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.

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Joy: Buried Treasure

It was the night of bright lights and bling. New Years Eve – everywhere we looked there was glitter and sparkle and shine. Every particle of air held excitement and ice melted from sheer energy. There were smiles and hugs and the air was electric with celebration! No matter if 2016 was a good year to hang onto with tenacious enthusiasm or one that we couldn’t wait to vanish into history, the beginning of a new year sparks hope. Parties and celebrations ignite happiness and flame the atmosphere with joy.  

I wonder though, what happens now when the lights have gone out, the fireworks are over, the confetti has fallen to the ground in dusty clumps and the glitter is washed down the drain. Is that the end of happiness? Is that it for joy? It is, if joy is dependent on our circumstances.

I’ve been thinking.  Special events bring excitement into our lives; they’re blessings and we treasure those moments when our hearts feel happy. But the moments don’t last and as they fade, so does the feeling we confuse with joy. Joy is heaven-made. It’s part of our spiritual DNA. “The humble will be filled with fresh JOY from the Lord. Isaiah 29:19 [NLT] Doesn’t that sound like our joy comes from God and not from ourselves or any other source?

Happiness is homemade. It’s part of our human experience. Many years ago I read one of those sayings on the side of a coffee mug that said, “If everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.” That’s a pretty good description of life, isn’t it? We’re on our journey for a while taking the scenic tour, a few curves a few hills – we’re comfortable, we’re happy. But then life gets really tough and the pleasant journey becomes a dangerous expedition. Thrown off our path we’re driven into the deep end of the ocean or feel like we’re hanging by our fingernails on the side of a cliff. Not our happiest moments, are they? There is no bling, there is no glitter, the light is gone. The last thing we feel capable of is being happy.

How often do we say it? “But Lord, I’m not happy. I’m tired of trying so hard to get through this. And Lord, in case you haven’t noticed, this ‘thing’ is getting me down. Somedays I feel so sad I don’t want to move.” Do you remember Psalm 23:1? The Lord is my shepherd … This isn’t a verse tucked into the Bible so we could envision a calm, serene flowing brook surrounded by wild flowers. Shepherds worked hard, trudged through brambles and mud to keep track of their sheep. And they protected every single sheep from any harm that threatened them. “The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Do you trust your shepherd? you-make-known-to-me-the-path-of-life

Jesus reminds us that nothing can take our joy away from us because he is the source of our joy. Nehemiah 8:10 says “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Our circumstances may make us sad, they may exhaust us, we might feel like we’ve been plunged into darkness but it’s in our darkest days that the tiniest light appears brightest. The light of the world is Jesus (John 8:12); it’s he who is the source of our joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; as I walk with You the pleasures are never-ending and I know true JOY and contentment.”

We have to look for joy, like excavating for buried treasure because that’s what it is. Joy is a gift we choose to open over and over.  Joy is our light even when the bling of the world is gone. Look for the joy because it won’t come find us.

To choose joy means we choose God, we choose to fill our minds and fill our hearts with his words. Matthew 12:34 describes it so clearly. “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Joy might not be a natural response to a broken spirit when days seem dark, but if you are God’s child, you already have unlimited, renewable joy. Nahum 1:7-8 tell us that God comforts his troubled children who put their trust in him. “The Lord is good. He protects those who trust him in times of trouble. But like a roaring flood the Lord chases his enemies into dark places and destroys them.” That’s God. He protects, and destroys the enemy that tries to steal your joy.

Lord, your word says you’ve given me an unlimited supply of renewable joy, but I’m having a hard time finding it. Please be a light on my pathway to peace and joy. Flood my heart with so much joy here is no room for darkness. God, I ask you to change my circumstances, Lord. But if you choose to grow my character through them, then please change me. Change my attitude, change my heart, change my life. Make me a faithful steward of your gift of joy. Amen

Let it fail!

Let it fail! Normally that’s the sound of giving up. Right?  Just lay down your tools and leave. Give up. Stop trying. Walk away. I urge you to stick with me on this one. Sometimes the path we are on is so deeply ingrained we don’t recognize it as being wrong. We were on a motorcycle trip in North Carolina. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know what I mean about meandering over hills, through dense woods, and following roads that are never straight. I, being the passenger, thought I kept seeing signs pointing to the same town, but going in different directions. Interesting….but I was along for the ride and neither navigator nor driver so I didn’t speak up and question the intent. Our destination was only 19 miles from where we started, we drove on the path that seemed right, we didn’t deviate and nearly 3 hours later we arrived, road weary and exhausted having endured an anxious trip of not 19 miles, but 65. How did that happen?  You’re right, we needed a little dose of wisdom on our journey, a variation from the path.  That’s biblical, by the way. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

That story is a picture of life, isn’t it? We have embedded ourselves so deeply in patterns of the familiar, we don’t know what life would be like if we exited the known path for another. There are signs along the way, clues that implore us to consider another direction, but we ignore them because this path seems right and to stop, means we’ve failed.  Really?  If this is where anxiety lives; if we live in fear; if this path is leading us deeper into despair, shouldn’t we let it fail? In his book, Failing Forward, John Maxwell said “Mistakes become failures when we respond to them incorrectly.”we have embedded ourselves deeply

I think it was Stephen Covey who started it, but I’ve heard others say we all have the ability to change our response to a situation. He called it Response-Ability. I have thought of that many times when I start descending down the rabbit trail to the familiar past where the roots of anxiety fester. I wonder if it’s my pride that barricades me from peace. Proverbs 16:18 spells it out quite plainly. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”  I don’t want to completely descend to the place where worry and anxiety reproduce. I see the signs – so I can turn off the path. Failing at anxiety is a banner I want to wave high and proclaim that I will not be a victim to worry. I will not be afraid. You might remember that I often say, life is a contact sport and sometimes we get beat up pretty badly, but God is able to do above all that we ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

I love the way the Message translation talks about our Response-Ability to some of life’s challenges. Psalm 56:1-4  “Take my side, God—I’m getting kicked around, stomped on every day. Not a day goes by but somebody beats me up; They make it their duty to beat me up. When I get really afraid I come to you in trust. I’m proud to praise God; fearless now, I trust in God. What can mere mortals do?”

Sometimes, it is we who are kicking ourselves around.  Lesson learned – stop it! Choose another path. Come on …. Let’s give it a go today. Let’s fail a little bit and see if we can put anxiety behind us.

Why not wave your white flag?  Chris Tomlin did. Here he is to sing about it. Raise Your White Flag

Transformative powers of light

I’ve always been fascinated by kaleidoscopes. When I was a little girl my grandma had one in the toy box. I still remember it was made out of a cardboard tube with a tin top and hazy plastic bottom. Not much to look at, but out of all the toys in the box, it was my favorite. Back then, I didn’t know how a kaleidoscope worked; I just knew that it transformed gray shadows into magical, designs when I looked toward the light. Kaleidoscope 1

A few years ago, at the annual ArtPrize event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I saw a life-size kaleidoscope. You know what? I was still fascinated. I had the opportunity to talk to the artist about his quest to find the perfect ingredients to craft his object for ArtPrize. Did you know the makeup of a kaleidoscope is from very basic materials? A tube, a few mirrors, some glass and plastic – nothing remarkable. Nothing remarkable. Does this sound familiar? That’s me. That’s us. Don’t we feel like that sometimes?

We feel a little like that tube, all shiny on the outside, but pretty hollow on the inside. Sometimes we’re shattered by the circumstances we’re living with and are exhausted in trying to figure out how to get through the maze. Inside the tube, it’s dark. The remnants of shattered glass are everywhere. There are mirrors, but in this position they reflect nothing. Let’s work on that.

We are like a kaleidoscope in the making. All the ingredients are there; what we need is the Master builder to perform His work in us. Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Like the kaleidoscope life is a potpourri of events, decisions, activities, and situations. Some of them are exciting, others are bursting with happiness. Don’t we love those times and cement them firmly in our memories? Then there are broken dreams, shattered opportunities and we want to forget they ever happened. Did you know God uses all of that – the good and the sorrowful – to make our lives beautiful and significant? The key is in our positioning. We have to get into the place where the Light of the World enters the dark, hollow tube and reflects off the mirrors of our hearts. All those fragmented pieces of glass, those times when we feel shattered, point them to the light and turn the filter while they fall into a beautiful design. The colors change and illuminate in patterns, each one unique, each one beautiful. Your life is unique and beautiful. All those broken toys, all those shattered plans, give them all to Jesus. He is the Light of the World and will make your life beautiful.

Kaleidoscope 2The kaleidoscope – unremarkable. But when the position is just right, the light comes in, reflects off the mirrors, and the shards of glass illuminate with unique beauty. I agree with David. Psalm 40:8 I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

The sun is rising on a new day. I’ve been reading a lot of the book of Philippians, but today, I came across a verse in my bible that has been highlighted and underlined – one life enhancing truism: Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Today I’m thankful for hope through the good and bad, the ups and downs of how life happens. I’m thankful for light in a dark world. Now hand me that Kaleidoscope! enJOY this day!

Running after bread crumbs

Once upon a time . . . and the story began. Does anyone else remember the anticipation of hearing all about the adventures of slaying giants and defeating ugly witches; Snow White fully grown and adoringly tended by 7 tiny gentlemen; Cinderella dressed in rags transforms into a beautiful princess when the glass slipper fits; Hansel and Gretel finding their way back home because of breadcrumbs scattered along the path.Bread Crumbs (1)
 
How often do we use breadcrumbs today to find our way back? I’m reminded of this in Psalm 119:55 “In the night, Lord, I remember your name, that I may keep your law.” From the time I was in elementary school, I loved summer camp and didn’t want to miss my opportunity to be there for two weeks. My parents couldn’t afford to send me so I memorized Bible verses to earn a camp scholarship. Today those verses are my breadcrumbs. They run through my mind by day and I wake up with them on my mind in the night.
 
In science class I learned that our physical bodies are constantly trying to find homeostasis – to be in a state of stability, maintaining internal equilibrium and health regardless of outside conditions. Doesn’t it seem like we are constantly trying to find that balance between activity and rest; work and leisure? Sometimes it seems like the nickname for my calendar should be chaos – and I’m working on that – not overcommitting. How about you?
 
Do you, like me tell yourself that things will slow down, I’ll find my stride, life will find a comfortable routine . . . but instead there I am stuck in the spin cycle.
 
You know what? All is not lost! We have breadcrumbs to find our way back. God gives us words to comfort us, guide us, give us hope, fill us with unexplained peace. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
 
Scripture verses give me courage when the enemy of my soul lays out before me all the reasons for fear. Breadcrumbs lead the way back to comforting faith. Whether in illness or perfect health, we are one breath away from talking with God.
 
I’m blessed and thankful to have memorized hundreds of scripture verses at a young age, but even if I hadn’t it’s never too late to lay out breadcrumbs so when life gets messy, you can find your way back to a place of peace. Are you weary today? There’s a trail of breadcrumbs to take you back to a place of peace. In Matthew 11:28 Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Breadcrumbs – come to me all who labor and whose hearts are heavy – Here’s the path …. let’s get out there!

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

You can have a good day in 2 steps

Before you went to bed last night, did you say “Tomorrow is going to be a good day.”? I did. I begin the weekend shut-down process about 7:00 pm, squeezing in the last few leftover tasks that can’t be left undone – or my day will start out in chaos.  I read something good for my mind, review scripture our pastor used during his message on Sunday, and pray for everyone and everything that comes to mind. Monday has to be a good day. You can have a good day too.  Sure, things will go wrong, but if it’s firmly planted in our minds that our day will be good, that’s where it starts.   That’s step one. Proverbs 23:7 lays it out for us by saying the way we think in our hearts is who we are, who we become. “…for as he thinks in his heart, so is he.”

Step two comes after step one, it’s a natural progression right?  Step one, then step two.  If we think we will have a good day, and don’t let insidious thoughts of defeat and pessimism creep in, they can’t ruin that good day you’ve already planned to have. Football coach Vince Lombardi very wisely told his team, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” That makes sense, doesn’t it? This is why it’s important to set our minds on what is good and honorable and train our thoughts to practice having the attitudes that lead to a good day – not just on Saturday, but even on Monday.  If you’re anxious, remember what 1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Philippians 4 – phenomenal instruction on how to have a good day, every day.  In these few verses Philippians 4:8-9 it’s pretty obvious that our thoughts make a difference. “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

My heart wants to have a good day. That means a lot of sorting. From the time a thought enters my mind, I have to decide if that’s the kind of thought that’s good and acceptable. If that thought germinates, what will it produce? We live in a world that’s fodder for extraordinary results. Our resources today are unparalled with any other time in history. If we don’t know something we can look it up in under 60 seconds. We are besieged with information – food for thought that nurtures or neglects the attitudes determining the outcome of our day. The same phrase used to describe computer programming “Garbage in, garbage out.” is a good analogy for us humans, too.  Garbage in, garbage out.  Let’s keep our hearts and minds clear of garbage.

Jesus said in John 14:27 (NET) “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.”

Have a good day! and let it begin in advance.  Starry Night by Chris August

First published August 4, 2013

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