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.

Advertisements

Power Comes From Attitude

Have you ever made a commitment, then as the time approached you were overcome with fear or insecurity or dread? I know that feeling. What if, like me, the commitment was long term and you wondered how you would hold up through it and endure to the end? Maybe you haven’t been there and can’t grasp how that feels, but if you can, how did it turn out?

I think God gives us almost unlimited power to change how we think, how we feel, and how we act. I’m not convinced that if I can think it, I can do it, but with a strong blend of prayer, will, attitude, and action, I can change my whole perspective. That thing I labored over, dragged my feet toward, and even cried over – yes, that thing – I now look forward to the opportunity. Attitude is powerful.

I am not gifted in this area – but I volunteered to ‘help out’ as a child care provider during the hours of Bible Study. Young moms would then have a place for their kids to play while they spent time with other women learning about Jesus. For the first term, I kept thinking I would say I changed my mind – but that wouldn’t be right. It was a process, but fast forward to three years later and I look forward to the hours watching kids interact (flying trucks, tug of war over one puzzle piece, battle for sippy cups and goldfish crackers).   power-is-in-your-attitude-1

One of my (well-meaning) friends tried to talk me into resigning, but I decided to pray before doing anything. I took pictures of the room full of kids then I started praying for their safety and that everything I did would reflect the love of Jesus. I already loved the kids individually so I didn’t have to pray about that. I questioned my ability to keep them safe when using the slide and crawling over tables and chewing on toys and remember the flying trucks. I felt unqualified to keep them entertained for a full morning. On my list of things I wanted to be when I grew up, there was no hint of teacher. What happens when we are unsure? Do the sure thing.

I started thanking God that I was healthy enough to be the child care provider. I thanked God that I have a strong immune system – you can imagine why that’s important. I thanked God that he somehow chose me to play and be a substitute grandma for a dozen toddlers and preschoolers – Oh! And I thanked God that every week I have a helper.

Then you know what happened? I opened my Bible one day and turned to 1 Corinthians 16 and when I got to verse 13 it cracked me up. “Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” OK, God. I’m in! I can be courageous and strong. I can do this with love.

You know God didn’t do this just for me. If you dread the thing you said you would do, if you have fears that you are way out of your league, if you can barely pull yourself to the task – start praying. “God thank you that you made me just the way I am. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. I don’t like it Lord, but I’m in it. Please either change my circumstances, change my commitment, or change me. Make my attitude like yours, Jesus. I trust you, God, to do what’s best.”

I want the fairy tale

Once upon a time … and so begins the story with the happily every after ending. I grew up in a black and white world, not a world of a solid line running between right and wrong, but a world before color television and a world on the bleeding edge of Technicolor cinematography. Storybooks were paper, every page imprinted with black ink with an artist’s watercolor illustration adorning a page just at the moment of waning interest. Every night before bed my mom would read The House at Pooh Corners, or a chapter from a book like Treasures in the Snow, or Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, or the Little House books. But my favorites were the stories that started out with the softness of “Once Upon A Time” and ended with “And they lived happily ever after”. I still want the fairy tale.

Can you guess what my favorite fairy tale is? What is yours? Is it the Cinderella story or maybe Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Maybe it’s Rapunzel or Robin Hood and His Mighty Band of Thieves.  My favorite fairy tale is the Shoemaker and the Elves. It’s not about conflict, not about victory over a wicked queen, it’s not about a battle between good and evil; there are no white hats versus black hats; no undercurrent of deception. The Shoemaker and the Elves is all about relationships, personal sacrifice, egoless achievement and support.

This is how I remember the story. Once upon a time there was an old shoemaker. Every day he faithfully went to work in his cobbler shop. Despite the snow, ice, and wind he was there, in his shop every day working hard to provide a warm home and food for his family. Whistling through his day, he stretched, pounded, glued and polished shoes and boots from demanding customers. Being meticulous about his work, and having high quality standards, it took extra time to complete the mounds of boots and shoes on his counter. Every night he assessed his work and every night he prayed that what he had completed was done well and that tomorrow he would make better progress on the tasks ahead.  Some days he was so overwhelmed all he could do was pray.  Sometimes I think he prayed as David did many times. In Psalm 22:19 he prayed “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me.” Like David, this shoemaker knew where his strength came from. And in Psalm 143:8 he acknowledges his trust in God. “Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life..”source of strength - Psalm 22-19

While the shoemaker was pleading with God to bring relief for his burden, his prayers were already being answered. Concealed from human observation were helpers prepared for this mission, elves whose source of joy was in serving. A team of friends who would come alongside him when the shoemaker’s resources were depleted and his reserves exhausted.  These excerpts from Romans 8:26-28 gives us an inside view. “The moment we get weary in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know what to pray, He does our praying for us. He knows us far better than we know ourselves and knows our condition. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives is being taken care of by compassionate God.”

Each night the shoemaker lined up his work for the next day, swept the floor, snuffed out the candles and went home, satisfied with his accomplishments, but always with an eye on his plan for tomorrow. As he entered his home, I can hear his memory recalling Romans 15:5-6 “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the story there is no indication that the shoemaker abandoned his responsibilities to the ‘elves’ and expected them to work so he didn’t have to.  His attitude was one of gratefulness to his secret helpers, recognizing their efforts as important as his own. Romans 11:18 “Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.”

Once upon a time . . . I think God knew the heart of the shoemaker was centered on doing the right things despite his circumstances. He was diligent in using the skills God gave him, but he was not too proud to pray for relief and accept help when his situation became too challenging. I love the way the Message describes the relationship between need and fulfillment. The subject here is the Apostle Paul, but it could characterize any one of us if God is Lord and Master of our life.  Philippians 4:13-14 “I’ve found the recipe for being happy…Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.”

I still love the fairy tale, but those are just stories, wishful thinking, a dream of living happily ever after. Our happily ever after comes in eternity with God and his son Jesus Christ. Romans 10:9-13 “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

And they lived happily ever after.

The original story of the Elves and the Shoemaker written by The Grimm Brothers.

Faith like a parachute

It’s Monday everyone. A new day. A new week. What will it bring? Every day is new, but isn’t there something about Monday that just seems different? Some of us love Monday and enthusiastically run into the day with the joyful anticipation of a sky diving adventure. Others plod toward it with resistance like wearing a parachute that’s all burden and no adventure. Most of the time, I’m in camp #1. I look forward to Monday, even though it means leaving the freedom of the weekend behind. Other times my anticipation gets a little tarnished and it takes a lot more effort to polish my attitude before I jump into the unknown. Why is that?file0001754310068

If today is one of those days for you and you enter tentatively, even fearfully, remember this word: faith. We don’t have to walk through this day alone and in the dark. I started preparing for this Monday on Saturday and Sunday. It’s like packing my parachute for adventure.  I took a faith walk through some of the Psalms and revisited some promises in Isaiah and gave my mind an overdose of positive thoughts in Philippians 4.  Today has arrived and I’m ready.

God told us not to worry about the future.  We can make the best choices, and do everything right, but still we are promised this moment and the future is out of our control. I’m not making that up. It’s all true. Anticipating the future can be exciting. Ask someone whose hobby is skydiving. They will tell you, you’re up there in a plane with nothing but you and your parachute. You know it will open on the way down; that’s the faith part.  But there’s still that leap into the unknown, the adrenaline rush, the experience. Whether we approach our day with excitement or dread, it’s faith coupled with hope that carries us.   That’s what we need to do with this day. Let our faith carry us into a day that becomes our joy because we have our faith on and our radar tuned to God’s best.

This morning I was reading a devotional and noticed how  many of the references were in Psalm 119. It’s a long Psalm so it shouldn’t surprise me that there is so much encouragement in there, but I chose these to share with you today – Monday – the day after a weekend – the day after a holiday. I hope you don’t mind if I don’t identify the verses. These are from the Voice translation:  I have pursued You with my whole heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I will chase after Your commandments because You will expand my understanding. Deep within me I have hidden Your word so that I will never sin against You. Guide me to walk in the way You commanded because I take joy in it. The earth is filled with Your unfailing love, O Eternal One; teach me to observe what You require. Help me to learn good judgment and knowledge because I believe Your commandments. Before I had trouble, I strayed from the true path, the path of righteousness, but now I live according to Your word. You are truly good, and Your acts are too; teach me what You require. According to Your unfailing love, spare my life so that I can live according to the decrees of Your mouth. Your word is a lamp for my steps; it lights the path before me. I long for Your salvation, O Eternal One. Meanwhile, Your teaching brings me great joy. Let my soul live on so that I may praise You, and let Your precepts guide me.

No fear OK?  Eyes, ears, heart wide open like a parachute. Take the giant leap of faith – like Francesca Battistelli sings here in – I’m Letting Go.
Ready team? Let’s get out there! Treat yourself to joy every day!

Filling in the Pattern

Children pic for blog 3-16-2016God is great; God is good, now we thank him for …. Do you remember saying that little prayer when you were a child? In our house, we didn’t recite the pre-written prayer, but ours were similar in nature. Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for this food. Please bless grandma, please bless the missionaries …..” and the prayer would go on until mommy or daddy interjected ‘Amen!” signaling the end of the prayer before every morsel of food was cold.

From that simple prayer is derived a pattern that has significance throughout life. This is not to say that every child exposed to that prayer early in life will adopt it and hang onto it into adulthood. But for those who do, the reward is unshakable faith in God and an attitude of gratitude. A couple years ago I learned of a debate going on with the FCC where they are being pressured to allow nudity and crude profanity on network television. The FCC stand on what constitutes indecency is still in question, but there seems to be a growing number of shows on TV that have taken their liberty beyond extreme. If the content isn’t toying with morale issues it’s mocking and disrespectful of any position that represents authority. I don’t get that.  Neither kids nor adults benefit from more exposure to demoralizing language and, let’s call it what it is, on the bleeding edge of pornography! The lack of respect stretches from the inner circle of our homes to the outer limits of our communities. It makes my heart hurt. 

God is great, God is good – why not expose children and adults to language and pictures that encourage, establish a firm foundation of faith, and give them a basis for thanksLiving? This is a heavy burden on my heart this morning because it’s Wednesday, the day I help care for a dozen toddlers and pre-schoolers while their moms attend Bible study. These are children who will grow up in a world where responsible adults are choosing to strip away filters that protect them from things they should not see or hear. Is it so hard to grasp the fact that we can’t unsee or unhear something? The damage is done! These little ones are just beginning to fill in the pattern of their life.  I’m thankful that these parents make it a priority to bring their children to church where they are learning, and adding godly virtue to their pattern. They are forming values that are wholesome, honorable, and right in the sight of God. Their minds are filled with the fruit of the spirit and the qualities of God, not the composted junk of the world. Garbage in, garbage out.  

I wonder when I read Matthew 18:10 what God thinks of adults who have no conscience for what they are exposing children to.  “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.

Luke 17:1-3 Jesus said to his disciples, “Stumbling blocks are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. Watch yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him. If he repents, forgive him.

WARNING! It isn’t just children who need to be protected from the evil that is in the world. We all have free choice. I encourage you to choose pure thoughts and practice moral purity and ethical behavior.  Every act has at its root the initial thought. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to “ Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.” 

Do you desire the fabric of your life to be beautiful? It starts with the pattern and interwoven threads – thoughts and acts. So here’s what we all need to do ….. Philippians 4:4-9 Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.

The New Gold Standard

Make new friends, but keep the old, some are silver, others gold.  I look at that poem and realize the truth in that old Proverb.  I’ve bent the words just a touch because whether my friends are new or old (er – friends I’ve known while I’ve grown old), their value is much higher than today’s going rate for silver – at $15.30/ounce, or the gold spot price of $1251.10/ounce. Every friend is a gift, the Gold Standard  – a gift of compassion, a gift of encouragement, a gift of laughter, a gift of experiences, a gift of support, a gift of themselves. Take a minute and think of friends who have made your world better just by being in it.

When something heartwarming and unexpected happens, one of my friends, Bonnie Washburn calls that kisses from the King. I like that. The imagery of being wrapped in embrace and kissed on the forehead by the God who created everything and still holds it all together. Colossians 1:17 “God’s Son was before all else, and by him everything is held together.” Kisses from the king whose plans precede our own. Jeremiah 32:19 “With great wisdom you make plans, and with your great power you do all the mighty things you planned. Nothing we do is hidden from your eyes”.

A few weeks ago I got one of those kisses from the King.

I was folding an apron that I’d received from a friend 30 years ago. I still remember finding it packaged for me “To: Jane From: Your Secret Pal” this slate blue apron ruffled around the skirt with a quilted goose on the chest. I already know you’re wondering how a 30 year old apron is still being laundered and put away after all this time. It’s as durable as my friendship with Joyce Shiels who gave it to me, and I feel wrapped in warmth when I wear it and it refreshes my soul. Proverbs 27:9 “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend refreshes the soul.”

Tucking that apron into the closet, I thought of Joyce and her husband Chuck. How often we’d spent time together and how I missed them since they moved, we moved, then they moved again and we did the same; all across counties and sometimes across state lines. Suddenly I wanted to see them and wondered how we could ever work that out. I closed the closet door and put that thought on the shelf with the apron.  What I was thinking then was probably close to this verse in Psalm 94:11 “The Lord knows all human plans; he knows that they are futile.”Thank you for knowing what I need even before I know it’s missing.

I brightened at the thought that we were soon going to have dinner with friends we’ve known so long they’ve reached that old friends status. Jim and Suzan Middleton, and Ted Nelson – friends since 1971 – definitely GOLD standard for friends.  6:00 Arnies! Couldn’t wait to see them again …

Walking into the restaurant, I exchanged the gold standard hug with Jim, and Ted and then I saw them. It had to be a mirage, there is no way that the people at the far end of the lobby were Chuck and Joyce. How would they choose this restaurant on this night at this time? Kisses from the King! Didn’t God say in Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”?  In Psalm 20:4 didn’t God impress this upon David? “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

It was such a small thing, but it was a GOLD standard friendship operation for me. We talked and reminisced and caught up on our lives as they have rolled through the past years since we last met. Hugs from the Almighty. Kisses from the King. Arriving home that night I realized what had happened in those few short hours. God knew I had an empty place that needed to be filled and he said “Yes, I care about even the small things, but Jane, you have to also trust me for the big things.” Do you even care what I said in Luke 12:28 “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!”.

This could be a simple story about lasting friendships, but it’s more than that. It’s a story about trust; trusting God to fill the empty places, walk with us through the storm, take care of our needs, and even grant us our wants. We can trust him in the dark for what he promised us in the light.  Kisses from the King. Love wins.

1 John 4:7 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Dear Lord Jesus, Thank you for knowing what I need even before I know it’s missing. Take my small, measly faith and make it audacious and strong. Replace my pathetic fearfulness with your courage, and give me a heart like yours, full of wisdom and discernment, and let me serve you out of love and compassion, not of pride. Bless this day with peace and your children with spirit of thankfulness. I love you Lord, please let my life reflect you today. Amen

Get your shine on with Evie Tournquist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8tKTf3qIUU

Lessons in Uncertainty

Do you remember Corrie ten Boom, Holocaust survivor and best-selling author of the book, The Hiding Place? She lived through one of the most painful and traumatic experiences in history and out of her heart grew an encyclopedia of wisdom. I guess today, we would go to Wikipedia to learn about her life, but I’m in awe of her courage and stamina in facing her trials with audacious faith – then later revealing them with such passion and sincerity.  Corrie said “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”never be afraid to trust an unknown future

I was talking to a friend of mine about a tragedy in her family. Instantly their lives were altered by an unexpected event. Why would this happen? We ask how can this be good? I never like to write about sadness.  In fact, I’m uncomfortable writing about experiences that rip at the emotions of people because I want to portray life as happy or at least comfortable. But real life is tough and real stories leave us questioning where do we go from here? How can this be good? We have no human answer. I’m reminded of another thing Corrie ten Boom asked in one her talks “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” I ask myself, is prayer my steering wheel? If life takes a 180 degree turn from what I expect, will I pray through with God holding the wheel or will I drive through paying little attention to the one who guides the future?

Do I really believe if I get the inside right, the rest will take care of itself? That means my heart has to be right. If I look for joy in my circumstances will I find it? That means I have to be thankful and as James said, “Count it all joy”. Will circumstances of the day make me bitter, or make me better? To be better, my faith has to be bigger than my fear. The answer is embedded at the core of who I am, a reflection of my character at heart level. Psalm 19:14 says, “May my words and thoughts please you. Lord, you are my Rock, my shelter, the one who saves me.” My first priority is to remember that my attitude is a choice. What I do with it affects every facet of my life. When I choose faith first, I choose to trust this unknown future to a known God.

In Luke 17, the apostles who were personal friends of Jesus found their faith failing. They came right out and asked for what they wanted. “Lord, give us more faith.” Will I pray for more faith or just allow the enemy of my soul to suffocate my faith and rob me of my joy? It’s a choice I will have to make moment by moment.  When it seems that nothing good can come from what we see in front of us, when the future seems uncertain, it is then that our reliance is on the One who gives us wisdom and strong faith. Solomon was a pretty wise man and has a whole textbook for life in Proverbs. In the 22nd chapter he stops and says, “Pay attention and listen to what wise people say. Remember what I am teaching you. It will be good to keep these things in mind. Be prepared to repeat them. I am teaching them to you now so that you will put your trust in the Lord.”

God knew that in this life there would be times when faith would falter and we would need to be reminded to go back to what we learned in the past, to put our trust in the Lord. We can plan our steps from the first to the last, but life can change in a heartbeat and the landscape of our plans dissolve. Surprised we ask, how can this be good? Then we remember. Nothing catches God by surprise. In Isaiah 48:17 The Lord says— “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” And in case you wonder where is God in all this,  2 Timothy 4:17 fills you in. “The Lord stood by me and gave me strength ….”

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God. – Corrie ten Boom