are at 30 is highly a result of your circumstances, but who you are at 40 (and beyond) is a result of your character. 
Abraham Lincoln said, "Reputation is the shadow. Character is the the tree." In essence, character  is who we are when no one is looking. Jesus said, "You will recognize them by their fruits," Matthew 7:16, 20. Who we are underneath our skin is evident by what we say and do. 
Do our lives exude the characteristics of a Holy Spirit-filled life as Paul taught in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? This is character of the highest caliber.
No matter your stage of life and obstacles in your stage, trust in God's purpose for this stage and allow Him to use it to transform you to be more like His Son, Jesus, our perfect example. 
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19
He is faithful in supplying our needs but what we need most is sanctification; to be made holy, to be like Christ Jesus (Romans 8:20). He called you to this season of life for such a time as this…to be conformed, so be content with whatever state you're in. 
Who do you want to be in ten years? Are you allowing the "digging of holes" in your current stage of life to build character? God did not call you to this stage of life to show how strong, smart or talented you are but rather how faithful He is. Choose contentment and trust in His purpose.

Your plan and steps

The plan was adventurously simple: we'd hike a 5-mile trek along the Superior Hiking Trail. Not simple was the volume of people involved: twenty-four. Within ten-minutes, the first handful of our group began following a different trail on the opposite side of the river. Unable to communicate with the wayward, we did not know how long they would hike before realizing the remainder of the group (including the one with the map) were not behind them. After a rescue attempt was made and the large group reunited, the loaded question (that taught a lesson) was asked, "Who had the map?" Follow the one with the map. 
What if no one had a map? Is there a map in your life charting out your path? Such a plan would direct your decisions, money, time and resources. Without goals, we're hiking without a map. 
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12. 
This has been the realization of my heart in the past week. As I reflect on goals that create my plans and then allowing Him to direct my steps. 
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21. 
It would be foolish not to set goals for myself, but also unwise to not allow God to direct my steps.  
In all my ways (my goal setting) acknowledge Him and He will direct my path. Proverbs 3:6
God gave us minds to think, process, contemplate and He will use open or shut doors to direct our paths.
Before I committed to my goals, I reflected on the praises, accomplishments and victories from 2013, giving glory to God. Then I acknowledged the challenges in my life that I needed to commit to Him in 2014. These two written exercises led me to goals in multiple areas: Career, financial, family, physical, social, spiritual, intellectual. Goals should be specific, measurable, yours, time-sensitive and written down (
Each of my goals includes steps of implentation. I plan to revisit my goals in six months to measure my accomplishments. (Don't worry, it's in the iCal now.) Sometimes I don't reach my goals. Sometimes my goals change. Sometimes God closes a door. But goals must be written down.
If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time. Zig Ziglar
If you have not written down any goals for the 2014 year, select one area and write one goal along with implementing proactive steps toward achieving it.