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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What does your harvest look like?

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

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

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

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

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

What if we replace fear with faith?

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

Which would you rather harvest? Plant that.

Which would you rather harvest - plant that

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

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

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

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

It’s just dirt!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Same God – Different era

Prayer 3-6-2016This song was on my mind as I woke up this morning. Kari Jobe “The more I seek You.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NI_1YliutzA
As I was praying this morning, I joined many of you in prayer too. God hears every prayer, every voice, every whisper. God hears every spirit when no words are possible. The God who parted the Red Sea is the same God who listens to the cry of your heart today. God’s power is never depleted. Psalm 146:3-6
The same God who broke the chains of Paul when he was in prison has the power to break whatever chains you have today that are holding you back from being your best self. God never sleeps or takes a break. Isaiah 40:28
God doesn’t have mood swings. When Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” He didn’t mean just that day. He meant forever and always. Look what it says way back in Numbers 23:19 “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a human being, that he should change his mind.” Same God – Different era.
I was only 5 years old, but I remember the poster board and the room I was in when I learned the verse, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in you.” Psalm 56:3  At age 5, my fears were a lot different from my fears today. I know. Trust is so hard when we know what we want and it’s just not happening. No matter how many times I say, Lord, make me want what you want, I’m still tempted to take it back and say, but God … what I really want is …” David’s poem in Psalm 112:7 says “He does not fear bad news. He is confident; he trusts in the Lord.”
I don’t know what you’re going through today. Even if I know your story, I don’t know your heart, but God does. Sometimes the toughest thing to do is open my heart and admit, God I want my way, but I want your way more. It’s like bending iron to open my hand and let go of what’s taken up root and become part of me.
Trust isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. “Patiently wait for God alone, my soul! For he is the one who gives me confidence.” Psalm 62:5

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

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