The true source of peace

“The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you.” A few years ago I quoted that from a television program. In that statement is the desire of all of us, isn’t it? To live in God’s favor; to have peace and contentment; to know that our choices are inside His will. God’s choices are broader than our own. The whole universe belongs to him. “The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you.” Until recently I had a misconception about that statement. I narrowly thought that the will of God was something I prayed about and acted on. You know – plan your work, work your plan and pray God’s direction and ultimate approval on the plan. I was taking to heart what it says in Ephesians 6:6 “Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.”The will of God

How many times did I pray and ask God to show me what to do, make His will unmistakable, then wait through the act to see if the plan fell into place. Can anyone relate? Here’s where my original concept derailed. The will of God is not dependent on my prayers, no matter how sincere or fervent. God’s will is exactly that – God’s will. His will does not depend on how elaborate my plan or how detailed my prayers are. God’s ways are not our ways and despite our best efforts things don’t always work out the way we want them to. Look at Proverbs 14:12 “Even in laughter a heart may be sad, and joy may end in grief.” We never want bad things to happen – never. But what happens when they do?

The way to acceptance is claim Psalm 33:4 “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.” If I believe that and live within that belief, I can be at peace with whatever circumstances come my way and there will be a test. The test – will this make me better or will I be bitter? Bitter creates regret, anxiety, turmoil, instability, exhaustion and depression. There is no peace in bitter. There is no comfort in bitter. I hope I never allow seeds of bitterness to germinate because God’s will didn’t follow my idea of His will. If it’s God’s will, peace will come. I need to remember the nature of God is love and faithfulness Psalm 86:15 “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” We might not understand the why, but we need to acknowledge that when God acts, it is His will. God has a purpose, in fact God is the ultimate multi-tasker and there will be more than one purpose.

“The will of God will not take you where the peace of God will not keep you.” Proverbs 3:3 “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Sometimes God allows bad things to happen to good people. These are times to become spiritually stronger and shine the light of Jesus from the inside out – that’s better. What can I do with the circumstances now? What can I learn from this? And the ultimate question, how can this make me better?

My heart’s desire is that I will always seek to do what is right and within God’s will. I will never again limit God with the illusion that His will depends on my plans and specific prayers. I hope at the end of my life I will be able to say as David wrote in Psalm 18:21-24 “I have kept the ways of the Lord; I am not guilty of turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin. The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.”

When the pieces fit you are at peace in your place

I’ve talked to few people lately who have made life-directing decisions. What college to attend? What academic path to follow? Dorm life or apartment dweller? Others have no aspirations of higher education, but are choosing jobs that could lead to a promising career or frustrating future. The common denominator in each of these options is place.  Where will I feel like I belong? How long will it be before all the pieces of my life are inside the pattern and not struggling to fit the mold? When will I fit in? I would like to say to each of these who are so inquisitive of expectations, your place is where you are in this moment. Your place doesn’t depend on how others view you. Your place doesn’t depend on if others accept you. Your place is defined by the choices you make that align with your values and create a comfortable sense of being authentic. You decide your place in the world. If you feel in conflict with where you are, it’s time to let go so you can find the place where you feel alive, feel at peace, and feel like you are in your happy place.

This post is a response to this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt: PLACE

This is also my first attempt at writing without overthinking, analyzing, or editing for 5 minutes.

Think it … Act it … Believe it

Have you ever been through a major life change? Well – maybe not even major, but some change that prompt friends to ask, “How did it go?” I’ve been asked that by many of my friends. When a major change takes place in life, friends you’ve confided in want to know “How did it go?” and what else can we say except, “It’s different.” That’s a good place to start. I saw a book once titled, Change is Good.  You Go First. That about describes it.  Sometimes change is forced on us and in those times, change doesn’t seem all that great. Right? Other times we make a decision that changes the landscape of our lives and we think this change is good, we hope this change is good, then we wonder … it’s different.  No matter which description fits the situation, the one thing we can control is our attitude. Chuck Swindoll has a famous quote about attitude and in it he says, ´I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”  So how did it go? It’s different, but it’s good, the possibilities are ahead, as are the consequences. So right now our best choice is to have joy and remember – we are never on the path alone.  – God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5  

When change comes, we have to accept it, because it’s our new normal. It’s reality. We could fret over what we no longer have or we can begin the rebuilding process and start the remanufacture of our life from a different vantage point. When I was in my early twenties, someone wisely convinced me that change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different. It took awhile for that to sink in, but it’s become my survival mechanism. Here’s a little free advice. “Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you can’t.” I know it works.Psalm 30 11-12

Are you going through changes now that are exciting and you anticipate better days ahead? Or do you approach each day, tenuously out of dread or even fear for what lies ahead? Either way, when change comes, it means adjustment … day-by-day, moment-by-moment.  Ask yourself how can I get through these moments and come out the victor instead of the victim? You might not want t to hear this, but it starts with Attitude.  You might come to the starting line kicking and screaming, toting a long list of disadvantages and (gasp) even grievances. Acknowledgement is good. Bring that list along because this is where making adjustments begins. First in attitude, then in thoughts, then in actions, and finally in acceptance. Change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different.  ´I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

We might not be happy, but we can have joy. Happiness comes from the external; those situations that we perceive as good give us happiness. But happiness can be shattered in an instant, or it can fade when circumstances are less than optimistic. Joy on the other hand comes from the inside and is unaffected by the beating we take by those things that cause us despair.  I was having a bad spell in my life a while ago and on one of my ‘least optimistic days’  someone said to me that I was the happiest person she knew. Well huh! Mission accomplished then, because at that moment, I was anything but happy.  It must work then . . . We can fake happiness by choosing to be joyful. In that moment, when she said I was the happiest person, I prayed right then and thanked God for masking the unhappiness I was feeling at that time, so that happiness looked real.

What can we all do today, regardless of our circumstances, to make a big production of our joy? Think it, act it, believe it!

Psalm 30:5 [God’s] favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

Psalm 30:11-12 You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Ecclesiastes 8:15  So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

The truth is … You Are Enough

I’ve been thinking …

Have you ever seen a skywriter pulling a banner that says “Trending now … this way to a better life. Be more!”? If we could jump up and hitch a ride on that flight, we wouldn’t have to wonder if we are heading in the right direction. OK so that basically isn’t going to happen, but when do we get to stop asking, “Am I doing enough?” Better yet, “Am I doing the right things? And is it enough?”

I struggle with that.  When is it OK to be content? Is it OK to be satisfied with where we are?  I think it is OK to acknowledge being in a comfortable place, life isn’t perfect, but life is good. I don’t think that God intends that we stop growing, stop learning, stop caring, or stop improving. When God created life, he included an interesting feature. Life is made to divide, multiply, regenerate, grow …. if it’s not doing that – well, it’s over. Does that mean we are never enough though? 

Let’s talk about the danger of the ‘never enough’ trend. The one that assumes we are all living deficient lives. I love listening to the energy of the speakers and am motivated by reading articles where I’m encouraged to grow beyond the boundaries of my comfort level. It’s exhausting though to hear a steady beating in my ears that I need to do more, be more, have more. Those perpetual thoughts make me more drained than more filled.

I wish I could look up at that skywriter and see a banner that says – Trending now … You are Enough.  

Maybe I don’t need that skywriter after all. I look ahead and see a jungle of opportunity. I look back and see pools of experience, all of them defining who I’ve become. When I examine my roots and remember from childhood what I thought would make me successful and happy, I realize what I loved then, still follows me around today like a pet that’s become part of  my anatomy. 

Of all the things in life I want to do, I’m not great at any of them. But I have found that somehow when God handed out gifts he made me a helper, encourager, and friend. Try to find those on an org chart or specified in a salary table. In fact, God has no salary table. He only asks that I use my gifts because that’s why he gave them to me. I am touched by this verse in Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…It is the Lord you are serving.”

I know my first love is encouraging and supporting people. I write, because when I don’t part of me is missing. Pretty simple. Do you have an intimate view of what makes you who you are? I wonder who wants to live a productive life and finish strong, knowing that they made a difference? I don’t have to wonder – I know if you are reading this, you want to leave a legacy that says “I made a difference.”

Here’s a thought. Are you content with your life and thankful for all the threads of experience? Those events have been valuable in shaping who you are and my guess is that you are still growing from them. Do you see the benefits of allowing yourself to coast a little, reflect, and understand that who you are at your core is enough?  Does your heart desire to make a difference in the world? Sometimes the most insignificant act of kindness is all it takes to change the world for someone.

Trending now …. You are enough! You can know that for sure without the sky writer.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking.

Worry & Happy don’t play well together.

A few days ago, I heard a song I hadn’t heard for a few years. It had me smiling on the outside and skipping on the inside. “Happy” 

A few minutes later, I heard another song, “Don’t worry. Be happy.” 

I didn’t get the worry gene and believe me, I have thanked God many times that he bypassed me with that one! But reading the news, listening to the talk, watching even short clips of current events, one could worry. Views of what is, opinions of what should be, fear of what happens next?It all creates the perfect environment for unrest and worry. Don’t do it. Don’t worry. 

Matthew 6 spells out in detail why we shouldn’t worry, but in verse 34 it downright tells us it’s just plain futile. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Besides worry makes you old. 

I read Psalm 33 today – more than once. Here’s just a tiny bit of hope for you today. If you really believe God is who he says he is – If you really believe His word is truth – if you really trust him …. Stop worrying! It is not serving you.

Making Mountains and Hills Sing

Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with Joy.”
It’s pretty easy to see radiance on the face of someone who has just received good news. It’s like they have been whitewashed with pure joy. Recently the beams of light were unmistakable as a friend almost sang the words, “God said yes!”
Do you use any euphemisms to describe acts of prayer? In our family we talk about “dragging out our prayer rugs” and sometimes we don’t roll them up for weeks. We ‘PUSH’ Pray Until Something Happens until we are road weary from effort. Then when God is ready to answer, sometimes He says yes! Remember my friend, full of joy because God said yes? There’s more to the story. We had been praying for a yes answer for more than a year. God said yes.  
But what about when God says no? Do we then react in anger or try to bargain with God or full out argue? 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. Last night I watched the movie Soul Surfer. I know. I know. Old movie – but I had never seen it. As I agonized with Bethany Hamilton and her parents over the tragic loss of Bethany’s arm I saw in them iron clad trust in their faithful God.
I know there was more of the story than could be revealed in a 2-hour movie, but I was barely breathing in some of the scenes where it was obvious that only faith could turn tragedy to triumph. I’m sure family and friends prayed relentlessly through months of recovery. In those times, I wonder how they handled the silence of God?
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 there is no discernable answer. We wait and question and seek direction. Waiting – it’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 …or maybe right? Argh! You can’t just stop. Sound familiar? The joy in this experience is to finally find a way out and know that we at least on the right path and in the right zone.
When God is silent, while we wait, remember these words in Psalm 62:11-12 “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love.” Maybe you’re living through a period of silence right now. Maybe you read, as I have read scripture like, Psalm 119:105 and asked God to aim the light a little better on that path he wants you to follow. 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 though we have not forgotten you. Our hearts have not deserted you. We 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 and keep trusting even though we may be 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 ” Indeed you will go out with joy; you will be led along in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!”
I’m not expecting to hear mountains and hills sing, but I expect to be guided by the God who is love and who is light as I choose JOY in my circumstances. We have to look for the joy because it won’t come find us.

Transformers in Real Life

Yesterday, I attended a women’s conference geared toward spiritual growth. The speaker, Pam Farrel, worked through some insightful scriptures and life applications, then left us with an outline for putting thoughts into action. One of the worksheets starts with adopting a favorite word for the year. I’ve been doing that for about six years, so that seemed to be a good starting place. My word for this year is joy. Do you have favorite words? I guess that might sound strange now that I think about it, how do you feel about the word transform…. you know what? I like that word. I’ve added it to a list of other favorite words like integrity, faith, discernment, wisdom, peace, contentment ….

Have you ever seen those kid toys that look like a vehicle and with a few twists of parts, becomes a super hero? Transforming our minds so we have a right view of the world is a lot like that – although let me tell you, it’s not so easy as just turning a wheel to become an arm, leg, or protective helmet. Transforming our mind is the first step to transforming our behavior and seeing the world through a different lens. So, while we live in the world, we don’t let it ‘squeeze us into its mold’. There are many reasons why I love the word transform, but one of them is because it gives me hope. Renewing my mind is where it starts because what is stored in my mind eventually cascades into actions which then become habits.

To form a good habit, or get rid of a bad one takes more than performing the act over and over. I’ve heard it takes 21 days to form a new habit. I’ve tried the 21 days. I must be a slow learner because on day 22, I am just as likely to fall back into an old pattern as I was on day 3! Why is that? For me, it’s because while I train myself to repeat an act over and over, I haven’t renewed my mind. Yesterday I mentioned the idea of an 11th commandment and after the conference, this verse came to mind. What if Romans 12:2 became the 11th commandment? “Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.”

I don ‘t know how many habits I’ve tried to break in my past or even how many should be in process now. I know that unless I transform my thinking, any chance to stop whatever it is, will fail. Note to self: To be transformed, you’ve got to renew your mind. Only then will those repetitive acts become authentically infused into your character.

Every act was once a thought. If I am going to live the way that pleases God, which is what I am called to do (Romans 12:1) it starts with renewing my mind. This means I have to capture every thought and before it takes root in my heart, make sure it aligns with what God says is right.

I have miles to go before I get it right. But scripture gives me hope.  I can live transformed because my journey is not complete until I take my last breath on Earth. While I am here, I pray as David did in Psalm 51:10 Create a pure heart in me, Lord and renew my spirit and keep me strong so I can shine for you.

Ready to transform your life? It isn’t a magic act. Presto and your life changes. It’s the little things you do day after day, the actions moment to moment that change your life. It starts with ‘the thought’ ….