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.

Finishing Well, or Just Finishing

Happy Birthday, Billy Graham. A hero of the Christian faith turned 98 on November 7th. Billy Graham has lived in the public eye since he was in his twenties, stayed true to his faith in Jesus Christ and has never been involved in immorality or been the object of scandal. When I was 11 years old my friends who had TV talked about watching Billy Graham Crusades and 40 years later I was still watching him talk about the object of his faith. In honor of Billy Graham’s birthday and his impeccable testimony, I’m writing this after reading his touching and gentle book, Nearing Home, but it’s also about Finishing Well. A lot has changed since Billy Graham began his evangelistic ministry, but one thing has not changed.  Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the phases of life. If you know me personally, you will know that I’m basically retired, but am trying to live as though I am not. I have nothing against retirement if it’s right for your life, but that isn’t the path for me. Someone told me once that retirement is OK as long as you ‘retire to’ not just ‘retire from’. I get that, and when I get far past the age of 80, I will ‘retire to’ rock crying babies in a hospital somewhere. I hope I still have a voice to sing to them too.  That’s all on my 20 year strategic plan. Go ahead do the math, I don’t mind. finishing-well

While wrestling with some decisions I was lead to the latest book by Billy Graham, Nearing Home.  I was drawn to it because of the sub-title “Life, Faith, and Finishing Well” and was caught from the second sentence of  his introduction. “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how to live in the years before I die”. He goes on to say, “The Bible doesn’t picture us spending our latter years as useless and ineffective, spending our lives in endless boredom or meaningless activity……God has a purpose for us no matter what our age, young or old, the best way to meet challenges is to prepare for them now, align ourselves with God’s plan so we grow older with grace and find the guidance to finish well.”  OK, so if you happen to have the book you will realize that I took great liberty in paraphrasing, but in essence – those are his thoughts.  And I share them, because that is my prayer for all of us – that we find God’s purpose for our lives so we continually are living out a life aligned with God’s plan, inside His blueprint that’s uniquely our own.

That might mean we keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing because we’re on the right path and in the proper grid on the blueprint.  It might mean taking a slight bend in the road and modifying our course, just a little; a small incremental change.  Or it could mean a 90 degree angle or 180 degree turn. Where should I be today to be assured of finishing well tomorrow?  Today is all I have and tomorrow is the result of how I live it.  Maybe start hereDeuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and mind.   Then speed read over to 1 John 5:3 This is love for God; to obey his commands. And if I start to waiver and fear that I can’t do what God has put in my heart to do, there is always the wisdom of Isaiah 41:13 I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Seriously, friends – what are we afraid of? God has made us unique because He has a purpose for each of us, He created us with certain interests, abilities, and yes, even our personalities.  He will be our guide if we are committed to follow His lead. Get that – His lead.

How many times do we fall into the trap of thinking this is all there is? Life isn’t the party I signed up for. Let’s encourage each other in our walk today. I know myself well enough now to recognize that my passion to learn and share what I’ve learned through writing, mentoring, and teaching is who I am. The nearly obsessive desire to be a helper and support others so they don’t have to do it all themselves – that’s part of me. Scott Steiner, a true faithful servant of God recently when home to live in heaven with Jesus. A few years ago he taught a class at my church on spiritual gifts and, me, always eager for insight into what God’ purpose was for me, couldn’t wait to put action into my purpose. God spoke to me through those lessons in discovery and purpose. I’m still discovering and will continue – well, until God says it’s a wrap for my life on earth.

We are all going to someday reach the finish line. All our days, like sand, will collect at the bottom of the hourglass, our time on Earth expended. Finishing well, or just finishing?

At age 98,of course Billy Graham has retired from daily work, but he still has confidence that until his next breath is celestial air, his purpose on Earth is not over.  So back to that retirement topic – there are many versions of retirement as there are many seasons of life! I’m looking forward to branching out, spreading joy, learning more, sharing more, being more tomorrow than I am today, because it’s in God’s plan for us to be what he created us to be until we no longer are.  Ephesians 5:16 Make the most of every opportunity. For some, that’s their version of retirement. For me, it’s “Show me the mountain, Lord, then grab my hand and pull me up it”.   Are you struggling today? Do you have obstacles to overcome? Are you seeking the right path? You don’t have to do this alone.   Isaiah 41:14 Do not be afraid … for I, myself will help you declares the Lord.  2 Thessalonians 3:3 & 5 The Lord is faithful, He will strengthen and protect you …. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

JOY – well, there’s that.

Do you ever feel like you never quite accomplish what you set out to do in a day? Not that you feel like a total slug, but there’s just something missing from the pattern so there’s a gap where achievement belongs.

I’m a list maker- and because I’m not unique in that capacity, my guess is that some of you are too. I used to do a few tasks, then sneak them onto my list, just so I could have the satisfaction of crossing them off. Come on – tell my you haven’t ever done that.

Lately though, I want to give up on my lists. I know. Right? How can that even be possible? It has nothing to do with lack of additions to it. Confession time. My lists have lists now and that makes me feel like a failure. My friend, Kim and I started the beginning of the year with weekly pages to keep us motivated and actively checking things off as we completed them.

At first my pages looked like Swiss Cheese, but then began to look like a deep, empty well pit. We need a new beginning and start over with the school year, but before then a new mindset. What does God say about my pattern? Does it look like what he envisioned? Or is it messed up too much with my ideas and not enough of his?

In days like this, I’m glad God doesn’t have mood swings. In fact, no matter how many times I get distracted, accomplish nothing, and do life my own way, God just says, ““I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Every morning (well, almost every morning) I start my day with God. We have a conversation about what I don’t want to do because I want to get it right out there where I know what I’m dealing with. There’s nothing like getting a clear, prayerful understanding. Then I pop in the DVD for exercise, and finally after that, have quiet time with the Lord and have an attitude adjustment before the day comes rolling in full steam ahead. Mindset. Prepare. Choose Joy.God sings over you with joy

Then stuff happens.

At the end of the day I wonder what he would say if I asked, “God did I meet all your expectations today?” But you know what? I don’t think God loves me any less if I messed up his pattern. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty warrior who saves. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

You see, you can work hard or coast; make the most of every moment or waste the minutes. God delights in you with gladness. God rejoices over you with joyful songs. Anyone who sings over you, is not holding a grudge, is not angry, is not waiting to catch you up. He rejoices over you with joyful songs – no strings attached. God wants obedience and doesn’t want you to give up. God wants what’s best for you and that is believing him, trusting him, and loving him. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He expects us to stay faithful and not give up. He is a God of new beginnings.

Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. Jude 1:2

 

Ma(g,n)ic Monday … You Choose

It’s here everybody.  Monday, Monday!  Will yours be MaGic or MaNic?  I choose G over N.  It occurred to me last week that we have an enemy on the prowl and it has laser vision, sensitive radar and unparalleled sonar. This enemy is on a mission to destroy anything we have that’s good and brings us joy. Take a few seconds right now and think of those things in your life that mean the most to you. If ties were severed, you would feel a demoralizing loss.  A friendship, your family, a fulfilling hobby, a job that fills an important part of your life; these are like magnets to the enemy of your soul and they are where you are most vulnerable to defeat.

When sports teams get on the field to play, they’ve done their homework. They’ve been watching their opponents play this same game on another field with a different team. Why? So they learn where they are weak; where they are most likely to fail. God warns us in 1Peter 5:8 “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We aren’t playing a sport against an opposing team. We are on a playing field though and our enemy the devil is looking for ways to steal our joy and bring us to defeat.

Last week a friend was heartbroken when a family member suddenly turned on her with unashamed fury and deliberately hurt her with unkind words. My friend is diligent in Bible study and is a witness for the Lord. Her real enemy wasn’t her beloved family member. Her real enemy was that roaring lion in 1 Peter.  When she told me the story my first thought was that Satan had discovered one of her weakest links – her family.  If there is one way to rob a person of their joy, sever a relationship.  The Message translation explains it well in Ephesians 6:13-14 “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words.”

Be prepared Ephesians 6 - Tyler in color guard

We are up against far more than we can handle on our own. I like the way that translation lets us know that God knows all about what we are going to experience today and tomorrow.  One of my favorite verses that I recall often is Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” And Jeremiah 33:3 “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”  We don’t know what waits for us today. We know that life is uncertain but we also know that nothing touches us without first passing through the filters of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God.

In Joshua are implored to be strong and courageous but we are also told to realize where our power comes from. Paul was an amazing, powerful Christian man, but even he had vulnerabilities that could have defeated him.  He gave it all to God.  2Corinthians 12:9-10 “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Life is a contact sport, my friends. It’s Monday. Do you have your armor on? Is this the g day or the n day.  Ma(g,n)ic Monday.  Let’s remember where our strength comes from.  2Thessalonians 3:3 “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.”

God is on your side:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_35gB76xV_Y

What does your harvest look like?

Yesterday, the stock market took a dramatic tumble. Did you notice that too? I should worry. They said my retirement funds are in jeopardy. ‘They’ could be right. Maybe I should worry. Seriously? Will it change the situation if I worry? Will it help me if I fret?

In fact, there are many things we could all worry about. Grab your pencil and start writing. We could each fill a page, more than a page, with worries. Whoa! Stop! Those insidious thoughts are seeds. Little seeds can become huge trees.

Little seeds can grow ugly weeds …. OR …. Little seeds can become a harvest of beautiful flowers.

What would happen if we swap out a worry with something we are thankful for?

What if we exchanged a negative thought for a positive belief?

What if we replace fear with faith?

When that next negative thought invades your mind – don’t plant it. Instead, plant a positive belief, a thankful remembrance, a joyful anticipation, an inspired idea.

Which would you rather harvest? Plant that.

Which would you rather harvest - plant that

From my Bible reading this morning in Psalm 77: I pray to you, Lord God, and I beg you to listen. In days filled with trouble, I search for you. Our Lord, I will remember the things you have done … Everything you do is right, and no other god compares with you. You alone work miracles, and you have let nations see your mighty power.

Yesterday, the stock market took a dramatic tumble. People tell me I should worry. God says in days filled with trouble, he does everything right. He gets to decide anyway so why not give him my worries and let him handle the world?  

I’m thinking a harvest of flowers sounds pretty good right now.

Finally, my friends, keep your minds on whatever is true, pure, right, holy, friendly, and proper. Don’t ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8

Dear Daddy,

I’ve been blogging now long enough that I’ve passed a few Father’s Days. If you’ve read this before, or reading it the first time, I hope you can identify with my story and had a dad like mine or that you are a dad like mine.

Dear Daddy,
It seemed longer back then, but I only had you for 19 years of my life. You died before my own kids could experience your life as a grandfather, but I know you would have been a gentle, godly role model for them.Family 1960  It’s Father’s Day and in just a few days you would be 96! I’m getting older too.  But here are some of my best memories of life as a small town preacher’s kid.

First, my best memory was waking up to the sizzle of frying bacon and the warm aroma of eggs, toast and coffee in this aromatic symphony that told me morning had arrived. I’d wander out to the kitchen and there you were reading your Bible at the table, with your small loose leaf notebook propped up in front of you.  I remember how you wore work clothes all day because you were always building or fixing or working on projects for us or for someone in the community.  When someone needed a spiritual leader to visit with them or officiate a funeral, you were the only preacher in town, so you got the call. You would never visit anyone dressed in canvas, you always dressed in your white shirt and dress-up clothes. You said it was being respectful to the other person.  I understand that now. Thank you for teaching me that there is more than one way to show respect.

I remember listening to baseball games on the radio and the commotion in our living room during games.  Remember when Vance used my stuffed rabbit for a football, reenacting football games during their broadcast? There was no instant replay back thdn. I think that’s where the Nerf ball got its start, in our living room. If there was a team who never seemed to get it right, I remember how you always rooted for the underdog.  Thank you for teaching me that everyone deserves a cheerleader, especially those that aren’t the best.

I remember when David climbed up on the roof of our house to find you working up there.  Instead of yelling at him like so many other dads would do, you gently and calmly persuaded him to keep walking toward you until you could grab him and carry him back to safety.  Thank you for teaching me that being gentle and staying calm diverts disaster.  I remember when you raised your voice, it was always in supportive coaching – and well, I have to admit that sometimes from behind the pulpit, you got your point across.  I guess you had to amp up the volume a little then.  Thank you for teaching me that angry yelling solves nothing.

I remember how you loved the young people at our church and you were always trying to find ways to bring them together to learn about God and to assure their eternal destiny. I remember you talked mama into letting us have a ping pong table in the living room so the teens could come over and play ping pong during the winter. I remember going to youth rallies, sledding parties in the winter and going to Lake Michigan in the summer. I remember begging to swim when the temperature in the air was barely 55 degrees outside.  Mama said no, but you said yes.  Thank you for teaching me that sometimes it’s OK to do crazy things.

I remember when our church pianist quit coming to church and you said, “Well, Janie. I guess you’re just going to have to learn to play the piano.” I remember Janet teaching me the notes before she got married and moved away and with that knowledge and a piano, I practiced hours every day and you didn’t complain.  I remember the day you said I was good enough and you wanted me to start playing in church. We had a guest speaker a few weeks later and I remember how you beamed when he said I was really good.  I’m certain I wasn’t that good, but that gave me confidence. Thank you for having confidence in me and teaching me that getting results is the effect of hard work and lots of practice.  I may have given joyful noise a new definition but you were proud of me.

Most of all, I remember how compassionate you were to everyone. Even when cantankerous people swore at you and put you down, you prayed for them. I remember when you picked up hitchhikers and brought them home for some hot chocolate and toast with peanut butter…..our meal of champions at our house.  When I started bringing friends home I remember mama saying that now we were both bringing home strays. Thank you for teaching me that everyone needs to know someone cares about them. I didn’t get the deep compassionate gene, that you had, daddy, but I learned enough about how to use the small portion I did get, from your example.

I wonder if it’s Fathers’ Day in heaven. If not, someday I will see you again and I’ll tell you all these things.  You taught me the most important thing in life is to accept Jesus as my own personal savior with my name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  Thank you for teaching me that the only way to live a successful life on Earth is to assure I have an eternal home in heaven.

I still love you, Daddy. I’ll see you someday.

A friend who is like a sister to me asked me to repost this from last year.  Here it is – and Happy Father’s Day to all the daddys out there.

It’s just dirt!

Recently while talking to a friend who has been thinking of writing devotionals, I remembered studying through a devotional “Inspired for Greater Things” by Linda Pulley Freeman. In it she talked about our need for a balance of work, exercise and rest.Health Work Career Friends Signpost Showing Life And Lifestyle Balance  Funny how our minds work – that prompted a memory of  conversation with a friend at church about when God created the Earth, on the seventh day, he rested.  God rested. Interesting point #1.  From there our conversation wandered into the verses where he made man from dust, but created woman by taking one of his ribs.  “So,” my friend said. “That has to mean we are special because we weren’t made totally out of dust like men were.” Interesting point #2.  We were joking, but in retrospect those two interesting points made me consider the effects of the Genesis revelation.

Interesting point #1 – God rested. Have you ever thought about that? It’s significant because the Bible doesn’t say after God toiled and labored and exhausted himself with all that creation stuff, he finally plopped down in the recliner, kicked the footrest, and leaned back to watch a little TV and rest.  No, that’s not it.  God finished creating, looked around, totally satisfied with masterpiece and then, without complaining about being wiped out – He rested! Genesis 2:1-4 “Heaven and Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished his work. On the seventh day he rested from all his work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day because on that day he rested from his work, all the creating God had done. This is the story of how it all started, of Heaven and Earth when they were created. We get tired, we get weary, we need rest.  Rest is good – even if we aren’t drop-down-limp tired.

Interesting point #2 – God made everything out of dust.  Genesis 2 and 3 recounts the story of how God spoke and the Earth was separated from the heavens. God spoke and separated the daytime from the nighttime.  God spoke and things happened. But God used dirt to create the animals and the birds. He formed man and woman also out of dirt.  I know. That was a very long time ago. But here’s the point. God did all that with dirt and his omnipotent commanding voice. God spoke and the world became. God took his own hands and made living things that have continued to reproduce and populate the Earth.

Here’s something more significant about Genesis 1-3 – If God could do all that, think of what he can do in the lives of the people he started working with way back thousands of years ago.  When we’re faced with overwhelming circumstances and gripped by fear of the unknown, how often do we turn to Matthew 6:26 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”  We are told not to worry because God will provide what we need. There are so many verses I could share with you on worry and fear and God’s provision. 2Timothy 1:7 “The Spirit God gave us does not give us fear, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”

Good workHere’s my thought though.  It’s been almost 3 years since I’ve been able to work outside my home. I could worry.  Since 1985 I have never been without work. I could worry. Our bills are not going to evaporate because I’m not working.  I could worry.  I prayed for my business to launch and bring an income stream, but God says, no. He has another plan.  I could worry.  Here’s why I refuse to worry. Because I know that the same God who made my ancestors out of dirt found on the ground, and made the animals, and the birds, and the fish, and orchestrated the beauty of nature in oceans, streams, mountains, valleys, trees, flowers and the moon, starts and glorious sun – He can take care of my minuscule need of fulfilling, satisfying work. That’s God. Give him a little dust and he will create!

Romans 15:4 “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

My Life is not in my hands or in the hands of an employer. My life is the hands of God who is power and controls the universe.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlmYxZAgrGI