JOY – well, there’s that.

Do you ever feel like you never quite accomplish what you set out to do in a day? Not that you feel like a total slug, but there’s just something missing from the pattern so there’s a gap where achievement belongs.

I’m a list maker- and because I’m not unique in that capacity, my guess is that some of you are too. I used to do a few tasks, then sneak them onto my list, just so I could have the satisfaction of crossing them off. Come on – tell my you haven’t ever done that.

Lately though, I want to give up on my lists. I know. Right? How can that even be possible? It has nothing to do with lack of additions to it. Confession time. My lists have lists now and that makes me feel like a failure. My friend, Kim and I started the beginning of the year with weekly pages to keep us motivated and actively checking things off as we completed them.

At first my pages looked like Swiss Cheese, but then began to look like a deep, empty well pit. We need a new beginning and start over with the school year, but before then a new mindset. What does God say about my pattern? Does it look like what he envisioned? Or is it messed up too much with my ideas and not enough of his?

In days like this, I’m glad God doesn’t have mood swings. In fact, no matter how many times I get distracted, accomplish nothing, and do life my own way, God just says, ““I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Every morning (well, almost every morning) I start my day with God. We have a conversation about what I don’t want to do because I want to get it right out there where I know what I’m dealing with. There’s nothing like getting a clear, prayerful understanding. Then I pop in the DVD for exercise, and finally after that, have quiet time with the Lord and have an attitude adjustment before the day comes rolling in full steam ahead. Mindset. Prepare. Choose Joy.God sings over you with joy

Then stuff happens.

At the end of the day I wonder what he would say if I asked, “God did I meet all your expectations today?” But you know what? I don’t think God loves me any less if I messed up his pattern. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty warrior who saves. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

You see, you can work hard or coast; make the most of every moment or waste the minutes. God delights in you with gladness. God rejoices over you with joyful songs. Anyone who sings over you, is not holding a grudge, is not angry, is not waiting to catch you up. He rejoices over you with joyful songs – no strings attached. God wants obedience and doesn’t want you to give up. God wants what’s best for you and that is believing him, trusting him, and loving him. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He expects us to stay faithful and not give up. He is a God of new beginnings.

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Jude 1:2

 

Sometimes my Tapestry Looks Like a Quilt Square

Does a thought every hit you and it just won’t leave your head? That happened to me when I woke up this morning – and it won’t leave my head because now it’s on my list.

That’s what I want to talk about – because – well, let me tell you.

A few years ago, I was really struggling with my purpose. I don’t want to bore you with all the years of introspection, self help books, and career counseling I went through to answer the simple question, “Why am I here?” I could go through a litany of ideas: corporate trainer, book author, professional blogger, social media diva – The truth is, my purpose is not one of those things. God showed me that my purpose is simply to do what he wants me to do every day. My purpose has nothing to do with what to be, but has everything to do with being what he calls me to be in the moment.

God calls some people to be ‘something’ he called me to just be. And now you know why I write about the craziness of lists. Maybe God has called you to be ‘something’, but what if he called you to love him and serve him in the moment? Our lives, no matter what, are never a straight line. Life is like tangled threads.

I like to think of life as a huge tapestry that God looks down on from his place in heaven. He sees the pattern, even the flaws where there are human errors, but he keeps weaving the threads anyway. We, who are the threads, see the process of the pattern. Doesn’t it look like a tangled mess at times?

quilt square - purpose

Yeh, sometimes my tapestry looks like a quilt square.

I remember writing in my journal one day. I was asking God what he envisioned for my life. I had recently been in an accident an nearly died. God chose to spare my life. That’s a pretty clear indication that he isn’t finished with me yet. After writing and hashing through a menagerie of my own thoughts, I asked, “What is your plan for me?” I didn’t hear an audible voice or anything, but I felt it. “Be you. I made you with the personality you don’t appreciate and gifts you think are not valuable. Use your attitude, talents, personality and gifts to encourage people who need to know they matter.”

My little part of the tapestry, my purpose, is to encourage people. I don’t want to mess that up because that would put a serious flaw in the pattern. My lists are all based on having a PEACEful heart. Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble.” If you’re curious, this is how my lists materialize to be purposeful and have a peaceful heart.

P – Pray – and have quiet time with the Lord. I pray and also write out my prayers to God and read his instruction manual, the Bible as well as a devotional.
E – Exercise – I don’t want my family to have to take care of me because I didn’t take care of myself when I had the chance. I have a reminder and I have another friend who won’t let me forget.
A – Accountability – I write on my list what I will be accountable for that day. A project, task, or appointment – and I often ask a friend to pray about this with me and hold me accountable because even though I am accountable to God first, it helps to have a coach.
C – Commitments – These are work I have promised to do for someone. It might be client work or it might be to take a meal to someone, visit a person who needs to be cheered up, during school season child care on Wednesday morning, or on specific Sundays help out in children’s church. God expects me to keep commitments. I write them down.
E – Encourage – In some way, every day, encourage someone. Write a card, send an email, give of my time to cheer someone up, use my words to bring joy to others. If I see someone without a smile, I share mine. Simple act, but sometimes I need to see that on my list to remember to be diligent about it.

So now you might understand my obsessions with lists that never end. We are all creating the tapestry that is life. God created us to be unique and recognize that we have value while we live our purpose. I don’t know your method or how you live your purpose, but I need a list so I don’t forget.

 

What do you find in the secret, in the quiet place? Is it God?

Do you ever wake up to your heart singing a song? This morning even before I opened my eyes I heard “In the secret, in the quiet place. In the stillness you are there. In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait only for you, so I can know you more …” I was faintly aware of a bird chirping at intervals from some hidden place outside my window, a backdrop to the concert surrounding my consciousness. In the secret, in the quiet place – that is where we find God. That is where we find healing and comfort. That is where we find strength and where we find hope.

I’m reading a book right now titled The Anatomy of Peace. It isn’t a Christian, biblically based book but it’s transformational for people who want to live in peace and make behavioral choices that heal their brokenness. As I read, this verse kept coming back to me. Psalm 37:37 “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.”

My heart is broken for a young couple who had a tragic motorcycle accident. God spared their lives but it will be a year and maybe longer before they are able to resume their normal lives. Many prayers are offered for them moment to moment. I pray for them and think of Psalm 119:50 “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

I have a friend who has suddenly been immersed in the role of caregiver for aging parents. When my mom was living through the final stages of cancer my sister was in a similar role and I stepped in only twice a month to give her some relief. When we are forced into a lifestyle we would never choose and wonder what this means for our future, remember Proverbs 24:14 “Know 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.” Pray for wisdom, God promises he will honor that. 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.”

Nothing catches God by surprise. Psalm 139:16 assures us of that. Whatever you are going through today in this moment has already passed through the hands of omniscient God. He knew the moments of your life before you were born.  “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I’ve often wondered about this questions in Psalm 42:2. 2 “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Does it mean when will I meet God face to face? Or was it written to encourage us to seek God and spend time with him in prayer and reading his letter written to us and printed in the form of a book, the Bible?

In the secret, in the quiet place – that is where we find God.

Chris Tomlin – In the Secret, in the quiet place. In the stillness You, God are there.

The advantages of bullying

I read a post once by an author Kristin Kuiper that starts out with “Most of us are familiar with bullying in one way or another—maybe you were made fun of as a child and those memories come to mind when you hear about mean things said to your own child at school.” and recognized myself in that first statement. My childhood was pretty normal, with only minor taunting and teasing. I can’t remember my own children complaining of more than a few incidents either. I consider us very lucky to have endured the growing up process without endless demoralizing. Fast forward to current times, I wonder if that would have been the case. A number of years ago, there was a commercial on TV that depicted a parent (not shown on screen) yelling mercilessly at their child (represented by fragile eggs). That commercial bothered me and in my conscience I still ‘see it’ today every time I hear about bullying and abuse.

When I hear or read words ravaged from anger they rip me apart. I wonder if all that energy spent on caustic put-downs could be used to far greater advantage if the words were changed to kindness and attitudes to compassion. There are zero advantages to bullying.  The bully, though, has no internal compass to direct thoughts of what they say or how they act. If they do have a compass, it seriously needs to be recalibrated. There is no such thing as perfect reactions, we all say things we don’t mean, and all have a thermostat that overheats now and then. Anger is a valid emotion and it rises to the surface at warp speed when the pressure is on and heat reaches the boiling point. Those occasions are resolved with thoughtfulness, confession and forgiveness – but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

The incidence of bullying is raging, more than many of us are aware of. We’ve seen an incremental rise in road rage. Disagreements are solved with defaming words brought out of conversations that were once private to a very public platform through social media. We are no longer able to say, “I disagree with you” without being badgered and emotionally bloodied. When did we become a society that turns the statement, “I disagree with you” into a lethal “I hate you”? Bullying has infiltrated schools, the workplace, and very disturbing – very public and powerful politics. When bullying is brought online, it is no longer between two people or a few people, the tentacles of hurt spread rapidly and the negative effects are rampant. Many years ago, far before personal computers were fixtures in homes and the Internet was only known to the military and educational institutions, I learned the mantra: Before you say it ask: Is it true? Is it encouraging? Is it necessary? That rule has recirculated over and over this past year and has taken on new characteristics, but with the same underlying meaning . Think before you speak and think before you post! There is no longer any assumption of privacy. If you say it – someone will make it public and it is subject to interpretation by individuals with their own filters.

There is no broad spectrum solution to bullying. It goes as far back as Adam and Eve. Bullies will always be with us. They are mean, unethical, cruel, egotistical, deceitful, prideful, and hear me on this – they are insecure. They elevate themselves by putting others down. Period. They are irritable, deeply unhappy and want others to join them in their misery. While easier said than done, I propose that those of us who value integrity and conscience, realize we are in the better position. We need to know ourselves so well and like ourselves enough that we ignore the painful jabs of the bully. If we are in a position to protect someone from bullying or help them overcome the effects of it, step up with confidence and pour into them courage and compassion. Healing Words

If you’re in the presence of bullies, remember your good qualities and your strengths to deflect feelings of inadequacy and tendency to believe the lies bullies plant in your mind. Write down what you like about yourself. Keep a running list of things you are thankful for. Be proactive and teach calmness and peace to children, grandchildren and even other adults who suffer at the hand of the insensitive and perpetually angry bully.

Being in the presence of bullies is like being at war with the enemy. Build your strong offense first so you can act it out and effect it in your defensive plan. And even though the bully doesn’t deserve it, kill them with kindness. Kindness could even come in the form of ‘no response’ at all. In fact, that “no response at all” could be your best offensive move against the cruel attacks of a bully.

Will yourself to find the good in life. Be joyful – and if you don’t feel joyful, act as if you are joyful until your emotions catch up with your will.

Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are troubled and evil, but for those who seek joy and have a cheerful heart, life is a continual feast.

Go ahead. Forget about it.

Maybe it’s just me, but have you noticed a steady stream of opportunities to buy a product that will bring instant success or purchase services that promise success if you follow a particular program  – paid for in advance, of course. There is nothing wrong with selling for success. There is much to be valued about marketing convincingly, the philosophy behind it, and why it’s critical to our economy from the smallest business to the mega enterprise. I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing on a totally different plane though. How many times have you heard that we are products of our environment? We are who we are because of our families, the schools we attend, the neighborhoods we live in, and the friends we hang out with. Those are influencing factors, especially considering the amount of time immersed in any one of them. The way we act, and maybe even more importantly, the way we react becomes our brand. The more intimate we are with our brand, the deeper we settle into our comfort zone. And let’s face it; sometimes that comfort zone is really not all that comforting.

I’ve recently talked with friends who suffer through anxiety and others who are demoralized by depression. Because our friendships have been years in development listening and observing has given me insight into conditions that contribute to these pressing emotions. I’ve heard the analogy used before about our past being like recorded tapes that play over and over in memory, but they affect today. I understand that analogy and can see the detriment of allowing those tapes to cycle in endless repeat. It begins to feel hopeless. Is there a way to turn off those memories of the past so they don’t affect the future? Let’s try for one moment at a time.Philippians 3-13

I have to use the off switch frequently because I have tapes that switch on and play in my head too.  At that moment, I remember that it’s up to me to reach up there and snap that setting to OFF and take captive a new thought about something positive. God does not want me to dwell on what might have been – if only ….  2 Corinthians 10:5 says “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  Jesus Christ does not want my energies to be wasted on negative thoughts of past event.  In fact, remember these words of the Apostle Paul when he encouraged people to forget the past. Philippians 3:13-14 “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Does this mean our memories are completely gone? No, but it means for each negative thought that comes from the past, we can see things from a new perspective if we replace that thought with actions that will affect the present and the future.  You see, the only thing we can do with the past is learn from it.  The past is gone forever – so that thing that you can’t fix? It’s gone. It’s in the past. It’s history.  Today, in this moment, choose a new thought. And make it a right thought. Every act was once a thought.  Our minds are powerful tools. Nurture them with right thinking and they will become right doing.

Where to start? Here are a couple thoughts.  Seek God and make him Lord of your thoughts, your actions, and your life. In this way rise above those circumstances brought on by negative thoughts from the past. Deuteronomy 4:28 “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

It isn’t easy to empty your heart of all it’s fear and let go of things held so tightly in our grasp. It feels right to be in control and handle our own situations, but they just become more of a burden. God gets to decide anyway so why not turn it over to him right up front and let him take control.  Trust isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

At the crossroads … which path?

How is your day going so far? Can I just say it? I’ve had way better days – and it’s not even 8:30 am yet. It’s been a whole series of things gone wrong from a broken online order to my really good monitor biting the dust. Oh boy! I need to break away from the claws the enemy of my soul is trying to drag across my spirit.

I look around and consider how trivial my irritations are. The spiral of defeat goes around and around making me crazy, but here’s an opportunity – take the path toward the light and reclaim my joy or continue my descent into the dark pit.

That is so not happening! In Jeremiah 6:16 “The Lord said to his people: You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.” But they said, “We will not follow it!”  path to joy


I’m disappointed in today so far – but this is just the beginning and you know? I’m at that crossroads. Maybe you are too. The reliable path says God knew all about this day. Nothing catches him by surprise. Sometimes choices aren’t so obvious, but you know and I know if there is a path to blessing, we want that one. Right?

What do you say? I assure you, nobody wants to take the path to a pity party. I’m choosing the path that leads to blessing and follow it. Come along. How about if you join me?

Is it time to leave Normal?

Many years ago there was a movie titled ‘Leaving Normal’.  I remember the premise was life changes in advancing years and the name of the town the actress lived in was ‘Normal’.  Sort of play on words. For about six weeks this summer, I left ‘Normal’.  I exchanged a summer-flexible schedule in Michigan for a totally non-committed boomerang schedule through Nebraska, Northern Michigan, and Colorado. Right. Boomerang. After all that, I feel like I’ve returned to a planning and organizing demolition project. If you’ve been on vacation or traveling, maybe you can relate.

I invested in a few tools to help with the chaos and clutter, so I’m hopeful. Not the kind of tools you carry in your toolbelt, but the kind that will help bring order out of chaos, support a healthy lifestyle, and provide spiritual reinforcement. We all need a starting place when it seems there is no recognizable place to start. I’m probably taking it all out of context, but Romans 7 really speaks to me when I consider how the clutter and chaos overwhelming my physical life could be synonymous to the clutter and chaos in my spiritual life.  I can tolerate chaos more than a lot of people, but there’s a tipping point when tolerance is exhausted and turmoil dumps me headfirst into chaos and I have trouble exiting the spiral.

You might not recognize it on the outside, but my old sinful nature is clamoring to do some damage inside. Before that happens, I know somethings have to change.  I’m a list maker, and what does a list maker do when there is too much to do? Make a list of everything to do. Right? If you feel like that right now, go ahead. Make a list. Here’s the thing. On that list, did you write, “Spend time with God”? Almost every single time, I have to go back and add that to the top of  my list. Believe me. I’ve been making lists a long time and I still forget – but in the State of Confusion (which really does exist), well, God is the ultimate write-in.

Do you ever feel like if someone touched you, you would break into a million pieces because everything hurts from the inside out? It’s only the enabling from God working alongside you that gives you the strength and attitude to keep going. This is where Romans 7:18 comes in. “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Nothing good ever comes from allowing clutter and chaos to continue.

One benefit of working through the chaos in life is recognizing that it’s not that much different than the chaos in spiritual life. We need to be sorting out what to keep and what to get rid of on the basis consistent of what pleases God.  Psalm 18:16 in the Message translations says it just about right.  “But me he caught—reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of that ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning.” Then look how Psalm 51:10 adds incentive to keep praying, “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!”

future selfHere’s a question to ask yourself. What is normal for me? Is my normal OK? Or is my life a mess? Should I leave Normal? Do I need to do some decluttering and exit the chaos created by poor choices, unforgiveness, lack of spiritual food, negative attitudes, selfishness, mixed up priorities, or maybe just not caring anymore. A friend and I are meeting weekly for Bible study and let me share what we have read every week. It’s hope, it’s confidence that we can benefit from the messiness of life and find the good in our circumstances – and it’s free. Here’s opportunity, a passageway to a New Normal: “We can rejoice, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” Romans 5:3, 4

If life today isn’t how you want it to be tomorrow, leave normal. Start where you, attitude is a good place, and start sorting. Decide what needs to go and what needs to stay, what you should do less and what you should do more. Choose joy.  Joy is an inside job. It keeps you hopeful and optimistic and focused while you find happiness, contentment, and your new normal.