Hazardous Driving Conditions

Yesterday I woke up exhausted – but it didn’t last long. I perked right up on the trek into work on the most treacherous road conditions of the winter so far. Not that my mind wandered too far away from the strategic mission of the moment – get in the car and drive – but some memories of the past skated through my mind.  Funny that both memories were of messages I received from two friends.  They were on separate occasions, one being a voicemail , received in February 1991 when we had a winter storm, and one was email after a winter storm in January 1998.  How do I remember them? Because I saved them in my heart and in my mind.  What we put in our minds stays there.  The email I kept in my day planner, and still have it.  In fact, this is what it says:  Subject line: Encouraging you!! Happy winter, did you have safety in travel to work? I hope so. A promise from the Lord for you today … Joshua 1  “As I was with Moses … I am with you … “Be strong and courageous! Be not dismayed … God is with you wherever you go … and in whatever you have need of today.”  At 30 miles per hour on roads where the white lines are indistinguishable from packed snow, I needed to know God was with me, taking care of whatever I needed – for that moment.

I recalled the memory of dragging into work on a stormy winter morning, then greeted by a voicemail from a friend at work who said, “Call me when you get in. I want to know you’re OK.  I prayed Psalm 91 over you this morning. I prayed that God would put angels around your car.” What? Did I hear that right? What was she talking about? I had to go look it up.  Here’s what I found Psalms 91:11-12 “He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling.”  Because I know I had read every chapter Psalms many times over the years, I was certain Psalm 91 would have been in my readings at least a few times. Guess what – I had never thought of angels actually guarding my car.

Since those days, I have prayed Psalms 91 often, mostly for others, but also for myself.  You can pray it too, even when you’re driving on solid ground.  You don’t have to wait till you’re skating on a road made for wheels that go around; not blades that run on ice.  All the way into work the radio announced new accidents every few minutes.  Cars rolled into fields, 3 car pile-ups, ditch parties, cars out of control, fire and rescue on the scene.  Where there’s an accident, when a rescue takes place, at the sound of a siren, the first thought through my mind is “Someone’s life is about to change.”  Humanly speaking we can do nothing to rewrite this moment, but we can pray. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 tell us “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you .” Sometimes there is no opportunity to do anything other than pray and how many times do the accidents and exasperating circumstances occur in the dark of night. Life is tough, pray hard, my friends. Psalms 130:5-6  “I pray to God—my life a prayer— and wait for what he’ll say and do. My life’s on the line before God, my Lord, waiting and watching till morning, waiting and watching till morning.”  Recently, I decided to read some obscure books  in the Old Testament that I hadn’t really paid attention to before.  I found this in the Message translation of Lamentations 3:22-24 “God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great is your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”  I’ve come to the conclusion that on good days, I need God and on bad days, I need God.  In fact, I’m glad God is on call 24/7 forever.  Hebrews 10:22-24 “ Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

What is your greatest need today?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ylnx0NA9X4

 

 

Lessons from Lucy

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!

Walk the Talk

If you’ve read this blog just a few times, you will know that I promote friendship, good relationships, and kindness. My main goal is to be an encouragement and produce a spark of joy to anyone who stops by to read. I had a family and friend filled weekend. From the Friday night birthday gathering to the fellowship chili dinner after our evening service at church, there is one word to describe it. BLESSED! As I was preparing to write this morning, I remembered the long overdue list of ‘friend’ related items that are “put aside till later” and realized what that means. For today, I gathered cards, addresses, stamps, and ‘the list’ – my mission? Walk the talk. Who am I to promote thoughtful care of friends in this blog, and then ignore that same act because I’m persistently ‘out of time’. In Matthew 22:37-39 “Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ”

It’s Monday and you know what that means.  Will you chose the G or the N?  You choose MA(N,G)IC.  I’m going with MAGIC Monday and on Tuesday (or Wednesday) a few of my friends will know that I thought of them and care about them.  How about you?  Is there someone who needs to know you care? It’s a pretty easy demonstration – if you carve out just a sliver of time.  You can do it!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxS9Mm-n-WA

Saturday Strategy

I woke up this morning – too early for a Saturday – with this thought on my mind.  “I look up to the mountains; does my strength come from mountains? No, my strength comes from God, who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.” Psalm 121:1  I knew instantly the source of that verse and why it woke me up. Last night, instead of reading before I drifted off to sleep, I wrote my Weekend Warrior Get-It-Done List. As I kept adding to it I remember thinking optimistically that I would certainly accomplish every item on my list. I envisioned crossing off task-by-task in anticipation of an afternoon and evening spent with friends. Great incentive!

I bounded out of bed just after 5:00 a.m., ran to make coffee, grabbed my Weekend Warrior Get-It-Done List from the table, and then the spark of insight! It came something like this. “ERGH! Planning for the day and reality of the day are in serious controversy. Hmmm. What if I chuck the list, forget it’s there, do nothing but play all day?” I could do nothing, but here’s where pragmatism has definite advantage. I know these things are true:

a)      today is a gift – John 9:4 “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day;”

b)     every minute that passes is a minute I can’t get back – James 4:14  “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

c)      I will be sorry I didn’t use my minutes wisely – Deuteronomy 5:32 “So be very careful to act exactly as God commands you. Don’t veer off to the right or the left. Walk straight down the road God commands so that you’ll have a good life and live a long time in the land that you’re about to possess.”

There will be no escape from being overwhelmed if I don’t act on those things that last night I was confident I could complete, if I worked at it with all my heart.  Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord …”

The first thing I did (even before the first cup of coffee) I got on my knees and prayed that I would stay focused, not veer to the left or right, but stay on task. Then I looked at the list again and remembered how to move a mountain. Mark 11:22-23 “Jesus said to them, “Have faith in God. 23 I tell you the truth, if someone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m going with that Saturday strategy. Outta my way mountain, I’m coming through.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa1hABLMzDE

 

Disappointment

My heart ached for my friend who tearfully said, “I’m so disappointed.” She didn’t even have to tell me why; I just knew her spirit was crushed at that moment because something had gone wrong. I visited my daughter who, at age 38, had a stroke and is enduring an intense, laborious recovery. I see progress, but she sees disappointment.  In the past two weeks alone, I have received email or calls from friends whose painful disappointments were impacting their ability to rise above the fear and frustration of their situations. In every case, they said, “Please pray that God will ….” And I prayed along with them that God would soothe their hurting spirit, renew their hope, and give them peace while they worked through their disappointments.

Have you experienced disappointments? One day is filled with excited anticipation of an event only to have it cancelled; a decision made after weeks of deliberation seemed perfect at the time, but has turned uncertain; a failed business; a broken relationship; lost opportunities; promises without intent to fulfill – disappointment!  We all know how to define disappointments, but do we know how to prevent disappointment from defining us? When disappointment comes to us, how do we react? Sometimes the pierce of disappointment is so deep we feel like there’s a hole in our heart so deep we can’t breathe.  David felt like that many times.  I think that’s why he wrote so many Psalms that spoke about how he was feeling inside. Psalms 63:1 NKJV “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.”  Psalms 94:19 NKJV “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.”

David knew that when disappointments came to him, he had to turn his cares, worries, and frustrations over to the One who knew his heart, and knew all about him, but loved him anyway.  This scripture is from the New Testament, written long after David’s life had ended, but it’s  timeless, unchanging and eternal. John 11:9 NKJV “Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”

Disappointments are like pulling the shades down on a sunny day. We start the day with plans for a productive day with happy occasions and positive relationships. There is bright hope; life is good … and then something happens to put the day in shadows.  This is the time to remember something Charles Swindoll said in his famous message about attitude.  “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”  When disappointment comes – and it will – be prepared!  What tools can we use to prevent the descent into anxiety and depression when we are disappointed at life?

First, find things to be thankful for. Go back to yesterday and further back and recite. If you’re keeping a list of things you are thankful for, now is the time to grab that list and ingrain your brain with thankfulness.  Second, what can you learn from this disappointment? How can your reaction transform this disappointment into something positive? I know some disappointments are so debilitating, thinking of anything positive seems impossible.  But is there a glimmer of hope beyond the disappointment?  When I’ve been disappointed, I try to project a positive action by doing something for someone else. Remember those pity parties.  They are lonely and miserable and nobody wants to go.

Disappointment! It’s a fact of life. Will it make you bitter or make you better? Make it your aim to rise above disappointment and find joy.  Hebrews 4:16 (KJV) “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Bring on the Day!

Just wondering . . . have you ever had a day when everything went right? Maybe it will be today.  It’s a NEW DAY everyone and it’s Friday.  Today I am thankful that there is a new day out there, are you? Before the sun comes up …  think of it … what will I do today to make it better than the last?  I have an idea.  The first thing is protect my first half hour of the day.  Proverbs 4:23 directs us to “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.”  I wish it were as easy as putting that on a to-do list and at night, move it to the all-done list.  Instead my heart is in competition with all the distractions of the day that try to drag me down. I’m pretty sure that’s why God created us with heels – so we could dig in and be tenacious in our pursuit of Joy.

Whatever happened yesterday, all the good and all the bad – well, that is so yesterday.  What can we do with the past? Uh-uh! We don’t dwell on it. We learn from it and move on. If it was a great day, strive for an instant repeat today. Sometimes I think we need one of those wands that come with gaming systems.  “Bring me one of those joysticks and let me pass it over the landscape before I enter.”  Sounds like a great plan, doesn’t it?  1 Chronicles 16:10 says “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.”

Mark 1:35 records for us ”Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” That sounds like a great plan!  In fact, I’m sure that’s where joy begins.  I was reading Psalm 50 and loved this verse that ended the chapter.  It says “It’s the praising life that honors me. As soon as you set your foot on the Way, I’ll show you my salvation.”  There are few absolutes in life, right?  But this, I know for sure. No matter what, no matter where, life is good, when God is there. The top priorities on every to-do list are ‘Honor God’ and ‘Serve Him Always’.  Sometimes I forget to guard my heart and mind. I have to remind myself to fix my eyes on Jesus because he is Lord of my life and I love him.  Hebrews 12:2 Talks about “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” In this life as we walk by faith, let’s remember that “If we get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself.”  I pray joy over your day today.  Let’s boldly go into it with a spirit of joy. Bring on the day!

Remembered for …

Many years ago I read the book by Steven Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I can’t say the book changed my life, but if asked, I could probably still recite the list of habits. One, however was seared into my mind and frequently comes back to me.  You may have guessed it’s Begin With the End in Mind. The deep meaning behind that thought consistently impacts my acts and reactions. If you don’t know the analogy, let me help you out.  In his book, Covey asks his readers to imagine being at their own funeral and observing what the guests say about them.  I know. Who wants to do that?  But embedded in that statement is the reality that our lives are made up moments all strung together that make us who we are. At any given point we have opportunity.  What do we do with these strung out opportunities that define our lives? More pointedly, what is the attitude that characterizes me?  I’m convicted daily of how many times I say “I want to . . .” or “I should do ….” I catch myself falling into the pattern of aimless wandering because I’m so busy.  Some would say, ‘You’re over committed and should give some things up.”  Really?  But these things that keep me so busy are the acts I’ve chosen because I want to be remembered for them; still I want to do more, take on another activity, another project, another hobby, another – well you understand.  So the key is the decision point – at the junctures of all those strung out moments how do I decide?  How can I sort out the important from the trivial and the memorable from the meaningless?  When I look at all those decisive moments that have become my life, what do I want to be remembered for? I’ve thought of a few.

  • Faith in God and complete trust in His sovereignty:  While this sounds simple, it’s a serious act of turning over my will to God’s will even when I don’t understand His ways.
  • My relationships – wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend:  My role is to be loving, attentive, empathetic, authentic, involved, thoughtful, encouraging, supportive, and spread infectious joy.
  • Employee, co-worker:  How to carry my fair share of the work, be a team player, be genuinely supportive no matter what, be loyal, practice gratitude, be complimentary, give recognition, project joy
  • Personally: Be discerning, live with integrity, be diligent, act with kindness, take care of my physical body, strengthen my mind, guard my heart and mind from deceit and wrong, be joyful

Admittedly, that’s quite a list and it could be even longer, more intense and transparently revealing.  In the context of a full life though, not impossible.  Much of my list is comprised of attitudes which in reality are the foundation of how I’ve built my life.   And Proverbs 4:23  says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues [attitudes] of life.”  I’ve never met anyone who lives more than one moment at a time. In fact, I don’t know of anyone who has more than 60 seconds in a minute or 24 hours in a day.  In Ephesians 5, I read the instruction to make the most of every opportunity.  When I look down from heaven I hope people use these words when remembering me: unshakable faith, kind, compassionate, made others feel like they matter, involved, eternal cheerleader, supportive, encourager, attitude of gratitude, enthusiastic, positive, lover of life, infectious joy.

Most of all I want to be remembered for being who God intended me to be and that regardless of all the defective decisions I’ve made, He was able to take the broken and rebuild them for good.  I am His workmanship, created by Christ Jesus to do good works. Ephesians 2:10  Here’s the wrap-up 2 Timothy 4:7 speaks to me.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1JBSQMkQEo