It’s Optional

How often do you think about options? Last week I was at an event where there were tables of snack food, so many options. I was looking at my messy calendar and trying to schedule a real meeting with a friend and thought – options. I was spending an evening at home and decided to turn on the TV but had no idea what to watch so I grabbed the remote and pressed ‘guide’. So many options, I turned to my standby, Hallmark. Do options bewilder you sometimes? Options bewilder me, not because I don’t already have a calendar full of possibilities, but because I do.  I’m a list maker and a natural born planner, albeit a very flexible planner because I like to keep my options open.  I have a thick spiral notebook with beautiful floral pages that I handwrite my list of options on.  And there’s that word that got stuck in my head and refused to budge. Options!

As my mind was anticipating the weekend ahead and annotating plans to go to a school play, having Sunday dinner with my family, spending time with a friend, and enjoying fresh, dark coffee made with my Keurig brewer, I stopped.  Right there in the middle of those thoughts whirling in expectancy I realized how blessed I am to have options.  There are many who don’t have options.  They have physical limitations, they have financial restrictions, their health confines them to a small, safe space. I couldn’t turn off the thoughts of individuals suffering from serious illness, and their families who suffer with them. Weather in parts of our country have ravaged areas and left people in turmoil for weeks. What options do they have? I was watching a program on TV that showed the poverty in countries where the only drinking water comes from polluted sources.  They have no options. We love options. We’re dismayed at their absence.

I confess. I do my share of complaining. Maybe not vocally where others could hear me, but my mind has been contaminated with little grievances.  The problem with little grievances, is that they procreate and like any other living organism, they grow to the size of their nurturing environment.  Do you ever feel like this? Nobody is perfect. Everyone is allowed to complain.  It’s OK because life isn’t fair and I’m just being realistic. Good point.  But not valid. Nothing good comes out of complaining.  Complaining is a decrepit option.  Philippians 2:14 says “Do everything without grumbling or arguing,” Interesting!  Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining.  Those negative thoughts should be fleeting, not resident. I should renew my mind Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Renewing my mind is a favorable option. Realistic is recognizing what I have instead of what I don’t have. Realistic is being aware of what I can do, instead of what I cannot. Renewing my mind, refreshing my attitude, regenerating a right spirit within me are options; options as real as the plans I’ve made for the weekend.  Sometimes I overlook the blessings in my life. I often forget that I have options. One option is to adjust my attitude so thankfulness is at the top of the list; the predominant characteristic.  If I get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself. Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 139:23-24 (the Message) “Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; Cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life.”  But I need help – lots of help!  Well, there’s an app for that.  Psalm 55:16 “I call to God; God will help me. At dusk, dawn, and noon I sigh deep sighs—he hears, he rescues.”

Do you have a to do list? Do you have a plan? I do and at the top of the list is option one:  Renew my mind and generate a thankful spirit.


It’s the fight that counts

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning to you!  It’s the weekend! Remember…nothing is better than this day. And you say, wait a minute, that’s what you say every day. And you’re right, of course, because it’s true! Nothing is better than this new day. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. Must be all the conflict going around. We need a vaccine so we don’t catch it. We need the tools and ammunition to fight off the conflicts and negative thinking. In fact, we have the tools on board; we were born with them.  They are heart and attitude. We can’t stop the anxiety from cascading around us, but we can put up a fight so it doesn’t overtake us.

Ephesians 6:10-13 (CEV) Finally, let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong. Put on all the armor that God gives, so you can defend yourself against the devil’s tricks. We are not fighting against humans. We are fighting against forces and authorities and against rulers of darkness and powers in the spiritual world.  So put on all the armor that God gives.

It’s so easy to let our guard down and let discouragement seep in.  I think it’s that wide path of least resistance we so easily gravitate toward. We get weary and worn out trying to stay centered on the narrow path.  Well, come on …. the wider path is easier, but the narrow path is rewarding. Remember that life is a contact sport and we can get beat up if we don’t fight back. Let’s fight the good fight – the GOOD fight. It’s the fight that counts, that makes the difference.  1 Timothy 6:12 Fight a good fight for the faith and claim eternal life. God offered it to you when you clearly told about your faith, while so many people listened.

Life can make us bitter, God can make us better. Lean on God, lean on friends, lean on family and let’s get out there and rock the world till it tilts toward what’s good….
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

The battle rages on . . . raise your white flag……

Are you waiting? What to do while you wait.

Are you waiting? Maybe you’re waiting for the results of a medical test. Maybe you’re waiting for the arrival of a new baby or for guests to arrive for a long anticipated visit. Maybe you’re waiting for a job opportunity, or for a promotion into a position you’ve been working toward for a long time. Maybe you’re waiting for tomorrow to get here because that will mean that today will finally end. We love new days, don’t we? But even then, we wait. Waiting is hard, isn’t it?

I was thinking about the waiting game. When we wait our emotions aren’t smooth and sweet like melted chocolate, they’re all tangled up and twisted like leftover spaghetti. Whether we’re waiting in excited anticipation or waiting in silent dread, we experience many of the same emotional effects. Without going into the physiology of how emotional impulses trigger responses and the effects on the human body, let’s talk about waiting and the effects it can have on the soul.

W-A-I-T: Worry, Acknowledge, Intercessory Prayer, Trust

Worry – Did you know that worry is a natural response when waiting? We are so easily overcome with the ‘what-ifs’ of life. The word ‘wait’ triggers that nasty worry gene. It can lay dormant for a long time, and at the prospect of wait, worry consumes us. Have you ever tried to remove residue left by a sticky tag that has been heat sealed by the sun? That’s how it is with worry. As long as worry is allowed to hang around, the stronger bond becomes. In Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us repeatedly that we don’t have to worry. Sweet friend, worry will not solve the issue of waiting. It will never return a correct answer to all the ‘what-if’ questions. After annotating specific things that we should not worry about, like food and clothing, we are told the gospel truth in Matthew 6:32. “Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things.” And in verse 34, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself.”

Acknowledgement – One of the first steps to change is acknowledgement. Admit you’re worried. It’s like going after something you want – you have to name it to claim it. “I’m waiting for . . .  and that makes me worry about  . . . “ Psalm 18:30 offers this, “Your way is perfect, Lord, and your word is correct. You are a shield for those who run to you for help.” This is not like running a 5K. There is no stringent training program. God is as close as your own voice; no extra effort required. Transform acknowledgement of worry to acknowledgement of God’s power. You know Isaiah 28:12 makes a good point. “He promised you perfect peace and rest, but you refused to listen.” Earlier in Isaiah 26:3 he wrote, “The Lord gives perfect peace to those whose faith is firm.”

Intercessory Prayer – The most powerful tool in the box, is prayer. Jeremiah 33:3 “Call on me in prayer and I will answer you. I will show you great and mysterious things which you still do not know about.” We don’t know what’s going to happen. We can make assumptions. We can predict, plan, and prepare, but only God knows the future. Proverbs 16:9 says “We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go.” Our task is to ask God’s direction and not lose faith as we act out of love for him. Over in Hebrews 3:6, this truth is shared, “But Christ is the Son in charge of God’s people. And we are those people, if we keep on being brave and don’t lose hope.”

Trust – When I was really young, I remember standing in front or my Sunday school teacher and reciting the verse, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Those words in Psalm 56:3 haven’t changed since they were first penned back when David was King over Israel. Worry, when out of control, produces fear. As fear grows it affects our thoughts, our concentration, our energy, and our capacity to act with confidence. In our weakness we let down our guard and forget this promise in Psalm 34:4 “I asked the Lord for help, and he saved me from all my fears.”

Sweet soul, if you’re waiting, I hope you wait in peace and wait in hope knowing that God is in control, working things out for those who love and obey him. Daniel 9:4 “Our Lord, you are a great and fearsome God, and you faithfully keep your agreement with those who love and obey you.”

Before worry intensifies, peel it away and replace it with faith, hope, and trust: Lord Jesus, I know you control all things. This worry that I have is consuming me. It’s robbing me of joy and taking the energy I need to be present and live my best life today. My real hope is in you, Jesus. All these circumstances are outside my control. I place all my worries in your arms and I trust that in your sovereignty you will do what’s best. Please restore peace to my soul and give me a heart bonded in love and sealed by your promises. I love you, Lord. Amen


And so the saga continutes

OK! ♪♫•*¨ Everybody Up! *•.¸¸ Rise and Shine.•*¨*•♫ Good Morning ♫•**•.¸¸¸¸. Good Morning to You •*¨*•♫♪•*¨*♫•*¨*¨*♫♪

Decision made. I renewed my blog domain
Another year of blogging behind me and another year ahead.

I can’t get seem to get this verse out of my head. I’m pretty sure that means I’m supposed to share it.

Jeremiah 32:17
Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.

It’s just dirt!

Recently while talking to a friend who has been thinking of writing devotionals, I remembered studying through a devotional “Inspired for Greater Things” by Linda Pulley Freeman. In it she talked about our need for a balance of work, exercise and rest.Health Work Career Friends Signpost Showing Life And Lifestyle Balance  Funny how our minds work – that prompted a memory of  conversation with a friend at church about when God created the Earth, on the seventh day, he rested.  God rested. Interesting point #1.  From there our conversation wandered into the verses where he made man from dust, but created woman by taking one of his ribs.  “So,” my friend said. “That has to mean we are special because we weren’t made totally out of dust like men were.” Interesting point #2.  We were joking, but in retrospect those two interesting points made me consider the effects of the Genesis revelation.

Interesting point #1 – God rested. Have you ever thought about that? It’s significant because the Bible doesn’t say after God toiled and labored and exhausted himself with all that creation stuff, he finally plopped down in the recliner, kicked the footrest, and leaned back to watch a little TV and rest.  No, that’s not it.  God finished creating, looked around, totally satisfied with masterpiece and then, without complaining about being wiped out – He rested! Genesis 2:1-4 “Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created. We get tired, we get weary, we need rest.  Rest is good – even if we aren’t drop-down-limp tired.

Interesting point #2 – God made everything out of dust.  Genesis 2 and 3 recounts the story of how God spoke and the Earth was separated from the heavens. God spoke and separated the daytime from the nighttime.  God spoke and things happened. But God used dirt to create the animals and the birds. He formed man and woman also out of dirt.  I know. That was a very long time ago. But here’s the point. God did all that with dirt and his omnipotent commanding voice. God spoke and the world became. God took his own hands and made living things that have continued to reproduce and populate the Earth.

Here’s something more significant about Genesis 1-3 – If God could do all that, think of what he can do in the lives of the people he started working with way back thousands of years ago.  When we’re faced with overwhelming circumstances and gripped by fear of the unknown, how often do we turn to Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  We are told not to worry because God will provide what we need. There are so many verses I could share with you on worry and fear and God’s provision. 2Timothy 1:7 “The Spirit God gave us does not give us fear, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Good workHere’s my thought though.  It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve been able to work outside my home. I could worry.  Since 1985 I have never been without work. I could worry. Our bills are not going to evaporate because I’m not working.  I could worry.  I’m praying for my business to launch and bring an income stream, but God could say no.  I could worry.  Here’s why I refuse to worry. Because I know that the same God who made my ancestors out of dirt found on the ground, and made the animals, and the birds, and the fish, and orchestrated the beauty of nature in oceans, streams, mountains, valleys, trees, flowers and the moon, starts and glorious sun – He can take care of my minuscule need of fulfilling, satisfying work. That’s God. Give him a little dust and he will create!

Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

My Life is not in my hands or in the hands of an employer. My life is the hands of God who is power and controls the universe.

Rant; grouch; rage; let it out. Now – How do you feel?

Do you ever read something and the words keep coming back to you like a boomerang?  That happened to me yesterday.  I was aimlessly browsing an article and read part of a conversation where one person said it was enough to express love verbally and the other person said that’s just rhetoric.  You can express love, but it’s weak without action to back it up. Recently I was reviewing some comforting passages in the book of John.  There’s a model for us in John 15:9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” Jesus said that and set the stage for how real love came to be.

In the past 6 weeks I’ve been the benefactor of awesome love, amazing love. Nobody craves spending time with someone who has no energy and requires special care like a piece of fragile glass. That’s not how my friends and family made me feel though.  They demonstrated what it means to ‘remain in the love’ taught by Jesus way back in the New Testament.  I am blessed.

Have you ever considered how the quality of our lives would improve if we put love into action beyond the rhetoric of simple words? We’ve all witnessed random acts of kindness and heard about the joy expressed by a surprised recipient of a pay-it-forward gift at Starbucks or the drive-thru. We smile when we hear stories of compassion that renews our faith in humanity.

Here’s an idea.  We could practice what we’re taught in 3 John 1:11 “Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God.”  How do we imitate? We watch, we learn, we practice what we see until we learn it; until it becomes familiar.  We do what comes naturally and we are comfortable with the act.

There are opportunities every day, sometimes every hour to express sentiments, feelings, frustrations, joy, irritation, enthusiasm, thankfulness, anger, excitement, annoyance … see what I mean? Crazy mixed up emotions! It’s like Russian Roulette – then the trigger snaps! Do we act in love even when we’re angry?  What about when we’re worn out and annoyed? It’s possible to act out of love even when inwardly we’re drowning in irritation. Are you ready for a challenge?  Here’s the first recommendation from Colossians 4:6 “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  It’s perfectly safe to try this at home.  Remember this:  Act as if.

Have the conversation you need to have with a child, a spouse, a neighbor, a friend. Stand in front of a mirror, full length if possible. Practice your conversation exactly as you would have it; Act as if your irritating spouse was right there; or your annoying child was getting under your skin.  Yell, be crabby, speak irrationally, use your body language – but don’t take your eyes off your image in the mirror. Rant; grouch; rage; let it out.  Now – How do you feel? If someone had that conversation with you, how would it make you feel? Stop and consider the heart of that person? Consider your own. When we say ‘I love you’ is it rhetoric?  Or is it authentic, active love?  Isn’t there a way to express your disappointment, correct a mistake, or punish and act of defiance while still reassuring your love?

Here’s your chance. Decide now to calm your voice, modify your body language, rehearse again but this time with love, the way you would want to hear it. Add a hug and smile. Practice speaking the truth in love. Model Proverbs 1:8-9 “Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.”

These verses in Romans 15:4-6 teach an important lesson “Everything that was written in the Scriptures was written to teach us encouragement and provide hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Encourage…provide hope…glorify.

When we speak out, no matter what we feel inside, do we encourage?  Do we practice patience and endurance so we are counseling instead of condemning?  Do we build character in others or tear them down? We’re given guidance, even invited to ask God for help, in the book of Philippians 4:5-7 “Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  When I read Galatians 6:9, it even looks like we’re promised success.  What do you think after reading this? “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

You know, Vince Lombardi, the famous football coach had the right idea.  He said “Practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.”  Perfect is rare; maybe impossible.  But treating others the way we want to be treated is entirely possible. We need a lot of practice, perfect practice. The mirror doesn’t lie; the image is an exact replica.  When someone talks to you, when conversation takes place, what do you want as a result? Here’s one more thought from Luke 6:31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  We will never regret being kind. Ready to practice? Meet you at the mirror.

Mandisa/Sparrow Records:  What if we were real?

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. Michael W. Smith – Breathe

This was first posted here April 11, 2014