It’s Sunday!

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You – It’s Sunday ! Don’t we all look forward to Sunday? It’s a day with benefits. Even if we’re up before dawn, the hour we wake up and plant our feet on the floor is later than the usual Monday thru Friday O:dark:hundred. Sundays can be STRESSFUL! There I said it; even emphasized it. We are rushed! Get the kids up, coax breakfast into them, wet their hair down, dress them in something worship worthy, make sure their socks match and they aren’t wearing muddy tennis shoes. Moms scurry from room to room picking up, putting down, fixing this, taking care of that, prepping dinner, and wishing for the room fairy to come clean up this mess.  Where is dad? Out in the car blowing the horn anxiously awaiting his family who are again going to be late for church. Well hmmmm…where are the benefits?

We have to dig a little bit, but benefits are all over Sunday if we look for them. Relax. Seriously.  First, relax. Repeat this thought until it takes root in your heart.  This is the day that the Lord has made we will rejoice and be glad in it. OK you can sing it to yourself for the full effect. With that circulating in your thoughts, we’re ready to seek the benefits of today with a new attitude and enlivened spirit.  How many of these are true for you?  Here’s what I’ve discovered when I take inventory.  The days have gotten cold, but my home is warm.  My car takes me every place I want to go.  There is food in my cabinet to fill me physically and promises of God in scripture to fill me spiritually.  I have a church I love where the music and messages are encouraging and nurture my soul for the week ahead.  I have friends who care about me and when they greet me with a smile, I know it’s genuine. I have the love of my family even though most of us are separated by miles that prevent personal visits.  But we have the benefits of telephones, the Internet, and Skype to bring the world closer. Sunday provides the added benefit of a few free moments to visit – even when in-person is impossible.

Sunday benefits? A few of them are, but most are benefits we have every day. Tomorrow will be here before we know it and as the drama unfolds, how much better to face the day firmly grounded in the benefits of God’s promises and provisions.  Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”  I don’t know about you, but I need all the strength available to me.

Let me leave you with the best way to part company: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.  Peace and grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul of the Bible was an encourager. I want to follow his lead and be an encourager too. If you’re reading this, I have prayed peace for your heart and hope for your spirit today.   God bless you with His best.

I didn’t get that

God has a purpose for youOn August 31, 2013 my life changed forever. I made a choice then that continues today – I will not let this discourage me, will not allow depression to touch me, and will trust God in the dark for what he promised in the light. My body was down-trodden but my spirit remains up-lifted. In a heartbeat I went from healthy breadwinner to invalid with no income. I may have been caught by surprised, but nothing catches God by surprise. My position and role in all of this is to remain steadfast and not lose faith in the one who created me for a purpose and the one who continues to work everything out according to his plan. I’m one small piece of the puzzle in God’s grand design, but I know what happens when one tiny piece in a  million gets lost. I’m still here, not lost, working on whatever purpose God has in store for me. Better, not bitter.

On September 30, 2013 I first published this because well-meaning friends were convinced that I had to be depressed or discouraged.  No – not for one moment was I then, or am I now, either of those things.

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend that said “Stay strong and positive.  Not sure why I said that to the most positive person around.” Earlier in the day another friend approached me with a hug and kind compliment, “I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.” Both comments caught me off guard. How could I be angry or bitter? How can I be anything but positive? Let me try to explain. From the moment I realized what happened I started thanking God for all the things that didn’t happen – and I know I was one breath from death.  I didn’t get that.

I had been riding a bike with my 9 year old granddaughter and her 10 year old friend. I think I’m on the millionth prayer ‘Thank you, God that this didn’t happen to them.’ They were 20 feet ahead of me and spared any injury.  I still can’t stop thanking God that nothing happened to those sweet little girls and that he protected them from harm.  Mark 10:16 “He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” He also protected them.  I get that.

How can I be angry or bitter? Why would I be depressed when I review what I didn’t get? My scalp was torn away from my skull and required 14 staples to put it back in place. I didn’t get a concussion and my skull didn’t crack. (There are advantages to being hard headed, I guess.) My eyes wouldn’t close but I didn’t lose my sight. God miraculously spared my vision. I didn’t go blind.

When I looked up to see the horse moving forward, I moved to the left as quickly as I could. All my ribs on the right side front and back were crushed. My heart, just a couple inches away, was not touched. My heart could have been smashed, but I didn’t get that.

My shoulder blade cracked and while it’s the most painful area on my body, it wasn’t shattered beyond repair. It will always wing out now because that’s how it healed. I’ll forever wear that badge. It will be a constant reminder of God’s protection and blessing on my life.

I was wearing a backpack and every item inside was crushed, bent, or broken. My metal business card case, metal encased notepad, and metal enforced wallet were bent beyond further use, and my glasses inside a hard case were totally crushed. My spinal cord was unaffected – not even bruised.  I could have been left with a damaged spinal cord, unable to walk – but I didn’t get that.

The sandals I was wearing rubbed blisters on my ankles, but my ankles didn’t get broken or sprained. Think of it. I could have gotten broken legs, crushed knees, broken pelvis … I didn’t get any of that.

When my ribs got crushed, my right lung was punctured and collapsed. God orchestrated the team of workers who showed up to save my life. What are the chances that the med station on Mackinaw Island would have a chest tube? How often would a medic be called upon to insert a chest tube, not from the bottom of the lung, which is the normal method, but from the top, down? God sent an ER doctor to the island that day and while talking on the phone to a doctor at the trauma center in Petoskey, inserted the chest tube that would inflate my lung and save my life.  Miracles happened on August 31st. I get that.

Ephesians 3:17-20 “Let Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

How can I be angry or bitter? There is no other attitude to have besides positive.  Recovery is slow and I feel bad about not being able to work till the end of the contract I had at my job.  I’m not sure how that factors in to God’s plan, but I know that every detail of life paints a tapestry designed by Him.  I’m easily exhausted, but am not bed ridden.  When I use this little netbook for writing, it has to be at a certain position due to the pain in my right side, and it’s difficult to write, but I can write and type . . . just in short periods.

Philippians 2:13-16 “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”

All prayers gladly accepted. They work.  I get that.

Comparison is the Opposite of Contentment

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning

Sometimes I struggle. Does that ever happen to you? Struggle? If we put our list of struggles side by side there’s a good chance there would be no matches, but we would all have something on our lists.011214_2029_OneWord1.png I have a lifelong infatuation with the word ‘why’; not so much the academic, ‘Why does that formula work when this one doesn’t?’ but the practical, ‘Why did this happen when it’s not at all what I expected.’  We’ve all been there, navigating the speculative ‘What happens now?’

You know, Gideon went through that same litany of defeat when nothing seemed to be going the way he envisioned. For one thing, did you know that Gideon’s reputation was not ‘mighty warrior’, but was instead ‘weakest member of the weakest tribe’? This was serious for a warrior who was in charge of leading soldiers in battle. Do you think Gideon had ‘why’ on his mind? In Judges 6:12 & 13 “The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”   “Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us?”

Docile, frightened Gideon was carrying the burden of a nation and because he destroyed the altars of the false god, Baal, his life was in danger. I’m thinking Gideon asked ‘why’. The story continues in Judges 6 with Gideon confronting the Angel of the Lord with this argument, “The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.” It sounds like Gideon was struggling with ‘Why did this happen?’ Is this a lot like our struggles today? Do we concentrate so intently on activities we can’t do to the detriment of those we can? Do we so obsessively crave what we have lost, we disregard what we still have?

Sometimes we need a little reminder that comparison is the enemy of contentment. We need to take stock of what we have now and begin a new inventory to build on. It’s true that many individuals have lost much of their past inventory and rebuilding from what they have now is devastating. The truth is though, what’s gone is the past, what remains might be crumbs but they are the morsels to start rebuilding. Focus on what we have, not on what was lost. Unsure? Of course we are unsure, so was Gideon. Remember he had just shown his skepticism when he reminded God that it seemed like He had turned his back on Gideon’s people. So let’s continue Judges 6:14 “God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. I have sent you, haven’t I? The victory over Midian is already yours.” Can you just hear Gideon? Ha! “You’re kidding right? Me, my master? I’m going to save Israel?  I’ve got nothing – no strength, no power. Look at me. My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.” Gideon was focusing on what he didn’t have’; what he couldn’t do, but God had a plan that far exceeding any that Gideon could imagine. Verse 16 “God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

The story of Gideon doesn’t end there. He did go on to defeat the enemy. We can go on to defeat the enemy too. The enemy that gets inside our minds, and worms its way to our heart and makes us feel like we have nothing – absolutely nothing. But when we listen to God he says “My child, “I’ll be with you. Believe me ….”

Here’s the path to overcoming the enemy of defeat. Don’t worry. It changes nothing.  Remember God is by your side. Ask Him to be your guide and protector. Start reminding yourself of what is good, lovely, honorable, and brings you joy. Did you start an inventory of what you can do? Do you have a ‘thankful’ list? There is no such thing as perfect. Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being. So let’s not expect perfect but let’s expect to be so persuasive in our thoughts that our hearts and attitudes catch up. What we think eventually gets to our emotions. We choose.  Better or bitter.  Sunny or cloudy.  Peace or conflict. Joy ….. choose joy.  It’s the better deal.

And I choose this

Shattered – The Inside Story

I’ve always been fascinated by kaleidoscopes. When I was a little girl my grandma had one in the toy box. I still remember it was made out of a cardboard tube with a tin top and hazy plastic bottom.  Not much to look at, but out of all the toys in the box, it was my favorite. Back then, I didn’t know how a kaleidoscope worked; I just knew that it did.

There’s an exciting event in Grand Rapids that’s coming up in September. It’s ArtPrize and last year even though I was in the early stages of recovering from a near fatal accident, I begged my husband to take me. A couple years ago at ArtPrize I saw a life-size kaleidoscope.  You know what?  I was still just as fascinated with it as I was 50 years ago.  I loved turning toward the moon, twisting the cylinder while multiple colors in crystal shapes were illuminated by the moonlight.  I had the opportunity to talk to the artist about his quest to find the perfect ingredients to craft his object for ArtPrize. Did you know the makeup of a kaleidoscope is from very basic materials? A tube, a few mirrors, some glass and plastic – nothing remarkable. Nothing remarkable. Does this sound familiar?  That’s me. That’s us. Don’t we feel like that sometimes?

We feel a little like that tube, all shiny on the outside, but pretty hollow on the inside. Sometimes we’re shattered by the circumstances we’re living with and are exhausted in trying to figure out how to get through the maze. Inside the tube, it’s dark. The remnants of shattered glass are everywhere. There are mirrors, but in this position they reflect nothing.  Let’s work on that. We are like a kaleidoscope in the making. All the ingredients are there; now we need the Master builder to perform His work in us. Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Like the kaleidoscope our lives are a potpourri of events, decisions, activities, and situations.  Some of them are exciting, others are bursting with happiness, we love those times and grasp them firmly in our memories.  Then there are broken dreams, shattered opportunities and we want to forget they ever happened.  Did you know God uses all of that – the good and the sorrowful – to make our lives beautiful and significant? The key is in our positioning.  We have to get into the place where the Light of the World enters the dark, hollow tube and reflects off the mirrors of our hearts.  All those fragmented pieces of glass, those times when we feel shattered, point them to the light and turn the filter while they fall into a beautiful design. The colors change and illuminate in patterns, each one unique, each one beautiful. Your life is unique and beautiful. All those broken toys, all those shattered plans, give them all to Jesus. He is the Light of the World and will make your life beautiful.

The kaleidoscope – unremarkable.  But when the position is just right, the light comes in, reflects off the mirrors, and the shards of glass illuminate with unique beauty.  I agree with David.  Psalm 40:8
I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

The sun is rising on a new day.  Yesterday in one of his many life enhancing truisms, our pastor quoted Colossians 3:17  “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Today I’m thankful for hope through the good and bad, the ups and downs of how life happens. I’m thankful for light in a dark world. Now hand me that Kaleidoscope!

There’s a hand stretched out – take it. We can trust our God. He knows what he’s doing.  Remember the kaleidoscope. LET’S GET OUT THERE!

You are now entering the mission field!

Can we start over at the gateway to summer?  In June, didn’t we all feel like we were on a mission to enjoy the days of summer?  How successfully did that mission progress? The countdown has begun. Mom’s everywhere are on the fence with this one.  On one side, the return to structure, a time to wake and a time to sleep. On the other side, the return to structure, a time to wake and a time to sleep. See the dilemma?  These days preceding the start of school are evaporating.  When entering a store I want to wrap a tarp around the displays of schools supplies to hold back the reality that summer is nearly over. How can it be that August is so quickly slipping away when there are so many activities still waiting to transpire? ERGH! Can we go back to June, please, when we were just embarking on our mission?  I know what the Bible says in Ecclesiastes 3:1 “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” but can’t we stretch this season out a lot longer?

What do you love most about summer? Is it vacation? Catching a few extra minutes (or maybe hours) of deck time? A chance to be outside till God turns the stars on? Running errands that have no obligated set time to be done? Downshifting a little, instead of feeling like every gear is programmed to shift on command? Opportunities to gather with friends for a few hours without wondering if you’ll be plowing snow all the way home? Sounds like a mission of a different variety, doesn’t it?

I love every season. In fact I love every day of the week. Some are more fun than others – like summer, like vacations. But then back to work and back to reality and back to ‘that’ mission field.  For some of us it’s a job, for others it’s schools, and for everyone it’s a place to be.  That place to be, no matter who we are is our mission field.  It’s that place where just by being in it we can make a difference. I read a lot, listen to podcasts and watch countless videos. The number of social media evangelists telling me what I have to do to be successful is overwhelming. Their mission field is vast compared to mine. But this one thing is true for me and it’s true for you, we all have a mission. We have a place to serve – a place to make a difference – a place to shine. Some of us take the scenic route, a crooked path, a mountainous trail, while others seem to know their mission like an internal compass stuck on true north.  For those who lack that pinpoint precision, we gain unparalleled experience from all the ups and downs, twists and turns while wandering.  The key is building a strong foundation of experience as we cross boundaries, then use what we’ve learned to help others and help ourselves too.  Our mission field might be small and familial or it might be diverse and seem foreign.  Most of us are not called to acts of prominence or fame but each of us is called to be a light right where we are.

My mission field at home and at work is my opportunity to make a difference.  It’s yours too. We don’t know the impact one small act of kindness will make.  Philippians 2:1-4 says: “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

What is your mission field? Does it feel like unknown territory?  The entire landscape of my day will be different from yours.  We know different people, we live in different places, what we do every day is different. We have a kaleidoscope of opportunities on our mission fields all needing just one thing to be effective.  Light!  The places where light makes the most difference is where there is no light.  Proverbs 13:9 says “The light of the righteous shines brightly.” We look toward the Light of the World to receive energy, contentment, and an unlimited supply of joy.  Colossians 3:23 reminds us that “Whatever we do, we are to work at it with all our heart, just like we are working for the Lord.” No matter where we live, work, go to school, or play, whatever gifts God has given each of us, we are responsible to Him to work at it with all our heart and be faithful.  1 Thessalonians 5:24 tells me if God calls me to do something he will be alongside me helping me do it. “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”

Leaving the gateway of the summer camp I attended, there was a sign that read “You are now entering the mission field.”  Back then I didn’t think about the significance of that simple statement. Now I recognize its truth. I could spend years looking for my mission, when all along I have been on my mission field, the place where every day I make a difference.  The question is, what kind of difference am I making?

Ready?  You are now entering the mission field. Let’s get out there.

Lover vs Enemy – Which Do You Choose

Have you ever started your day from the moment of wakefulness with an unexplained sense of regret? Monday, I woke up disappointed; no reason, but the tug toward discouragement was obvious. Monday follows Sunday, the day of spiritual feasting.  It didn’t take long to recognize the leading character in this restless descent into pessimism. While my guard was down, the ‘Enemy of My Soul’ brought out his messy paintbrush and tried to ruin the landscape of the beautiful day God planned. During our pastor’s sermon on Sunday, he was reading in Psalms when my eReader flipped back a few chapters to a passage that came to my heart at the first sign of morning today. Psalm 57:8 “Awake, my soul! Awake, O stringed instrument and harp! I will wake up at dawn!” Being awake is a helpful first step, but what comes next? Good question. What does come with the advent of a new day? Some days are immersed in wandering contentedness; on others we need a swift upsurge of incentive! There is nothing wrong with taking a break, letting off the accelerator of life and coasting aimlessly for a little while. We need a reprieve from regimented structure and relentless work, but this was not one of those time-off days.

This day I had my heart set on a productive day; productive laced with contentment. I was thinking of all the things I wanted to check off my list and the satisfaction of seeing that line drawn through each task. I’m pretty sure I gave some thought to the Lord and even started the day with a sincere prayer.  I know what it says in 1Timothy 6:6 “Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit.” Instead of contentment, menacing flickers of discouragement threatened. Less than 15 minutes into morning the effects of Monday after Sunday were coloring my day with abstract images; lost focus and no contentment in sight. After about the 4th fruitless trip up and down the stairs, I recognized the signs of attitude deterioration.  I was definitely not following what I learned just the day before from Psalm 63:8 “My soul pursues you; your right hand upholds me.” I had to ask. Is this the path God would want me to stumble around on; all this aimless wandering? Isn’t this wasted energy? And what about all the time I can’t get back if this restlessness continues all day?

Does this ever happen to you? Some obscure emotion snags your attitude and drags it through a gloomy path to despair and spiritual poverty? Couldn’t we use a stop sign right then with an arrow pointing to a better path; one that’s well marked with a light at the end? There is always a better path. In fact, I can prove it in Jeremiah 6:16 where “The Lord said to his people: “You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not follow it!” In that context, God is calmly trying to convince his people that he has given them instruction and has shown them the tried and true path, but they seemed to have a better idea and purposefully rejected God’s advice and said “We will not follow it.”  Let’s not make that chaotic mistake!

Where do we find momentum for living above challenges etched in the landscape by that messy paintbrush clasped in the hands of the ‘Enemy of Your Soul’?

  • Dive into the hands of the ‘Lover of Your Soul’, Jesus, God’s Son who promises in Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.”  If you get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.
  • Connect with God – Isaiah 59 reveals some consequences of being alienated from Him. Unfamiliar with peace; wait for light, but see only darkness; grope along the wall like the blind, like those who cannot see;
    we stumble at noontime as if it were evening.

It’s easy to begin the day with hope and quickly slide into sadness. Even when we pray to the ‘Lover of Our Soul’, that despicable ‘Enemy of Our Soul’ is ready to pounce, claw, and drag us to defeat. In those times, remember these words from David in Psalm 119:65-68 “Be good to your servant, God; be as good as your Word. Train me in good common sense; I’m thoroughly committed to living your way. Before I learned to answer you, I wandered all over the place, but now I’m in step with your Word. You are good, and the source of good; train me in your goodness.” [Message]

Your mission, should you decide to accept it is, Lover vs Enemy – you choose. Joshua 24:15 “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve”

Ready?  Let’s get out there!  All will be well.

21 Tips For Being Wise

You’ve heard it before. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results. I’m not convinced that qualifies as insanity, but it runs backward from wisdom. Did you know knowledge and wisdom have distinctive differences? I read, I study, I memorize, I even practice, but I can still lack wisdom. I can use more wisdom. Maybe you’ve already got it mastered.   Personally I’ve taken God at his word in James 1:5 “If you lack wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  I think I better take the advice here – and get on track.

Have you ever thought about the differences between knowledge and wisdom? They go together but are not a matched set. Knowledge is gained through study, experience, investigation of facts, and knowing about a subject enough to share precepts or an educated opinion.  Wisdom can be coupled with knowledge but its qualities extend beyond what is known to encompass what is right. Wisdom is joined to discernment and is the navigation system we use to make decisions and find our true north.  So many decisions, so many possibilities, so many paths to get there.  My quiet time today took me to Proverbs 4.  But somehow these two verses in Proverbs  got me started.  Proverbs 18:9 “One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” And Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  One thing I never want to be is one who is slack in my work; it destroys! And I know that I can plan all I want, but it is God who gives me wisdom to sort out the steps to take.

Reading through Proverbs 4, I made a little checklist.  Go ahead and read the full 27 verses after this, but I thought it might be fun to dash through Proverbs 4 and pick up some tips to share.  I’m not going to identify the verses …. But just remember Proverbs 4.  Here we go.

  1. Listen to your father’s instruction
  2. Pay attention and gain understanding
  3. Do not forsake my [father] teaching
  4. Take hold of my words with all your heart
  5. Keep my commands
  6. Get wisdom – The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom
  7. Get understanding – Though it cost all you have: Get understanding
  8. Do not forsake wisdom
  9. Listen and accept what your father says
  10. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go
  11. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
  12. Avoid the path of evil; do not travel on it
  13. Choose the path of the righteous which shines like the morning sun
  14. Do not walk with evil; the wicked is like deep darkness
  15. Pay attention to the words of your father
  16. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
  17. Keep your mouth free of perversity
  18. Keep corrupt talk far from your lips
  19. Keep eyes your straight ahead – do not turn to evil
  20. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
  21. Be steadfast in all your ways

So there we are. Twenty one tips for becoming wise and gaining understanding.  Something to think about; something to strive for.  Look back at the list once more.  Ready?

Let’s get out there. And remember: Treat yourself to joy everyday!