The Ultimate Joy Ride

Last night, just as I was closing down my day, something flashed across the screen of my phone.  Huh. That was strange, so I took a second look. Somehow, I inadvertently launched email and this is what greeted me when I looked at the screen once more. Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to him for help will be radiant with Joy.” Then I went on to read some good news about an affirmative answer to prayer. God said ‘Yes!’  Do you have any euphemisms you use to describe acts of prayer? In our family we talke about “dragging out our prayer rugs” and sometimes we don’t roll them up for weeks.  We ‘PUSH’ Pray Until Something Happens until we are road weary from effort. Then when God is ready to answer, sometimes He says yes! We remember all the times in prayer where we reminded him that he promised to be our protection. Psalm 32:7 “You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.”

But what about when God says no? Is our reaction to argue with God and become angry? Or do we accept His sovereign choice for us and use this situation to strengthen our faith. If we love God and genuinely seek his will, we will rise above this circumstance and focus on what can be learned from it. Recently I was reading 1 John where it talks about the true test of loving God.

1 John 3:3-5 “The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome. Every God-begotten person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.”  Let’s finish that thought – the one way to experience joy, is to experience Jesus, the Son of God.

Or how do we feel when silence is all we hear? Then what? It’s so hard to accept the opposite of what we want. It’s difficult to wait when the complications of life present challenges and the answer is indiscernible. We have to wait too. Waiting – that’s like driving down a crowded street, seeing emergency vehicles behind and hearing the scream of sirens all around with no clear direction of where to go. Go straight, turn left, turn right; you can’t just stop. Sound familiar?  The joy in this experience is to finally find a way out and know that we are safe and out of the danger zone.

Or maybe coasting is the more recognizable experience. Coasting can be good when used for reflection, meditation, and conscious decision making. Coasting is not profitable if depression and anxiety seep in. When God is silent, while we wait, remember these words in Matthew 11: 29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” I’m going through a period of silence right now. I have read scripture and asked God to speak up because I can’t hear him. I’ve reminded him that his word is the light on my path – the path I’m trying to follow and he says, “That’s good. The path is there, read a little more of my word, and keep the light shining. I have not forgotten you.” This would be a good time to remember how people in David’s day reacted to God. Psalm 44:17-18  “All this has happened to us, but we have not forgotten You or betrayed Your covenant. Our hearts have not turned back; our steps have not strayed from Your path.” We experience joy when our hearts have not turned from God when trials come; instead we strengthen our faith when tempted to ditch God and run.

Can we have joy and peace whether God says yes, no, or wait? It’s a choice and one that requires unshakable faith. Isaiah 55:12 says “You will indeed go out with joy and be peacefully guided; the mountains and the hills will break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.”  I’m not expecting to hear mountains and hill sing, but to be peacefully guided is my ultimate joy ride. I’m up for the task.  Are you?

First published here March 26, 2015.

Grace – Laura Story https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL1DNipyurM

Strategic placement of worry in acts of faith

Yesterday I mentioned that we would visit with Joshua today. I sort of copped out on the end of the story of Gideon.  You have to know how it all turned out, before I tell you the really cool story about Joshua.  Gideon had gone from an arm of 32,000 men to 300. God told Gideon to get rid of men who were afraid (aka worried). That was one way of weeding out the worriers.  So the leftover men went into battle with trumpets and jars.  I would have been worried – especially if I were the wife or child of a soldier.  I would have been objecting – loudly!  But the soldiers – well the soldiers, soldiered on.  They burst into the warzone broke the jars, sounded the trumpets and shouted, “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” The opponents got scared, confused, and fled. Just like that …. Case closed.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that those victorious soldiers were praying through. Seriously, how could they not?

So what about Joshua? There’s lots to tell about Joshua, but for today, let’s talk about an act of faith and how he and his army must have had plenty to worry about, but they literally stepped out on faith and dispelled the worry wart out of themselves.  If you want to read the whole story, it’s in Joshua 6:1-20.  Let me quickly summarize what happened. So in the end the city of Jericho was destructed, but how did it happen? We have a burly army of macho men suited up for battle.  Swords, shields, pepper spray – well, probably not the pepper spray, but they had the armor. So their standing around waiting for the battle cry and Joshua says “Hang tight guys.  God has a plan.  It’s kinda weird so I need to go back and check with him, but God says we aren’t going to need any weapons for this one.” OK – confused looks from the soldiers ready for battle. Huh? That’s not possible. Some of the guys had probably scoured the internet for the best deal on a new sword all sharpened up for the occasion, and now they had to leave it at home.

Joshua went back into conversation with God who confirmed the action plan.  “Look Joshua.  You have to trust me [God} on this.  Give each of your guys a trumpet. Yes, there’s a line item in the budget.  Stop worrying.  Oh! And Joshua, here’s the game plan.”  Can you imagine the looks, the speculation, the shock even when Joshua came back to his men and laid it out? “Guys, you each get a trumpet.  I hope your boots are in good shape because here’s what we’re gonna do. God says to march around Jericho once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day, march around it seven times.  And the walls are just going to fall down. [blank stares from the men] Listen, guys. God told me himself and we have to do as God commands.  And we have to spread this around. Post it on Facebook and Twitter because we want everyone involved in the final round.  We will shout to the Lord and the walls are going to fall flat as a pancake.”

And they did!  Now, I believe there was a lot of worry started there.  But I just as firmly believe that when worry started, it had no chance to germinate and take root because the army and the people prayed it away. And I also believe they thanked God for his provision along the way. God is the same today as he was then.  Hebrew 12:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Joshua had no way of seeing the future.  And Joshua didn’t visibly see God.  But he prayed and had conversations with him.

This scripture doesn’t talk about Gideon or Joshua, but it has direction for our day.  Daniel 2:20-23 “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. 21 He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.”

So what about this strategic placement of worry in acts of faith. You’re kidding, right? There is no place for worry when you’re acting out of faith.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzNsEBPB-Z8

Worry, Inc. and principles of lean manufacturing

Worry, Inc. – Sometimes it seems like there is so much to worry about, there is little time left to do anything else. I don’t have to produce a list of things to worry about.  We all have them, but listen.  Worry is overrated! It produces nothing but more worry. If you’ve ever studied or worked in a manufacturing environment you’ve see the production process. If you apply lean manufacturing principles, you’ve got yourself an even quicker way to produce more product with less effort. Worry can be like that. We take a thought, put it on the conveyor belt and apply the ‘what-if’ principal; then we add on a few ‘oh-nos’; we hammer on some logic and wrench in a few ‘if-onlys’; finally we drag ourselves, exhausted to the end of the line where we attempt to accept the finished product.  Whether the result is what we hoped for or not, by now our energy is depleted and the enthusiasm we expected has been lost – – – all because of worry.

Here’s what we have to do to avoid worry.  Stop worrying! At the first thought, where worry starts, stop right there and turn it over to God. The instant the thought starts, cut if off at the root, before it has a chance to germinate.  You can be driving down the road, at your desk, at the store or taking a walk. “Lord, I’m worried about this. I can’t get it out of my mind. Please take this situation and transform it into something good. I don’t want to let go of it, but I have to because it’s out of my control and I can do nothing to change it, but you can. And God, thank you for giving me friends who support me through this situation.”  So that is a sample prayer of acknowledging to God that He is in control, turning the situation over to him, and then thanking him for something unrelated, but meaningful. This is a good time to remind ourselves that God gets to decide anyway, so why not dump the situation on him and let him take care of it.  We are at an advantage because it frees up our energy to do something awesome.

I wonder how Gideon felt back in Judges 7.  I was reading about how he had 32,000 men ready to go to battle in verse 1 of Judges 7 and by verse 7 he had whittled it down to 300 men. And get this! What was God’s weapon of choice?  Trumpets and jars!  Are you kidding me? Can you even imagine how Gideon must have felt and how his soldiers must have reacted when he said, “OK, men.  Mount up.  Do you all have your weapons? Carry your jars high and have those trumpets handy, ‘cause you’re gonna need ‘em!”  I know.  I thought the same thing, but Gideon and his 300 warriors did not worry.  They didn’t waste energy on the assembly line of worry.  They gave the situation to God and look what he did with it!

Tomorrow, let’s revisit this topic and I’ll tell you about Joshua.  Until then – what are we all going to do when the worry wart starts to move in and get comfy in our brain?  Stop it! Stop!  Pray in that instant – “God take this!”  Then thank him for something – “God thank you that I can read.” It’s what God wants for you, his child.

Proverbs 8:32 “Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways.

Seeking Peace

“The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you.”  A few weeks ago I quoted that from a television program. In that statement is the desire of all of us, isn’t it? To live in God’s favor; to have peace and contentment; to know that our choices are inside His will.  “The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you.”  Until recently I had a misconception about that statement. I narrowly thought that the will of God was something I prayed about and acted on. You know – plan your work, work your plan and pray God’s direction and ultimate approval on the plan.  I was taking to heart what it says in Ephesians 6:6 “Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.”

How many times did I pray and ask God to show me what to do, make His will unmistakable, then wait through the act to see if the plan fell into place. Can anyone relate? Here’s where my original concept derailed. The will of God is not dependent on my prayers, no matter how sincere or fervent. God’s will is exactly that – God’s will. His will does not depend on how elaborate my plan or how detailed my prayers are. God’s ways are not our ways and despite our best efforts things don’t always work out the way we want them to.  Look at Proverbs 14:12 “Even in laughter a heart may be sad, and joy may end in grief.” We never want bad things to happen – never. But what happens when they do?

The way to acceptance is claim Psalm 33:4 “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” If I believe that and live within that belief, I can be at peace with whatever circumstances come my way and there will be a test. The test – will this make me better or will I be bitter? Bitter creates regret, anxiety, turmoil, instability, exhaustion and depression. There is no peace in bitter.  There is no comfort in bitter.  I hope I never allow seeds of bitterness to germinate because God’s will didn’t follow my idea of His will.  If it’s God’s will, peace will come. I need to remember the nature of God is love and faithfulness Psalm 86:15 “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” We might not understand the why, but we need to acknowledge that when God acts, it is His will. God has a purpose, in fact God is the ultimate multi-tasker and there will be more than one purpose.

“The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you.”  Proverbs 3:3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”  Sometimes God allows bad things to happen to good people. These are times to become spiritually stronger and shine the light of Jesus from the inside out – that’s better.  What can I do with the circumstances now? What can I learn from this? And the ultimate question, how can I use this for better?

My heart’s desire is that I will always seek to do what is right and within God’s will.  I will never again limit God with the illusion that His will depends on my plans and specific prayers. I hope at the end of my life I will be able to say as David wrote in Psalm 18:21-24 “I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me;  I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”

I was having a sleepless night and turned on the contemporary Christian music station. Some of the most encouraging lyrics are sung to beautiful music. It was like a soft comforter for the soul. Here’s one of the songs … I hope it speaks to you as it did me.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgFLjlzbSp4

Be at peace, Wounded Warrior

Are you a fixer? When something goes wrong, do you rush to scheme and devise a plan to fix it? I’m a middle child. I don’t know if birth order has anything to do with it, but I’m a fixer. I want everyone’s little world to be perfect and when it’s not, I need to make it perfect, or at least better.  Maybe that’s why I receive an inordinate number of messages each one evidence of a broken spirit and aching heart, but still with a tinge of hope that their upside down world can be righted.  As friends, even casual friends, when a member hurts everyone hurts, especially in churches.

We all agree that this is our desire as brothers and sisters in Christ. Hebrew 13:18 “Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way.” This is our desire, isn’t it? Live honorably.

Wouldn’t we all like to take a big eraser and remove the blight of occurrences in the past that caused us pain and dissonance? In erasing the past, would we be able to prevent what we are experiencing now? eraserWe all know life doesn’t work like that. We are given one opportunity for each moment, there are no redos. We can repent, recommit, and resolve, but we don’t get a do-over. We may be devastated by the fallout of our past and tormented by what we should have done, but didn’t; or things said in haste without the filter of conscience.  Our human nature is to ever seek out information and when we have it, spread what we’ve learned. We say we want the truth and there is no faulting that, but don’t we really just crave information? That makes us an easy target for Satan to claw his way into our community and destroy relationships all ready bruised and tenuous by circumstance. We claim we want improved conditions and camaraderie but we are often not willing to go through the building process.  If we want God’s best we must wait patiently for His timing and for the healing process to transpire.  Like wounded warriors, let’s be cautious and live out the prayer of David in Psalm 141:3 “Guard my mouth, O Eternal One; control what I say. Keep a careful watch on every word I speak. Don’t allow my deepest desires to steer me toward doing what is wrong”

Relationships are fragile and can be easily torn apart because of so much conversation, too many assumptions, and few facts.  Sound familiar? Don’t we label it gossip? What starts out as a half-fact takes on a life of its own and grows to become a sliver of truth shrouded in false assumptions. Engaging in fruitless postulations and suggested hypotheses result in turmoil which is not pleasing to God. God is a God of order not of chaos and I, like you, want to live honorably and orderly before God. Speculating and feeding each other’s anger is not honorable to anyone, especially to the Lord.  In fact, one way to produce more wounded warriors is to engage in the proliferation of sharing unsubstantiated information. It happens among families, it happens among friends, it’s rampant in the workplace and even in churches. There’s something specifc to this in Ecclesiastes along about chapter 10 verse 20. Here’s the red flag “Don’t bad-mouth your leaders, not even under your breath, and don’t abuse anyone, not even in the privacy of your home. Loose talk has a way of getting picked up and spread around. Little birds drop the crumbs of your gossip far and wide.”

If you want a fact, here is one guaranteed to be 100% truth. In your family or organization, Satan has gathered his minions and they are waiting to have a victory party at your expense. While God is seeking followers wholly committed to Him, (2 Chronicles 16:9 “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”) Satan is running a strong interference to distract you from the light. 1 Peter 5:8 couldn’t be more clear “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”  Do you feel chewed up, devoured, bloodied? Those fangs and claws of a lion are real. We all must guard our minds and hearts, we have to open our eyes and close our mouths and wait patiently for God to lead each of us through the process. Psalm 141:3 “Guard my mouth, O Eternal One; control what I say. Keep a careful watch on every word I speak. Don’t allow my deepest desires to steer me toward doing what is wrong”

We live in a microwave world. Dinner in an instant. Take it from the freezer, run it through the microwave, and eat in under 10 minutes. Instant nourishment, instant satisfaction, instant contentment. There is no instant in God’s world.  True, time is nothing to God and we get so impatient for results. Could that be why God wrote stories in His word about the seasons and how we have to plant and wait for the harvest; why we are told the children of Israel wandered for 40 years; why it took Noah 120 years to build a boat? When there are physical wounds, there is no instant cure and this pain we are enduring now is the result of deep wounds of the spirit and emotions. Healing will take time, even as factual details become available.  We are instructed in Deuteronomy 6:18 “Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you…”

That all may go well with you . . . Isn’t that what we all want?  For things to go well with us? You know there is so much wisdom in scripture. Recently I highlighted this verse in my quiet time. Proverbs 16:93 “We plan the way we want to live, but only God makes us able to live it.” I was in a completely different frame of mind at the time, but how well that applies to our story today. Our plans, as well meaning as they are, will come to nothing without God. He makes us able to live under any circumstance, achieve any goal, forgive any offense, find something to be thankful for in every day – even when we are helplessly lost.

Are there answers now, opportunities to help a current situation come to a successful end? Yes! We can corporately and individually take an oath of quiet and stop obsessing about what has been and start praying for what is to peacecome. Next time you fall into the trap of wondering what happened to cause such dissension, go to prayer and ask God to guard your heart and mind and give you peace in the waiting.  Ask God to show you an act of service you can do to serve while progressing to the new normal. Silence – keep silent, quiet your thoughts, and pray. When you feel so burdened you don’t know what to do, pray and lay that burden at the feet of Jesus who is power and as it says in Psalm 145:17 “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.” And in Psalm 146:6 the Bible says “He remains faithful forever.”  Forever, that’s longer than any of us will live on Earth.

My prayer for all those friends who have emailed, texted, messaged and called is that this will be your new experience. Psalm 119:57-64 “Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise to do everything you say. I beg you from the bottom of my heart: smile, be gracious to me just as you promised. When I took a long, careful look at your ways, I got my feet back on the trail you blazed. I was up at once, didn’t drag my feet, was quick to follow your orders. The wicked hemmed me in—there was no way out— but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me. I get up in the middle of the night to thank you; your decisions are so right, so true—I can’t wait till morning! I’m a friend and companion of all who fear you, of those committed to living by your rules. Your love, God, fills the earth! Train me to live by your counsel.”

This blog was first posted here on February 18, 2014.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yzejd6r9DwE / Kari Jobe – Healer

Patterns, designs, and truth

Last year at this time, I was looking outside and wondering if spring would ever show up. The telltale signs of winter were etched in snow covered trees with accumulations of the now too familiar white stuff clinging to the driveway and blanketing every inch of grass. According to the calendar spring had arrived, but really? Would there be no end to deep freeze temperatures and would the snow every stop? I’m a naturally positive person, but I was getting discouraged until God reminded me of a few things about life. First publshed March, 2014, but still true today.  Ready for spring NOW

Reminder #1: It is God, not man who controls the weather. Politicians have no impact on whether the sun shines or the snow falls. Even the best meteorologist has no control over weather patterns. They can assume, they can forecast, they can present colorful maps in shades of blues and reds their predictions for what to expect, but God has the final say. Look what it says in Psalm 147 as I skip around the chapter in the Living Bible. “How good it is to sing praises to the Lord!  He covers the heavens with clouds, sends down the showers, and makes the green grass grow in mountain pastures. His joy is in those who reverence him, those who expect him to be loving and kind. Praise your God! He sends peace across your nation and sends his orders to the world. He sends the snow in all its lovely whiteness, scatters the frost upon the ground, and hurls the hail upon the earth. Who can stand before his freezing cold? But then he calls for warmer weather, and the spring winds blow and all the river ice is broken.”

I want spring, I long for days when the sun shines down for hours and warms the earth so flowers grow and grass turns green. I couldn’t stop looking at my lilac tree yesterday and wishing to see the delicate purple buds burst into blossoms. Like you, I’m praying for temperatures far above freezing that last more than 24 hours. Reminder #2: Then God whispers in my ear “I made the skies above and the earth below. I commanded everything and they came into being – all creatures on earth and in the ocean depths. Fire and hail, snow, rain, wind, and weather all obey me.” Psalm 148.

Sometimes I can be a little slow on the uptake. And God has to send me a good dose of reality. Reminder #3: Psalm 29:10-11” At the Flood the Lord showed his control of all creation. Now he continues to unveil his power. He will give his people strength. He will bless them with peace.” Be patient, God is in control, He will give us all strength to endure this obstinate winter. And look what he promises as a reward. “He will bless them with peace.”

I don’t know about you, but I could use some resolute power and uncompromising peace. Isaiah 26:12 “Lord, grant us peace; for all we have and are has come from you.” Even the weather. It’s tough, but I’m thanking God for the weather because I know that He is controlling it, and that brings peace to my heart.

Truth or Dare

I’m on vacation so I hope you liked your visit with Linus yesterday and enjoy some time with Lucy today.

I learned a life lesson from a cartoon a few days ago. Who would think that attending the production of ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ at Cornerstone University would leave an impression, other than a persistent smile? You would have recognized the personalities of all the characters. Happy-go-lucky Sally, Contented Linus with his famous Blue Blanket, Opinionated, Loudmouth Lucy, Philosophical Schroeder, Self-possessed Snoopy, and of course Perplexed but Optimistic Charlie Brown.  The cast members played their parts with such authenticity, Charles M. Schultz would have given his endorsement.

During one scene of the play Lucy was persuaded to examine her crabby attitude and consider changing it to something more mellow in nature. Being confronted with a dose of someone else’s perception, was Lucy convinced of her acerbic behavior? What do you think? Would   over-confident Lucy believe the assessment that she was crabby? I was surprised at her reaction.  She set out to prove the judgment wrong.  Lucy went from colleague to colleague asking for a candid evaluation of her personality. “On a scale of 1 to 100 how would you rate my crabbiness?” Kindly, but constructively each friend told the truth –without sugar coating.  The result? Lucy was able to gauge the consequences of her attitude.  In that moment, Lucy realized the course of her destiny could be altered by changing her attitude.  Did she forever want to be remembered for being crabby;  or for being amiable? She could be perceived as cordial or hostile.

The storyline portrayed through years of the Peanuts cartoon will always need a Lucy because life is full of Lucys. They are loud and argumentative, rarely receptive to ideas of others. On a good day they are unpleasant; on a bad day intimidating.  Loud Lucys!  In the play, Lucy opened her mind to the probability that she had some work to do on her personality.  What I learned from Lucy and what you can learn.

Wisdom – Lucy didn’t pridefully ignore the opinion of her friends when their consensus was obvious. Maybe Lucy prayed for wisdom because it’s difficult to know what to do when it means changing something that is part of who we are.  She could have asked for wisdom like Solomon did 2 Chronicles 1:10 “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?” She could have.  Or maybe she prayed for wisdom like we are all invited to do in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” And reading further in James 3: 13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” And there is even greater benefit when we live it like James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

We are not all like Lucy with an audacious, brash personality.  But there are other traits in our behavior we can modify so we can be effective team members, productive employees, understanding parents, patient grandparents, and peacemaking citizens. I love this idea from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

United in mind and thought – I think it would be perfect for Lucy to stop by right now and shout that one out!