Do you practice what you read?

About forty years ago a friend and I were engrossed in conversation and the topic of books came up. Being a voracious reader, I started rattling off all the books I’d been reading and all the ones stacked up that I planned to read and she floored me with one statement. “I only read the Bible.” What?!?! How can you only read the Bible? How will you learn anything?  At the time, I was a stay at home mom, with ambitions to read as many books as I could and learn as much as possible so I could make a difference. I rarely read a novel because they wouldn’t make me smarter.  Of course, I was wrong about that.  I’ve since concluded that well-researched novels, can enhance what I know.

At the time, I remember I was reading books like ‘Lord, Change Me’ – it didn’t change me.  I was reading ‘How to Talk With Practically Anyone About Practically Anything’.  Hmmm…..I still don’t work a crowd like a marketing pro – it didn’t change me.  I read ‘The Power of a Praying Wife’ – I didn’t practice it. I read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence Others’ – I have a lot of friends, but I didn’t win them because I followed the formula in that book.  Through the years I have read hundreds of books – some authentically valuable. Many of them gave me survival tips that helped me through some complicated situations.

20140423-135512.jpgTo be effective, I can’t just read and forget, I have to put wise words into practice.  Look at a few of the Psalms with me.  Psalm 85:8 I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants and what about Psalm 86:2 that says Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God.

I need to know that God is guarding my life and strengthening my foundation.  Anxiety can so easily sneak in and start causing me to doubt myself and be fearful. Psalm 86:11 is the cure for anxiety.  Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I am still a voracious reader – and 90% of what I read is intended to make me smarter.
If I could define my perfect career, I would spend all day reading books, researching articles, writing about what I’ve learned and contributing to the success of others.  I know – I hear you.  That’s not a paying job.  OK – but I enjoy the whole process of reading, thinking, and I love writing and journaling.  Most of all I love to be the encourager.

This is what I’ve come to realize though. My friend was right way back in the early 70s. In all the reading I do, my foundation has to be the Word of God. Without it, my life would be an anxiety factory. Life is uncertain and uncertainty breeds anxiety. Reading the Bible first and running to the words of the Father instead of the words of man, no matter how truthful they are, is the path to being free of anxiety. But reading the Word is only the first step.  Matthew 7:24-28 (NIV) “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”

Let’s encourage each other to build our foundation on the truth – so we can discern the other books we should be reading to help us be effective in whatever tasks are before us.  And while we’re at it – let’s practice, peaceful living.  Philippians 4:9  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Curbside CleanUp

I live I a small community that still provides a service to help citizens clean up their yards and rid their garages, attics and corners of accumulated treasures that once were. Two days out of each month leading up to summer people are invited to drag items to the curb to be picked up for disposal by trash trucks – if they are not first picked up by treasure hunters pulling trailers or driving pickup trucks.  This is not an unusual sight to see slow moving vehicles sort of trolling for treasure through the streets. Moments after a trash item is disposed of at the curb, a treasure hunter spies it and quickly salvages it.

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. How often we hear “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” I’m sure the birth of resale shops had its root in that trash to treasure correlation. I’ve been creating an online course for writing a personal mission statement. Using resources supplied by the organization has indoctrinated me with words that force me to think about the values important to me and values woven into the fiber of my purpose. That all sounds so philosophical and deep, doesn’t it? But think about it for a minute. Think about it in relation to treasures or trash.  If someone asked you right now what you want most in life, my guess is that you wouldn’t say, “I just want to be left alone and be ignored like trash.”  Um no.  That’s not likely. Wouldn’t you, even with minimal contemplation, say something like, “I want to make a difference.”?

As superficial as that sounds, making a difference isn’t a vague statement; it’s genuine.  Regardless of choices that have gotten us to where we are now, there are times when we have said, I want to know that my life a baby doll 1963mattered.  I struggle with ‘my purpose’. I have pleading conversations with God to ‘change me’ so I no longer doubt that I am living out ‘His purpose’. Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever feel like you’re living like tossed out trash instead of precious treasure? The creator of treasure refutes that in Isaiah 43:1 The Lord who created you, he who formed you says: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” That sounds pretty impressive to me. God has said ‘You are mine’.

Christmas 1962 I received my most memorable gift of all – a baby doll. I loved her to well used, then my sister loved her to bald and threadbare. When reclaimed for my own daughter, I had a new body sewn because there was nothing left but strands. My granddaughter was looking at my baby doll that you see in this photo and pointed out the broken fingers, dirty skin, and blemished eyes. Do you think I agreed that my baby doll, once treasure had been demoted to trash? No, not even in the most subtle way.  Instead I talked about how with my whole heart I wanted a baby doll for Christmas and no matter what she had become, I still loved her; she is still my treasure.

This is how God looks at us too. When we look at ourselves through our own distorted view of life, when we feel the cracks in our armor, when the reflection in our rearview mirror is not what we hoped to see – don’t we want someone to come along and scrape us away from the curb and call us not trash, but treasure?

When the enemy of my soul comes creeping along the curb threatening to toss me around like trash, I remind him that I am a treasure. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”  Through the lens of human assessment, I am ‘damaged goods’ ‘not salvageable’ ‘broken’ but God says “You are mine.” Then he unmistakably affirms in Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

God’s love is everlasting and He goes to great effort to show us how important His treasures are to him. Isaiah 45:2-3 “I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord who summons you by name.”

Are you living curbside? What do you believe about you? God’s treasure? Or Satan’s trash? Pay attention to Psalm 86:11 “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may joyfully worship you.” Psalm 139:14 “Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

Inside Out

I hear there is rain in the forecast; or is it snow? It’s April, after all.  But that means cloudy and overcast, not much sun but what does that mean? Cloudy outside and a great opportunity to be sunny inside.  Awhile back I wrote about how a candle shines brightest when the room is darkest.  I love the words of Jesus in John 8:12 when he spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  If we have that light inside and our hearts are right, the outside takes care of itself.

When it’s dark, gloomy, and raining, don’t we put on a raincoat, and maybe even shield ourselves with an umbrella? Why is that? Sure, too keep from getting wet. DUH! But isn’t it more than that? We also use those tools to make sure our clothes stay dry, stay warm and worse yet, and keep us from getting sick.  We protect the inner layer so we don’t suffer the ill effects later on.  That’s how it is with the rain that drips irritations, drizzles frustrations, and all out cascades pain into our lives. We have to get out the armor, the rain coat, the umbrella (favorite Bible verses, supportive friends, and PRAYER).

This morning I was thinking a lot about the tragedies that have happened lately and how much devastation has taken place at the hand of evil people. That isn’t the thought pattern I choose to follow all day so I grabbed my Bible and started reading in Ephesians and I want to share it with you.   This is Ephesians 6:12-18  “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

It’s a new day we’re approaching . . . in fact the new day is here now.  Ready? Have you talked with God yet? Have you told him everything that’s on your heart? He knows it anyway, but share your heart with him.  Acknowledge everything before the lord and so you can see the next steps in your path. That’s why we have the light. Matthew 5:16 says “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  It’s a good start and that’s all we need to get our shine on. Did you know our world depends on us to bring light? Somebody has to do it. Why not us? Let God carry you high today…..shine, shine, shine.  God will make today beautiful.

Moments with the Master of Immunty

I was watching the end of the TV show ‘Survivor’ the other night and just before the vote that determines who gets kicked off the island, and in short, gets eliminated from any chance at victory, the moderator asked if anyone wanted to cash in their immunity chip. At that moment I thought wouldn’t it be perfect if we could, when faced with a broken heart or personal devastation, cash in our immunity chip? What if we had a survival mechanism like that?

Most of the time we float through life, riding the waves as they crest and even the dips as they descend, but then there are jolts that slam us to the depths. We can be crushed by an event or circumstance that leaves us drained and deeply distressed like David lamented in Psalm 69:2 “I sink in the miry depths, where here is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.” Doesn’t that sound hopeless? Already in the depths and unable to even gain a foothold. I want to cash in my immunity chip. I want safety. I want my security back.breathe

I had a moment with the master over a heartbreaking situation. I’ve learned that human hurt requires the healing touch of the Master. He reminded me that this is all temporary, but his plan is eternal and has no dependency on conditions of this life. The Master gently spoke 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 to me “As it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

I wish I had it all together, but I don’t. I hurt sometimes. I want to wave the white flag in front of life and surrender, cry uncle, give up. But then I hear this gentle whisper “My child, get up!” And I’m reminded that God breathed his Word for times like these, His ultimate Immunity – my personal Immunity. Proverbs 22:19-21 “So that your trust may be in the Lord, I teach you today, even you. Have I not written thirty sayings for you, sayings of counsel and knowledge, teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth?”

Do you need Immunity from hurts of this world? Start with moments with the Master of immunity. 2 Corinthians 4:7-9 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

There is no way to describe the freedom and peace when cashing in the immunity chip created by the Master.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oad8ov10AjY Michael W. Smith – Breathe

100

Happy 100!

As I was writing the entry for my Joy Jar today, I realized – Today is the 100th day of 2014. One hundred! January 1st rolled in 100 days ago. 2014 has 100 days of history already. Blocks Spelling Faith Falling Over As Symbol for Lack Of Trust Did you know that Franklin Delano Roosevelt set a goal of what he wanted to accomplish in his first 100 days of his presidency? Did you know that every president since then has followed his lead?

Maybe 100 isn’t all that significant but don’t we at least give the number some measure of credibility? Consider these:

  • Aren’t we amazed when a child finally learns to count all the way to 100? We applaud their intelligence and tell them how smart they are for figuring out there is no eleventwenty, at least not till they’ve passed basic arithmetic. WOW! You counted to 100!
  • 100% In school when graded papers were returned, didn’t you carefully tuck those with 64% deep beneath your homework, but somehow manage to display that 100% in full view? Come on – you know you were proud of the 100% knowing you earned it through grueling hours of study. WOW! You earned 100!
  • 100 yards – in sports … OK…OK! Football is so over for this season, but clearly 100 yards, every one of them has significance to every player, coach, referee and spectator. Are you a runner? The 100 yard shuttle in sprint running rates as the ultimate test of speed. . And think of it! Back in March 2, 1962 Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors. WOW! 100 points from a single player out of 169 for the entire team!
  • 100 Years old – We find it nearly unbelievable for a man or woman to live 100 years. In the Old Testament it was unbelievable that Abraham would have a son at age 100. Genesis 21:5 “And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.” I wonder if Abraham was the glorious picture of youth or the aged. At 100? I think he was the poster child/man for Proverbs 20:29 “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.”
  • 100 X 10 – Able to grand slam through statistics with the skill of 10 baseball players with a golden bat. Batting 100 is nothing – but compound that by 10 and 100 becomes significant.

I chose the 100th day of the year to share some thoughts with you. All of the stories above are interesting to some, but they don’t have the personal significance of the 100 days now in the past. IMG_3378 I’ve placed a gratitude statement in my Thankful Journal and in my Joy Jar every day for 100 days. Is that significant? It is to me, because those statements remind me of what I have, not on what I’ve lost. They keep me thankful for what I can do, and minimize what I cannot.

Emotions are fickle, aren’t they? They ride on the surface where we can see them and impact our actions, often to our detriment. We can’t always function at 100% or achieve all we set out to do in one day or even in one week.
Discouragement invades our sense of accomplishment and drains our joy away drip by drip. When I think back over the past 100 days, I ask how those days disappeared, how the hours evaporated. It would be easy to give in to self-deprecation but I know that’s the enemy of my soul depleting my resources.

The last 100 days wasn’t a total loss. Right? But I’m thinking the next 100 days could be better, more productive. There is no retrofit for the past. With cars and mechanical devices, we can install aftermarket parts, but that’s not how it works with time that’s expired. What can we do with the past? Learn from it! Before you concede that it’s impossible, consider Jesus words in Luke 18:27 Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Those visible emotions distort our vision; our view of the future. I aim to be wiser with the next 100 days. Look at the promise in Proverbs 24:14 “Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Do you have hope of a better 100 days? Are you asking God to renew your energy and make your life effective for him? The solution is found in Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

This is my prayer for the next 100 days: Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. Psalm 25:5

 

After effects

A few days ago, this blog, Talk Kindness To Me, passed the 200th post. (http://talkkindnesstome.com)  Since this is a repost from April, 2013, there are now close to 400 posts, and my goal has not changed. The goal from day one was to do just as the title suggests, speak only encouraging words and counteract the effects of bullying, which is common today. Maybe I’m wrong about this, but I think there are ways to communicate any message, even reprimands, with an undercurrent of support. The words we use are often impetuous, spoken without consideration of the lingering effect.  I remember being part of an object lesson when a teacher had each of us pound spikes into a  wall.  Then he had us remove the spikes showing big blemishes and scars on the wall.  I still remember the battered wall and how it looked after a dozen kids blasted it with nails, hammers, and claws. He asked us for our opinion on how we would fix the wall and you can imagine our answers.  “That’s crazy.  You can’t fix that wall.  It’s ugly. It’s too big of a mess now. That looks pitiful. You will need a new wall.”

I am always touched when I read the 34th Psalm. Something about the message affects the way I see things. You can read it here Psalm 34, but doesn’t this resonate with the lesson of the spikes and damaged wall? “Come children! Listen to me! Do you want to really live? I teach you! Would you love to live a long, happy life? Then make sure you don’t speak evil words or use deceptive speech! Turn away from evil and do what is right! Strive for peace and promote it!” You know where I’m going with this story so use your imagination to fill in the remaining lesson.  The teaching moment – Words spoken in anger make scars. Lies are the source of deep wounds. There is always the healing process, but some blemishes will remain. The point the teacher was trying to make was this. Think before you speak and think before you act because there will be consequences with lingering effects.

Now what about this? Nobody is perfect. No matter hard we try, we’re going to mess up.  We’re going to be angry, we might even act angry.  We will get irritated, or impatient, or worse – both; at the same time; when we’re tired; when we’re beat down ourselves. If that doesn’t  describe your day today, it could be tomorrow. Don’t worry about that now though. Today is what we have to work with.  The past is the past.  Forgive yourself – and if you need to ask someone to forgive you, take care of that too. Today, let’s make the most of our day remembering that we can make a difference one attitude at a time.  Colossians 4:2-6 “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. “

So let’s start right about here, right about now. “Lord, please help me exude peace, not animosity.  Let me speak words of encouragement always. Amen”

BackTrack to OnTrack

You, Lord God, will keep in perfect peace  those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 

I couple weeks ago, I posted an acronym I use to remind me that what I want in my life is Peace. Choosing P.E.A.C.E. is based on this verse, Romans 14:19 “Let us make every effort to pursue the things which lead to peace and do those things to edify and build up one another.”  At the end of this post, are the values engendered in that acronym.  Yesterday I had one of those days … Monday? Spring Fever? Unproductive – and worse, totally off track from PEACE. This verse in James 1:8 has totally invaded my conscience. “Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” I don’t want to be double-minded or unstable, but in that moment – well? Sunday night our pastor reminded us that to live a successful life, we have to keep the main thing, the main thing. I was looking for a sample of my work to send to someone and in the process found a post dated July 11, 2012 from a friend who dared to publicly report on her goals and progress … on Facebook, Twitter, and who knows how many social media sites! Publicly stated, publicly rated.   I’m not sure why I saved her post, but it has to be one of those orchestrated maneuvers known only to God, because that spoke to me. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, because it is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:22-24 What does it mean to work at ‘it’ with all my heart because it is the Lord I am serving?

Sometimes I forget that God is who I am honoring or disappointing with the choices I make. If I let Him in, God speaks to me over the rattle of ticker tape pouring through the task engine. Do you ever feel like that? About the time you feel accomplished enough to slow down, that task engine starts cranking like a turbine. By definition a turbine is a machine driven by pressure. Sound familiar? Pressure to do more, add a few more items to the list, push a few things off to the side and rearrange priorities? What would God say about my commitment to ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’? God is a God of peace and He wants that for us.

It wasn’t by chance that I saved that post titled in huge letters:  PUSHING FORWARD – A Goal/Progress Update

God knew I would be struggling today. He knew I would have said yes too many times to the unimportant while the important were left clinging to the slippery slope while I navigated and realigned with ‘the main thing’.  I’m reminded over and over that God is the God of order not of chaos. Isaiah 45:18 says this “For the Lord is God, and he created the heavens and earth and put everything in place. He made the world to be lived in, not to be a place of empty chaos. “I am the Lord,” he says, “and there is no other.””

So instead of tackling the mess I’ve made with my off-track voyage into chaos, why am I blogging? Because of the last E in P.E.A.C.E. and because the post written 2 years ago by Joanne Sher, which I unearthed, helped bring me back to center today. And remember that ‘main thing’? The main thing is discipleship and what is discipleship?  Well – I can’t cover that in under 600 words, but I can say that of the many responsibilities, teaching, supporting, and encouraging are among those acts found in the disciples’ job description.

If you had the formula for keeping the main thing, the main thing, wouldn’t you share it? Yes, of course you would. Let’s hit just the highlights of 1 Thessalonians 5, but you can read it all for yourself. “And live peacefully with each other. We urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid; be tender with the weak. Be patient with everyone. Always try to do good to each other. Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances. Hold on to the good. Stay away from every kind of evil. May the God of peace make you holy. God will make this happen because He called you and He is faithful. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”

I love that, don’t you? I’m ready to back track to get on track.  Ready? Let’s get out there.