Awful or Awesome?

Yesterday at the end of a full and productive week, I was eager for the weekend. You know. Put work on the shelf, get into a book, take a long walk, watch a Hallmark movie. After hours of concentrated work with substantial progress I had that winning feeling. An hour later, I was overcome. The project that every ounce of energy had been poured into has to be reworked, and now instead of three weeks, I have one.

There’s a big difference between being overcome and being an overcomer. Looking at the remnants of the week, I had to make a decision. Let this setback overcome me or begin again and be an overcomer. I thought of King David in the Bible. He went from the mountaintop to the valley in under sixty seconds. In Psalm 116:3 he was “overcome by distress and sorrow.” Then he turns around and writes in the very next verse, “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”

 I think someone told me once that David didn’t write all the Psalms, but even if he didn’t there is a common thread that runs through the entire book; peaks and valleys. We all have a little bit of David in us. We feel overloaded, distressed, unappreciated or discouraged because those are our circumstances. We are overcome and feel like we are on our last drop of hope. David felt that way … a lot!  But he knew the power source and recognized that his desire was not to live in the valley, overcome by a setback. His setbacks were not staybacks. He rescued that last drop of hope in Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word, I put my hope.”

David said his whole being waits for the Lord and that’s where his hope lies. We read that with doubt that David would even survive the distress of the 21st century. His life was different back then. Yes, it was. But he had the same God, the same Counselor, the same Omnipotent God. He prayed. I prayed yesterday too…and in the middle of the night…and before the sun was up this morning…and I will pray my way through the next week – because I am not going to be overcome. I am going to be an overcomer and you can be too.

While we wait for the prayer to be answered, for the pain to go away, for joy to return, for sadness to subside how much it would please God if we would use these experiences to become better, not bitter.  Not to be overcome, but to be overcomers.  Romans 12:21 shows us our choices “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Living in discouragement is like living in a dark cocoon, isn’t it? Have you ever noticed how quickly the flame of a candle is extinguished when the lid is put on the jar? It’s almost instantaneous. The flame burning bright goes out when circumstances remove its most important sustainer, oxygen.

We are a little like that candle. Can it just decide it wants to burn again and burst into flame on its own?  Hardly! We have an advantage because we have a brain, we have motor skills, we can decide to act and find a way to get the flame burning again. Are you discouraged today? Let’s take a few minutes to visit 1John 2:14 “I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” 

We can rise above discouragement. It’s not easy, but it’s a choice. John 1: 5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Think about good things today, pray, turn off the news, write yourself a letter, write someone else a letter. 

Today can be awful or it can be awesome.

A few years ago, Mandisa recorded a song called Overcomer. Here is some hope from that song. “You might be down for a moment, feeling like it’s hopeless, that’s when we need to be reminded that we are overcomers.”

Overcome or Overcomer …. Let’s get out there!

 

This is a 5-minute Friday article. The word for this week is OVERCOME and I wrote for 5 minutes, no edits, not over thinking – just shoot from the hip prose.
Are you a writer? Join the 5-Minute Friday group to grow some friendships and gain support even before you need it. http://fiveminutefriday.com/

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Power Comes From Attitude

Have you ever made a commitment, then as the time approached you were overcome with fear or insecurity or dread? I know that feeling. What if, like me, the commitment was long term and you wondered how you would hold up through it and endure to the end? Maybe you haven’t been there and can’t grasp how that feels, but if you can, how did it turn out?

I think God gives us almost unlimited power to change how we think, how we feel, and how we act. I’m not convinced that if I can think it, I can do it, but with a strong blend of prayer, will, attitude, and action, I can change my whole perspective. That thing I labored over, dragged my feet toward, and even cried over – yes, that thing – I now look forward to the opportunity. Attitude is powerful.

I am not gifted in this area – but I volunteered to ‘help out’ as a child care provider during the hours of Bible Study. Young moms would then have a place for their kids to play while they spent time with other women learning about Jesus. For the first term, I kept thinking I would say I changed my mind – but that wouldn’t be right. It was a process, but fast forward to three years later and I look forward to the hours watching kids interact (flying trucks, tug of war over one puzzle piece, battle for sippy cups and goldfish crackers).   power-is-in-your-attitude-1

One of my (well-meaning) friends tried to talk me into resigning, but I decided to pray before doing anything. I took pictures of the room full of kids then I started praying for their safety and that everything I did would reflect the love of Jesus. I already loved the kids individually so I didn’t have to pray about that. I questioned my ability to keep them safe when using the slide and crawling over tables and chewing on toys and remember the flying trucks. I felt unqualified to keep them entertained for a full morning. On my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up, there was no hint of teacher. What happens when we are unsure? Do the sure thing.

I started thanking God that I was healthy enough to be the child care provider. I thanked God that I have a strong immune system – you can imagine why that’s important. I thanked God that he somehow chose me to play and be a substitute grandma for a dozen toddlers and preschoolers – Oh! And I thanked God that every week I have a helper.

Then you know what happened? I opened my Bible one day and turned to 1 Corinthians 16 and when I got to verse 13 it cracked me up. “Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” OK, God. I’m in! I can be courageous and strong. I can do this with love.

You know God didn’t do this just for me. If you dread the thing you said you would do, if you have fears that you are way out of your league, if you can barely pull yourself to the task – start praying. “God thank you that you made me just the way I am. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I don’t like it Lord, but I’m in it. Please either change my circumstances, change my commitment, or change me. Make my attitude like yours, Jesus. I trust you, God, to do what’s best.”

Filling in the Pattern

Children pic for blog 3-16-2016God is great; God is good, now we thank him for …. Do you remember saying that little prayer when you were a child? In our house, we didn’t recite the pre-written prayer, but ours were similar in nature. Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for this food. Please bless grandma, please bless the missionaries …..” and the prayer would go on until mommy or daddy interjected ‘Amen!” signaling the end of the prayer before every morsel of food was cold.

From that simple prayer is derived a pattern that has significance throughout life. This is not to say that every child exposed to that prayer early in life will adopt it and hang onto it into adulthood. But for those who do, the reward is unshakable faith in God and an attitude of gratitude. A couple years ago I learned of a debate going on with the FCC where they are being pressured to allow nudity and crude profanity on network television. The FCC stand on what constitutes indecency is still in question, but there seems to be a growing number of shows on TV that have taken their liberty beyond extreme. If the content isn’t toying with morale issues it’s mocking and disrespectful of any position that represents authority. I don’t get that.  Neither kids nor adults benefit from more exposure to demoralizing language and, let’s call it what it is, on the bleeding edge of pornography! The lack of respect stretches from the inner circle of our homes to the outer limits of our communities. It makes my heart hurt. 

God is great, God is good – why not expose children and adults to language and pictures that encourage, establish a firm foundation of faith, and give them a basis for thanksLiving? This is a heavy burden on my heart this morning because it’s Wednesday, the day I help care for a dozen toddlers and pre-schoolers while their moms attend Bible study. These are children who will grow up in a world where responsible adults are choosing to strip away filters that protect them from things they should not see or hear. Is it so hard to grasp the fact that we can’t unsee or unhear something? The damage is done! These little ones are just beginning to fill in the pattern of their life.  I’m thankful that these parents make it a priority to bring their children to church where they are learning, and adding godly virtue to their pattern. They are forming values that are wholesome, honorable, and right in the sight of God. Their minds are filled with the fruit of the spirit and the qualities of God, not the composted junk of the world. Garbage in, garbage out.  

I wonder when I read Matthew 18:10 what God thinks of adults who have no conscience for what they are exposing children to.  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Luke 17:1-3 Jesus said to his disciples, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.

WARNING! It isn’t just children who need to be protected from the evil that is in the world. We all have free choice. I encourage you to choose pure thoughts and practice moral purity and ethical behavior.  Every act has at its root the initial thought. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to “ Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” 

Do you desire the fabric of your life to be beautiful? It starts with the pattern and interwoven threads – thoughts and acts. So here’s what we all need to do ….. Philippians 4:4-9 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Let’s get to the reward

OK Everybody Up! UP UP UP! Rise and Shine! It’s Saturday everyone.  Can you believe it? It’s not Christmas in July, it’s September in July.  Perfect day to stay inside and tackle a few of those chores around the house.  You know …. Dusting, moving furniture, power washing the inside of the fridge, catching up on the DVR – Oh wait.  That’s not a chore.

Here’s some inspiration to get you going. Get your list and at the bottom put this word PRIZE!  I love rewards – yep! That’s me.  So here’s my plan. I’ve been busy on my list already and when I get enough accomplished, I’m going to the library.  I haven’t been there in months.  Then I’m going to put on my long johns and parka and go to Taste of Middleville.  I love these small community events.  I think of this planning and orchestrating like Paul told us in 1 Corinthians about needing self-discipline.  See what he wrote in verses 24-25 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

Right now . . . . off to  paint a wall ….. let’s go now.  UP UP UP outta that chair, face out of the computer, hands off the keyboard.  Ready?  Let’s get out there!

Plan to be Opposite

Ok everyone . .  .UP UP UP everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning

Happy weekend, everyone!  I woke up this morning with anticipation, and you did too! What will today bring? What will we do with the next 16 hours of our day? Was this a morning where you bounded out of bed and said with great enthusiasm “Good morning, Lord!”  Or did you plod your way to the kitchen and mumble, “Good lord, it’s morning.”  If you were from camp number one, you’re good to go, have fun today.  See you back here next time.  Now if you fell into camp number two, we need to talk.

Whatever you’re going through needs a plan; not just on paper, but in your heart because that’s where all acts come from.  Proverbs 23:7 confirms that the way we think is the way we act. What is the opposite of gloom? A thankful spirit!  Think of even one thing you are thankful for.  When we see no reason to be thankful, we get gloom.  Story time.

I was reading Romans one day, at a time when I was having some blue days . . . or was it weeks? Some days are long, tedious and let’s face it; some of those blue days turn gray and murky. Like barometric pressure that presses down and becomes a storm, so does our blue mood become dark and gloomy.  Somehow I stumbled onto Romans 1:21 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Oh no! Is this why I’m feeling bleak and uninspired? Do I drag myself through these dark days because I’ve refused to be thankful for the little things when the big things are out of reach?  “Lord, forgive me for not being thankful for everything I have that’s come from you. Please give me grace and patience to wait for you to direct this path I’m on while I wait for the bigger things.” A few days before, I had been reading Psalm 51 and right then I went back to that chapter in the Message translation.  Along about Psalm 51:7 I read these words “God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!’

So what next? Counter attack!  Plan to make a difference, starting with a thankful spirit; and attitude of gratitude. Did all those frustrations and irritations dry up and shrivel away? What do you think?  No, of course not. God brought to my mind, though, something ingrained in me since birth. When feeling down and worthless, do something for someone else.  Not because it strokes your ego, but just because you can.  1 Peter 4:10 has something to say about that. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” God works it all out so that doing something for someone who has no reason or ability to give back to you is like ice on a stinging burn.  The effects of opposites.  Giving instead of taking. Acting instead of inertia, Order instead of Chaos.  Peace instead of turmoil.  John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Life is a contact sport. We need all the players on the team, offense and defense – opposite roles, but all active in playing the game. What can be done today to exchange a gloomy blue for a sky blue?  Let’s get out there.

I want to live like that.  Don’t you?

What do we do now?

The tragedy of the past week has left us all reeling with unbelief at yet another act of violence directed at children and adults in a school. Unbelievable doesn’t begin to describe the torn emotions. None of us can imagine the horror and we wonder how we can just move on without impact. We will move on, but not without impact. This is not a case of lessons learned where we can look back and say, ‘Here was the fault; here’s where the situation could have been prevented.’ There is none of that.  How could anyone have predicted something like that? But what can we learn from any tragedy?  We can learn new procedures, better security, preventative  measures, and here’s something else we can learn – and bring it down to a personal level. Relationships – with our families, with our friends, and with individuals in our path who need a word of kindness, an empathetic ear, encouragement in any form.

Can we be sensitive today to our children, to our spouse, to our parents, to our co-workers and  neighbors?  When we speak, can we offer praise for some insignificant act? When we correct a child can we use words that encourage rather than put down? When we are dealing with pressures at work, can we assess the situation for what it is and understand that we all come from differing perspectives on the same subject? Instead of anger, can we be a calming influence?

There are no do-overs. We need to remember that even though the past can’t be changed, not even the tragic circumstances that we want so badly to have never happened.  But we can change the future by working on our attitudes, our heart actions and making a difference with our words and how we react to every situation – especially when we are connecting in relationships with other people.  Let us care for others with our words and acts – how about starting today?

Psalm 49:3 My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 86:11 Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dXH2lvt5YMA