Trust

I woke up this morning with these words on my heart “Trust in the Lord”  and I haven’t been able to get them off my mind.  Just for today –I’m going to show you where God said my focus needed to be today.  I hope these verses get inside your heart and give you precious comfort and unspeakable joy today.

Psalm 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

Psalm 73:28 It is good for me to be near God.  I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;  I will tell of all your deeds.

Psalm 118:8 It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.

Proverbs 3:1-6 My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, they will bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Psalm 37:3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

There have been many things to pray about lately. These are not ambiguous requests like pray for all the missionaries, or pray for good weather.  No.  These are specific, urgent requests.  When someone asks you to pray – you can at that moment, pray. You can bookmark your place and pray later.  When you pray, it’s an acknowledgement that God is sovereign, he holds the power, he is our firm foundation and it is he who controls the universe. Go to the rock.   Isaiah 25:4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.

Out of a blank mind…

I have heard that when you ask a woman what she’s thinking, and she says. “Nothing” she is, in fact thinking about what to cook for dinner, picking up the dry cleaning, returning books to the library, sending a birthday card, calling her sick friend, adding to her shopping list, and fetching the kids from school.  But ask a man that same question and when he responds “Nothing” he is, in fact, thinking of nothing. Every morning, when I wake up, there is a menagerie of thought in my head – not this morning. I have no idea where my mind had gone because when my opportunity clock went off, it sounded to me like a far distant pinging. Zig Ziglar said an optimist has an opportunity clock; it’s the pessimist who wakes to an alarm.  Maybe you have an opportunity clock too.  If not you might what to go get yourself one.  They are a fabulous invention!

There’s a problem with waking up with a blank mind though….deciding on the story to tell today. Oh no! Rambling, random thoughts from my notebooks.  Hang on.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Contentment – is not what you get, it’s being satisfied with what you already have.  Contentment is not complacency, nor an escape from life’s challenges; it’s about peace in your circumstances. Paul was content because he devoted himself to rejoicing. Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! “ And Philippians 4:12 “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

Gratitude – there is nothing wrong with wanting good things unless those things become too important to me.  Be thankful for the little things, especially those you never think about. The heart is our control center – feed it constantly with an attitude of gratitude.  Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Colossians 3:15 says to “Let peace rule your heart  . . .  and be thankful.”

Trouble – What day goes by that doesn’t have a little bit of trouble.  What can we do with trouble – learn from it. Trouble can terrify or it can transform.  Life is a series of problems, but they are all teaching moments – even those that are devastating and seem impossible to us. 1Peter 4:12  lays it out for us “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” Don’t be surprised – I’m often surprised when bad things happen, especially to my friends.  Somehow I find it hard to fit devastating circumstances into the framework of ‘good’.  After all doesn’t the Bible say in Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”?  That’s what we hang on to – that somehow, God will bless this person who loves him, with a good outcome – even if we don’t understand how this can be good.  2Corinthians 4:17 says “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Most of all – through it all, this is my forever prayer.  I’m sure David won’t take me to court for quoting him. Psalm 119:33 “God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course. Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—my whole life one long, obedient response. Guide me down the road of your commandments.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEsghRJI2kw

Good, better, best ….

Good, better, best …. give it a rest!

We’ve all heard it, right?  Good, better, best; never let it rest; until your good is better; and your better is its best.  It’s Friday.  What if for today, we take a break from trying to do better. What would it hurt to assess what we’ve accomplished through a clear lens, free of criticism.  How about this. Reach over right now and get a piece of paper and a pencil. Write yourself a note listing what you do well. You know what they are:  good listener, ready to lend a hand, conscientious worker, spiritual counselor, prayer warrior, involved grandparent, positive attitude, talented in your profession.  I read this passage where the Queen of Sheba applauds Solomon’s reputation.  2Chronicles 9:5-7 ““It’s all true! Your reputation for accomplishment and wisdom that reached all the way to my country is confirmed. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself; they didn’t exaggerate! Such wisdom and elegance—far more than I could ever have imagined. Lucky the men and women who work for you, getting to be around you every day and hear your wise words firsthand!” We know Solomon had wisdom, was intelligent, and was even a king – but even he didn’t get it right every time.

Give yourself credit for finishing a book, grocery shopping without complaining, taking time to help a co-worker with their project even though it put you behind on yours, getting started on your laundry early, keeping the cars filled with gas, being helpful to a  neighbor, taking time to visit a friend, mowing the lawn, organizing a room, crossing 3 things off your over-stretched to do list. Hebrews 6:10 “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”

Let’s have one day of applause for just being.  Plan for tomorrow, live for today and let’s open the door wide to the possibilities waiting just outside – no heroics, nothing spectacular, but just having an attitude of gratitude, finding the little splashes of right instead of all that has gone wrong.  Go toward the light. Here’s encouragement for your day from 2Corinthians 8:10 “So here’s what I think: The best thing you can do right now is to finish what you started last year and not let those good intentions grow stale. Your heart’s been in the right place all along. You’ve got what it takes to finish it up, so go to it. Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t. “

Let’s do what we can today.  Ready?  Let’s get out there!

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

Random Intent

Technology and super highways; smart cars and smart phones; vitamin water and propel – what do those things have in common?  No, the answer isn’t nothing. Think about it. They represent the warp speed of this life we’re living. I love technology, I love my smart phone, I think about health and staying active. I’m taking a wild guess here, but you do too.  If we aren’t actively engaged in activity we feel like we should be doing ‘something’.  If I don’t have anything to do, I go find something to do. Coasting is not on my agenda and I bet it’s not on yours. Maybe one of the reasons we don’t coast is because it gives us too much time to think, to wonder, to remember ….

Last night was our regular motorcycle gang ride to a restaurant. The distance was longer than normal and the material I brought along to read, was too short. Dilemma. Instead of reading, I had thinking, wondering, remembering.  I was thinking of a sweet friend of mine from church, Marcia, who introduced our Women’s Refining Graces Ministries to performing Intentional Acts of Kindness. I was remembering stories of people who went to pay for their Starbucks and found that the car in front had already paid for their order; someone stopped to get gas in their car and found a gift card stuck to the pump handle; another person was in line at the grocery store and someone paid for their order. Those Intentional Acts of Kindness are monetary, as gifts often are, but there are other ways to show kindness to someone you care about. Mother Teresa is credited with saying “We can’t do great things. We can only do small things with great love.”

Today – and tomorrow – Intentionally show someone you care about them, that you love them, that you are thankful for them. Is there a child in your home? A teenager; even one who avoids you? They need a hug, a full arms around the shoulders, embracing, solid hug. They need to  hear the words, “I love you no matter what.”  They have a tiny flame inside their hearts and it needs to be brighter.  Turn on your heart light so they can turn on theirs. Be brave mom and dad; brother, sister, grandma, grandpa.  Psalm 16:8 says  “I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  Scary territory dealing with emotional powder kegs.

Today, as I was praying, God impressed on me to explain what it means to me to live intentionally and open my heart to share with others out of my deep faith, not out of deep pockets. We all have limited resources. I don’t know anyone who has an unlimited supply of cash and who has no idea what to do when all they have are tiny bits of white space in their life. How can we perform an Intentional Act of Kindness?  There’s your answer. Start with one. Then repeat. Do just one. We’ve all heard of the downward spiral of defeat – well why not the upward spiral of inner joy? It can happen to you. It can.

So first let’s start here. “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18   Then, intentionally pray for ideas because they will come.  Need a kick-start? (Does anyone even know what that means anymore? When was the last time you saw anyone kick-start anything?)   How about these ideas to kick-start your own Intentional Acts of Kindness.

  • Leave a note on someone’s desk that says – I hope your day is fantastic today!
  • Send an email message to anyone in your contact list to say you’re thinking of them. It can be a 5 second communication.
  • From Marcia – Leave a bag with some quarters in it at the Laundromat with a card that makes it obvious that they are left Intentionally.
  • Mail a post card, mail a letter
  • Smile and Intentionally say hi .. and when you say “How are you?” really, really mean it.
  • Make some small cards or buy gift enclosure cards in advance and randomly write kind words, a Bible verse, or encouragement. Drop them into grocery carts or bags as you pass people leaving the store, leave them on desks, on a car windshield (when there is no rain in sight), you can figure it out.  Pretend you’re in the secret service … because you are, sort of.
  • OK so sure, pay for someone’s order if you have the resources and you are lead to do so.

The only requirement for an Intentional Acts of Kindness is that it be from a heart with right motives. It isn’t an Act of Kindness if done with the wrong motives. God will honor your Intentional Acts if done from a heart of love. The person on the receiving end will be blessed and you will be too. Blessings aren’t always tangible, but they are felt in the heart like a laser light show of joy.   I promise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NreUhPk9s9Y

Different Fruit

Fruit! When I was in high school you never wanted your name and that word to be used in the same sentence. A fruit was crazy, odd, wacky, weird or (gasp) different from everyone else … or that’s how that person appeared. Last night at our closing Vacation Bible School program we learned about being fruit from our kids; in fact we were encouraged to let our lives be fruit.  Galatians 5:22 “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.  Hmmm….what do you think?  I’m thinking, being a fruit is kind of a good thing.

There might be a reason why God inspired Paul to put love first in that verse. Think of someone right now that you avoid because you cannot love them. You know God will bless you for loving them.  Matthew 5:44 spells it out “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in Heaven.” That person might be snarly, irritating, and unpleasant but you can love them – but you have to pray love into your heart. It won’t get there without a change of spirit – the fruit of the spirit is Love …

What will it take to have joy? The way to joy is this simple acronym: J-esus O-thers Y-ou  I still remember Mrs. McNeil teaching that song with the words written in big letters on an illustrated song book.  Jesus, Others, You what a wonderful way to spell joy.  It’s so easy to think of all the what-ifs and if-only and focus on ourselves first, then if we have enough energy we tend to others and finally we take the remnants of what we have left and think of Jesus. We’ve got that backward. God’s son deserves first place so that we can be powered by joy.

Kindness and goodness and gentleness. Is there someone who could use a tender word, a loving gesture, a hand written card, a phone call. When you feel like screaming at that child, could you step back and see, in that moment, the effects of being calm and gentle as opposed to a stream of unkind and hurtful words.  Remember you can’t get that back – the word that’s spoken.  Whether in anger or in love … what’s it going to be? The word that’s spoken can’t be taken back.

Faithfulness – we hear a lot about being true to ourselves. What about being true to others and being true to God.  There’s a man, Hezekiah in the Old Testament who we don’t hear much about but in 2 Chronicles 31:20 we learn that “he was doing what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God.”  In Psalm 31:23 we see the benefit of being faithful. “Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full.”

Self-control and come on already! Could I have a little patience over here? That driver poking along at 40 mph in a 55 mph zone? The one who also, by the way, thinks the turn signal is optional. How about the person in front of you in the checkout lane who’s talking on their cell phone, arguing with a toddler about why they can’t have one more piece of candy, and purchased three items without price tags … and you just want to pay for your one deli lunch and get out of there. Road rage … checkout line angst … patience. My dad used to say don’t pray for patience because you’ll surely get tribulation. Give me patience Lord, but hurry!

The next time someone calls me a fruit, I hope it’s because I have been living like one … one of the fruits of the spirit.

From the Message translation “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.” Galatians 5:22-23

Maybe we need a miracle to live out the fruits of the spirit.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kGaNrsWfsc

Downhearted? No!

Are we downhearted, no, no, no –  Are we downhearted, no, no, no – Troubles may come and troubles may go, but we’ll trust in Jesus … I remember standing up in children’s church at the age of 8 surrounded by other kid’s singing with our outside voices, boisterous and in no particular key. Singing and shouting – Are we downhearted?  No! No! No!   But sometimes we are downhearted.  It’s easy to sing the words, belt them out for all the world to hear, but rumbling deep inside is a source of discontent that doesn’t stop when we hear the music.  What we know at age 8 about being downhearted, is little comparison to how that translates into realities of adulthood.  Right?

That’s only partially right.  This is why.  Doesn’t life experience teach us that life is a series of good and bad, mountain top joy and pummeled defeat, troubles come and troubles go? How often do we prayerfully claim what Jeremiah says in chapter 32: 27 ““I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” I have countless times gone to the Lord and pointed out to him that I can’t change this circumstance, but “God, you can. Nothing is too hard for you.” Does that sound familiar?
At that point, my fretting should be over. When I pray, “God, please take this.” I should be at peace and let go of the tenacious grasp on whatever it is that’s robbing my energy and blinding me from noticing everything else that’s good in my life.  Time to trek back to the ultimate living document – the ‘thankful list’.  If you don’t have a thankful list, there are many benefits to having one.  When I forget about the blessings in my life, I am reminded of them when I read my thankful list.  I’m not sure how I came up with that idea back in the winter of 2003, but I remember I was leading a Bible study at the time and when we were in Isaiah, I was prompted to start writing down everything I was thankful for because when I was deeply discouraged, I needed the reminder that even though everything seemed to be working against me for that time, I had many more things to be thankful for.  The ‘thankful list’ replaces negative thoughts and renews my mind so I can think of good things.

Here are a few encouraging words for today. If you are in the dungeon of defeat, or scaling the top of the mountain remember that no matter what, no matter where, life is best when God is there.  I’m going to skip thought Isaiah 58 – hang on while we learn that God is with us. “your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you,  and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard…. you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame….. then you will find your joy in the Lord.” And Isaiah 60: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,  but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.

He is with you ,,,, God is with you,

 

wait – yes – no

I had a full night last night — my first ever marketing booth.  It was simple and low volume – just right for a beginner’s first.  And this morning I’m meeting a very dear friend to walk – probably walk too fast; and talk – that also too fast.  All that bundled together – it’s a jump start to a new day.  I hope you enjoy this rerun while I enjoy a little extra time with God this morning.  I pray God blesses your day with hope, endurance, and unshakeable faith.

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. My dear friend and also sister-in-law had started her message with 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 our sister-in-law’s successful eye surgery.  God said ‘Yes!’  We have some terms of endearment in our family, all surrounding prayer – and they’ve been in perpetual circulation for several years.  We “drag out our prayer rugs” and sometimes don’t roll them up and put them away for weeks.  We ‘PUSH’ Pray Until Something Happens until we are road weary from effort. Then, at a moment 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.”  Did you get that?  The way to conquer defeat is through faith. Let’s finish that thought – the one way to experience joy, is to experience Jesus, the Son of God.

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?

Reach out in faith, put on your armor, saddle up for the day,  let’s get out there!

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