What’s the going style for armor? I’m looking for a matching set.

I don’t like to shop. It’s not that I detest it or that shopping causes a war within myself when I have to do it. It’s just that there are other things I enjoy more. I admit, though, that I like new things; especially clothes. Hand-me-downs or thrift-store finds are just as fun to wear as freshly pressed, hang-tags-still-on, retail store new. Clothing is one of those dual purpose commodities, being both necessary and what-to-wear optional. Necessary in that we have to put it on, but optional because we have a choice of what we’re putting on. Have you noticed the vast array of choices? From the subtle to the flamboyant; from the beige to the electric blue, from the suit to the tank top and sweatpants, we make choices. Adorning the outside of the body is certainly an important choice, but there’s a more important choice with lasting effects. It’s the armor for the day.

Remember that every act is first a thought. Let’s put on the first layer of our armor by planting a seed of right thinking, so it produces acts of right doing. If a farmer plants corn, what grows out of that seed? If you said peas, you’re wrong. Corn comes from corn and peas come from peas. Plant seeds of good, so they produce good. Acts become thoughts, thoughts become habits, habits become a lifestyle. I need to guard my thoughts so they produce and match the lifestyle that honors God.

Armor gets cumbersome and needs to be adjusted, sometimes quite often throughout the day. Remember who stands beside, waiting to help with that adjustment. If you whisper his name, God will send help to your side. Take a peek at Psalm 91. It’s in there.

Armor needs to be renewed, shined up after going through battle. Life is tough – pray hard.

In my quiet time this morning, I was compelled to read Psalms 37. You might find your Bible and read all of Psalm 91 and Psalm 37, but these few verses spoke to me this morning, so I share them with you. Begin your day with thoughts of joy – because what you plant …… well we all know what we get.

Psalm 37:3-9 (NIV) Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.

Happy Anniversary from WordPress

A day or so ago, I got an email from WordPress congratulating me on my anniversary. It took me a moment to figure out what they were telling me. I guess they keep track of when I published my first post. Happy three year anniversary to me. If you’re interested in what I had to say back then, you can read it here.

Things haven’t changed much since then. What? A lot has changed since January 24, 2012. In fact, more has changed in my life than has stayed the same, and that extends to the purpose of this blog. The purpose hasn’t changed since the first post. This blog exists solely to encourage you.

I spent years searching for my life purpose. I thought purpose was defined by some distinguished achievement rewarded by moving up the corporate ladder or a title above the one that included the word ‘specialist’. I worked long hours, never said no to an opportunity, and gave up many weekends in search of what I did well. You know what I found out? What I do well is encourage others to do well. I’ll be the cheerleader on the sidelines, you be the star athlete on the field. I’ll be the stagehand, you be the actor. You be the shoemaker, I’ll be the elf. This is my purpose and I know this because it’s natural, I do it without thinking, and I know that it’s tattooed on my DNA. 1 Corinthians 12:7 “ The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. Best of all, I never have to promote myself or my gift. I can leave that up to God himself. “Be humble in the Lord’s presence, and he will honor you.” James 4:10 (CEV)

The years I spent searching weren’t wasted, but I can see my story in 1 Corinthians 12:1-3 “My friends, you asked me about spiritual gifts … before you became followers of the Lord, you were led in all the wrong ways by idols …  Now  if you are led by God’s Spirit, you will say that Jesus is Lord.” 

If you’re searching for your purpose, it might not be what you think. Our purpose doesn’t come with a man-made title, inflated salary, status on the org chart, or notoriety. We all have the potential to be great. If you think great means famous, you would be wrong about that.  Great and famous are not even in the same galaxy. Great is a reflection of character, not of public notoriety.

I don’t know what your purpose is, but I know what mine is. Three years ago I decided to spill my encouragement through words and actions. I hope that my words reflect my heart and my actions are aligned with my words. My search for significance won’t end until I do. This gift fulfills my purpose which after all these years I know is simply to spread encouragement and God’s love to whoever reads or listens.

Attitude of gratitude …. is it achievable?

Attitude of gratitude. You’ve heard about it. Right? It isn’t just a cute little phrase with a nice sounding rhyme. It really does mean choosing to have an attitude of gratitude woven into your character – my character. So what’s your success rate with that, you ask. Well, I’m not at 100%, but I’m grateful that there are more opportunities to try and perfect on it.  Feel free to call me on it. I’ll be grateful.

Here’s my take on this attitude of gratitude thing. It’s like the verse in the Bible 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that simply says, Pray without ceasing, or pray continually, or never stop praying. It doesn’t mean 24/7 on our knees, hands folded, and eyes closed so we can pray. Please remember this is just my opinion – but I think that verse means to be close enough to God that we can pray on a moment’s notice. That God is our first response not our last resort. Psalm 66:18 says if I cherish sin in my heart the Lord will not listen to me. It doesn’t take a college degree to figure out what that means.

Pray Without Ceasing …. Attitude of Gratitude – I’m not perfect, but both phrases make perfect sense to me.

Here are thoughts on how I can be GRATEFUL. Thoughts become actions … Actions become habits ….  I don’t know. Maybe these will help you turn thoughts into actions into habits too.  (Most scripture today is from the Contemporary English Version of the Bible)

G – God first – in fact, make prayer the bookends of your day. First thing in the morning, last thing at night.  “But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well. Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today. Matthew 6:33-34

R – Ready – be ready to listen, learn, and share what God is teaching “Incline your ear and listen to the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my instruction. For it is pleasing if you keep these sayings within you, and they are ready on your lips. Proverbs 22:17-18

A – Answer – Be ready to share encouragement and hope with others. Our ability to answer is bonded to putting God first and being ready. “Honor Christ and let him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope. 1 Peter 3:15

T – Thankful – Being thankful is not a natural response. Sometimes it’s like straining concrete through a sieve, and we don’t understand, “How can this be good”? Nothing catches God by surprise, He holds the blueprint and has everything under His control. “Let the peace of Christ be in control in your heart (for you were in fact called as one body to this peace), and be thankful. Colossians 3:15

N – Nice – OK so this one can be really tough. Life is a contact sport and when we get beat up, being nice is not our first reaction. We could fill a library with pages of arguments of why we shouldn’t just be nice, but the Bible says “If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. Romans 12:20

K – Kingdom life – This whole concept of Kingdom living sounds foreign and I can’t explain it in one sentence – but here’s the short version. It means following Jesus and living the way God says to live because that is the only way to prepare to live in God’s kingdom for eternity. “God has shown us how kind he is by coming to save all people. He taught us to give up our wicked ways and our worldly desires and to live decent and honest lives in this world.” Titus 2:11-12 This verse in Ephesians adds a little more substance. “Being greedy, indecent, or immoral is just another way of worshiping idols. You can be sure that people who behave in this way will never be part of the kingdom that belongs to Christ and to God.” Ephesians 5:5

F – Forgive – Remember that ‘Be Nice’ and ‘Kingdom Life’? Well, here’s something we all can get better at. Even if someone doesn’t ask me to forgive them, I have to forgive anyway. Here’s why. God says so! When I forgive, it frees me from all that burden that weighs so heavily on me, I become unproductive. Besides, it steals my joy and I’m not letting anyone do that to me. “God loves you and has chosen you as his own special people. So be gentle, kind, humble, meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you.” Colossians 3:12-13

U – Understand – It is one thing to have knowledge of something but to really understand is on another plane. “Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding; do not forget and do not turn aside from the words I speak. Wisdom is supreme—so acquire wisdom, and whatever you acquire, acquire understanding! Proverbs 4:5 & 7

L – Love – We have a misguided view of love here in the 21st century, but it’s been that way since the Garden of Eden. That’s why God inspired the love chapter of the Bible 1 Corinthians 13. Especially the verses 4 through 8. You know … “Love is patient, kind, does not envy, is not self-seeking, is not evil but is always truthful – and love keeps no record of wrongs.” We put love into action every day, don’t we? For people we love, it’s easier to return love, but God asks us go a step further. “Love your enemies, and be good to everyone who hates you. Ask God to bless anyone who curses you, and pray for everyone who is cruel to you.” Luke 6:27-28 That last one is a tough command, isn’t it? That’s not my idea – to love people who hate me, it’s God’s command.

1 Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I hope this tour of infusing our attitude with gratitude has helped bring some light to the subject.

Ready team? Let’s get out there.

Comfort zone? What comfort zone. There is nothing comfortable here!

Remember the New Year? The one where everyone was talking about resolutions and goals – oh! And stretch goals! Those goals destined to pick you up body and soul from where you are comfortable and transplant you in a foreign zone where things are not familiar? It works great in theory. I can see the value in learning something new, adding a level to physical activity, participating in an activity you’ve never done, or even adding an exotic food like Sushi to your menu. Well, maybe not that.

Let’s be honest. You set some stretch goals, didn’t you? I did and so far, I’m doing pretty well on them. Of course, this is only the third week of January and there are still about 340 days left in the year – but I’m optimistic. There is a purpose for expanding our horizons and we reap the benefit.  I’ve been thinking a lot about comfort zones though. Even in the absence of goals and ambitions, how often do we say we are totally at ease, living the dream of the comfort zone? That’s what I thought. At night cozied up to watch TV or read a book – comfort. Spending time with friends and family – comfort. Driving the same car, wearing the same clothes, eating the same food – we’re comfortable.

We can be comfortable one moment and a phone call later, be catapulted into the discomfort zone. It isn’t always tragedy that sends us there, though. It can be as simple as a negative feeling creeping into our thoughts. Don’t you wish you could see an emotion lurking around so you could slam it with your shoe like a nasty bug? Slam it and return to your reading or whatever you were doing. That would be awesome! We like comfort, it’s where we are at ease. If our boat’s going to be rocked, we want to be the one to rock it – like working through those stretch goals. They can be rocky!

A lot goes on in our comfort zone that isn’t all that comfortable. Sometimes getting outside our comfort zone means choosing a positive attitude when our circumstances are negative. Getting outside our comfort zone could be that we look for a sliver of good in a bad situation. It could be deciding that ‘this’ will make you better, not bitter. See, our comfort zones aren’t all that comfortable. Isaiah 40 starts with Comfort, Comfort my people. We want to be comfortable and God knows that. But there’s a difference between comfort and complacent. Maybe the thought behind getting outside our comfort zone is a warning to not become complacent. In Luke 18, the Pharisees were full of pride and complacently pleased with themselves to the point that the looked down on people who didn’t meet their standards. In the latter part of James 2, we are warned about complacently sitting back and doing nothing when we should be helping others. Faith is nothing if we do nothing to express it through our actions.

So can we agree that it’s OK to appreciate our comfort zone, but guard against becoming complacent? When our comfort zone isn’t comfortable do some soul searching to understand what’s going on in there. Is it time to learn something new or experience an activity you’ve not tried before? Does your spiritual life need renewal? Isaiah 40:31 says “But those who wait for the Lord’s help find renewed strength; they rise up as if they had eagles’ wings, they run without growing weary, they walk without getting tired.”

Look again at Isaiah 40. The chapter is bookended with God’s recognition that we will need to be comforted and that we need his strength to carry us through whatever comes between.

Ready team? Let’s get out there!

Time to shake things up a little. Shake, Shake, Shake – like you’ve been Changed, Changed, Changed by Mercy Me

Feeling helpless and hopeless happens to everyone. This is what Isaiah has to say about it.

A few years ago, I was hurting for a friend who was going through what seemed to be one traumatic experience after another. What do you do when someone you love is going through relentless personal tragedy? Their broken heart becomes your personal pain. Ties that bond relationships are the conduit that carry emotions straight to our heart from theirs. Has this ever happened to you? It’s natural to want to take a sponge and wash away everything upsetting their life, and let’s face it, distressing yours too. Think about that for a moment. Does helpless and hopeless describe it?

I’m not sure why, but I seem to gravitate toward the book of Isaiah when I’m feeling helpless and hopeless. Maybe not the whole book, but if you’ve ever read through it, maybe you also felt the pull of God’s power as you read through passages. Maybe your life is in turmoil right now or someone you love is overwhelmed in personal trauma. Isaiah 43:1-3 offers encouragement to keep going.  “This is what the Lord says— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Does this mean that everything causing pain will magically disappear or that the issue will resolve itself without effort? No, it doesn’t mean that. What it does mean, though, is that fear and worry serve no purpose. This is where we say as Isaiah 12:2 “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense.” It’s so very hard to let God pry open our hands to remove the fear, isn’t it.

I encourage you right now to open your hand and give whatever is in your grip to God. Let him have it. I’m saying this to myself as well because God wants me to give my fears to him and he wants whatever is holding back my complete trust to be relinquished to his control. Listen, God gets to decide anyway, so just give it up. No fear – like Isaiah 41:10 reminds us “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Our Director of Music at church challenged us to read through Isaiah 40 every day this week. I’ve been doing that along with others in our congregation. I keep going back to the verses where God measures all the elements of this Earth and holds the waters in the palm of his hand. Isaiah 40:12. “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?”

Don’t listen when the enemy of your soul tells you how big your problems are. Tell him how big your God is.

Ready team? This is the day – it’s your mission field. Let’s get out there.

Ready to be an Overcomer? Mandisa helps us get out there and get over whatever is dragging us down.

And quitting will accomplish what? Nothing! That’s what quitting accomplishes.

Have you ever questioned what you’re doing? OK you can stop laughing now. Of course you have, we all have at some point asked ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” or “Do I want to do this?” or let’s be fair here. Haven’t we all asked, “What was I thinking when I agreed to do this?” It’s in these moments of doubt that searching begins. If we don’t search, we won’t find and if we don’t ask, we’ll never know.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me how long it takes to write my blog. Too long, in minutes, but who’s counting? That’s the best answer I can muster because when I started my blog it took an average 45 minutes. Think, write, post, done! I still follow that same procedure but now it takes 3 times that long. Maybe I should quit. Here’s how God answered when I told him “Maybe I should quit.”20150121_065250-1

I was looking for a postage stamp when this card, which I didn’t know existed, fell out of the drawer.

Yesterday, for the first time, there were some pretty scathing comments on my post in Google. In Facebook you ‘like’ a post, the equivalent in Google is a +1.  Mercifully Google hid the worst, but one of the derogatory comments was “man this was hard to read… BABBLE. ignorant, babble” and it collected 6 +1s! To top it all off, the actual post got zero. Maybe I should quit.

I remembered a little story I heard way back when I was too young to grasp the meaning. A preacher was in the middle of sermon when a few people got up and left. Instead of wondering what he said that offended them, he thanked God that his message convicted them. I still remember thinking there could have been any number of reasons why people left a service. Yesterday, some readers with their own filters read something I wrote, and it offended them. The Lord showed me His word in Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

If you read my posts, you know I write only encouraging words. I use scripture, the Bible, to support what I say. If that offends you, I’m pretty sure you can find other places to expend your energy and use your time. I know my inbox receives at least 80 emails every day – all with something to read, and if’ that’s not enough, the Internet can fill up 1,000 days with any topic I want to read.

If you want to be encouraged in your daily life, stick around. I’m not quitting just because it takes me too long to think, write, and post. I’m not going to quit because convicted people invite me to join them in hell. When I accept Jesus, when I made God Lord of my life, when I turned my faith toward true north, God gave me light. When you give a gift, the recipient can do whatever they wish with it. God gave me the gift of encouragement before I was even born. I could keep it all to myself and let it get tarnished and useless – or I can share it – even with people who don’t want it. I want to be like John. “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” John 5:35

Last night as I was contemplating “Why am I doing this?” I realized that the enemy of my soul is trying to feed me garbage. It’s neither healthy nor desirable. Maybe I should quit. I am going to quit – quit doubting and start believing God. God will not bring you to it, then not bring you through it. Maybe I should quit doubting.  What are you not going to quit?

Have you ever questioned what you’re doing? OK you can stop laughing now. Of course you have, we all have at some point asked ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” or “Do I want to do this?” or let’s be fair here. Haven’t we all asked, “What was I thinking when I agreed to do this?” It’s in these moments of doubt that searching begins. If we don’t search, we won’t find and if we don’t ask, we’ll never know.

A few weeks ago, someone asked me how long it takes to write my blog. Too long, in minutes, but who’s counting? That’s the best answer I can muster because when I started my blog it took an average 45 minutes. Think, write, post, done! I still follow that same procedure but now it takes 3 times that long. Maybe I should quit. Here’s how God answered when I told him “Maybe I should quit.”

I was looking for a postage stamp when this card, which I didn’t know existed, fell out of the drawer.

Yesterday, for the first time, there were some pretty scathing comments on my post in Google. In Facebook you ‘like’ a post, the equivalent in Google is a +1.  Mercifully Google hid the worst, but one of the derogatory comments was “man this was hard to read… BABBLE. ignorant, babble” and it collected 6 +1s! To top it all off, the actual post got zero. Maybe I should quit.

I remembered a little story I heard way back when I was too young to grasp the meaning. A preacher was in the middle of sermon when a few people got up and left. Instead of wondering what he said that offended them, he thanked God that his message convicted them. I still remember thinking there could have been any number of reasons why people left a service. Yesterday, some readers with their own filters read something I wrote, and it offended them. The Lord showed me His word in Galatians 6:7-8 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

If you read my posts, you know I write only encouraging words. I use scripture, the Bible, to support what I say. If that offends you, I’m pretty sure you can find other places to expend your energy and use your time. I know my inbox receives at least 80 emails every day – all with something to read, and if’ that’s not enough, the Internet can fill up 1,000 days with any topic I want to read.

If you want to be encouraged in your daily life, stick around. I’m not quitting just because it takes me too long to think, write, and post. I’m not going to quit because convicted people invite me to join them in hell. When I accepted Jesus at age 26, when I made God Lord of my life, when I turned my faith toward true north, God gave me light. When you give a gift, the recipient can do whatever they wish with it. God gave me the gift of encouragement before I was even born. I could keep it all to myself and let it get tarnished and useless – or I can share it – even with people who don’t want it. I want to be like John. “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” John 5:35

Last night as I was contemplating “Why am I doing this?” I realized that the enemy of my soul is trying to feed me garbage. It’s neither healthy nor desirable. Maybe I should quit. I am going to quit – quit doubting and start believing God. God will not bring you to it, then not bring you through it. Maybe I should quit doubting.  What are you going to quit?

Yes – But do you trust me?

Yes, but do you trust me?

Trust is one of the big buzz words today, isn’t it? Open a book, read the newspaper, listen to a talk show, watch the news … trust is a factor. Remember when it was the used car salesman that had the reputation for being shady and underhanded? Today that stereotype extends to anyone from the sidewalk to the boardroom. We are stunned to hear about criminal acts committed in secret by someone we’ve respected. Unbelievable, we say.  How could that happen? Trust is a factor.

Sometimes, I think I throw God into that category. No, not that his acts are criminal, but that his acts are done in secret where they are hidden and undetectable until he chooses to reveal them. Because I don’t understand circumstances of the moment, it’s easy to start questioning. Do you see what’s happening down here God? It’s so obvious that this situation is messed up. I know what it says in James 1:2-3 “Consider it pure joy, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” I get that, but …. Then God says, yes, but do you trust me?

Our pastor has opened the book of Isaiah, chapter 40 and shared some incredible truths about the power of God that I have read before but never with such astonishing revelation.  Have you ever prayed and prayed and kept praying for someone to be cured of an illness, or for a friend’s personal tragedy to be resolved, or begged God to comfort someone who suffered a devastating loss? Have you ever felt like you exhausted every shred of energy praying and God is silent behind the curtain? Isaiah 40: 28 reminds us that while we are worn down, God is still working. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Yes, but do you trust me?

I tried to take good notes during our pastor’s messages because he read from Isaiah 40 and suddenly the power and outreach of God became much clearer to me. Maybe you don’t humanize God like I do, but sometimes I need a reminder that God is infinite. No, I mean it. I-N-I-F-I-N-I-T-E

Did you know that 70% of the Earth’s surface is water? Did you know that amounts to roughly 139 million square miles? I think (please don’t quote me) that equates to 312 cubic miles of water. It doesn’t really matter if I got the numbers right. What matters is that I trust the God who is described here in Isaiah 40:12 “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?”

In the attached video, you can see billions and billions of stars in the heavens.  Isaiah 40:26 “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=udAL48P5NJU

Did you catch that? Billions upon billions of stars – everyone named by the creator – not one of them is missing. Yes, but do you trust me?

Remember those things God does behind the scenes? God is taking care of every detail. Jeremiah 23:24 says “Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the Lord. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord.”

We have to let God be God. He asks us to trust him not with just the simple, but with the complicated, convoluted, heart wrenching, impossible.  We question, we argue, we plead and that’s OK. What do we do with it though? Do we also worry, bargain, and allow the foundation of our faith to sag? Remember these words in Isaiah 45:3 “I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.”

Yes, but do you trust me? – God