Why pray when you can worry?

It’s a new day, everyone! Ready…set..then what? Some of us love moning and enthusiastically anticipate what it will bring. Others of us plod toward it with resistance – like straining concrete.  Most of the time, I’m in camp #1. YAY morning! Other times my joy over a new day gets a little tarnished and much effort goes into polishing my attitude before I jump into the unknown. Why is that? Instead of saying “Good morning, Lord.” I say “Good Lord, it’s morning.” I’m wondering – what will this day bring?

Let’s get worry off the table right now, before it has a chance to rob you of your hope and potential of this day.  If today is one of those days entered tentatively, even fearfully, your energy will be gone before morning break.  Name your fears. That’s right, name them. Is it illness, job loss, a wayward child, finances, fear of the unknown? Maybe it’s a desire of your heart, so intense you don’t know how to live without it. I know. I have them too.  I have lists of my worries and wants. I think even my lists have lists – but this is what I have learned from years of experience. Worrying, fretting, bargaining, ruminating, and yes, scheming will not solve the dilemma or diminish the worry. When worry starts creeping in – stop it! Name it. Bring it to God and tell Him why you are worried and that you are giving this worry to Him because it is out of your control. It took a while, but I finally learned this truth. I might as well give my worries to God right up front because He gets to decide anyway. I can change my attitude, but I can rarely change my circumstances. I remember this thought crossing my mind quite often: God must be pretty sick of me by now, always dumping the crud of my life on Him. But He directed me to Isaiah 40:28 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” God is not confined by human boundaries. He never tires and we have no comprehension of his love for us.

God isn’t surprised by our proclivity toward worry. It’s a human frailty. That has to be why Jesus dealt with it in Matthew 6. Verse 27 says “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” and follows up in Verse 34 with “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” I believe God wants us to be concerned; he wants us to be prepared and to act. We aren’t supposed to fall into inertia and do absolutely nothing – but crossing the line into worry where we fret ourselves into exhaustion and decide our way down the path to poor decisions, is wrong. Worry is the opposite of trust. Worry has no positive characteristics. Worry makes you old. Worry changes nothing.

When I was in elementary school I remember we had a plaque in our house that read “Why worry when you can pray?”  Many years later in life I saw another plaque, obviously intended to pique thought, “Why pray when you can worry?” Seriously – does worry bring about positive change? Worry definitely has power, but does its power influence the outcome of a situation or does it just rob you of energy, thinking capacity, and your joy? Psalm 28:7 says “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”

Nobody can remove our worries; they are authentic and embedded in our consciousness. God invites us to name our worries and one by one give them to God. It’s tough, isn’t it. We wrestle with ‘what-if’ a lot. What if I give this to God and it doesn’t turn out the way I want it to? What if I give it to God and just the opposite happens? What if there is trauma even after I give it to God? News flash! He gets to decide anyway. The challenge within spans beyond the what-if and asks the unsettling question: Do you trust God even when you’re paralyzed by fear? Do you still have faith when nothing is making sense? Romans 8:28 reminds us “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” It’s OK to tell God sometimes you hate what is happening. It’s OK to pour out your heart and tell Him your fears and why you are so worried. Ask God for what you want, but be prepared for His answer knowing that in the wide universe He is acting out of His limitless love for His children. Psalm 37:28 “For the Lord loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones.”

Let’s face it. Life is uncertain and it’s a frightening place when we let our worries burn us dry. When I start to worry, I remember what God wrote in Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Why pray when you can worry? Why worry when you can pray? Sun-scorched or well-watered?

Maybe it’s time to Lay Me Down and live full on – no worries. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pkWrvCZDHA


Even the most optimistic deal with sadness

It’s been 4 years. Actually it was 4 years on October 20th, but you will understand my hesitation to post this when you recognize the topic. God has a purpose for youYou see, I’m the optimist, positive thinker, peacemaker, encourager, and smile starter. I hide from attention and shy away from sentimentality but this story is both of those and therein lies the reason I pulled the plug on this post – until today.

It was during a Tuesday night meeting of our Ladies’ Bible Study that I received the call from my daughter’s roommate. She was in hysterics making it nearly impossible to decipher her broken sentences, but I finally understood it. “Tammie died. Jane, I found her in bed when she didn’t answer her phone. Tammie died. Jane I don’t know what to do. She’s gone.” In that instant I felt like every bit of air had been sucked from my lungs. How could this be true? Tammie was coming home for a visit in 4 weeks. But this is where plans changed course. I knew where I expected to be at Thanksgiving. I had ideas for what we would all do to enjoy time with the family – another family photo because the current one was outdated. But in one moment, I felt my plans melt away with the reality that my first born daughter, at age 38, was never going to come home again.

If you ever receive devastating news, the place to be is with sisters studying the Word of God together. I don’t remember how I finally got the words out, “My daughter died” but it was like the whisper from someone standing behind me, not the voice of me. Instantly angels in the room surrounded me. It was more like descending on me and covering every empty emotion and soothing every hurt. These beautiful women were the first of many to comfort our family. God sends comforters to come alongside us when our hearts are shattered beyond healing. Isaiah 49:13 says in part “The Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on this afflicted one”.

In difficult situations, especially in death, even the best of friends search for the right thing to say, the proper sentiments to express. Words escape us and we wonder why our vocabulary has disappeared when we need it most. I learned through this experience that there is no right or wrong way to convey concern. When your heart is bursting with genuine compassion, your voice will speak peace to hearts of the hurting. Sometimes I wonder if Luke 10:5-6 was written for times like this when we want to say everything with the proper attitude and speak from the heart when our words fail. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.”

It took some days for Tammie’s death to be real to me. I remember thinking of the times when she called on the phone just to talk. Her first words would be Hi mom, I just wanted to hear your voice today. Tammie was politically knowledgeable and often called when she heard something on the radio that she thought I would want to know. To me, politics is like the plague. Tammie could rattle of sports teams and player statistics when I am barely able to match team logo to team jersey. Tammie and I have very different interests and our minds were certainly wired in opposite patterns. I’ve spent many hours asking God to please tell Tammie I’m sorry I didn’t listen better when she called me. I have begged God to tell her I didn’t mean it when I argued with her when we didn’t agree on things that now have no significance.

Sometimes she would call to tell me about something funny that happened, other times she wanted to pour out her heart because she was so sad at how her life wasn’t turning out like she hoped. She asked me so many times to pray for her to find a husband and be able to have a family. I didn’t know then why God didn’t give her the desires of her heart. I just know that in God’s plan He knew that at age 21 Tammie would have a spinal tumor, at age 25 she would develop MS, and at age 38 her body would shut down and it would be time for her to go to live in heaven. James 1:17 says Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

In the past four years I haven’t talked about what it meant to lose a daughter. Almost two years ago, I came close to losing my second daughter to a freak stroke. She also was 38 at the time. God spared her life. If you’re reading this and wondering why I chose to write about this now, it is only because I know that someone has lost a loved one or is in the process of coming to terms with loss. There is no instant healing from loss and there is no magic formula for dealing with the traumas we encounter in this life.

Those of you who know me will recognize my motto:  Treat yourself to joy every day!  It isn’t easy, but it’s what God desires of us. If  JOY were an acronym it would stand for Jesus Others You  Psalm 5:11 says “Let all who run to you for protection always sing joyful songs. Provide shelter for those who truly love you and let them rejoice.” Life is a contact sport. Put on the protection of the God who wrote those words for us.  I leave you with this:

Cherish your moments. Pay attention when you are the audience. Forgive – whatever it was, it’s not worth it – just forgive.  Hug often – even when you have no words. Call – just to tell them you want to hear their voice. Always say ‘I love you”.

Sleep is so overrated

It’s early….too early. Why am I awake at this hour?  I have been awake and arguing with myself that very question.  Here’s my conversation with myself.  “Hmmmm. What time is it? Are you kidding me? I should be sleeping. What could be more enticing and energizing than a couple more hours of sleep? Ok – back to sleep now.  Sleep is good. (moments pass, lots of moments) Sleep is really good. OK – so sleep! (moments pass, lot of moments) … I give up! OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ 2 You ¸•♫¸.•.¸¸♥¸*♫ – Let’s get this party out of my head and into my world. But first – THANKFULness – Today I am thankful for the friends God puts in our path – just when we need them. Sometimes we feel just a little hollow and don’t know why – then it’s gone. When we look back we realize someone came along and filled that space. I’m thankful that nothing happens by chance; it’s all orchestrated by the God who wrote the symphony before we were born. Is life perfect? Hardly. Is there pain? More than we can tolerate at times. Is there deep, hurt and sadness? Of course there is – and we could lay down and let all of that overwhelm us. But friends, nothing good can come out of negativity. And unlike mathmatics, a negative + a negative does not make a positive. So what can we do about it? When you get up in the morning – make the first thought “Good morning, Lord – today please remind me who YOU are so I can be who YOU want me to be. Then kick-start with being thankful for just one thing, even if it’s a repeater day after day. (And remember to keep that list going …. everytime you think of something to be thankful for, write it on the list, because you will have to use it later.)

Are you with me on this? When I started my list 9 years ago, there were times when I felt like I had those little hollow places all over me – some were big ole chinks, not just hollows.  I ran to my paper and started reading my list and by the time I got half way down the page I remembered how blessed I really was. The paper got pretty messed up too so I’ve had to start over a few times. The LIST is a survival tool. Don’t start your day without it. Dear Lord, please, please bless my friends and family today. Give them what they need to live a joyful day. Whether it be need for relationship, money, food, gas for their car, or just comfort from the wounds of this world, please fill them first with Your presence, then with what they need for this day. Thank you for taking care of all of it. Amen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5PfWaMWBmA&feature=related

A Friend is Someone Who Saves Your Place

A few days ago on Facebook one of my friends posted something like “I’m babysitting kids, that don’t need a babysitter, on a Friday night. I must not have any friends.” I giggled inwardly because I knew this funny, sweet girl has lots of friends and she was totally joking about her evaporating prospects for a fun Friday night, not lamenting. I posted back, “Oh no, you don’t. Once you’re my friend you’re always my friend.  Yeah, true, I’m the older version of a friend.” This made me stop and think though. What does it mean to have a forever friend?

Today is Julia Smith’s birthday. Her name might not mean anything to you, but it means everything to me because she is a forever friend. When I was 10 years old, my mom and dad moved our family from a tiny berg in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to a huge city in Wisconsin. Well, it was a huge city to a small town girl anyway. It was really just a large town, but to a small town pre-teen, it was NYC. I had no friends – literally no friends. This was way before the days of Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. I shed plenty of tears over having left behind a school and church full of friends for a church full of people who were all older than dirt and an entire 3-month long summer without school. I pretty much felt like Jeremiah 30:14 “All your friends have forgotten about you; they care nothing for you.” I still remember praying every night for God to send me a friend. “Please send me a friend at church. Just one is all I really need.”

Then one Sunday the Porterfields walked into the church where my dad was pastoring. They had two girls and a boy; one girl my age and the boy the same age as my brother. Wait a minute. I don’t remember my brother praying for a friend, but there he was. Imagine that! One girl friend and a bonus for my brother. Plus, an older, teenage sister which always comes in handy when you’re crossing the pre-teen threshold. Julie and I lived 15 miles apart, but our parents became close friends too and that meant we spent many hours together while we lived in Wisconsin.

Julie’s parents had been missionaries to Bolivia with New Tribes Missions. Her dad, Bruce Porterfield, had authored two books: Jungle Fire and Commandos for Christ. Even at the age of 10, I wanted to be a writer. Her dad was a celebrity and her mom was one of the cool moms. Julie’s whole family spoke fluent Spanish and I couldn’t even manage to pronounce a few words from a coloring book my mom got to help me learn the language. Awesome! Our moms even got us a couple matching outfits and when Julie’s mom let her wear nylon stockings like a grown-up, I got to wear them too. Even more awesome. See? Julie was such a cool friend.

I’m not sure how the tethers of friendship become woven so tightly in some relationships. We were young and lived in the same area for just two years. Julie and I didn’t have the college dorm experience, take trips together, or live through both joys and sorrows. We didn’t even experience the boyfriend era or homecoming. Because of our family lives though we had the God connection of Philippians 2:5 “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”.  Above all, when friends share faith, they share a supernatural bond. Julie and I had that and it’s one reason we can be separated for many years, but never heart separated. When we meet or talk, it’s like finding the bookmark in our last conversation where we continue.

Fast forward to current day – life has changed. I have a trail of friends and so do you. Some friends we keep close; others maybe not at heart level, but still warmly distant. When we change neighborhoods, get a new job, start attending different churches, or take up different hobbies, our circle of friends expands. The relationships that were once life linked become a little more tenuous while new friends filter in. In today’s culture we have friends we’ve never met in person and they will remain our friends even though never inside the same physical space. It’s the way things are. Not better, not worse, just are. These are friends; treat them as friends.

One of my newer friends recently posted this on Facebook “What is it about bonfires, s’mores, laughter and the best friends a girl can ask for…it’s a beautiful, memory-making night…that’s what it is! Little did I know 25 years ago that so much goodness would come from the friendships . . . “. I hope she doesn’t mind that I quoted her, but what she said was so real. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of friends lately due to unforeseen circumstances of life. I realized after reading Rojean’s post that friends are friends forever – if we want them to be. I went in search of something that would describe friendship at the core. Maybe you could come up with something even better, but this is what I want to share Hebrews 10:24 “Let us consider how we may encourage one another on toward love and good deeds”.  Make new friends but keep the old as the old poem goes. Keep them, treasure them, encourage them toward love and good deeds – even though circumstances usher in the new.

Happy Birthday Julie – and happy unbirthday to every friend I’ve ever called friend. It’s forever. I’ll be your forever friend.

Our purpose is a whisper away

Sometimes God hears our whispers when we don’t dare to speak out loud. This morning I read ahead in my Bible Study. I was just wandering actually, probably procrastinating – if you want the honest truth. I’ve been questioning a lot lately about what, out of all the avenues I could take, which ones are really inscribed in my DNA? There is no lack of opportunity, but which ones are threaded through my purpose so the tapestry of my life is an ornate, beautiful pattern – not a tangled mass of knotted threads.What I do today affects tomorrow, so I have to be careful with what I read, what I watch, the activities I engage in. It’s a fallacy that every moment counts. There are many moments that slide away; it’s called breathing or if extended long enough, it’s all out relaxing. We all need moments when we just do nothing. That’s when we recharge the energy pack for our next surge.

My friend Penny Homontowski posted this picture this morning of a chickadee eating seeds our of her hand. chickadees eating out of hand - Penny Homontowski photoThat reminded me of how God opens his hand, offers to hold us and give us just what we need – shelter, comfort, nourishment for our souls as well as our bodies. Not enough for tomorrow, but enough for this moment. We can be confident that He will be there with provisions in all the moments and through all the tomorrows. We forget that sometimes.

God doesn’t guide us through the birth canal then hand us a script and checklist as soon as we stop screaming. He doesn’t give us a map when we learn to walk and expect us to never falter on our course or get lost in it. Sometimes I think the people in the Old Testament had it made. Look at Isaiah 30:21 “You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” whether you are heading to the right or the left.” Really, God? Why can we have that clarity on our path?

So maybe I struggle more than your average bear with knowing what I should be doing with the moments of my life. The moments that should be invested, not just spent. So this morning as I was praying and ending it my common way “This day is all yours, Lord. Whatever my purpose is, please let me live it out and honor you.” And then I added, “Sometimes God, it seems like you are so far away and I wonder what I’ve done to create the distance. I know I can’t go back but show me what to do to go forward for you.” Then I read this in 2 Samuel 14:14 “Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.”

Sometimes we whisper in God’s ear and he sends His word back. Proverbs 23:19 “Listen, my child, and be wise, and guide your heart on the right way.” God doesn’t banish us. He guides us. I have no idea why I shared that story. I guess i was just in the mindset to remind everyone that God is on your side. He knows just what you need. He knows just what I need. He is everything!



The impact of one life

You’ll never regret being kind.

Does anyone remember traveling in the south and reading road signs that spelled out an entire sentence strung together in incremental words? Or maybe they advertised Berma Shave and Ipana Toothpaste. I haven’t traveled outside of Michigan to the south for several years so those signs might have been uprooted and banned by now. One sign in particular still stands out in my mind; not because it had a cute picture or was unmistakably ‘marketing’, but because it simply stated ‘You’ll never regret being kind.” That’s it … You’ll never regret being kind.

How many opportunities in a lifetime do we have to be kind? When life is treating us well, it’s easier to be kind than when every day is another uphill battle. Sometimes, when I feel road weary and not very kind I remember one of my favorite verses in Jeremiah 31:3 where the Lord says “”I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” That is so comforting – unfailing kindness. I want to be someone who is kind.

I was a pretty typical teenager – questioning everything, self-centered, and opinionated. Mom and dad, if you’re able to read blogs from heaven, I can see you nodding feverishly in agreement with that statement. I was not practicing Galatians 5:22 at all “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” There was a woman in town at that time who did seem to be just that way though. Everyone called her grandma, Grandma Windnagle with the eternal smile radiating from her 4 foot 11 inch frame. Her age was a mystery to me, but her smile and sweet spirit was ageless. Grandma was known for making huge sugar cookies, the size baked for lumberjacks, but I remember her for having a heart the size of a lumberjack. She lived out Galatians 5:25 “We live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” She lived at poverty level, but she never went out without putting on kindness.

One day when a bunch of kids were clustered on the steps of the school, we watched this faded out mauve colored Nash Rambler drive down the street, without a driver. Well, it seemed that there was no driver, but peeking out between the steering wheel and the dashboard of the car were the smiling eyes of Grandma Windnagle. It struck me then that despite her circumstances, she was eternally kind. Back home in our kitchen that afternoon I mused to my mom “When I grow up, I want to be just like Grandma Windnagle!” Oh boy – that did it!  My mom’s instant comeback ….  “Well you better start practicing now!” I guess my mom knew I was going to need a lot of time and opportunity to practice if I was going to get it right. I still have not achieved Grandma Windnagle status. I’m still a work in progress.

I was listening to a presentation by Zig Ziglar when he asked if we could name 3 people who have impacted your life. Grandma Windnagle, whom I knew for just 4 years of my teenage life, was one silent role model of the person I wanted to become. There are many opportunities in a day to be put out, insolent, arrogant, opinionated, and unforgiving. Sometimes I think Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address has never left that testing phase of long endurance “… we are caught on the battlefield of this great war … “ With every opportunity comes the attitude and the action. Chuck Swindoll is famous for his writing on attitude. He said “The remarkable thing is, we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.” Paul was a Christ follower who endured an awful lot of hardship and persecution, yet he remained positive. Read this in 2 Corinthians 6:3-12 where he describes his how he envisions his life path. “in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in hard work, in purity, understanding, and kindness; in the genuine love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything; open hearts not withholding our affection …”

I think Chuck Swindoll has this attitude thing certified. He says “Encouragement is awesome. It (can) actually change the course of another person’s day, week, or life.” What do you think?  Could what you do today impact a life forever? You’ll never regret being kind. Let’s get out there and encourage someone today. Ready?