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.
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Who will you live your life for?

Let’s be clear. I have no ambition toward wealth, no aspirations to lead a company from the corner suite. I have no yearning to live in a million dollar home or drive a $65,000 car. When I dream big, I don’t dream of a 6-figure income and a budget to fly around the world choosing where to stop for lunch and where to sleep at night.  When I dream big, all the characters on my storyboard fit and all the pieces have a place.  When I dream big I dream of success, not measured by the numbers on my W-2 or my name engraved on an office door, but success measured by God’s standard compared to my obedience.  Have you ever wondered why our 21st century lives couldn’t have little compartments where we could meet with God, you know; one on one to talk things through.  We could hand Him our ideas with a black marker and have him cross off the things that would shift us from his perfect will.  Our experience with choices often create a dilemma. This Or That Way Directions On A SignpostIt seems that Joshua was given wise counsel in Joshua 1:7  ““Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”  Maybe back in those days there were fewer choices and the 10 Commandments built sufficient boundaries – or not.  Joshua was serious about his divine call and like me and like you his desire was to fulfill his God given purpose. For Joshua, it was to      be a confrontational commander, a tough leader with a military mindset. He had no margin for error.  When he dreamed big, he had to see victory in the future of the Israelites.  That was success for Joshua – that is not success for me, and probably not for you.

Have you wondered, maybe not today, but at some time if you are living the life God designed for you? When making decisions isn’t it difficult to know for sure how your list would look if you could hand it to God with that black marker and ask Him to draw you a map – with steps to success clearly marked? I downloaded the book Simply Rich, the latest book by Rich DeVos. The front cover description expresses “Rich DeVos helped create one of the world’s biggest companies— Amway— and did it from the ground up, with little but his deep faith in God to guide his decisions and keep his hopes alive.” I’ve read the history of the Amway Corporation many times. In 1969 a friend of my dad came to talk about jumping into becoming an Amway distributor, but since this meant being ‘yoked’ with a business, he wanted a second opinion about his venture. The story included the meager beginnings, the triumphs and defeats, but most important the testimonies of two men who acted out of their devotion and dedication to God.

I don’t know any member of the DeVos family or the VanAndel family. I know from reading two other books by Rich DeVos, ‘Believe‘ and ‘Hope From My Heart‘ that in cultivation of their business and in the development of their families, they chose a godly path. Because of their many cycles of start, stop, switch, start over do you think there were many cries to God for wisdom and guidance? Do you think there were pleas for God to draw a map of his will?  I do too. Do you think they read this New Testament verse multiple times?  Hebrews 10:36 “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised”.

In West Michigan especially, but in all parts of the world the abundant blessing of God on the Amway Corporation is evident. There are benefactors that exist only because two men followed the leading of God to His divine definition of success for their organization.  I am thankful for the Christian character of Rich DeVos and the late Jay VanAndel.  I’m thankful for their unparalleled generosity. I’m thankful that they recognized their divine purpose and were determined to be successful according to God’s standards.

What can we do to be successful according to God’s standards?  Envision for a moment, handing over that that paper and marker to God. At the top of the list … Seek the Lord your God.  Deuteronomy 4:29 “But if from there you  seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.”  What else? 2458-1013-A2503I’ve spent more than my fair share of suggesting to God that he had me mixed up with someone else. I’m sure I’ve exhausted God’s patience with endless what-if hypotheses and why-not speculations. I’m relatively certain this verse in Romans was intended for me. Romans 9:20-21But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’”  Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?”  

God exercises patience and is long suffering because he isn’t just loving, He is love. God knows the heart of each of his children. When we question, when we dream, when we endeavor, when we conscientiously pray for direction from above, God shines a light on the path so we can stay the course or get back on track.  This promise is a comfort to people like me who live immersed in questions.  Isaiah 42:16I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

In the final analysis, this verse spoke volumes to me this morning in my quiet time.  It’s a good question.  Who am I serving? Galatians 1:10  “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

Learning to Wait

Yesterday at work I had to go to Protection Services. No, it’s not what you think. When I walked in, my ID badge was printed Exp 7/31/13 and when I walked out the date was changed to 10/1/13.  While I’m thankful for the work, I’m surprised by the third extension. This was not in my plan and once again I find myself asking, what is God thinking? Where is this going?  The truth circulating in my head was Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Have you ever been there? Grateful but finding the path hazy? Maybe you’re like me and make lists in your mind about what this could mean. Here’s what my human mind suggested. I need more time to learn and work toward my goal of producing online training. That’s got to be it.  But what if it isn’t?

In fact, Psalm 135:6 was written for people like me who try to second guess God.  “I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods.  The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” Could it be that the reason my contract was extended is because God said that’s what pleases Him; so be it? My logical mind tries to piece the irregular pieces of the puzzle together and make them fit into my picture, my design. For the past 156 days I’ve been praying for a specific job and God says wait.  One thing I’ve learned, at great pain I might add, is that when God says, “Wait! Stop getting ahead of me.” I know how to tug a little harder on the reins and slow the fired up canter to a lingering plod.  I still remember the tiny snap as my heartlight turned on in the year 2000.  At that time I was reading one Psalm and one Proverb each day. I was praying for something specific then too and getting very impatient for the answer to come cascading into my life.  I wanted to work from home and was praying about finding another job.  Psalm 27:14 was like a brilliant light when I read “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”  So I waited and waited and waited – then God did the miraculous.  I was able to keep my job, but work from home.  Who would think that there would be a need for someone to work offsite to test websites and my home was the perfect ’offsite’ solution?  “Wait, I say, on the Lord.”

We all know how to wait, don’t we? It’s not easy to wait.  Give me patience, Lord, but hurry!  My dad used to say don’t ever pray for patience while you wait. You’ll get tribulation.  As it turns out, that’s Biblical. Don’t believe me? Take a peek at Romans 5:3 “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.”  I wouldn’t say I ‘glory in tribulation’, but I have enough practice in waiting that I’m almost certified.  Learning to wait. Learn to recognize the benefits of waiting.  God has a plan – Jeremiah 29:11  God’s plan is based on His perfect will – Psalm 135:6   God will give us a stronger heart, stronger faith – Psalm 27:14    While we wait we might not like it – Romans 5:3.

Here’s something to take with you today. God wants us to have a teachable spirit. The benefits are limitless when we wait, learn, and recognize what God 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.”

Ready for today? Let’s get out there!

What’s in your decision?

I have a decision to make; an expensive decision. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’re in the middle of one now. Every night, I read myself to sleep. I think it’s a latent childhood routine that’s morphed into dependency. What goes into my mind comes out in action, so the last thing I read at night is not the news! Overnight whatever words I read germinate in my sleep so my first thoughts of the day are positive and compelling. Step into the first light with me this morning.

I have a decision to make; an expensive decision. I thought I had settled on the answer – until yesterday. And now, here I am in a dilemma. Are you curious? I know. I’m curious too, and it’s going to be an interesting adventure through the decision maze. On Monday I alluded to a maze and how advantageous it would be to work backward through it. Now is one of those times. Let’s start at the beginning – the back story of this quandary. In 1990 I was working at an organization where new technology was introduced on a regular basis; a virtual Mecca for an information junkie like me. I took an online course – and from then on I was hooked. Since that time I have centered my career immersed in writing instructions, procedures, how-tos, and technical stuff that nobody wants to read. Years have passed, and I still want to write, but I want to create material for online audiences of all ages from toddlers to adults. To do that I need three things.

1) God’s seal of approval – John 6:27 says “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

2) Software – to create and transform material into courseware – I need wisdom to make the right decision. Haven’t we all read Proverbs 3:7 that says “Be not wise in your own eyes …”? But I got a kick out of reading Romans 12 in the New Living Translation when I got to the end of Romans 12:16 “…And don’t think you know it all!” Oh brother! Come on – I don’t know it all . . . and to make this decision I have asked experts for their recommendations. I have the knowledge – now I need the wisdom. When I woke up this morning, God challenged me with this realization. “Have you really prayed about this, Jane? Have you dedicated this decision to Me and trust me to reveal it – on time – My time?”

3) Clients – who will trust me to transform their written material into online courses. This is definitely a yet-to-come adventure. So far I have zero clients and zero prospects, but that can change in a heartbeat. Do you know how I know? Because Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I take James 4:3 seriously. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” and to guard against wrong motives, I know I have to practice Psalm 115:11 “You who fear him, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.” And if none of this works out, I’m Ok with that too. Because my ultimate goal is to live my life to honor and please God. Isaiah 46:11 confirms this “What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”

Jeremiah 29:11 is the packaging for a victorious outlook on life. Don’t leave home without this truth trailing you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Today, do you have a decision to make? Have you, like me, searched for wise counsel but haven’t really dedicated the decision to the one who holds the results in his hands? Be wise. Give the decision to the God who can make a difference. Proverbs 24:14 “Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

Faith …. what about it?

In a few weeks, I will again be looking for a job to replace the one that’s coming to an end. As I was contemplating all that’s rolled up into that grueling task I thought about, what else? Faith! Faith and how little I think about it when life is basically predictable with only a few chokes and sputters to pull us back into our focus on faith.  It’s not that we lose faith; it’s there, but it sort of becomes routine….until we suddenly need to know there’s a power far greater than ourselves to rewrite the landscape of our lives and prepare the way for us in the unknown.  I’ve probably said this a thousand times in the past year.  Life is tough.  Pray hard. I’m pretty sure that’s biblical.  Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Doesn’t this say approach with confidence? No matter what, no matter where, life is better when God is there.  Help when we need it!

Do you like change?  Or are you more content with the familiar? There is no right or wrong answer.  We are all unique in our tendencies toward preferences. I like change, but I want it to be on my terms, when I’m ready for it because I’m prepared. I don’t like the drama imposed by erratic change, that’s outside my control. Does anyone else relate?  I’ve told God more than once, “I think you have me mixed up with someone else, God.  I’m not the girl who likes the roller coaster.  Remember, I’m the one who likes merry-go-rounds.”  Then God reminds me that He’s got everything under control and it I am going to please him, it’s time to get off the merry-go-round and trust him. Hebrews 11:6 “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Someone has asked me if I have friends who encourage me in return because I am all about spreading encouragement to others. The answer is yes, a thousand times yes. I have friends who live out their faith like it says here in Hebrews 6: 18-19 “We take hold of the hope set before us so that we may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” 

I once asked a college professor how it is that some Christian people seem so solid and nonjudgmental in their interactions and exude radiance in their lifestyle.  Then there are others who look like their face would break if they smile.  His answer was so simple.  He said, “Those who truly live out their faith, will naturally be joyful and live from abundant peace. ”  That’s what I want for my life, to  live with abundant peace – even when the burden of searching for a new job is ahead of me.  Even when the unknown is like a dark cavern ahead. Whatever comes, my goal for that moment is to practice Hebrews 10:23-24 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,”

Today is all we’ve got. Tomorrow is the result of how we live it.  Ready for today?  Let’s get out there!

When the answer is no

I had to say no, and disappoint my friend. That was tough – and as I considered how I would explain my reasons for no, it bothered me all day. There is nothing that causes more distress for me than being the source of disappointment to anyone…friend, co-workers, acquaintances, family… disappointment is high on my list of things to avoid. Have you ever felt that way?

I can easily say no to a commitment that is blatantly out of  my field of experience, “Would you be able to design and build this website?”  or outside my economic abilities to give, “Can we count on you for a $500 donation?”  Um “No!”  See how easy it is to say no in those circumstances?  But what about commitments that ask mostly for a few hours of your time and a donation on a smaller scale? What if the event is for a worthwhile cause and you were specially invited by a genuine friend?  We all have friends who are ‘friends’ only when they want something in return. To those friends it’s easy to look to the sky, look to the side, then look back at them and say ‘No! I’m not doing that.’

Here’s  the thing, and maybe you can relate. I struggled with my decision, and that in itself was an indicator that this event needed to be attended and celebrated by someone else, not by me.

1 John 4:1 says “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Well – that didn’t work! This event is for an organization that is 100% sold out to God. There are no false prophets involved.   Still, I had no peace about saying yes and I struggled with saying no.  There are consequences with yes and there are consequences with no.  So I continued. Galatians 5:10 “I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty.” Oh brother!  The only one throwing me into confusion is me, myself! Do I really, seriously want to pay the penalty for my own indecision?  Do you see where this is leading?

I was arguing with myself over a decision that has already been made in the reality of what I could do and what I couldn’t. Prayer changes things. 1 Corinthians 14:33 came alive right at the time I needed it.  “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” God had to lay it all out for me.  If I said yes to this commitment, my life would be in chaos; not just on the evening of the event, but in every evening leading up to it.  Why? Because other commitments would have to slide over on the timetable and I envisioned a collision all the way into the weekend.

I had to say no, I had to disappoint someone, but I was comforted when my friend said she understood and when I read this later on in my quiet time. Philippians 2:13 “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” God’s answers are not always so obvious but He spoke and I listened this time. I feel better about that situation, but now I have another one on the horizon whose consequences are yet unknown.  I wonder what Joshua would do, or Gideon, or David, or how about Paul? Here’s something to remember and think about for you and for others.  Colossians 1:9-11 “We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives,so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father.