I’m not thankful

There it is. Not thankful. I’m not thankful that in the beginning when God created Earth that he let sin and depravity in. But I am thankful that God gave up his only Son Jesus to die on the cross and be the remedy for sin. John 3:16

I’m not thankful for the abuse and sadness in the world, but I’m thankful for all the kindness of many individuals who come together and passionately combat all that is abuse in support of the victims.IMG_4181

I’m not thankful that there is incredible poverty and days are dark for so many populations, but I am thankful that no one has to suffer spiritual poverty. John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

I’m not thankful that I was a stubborn and selfish kid who didn’t appreciate my parents, but I am thankful that my parents loved the Lord and through his grace they loved and cared for me anyway.

I’m not thankful that I married too young and raised my children while I was a child myself, but I’m thankful that despite all my failings as a parent, my children still think I’m pretty special and include me in their lives.

I’m not thankful for illnesses that take loved ones from us before we’re ready to let go. I wasn’t ready to let my oldest daughter go, but I’m thankful that Tammie had given her heart to Jesus and when she passed from this life God welcomed her into his kingdom where her suffering ended.  I’m thankful for that.

I’m not thankful for war that wounds everyone emotionally and physically devastates us with loss of lives. I’m not thankful that war kills innocent men and women. I am thankful that God is in control and covers all our wounds and fills our empty places until he comes back to Earth and annihilates war forever.

I’m not thankful for the many times I disappoint people and let them down, but I am thankful that in those times God sends angels to pick me up, dust me off, and give me another chance.

I’m not thankful that life is fraught with confusion and doubt, but I am thankful that Romans 8:6 says I have a choice:  The mind controlled by the sinful nature is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

I’m not thankful that it took me so long to realize that what I put in my head, finds its way to my heart, and makes me the way I am for good or for bad. But I am thankful that in God’s divine providence he finally got through to me and gave me that insight before I was too old to act on it. Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Today is just another day, but it is a day to live in the “Splendor of God’s holiness” Psalm 29:2, knowing that He is in control.  He forgives me when I am unthankful. He puts a new song in my heart so I can live my life with a thankful spirit and in joy. Let us start today on the path of ThanksLiving.

Every day, on a piece of paper and in my journal, I write something I am thankful for. Then I fold the paper and add it to my joy jar. I can always think of more than one thing to be thankful for every day. The best way to find joy in life is to look for the good in every day and live with an attitude of gratitude. Don’t save it for just the Thanksgiving season. Take time to be thankful every day. That is real ThanksLiving.

Ready? Let’s get out there!

 

Getting there, when you’re still over here

I  was a young stay at home mom when I first learned that the first and most important step in any endeavor is just show up. It was when my emotions were embedded in stubborn and my will staunchly stuck on neutral, that showing up was about the best I could do. I went reluctantly, probably better described as kicking and screaming into the task, but as a first step, showing up was progress. Has this ever happened to you?  You’ve agreed to do something, made a commitment  that seemed like a good idea at the time, but now you feel only dread? Maybe  it’s your own overbooked schedule – just too much. The day comes, you wake up, open your eyes and start testing for signs of a rare disease, or at least a severe case of the flu. There has to be a convincing reason for not doing that unbearable chore; you can’t just say you don’t feel like it, although that’s a pretty accurate assessment. How do you move beyond this stage and make progress? How do you spare yourself defeat?

If you’ve ever been here, you know it takes a lot of effort to get there. Maybe these ideas will help a little. I can assure you that keeping a promise and doing what you say you will is liberating. You won’t realize it now because your emotions are at war down to your toes and that’s where your feet are. Take these three steps with me. The project won’t disappear, but the burden will. Attitude doesn’t remove the problem; it transforms our perception.

Show Up – Put on your happy face, open the door, go in the direction of … well you get the picture. Go where you are expected and arrive with a positive attitude.  There are good reasons to keep commitments, even when you would rather be stuck on an elevator when the power goes out. What happens when you show up with a negative attitude? Here’s what it says in Proverbs 18:3When a wicked person arrives, contempt shows up with him, and with shame comes a reproach.” Wicked person? You’re not a wicked person are you? Isn’t that the opposite of what you want to happen? I’m pretty confident that Psalm 24:3-6 is more in line with the results you want. “Who is allowed to ascend the mountain of the Lord? The one whose deeds are blameless and whose motives are pure, who does not lie, or make promises with no intention of keeping them. Such godly people are rewarded by the Lord.Such purity characterizes the people who seek his favor”

Act As If – Emotions are fickle, aren’t they? Happy one minute, sad the next. Petrified with fear, only to feel it turn to excitement seconds later. It’s a factor of human DNA. Emotions serve a purpose, but may not be a reliable source of motivation.  Let’s try this. All the way from where you are now to where you need to be, talk to God and ask him to change your heart. Here is your opportunity for ultimate mind altering transformation. In Jeremiah 33:3, God promises ‘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.’ Act as if you want to keep your commitment, fulfill your promise, complete the assignment. Once your emotions,that dread you’re feeling, calms down, your will can catch up. Getting there from where you were is impossible without the right mindset, the prayer time with God, the positive self-talk, and the resolve to finish what you started.

Just Start – To finish what you start requires that you start. Seems straightforward, right?  You can complain, change the timeframe, make excuses, rationalize, and simply quit. None of them are effective at completing the project, keeping commitments, or fulfilling a promise. Just start – then keep going until you’ve succeeded at the task. Psalm 20:4 offers this hope “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.” I’m not making this up.  Remember when I suggested talking to God about all that’s getting in your way? Isaiah 40:31 has you covered. “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” 

There is no miracle cure for an overextended schedule, burdens don’t evaporate along with vaporous time.  (James 4:14)

This is the weekend and before we know it, Monday will arrive. I love every day of the week, but I’m also persistently cheering for the underdog. Monday is the underdog by most people’s standards, so I’ve decided that every Monday is the day to be awesome. Pop quiz. Fill in the blank:  Ma_ic (g or n)?  Magic or Manic what’s your plan? You know Proverbs 15:22 has this to say “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Let’s plan now to make all our plans succeed. Attitude applies to everything we do, regardless of our position or the role we play. Attitude doesn’t remove the problem; it transforms our perception.

What happens if you peer into the future and see nothing but a bunch of discouraging stumbling blocks?  John 16:33 says we will have plenty of trouble. He also promises support in Psalm 68:19 “Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.”  So what to with all those stumbling blocks … flip them over and use them for stepping stones.

I still fail a lot. I often over pack my capacity. But it’s rare that my attitude prevents me from making progress. If I notice a lag in motivation, I remember those stumbling blocks are there for a purpose – to be used as stepping stones. Attitude transforms perception. Show up.  Act As If. Start. Never, never, never give up.

I love the Message translation of Galatians 5:16 “My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.”  That sounds like the best advice for every day.  Let’s get out there!

You were made to shine.  Seriously – you were made for  more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBoJZdgEt_U

 

How secure is your security blanket?

Yesterday we learned about Lucy. Don’t you love Linus? Let’s learn from him today.

We are a blanket family. I’m literally mesmerized by stores where walls breathe thick towels, floors are spongy with throw rugs, and blankets spill off shelves. Blankets, though, entice me most and even though my family laughs at me, they are all blanket people too. I have a ‘grandpa’s rag tag quilt’ every piece of it stitched together by a cherished friend, Sandy Joyce – homemade contentment.  Walk into my house, it doesn’t have to be winter; it doesn’t even have to be a cold spring, or cool fall. In any season we cocoon in plush, wraparound blankets – the ultimate comfort zone.  I think blankets are like comfort food for the soul.

I wonder if that’s why I love Linus. You know, the philosophical character in the Peanuts gang whose blue blanket seems to be part of his anatomy. Linus is rarely without that assurance of security clasped in his arms. He is faithfully devoted to it.  Snoopy’s frequent quest is to persuade Linus to give up his blanket, and sometimes he stretches the limit just to the line of possession, then Linus realizes his adoration and dependence on his blanket and pulls back before Snoopy can claim victory.

I can relate to Linus; not just because he is captivated by his blanket, but because of his passionate belief in his need for it.  It’s not the same, but Linus and his unshakable faith in his security blanket paints a picture of the unshakable faith I should have in the God who patiently reminds me in Jeremiah 32:17 “Oh, Sovereign Lord, you did indeed make heaven and earth by your mighty power and great strength. Nothing is too hard for you!” The issues I face, the questions I have, God has already decided the outcome. He asks us to pray, to ask in His name, not because He needs our help, but because we need that connection with the Sovereign Lord; we need that blanket of faith surrounding us; to be immersed in it like the lifeline that it is.

The conflicts of this life and the complexities of relationships are exhausting. I find myself starting a project but derailing to reach for my phone with every version of the Bible in searchable text, craving help from the King. I spend a lot of time in the Old Testament where the culture is nothing like ours, but the people were human and fractured just like us. One verse speaks of that in Deuteronomy 17:8 “If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the Lord your God will choose.” At this time judges were the decision makers, but they followed the direction of the Lord God. I keep reminding myself that God requires so little of me. I love the way He instructs through Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good, and what the Lord really wants from you: He wants you to promote justice, to be faithful, and to live obediently before your God.” That’s all He wants from me – to be faithful and obedient before God.

When I feel perplexed and uncertain, when I’m exhausted from the struggle, when I’ve reached the end of myself, I can be like Linus and grasp onto the Lord, my security blanket, because he isn’t just powerful, he is power. And God is not of questionable character, nor does he ever make mistakes.  Right now, I’m praying for protection from the enemy of my soul who wants nothing more than to see me descend into the pit.  As I was studying and reading, and foraging for reassurance, I turned to Ephesians 1:20-22 in the Message. “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything.”

At age 5 I learned “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3  The same God who David wrote about is the same God of today. Malachi 3:6 says “I the Lord do not change.” God is who He says He is, never changing, always watching, forever acting, and His power is not diluted regardless of the number of projects He’s working on.

This next verse has nothing to do with security blankets, but it gave my spirits a lift and became my favorite Proverb for today Proverbs 20:28 “Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure.”

The more I notice …..

Today, the writer of a blog, Wisdom from a Father, discussed things he’s noticed lately. To sum up his blog he adds this THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: God, clear my mind of any negative thoughts today, so I may see the designed plan You have for my life. Amen!  At the end of his blog Father asks “What about you, what have you noticed lately?”

This is my response to his question, although I could think of many more:

I’ve noticed the more I think of others, the less I think of myself.
I’ve noticed the more creativity I practice, the more creative I become.
I’ve noticed the less I compare, the more content I am.
I’ve noticed the more I try to find the good in every day, the less I feel like the world is bad.
I’ve noticed the more I focus on joy, the more joyful I am.
I’ve noticed the more positive my attitude, the less my heart is darkened by doubt
I’ve noticed the more I pray, the less I worry.
I’ve noticed the less I worry, the more faith I have.
I’ve noticed the less I think about what others think of me, the more I like who I am.
I’ve noticed the more I focus on what I have, the less I focus on what I’ve lost.
I’ve noticed the more I develop my strengths, the less time I waste on things that are futile.
I’ve noticed the more I trust God, the stronger my faith becomes.
I’ve noticed the more I love God, the more I love all people.
I’ve noticed the better I am at putting God first in my life, the more I stay on track.
I’ve noticed the more I stay on track, the less I feel like my life is a train wreck.
I’ve noticed the more I think about things that are good, honorable, pure, and lovely, the more peace I have.

Philippians 4:5-9 “Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 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.”

Dear Lord, God, Help me to remember that everything I have comes from you. Impress on my heart a true spirit of gratitude. Please give me pure thoughts, a gentle spirit, wisdom to know your will, and discernment to make wise choices. Keep my eyes on you, my heart from idols, and my mind steadfast against perils of the world. Shine your light on my path and give me feet that follow you. Give me opportunities to show your love to people who feel like they don’t matter. Help me to notice when things aren’t right and give me courage to correct them. Every day is a gift, dear God. Please help me to treasure it. You deserve my best. Help me to notice when I’m selfishly reserving the best for myself. Be my true north, Lord. Thank you for my family, my friends, my life. Thank you for nature, thank you for holding everything together with your power.  I love you, Lord. Amen

The blog of Wisdom From a Father titled Five Minute Friday – Notice is found here http://wisdomfromafather.com/2014/11/21/five-minute-friday-notice/    I hope you read his list, then thoughtfully consider things you’ve noticed.

United in Mind and Thought

I’m not sure why, but I can’t enter a Christmas season without celebrating the Peanuts gang and Charlie Brown!

I learned a life lesson from a cartoon awhile back – remember Lucy and Linus? Let’s observe Lucy today and come back tomorrow when we talk about Linus.

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.  This congregated group could have been like the early church described in Ephesians 4. “…some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, attaining maturity and  unity of the faith through knowledge of the Son of God”

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.  They were supportive in their truth. 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? And manipulative! Please – not manipulative!  Back in Ephesians 4:14 Lucy realized she wanted to be nothing like those people from Ephesus  “…tossed back and forth by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.”  Lucy 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 Lucy’s. 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 is instructed in Ephesians 4:15 “Practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head.”  Lucy also learned that her friends were supporting her by being truthful about what they observed.  Did you know that the word ‘support’ literally means to ‘increase the potential of another’?  Here are a couple other Lessons from Lucy.

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 “Now give me wisdom and discernment so I can effectively lead this nation. Otherwise no one is able to make judicial decisions for this great nation 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!

The showdown between problems and opportunities

How do you feel about change? Excited? Frightened? Neutral?   How do you feel about new opportunities? Ah, that changes things, doesn’t it? We like change as long as we get to be the change agent, but we might not be so fond of change when it’s imposed on us. I saw the title of a book once that read, “Change is good.  You go first”.  Whoever thought that up must have had lots of experience. I like change, am energized by it in fact, and can’t wait for new experiences to stem from it, even when it means more work or extra effort.  I love change … most of the time. But what do I do when something outside my control disrupts my life forcing me to adapt to a situation that was not my first choice? Life can change in a heartbeat.

When we are faced with circumstances that are not our first choice and we struggle with what to do next, we can sink into despair or we can stretch our resolve and grasp this new opportunity. It is never easy to change perspective when our situations are painful.  A lost job, a devastating illness, chronic pain, overwhelming financial burdens, death of a loved one – none of these changes are what we would choose for ourselves, but they are real.

We ask where is God in all this? If God loves me, how can this happen? How can I be joyful when everything is against me? My stamina has worn down to one thin nerve and it’s ready to snap. Wow! Exhausting, isn’t it? We could so easily give up our faith in times like these, but there is every reason not to. There is every reason to create opportunities from the rubble.  We need a plan, a map, and a compass. Don’t try this alone!

Start this new venture with the words of God in your heart. Joshua 1:9 God’s command is to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  See? Even when we a distressed, even when we can’t see the hand of God, He is there putting the pieces together.  We have to let Him be the master of our map. Isaiah 55:8 confirms that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are Gods’ ways our ways.  We have to put our faith in the sovereignty of God. Whether we want to give Him the control or not, that’s what we have to do. Yes, right down to that irritating situation that has us so frustrated.   God gets to decide anyway, so give it to Him.

What can we do with the problems of today? Can we lay them out on our map, point the compass of our faith to true north and seek God’s help in finding opportunity? Can we bring harmony out of chaos, replace anxiety with peace?  Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Life is tough. Pray hard. Let’s get out there and live in opportunity.

Mastering Monday – Here’s your parachute

It’s Monday everyone. A new day. A new week. What will it bring? Every day is new, but isn’t there something about Monday that just seems different?file0001754310068Some of us love Monday and enthusiastically run into the day with the joyful anticipation of a sky diving adventure. Others plod toward it with strained resistance like wearing the parachute that’s all burden and no adventure. Most of the time, I’m in camp #1. I look forward to Monday. Yes, even though it means leaving the freedom of the weekend behind. Other times my anticipation gets a little tarnished and much effort goes into polishing my attitude before I jump into the unknown. Why is that?

If today is one of those days entered tentatively, even fearfully, remember this word: faith. We we don’t have to walk through this day in the dark. I started preparing for this Monday on Saturday and Sunday. It was like packing my parachute for adventure.  I took a faith walk through some of the Psalms and revisited some promises in Isaiah and gave my mind an overdose of positive thoughts in Philippians 4.  Today has arrived and I’m ready. After absorbing the truth of Psalm 119 and claiming the promises in Isaiah 58:11, I came to the conclusion this morning in John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

God told us not to worry about the future.  We can make wise choices and get everything right, but still we can’t control it. Anticipating the future can be exciting. It’s like skydiving. You’re up there in a plane with nothing but you and your parachute. You know it will open on the way down; that’s the faith part.  But there’s still that leap into the unknown, the adrenaline rush, the experience. Whether we approach our day with excitement or dread, it’s our faith that carries us to safety. That’s what we need to do with this day. Let our faith carry us into a day that becomes our joy because we have our faith on and our radar tuned to God’s best.

Let’s let go of the fears and go with God today – make that giant leap of faith. file9091310183759 Now throw me that parachute and let’s do this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkpRIx7jMp4&NR=1&feature=endscreen

I really like the words in Psalm 119:105-112 from The Message translation. Here are some of my favorite parts. By your words I can see where I’m going; they throw a beam of light on my dark path. I’ve committed myself and I’ll never turn back from living by your righteous order. Everything’s falling apart on me, God; put me together again with your Word. Please keep speaking to me, God; teach me your holy rules. … don’t let me forget what you have revealed.  When I’m thrown off track, don’t let me swerve from your course. Your book on life is a gift and it makes me happy. I concentrate on your words and doing what you say.

Ready team? Let’s get out there!

Treat yourself to joy every day!