Friday, July 29, 2011

Down Time

Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.  (Psalm 103:2-5, NIV)
I am enjoying a little down time while the family is out at the movies.  How I have relished these few hours of solitude with the dog, the breeze from my box fan, and my computer!  That's not to say I don't enjoy being with my family and friends, but sometimes silence truly is golden and frittering a little time away can be a soothing balm to a weary soul like me.

Not all down time is enjoyable, however.  Sometimes we feel "down" because of stressful circumstances, unpleasant relational conflicts, or fatigue.  Before long we become filled with self-pity and perhaps self-loathing.  Even on the brightest days everything seems dreary and it becomes difficult to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how blessed we may actually be.

So, how can we turn around our "down" days and recapture our joy?  First of all, we have to acknowledge that our feelings are real rather than berate ourselves for experiencing human emotions that are as old as time.  Then when need to begin thanking God for the blessings he has bestowed on us and recalling the promises he has given us in his Word.  For those of us who are visual, perhaps we need to pull out a pad and pen, draw a line down the center of a blank sheet of paper, and see if we can't counteract each complaint with a blessing.  For instance, if we complain about our teenager's rebellion, we need to turn around and give thanks that such behavior is often a normal part of adolescence, a brief season of life, and praise God for his mercy to us when we have failed to live according to his standards of holiness. 

Although depression and self-pity have been around for thousands of years, there is hope for us!  But we have to believe that God is able to meet us where we are, lift us out of the slimy pit, and set our feet upon a rock where we can stand firm (Psalm 40:2).  Will you believe in God and take hold of his hand?  He is reaching out to you today.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Different Delight

No, the LORD's delight is in those who fear him, those who put their trust in his unfailing love. (Psalm 147:11, NLT)
When you think about the things that delight you--those things that bring you pleasure--what comes to mind?  A favorite food, a sunset at the beach, or the latest technological gadget?  Perhaps it is the peace of knowing that there is enough money to pay the bills or the joy of seeing your children walk with the Lord.  Delight can manifest itself a thousand different ways if we live each day with thankful hearts and acknowledge God as the source of all blessings.  But a heart that has grown cold toward God will never be delighted by the things of this world.

What if your life is overshadowed by problems that steal your joy and taking delight in anything becomes an elusive fantasy?  When our trust and affections are misplaced and our focus is on our problems instead of on God, it doesn't take long for our joy to erode and completely disappear.  How can we recapture our delight in God and the joy that he promises us as believers?

Maybe we need to camp out on the truth that God has a different definition of delight than we do.  Psalm 147:11 (NIV) tells us that God "delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love."  No matter how unpleasant our circumstances might be or how much we struggle with hopelessness and sin, if we put our hope in God's unfailing love he still delights in us!  I don't know about you, but knowing that God delights in me regardless of how I may feel at the moment gives me hope and restores my joy.

If you are struggling to find joy today, rekindle your relationship with God by placing your hope in his unfailing love.  Take your eyes off your circumstances and turn to the promises of his Word, knowing that he delights in those who fear him.  As you delight yourself in the Lord, trusting in and focusing on him, he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4) and keep you in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Symphony of Praise

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 42:5, NIV)

The sound of thunder greeted me when I awoke from my Sunday afternoon nap.  Walking outside I looked to the sky for signs of rain, praying that God would send showers to nourish and sustain my flowers and lawn.  How many times have we been teased by thunder only to have the rain pass us by?  As much as I love thunder's percussion, a thundershower is just a bunch of noise without the rain.  It takes the breeze of God's woodwinds and His string section, the rain, to make the symphony complete and to refresh that which is parched and wilted.

Life is full of storms, many which come against us with little or no warning.  Some come because of our choices.  All have the potential to destroy us unless we rise above them and see them from a more heavenly perspective.  The dissonance of sin, chaos, regret, and unending stress can deafen us to God's voice and harden our hearts against His love if we are playing from a different score that the one He wrote for us, the Word of God.

The Bible speaks often of storms.  Jesus calmed the storm that raged against his disciples when they were at sea.  God used a mighty flood to destroy the earth, saving each species of animal and a few faithful followers, giving man a second chance to live life on God's terms and enjoy the blessing of being rightly related to his Creator.  Then there are the storms with which we are all too familiar -- cancer, financial lack, dysfunctional relationships, and job stress.  Although we may not hear a symphony in the stress of everyday life, nevertheless each challenge we face is a note in a beautiful symphony that God is composing in the hearts of His followers. 

Lord, give us ears to hear the music of Your heart!  Help us to hear the symphony you are composing in the storms of life.  Teach us Your truths, show us Your faithfulness morning by morning, and let our songs of thankfulness in all things become a symphony of praise to You!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In It Together (from A Pleasing Aroma, coming soon from Tate Publishing)

For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. (Psalm 66:10–12)
Lately, life has seemed like more of a rat race than a reason to rejoice. In the midst of all the activity, I have somehow become focused on everything that is wrong rather than on the one who can make all things right. I have forgotten that as difficult and unpleasant as circumstances may be at times, God has ordained every one of my days and has tailored every test and trial to refine me into a vessel of honor, "useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work" (2 Timothy 2:21).

When you read Psalm 66:10–12, what do you see? How often do we blame others for our adversities when Scripture plainly tells us that it is God who has tested us? He is refining us like silver, a process that requires fire and intense heat in order to craft a quality vessel. Do you sometimes feel like your life is a prison and your back is breaking under the heavy burden you carry? We are told God has "brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs." Do you feel like the human race has run you over? These verses tell us that God "let men ride over our heads." We may feel there is no end to the fire and water through which we go every day, but we don't go through them alone. In Isaiah 43:2–3, God declares:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
God is with us in everything we do and every challenge we face. The beauty of these promises from God's Word is not only the blessed assurance that God himself is with us but that when all is said and done he will bring us to a "place of abundance."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nothing Held Back

"For the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate, and will not turn His face away from you if you return to Him." -- 2 Chronicles 30:9b, NASB)

Fear of commitment or of having to give up that which we love is perhaps the greatest hindrance to having a personal relationship with the Lord.  We believe in God, but cannot quite bring ourselves to wholly commit ourselves to him because we are afraid we will have to give up certain things we love doing, people we enjoy associating with, or control of our lives.  Yet often those are the very things which stand between us and the truly abundant life Jesus speaks of in John 10:10.  He says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

I have been a Christian nearly all my life, receiving Jesus as my Savior at a very early age.  As a teenager, I rededicated my life to him and was very active in my church youth group, faithfully serving Him and studying his Word.  When I left the sheltered environment of home to attend college, however, I was pulled away by experiences I had not known before and began a seven-year downward spiral into a very sinful existence, which left me stained and scarred and could have ended very badly for me had I not embraced the truth that God is indeed gracious and compassionate and will not turn his face away from those who return to him.  It was at that low point of my life, recognizing my sin for what it was and realizing that my only hope was the redeeming love of Christ, that I fully surrendered my life to him with nothing held back.

Those who walk in full surrender to Jesus have learned, as I have, that the joy and reward of being obedient to God's Word far outweigh the sacrifice of those things we once considered priceless possessions.  Where once we considered freedom to be the ability to do what we wanted to do, we have learned that true freedom comes in knowing that God is pleased by our obedience and rewards those who seek him wholeheartedly.  Only when we turn loose of those things which are contrary to his Word and walk in full surrender to him, will we know true joy and lasting peace.

God held nothing back, even the life of his only Son, when he set out to claim us as his own.  If God was willing to sacrifice everything for us, why should we not sacrifice everything for him?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Curse of a Creative Mind (A Blog about Absolutely Nothing)

It's midnight...a time when normal working people should be in bed resting from the day just past and resting up for the day ahead.  But where am I?  Sitting at this stupid keyboard wishing I could squeeze  just another hour or two out of an already long day.

Having a creative mind is not really a curse, but it does frustrate me at times that I don't have the luxury of sitting down at my computer and really pouring myself into a really worthwhile project.  Real writers read a lot and research more than I do, but some days I feel like I must write or bust!  That's where a blog comes in handy.  In a sense I can release the creative juices simmering in my mental slow cooker so my mind can relax enough to allow me to get to sleep.  Never mind that I'll be dreaming all night long.  That truly is the curse of this creative mind!

The day will dawn early on a busy week.  Fortunately, I'm on vacation so perhaps there will be a little more time for creative thinking than I would normally have in any given day.  Who knows?  And who even really cares?  Now that I've vented, it's time to get some zzzzz's.  Nighty night!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Just Because

Some days lend themselves to wistful thinking and rest from the busyness of life. With my kids off shopping and my husband at work for a few hours, I was able to enjoy a few moments of solitude to reflect on life and daydream a little while enjoying the view outside my kitchen window.  With the sunflowers I planted in the spring blooming and waving cheerily in the warm summer breeze, my thoughts bounced from cherished friends and days gone by to blessings for which I am very thankful.  Since I couldn't decide what I wanted to do, I decided to muse a little and write this blog just because I could.

My neighbor kindly cut my grass just because he was out on his riding lawnmower and saw my grass needed cutting, too. When is the last time you or I engaged in an act of random kindness toward someone else, just because? It is the little things we do for others that provide the lift our wistful souls sometimes need. Whether it is picking up a few groceries for an elderly neighbor or simply picking up the phone to check on a loved one, a little kindness goes a long way, both for the giver and the recipient. The great joy in life is not in “looking out for number one,” but in considering others more important than ourselves and extending the love and grace of Christ to them.

Because life has been so busy lately, I made the conscious decision to relish the peace and quiet of an empty house instead of clean it as I should.  We all need to stop and smell the roses once in awhile, just because we can. If we get so caught up in “doing” all the time we will cease to be the human “beings” God created us to be. How can we possibly hear His voice or enjoy His presence if we don’t stop for awhile just to be still?

Jesus set the examples of service and sacrifice for us by living as a man and dying to save us from our sins…just because of His great love for us.  Think about that as you go about your day and extend a little grace to someone else, just because you can.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Backstage Pass

Life has been really busy lately, so my posts to this blog have been hit or miss. Please click on the link below to read my latest devotional, "Backstage Pass." If you are wondering what God is up to these days, please take a minute to read this word of encouragement.

Backstage Pass

Blessings galore!

Dee Dee Wike