Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Gift in Giving

Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. -- Luke 6:38, NIV

Usually when I sit down to pay bills I feel nothing but pain.  However, today's experience was quite different.  Because of an unexpected financial gift, I was able to turn around and write a check not only for our regular tithe, but also for donations over and above our budgeted giving amount.  The sheer joy of giving made me realize just how blessed I am, especially at those times when it seems unlikely that the bills will get paid on time or we will make it to another pay day.

Years of acquiring things we could not afford have resulted in a Mt. Everest of debt for our family.  But this debt has become a great motivator for us to pinch pennies and a great tool for teaching our children what is really important in life.  Many of those things I bought on credit have gone by the wayside or found their way to a local thrift store or Goodwill.  The headache of maintaining all those things has diminished as I have gotten rid of them, and the sense of achievement I have gained from watching the balances owed to our creditors get smaller month by month only makes me more determined to pay everything off as quickly as possible.

When is the last time you received a blessing by giving to someone else?  If you are feeling pinched to the point that you don't think you could spare a soul a dime, try giving!  As you discover the joy of blessing others, I believe you will find it ultimately more satisfying than buying all that stuff you think you cannot live without!

God's resources are endless.  He promises to supply all our needs (not wants) (Philippians 4:19) and to take care of those who give to the poor (Proverbs 28:27).  It has been said, "You can't outgive God."  The more I give, the more I know that to be true.  Dare to take God at His Word and give 'til it hurts.  He is counting on you to be his vessel of blessing in a desperately needy world.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Glass of Lemonade, Anyone?

Scripture:  Romans 5:3-5

If there is one thing I have discovered about life, it is that even on our worst days we can manage to find something for which we are thankful.  It may not seem that way when we are in the heat of battle with a rebellious child or buried under a pile of bills we cannot pay, but if we take a moment to look for just one blessing we will surely find many.  It all boils down to attitude and perspective....we can either suck on life's raw lemons or we can add a little sugar and make lemonade, as Erma Bombeck was so quick to point out!

What is your lemon today, and what is the secret of giving thanks in all circumstances?  If you are like me, perhaps your lemon is the annoying call of the creditor alerting you that your payment is past due.  Are your lights still on?  Is there food in the fridge?  Did you sleep in a comfy bed last night?  Give thanks for these blessings!

Are you sleep deprived and cranky because you were up all night with a newborn or sick child?  Can you imagine life without that little one or the day when he will be too big to hold?  Give thanks for that bundle of love God has placed in your arms!  All too soon your little one will grow up and give his affections to someone or something else.  Relish the moments you have now, even if you're too sleepy to enjoy them.

If you suffer from debilitating pain or discomfort from a serious illness, can you give thanks for a sound mind and the knowledge that God is there to comfort you?  Can you use your pain as a prompt to pray for others who might be in even worse shape than you are?  Even when you think you are physically unable to do much good, you are well-positioned to pray for others, and prayer is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone you love.

I don't mean to minimize your problems.  Heaven knows I have my own Goliaths!  But our great God is faithful even in the midst of our biggest challenges. 

If you are feeling a bit squeezed by life today, add a little sugar to the mix and refresh someone else who is similarly challenged.  Don't just make lemonade...offer that refreshment to others by facing your challenges with a thankful heart.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Shall Not Be Moved

I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons.  I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope.   (Psalm 16:7-9, NKJV)
As I write this, night has fallen.  It is dark outside, a time when vision is hindered and the body and mind are weary.  It is the time of day when the day's work ends and the body finds rest. 

But what about the soul?   Aren't there periods when we find ourselves in a dark place spiritually and emotionally, when the spirit is willing but the flesh too weak to continue fighting the battle waged against us by the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:12)?  Our enemy, Satan, knows all too well what it will take to disarm the soldiers of God, strip us of our ministry, and tarnish our testimony.  He stops at nothing to do whatever it takes to discourage us, defeat us, and doom us to a life of ineffectiveness in God's kingdom.

If you are walking in a right relationship with God, surrendered to His will and living according to the principles set forth in His Word, then you are a threat to the enemy and he will stop at nothing to wear you down until you can no longer stand.  If you are in ministry, laboring for the souls of humanity and sharing the encouraging truth of God's Word with others, be on your guard and put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-17) so that you can withstand the attacks of the one who will do anything in his power to see you fail!  He may assault you through your family, your finances, or your health and so discourage you that you throw in the towel and cry, "It's not worth it!"  DON'T GIVE UP and DON'T GIVE IN!  That is precisely what the enemy is hoping for and we cannot give him the victory that Christ has already won for us.  We are MORE than conquerors (Romans 8:31, 37)!

I am facing my own challenges as I write this.  I look at my blog counter and think, "Who am I kidding?  Nobody reads this stuff.  I don't know why I even write it."  But, I do know.  It is because God continues to take me through hard lessons so that I may grow ever more dependent on Him, know on a much deeper level His great love and mercy, and share those lessons with others who need encouragement.  This is my ministry, my calling, and "because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.  Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh will also rest in hope."

If you find yourself so besieged by worry and trouble that you are ready to quit, I implore you:  Don't give up on God by giving in to the enemy!  Read God's Word, pray at all times and in all places, and give thanks in all things, knowing that greater is God who lives in you than the enemy who is in the world!  Continue to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12) so that you can say, as Paul did, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Other "F" Word

I hate filthy language, but the other "F" word is not something profane.  It is profoundly annoying, however.  The word I refer to is finances

For many of us, finances, or more specifically the lack of them, can irritate us like nothing else.  Those of us who find ourselves in debt, trying to dig our way out with a plastic spoon instead of a titanium shovel, know that we are easily defeated by the setbacks we don't see coming.  We live paycheck to paycheck with nothing to sustain us in an emergency except a credit card (if we haven't maxed them all out).  With the constant fear that an expense will arise we cannot possibly meet, such as a roof replacement, root canal, or heaven forbid, expense associated with a terminal or chronic medical condition, we feel the oppressive weight of the financial stress that keeps us from living in the true freedom Christ desires for us.

Some of us have contributed to our own financial lack by making the bad choice to use credit to purchase things we don't really need.  But some of us are simply waylayed by the accumulation of unavoidable expenses that are a part of everyday life.  Before we know it, we are filled with self-pity because of the burden we carry and the restrictions that lack of money places on the good things we wish to do and enjoy, including the desire to give to those in true need.

What can we do to maintain our joy when our finances turn from friend to foe and keep us from doing what we need and want to do?  First of all, we must remember Who owns everything we have in the first place.  God owns it all; we are simply His caretakers.  Although I can't imagine that God would want the roof to leak, I know that He desires that I trust Him even when I cannot afford to fix it.  What would happen if roofs never leaked?  There would be a whole lot of unemployed roofers, and He is their provider too!

We also need to know what God's Word says about His provision and understand that He doesn't necessarily provide according to our desired time frame but always provides in His.  We will never be able to understand His methods for doing things, but we can always trust that His plan and purpose for our lives are for our good, not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11).  If we experience a setback of any kind, we can trust that God will work the circumstances of it for our good because we love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

God's answer for our needs and wants may not always be "yes," but His "no" will ultimately lead to a greater yes and a deeper knowledge of Him as we persevere through our trials.

Instead of fretting over the other "f" word, try thanking God in spite of your finances.  Don't worry about the vet bill that is coming due in three weeks; thank God that today you have all you need.  He promised to supply all our needs, one day at a time.  If we will simply look back and remember His faithfulness during those times when our limited faith could not see Him at work, we will know that the One who is the same yesterday, today, and forever will be faithful to keep His promises and meet our needs.

God knows we are prone to worry, but He loves us anyway.  Don't let your financial worries keep you from enjoying His presence today or seeing the many blessings He has placed before you.  Instead give Him thanks for the food in your stomach, the roof (leaky or not) over your head, and the knowledge that in heaven, you will not lack anything.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Geek and the Good Guy

As my husband Steve and I sat at opposite ends of the kitchen table waiting on our lunch to finish cooking, I couldn't help but smile at the thought that after twenty five years of marriage (2/21/12 is our silver anniversary) we are still SO different.  There he sat flipping the pages of a catalog while I scrolled through Facebook messages on my smart phone.  When I offered to pull up his checking account balance on my phone he said, "You can do that?  Scary!"

It's true...opposites do attract, and God knew what he was doing when he sent Steve into my life.  I knew what I was looking for in a mate -- someone attractive, nice, funny, romantic, and generous.  Although Steve had his good qualities, I am not so sure I would have chosen him in a suitor lineup, if you know what I mean.  He was good looking enough with an amazing, winsome smile.  He was very nice and had a quirky wit at times, but was not exactly the most generous guy when it came to laying down money for dates or gifts.  I thought it odd that we dated "Dutch treat" a lot and definitely strange that his first Christmas gift to me was a pair of ankle weights.  But neither really mattered because we were both working and he was wanting to help me reach a fitness goal I was working on at the time.  (Of course, I traded in the ankle weights at the earliest opportunity!)  Steve never committed that faux pas again and has excelled in giving me gifts I really enjoy.  God knew that I was prone to spend a little too freely in those days so he sent Steve to rein in my spending.  He also sent me to Steve to help him loosen up his purse strings a little.    Steve has always been easy-going, just enough that it makes this intensely emotional woman crazy!  God knew I needed someone kinder and gentler than myself to bear with my faults and love me any way.  The balance we have achieved in many areas is a beautiful thing.  Isn't God so good? 

As we have grown together over the past two and a half decades we have become more alike in our thoughts and actions.  He is predictable but can still pull off a good surprise.  I love the way he laughs at my jokes and silly comments.  But in so many ways we are still just as opposite as the day we met.  And that, I believe, is one thing that has kept our marriage strong.  Steve will never be tech-savvy and I may never be the soft-spoken, gentle-spirited wife he at times probably wishes he had married, but we will always have a reason to laugh, a reason to pray for one another, and the adventure of waking up to face a new day together, "'til death us do part."

Here's to the next twenty five years, Sweetheart!  Thanks for making this the trip of a lifetime.  I love you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Frog That Stayed (A True Story)

As a young girl growing up in an age of innocence (at least by today's standards), I held to the fairytale belief that there is someone for everyone.  I still do believe that there is a forever mate handpicked by God for those God does not call out to a life of singleness.  There was a time when I was certain that being single was God's plan for me, but then I found a frog that stayed.  Yet I know that when death separates us, I will remain single because God has captured my heart in a way that no man will ever be able to, including my spouse of twenty-five years.

Finding the frog that stayed was no easy task.  True to the fairytale, I had to kiss a lot of frogs.  The thing about frogs, as I quickly learned, is that they have common names and occupations.  Although I won't name my frogs, each held an attraction for me at the time.  Some frogs stayed longer than others.  Some I wish I had never met!  Some left me heartbroken while they happily hopped into the sunset, but when I realized that some were mere toads with very little "prince" potential, I was happy just to send them on their way so I could move on to the next frog.

Some frogs genuinely loved me for me and generously gave of themselves to ensure my happiness.  Others were only interested in having their own needs met and had less than noble intentions where I was concerned.  I kissed frogs my age who shared common interests, frogs younger than me who adored me in ways no other frog could, and frogs older and too experienced for a girl like me.  But good or bad, they had their place in my search for true love and I will never forget them.

It wasn't until I met my true Prince that I found my forever frog, however.  As a young woman in my mid-twenties, I finally grew weary of compromising myself in the search for the love of my life.  The search had led me into unhealthy relationships and self-destructive behaviors that left me seeking a permanent way out of my misery.  I never thought I would find true love and I certainly didn't deserve God's best after the way I had thrown my life away in pursuit of it.  When I finally reached rock bottom and made the decision to forsake all others and keep myself only unto Jesus Himself, my forever frog skated into my life and nothing has been the same since.

It's true.  I had to forsake friendships, social circles, happy hours, and resolve to love God with my whole heart before I could ever be healthy enough spiritually and emotionally to enter into a covenant relationship with another human being.  You see?  We get it all wrong when we think that we can find God's perfect mate for us.  What we must do first is completely surrender ourselves to God and let Him bring that mate to us.  That is a lesson I wish I had learned long before I met Steve at the roller rink all those years ago.  Had I simply been secure in my relationship with the Lord and let Him do the choosing, I could have avoided some hard and costly mistakes.

If you feel alone this Valentine's Day, please know that Jesus, the Lover of your soul and your true Prince, is right beside you.  He loves you more than any human can, warts and all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Lapful of Blessings

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  -- Luke 6:38, NIV

This morning as I sat in my La-Z-Boy under twenty pounds of pets, I had to smile at my lapful of blessings. We released our cat Gypsy yesterday, having deemed her fit to return outdoors after four weeks of recuperating in the house after suffering a gunshot wound.  Since the weather was so cold last night we coaxed her back inside to sleep. That little black furball looked so sweet curled up on top of the fuzzy red housecoat I used as a lap blanket that I had to just stop and relish her presence as Madison snored softly beside my leg.

Some of our biggest blessings are found in such simple pleasures. Have you stopped looking beyond your need long enough to see all the blessings in your lap?  If your needs seem overwhelming, try looking at someone else's problems and soon you will realize just how blessed you are.  Pour your life into someone else today.  Try to meet another person's need, even if all you have to offer is a word of encouragement or a promise to pray them through their challenges. 

Scripture teaches us that when we give we will receive, whether the gift be a meal for someone who is grieving or ill, a ride for someone who needs transportation, or a cup of hot coffee for a homeless person just trying to stay warm.  A seemingly insignificant gesture on your part will be a big blessing to someone else, and God will see your kindness and bless you for it when you need it most.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Love The Lord (Whitney Houston in "The Preacher's Wife)

Nipped in the Bud



Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.  (Romans 6:4-5, KJV)

The inevitable happened overnight.  Winter returned and nipped spring right in the bud!  My daffodils are hanging their heads mournfully because they have been stripped of their glory by winter's stormy blast.  Hopefully the buds that have prematurely formed on the spring flowers and shrubbery have matured enough that this setback won't kill them altogether.  When sunshine and warmer temperatures return, I'm betting on the flowers to make it and to bloom with even greater vigor!

Life is full of setbacks.  Our ability to weather the harsh seasons of life will largely be determined by our level of spiritual maturity and the growth we have achieved in our relationship with Christ.  Are you rooted deeply enough in your relationship with Him and in your knowledge of His Word that you can withstand the adverse circumstances that assault you from time to time?  None of us is impervious to pain, discouragement, and failure, but in Christ we have newness of life and the hope of victory because of His resurrection.  Just as He emerged from the tomb three days after His crucifixion, so we too have the hope of surviving and thriving in spite of hard times and difficult challenges.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

At the Mercy

Life is crazy, isn't it?  Just when you think you have it all together, somehow everything begins to unravel and your find yourself at the mercy of....well, you fill in the blank.  What is it that you're at the mercy of today?  God?  Circumstances?  Your creditors?

No one is immune to life's curve balls.  They come whether or not we want them to.  But how do you remain joyful, or even function, when you are knocked off your feet by a situation that was either unavoidable or a complete surprise?  What do you do when that progress you were seeing becomes a reversal and you find yourself back at square one?  You could despair, get angry, or just walk away in disgust.  But sometimes God requires us to do something that we are powerless to do except by faith -- trust Him.

When we look at our circumstances from an earthly perspective and with our finite human understanding, suddenly they become more than we can bear.  But if we look at our problems based on what we know of God's promises and His character, then His grace and goodness become overwhelming to us and we are able to stand in His strength by the power of His Spirit and find peace and comfort even in the midst of our worst trials. 

God knows our weakness and He loves us in spite of it.  He is at His best when we are at our worst.  No matter what heartache or insurmountable obstacle you may be facing today, know that God is on your side and you are in His hands.  Let God draw you close to Him and teach you His ways especially when you cannot find your own way through the mess.  However difficult or hopeless your situation may appear, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV)



Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Disappointment or Divine Appointment?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.            (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV)

As Christians we are not immune from stress, disappointment, or heartbreak.  The question is, what do we do with the negative emotions that steal our attention and affections from Christ and incapacitate us, as they sometimes do?

One of the greatest weapons we have against despair is praise.  Yet sometimes the assaults come against us so quickly and with such great force that we are knocked off our feet before we even realize what has happened.  Before we know it our praise gives way to anxiety and defeat, stealing our joy and tarnishing our testimony.  When we find ourselves flat on our faces, broadsided by our failures and disappointment, we need to pray for God to show us the purpose for every problem and reveal how He would use our disappointments to accomplish His purposes in our lives and in the lives of those around us. 

What are some of the challenges you are facing today?  What are the disappointments that you simply do not understand--that cause you to question God's goodness?  An illness perhaps, or a broken relationship with someone you love?  Look around you.  You are not alone.  So many people deal with disappointment day after day.  They are hurting, too.

Rather than lament your problems, ask God to take your challenges and use them to shape you so He can use you to make a difference in someone else's life.  Let your disappointments become His divine appointment to encourage those on the journey with you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Just Follow the Directions

He has showed you, O man, what is good.  And what does the LORD require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. -- Micah 6:8, NIV
A couple of months ago I stepped out in faith and quit a good-paying, part-time job with flexible hours in order to follow what I believe to be God's will for my life.  With a newly-released second book under my belt and the desire to build a speaking ministry to encourage others in their walk, I sensed it was time to leave the financial stability of that job in order to have more time to take care of my family, better serve my clients, and grow the ministry.  I looked forward to having more time to read, write, and market my books.  So far, it seems little has happened to advance the cause, although God has opened a few doors here and there.  Still, I find myself asking the same questions that arise from time to time.  Did I make the right decision?  What was I thinking?  Did I really sense God's leading or was I just dreaming that this was his plan for me? 

Sometimes faith is hard to come by and doubt creeps in like an invisible invader bent on stealing our joy and thwarting God's plans for us.  Conviction becomes muddied and gives way to discouragement as our time and energy are redirected by the distractions of daily living.  For me, sometimes the best I can manage is simply to do the next thing that demands my attention.  Seldom are those things related to the ministry I feel called to or the activities needed to move forward in that direction.  A lot of days I feel like a rudderless ship on a vast sea of possibilities, lost without any sense of direction and going absolutely nowhere!

As I prayed through this dilemma, I realized that I am not alone in thinking this way.  Many of us struggle to see God's grand purpose in the midst of our mediocre lives.  We begin to wonder, "Is this all there is?  What I am supposed to do now, Lord?" 

God's Word gives us direction for daily living, but do we really follow the directions he gives us?  What does God really want from us any way?  Micah 6:8 gives us the answer -- "to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."  Could it really be that simple?

The Bible is full of directions and encouragement to anchor us when we feel we are wandering aimlessly through this life.  Rather than get so caught up in what we haven't done, we need to focus on what God's Word tells us to do.  When is the last time you sought His Word for the answers to your questions?  They are there, and so is God.  If you will diligently search for God with your whole heart by reading His Word and seeking His will, you will find Him and His Spirit will direct your steps according to His Word.

Because of our foolish pride we have a hard time asking for directions.  Don't you think it is about time that we stop wasting time being lost, ask God for help from His Word, and follow the directions?

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Mysterious "Cloud"

The buzz word in computing circles these days is "the Cloud."  Although I consider myself fairly computer-savvy, I don't believe I have ever really nailed down what the Cloud actually is.  In an article entitled "Cloud Computing:  What is the Cloud?", Novell.com's blog defines it this way:  "The cloud is a set of services and technologies that enable the delivery of computing services over the Internet in real-time, allowing end-users instant access to data and applications from any device with Internet access."  The mysterious Cloud enhances communication, file-sharing, and productivity via the Internet.

The Cloud we hear of today was not the first mysterious cloud, however.  In the book of Exodus, God used "the cloud" to lead the Israelites out of Egypt by day and to cover Mount Sinai, the "mountain of God," where he summoned Moses to give him the Ten Commandments.  Long before man communicated through the Cloud, God did.  Exodus 24:15-18 (NIV) tells us:
When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
According to www.blueletterbible.org, the word cloud occurs 107 times in 94 verses in the King James Version of the Bible. God used clouds to accomplish His wonders long before "the Cloud" was ever conceived in the technology realm.  Pretty cool, huh?  And now, because of all this wonderful technology, we have even greater opportunities to share His truth and hope with our neighbors around the world.  God still speaks "in the Cloud."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Finding Peace in the Midst of Pain

If you are reading this blog then you are a person who has pain.  Whether physical or emotional, we cannot live life without experiencing deep pain from time to time.  Some of us deal with pain on a daily basis; others coast along life's highway carelessly until they hit it head on like a concrete barricade.

People often marvel that I am a published writer, but I tell them that writing is simply the way I process life and all its challenges.  Journaling keeps me prayerfully focused on what God has to say about the things that affect me and keeps me from turning to coping mechanisms which will never solve anything.  Just because I am a Christian author doesn't mean that I have all the answers.  On the contrary, it is because I am still seeking relief from my own pain that God comforts me with His Word and inspires me to encourage others.

As I prayed through a particular hurt this morning, I asked God to speak to me.  I knew the only way I would hear from Him would be to read His Word, so I turned to the book of Psalms and was comforted by these verses.

Psalm 119:71 -- "It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees."  It was good for me to be afflicted.  Can you say that about your own troubles?  Do you allow the pain and heartache you suffer to draw you closer to God and teach you the decrees and promises in His Word?  Without His Word we cannot know Him.  Without Him, we have no hope.

Psalm 119:75 -- "I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me."  In faithfulness you have afflicted me.  Even in the midst of your troubles, can you see the faithfulness of God?  Do you know that God is good all the time, even when times are not necessarily all good?

Psalm 119:136 -- "Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed." I can honestly say that I relate to this verse!  How many of us, whose loved ones are lost or whose children rebel, have cried tears of utter brokenness because of the disobedience and disregard they have for God's Word and His ways?  We have something so precious -- God's hope and salvation -- and we cannot understand why they could reject something so wonderful!  Yet, how many of us were once in a place where we did not fully comprehend God's goodness?  We must never cease to pray for God to open their eyes and soften their hard hearts.  What He did for us He can certainly do for those we love.

Psalm 126:5 -- "Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."  As we weep let us remember that we do not weep in vain nor will we weep forever.  

Psalm 34:18 -- "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."  If you are brokenhearted, take heart and allow God's promise to be near you give you the peace you so desperately seek.

God is good.  When He allows pain to come into our lives, He also gives us the resources to be able to deal with the suffering.  If you will look for His purpose in your affliction, trust His promise to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28), allow God to use your pain for His glory, and "draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith" (Hebrews 10:22), then "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

Friday, February 3, 2012

An Unlikely Idol

As I think about a perplexing friendship and my eighteen-year-old son who doesn't feel the need to fill me in on all the details of his life, I realize that there is very little I can do about either of these relationships.  I do not understand, nor can I change, the friend's turnaround in behavior toward me, or convince my son that he does still have a responsibility to respect parental authority even though he is legally an adult.  Yet I find myself fretting daily over these strongholds in my life. 

Praying through these matters yet again, I sensed the Holy Spirit gently impress upon me that I had allowed both individuals, or at least my desire to fully understand and control them, to become idols in my life.  Generally we think of idols as things we desire more than God, but I wonder if sometimes we ourselves don't become an unlikely idol by trying to figure out what only God can know or resolve what only He can fix. 

As a parent, I have spent eighteen years teaching my son right from wrong, modeling God's principles for living, and praying that somehow he would comprehend and choose to live according to those principles.  While not a total rebel, my son has his own ideas about God, life, and what constitutes responsible behavior.  Having experienced my own moral failures as a young person, it is hard for me to stand by and watch him make his own mistakes, yet that is how he must learn.  Consequences are perhaps the best teacher of the principles for living which God has established in Scripture.  Who am I to force an adult to do anything he doesn't want to do?  God gave us free will, and while as parents it is up to us to guide our children into following God's will for their lives, there comes a time when we can no longer impose our will, or God's, upon them.

Perhaps you are not a parent but are in a relationship that has left you frustrated and bewildered.  Let me encourage you not to turn that frustration into an idol, but rather surrender it to the only One who fully understands your heart on the matter.   Rather than ask God to change that individual, ask him to change you and to use the hurt to draw you closer to Him.  The pain you feel can only become peace as you steadfastly focus your mind on God (Isaiah 26:3).

God does not condemn you for the way you feel (Romans 8:1), but He longs for you to trust and draw near to Him.  "This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything" (1 John 3:19-20).  Even when you cannot voice the deepest hurts and longings of your heart, God knows.  He cares.  He is waiting with open arms to comfort and love you, if you will but draw near by faith.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

At the End of the Day

What did you do today?  When you flipped the page of your calendar over to discover that January had already passed, did you breathe a sigh of regret over the things you didn't accomplish or the resolutions you let slide this first month of 2012?  Or were you able to look back and see the things you managed to achieve, the people whose lives you positively impacted, and the hand of God in it all?

For me, every day has a common beginning and end.  I begin the day in prayerful meditation and end it with a prayer of thanks for the comfort of my bed and for everything the Lord allowed me to accomplish.  Some days that list is longer than others, but at the end of the day I am thankful to have lived fully and made a difference somehow.

Let us not allow an entire year to pass before we sit down and reflect on our lives and on God's purposes, provision, and grace.  Let us not wait until the end of 2012 to remember God's goodness and anticipate His plans for the year to come.  Rather, at the end of each day, let us pause in silence to give thanks for the grace that got us through this day and for God's provision for our needs.  Let us pray for a fresh start tomorrow, if indeed we wake up to face a new day, and let God lead us one step at a time, moment by moment, rather than fret about what the future holds.

Now I lay me down to slumber,
My blessings are too great to number.
When daybreak comes and sleep departs,
Lord, I will give to you my heart.
In peace I lay me down to rest;
Tomorrow I will do my best
To love and serve my fellow man
Until I lay me down again.

You Are Brilliant!

During our closing prayer in Bible study, the leader prayed for "all these brilliant women" who are members of our small group, seeking the Lord and studying his Word together.  After we said "Amen," at least three of us remarked about being called "brilliant," because that is not something we hear often.  But you know?  It's true.  We each are brilliant, called to shine God's light in a dark world.

The words "brilliant" and "brilliance" appear six times in Scripture (NIV), but in nearly every case it is in reference to light, not to an enlightened or intelligent mind.  Yes, we are to use our mental faculties for God's glory, particularly as it comes to studying His Word and teaching others.  But even more important than being smart is living our lives as a testimony of His faithfulness.  In the Beatitudes, Jesus Himself commands us to "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  Paul tells us that we "shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life" (Philippians 2:15b-16).  Can you think of any light more brilliant than a star?

As you live a life surrendered to God's will and anchored in the promises of His Word, the glory of God will shine in your countenance and people will begin to take notice of the One living within you.  No matter how bleak things may appear, remember you are brilliant and shine!