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.

Welcome Sunday . . . Welcome Peace

Can I just say it?  Welcome Sunday! It seems like a month has passed since I’ve walked into a place of peace. I am so ready to be greeted by friends who genuinely care for me, listen to music that both soothes and energizes, and hear a message from God’s word, spoken through the hearts of our pastor and teachers. There is no better way to express it.  Welcome, Sunday!

I confess, I don’t always feel this way. Sometimes I get up, get ready, and get to church. Period! Even then, I enjoy the music, love to be taught applicable life lessons from way back before electricity. Then there are days like today when my heart is running on empty and I need to go to the filling station and get a refill.  Before this crevice becomes a cavern, there is hope for my heart.  Reading Psalms satisfies for a while.  I know God is always there.  Psalm 137:7-8 “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”  I’m thankful that I can call to God anytime and He is there. Many times a day I talk to Him, sometimes out loud, like really LOUD. perfect-peace-isaiah-26-3I assure you He never answers me out loud, but God sends his spirit to calm me down. Last night we were on a pretty slippery, snowy road and I had visions of the car pile up on an expressway last week. Talk about the weather outside being frightful! Snow kept us company all along the way, in those moments I had a touch of fear that we could hit someone or something. Then on WCSG, I think God told them to play This song by Casting Crowns and on my radio, they sang the words ‘Peace on Earth in my heart I’m singing ….’ “Thank you God. Thank you for protecting all the drivers on the road. Not one slip, slide, or mishap. Thank you God for being there all the time.” Thankful! Blessed! Amazed!

Then I remembered a verse that I learned around the age of six:  Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” I learned something from that moment.  God is there in the moments that flash in front of us and are gone. He’s there when our heart hurts and crushing emotions drag on for days or months. Hope seems lost when we need strength to go on:  Psalm 29:11 “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.”  We all crave peace in a peace shattered world.  Leaning on God is not a crutch. We were born seeking God.  We were created in His image for a purpose and it is not to live in fear, regret, and lost hope.  This is one of my favorite go-to passages when I need to be reminded that God created every person, he knows everything about us, he loves us and just like we take care of things we treasure, God takes care of us even more.  I hope you enjoy these verses from the Message translation.

Jeremiah 29:  11-14 “I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.  When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.  When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.  ”—God’s Decree— Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.  I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.”

Peace On Earth; Casting Crowns

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.”

Choose joy . . . It’s the better deal

How ’bout those Tigers, huh? I could hear explosions of great joy all over the net last night. Yeh, that!  I’m sure it was not explosions of grief for the Marlins – although with a close 7-5 score. Well . . . and let’s just leave it right there.  All I can say is Bring It! So is it OK to be thankful for a sports team winning? I’m saying yes! (my apologies to Marlin fans) What I’m most thankful for is the hype, the enthusiasm, the sheer positive expressions of happy fans, and the contagious nature all of that exudes. Can we grab onto that for today? Longer than a day?  Just for fun. Yes!

Sometimes we need a little reminder that joy is kindled from a whole variety of sources, sometimes even a game….lots of times from games. I think often about the Apostle Paul and his analogies often portraying athletes and their endurance in the game of life. Like the Tigers last night – they were in it to win it. And in this life, no matter what it brings, we are in it to win it. Bring it!

We might start this day filled with great anticipation only to encounter little earthquakes that shake us up. Before we let them get to our core we have to fight back. Here’s the path to overcoming the enemy of defeat. Don’t worry. It changes nothing.  Remember God is by your side. Ask Him to be your guide and protector. Start reminding yourself of what is good, lovely, honorable, and brings you joy. Write it down … I am thankful for … and make a list.  You will feel a lot better after you read it.

Here’s my joy jar so far:

20150101_090640-1

There is no such thing as perfect. Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being. So let’s not expect perfect but let’s expect to be so persuasive in our thoughts that our hearts and attitudes catch up with our will. You know will, don’t you.  I WILL do this. I WILL find the joy in this.

What we think eventually gets to our emotions. We choose.  Better or bitter.  Sunny or cloudy.  Peace or conflict. Joy or ….. choose joy.  It’s the better deal.

Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

And I choose this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tezG4LRNzw&feature=g-vrec

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.

Search for joy, find peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escaping Anxiety Tools for a Peaceful Life

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

Press On by Selah 

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

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

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

What to do when there’s nothing you can do…

One of my closest friends posted this on Facebook, “It’s hard being so far away when things like this happen.” I can relate. Can you? When someone we love is thousands of miles away and we can’t go to them, helplessness is its own form of trauma. Waiting through a medical procedure, wondering but hoping the prognosis isn’t as bad as once thought. Standing by while decisions are made about ‘what happens now’. Fearing the outcome of attempts at reconciliation. I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty powerless when I want to do something but there’s nothing I can do.
 
There is something I can do though. Psalm 103:19 plainly says, “The Lord has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything.” While I’m on the sidelines, helpless and powerless, God is on the throne in heaven taking care of everything. Psalm 33:13 “The Lord watches from heaven; he sees all people.” Even with 20/20 vision, there’s a limit to what I can see. Even though I care deeply what happens today and in the future, it’s God who sees with eternal perspective.
 
I know all about promises in the New Testament like Mark 11:24 “I tell you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” And you’ve probably memorized, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name …”, but there’s a part two in that verse. It continues, “… so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13 That last part sort of scares me sometimes. Does it scare you? I can ask God for anything. I can believe He will give me what I ask for – but do I trust Him? Trust means recognizing who is responsible and being confident enough to let go, release whatever it is from my grasp and believe it will be taken care of in the best way possible.
 
“Lord take this, I want these specific results, but God I trust you, by your miraculous power to work everything out so you are glorified. And Lord, I know that the end result might not look the same as what I had in mind, but my confidence is in you because you know the eternal value of every minute detail. I release this to your omniscient discernment. Thank you for caring about me personally even though you have the entire world to watch over.”
 
David knew the relief and joy that came from whole hearted trust in God. Psalm 33:21 “Our hearts rejoice in him, for we trust in his holy name.”God isn't going anywhere
 
We can’t be everywhere. We can’t see everything. We have each moment and that’s all. Jeremiah calls God, “The Lord God who rules over all.” Daniel said of God, “He who has in his control your very breath and all your ways!”
 
What if this moment you could relinquish this burden you’re carrying, this fear that grips you, this deep sadness that’s overwhelming you to the ‘Lord God who rules over all and has control of your very breath and all your ways’? God isn’t going anywhere. He’s waiting to be your everything.
 
Romans 15:13 “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”