Wake up to the light!

When I woke up this morning it was dark. In fact, as I write this at 9:30 am, it seems like the sun has forgotten how to shine today. I know what many of you are thinking right now. Like “why would the sun shine? This is just a dark day all over – and it started in Washington!” Whoa! I’m not joining any political debate and I’m not taking sides except to say that I am not placing my faith in this administration. I didn’t place my faith in the past administrations either. The political gods of this world are defective humans, they like 100% of the people on planet Earth are flawed, deficient, and no matter how hard they try they will never be perfect. The only faith I have is totally in the true God of the universe who is in complete control and completely capable. (Job 37)

Do you feel like this is a dark day for America? Maybe you think it’s a dark day for the world. The world is a dark place, even on the best of days. What are you going to do about it?

Just for a moment – not even a full minute, ok? Look around you and drink in the things that surround your life. Are you warm? Do you have a home? Is there transportation outside your door? Do you have an income? Are your kids in a good school? Are you safe? Can you receive medical attention when you need it? If you’re watching TV or if you’re reading this, you have electricity and technology that’s convenient and always on, right? Have you a collection of friends available by phone, email, social media, or close enough to visit in person? How about family? You can start the day with lightness of heart if you start with a thankful spirit. Or you can stay in your dark world and wish things were different and worry about things that may never happen. We have this moment; this one moment. Don’t waste it in resentment and rage.

Do you feel like this is a dark day for America? Maybe you think it’s a dark day for the world. The world is a dark place, even on the best of days. There’s a reason for that. The enemy of your soul masquerades as an angel of light, (2 Corinthians 11:14) but there is no light there. It’s all gloom and doom. Your enemy wants you to be sad, depressed, debilitated and ineffective. You know that depression comes from anger turned inward, don’t you? We get fighting mad and war against ourselves (if only … I wish…) until we feel helpless and hopeless. It doesn’t have to be that way. When you get fighting mad, first – Know your enemy. There’s a verse in Ephesians that describes the real enemy, and it is not the president. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12 The enemy of your soul wants you to be miserable.

Now you might make all kinds of assumptions about our politicians and yes, they are living in the dark just like the whole world population. Our political system has always been broken. But we don’t give up, throw a tarp over our heads and let the darkness overtake us. Nothing good ever came from inertia. Inertia is complete resistance to change and obstinacy to movement. In other words – no life, no action, no movement toward something better. Look for the good, the joy, the light.    be-the-lignt

There is one remedy for darkness that pervades the Earth. There is one forever light. Jesus spoke in John 8:12 saying, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” It takes a lot of courage to let go of that which we can’t control. We can’t control the events of today, but we can control our attitudes toward them. We can vow to get involved and effect change (respectfully, honorably, peacefully, knowledgably, wisely) without anger, hate, and hostility. The world is dark, but we can walk in the light. We can follow Jesus who is the light of the world. We can act with love, compassion, and forgiveness while our eyes adjust to the light and we see things in a new way.

There’s enough darkness in the world. Be different. Reflect the light of the world. Be a light where it is dark.

Let’s all be brave – Do not fear

do-not-fear-for-i-am-with-you-isaiah-41-10A friend of mine took one of those Facebook tests to see what scripture verse was suggested for her. Seeing that verse posted on her timeline, I wondered, hmmm…..what would this app choose for me? It chose well because, of my few absolute favorite life verses, this ranks in the top three. Be not dismayed – this world is not my God, nor is it a substitute for God. Nothing can match the power, the love, the joy, the peace, the contentment that only comes from the God who is righteous and holy and keeps the universe from falling apart. Are you curious about God’s power to hold the universe in place? You will love what you read in Isaiah 40. It’s 31 verses and you can read them all in under three minutes.
Do not fear. Do not be dismayed. The world gives us many reasons to fear and even more reasons to be dismayed. Conditions may not change. Circumstances might stay the same. But letting fear and anxiety eat your soul is not helping, in fact it’s hurting you more. What good are those incessant thoughts rooted in fear that become anger that become depression then become life altering? Nothing good comes out of dwelling in the land where fear changes you and makes you weak and unable to fight back.
Do not fear. God is with you.
Do not be dismayed. God made you. He wants you to trust him.
Be strong. God will strengthen you. He will hold you up so you don’t fall away from the person you want to be. Nobody wants to be a fearful, timid, tired out weakling.
Here is a confirmation from Isaiah 40, “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”
If you know God, if you trust God, He says in Isaiah 40:31, “those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.” And he says in Isaiah 41:10 “I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Let’s all be brave. Have a fearless, peaceful, contented, joyful day.

46 Years & Worth It

When I was a teenager who knew everything, adults who seemed ancient to me at age 55 or 60 (I know. Crazy, huh?) kept talking about how marriage was. When I knew everything I wondered why these people stayed married then. After all – if it’s so hard, just make it easy and don’t stay married. Go get a life that’s easy. That’s what I thought when I knew everything.       anniversary-post-46th-year-composite

After 46 years of marriage, and well over the age of 60, and now that I don’t know everything, there are a few things I know for sure.

Marriage is hard work. It’s the hardest relationship you will ever have and it’s the most valuable and most rewarding. I can tell you after 46 years there were many exit ramps that looked pretty enticing. They were all lit up and looked like a lot more fun than the ordinary highway I was on with Tim Anderson – the stable, sensible, solid adult. I can’t prove it, but on Tim’s route, he probably saw some amazing exit ramps himself that would have taken him in the opposite direction from me – the one who could never make up her mind, had a new job for every season, and was always, and I do mean always late. “But I use all my minutes,” I complained. “Where is the good in getting any place early?”

If you are married or thinking of getting married, expect hard work. Expect more compromise than you ever imagined. Expect to be more flexible than the most agile yoga instructor. Expect to disagree and expect that sometimes your disagreements will break the sound barrier. Stay – stay the course – because it’s worth it. When I was in my early 20s Ruth Graham, Billy Graham’s wife, was asked if she had ever considered divorce. “No, no I never did,” she said. “Murder a few times, but never divorce.” I know. I laughed too. But they were lovingly married into their 90s. Marriage is hard work.

There is nothing better now than spending an absolutely boring night at home or going out with friends we’ve had for nearly a lifetime. One of us brings up a thought that just moments before the other had in their mind. How does that happen? We share the same faith and love the same God. When our family comes to visit, we get to enjoy time together as one collective family. We wanted this for our family from the moment we said, I do. I know this luxury is one that many of my friends don’t have. Life is never perfect. We have been through deep sadness, near death illnesses, and financial hardship. We got through them, not because of who we are, but because God planted love in our hearts and we worked hard, still work hard, to cultivate forgiveness, acceptance, empathy, and understanding. The joy outweighs everything else and it’s cumulative.

I love you, Tim. Thank you for loving me and sharing this adventure called marriage with me for 46 years (and counting). The 46 gorgeous flowers are truly touching, but even if I had none of them and all of you, it would be worth it.

Joy: Buried Treasure

It was the night of bright lights and bling. New Years Eve – everywhere we looked there was glitter and sparkle and shine. Every particle of air held excitement and ice melted from sheer energy. There were smiles and hugs and the air was electric with celebration! No matter if 2016 was a good year to hang onto with tenacious enthusiasm or one that we couldn’t wait to vanish into history, the beginning of a new year sparks hope. Parties and celebrations ignite happiness and flame the atmosphere with joy.  

I wonder though, what happens now when the lights have gone out, the fireworks are over, the confetti has fallen to the ground in dusty clumps and the glitter is washed down the drain. Is that the end of happiness? Is that it for joy? It is, if joy is dependent on our circumstances.

I’ve been thinking.  Special events bring excitement into our lives; they’re blessings and we treasure those moments when our hearts feel happy. But the moments don’t last and as they fade, so does the feeling we confuse with joy. Joy is heaven-made. It’s part of our spiritual DNA. “The humble will be filled with fresh JOY from the Lord. Isaiah 29:19 [NLT] Doesn’t that sound like our joy comes from God and not from ourselves or any other source?

Happiness is homemade. It’s part of our human experience. Many years ago I read one of those sayings on the side of a coffee mug that said, “If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.” That’s a pretty good description of life, isn’t it? We’re on our journey for a while taking the scenic tour, a few curves a few hills – we’re comfortable, we’re happy. But then life gets really tough and the pleasant journey becomes a dangerous expedition. Thrown off our path we’re driven into the deep end of the ocean or feel like we’re hanging by our fingernails on the side of a cliff. Not our happiest moments, are they? There is no bling, there is no glitter, the light is gone. The last thing we feel capable of is being happy.

How often do we say it? “But Lord, I’m not happy. I’m tired of trying so hard to get through this. And Lord, in case you haven’t noticed, this ‘thing’ is getting me down. Somedays I feel so sad I don’t want to move.” Do you remember Psalm 23:1? The Lord is my shepherd … This isn’t a verse tucked into the Bible so we could envision a calm, serene flowing brook surrounded by wild flowers. Shepherds worked hard, trudged through brambles and mud to keep track of their sheep. And they protected every single sheep from any harm that threatened them. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Do you trust your shepherd? you-make-known-to-me-the-path-of-life

Jesus reminds us that nothing can take our joy away from us because he is the source of our joy. Nehemiah 8:10 says “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Our circumstances may make us sad, they may exhaust us, we might feel like we’ve been plunged into darkness but it’s in our darkest days that the tiniest light appears brightest. The light of the world is Jesus (John 8:12); it’s he who is the source of our joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; as I walk with You the pleasures are never-ending and I know true JOY and contentment.”

We have to look for joy, like excavating for buried treasure because that’s what it is. Joy is a gift we choose to open over and over.  Joy is our light even when the bling of the world is gone. Look for the joy because it won’t come find us.

To choose joy means we choose God, we choose to fill our minds and fill our hearts with his words. Matthew 12:34 describes it so clearly. “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Joy might not be a natural response to a broken spirit when days seem dark, but if you are God’s child, you already have unlimited, renewable joy. Nahum 1:7-8 tell us that God comforts his troubled children who put their trust in him. “The Lord is good. He protects those who trust him in times of trouble. But like a roaring flood the Lord chases his enemies into dark places and destroys them.” That’s God. He protects, and destroys the enemy that tries to steal your joy.

Lord, your word says you’ve given me an unlimited supply of renewable joy, but I’m having a hard time finding it. Please be a light on my pathway to peace and joy. Flood my heart with so much joy here is no room for darkness. God, I ask you to change my circumstances, Lord. But if you choose to grow my character through them, then please change me. Change my attitude, change my heart, change my life. Make me a faithful steward of your gift of joy. Amen

Intentions, not Resolutions

​Good morning. Good afternoon. Good evening. Whenever you read this, it’s good. You’re covered. 

I’ve been thinking. In a few hours we will be writing 2017 instead of 2016 for our dates. What else will we be doing instead? 

I stopped making new year resolutions when I figured out how self-defeating they were and how self-deprecating I became. Instead of resolutions I started making a list of ideas, of things I could try to do or learn. No due date. No expiration date. Writing out my ideas helps me remember my intentions to do good. If that sounds strange, let me ask you. When was the last time you wrote your intentions to do bad? Yeh, that’s what I thought. 

Today, take a few minutes to think back over the last year. Reflect, don’t return. Forgive yourself for every mistake that comes to your mind. Forgive every offense whether yours or another person’s – even if they haven’t asked and even if you don’t want to. Verbally, right out loud. “Grrrr. I am still angry, I’m hurt, but I forgive and am moving on.” Now move on. Forgetting those things which are behind….press on.

Write yourself a note to inspire you to begin this new year with good intentions.  Who will you contact? What books will you read? What might you want to learn? How do you envision each day? I would rather live inspired by what gets me up in the morning than dread what keeps me up at night. You too?

Today, on this threshold of a new year, remember that yesterday is past tense and it’s over. It’s a reflection in your rear view mirror. It’s impossible to move forward if you can’t step away from what is now history. Don’t let setbacks become staybacks. New Year, 2017. No resolutions. Only intentions to look for the slivers of joy in life. Encourage others and you will be encouraged. Decide now to live life in forward motion, not stuck back there.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking. 

Forget what is behind. Press on toward the prize. Welcome New Year!

Welcome Sunday . . . Welcome Peace

Can I just say it?  Welcome Sunday! It seems like a month has passed since I’ve walked into a place of peace. I am so ready to be greeted by friends who genuinely care for me, listen to music that both soothes and energizes, and hear a message from God’s word, spoken through the hearts of our pastor and teachers. There is no better way to express it.  Welcome, Sunday!

I confess, I don’t always feel this way. Sometimes I get up, get ready, and get to church. Period! Even then, I enjoy the music, love to be taught applicable life lessons from way back before electricity. Then there are days like today when my heart is running on empty and I need to go to the filling station and get a refill.  Before this crevice becomes a cavern, there is hope for my heart.  Reading Psalms satisfies for a while.  I know God is always there.  Psalm 137:7-8 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  I’m thankful that I can call to God anytime and He is there. Many times a day I talk to Him, sometimes out loud, like really LOUD. perfect-peace-isaiah-26-3I assure you He never answers me out loud, but God sends his spirit to calm me down. Last night we were on a pretty slippery, snowy road and I had visions of the car pile up on an expressway last week. Talk about the weather outside being frightful! Snow kept us company all along the way, in those moments I had a touch of fear that we could hit someone or something. Then on WCSG, I think God told them to play This song by Casting Crowns and on my radio, they sang the words ‘Peace on Earth in my heart I’m singing ….’ “Thank you God. Thank you for protecting all the drivers on the road. Not one slip, slide, or mishap. Thank you God for being there all the time.” Thankful! Blessed! Amazed!

Then I remembered a verse that I learned around the age of six:  Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” I learned something from that moment.  God is there in the moments that flash in front of us and are gone. He’s there when our heart hurts and crushing emotions drag on for days or months. Hope seems lost when we need strength to go on:  Psalm 29:11 “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  We all crave peace in a peace shattered world.  Leaning on God is not a crutch. We were born seeking God.  We were created in His image for a purpose and it is not to live in fear, regret, and lost hope.  This is one of my favorite go-to passages when I need to be reminded that God created every person, he knows everything about us, he loves us and just like we take care of things we treasure, God takes care of us even more.  I hope you enjoy these verses from the Message translation.

Jeremiah 29:  11-14 “I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  ”—God’s Decree— Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.  I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.”

Peace On Earth; Casting Crowns

Finishing Well, or Just Finishing

Happy Birthday, Billy Graham. A hero of the Christian faith turned 98 on November 7th. Billy Graham has lived in the public eye since he was in his twenties, stayed true to his faith in Jesus Christ and has never been involved in immorality or been the object of scandal. When I was 11 years old my friends who had TV talked about watching Billy Graham Crusades and 40 years later I was still watching him talk about the object of his faith. In honor of Billy Graham’s birthday and his impeccable testimony, I’m writing this after reading his touching and gentle book, Nearing Home, but it’s also about Finishing Well. A lot has changed since Billy Graham began his evangelistic ministry, but one thing has not changed.  Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the phases of life. If you know me personally, you will know that I’m basically retired, but am trying to live as though I am not. I have nothing against retirement if it’s right for your life, but that isn’t the path for me. Someone told me once that retirement is OK as long as you ‘retire to’ not just ‘retire from’. I get that, and when I get far past the age of 80, I will ‘retire to’ rock crying babies in a hospital somewhere. I hope I still have a voice to sing to them too.  That’s all on my 20 year strategic plan. Go ahead do the math, I don’t mind. finishing-well

While wrestling with some decisions I was lead to the latest book by Billy Graham, Nearing Home.  I was drawn to it because of the sub-title “Life, Faith, and Finishing Well” and was caught from the second sentence of  his introduction. “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how to live in the years before I die”. He goes on to say, “The Bible doesn’t picture us spending our latter years as useless and ineffective, spending our lives in endless boredom or meaningless activity……God has a purpose for us no matter what our age, young or old, the best way to meet challenges is to prepare for them now, align ourselves with God’s plan so we grow older with grace and find the guidance to finish well.”  OK, so if you happen to have the book you will realize that I took great liberty in paraphrasing, but in essence – those are his thoughts.  And I share them, because that is my prayer for all of us – that we find God’s purpose for our lives so we continually are living out a life aligned with God’s plan, inside His blueprint that’s uniquely our own.

That might mean we keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing because we’re on the right path and in the proper grid on the blueprint.  It might mean taking a slight bend in the road and modifying our course, just a little; a small incremental change.  Or it could mean a 90 degree angle or 180 degree turn. Where should I be today to be assured of finishing well tomorrow?  Today is all I have and tomorrow is the result of how I live it.  Maybe start hereDeuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and mind.   Then speed read over to 1 John 5:3 This is love for God; to obey his commands. And if I start to waiver and fear that I can’t do what God has put in my heart to do, there is always the wisdom of Isaiah 41:13 I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Seriously, friends – what are we afraid of? God has made us unique because He has a purpose for each of us, He created us with certain interests, abilities, and yes, even our personalities.  He will be our guide if we are committed to follow His lead. Get that – His lead.

How many times do we fall into the trap of thinking this is all there is? Life isn’t the party I signed up for. Let’s encourage each other in our walk today. I know myself well enough now to recognize that my passion to learn and share what I’ve learned through writing, mentoring, and teaching is who I am. The nearly obsessive desire to be a helper and support others so they don’t have to do it all themselves – that’s part of me. Scott Steiner, a true faithful servant of God recently when home to live in heaven with Jesus. A few years ago he taught a class at my church on spiritual gifts and, me, always eager for insight into what God’ purpose was for me, couldn’t wait to put action into my purpose. God spoke to me through those lessons in discovery and purpose. I’m still discovering and will continue – well, until God says it’s a wrap for my life on earth.

We are all going to someday reach the finish line. All our days, like sand, will collect at the bottom of the hourglass, our time on Earth expended. Finishing well, or just finishing?

At age 98,of course Billy Graham has retired from daily work, but he still has confidence that until his next breath is celestial air, his purpose on Earth is not over.  So back to that retirement topic – there are many versions of retirement as there are many seasons of life! I’m looking forward to branching out, spreading joy, learning more, sharing more, being more tomorrow than I am today, because it’s in God’s plan for us to be what he created us to be until we no longer are.  Ephesians 5:16 Make the most of every opportunity. For some, that’s their version of retirement. For me, it’s “Show me the mountain, Lord, then grab my hand and pull me up it”.   Are you struggling today? Do you have obstacles to overcome? Are you seeking the right path? You don’t have to do this alone.   Isaiah 41:14 Do not be afraid … for I, myself will help you declares the Lord.  2 Thessalonians 3:3 & 5 The Lord is faithful, He will strengthen and protect you …. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.