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 Standard for Extraordinary

I regularly receive email messages announcing events designed especially for women. There’s one that catches my attention every time. It isn’t that the organization is authentic and reputable, it’s the label. This label: Extraordinary Women represents ministries to women through conferences and Bible study resources.  The women of this network are extraordinary, gifted speakers, singers, and facilitators. I know a countless number of women whose gifts are in areas unlike those of notoriety, yet are truly extraordinary.

I attend a women’s Bible Study with Extraordinary Women from my home church. Together we have discovered what it means to live gracious, productive lives by practicing what we learn from God’s word. Have you ever heard of the fruits of the spirit? The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. – Galatians 5:22 Together we’ve also studied the audacious faith of Daniel, the practical faith of James, and recently, why Jesus is the One and Only. That’s just a few the many topics that served as the centerpieces of spiritual development for our small group of Extraordinary women.

One of the leaders is truly Extraordinary, and I’ve gotten to know her well over the past years of lessons. She lives her faith out loud through hospitality and mentoring. I think of her when I remember the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5. There’s a sequel to that chapter and right here it is in Galatians 6:10lord do good “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” This friend listens with her heart and acts on opportunity – extraordinary.  She asked me one day to pray for the snow to melt from her driveway because she had young women coming to her home for additional Bible study. She  embraces and uses her gifts of hospitality, mentoring, and teaching while being wife, mom, grandma, and holding down a job. Extraordinary Woman. I wonder if she’s read this passage in 3John 1:5 that says “Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian brothers and sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible.” Visible faith – extraordinary. 

I can’t count the number of Extraordinary Women I have come to know and love. God has been gracious and brought me friends of extraordinary character, extraordinary talent, extraordinary stamina, extraordinary spiritual insight, extraordinary discernment, and that barely penetrates the qualities of these women I am thankful to call friend – extraordinary.

What does it take to be extraordinary?  Well, I can think of a few things – but how about a few highlights from God’s word instead of mine?  Ephesians 2:10 “We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”  1Timothy 6:18 “Command them to use their money for good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.” Hebrews 13:16 “Don’t forget to do good and to share what you have with those in need, for such sacrifices are very pleasing to him.”

I don’t think God will mind if I steal this prayer from David. To all the Extraordinary Women in my life, this is for you today: Psalm 125:4 “Lord, do good to those who are good, to those who are upright in heart.”

The power of R . . . Overcome or Overcomer

I listened as two young women talked in line ahead of me at the local Shell station. I think the topic was homework and part-time jobs; I’m sure they weren’t talking about their last girls day out at the spa when they agreed they were ‘dead-tired, overcome, exhausted’. If ever there is conversation that crisscrosses generational lines, it’s that one. Too much … too tired … overcome. WOW! Listening to them, the mom in me (well at their age, probably the grandma in me) wanted to hug them close and tell them it wouldn’t always feel like that – being overcome. The truth is though, we spend a good deal of our lives being overcome and a greater share of our lives trying to figure out how to overcome the feelings of being overcome. The difference is in one tiny letter at the end of the word. OvercomeR.  There’s a big difference between being overcome and being an overcomer. I haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m closer.Overcome or overcomer

Overcome … Overcomer – for some reason that makes me think about David in the Bible. If anyone had a reason to be overcome it was David. If you thought his only giant was Goliath, you might want to read 1st and 2nd Samuel. It’s in Psalms where David pours out his heart to God, but he had insurmountable burdens back there in Samuel. We hear a lot about transparency today, don’t we? David is practically the poster child for open transparency. Listen to the depth of David’s discouragement in Psalm 116:3 “The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me; I was overcome by distress and sorrow.”  This feeling of being overcome is a thread through the entire book. In the books of Samuel, King David was stressed out and torn apart by some form of battle, either personal or physical on every page. Have you read the Psalms and noticed peaks and valleys of emotion?  Sometimes even from verse to verse the tone changes Verse 4 then says “I called on the name of the Lord: “Lord, save me!”  I wonder how many times we feel distressed or discouraged, unable to see beyond our circumstances of the day.  We are exhausted and overcome like something sucked our energy away and left nothing in reserve. David felt that way … a lot!  But he recognized it; then notice how he handles it over in Psalm 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” Today I put my hope – he was not giving in to feeling overcome, he had hope.

A few years ago I read a book titled How Will You Measure Your Life. I don’t remember the whole book but I remember the point the author was making. Our measuring stick for success in life is a fake standard. The gauge marks success in increments of making money, a bigger house, position of power, and achievement of some level of greatness.  The author asked readers to examine their purpose in life. I know. “What are you here for” is a topic run rampant, but this book was different. The author, Clayton Christensen, wrote about how ambitions of a few of his friends meant they sacrificed everything, even life, to attain gold, to achieve platinum level recognition. They were overcome. Addicted to life on overdrive, without contentment their ‘will’ was trapped in the cycle of more. They were overcome, never satisfied. Contrast that book with the most heartwarming book I read last summer.  Soul Keeping by John Ortberg – This is a quote about being dissatisfied.  “When the will has become enslaved by need, when the mind has become obsessed with the object of its desire, when the appetite of the body has become master rather than servant, the soul is disordered.” When something is disordered – it’s not working.

When something we value is out of order, don’t we try to fix it? When we are overcome by grief or stress or loneliness or maybe feeling the effects of too much, discouragement moves in and displaces the joy that belongs there. Our souls become disordered, we become discouraged, we are overcome. The way out is the same way out that David took, Psalm 119:28 “I am overcome with sorrow. Encourage me, as you have promised to do.”  He went to God who, in other Psalms is referred to as David’s rock, sword, shield, refuge, and strength.

We have to remember where discouragement comes from. The enemy of our souls wants us to live disordered and defeated. If we are overcome we are too exhausted to be overcomers. We sink into discouragement. That’s OK. God will meet us there and pick us up to rise above discouragement.  Psalm 139:8 says “If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” It’s not easy to turn off the negative voices that say it’s not fair, it’s too much, I’m exhausted, but it’s a moment by moment choice. John 1: 5 says “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

What if today you could be an overcomer instead of being overcome? Think about good things today, pray, turn off the news, write yourself a letter, write someone else a letter, call someone, take a walk outside.  Today can be awful or it can be awesome.  You can be overcome or you can be an overcomer.  1 John 4:4 “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

And let’s end with these words in Mandisa’s song Overcomer “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 – Mandisa sings about it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8VoUYtx0kw

Search for joy, find peace

If we practice it diligently, anxiety can become a habit.  If we practice it diligently, peace can become a habit.  Remember that habits are learned behavior. Anxiety can be unlearned. The best way to learn or unlearn is what? Practice!  The best time to start is when? How about right now? Today is a good day to forge a path toward confidence in the future and away from worry and anxiety. Will it be easy?  Not really.  But it will be worth it.  We’ll need a lot of energy for the task so let’s start with being joyful.  Think of one thing that brings you joy…..if you have to go back a ways, that’s OK.  Philippians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.”  I don’t know about you, but I want to know the Lord is near.  Could it be that the beginning of the end of anxiety starts with searching for joy in our circumstances?

Joy doesn’t come from our spouse, or friend, or children or our work – no matter how much we love any of those things. Joy doesn’t come from perfect health, a new car, or Starbucks. Joy comes from our relationship with God; it’s internal. Acts 16:34 says, “he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.” Sometimes joy gets buried under layers of worry, fear of “what-if”, and obsessions with things. Joy is personal. Sometimes that monorail between my heart and heaven gets smokin’ hot because I pray. A lot. I have to search for joy because it won’t come find me. Joy is internal and gets buried deep. Jeremiah 29:13 promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God Acts 16 34.jpg

Search for joy, find peace. It’s not a one-step process though. It’s something we do day after day, moment to moment and it’s never in our own strength. Here’s something to remember. God, who has my heart, who is the source of joy, who brings peace, will give me stability. Psalm 73:25-26 says, “Whom do I have in heaven but you? I desire no one but you on earth. My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability.”

If you want joy, if you want peace, talk to God and empty your soul of worries, anger, frustrations, and attitudes that are caught in the spin cycle. God knows all about them, but acknowledging them before the Lord enables you to give up control. I like how Corrie ten Boom wrote, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. “  When we are in that perpetual cycle of worry and anxiety, our energies are completely depleted, leaving us feeling defeated and hopeless.

Now is a good time to be reminded of the joy factors in our lives, and these are not dependent on circumstances. Confess fears, shed all those worries and give them to the Lord. “And we destroy every arrogant obstacle that raises itself against the knowledge of God. We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 Something to think about: Holding on to worries and obsessing over them might be an arrogant obstacle to joy and peace.

You know that list of things to do that’s kept in plain sight so you don’t forget? What if you had a list like this? I refuse to take back my worry about “_____” . I am going to forgive “that or them” because it’s the right thing to do and I’m weary of the burden. I am not going to own “______” because it is outside my control. I am not going to take back “__________” because I have given it to God who controls everything anyway.  I’ve needed lists like that. Sometimes I still do.

Today might be one day that the lines of communication are between you and God are red hot due to constant use. I don’t know about you, but when I plan my day and anticipate what the future holds, I don’t want to be saddled by worry and anxiety. I want to be free to run the race, unshackled by debilitating anxiety.  I loved this quote by Corrie ten Boom “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?”  If prayer is my steering wheel, I have a better chance of escaping anxiety and being victorious over worry. Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Escaping Anxiety Tools for a Peaceful Life

  • Focus on Philippians 4:8-9 – think on things that bring peace
  • Protect your first part of the day; protect your last part of the day
  • Learn from the past
  • Search for joy, find peace

Press On by Selah 

When the mountain is steep
when the valley is deep
when the body is weary
when we stumble and fall

When the choices are hard
when we’re battered and scarred
when we’ve spent our resource
when we’ve given our all

In Jesus name we press on
In Jesus name we press on
dear lord, with the prize
clear before our eyes
we find the strength to press on

Happy Valentine’s Day! Uh-oh! Did you forget?

Happy Valentine’s Day! Uh-oh! Did you forget? According to history.com “Approximately 150 million Valentine’s Day cards are exchanged annually, making Valentine’s Day the second most popular card-sending holiday after Christmas.”  If you forgot to get a card for that special loved one, no problem.  You can do something else – even more meaningful and memorable.  Act it out. 1 John 3:18 “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

What starts with a thought, travels to your heart, and comes out as the act.  file0001058376399

I love the Valentine holiday, but not for the flowers, candy, and special dinners with flaming steak and Tiramisu. I’m not a romantic, don’t even like romance novels, but I still love Valentine’s Day. Is it because we’re two weeks closer to spring regardless of whether the groundhog saw his shadow? Or maybe it’s because Valentine’s Day is lots of pink and red – the colors of joy and calm. Vibrant red for joy and shades of calming pink. Or quite possibly it’s just because there are more smiles and more happy greetings.

You might not care about Valentine’s Day at all, you might think it’s a manufactured holiday, (bah-humbug) but get into the spirit. Choose joy, demonstrate love, share positive feedback with someone, smile at everyone, practice love – February 14th is your day! It’s never too late to reach out and make someone’s day a little better just because you were kind. 1Peter 3:8 has the right idea “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Most acts of kindness are free, costing you nothing except a few seconds of thought and a minute to act it out.  Say ‘hello’ to everyone you meet and be genuinely happy about it.  There is no language barrier in a smile. Smile at people you see as you walk down a hallway. Open the door for someone. Brush the snow off the car in the parking spot next to you. Let a person in line behind you, have cuts.  Go ahead.  Be patient, let a couple people cut in front of you.  Be brave, open our wallet a little wider and donate to a food bank when you pay for your groceries.

Galatians 6:9 spells it out for us “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

A few days ago I mentioned Intenional Acts of Kindness and one reader sent me 25 ideas. I’ll share 10 of them today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

HAPPYVALENTINEsDAY 2016

Trading Desperation for Peace and Contentment

Have you ever glanced at something, and in a flash had a creeping feeling of dread? How can a split second of visual make such a powerful connection with your brain that, in a snap, alters your mood? This morning, I bounced down the stairs to my office – not in a falling down the stairs bounce, but in true Tigger fashion, a joyful bounce. As I turned on the light my eyes were drawn to an open magazine article with a huge elegantly printed title “Desperate for more” – an instant, a connection, an altered thought. Desperate for more …. Am I desperate? I don’t think so, but what if I am and just don’t admit it? Temperature check – desperate. Desperate. Desperate for more …. what?

Walking further into my office, God spoke to me about how quickly I felt a demoralizing effect from one tiny title on a page. Coffee in hand, I picked up my ‘Thankful’ journal and pen to write the daily entry. Thankful for – where do I start? My journal has an entry for every day and my Joy jar has a note for each day too. Desperate for more – of what? Here’s what I arrived at when I spent some quiet time with the Supreme Controller and Provider of all things.  empty_platform

Love – Psalm 90:14&17 “Satisfy us in the morning with your loyal love! Then we will shout for joy and be happy all our days!” I’m not desperate for love. I have all I need and am satisfied with that.

Wisdom – Ephesians 1:17 “I pray that God may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” The best way to avoid feelings of desperation is pray that you will know God better.

Peace – These comforting words come from Luke 1:78-79 “Because of the tender mercy of our God, there is light in darkness and He guides our feet into the path of peace.” We have the perfect instruction manual for peace. The Bible speaks extensively about peace what it is, how to get it, how to keep it, why you never need to be desperate for it. Philippians 4:8-9 “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. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Hope – Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Contentment – I know what you’re going to say already. “You sound like a broken record.” But I have to remind myself and maybe you won’t mind a little reinforcement. Comparison is the opposite of contentment. When I think of contentment, I remember the 6th chapter of 1 Timothy.  I could copy the whole thing right here for you, but let’s start here with 1 Timothy 6:6 “godliness with contentment is great gain. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. “  If you want to read the remainder, just remember 1 Timothy 6.

Sometimes I need a little wake-up call  and allow God to warn me to stop being so vulnerable to suggestion and start fully trusting Him to meet my desperate needs.

God knows we are a desperate people. Our emotions are ripped apart and pieced back together. The happy face of one moment becomes the frown of defeat the next. The optimist can teeter on the edge of pessimism when the burden is too heavy to carry. Desperate for more ….

The magazine article’s complete title which I didn’t see at first was Desperate For More Time. The article said we are slaves to time and our schedules are fused so tightly there is no time for leisure. It’s a common problem, feeling desperate but I learned something today. I’m not desperate for anything.

Philippians 4:19 “God will provide everything you need according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

How about you? Are you ready to turn in your desperate wants for peace and contentment?  I’ll meet you out there.

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd. That’s all I want.”

Within Tolerance

“Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side” … “In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.” Hovering between sleep and the first dawn of day, those songs made paths through my memory. To understand, you need the backstory.

I don’t drive very often, and never when there’s a hint of poor driving conditions. Two years ago, I left my house with the sun shining and no hint of snow. I parked my car, entered the store and two hours later things had changed dramatically. As I crept from my parking place, another car coming toward me couldn’t stop, and for a brief moment our cars touched. No visible damage so we got back in our cars and went home. Well, I tried to go home – but something was wrong. Something was causing my car to rebel out of control and it wasn’t the blowing wind or icy roads. There was a defect somewhere between the wheels underneath and the steering wheel in my hands. The car stayed within tolerance at under 18 miles per hour, but at 20 it was out of control.

This wasn’t a lesson in why I shouldn’t be shopping or out joy riding in less than congenial weather. God and I had that discussion as I held the steering wheel with white-knuckle force, coaxing and begging the car to stay in the lane where I directed it. “God, if you just get me home safely, I promise I’ll never drive again.” Silence. “OK, how about this, God. I will stay home and not go anywhere, ever.” Chuckle. “Seriously, God. Do you see me here? I’m scared to death and you’re not helping.” Ponder. “OK, God, just get me home safely. That’s all I want. Nothing more – just keep me on track until I’m home safe.” Agreement.20151210_074618

Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side. Life is like that car. There was a track, a purpose, and with concentrated focus and no excessive speed I stayed within tolerance without straying. How often have I lost focus and strayed outside the path I know was chosen for me? I didn’t hear an audible voice of God, like in Isaiah 30:21 “You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying, “This is the correct way, walk in it,” whether you are heading to the right or the left.” Safely home I considered how those petitions to God while braving the drive apply to all my circumstances and all my choices. Instead of getting ahead of God and slipping outside His boundaries, I should acknowledge the truth of 2 Samuel 22:31 “As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless;…” and because some of us are slow learners he offers Psalm 18:30 “…he shields all who take refuge in him.”

Bargaining … arguing … leveraging, I’m guilty of trying to help God out – Please show me your path, Lord, but I think I can figure out the first part, I just need you there to make it happen. God assures me that he’s listening but in Proverbs 3:1-3 he reminds me “Do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart…they will bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you…”.

Do you have a tendency, like me, to bargain with God? “Please do this, God. It’s what I want, it’s what I need.” Remember that God had David write this for our benefit: Psalm 130:5 “I rely on the LORD, I rely on him with my whole being; I wait for his assuring word.” God says, “Let’s change this up a bit. How about you rely on Me this time?”

That night when I was scared into submission, I didn’t learn that cars break down or that they wander aimlessly if they aren’t kept under control. God wasn’t waiting for my promise to never drive again. God doesn’t change his mind based on human conditions. He wanted for me then what he wants for all of us every day. In the morning when I rise, when I work throughout the day, when the world is fast asleep, God just wants us to say “Give me Jesus.” Psalm 31:24 “Be strong and confident, all you who wait on the Lord!” That’s all he wants of me. It’s all he wants of you – be strong, be confident, wait on God.

In the morning when I rise, In the morning when I rise, In the morning when I rise Give me Jesus – Jeremy Camp https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VFJGsBApIuk