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’ ….

A Skywriter . . . That would be AweMazing!

I’ve been thinking. Sometimes I wish for an 11th commandment.
Have you ever considered that we have instant heart attacks, instant strokes, and in an instant we can break a bone or have an accident?  But rarely do we  have instant happiness.  Have you ever wondered why we have to work at everything that matters and why we can’t just coast our way to achievement of some goal? We have to put a lot of effort into making anything better – from organizing a closet, to organizing a life.  Right?  When there’s a task at hand, we can’t wish it done.
I get this blank look on my face every time I hear the cliché if you can dream it you can do it. I find it far easier to dream of things to do than to actually do them. Anyone else with me on that? It’s easy to dream, but it takes hard work to turn the dream into reality. Notice I didn’t say impossible, but the facts are – to progress toward a dream, it takes a lot of demanding work. And while working toward turning dreams into reality, there are choices to make – and therein lies the dilemma. In the cafeteria of life there are so many choices and every decision has a consequence and every decision makes an impact … all along the way. It’s not like one wrong decision will lead to disaster or destruction, but once we start, we want to stay on the right path and see progress. We don’t like to be derailed. We have this crazy notion that if we have a setback, it’s a stayback. 
In these moments or maybe seasons of derailment that feel more like a train wreck, this is where it would be great if God had given us the 11th commandment.  Maybe it could say Thou shalt …. And then have a floating, interchangeable ending that would fit the occasion. Here’s you answer. This is what you should do when this happens.
But we know, life doesn’t work that way. We are overwhelmed with choices to decide; do we go left or right?  Is this the time to move forward, or should I step back? Should I say yes because it’s meant for good? Or is that committing to something that’s good, but not what God wants for me at this time? I’ve been thinking about that and found myself wishing for an 11th commandment. Just because something is good, does not mean best. When I pray “Lord change me – whatever your plan is for me, give me insight and a willing spirit to do what is best.” there is no skywriter to put God’s answer in front of my eyes. A skywriter . . .  That would be AWEMazing!
Sometimes it takes days, weeks, months or longer for answers to come. God is not in a hurry. He is never late, never early, but is right on time – His time. God says to be patient in Romans 12:12. “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” He also says to ask for wisdom.  James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”  And he also promises to be faithful in answering when we call on him to take the lead. 1Thessalonians 5:24 “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
I’ve been thinking about an 11th commandment, just to help us navigate the murky waters life throws on us.
The 11th commandment – Thou shalt seek the light John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Or the 11th commandment – Thou shalt seek joy Psalm 86:4 “Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you.
Or the 111th commandment – Thou shalt trust Psalm 13:5 ” I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.”
Or the 11th commandment – Thou shalt …. what will the ending be when you pray “Lord take all of me. Change me into the person you created me to be.”
Anyway, that’s what I was thinking.

When the Wait is Long

Have you ever read something, maybe a hundred times, but it made the impression of invisible ink? In my quiet time yesterday I read Luke 22:32 “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” I couldn’t believe it! Jesus spoke those words to Simon Peter moments before he warned that Peter would deny him in public. Did you get that? Jesus said ‘I prayed for you …’ Jesus prayed for Peter to stand firm in his faith, and to strengthen his brothers. There was no invisible ink this time; the impression was HD clarity.

As I was contemplating that verse, its significance was unmistakable. Peter was a Christ follower and strong leader in the community, yet he was vulnerable, even positioned to fail when attacked at his weakest link. Deny Jesus? Impossible … until he snapped under pressure. When Peter realized what he had done, verse 62 of Luke 22 says he was devastated and wept bitterly. But that wasn’t the end, Peter kept his faith and went on to greater purpose.

Maybe my preoccupation with that verse comes from knowing that friends are praying for me; that friends pray for friends; that people who have never met, pray for each other. When we pray, we believe God for what he promises. Notice Philippians 4:6 “Do not worry about anything, pray through every situation, be thankful as you present your requests to God. He will give you peace beyond understanding and will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Sometimes we ask God over and over for something that is never within our grasp. Sometimes God says no; sometimes we have to wait …. Wait. a. very. long. time. In those times what does God promise? Peace that we don’t understand – if we give up the worry cycle and pray with thanks-living.i have prayed for you that you faith might not fail

When Jesus said “I prayed for you, Simon…” did he then, when Simon Peter denied him, say “Well forget it then!” and detach from him and all others? Of course not! Look what we can learn from Romans 8:26-27 “The Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us. He searches our hearts, and intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” God is not a magician, performing some hocus pocus sleight of hand to bring about His purpose. He is sovereign Lord just like it says in Isaiah 48:17 “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”

When I’m in the decision making process about anything this is my common prayer. “Lord God, you know me, you know my needs and wants,  my interests, and my personality. You know how my navigation can get pretty messed up and sometimes my choices are barely on the edge of your purpose for my life. Please, Lord, open doors that only you can open and close doors only you can close, so there is no mistake when this decision has to be made.”

A few  years ago I had been looking for a new job for several months and wasn’t sure which areas of interest I should pursue, but anything that included writing is like a magnet to me.  I had a deficiency in both education and experience, but I applied anyway. In my search I was approached by a recruiter as a possible match for one of their clients. I was enthusiastic about the opportunity and excited to be invited to not one, but three telephone interviews. This seemed to be just what I prayed for. Was this that open door I asked God to open? Optimism was at peak – at peak! Then my hopes plummeted back to Earth. “You have a lot of experience and varied background.  You would do great as one of our writers. We need you to beef up your bio though and put these things in there so you sound – well more …. ” That sounded like deception to me. Ah, so tempting. It’s just a resume and I’ve been told that what I lack in experience I make up for in sheer determination. Then I remembered 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” I stopped thinking about it and I’m sure I heard the squawking of the door as it slowly closed on the opportunity.

Ephesians 2:10 “”For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I am God’s handiwork – created to do good. Embellishing my history is not doing good.  The indelible ink of Luke 22:32 came back to me “I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  This sounds like the door sliding closed while Jesus intercedes for me because I’m not sure how pray. Not long after, I got a job offer at a company I had wanted to work for since 1973. “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”

In any way can you relate? Do you struggle with doors that open and close leaving you perplexed? Psalm 33:4 convinces me that worry is futile; trust is the prescription. “For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.”

The More I Seek You – by Kari Jobe

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.