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.

It all happens between the bookends

Are you a peace seeker? I already know you said yes. We want peace in the world, peace in our communities, peace in our relationships and peace for our own hearts. But when we’re suffocating under anxiety, there is no peace. Where can we find peace? Here’s a clue. It doesn’t come from within when we are overwhelmed by “What-if” producing anxiety. There’s this verse in Proverbs 12:25  that spells it out pretty clearly: “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, But a good word makes it glad.” Not to sound like a repetitive commercial, but you might recognize this mantra:  If you get the inside right, the rest will take care of itself.  As it turns out, that’s a true statement.  Go back and let Proverbs 12:25 sink in a little bit.

Our lives are lived between the bookends. Do you have morning and evening rituals? These are the bookends of your day. Maybe your morning routine is well practiced and regimented, but ending your day is more fluid. How you invest yourself at daybreak and before the lights go out at night have an impact on your anxiety level. If you want to escape anxiety, protect the first part of your day and protect the last part of your day.

Bookend your morning to rise and shine. Psalm 112:4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.Bookends of your day - purchased element from canva

When you jump out of bed in the morning, or even if your jump is more like removing tar from the sole of your shoe, plant this thought in your mind. This is a good day and I’m going to protect it. Think about morning. Do your feet hit the floor and your next action is to turn on the news? Really? Why? The world will continue to churn whether you stand by and watch it or not. Here’s your first bookend. Protect your morning – at least the first half hour. Instead of the news, peace-seeker friend, feed your spirit with truth, light, and joy through prayer, meditation, reading scripture or a devotional. During the day, there will be time to catch up on the news – if it’s really your priority. Trust me on that.

I have a friend who was being treated for depression. Over the course of a few months it became apparent that addiction to watching the news was contributing to deep despair, anxiety and depression. If this describes you, Stop!  Stop it!  There is nothing good happening in the news today. The Center for Disease Control says this “Depression is the most common type of mental illness, affecting more than 26% of the U.S. adult population. It has been estimated that by the year 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world, trailing only ischemic heart disease.” Don’t be trapped inside a statistic like that one.

Protect your morning. Psalms 63:1 “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You.”

Bookend your evening with peace enhancing practices. Psalm 65:8 “The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.”

Then let’s talk about preparing to sleep at night, the companion bookend. Winding down, isn’t a cliché, it’s a process. Start at least a half hour before lights out. Do something that calms your soul. Read, listen to music, diffuse essential oils, meditate, you get the idea. Many times I drift off to sleep praying for people I love and people I don’t know at all, but have heard of their plight and ask God to shelter them and give them special heaven-sent blessings. I shouldn’t be surprised then to wake up praying – like God put a bookmark in my prayer. Other times I read the Bible or another book that calms my mind and lifts my spirits.  Never waste the last half hour of your day pouring fire into your brain – like watching the news. But it’s a habit. Yes, yes it is. And it breeds anxiety.

Protect your evening. Psalm 16:7 I will praise the Lord who guides me; yes, during the night I reflect and learn.

Your life is lived between the bookends of your day. Protect it by surrounding your hours with a peaceful start to your morning and calming end to your evening.

 

Escape Anxiety – Shield your mind, Guard your heart, Protect your day

You (God) keep in perfect peace the people who maintain their faith, for they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

The day and the night are both Yours, God — You fashioned the sun, moon,and all the lights that pierce the darkness Psalm 74:16

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me. When anxiety threatened to overwhelm me, your consolation brought me joy. But the Lord will protect me, and my God will shelter me. Psalm 94:18-19, 22

Now I lay me down to sleep … that’s a start

Do you pray? No, really. Do you pray? I’m not thinking of the simple ‘Now I lay me down to sleep’ or ‘Bless us oh Father and these our gifts’, although that’s a start. I’m talking about praying to the almighty and holy God who is omnipresent (everywhere at all times), omnipotent (all power to do all things), and omniscient (all knowing of all things at all times). I mean praying to that God.

Do you ever wake up praying? Many of us have made a habit of praying as we tuck our thoughts in for the night. ‘Now I lay me down to sleep …” It’s like creating a comfortable nest for our last moments of the day. “It’s just you and me, God. This is what I want to tell you now because tomorrow is coming up pretty fast.” Prayer, a simple heart to heart conversation with the creator.  Isaiah 40:28 “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.” He will not grow tired of me no matter how often I talk to him.I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace.

Please pray … Think for just a minute. In just the past week, have you read those words? And in that moment, didn’t your heart melt and fill with compassion for the person who needed, right then, to know that someone was asking God for favor? Psalm 6:9 says “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.” Some years ago, I was introduced to a structured method of prayer. ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. I could say that’s God’s ordained structure, but that would be pretty presumptuous because I don’t see any place in scripture where God says, “You must pray in steps 1, 2, 3 or I won’t hear you”.

Please pray … When someone asks us to pray, we don’t have to worry about whether we have the structure in place and follow prescribed rules. This is what the Bible says about praying.

Come clean before the Lord. If you know you have anger, resentment, envy, any unconfessed sin in your heart, God can’t hear you. This isn’t my rule, it’s God’s. Psalm 66:18 “If I had harbored sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.”

Be sincere and stay faithful. Hebrews 10:22 “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”

It’s OK to tell God what you want. Please heal … Please spare the life of …. Please send someone to help … Please give them a job … Please be near to this family … God I don’t understand, please help me accept …. Please bring comfort …. They need peace, Lord, please fill their heart with peace …

Ask for the right reasons and with the right motives.  James 4:3 ”When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” Jeremiah 33:3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’

Be thankful for God and his omnipotent power. Hebrews 12:28-29 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”

Expect a miracle. God is still in the business of making miracles every day. He doesn’t have a Magic Kingdom, he owns the Miracle Kingdom and He has the power, the glory, and majesty to do what is best for everyone. Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Please God, do this …. Or something even better!

Something to think about – Expect a miracle, because when we go before the Lord and pour out our hearts to him, don’t we often expect a miracle? Even some of the smallest things turn out to have the biggest impact. We don’t know what God has planned, but we know that nothing catches him by surprise. Psalm 135:6 says “The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” Then why ask?

We pray because we worship God, we acknowledge His awesome power. We pray because it is our privilege to enter his presence and talk to him as a child to a Father. We pray because we have faith. In Proverbs 1, Solomon tells his people that their life is in the condition it’s in because they have not honored God, worshipped him, or recognized his power. Notice the comparison in these few verses of Proverbs 1.

Proverbs 1:28-29 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.”

Proverbs 1:33 “… but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

There are books written on the subject of prayer, and if you want recommendations, I can provide them. What we’ve read here is at the most elementary level of prayer. Why do we pray? The reasons are limitless. But one reason could be because we seek peace that only God can give. John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

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!

What do you believe about God?

I don’t criticize prayers of anyone. Prayer is a very personal exchange between the spirit of a person and the spirit of God. Please don’t interpret this post as a criticism – ever – of another person’s conversation with God. I just want to share my thoughts on praying to an almighty God. “ALL POWERFUL”

The Bible says we can come boldly to the throne of grace. Boldly means courageously, fearlessly, bravely, confidently. Hebrews 4:16 “Let us then with confidence, boldly draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

That verse pretty much sums is up. We don’t have to approach God timidly suggesting that he say yes to pleading prayers of his children. The Bible tells story after story of people asking impossible things and God did the impossible.     Believe God in the dark for what he promised in the light. 2

Hezekiah was struck with a terminal illness and was at the point of death. Isaiah came to him with a direct message from the Lord to “Set your house in order, because you’re not going to recover from this illness. You are going to die.” Can you imagine the shock? God spoke through Isaiah and said, “You are going to die!” If God said it, what would you think? I know. Me too. At this point I would have rolled into a ball and caved. That’s it then, I have my death sentence. But not Hezekiah. He was bold, not just bold, he was on fire, BOLD. Immediately he prayed to the Lord.  “Please, Lord. Remember how I have served you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion, and how I have carried out your will.” Then he caved and wept bitterly.

But the story doesn’t end here. God spoke to Isaiah again and said, “Go back to Hezekiah and tell him I have heard your prayer; I have seen your tears. I’m going to give you fifteen more years, productive, successful year.” I assure you God didn’t have one thing planned then changed his mind. I don’t know why God wrote this story into chapter 38 of the book of Isaiah. What he included is as an open invitation to be bold as we approach God. What if he wants us to confirm our trust by coming to him and asking for what we really want? Hezekiah was shaken. He wept bitterly. But he boldly prayed to God who could change his prognosis and heal him completely. God said yes.

There’s another story in the New Testament about Lazarus, a dear friend of Jesus who became ill. Mary and Martha, Lazarus’ sisters, sent messengers to beg Jesus to come quickly and heal their brother, but Jesus didn’t come quickly. Instead he sent this message. “When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 Remember though? Lazarus did die. Then what happened? Mary and Martha were pretty ticked when they greeted Jesus as he approached. You can read the story in John 11, but in the end, Jesus spoke into Lazarus new life and he became well.

The key to boldness is knowing God, trusting his character, having faith that he is all powerful, all knowing, and without him the universe would cease to exist. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible … all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

That is the God who invites us to approach him boldly with faith and full throttle trust. Not that you think God can fix your situation or you think God might possibly help you through the messiness you’re going through or you think God might lead you to a treatment for illness. No! The key to boldness is believing God. Knowing in your soul that God is who he says he is. Belief was an issue for Thomas, and he was looking right at the risen Jesus. In John 20:27 Jesus told him, “Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Believe God is who he says he is.

Do you remember David? He believed God, he believed in the power of God, and he also knew this. “If I had harbored sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. However, God heard; he listened to my prayer.” Psalm 66:18-19  Start here. Approach boldly. Get your heart right with God then tell him what you want. Believe him for it.

What do you believe about God?

Believe God in the dark for what he promised in the light.

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

Seeking stillness – finding your quiet place

In the secret, in the quiet place. In the stillness you are there …. That song was playing in my mind as I woke up this morning. “In the secret in the quite hour I wait, only for you because I want to know you more.”

Do you have a place where you can be alone with God, just you and him to talk about your day? At one time, it was the front seat of my car, in the parking lot at work. I opened my YouVersion Bible App and there, just before entering the mission field, I read things like Hebrews 4:16 “Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” And 2Corinthians 1:4 “God of all comfort, comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” Know God, know comfort, then pass it on.

When I was a young mom with kids around all the time I craved alone time. I had heard the story of Susanna Wesley, John Wesley’s mother, who had 19 children. Imagine her need to be alone! She solved it by throwing her apron up over her face, signaling that it was her time to be alone. That wouldn’t make it for me, but it worked for her. It’s been a long time since that season of my life when days were a circus of activities from sun-up to sundown, but I still remember the secret room. We had this plywood room attached to the side of our aging house that was originally built to cover the well pit. Our freezer was tucked into one corner and the remaining room was shelves constructed out of scrap wood that held jars of home canned food, the result of an acre of garden. In that room there was just enough space to fit an old ragged armchair and lamp. It was the poster child of ugliness but it was my corner of quietness.

My husband looked at it skeptically, but you know? This is one thing guys just don’t understand. I think when God used one of Adam’s ribs to create woman, Adam didn’t grasp the reality that it was a rib, not part of his brain and women think differently than men. Genesis 2:23 “The Man said, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.” There is no mention of brain in that passage.

Every morning at 5:00 am you could find me in that little room unraveling the complicated and getting centered for the day. In that room is where I made my plans, wrote lists, read scripture, read books, and poured out my heart to the Lord. I learned, just as you have learned, that life is a contact sport and sometimes it can beat us up. That tiny hollow in side of our house was a place to be silent before the uproar of the day began. Psalm 46:10 says “Be still, and know that I am God.” We rarely have silence, our ears and eyes are constantly bombarded with noise or images. Quiet solitude is an anomaly. “In the secret, in the quiet place …”

Today, I have a designated place in one small area of my office. It’s where I connect with God and pray for everyone I have promised to pray for – and some who don’t even know are being prayed over. If we every sell our home, the wall will have to be painted to patch over the scars left behind by all the messages taped to it.

We need stillness, time to quiet the clamor of our lives, as much as we need water. When my heart is desperate for quiet, I often turn to Psalms. Don’t you picture David lounging around out in an open field with nothing bothering him but a few nuzzling lambs. That’s the wrong concept, because we know David’s life from the grueling work of a shepherd to the victim of Saul’s vengeance, was anything but carefree and easy. David turned his relentless problems into creative sonnets. He said in Psalm 119:49 “I hang on to our words for dear life! Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope.”

The song that was on my mind this morning is by Chris Tomlin. You can listen here.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JU4U8_wMdRs