Persevere Through Hope

Don’t give up. Have you ever heard those words and thought, “Sure. Fine for you to say, but you don’t know what I’m going through here.” I’ve been on that path right beside you. I know how it feels. You know – like if you had a towel. you’d throw it in. There are many reasons not to throw in the towel or call it quits or give up on that thing you know is worth the effort.

When my grandson Tyler was in preschool he wanted to carry the basket while shopping with my daughter. As each item was added to that little red basket, the weight got heavier and heavier. My daughter observed this and offered to take the basket herself, but he said, “No, I’ll persevere.” It was a significant burden for a little guy, but he insisted on carrying the load until they reached their destination – the checkout, the relief station, the completion.

If we could define the storybook life, we would all fill up our baskets with perfect health, sports without injury, relationships with no rejection, scrumptious food with no calories, kind acts, no bullies, all fun and pain would be absent. Even though full, our baskets would be a light as air, as weightless as happiness.

That isn’t how it is though. Life is a contact sport and sometimes it can really beat us up. We live in a fallen world full of sadness, sickness, baskets that grow heavy with burdens. But we are implored to not give up. In fact, Hebrews 10:36 spells it out for us. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” If you read that entire chapter you will see that people lived with conflicts, insurmountable afflictions and they suffered greatly. “I’ll persevere.” became their mantra.

Maybe you never feel like giving in. You might never reach the saturation point and wonder how you can go on. If you’re that person, reach out to others who need your courage. The word encourage means to instill courage in others. Be the person who touches the heart of the hurting.

If you are on the edge of giving up and questioning how you can take one more step, here’s your answer. Yes, you can. It’s called hope. 

Help someone else. Do something for another person, expecting nothing in return.

Organize your private world – this might take some thought and effort but this is powerful. Organize your private world means thinking through and writing down what is important to you. You don’t have to love writing to jot down what you want your life to look like. Organizing your private world also includes getting rid of clutter in your living space that blurs your focus and becomes a distraction. A little bit of clutter is a byproduct of a full life, but when it becomes a distraction. A little bit of clutter is a byproduct of a full life, but when it becomes too much, it’s a burden, not a blessing.

Pray. You knew this was coming, but I can’t apologize for bringing it up over and over. You can even pray, “Lord please remove burden, but if you choose not to take it, at least lift the weight.” The more prayer you put in your basket, the less room there is for all those burdens. If you want to know the benefits of prayer, read James 5.

Embrace opportunities. This might sound impossible because when we feel defeated, we don’t recognize opportunities. Opportunities aren’t always seen with human eyes, they are often seen only with the heart. Sometimes we have to remember where we are in our life journey. “Focus on what you have not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.”

So here we go. Hope to continue. Hope to persevere. Hope shared with others. Hope to last a lifetime.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4



I’m glad God doesn’t have mood swings

Before you read let me say I hope what your read here today is not at all like what you experienced yesterday or will experience today. Instead I hope your day is peaceful and that every conversation has an element of kindness. I pray that everyone who reads finds something to be joyful about today.

There is opportunity every day to experience the moodiness of others; sometimes even the moodiness of myself.  There are days when I’m mystified by the raw, biting attitudes of people who seem to be numb to the effect their attitudes have on co-workers, friends, and even their family – sometimes especially their family. Recently I was listening to one side of a conversation and as the dialog continued, I could feel the tension and heat in the air as the power play continued. While it was impossible to detect the winner, both parties were certainly defeated.  It’s painful for someone like me who just wants everyone’s world to be perfect to witness the obvious peril of individuals who can’t agree, put aside grievances, and just get along.  Right!  Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being.  In this world there will be disagreements …. LOUD and hurtful disagreements.

This is what hurts even more.  A friend who finds fault, and criticizes instead of supports and encourages.  A friend who is generally kind, but lets every little irritation become a battle, and everyone inside the circle become targets and victims of the schrapnel.  We are all so human.  In this world there will be pain and sadness. I don’t often read the some of the forgotten books of the Old Testament, but Ecclesiastes 8:9 from the Message  spoke to me. “ All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that’s going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is.” 

If this happens, run – don’t walk to the book of Psalms where you will find spiritual comfort food and cool water for your totally dehydrated spirit. Psalm 59:16 says “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.”  Then believe that God is bigger than any problem you have. Jeremiah 32:17 was written for those of us who need to be reminded of that. “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.”

I am eternally grateful that God is always the same.  If He disagrees with something I’ve done, He responds the same as He does when I do something right.  And just because I do something right doesn’t mean I will live a life free of pain.  My life is a process lived out through faith in a God who never changes.  He doesn’t get indignant and change his words to get back at me. He doesn’t turn his back on me when I make a mistake.  He doesn’t expect me to do stupid things then reject me as damaged goods when I do. In fact look at the proof in Lamentations 3:22-26 “I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is God’s faithfulness. I will wait for him. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him.”

God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  His mood and acts toward me are not dependent on my waivering mood or flawed acts toward Him.

God doesn’t have mood swings.


The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict – Book Review

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by The Arbinger Institute June 2015 – Conflict in high places, conflict in low places. There is no escape from intolerance within that becomes battles without. The world needs to practice what is conveyed in this book. Fostering peace is a heart level strategy. When a friend gave me a copy of this book she told me it was life changing. share_04I wondered what was in it that impressed her with such cogency. Through the pages of this book, I came to understand why she said with unwavering conviction that this book had undeniable truths that could make a difference in whether relationships were built or destroyed because of how conflicts were handled. Written in almost the style of a novel, this volume is packed with realism and authentic wisdom. Early in the book I caught this quote, “The secret to war is to have a heart at peace.”  Read the full review of the book here.

Joy will not find you … go find it and bring it back.

Confused about the way you should go? Me too. In fact I was contemplating this morning and before I had a chance to stress about it, I decided to write to God. As I was writing out my prayer “Read Psalms” came to my mind. I chose Psalm 32 and look what it says in verse 8. I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

You know what? Nothing catches God by surprise. He has our life all mapped out for us. I’m going to make the best choices I’m capable of, and trust that God has his loving eyes on me. If I mess up, He’s going to cover for me because he knows I’m not perfect – but I’m loved.

What’s on your mind today? If there are any embers of worry and doubt, maybe you can take time to talk to God about it and find confidence instead of conflict. I didn’t want to bring this up, but well, here is is in verse 9. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.

Don’t worry though. God isn’t going to hold that against you. See? Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Look for the good in every day. I know. It can be pretty tough, but there is something to be thankful for, there is some element of joy in every day. Joy is not going to find you. You have to go find it and bring it back. Then share it – lavishly share it!

Treat yourself to joy every day!

I want to be the one who enters

Posted on the wall of an office I noticed this truth:  Everyone who visits this office brings joy – some by entering, some by leaving.

I feel your smile. I know. You’ve seen it too. Maybe not that one specifically, but one that asserts the same sentiment. I want to be the one who brings joy by entering.

It seems that articles circulate in themes. Lately many have discussed the impact attitudes have on work associations, home relationships, productivity, ROI (for us non-business majors, that’s the measurement of what you get back from all you’ve invested – and it’s not all money), friendships, and satisfaction on about every playing field defined by civilization. When I say attitude is everything, it’s not an oversimplification of how we humans co-exist on the planet. Getting along is hard work.Bull fight

Let’s visit this attitude thing. Remember when you were 6 and your mom said, one bad apple spoils the whole batch? An apple with a bad spot, left unattended bleeds onto the skin of another apple, then another, then another, unless it’s snatched away from opportunity to contaminate. One bad attitude if left unattended, bleeds onto the attitude of another, then another – until contamination is inescapable. When is the best time to eradicate the contaminant? Yes, of course. Before it touches anything else. In theory, it’s possible; in reality, not so much.

I’ve been thinking about the detrimental effects of “bad apples” in the context of joy in the office; joy in the room. What does God say about them?

  • Pride – Proverbs 13:10 “Pride leads to conflict; those who take advice are wise.”  Conflicts don’t breed in isolation. When the proud touch the vulnerable, well, look what happens according to Proverbs 18:12 “Haughtiness goes before destruction;humility precedes honor.”
  • Selfishness – James 3:16 “For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.”  This sounds like a bad apple turned rotten to me.
  • Impatience – Do you remember the story of Moses, burdened with the responsibility to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt? Hey! They had been in captivity for years and unable to live as free people. But when they were released and began their journey, someone started an indignant rant that spread among the travelers. Probably not just one bad apple, but it started with the minority and look at how it turned out in Numbers 21:4-5 “the people became impatient because of the journey. The people spoke against God and Moses: “Why have you led us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread or water, and we detest this wretched food!”  Well that was effective! They had just defeated the Canaanites and they were already impatient and spreading bad attitudes to one another.
  • Gossiping – You know, I don’t think many revelations in scripture involved junior high.  Do you? But many of the attitudes were reflective of immature people. Relationships are shattered at home, at church, at work and in neighborhoods by gossip.  Proverbs 16:28 says “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” Gossip – the bad apple.
  • Judgmental – Sometimes I think people who can’t pull the plug on their passionate judgment of others, are lost from themselves. They are so disassociated from loving their own life, they can’t accept that some who enter a room bring joy clinging to them like velvet. Romans 2:2 “Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors” (The Message)

What if . . . you wanted to be that one who enters a room bringing joy?

What if . . . you wanted to be the good apple escaping the basket before the bad contaminates you?

What if . . . you wanted to be the good attitude?

Well, there’s an APP for that. A Biblical application that resonates with anyone willing to listen with their heart and do what scripture says. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ or a ‘one time and you’re done’ proposition. It’s being on guard daily and even more like moment-to-moment to resist the effects of bad attitudes.

  • Forgive – This is a short word with immense impact. If you’ve been in the basket with some bad apples, you have not escaped unblemished. Did you know there’s a test to see if you have forgiven completely? If you have relinquished the need to hold power over someone or given up the desire to to see them punished, you have forgiven. If you have not forgiven, you are holding onto a piece of the blemish and nothing good can come from that.

Matthew 6:14-15 “In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.”

What makes humans different from animals? There are variations on the answer but this is how I look at it. Conscience. Humans have the ability to discern right from wrong. Animals have awareness and senses that allow then to be trained to detect right from wrong but they aren’t born with that ability, nor can they foresee the consequences of choices. Maybe the reason we adore our pets so much is because they are such good listeners, they follow us around like we are their heroes, and they forgive us when we’re grumpy. And we forgive them. How much more could we save that basket of apples if we could all forgive each other like we forgive Lassie, Tippy, Patches, or Bruno.

Everyone who visits this office brings joy – some by entering, some by leaving. I want to be the one who enters.

What we own

Have you ever had a blue day… maybe not dark blue, but not the sunny sky blue that lights up the sky and feels like summer. It’s more like the gray blue that’s tinged with sadness and mutes all joy.  It’s not unusual for blue days to slither through places we visit multiple times in a week:  the gas station, grocery, other stores, church, workplace, restaurants and other places where people meet and greet.  It’s common to hear complaints, see people in subtle conflict, or witness unforgiving anger.  After while, all those circulating emotions suffocated the happy out of me. You know that last straw; that last nerve; that hair-thin filament …well it broke.  I stopped letting all those situations rent temporary space in my head and I started to own those feelings projected by others until my own attitude was affected.  Stop!  Just stop it! I don’t own those issues; I sure don’t need them. Proverbs 17:9 says “Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” All those episodes had nothing to do with my close friends, but some of the conflict was between friends, most of them working together.  What if instead of griping about a situation, and gossiping about someone who isn’t there to defend themselves, that displaced energy was used to actually solve a problem? Love covers over an offense.  I’d rather own an attitude of love.  Proverbs 10:12 makes that same statement, but with a little more audacity. “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.”

I was lamenting to Tim (my husband for those who don’t know me) that I was buried in such negativity everywhere I went. It seems that there is unrest everywhere and petty grievances turn into little earthquakes that erupt in dissension. My positive attitude was getting a little tarnished and crinkled around the edges. Sad.  I was reminded of a Psalm chapter 37, verse 4  “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  Are the desires of my heart to be dragged to the pit by attitudes and actions of people?  Or could I focus on the uplifting acts of friends like Marcia Thompson who put together little packets of ideas for performing random acts of kindness; or the ministries expressing love, respect and value of each other.  I was treading dangerously close to losing perspective and forgetting about all the good things because I was surrounded by too much negativity.  I read a letter from someone who I reported to years ago, but have stayed in touch with who recently visited India. On his list of 12 lessons learned,  he observed “Evil is everywhere looking for an opening into our heart.”  No matter where we travel, the enemy of our souls is waiting for an opportunity to slither into our lives and infect us with poison. If this happens, and it will, Stop!  Just stop it! and remember the instruction of Ephesians 4:26-27 “In your anger do not sin, do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”  I am thankful for people who turn thoughts into actions and bad situations into victories.

Reading the story from Tom’s trip to India taught me something about ownership. There are many things in life that we don’t have to own: complaints of others, their criticisms, their ridicule, and their attitudes.  What we do own is our own attitude and what we harbor in our hearts.  Remember the cycle. What we put into our minds becomes a thought, a thought seeps into our hearts, our hearts produce the actions. I don’t know about you, but I want to own the thoughts that produce good actions.  Remember what we own as Proverbs 23:7 tells us, as we think in our heart, that’s how we really are.  Our Pastor Frank Snyder has repeated to us over and over you can’t do right if you don’t think right.  We need to own right thinking.  Let’s skip through a few verses in Philippians 4 “Be full of joy always because you belong to the Lord. Let all people see how gentle you are. Do not worry. Learn to pray about everything. Give thanks to God. The peace of God is much greater than the human mind can understand. Be at peace. Keep your minds thinking about whatever is true, whatever is respected, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever can be loved, and whatever is well thought of. Be thankful for everything.  Keep on doing good deeds. The Lord gives me a reason to be full of joy. “

Let’s own this day and make it full of joy and as Philippians 4:9 says “God Who gives peace will be with you.”

If I could see …. by Amy Grant

White flag that conflict

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning!  Remember…nothing is better than this day. And you say, wait a minute. You say that every day. Right! becauset it’s true! I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. How to have a good day….Well for one thing, turn off the TV and avoid the homepage of  OK, so I admit that sinking your head into the sand or making your dwelling place under a rock, but seriously.  As yourself, do you really need to be immersed and saturated in the news of the day upon waking, at noon, at 6 O’clock, and then tune in again just before turning in for the night?  We are saturated in bad news and conflict.

We need a vaccine so we don’t catch the conflict bug that infects every area of our lives. In fact, think about it. When we hear about ‘the bug’ going around do we gravitate toward it so we catch it too? Or do we put up a defense, take precautions and fight it?  Uh-huh.  That’s that what I thought.  Could we successfully set up a defense against the contaminate conflict bug? Move away from the television; move away from the Internet and nobody gets hurt. If only it were that easy.  We can’t totally escape from civilization of which both the Internet and television are foundational. But we can decouple, unhook and minimize our dependence.

Challenge #1 – Get your news in snatches, listen and read just enough to stay informed, but not enough to take ownership in the conflict.

Challenge #2 – If you’re passionate about an issue, take action and get involved in making a difference there, but let someone else handle the rest.  Reduce anxiety.

Challenge #3 – This requires no skill but is the most important challenge of all because it takes effort and determination.  Immerse your mind in right thinking.  Philippians 4 has this to say about how to accomplish right thinking.  Here are a few comments from the Message:  “Celebrate God all day, every day. Make it as clear to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.  Summing it all up, you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Now put them into practice and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

I know this is an obscure book in the Bible and doesn’t get much press but listen in on a few verses in Zephaniah 3:16-18 “Don’t be afraid … don’t despair. Your God is present among you, a strong Warrior there to save you…he’ll calm you with his love and delight you with his songs.”

We have the tools, we can do this.  We can be the calm in the storm.  We can be lean on God, lean on friends, lean on family and let’s get out there and rock the world till it tilts toward what’s good….
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. The battle rages on . . . raise your white flag……