Persevere Through Hope

Don’t give up. Have you ever heard those words and thought, “Sure. Fine for you to say, but you don’t know what I’m going through here.” I’ve been on that path right beside you. I know how it feels. You know – like if you had a towel. you’d throw it in. There are many reasons not to throw in the towel or call it quits or give up on that thing you know is worth the effort.

When my grandson Tyler was in preschool he wanted to carry the basket while shopping with my daughter. As each item was added to that little red basket, the weight got heavier and heavier. My daughter observed this and offered to take the basket herself, but he said, “No, I’ll persevere.” It was a significant burden for a little guy, but he insisted on carrying the load until they reached their destination – the checkout, the relief station, the completion.

If we could define the storybook life, we would all fill up our baskets with perfect health, sports without injury, relationships with no rejection, scrumptious food with no calories, kind acts, no bullies, all fun and pain would be absent. Even though full, our baskets would be a light as air, as weightless as happiness.

That isn’t how it is though. Life is a contact sport and sometimes it can really beat us up. We live in a fallen world full of sadness, sickness, baskets that grow heavy with burdens. But we are implored to not give up. In fact, Hebrews 10:36 spells it out for us. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” If you read that entire chapter you will see that people lived with conflicts, insurmountable afflictions and they suffered greatly. “I’ll persevere.” became their mantra.

Maybe you never feel like giving in. You might never reach the saturation point and wonder how you can go on. If you’re that person, reach out to others who need your courage. The word encourage means to instill courage in others. Be the person who touches the heart of the hurting.

If you are on the edge of giving up and questioning how you can take one more step, here’s your answer. Yes, you can. It’s called hope. 

H
Help someone else. Do something for another person, expecting nothing in return.

O
Organize your private world – this might take some thought and effort but this is powerful. Organize your private world means thinking through and writing down what is important to you. You don’t have to love writing to jot down what you want your life to look like. Organizing your private world also includes getting rid of clutter in your living space that blurs your focus and becomes a distraction. A little bit of clutter is a byproduct of a full life, but when it becomes a distraction. A little bit of clutter is a byproduct of a full life, but when it becomes too much, it’s a burden, not a blessing.

P
Pray. You knew this was coming, but I can’t apologize for bringing it up over and over. You can even pray, “Lord please remove burden, but if you choose not to take it, at least lift the weight.” The more prayer you put in your basket, the less room there is for all those burdens. If you want to know the benefits of prayer, read James 5.

E
Embrace opportunities. This might sound impossible because when we feel defeated, we don’t recognize opportunities. Opportunities aren’t always seen with human eyes, they are often seen only with the heart. Sometimes we have to remember where we are in our life journey. “Focus on what you have not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.”

So here we go. Hope to continue. Hope to persevere. Hope shared with others. Hope to last a lifetime.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

 

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Finishing Well, or Just Finishing

Happy Birthday, Billy Graham. A hero of the Christian faith turned 98 on November 7th. Billy Graham has lived in the public eye since he was in his twenties, stayed true to his faith in Jesus Christ and has never been involved in immorality or been the object of scandal. When I was 11 years old my friends who had TV talked about watching Billy Graham Crusades and 40 years later I was still watching him talk about the object of his faith. In honor of Billy Graham’s birthday and his impeccable testimony, I’m writing this after reading his touching and gentle book, Nearing Home, but it’s also about Finishing Well. A lot has changed since Billy Graham began his evangelistic ministry, but one thing has not changed.  Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the phases of life. If you know me personally, you will know that I’m basically retired, but am trying to live as though I am not. I have nothing against retirement if it’s right for your life, but that isn’t the path for me. Someone told me once that retirement is OK as long as you ‘retire to’ not just ‘retire from’. I get that, and when I get far past the age of 80, I will ‘retire to’ rock crying babies in a hospital somewhere. I hope I still have a voice to sing to them too.  That’s all on my 20 year strategic plan. Go ahead do the math, I don’t mind. finishing-well

While wrestling with some decisions I was lead to the latest book by Billy Graham, Nearing Home.  I was drawn to it because of the sub-title “Life, Faith, and Finishing Well” and was caught from the second sentence of  his introduction. “All my life I was taught how to die as a Christian, but no one ever taught me how to live in the years before I die”. He goes on to say, “The Bible doesn’t picture us spending our latter years as useless and ineffective, spending our lives in endless boredom or meaningless activity……God has a purpose for us no matter what our age, young or old, the best way to meet challenges is to prepare for them now, align ourselves with God’s plan so we grow older with grace and find the guidance to finish well.”  OK, so if you happen to have the book you will realize that I took great liberty in paraphrasing, but in essence – those are his thoughts.  And I share them, because that is my prayer for all of us – that we find God’s purpose for our lives so we continually are living out a life aligned with God’s plan, inside His blueprint that’s uniquely our own.

That might mean we keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing because we’re on the right path and in the proper grid on the blueprint.  It might mean taking a slight bend in the road and modifying our course, just a little; a small incremental change.  Or it could mean a 90 degree angle or 180 degree turn. Where should I be today to be assured of finishing well tomorrow?  Today is all I have and tomorrow is the result of how I live it.  Maybe start hereDeuteronomy 6:5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, strength, and mind.   Then speed read over to 1 John 5:3 This is love for God; to obey his commands. And if I start to waiver and fear that I can’t do what God has put in my heart to do, there is always the wisdom of Isaiah 41:13 I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  Seriously, friends – what are we afraid of? God has made us unique because He has a purpose for each of us, He created us with certain interests, abilities, and yes, even our personalities.  He will be our guide if we are committed to follow His lead. Get that – His lead.

How many times do we fall into the trap of thinking this is all there is? Life isn’t the party I signed up for. Let’s encourage each other in our walk today. I know myself well enough now to recognize that my passion to learn and share what I’ve learned through writing, mentoring, and teaching is who I am. The nearly obsessive desire to be a helper and support others so they don’t have to do it all themselves – that’s part of me. Scott Steiner, a true faithful servant of God recently when home to live in heaven with Jesus. A few years ago he taught a class at my church on spiritual gifts and, me, always eager for insight into what God’ purpose was for me, couldn’t wait to put action into my purpose. God spoke to me through those lessons in discovery and purpose. I’m still discovering and will continue – well, until God says it’s a wrap for my life on earth.

We are all going to someday reach the finish line. All our days, like sand, will collect at the bottom of the hourglass, our time on Earth expended. Finishing well, or just finishing?

At age 98,of course Billy Graham has retired from daily work, but he still has confidence that until his next breath is celestial air, his purpose on Earth is not over.  So back to that retirement topic – there are many versions of retirement as there are many seasons of life! I’m looking forward to branching out, spreading joy, learning more, sharing more, being more tomorrow than I am today, because it’s in God’s plan for us to be what he created us to be until we no longer are.  Ephesians 5:16 Make the most of every opportunity. For some, that’s their version of retirement. For me, it’s “Show me the mountain, Lord, then grab my hand and pull me up it”.   Are you struggling today? Do you have obstacles to overcome? Are you seeking the right path? You don’t have to do this alone.   Isaiah 41:14 Do not be afraid … for I, myself will help you declares the Lord.  2 Thessalonians 3:3 & 5 The Lord is faithful, He will strengthen and protect you …. May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

What do you find in the secret, in the quiet place? Is it God?

Do you ever wake up to your heart singing a song? This morning even before I opened my eyes I heard “In the secret, in the quiet place. In the stillness you are there. In the secret, in the quiet hour I wait only for you, so I can know you more …” I was faintly aware of a bird chirping at intervals from some hidden place outside my window, a backdrop to the concert surrounding my consciousness. In the secret, in the quiet place – that is where we find God. That is where we find healing and comfort. That is where we find strength and where we find hope.

I’m reading a book right now titled The Anatomy of Peace. It isn’t a Christian, biblically based book but it’s transformational for people who want to live in peace and make behavioral choices that heal their brokenness. As I read, this verse kept coming back to me. Psalm 37:37 “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.”

My heart is broken for a young couple who had a tragic motorcycle accident. God spared their lives but it will be a year and maybe longer before they are able to resume their normal lives. Many prayers are offered for them moment to moment. I pray for them and think of Psalm 119:50 “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.”

I have a friend who has suddenly been immersed in the role of caregiver for aging parents. When my mom was living through the final stages of cancer my sister was in a similar role and I stepped in only twice a month to give her some relief. When we are forced into a lifestyle we would never choose and wonder what this means for our future, remember Proverbs 24:14 “Know that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” Pray for wisdom, God promises he will honor that. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Nothing catches God by surprise. Psalm 139:16 assures us of that. Whatever you are going through today in this moment has already passed through the hands of omniscient God. He knew the moments of your life before you were born.  “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

I’ve often wondered about this questions in Psalm 42:2. 2 “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” Does it mean when will I meet God face to face? Or was it written to encourage us to seek God and spend time with him in prayer and reading his letter written to us and printed in the form of a book, the Bible?

In the secret, in the quiet place – that is where we find God.

Chris Tomlin – In the Secret, in the quiet place. In the stillness You, God are there.

From Crisis to Calling: Finding Your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions – Book Summary

As I sat down to write about this book, From Crisis to Calling: Finding your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions by Sasha Chanoff and David Chanoff, an online article in the Huff Post grabbed my attention proclaiming Afghan Refugee Crisis Worsens. It seems the news is dominated by more and more crises related to refugees who are suffering greatly in violence–torn regions. This book would have been much more uncomfortable to read had it not been for the authors’ presentation of the storyline through the moral compass of each person involved in the refugee evacuation. In the second half of the book, the five principles of moral decision making are conveyed through stories about corporate heroes of today.

Here are the 5-steps to moral decision making which are in the book called The Five Principles – building blocks to making moral decisions.

  1. Be prepared
  2. Open your eyes
  3. Confront yourself
  4. Know yourself
  5. Take courage

The subject of this book, From Crisis to Calling is about developing authentic leaders who make decisions based on deep personal values that positively affect their lives and the lives of their organizations. Leaders of this deep moral character will build cultures of trust, fairness, equitability, and ethical leadership. One final thought from the authors, “Empathy is the essential need of great leaders who are intentional about building their organizations and communities.” Whether leaders or lay people, life’s tough choices need to be infused with moral sense – empathy, compassion, altruism.

CSLews - Book Cover - From Crisis to Calling

 

 

Read the full book summary published on the BizCatalyst360 network.

http://bizcatalyst360.com/from-crisis-to-calling-finding-your-moral-center-in-the-toughest-decisions/

Sleep on it! Who said that?

In the morning during my quiet time, just me and God, I write out at least one verse that spoke to me. Sometimes I write a story around them, other times I just tuck the verses into my stack of index cards to read again in the future. Today I chose Psalm 16:7. “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.” Psalm 16 7
Have you ever had a perplexing situation that needed to be resolved but no answers came to you? Maybe, like me, you thought so hard on a subject you got brain cramps. I know. Right? Talking it over with someone else might help, but the problem is still yours.
“Why don’t you sleep on it?”, your well-meaning friend says. “That’s a great idea,” you respond, all the while thinking, “Like that’s going to work. Not!” But you have to sleep and you take your thoughts with you into slumber, so why not give it a try. Pray it all out to God. He already knows every detail, but you don’t. When you pray, you are able to acknowledge and recognize the details.
Before you sleep, talk to your holy father in heaven who listens to his children. John 9:31 says, “He listens to the godly person who does his will.”
As it turns out, your friend who said, “Sleep on it” is right. The Bible says, God counsels us even when we sleep. I’m not making this up. I read the verse in Psalm 16:7. It’s morning as I write this and it’s likely morning as you read it, but here’s a thought if you’re struggling with a decision, burdened by feelings, or confused by circumstances, I hope you don’t have to wait till night time for relief, but when night time comes . . .
Remember that God is on call 24/7, morning, noon, night. He never sleeps. As someone said, “When you can’t sleep, talk to God. He’s up all night anyway.” Then we have this added benefit: Even at night we are learning when we’ve been counseled by God.

Let it fail!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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