Search This Blog

Friday, December 30, 2022

Champions of the year

 

My friend coaches a youth soccer team. He instilled this fundamental principle into his group of young athletes, reiterating it often: "Champions focus on where they are going, not what they are going through."

Champion is a word that has never been associated with my name. I'm not an athlete unless you
consider sprints to the concession stand during extra innings, something notable. Don't let the word champion fool you, though. We are all champions of something. Champions for whom we believe in, for a cause, for the relationships we cherish, and some days, we may be the champion of laundry. Being a champion is to succeed.

This quote, stated so wisely by my friend, has resonated with me…big! I'm guilty of allowing my circumstances to take me down. Do you know what I have accomplished by staying in the pit, lamenting my situation, and wallowing in self-pity? NOTHING! Nadda! Zilch! Focusing on my circumstances gets a lot of mileage but gets me nowhere.

I don't know about you, but it takes up all my mental space when I'm going through the thick of something. It's my every waking thought; it determines the trajectory of my life at that time. Occasionally, I come to my senses and remember where my focus needs to be. And guess what? When I do this, inevitably, I have hope.

At a particularly rough time, I was commiserating with a friend. She said to me, "You're just in the waiting room. What are you going to do while you wait?" Huh? She added, "Girl, while you're waiting for answers, you gotta get busy!". She was right. I needed to focus on where I was going and actively pursue the mission in front of me. By doing so, I had purpose and perspective. My troubles didn't go away but focusing on my higher calling sustained me while I waited.

I'm reminded of the Mathew 14 account of Peter and Jesus walking on water. When Peter saw Jesus walking on the storm-tossed sea, he asked if he could come to him on the water. Jesus said, "Come." Peter did. However, the minute he took his eyes off Jesus and focused on the storm around him, he began to sink. So, it is with us when we take our eyes off Jesus’ plan and concentrate on the storm brewing around us – we fall. 

Friday, November 4, 2022

A Hand-sized cloud filled with hope

 

A story in 1 Kings 18 of the good book will knock your socks off. The hero in this story is, of course, God, but his co-star is Elijah. I'll spare you all the details because reading it yourself is best.

Basically, Elijah gets into a showdown with the Prophets of Baal. He challenges them to a "burnt-offering" contest. The rules consisted of each team, The God Team and the Baal (false idol) Team, placing a bull on an altar and praying to their God to come and burn up the offerings. Not to spoil it for you, but as you can imagine, the Baal team dances and calls out to their God all day. The dead bull lay there patiently waiting for his cremation. Never happened.

When it is Elijah’s turn, he puts the bull on the altar and digs a trench around it. He fills it with water and douses the whole thing until it's soaking. He calls out to the one true God who wastes no time proving to the crowd who is Boss! He sent an all-consuming fire from heaven that was so great it even licked up the water. Many were brought to their knees to worship the one true God that day.

Now many of you may know this story. I had read it or heard it many times. But just as God does, when we open His word, he reveals something new that hits all the right feels at the right moment.

The rest of the story is what got my attention. After this, Elijah told King Ahab (one of the meanest hombres to walk the dusty trails of the Holy land) to prepare his crew because heavy rain was coming. With no clouds in the sky, Elijah climbs to the top of Mt. Carmel with his servant. He bent down to the ground, put his face between his knees, and began praying for rain. Six times Elijah sent his servant to the edge to look out toward the sea to see if there was any sign of rain. Finally, returning from his seventh trip to the edge, his servant reported seeing a cloud as small as a man's hand rising from the sea.

Elijah doesn't get up and go to the edge to see if his servant is telling the truth. He doesn't dismiss such a small cloud and starts praying for a more considerable cloud or drizzle. Nope, that tiny hand-sized cloud gave Elijah enough hope to trust that God was fixin’ to do something big. He then sent his servant to tell that evil, mean-spirited ol' Ahab to hitch up and head out 'cause a storm is a-brewin’!

Meanwhile, God puts on another show. The sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, and heavy rain came as Ahab's taillights diminished on the road to Jezreel.

I know enough miracles are happening in these stories to leave you on the edge of your seat. I don’t want to dismiss God’s mighty works here, but the real plot twist for me is that little hand-sized cloud and the big hope it gave Elijah.

Friend, how many times have you prayed fervently for something? How often, like Elijah, have you taken on a posture of prayer, pleading for a miracle and waiting expectantly for it to happen? I've got a list a mile long. But the real question is this; How many times has God given you a glimmer of hope only for you to doubt it’s happening? How many times does God give you a hand-sized cloud, and you sit crouched over, praying for a bigger cloud of assurance? Oh, friend, I am relentlessly guilty of this! "I see the hand cloud of hope you've given me, God, but what if…?"

Ditch the doubt, folks, and jump up as Elijah did and trust God will do something significant with that tad bit of hope. Cling to every tiny glimpse of promise He shows you, and don't look back. Run with it as Elijah did. Literally! The scripture goes on to tell us that after Elijah told Ahab to get the heck out of Dodge City, the power of the Lord came upon him; he rolled up his pant legs (or tucked his cloak into his belt, in this case) and ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel. This assurance in God’s plan empowered Elijah to do something seemingly impossible. So can we do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4:13).

Elijah looked on that small cloud with complete confidence in God that he would bring the rain – GOD WOULD DO THE BIG THING ELIJAH WAS PRAYING FOR! And he ran with it – never looking back!

And He will do it for you also, friend! Pray…trust…wait expectantly! He’s got big things on the horizon for you!

 

 

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Choosey Tuesday

 

Choose-y Tuesday

Over the past month, I've been battling our new Insurance company because we've never received our ID cards. I made 9 phone calls and wrote a letter to the company president. After all that, a few words that a Christian woman shouldn't say, and relentless persistence, I finally got a paper copy of our ID card. I laminated three paper copies, distributed them to my family members, gave a sigh of relief, and chose to get on with my life.

That was last week. This week I’ve been looking all over the house for my Columbia jacket. I even looked in my trunk, my husband's vehicle, and workplace. Finally, determined that I must have left it somewhere, I got online and ordered myself another one. I really loved that jacket, so I chose one like it.

This morning we awoke to a cold house. My husband messed with the thermostat for a bit, but nothing happened. No heat. I couldn't warm up with a cup of coffee because I was fasting for an early morning lab draw. Wrapped in a blanket and drinking water, I decided to check my email and see what was new in the world of Facebook. No Wi-Fi! I chose to work on my bible study instead.

I left the house at 6:50 a.m. I couldn’t exit my subdivision because it was blocked by construction. I chose another route. Since it was dark, I decided to use Hwy 20, a main road. I waited a while in one-lane traffic due to road work. I chose another route. I was still making good time on my commute until I got to a county road that was closed due to…. you guessed it…construction. I chose another route.

At last, I made it to the doctor's office. I gave the gal at the desk my new handmade ID card, and she gave me some papers to fill out. Before I was done filling them out, the nurse called me back for the poke. On the way out, I handed the receptionist my paperwork and headed out, eager to take off the mask I had to wear. Some people were outside the office setting up cones and preparing for some construction on the sidewalk. I chose another route to my car.

In desperate need of coffee, at this point, I made my way to Mcdonald's. I decided to dine in to eat breakfast and catch up on my email, etc., since my Wi-Fi didn't work at home. The lobby doors were locked. I chose another restaurant. 

Seeing that my gas tank was low, I decided to get gas. At an intersection with 2 gas stations, I noted that the gas was $4.29 a gallon at both places! Wow, how can this be?! I chose to go elsewhere. I made a right at the next light and headed toward home, thinking the gas might be cheaper along the way. The road was closed. I chose another route. The route I chose was a one-way road in which I met a car coming the wrong way. In my effort to back out of the one-way street, I almost backed into an oncoming vehicle. Close call. Once again, I chose another route.

On this route, I found a gas station that advertised $3.99 for gas. "Aha, I knew it," I said knowingly. I pulled up to the pump to discover it was out of order. Once I pulled up to the next pump, the price changed to $4.29, just like that! Seriously?? I looked upward to see if a pigeon was waiting to take a dump on my head because that should naturally be the next thing to happen.

Sure that the whole world was going to  "h-e-double-hockey sticks" in a hand basket, I stopped by the Amish grocery store and loaded up on canned goods. I'll break it to Sparky later that we're never leaving the house again and will eat of my surplus until Jesus comes.

As cans of Cream of Chicken soup and beans crossed the belt, I dug in my wallet for my debit card. It was then I noticed my insurance card was missing! *@#$!! I didn't get the stinkin’ card back from the receptionist at the doctor’s office! I'll never get back three weeks of my life trying to get that dang card, and I left the sucker at the doctor's office.

A kind bagboy helped me out to my car with my purchases. Probably noting the perplexity on my face, he tried to make small talk. All I could think about was how stupid I was for leaving my card. I opened the back door of my car and proceeded to move some things out of the seat to the floorboard so he'd have space to put the bags. There wasn’t much room on the floorboard because MY JACKET was taking up that space!

I returned home with no insurance card, but I had my jacket….and a plethora of canned goods. I stepped in dog pee. It’s only 10 a.m. I still choose JOY – how about you?

 

 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Victim or Victor

 

Here's another one of my Heart and Soul articles I posted to our Hometown Paper in June!
 Victim or Victor? What's your choice!

My friend, Carol, was diagnosed with cancer. The prognosis was grim. Carol faced the hard truth that she most likely wouldn't experience retirement vacations or meet her grandchildren. Upon her first chemo treatment, Carol looked around the room at all the hurting people, and she silently prayed for them. It didn't matter to her that they were all in the same boat. Carol prayed for their rescue.

This practice of praying for those in the chemo room soon became like breathing to Carol. She grew pale, thin, and sicker. But she found joy in visiting the chemo lab all the same. It was her mission to bless those that shared the space with her. With a sweet smile, a kind word, a shared scripture, or a prayer breathed over them; Carol decided not to fall victim to cancer. She chose to be victorious.

As cancer took its toll on her body, Carol blessed those who held a bedside vigil around her. Some may say that she was a victim of cancer, but to those who knew her, she was a victor in every right. While cancer was taking her life, she continued to claim victory by blessing those around her.

Carol didn't allow her circumstances to suck the life out of her. Instead, Carol chose to squeeze every ounce of life out of her remaining days. This was characteristic of Carol, throughout her life. She always seemed to find the good amongst the difficult. She was a shining example to me. I can’t say that my approach would be the same. Triumphing over my circumstances is not my strong suit.  

Life seems unfair sometimes. Expectations get dashed. Hopes and dreams often fail. Our first instinct may be to throw a tantrum like a toddler who didn't get his way in the candy aisle. We may grow bitter and depressed. We may even feel like giving up. I speak from experience. I have been that toddler (as an adult)!

Thinking of Carol and her approach to remain victorious in the greatest fight of her life, causes me to ponder how I approach my own battles. What if I chose to use the energy it takes to feel all those wretched emotions and use it to focus on how I can be triumphant over the situation, instead? What if I looked deep within myself to see how I can successfully turn sour into sweet by making lemonade out of the "lemons" handed to me?

Allow me to visit the hundred-acre wood for a moment and use Winnie the Pooh and his friends as an example. Eeyore said, "Woe is me," a lot. Eeyore was a victim of everything. No matter what happened to that sad little donkey, he saw it as one more exhausting hurdle he'd have to jump. Pooh, on the other hand, saw everything as an adventure. He met life's circumstances with excitement and wonderment. If the honey pot ran low, he sought the thrill of licking the sweetness from the bottom instead of lamenting that he'd soon be without it. Eeyore licked his wounds. . . Pooh licked the honey!

How about you? Are you crying over the looming crisis or savoring the sweetness of the moment? How much time of the day is your focus on the things you cannot change compared to focusing your thoughts on what you can control?

Perhaps the real question is: With whom would you and I rather spend the day? Whom would you and I rather be to our friends?

Victim or Victor? The choice is yours!

 

Friday, July 29, 2022

Who's your herd?

 

I recently watched a video shot by someone on Safari in Africa. A water buffalo was being chased by a pride of lions. He was to be their main entrĂ©e. But the water buffalo was resilient and determined to stay out of the food chain for the day. He ran straight for the watering hole. Great thinking on the buffalo’s behalf as cats don’t like water. And it worked; until a giant crocodile sprang up out of the murky depths snapping at his hind quarters with the intent of making him into a delicious snack. The buffalo didn’t give up and was just as diligent in trying to escape as the croc was in taking him down. He swam faster and fought harder until he reached the shore where the pride watched, licking their chops. He was faced with the tough decision – do I die by the pride or by the croc?

Taking his chances, the buffalo stepped out of the water and the annoying croc nipping at his behind, into his certain doom on the shore. The pride was crouched and ready to lunge when…. drum roll please…enter a herd of antler and tusk throwing water buffalos to save the day! The herd moved in a group, in large numbers, aggressively and headed swiftly into the pride scattering them and scaring them away!  The herd then welcomed the brave little buffalo back into the safety of their community and went off for a celebratory graze.

The scene reminded me of my relationship to the church – my protective herd! When the enemy is approaching me at every angle, all I must do is call on the church and they will swoop in for the rescue. There’s not much antler throwing aggression but there is consistent prayer, loving encouragement, comforting casseroles, generous donations and intercession for me in ways I didn’t even know I needed. Much like the water buffalo – they just show up when I least expect it.

Ironically, the video example came to life for me recently when a stressful day presented itself. Feeling unequipped to handle all the pressure of the day, I called on a few from my herd to hold me up in prayer, pull me to safety from the water – scatter the pride from the shore. And I felt their intercession for me all day!

I’m thankful for God’s spirit that equips me to handle the pressures of each day and for his people (my herd) that encourages me along the way.

Who is your herd? Your community? Family? A small group of friends? Who are those special people in your life that have come to your rescue? What group have you assisted in the rescue of a fellow friend?

I’ve noted great things in our community, recently. A family member had a crisis, and I was amazed at the outpouring of support from a small group of individuals who swooped in to help at a moment’s notice. Yesterday, I saw a sign advertising a fundraiser to help a local cancer victim. Herds, doing what is necessary - providing strength when one is weak.

When you’re between a rock and a hard place (or a lion and a crocodile, as in the buffalo’s case), who will you call upon to get you to safety? What herd can count on you to jump in when needed?

Let us strive to be grateful for the impact others have in our lives. Let us be mindful of the ways we can serve the herd. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

A New Year - A New Word

 

For the last couple of years, I have chosen a word of the year. I pray over it and ask God to reveal a word to me. Then, he does. He’s just cool like that. I search scriptures relating to the word, I meditate on it, cling to it in times of trouble and discern how God is using it in my life through my experiences.

In 2020 my word was “abide”. Oh boy, did that come in handy. Did you know there was a global pandemic that year?? Lots of uncertainties loomed in the world and in my own neck of the woods. I abided in him – well most of the time – sometimes I was in full on panic mode – but that’s a different blog for a different day! Let me reword that – I tried to abide in 2020 the best I could. In all the things that 2020 threw at me – I stayed closely connected to the vine of Jesus. We walked in tandem on those days that he wasn’t carrying my weary body around. He’s just strong like that.

In 2021 my word was “surrender.”  I made a surrender jar and when I was experiencing something that bogged me down and took my focus off God and His superior provision in my life, I wrote it on a slip of paper, surrendered it to the Lord in prayer and put it in that jar. One might argue that I didn’t really surrender them if I held onto them in a jar. Well, you just go ahead and argue that all you want to.  I gotta tell you, there was great peace in looking back at those slips of paper at year’s end and remembering the release of those strongholds. Some things I surrendered were difficult and I grieved their loss. Some things I surrendered over and over because I kept reclaiming them. It was interesting to see my weaknesses throughout the year. Those reoccurring slips of paper that required multiple moments of release. Each time I surrendered something; I remembered that Jesus said, “Victory is mine”. He’s just victorious like that.

So, this year I came up with lots of words. Trust – because on a bad day I lack it (Okay, and on good days as well - just being real). On a really bad day I thought of the word “lo-carb” but I grabbed a handful of pretzels and got over that real quick. I also thought of faithful, contentment and peace but all the while God kept saying Fight! Fight? That’s not a very positive or encouraging word. Why fight?

You see in one of my desperate searches of God’s word this past year I came across a verse that impacted me greatly. It was one of those days when I felt I was, in the midst of a great battle. Spiritual warfare at its finest or maybe at its worse – not sure if warfare, of any kind, can be fine. I was desperately seeking God that day – help me – help me!

Here’s what I found:

2 Corinthians 10:4

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have the divine power to demolish strongholds.”  Later down in verse 5 we are instructed to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I digress, it turns out warfare can be “fine,” after all! This, ladies and gents, is how I want to fight my battles – with the divine power of Jesus Christ who demolishes strongholds.

I like Eugene Peterson’s version of this in The Message:

“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way – never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture”.

So, FIGHT it is. Fight is my word for 2022. I want to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power (Eph. 6:10).

In 2020, I abided, I was just still and laid on my bed of sorrows and confusion and let the Lord tend to me in his perfect ways. In 2021, I got rid of some ugly stuff that was keeping me in my bed of sorrow and confusion. And now in 2022 comes the hard part. The fight! Fully trusting Jesus to fight my battles. To claim the victories that he already won for me that horrible, albeit beautiful day at the cross.

I want to be a prayer warrior in 2022 – praying in the name of Jesus, through whom all things are possible. I want to put on the armor of God everyday and be prepared to face any battle or schemes of the


devil.

  • ·         The belt of truth
  • ·         The breastplate of righteousness
  • ·         The shoes of the gospel
  • ·         The shield of faith
  • ·         The helmet of salvation
  • ·         The sword of the spirit

I want to seek his courage to fight against every bit of bitterness and ugliness (Col 3:8) that the enemy keeps planting in my mind by taking those thoughts captive and making them obedient to the God who loves me more than I can even imagine!

I want to make sincere love (Romans 12) my weapon of choice with the knowledge that God is in control. All I need to do is fire my pistol of love upon his command.

His ways are perfect. In 2022 I will fight with His divine power. I will fight the good fight, in His name. He is all I need – period! The battles are HIS! Because, well, he’s just good like that!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

A Reason – A Season or Forever

 




I saw a movie a few months ago that had a line in it that set me into reflection mode for a while. In the movie, a grandmother was advising her granddaughter on whether she should pursue a relationship she was uncertain about. The grandmother, in her wisdom, encouraged the young woman by saying that some people come into our lives for a reason, some come into our lives for a season, and some are in it for the long haul. Every relationship we enter, has purpose. Although, we may have relationships that are bad or hurtful, they still serve a purpose in our life. They are opportunities for growth and teach us much about ourselves and how we choose to respond to those we have relationship with – or how not to respond.  The grandmother wanted her to know that no matter what happened in the relationship, it would have purpose and she would always have people in her life she could count on - those that were there for the long haul.

No friendship or acquaintance in life is wasted. Even if they end, there was purpose. We learn valuable lessons, we share laughs, we love and feel loved.

There may be individuals who are in our lives solely for a reason. Our paths cross for a short time with a goal in mind. I think of past teachers I had that taught me important lessons, but there was nothing more beyond that. I’ve had encounters with people in the grocery store that I know were placed in my life, for that moment, for a reason. This is why I know how to pick out a cantaloupe or make guacamole! There was a woman who went to my church for a very short time, when I was young. She taught a youth VBS class that impacted me forever. Can’t even remember her name now, but what she taught me stuck with me. There was a reason she was in my life. Who has been in your life for a reason?

Then there are those people that are in your life for a season. Those people in my life have been those I learned alongside in a classroom, never to see again once the final exams were over – but I adored my time working with them. They are those people I sat with on bleachers and cheered our children on together for a few months a year. Friends who lived in the community for a while that we knew well and attended church together until they moved away. We didn’t part on difficult or indifferent terms; they were just here for a season and we both moved on with good memories of time spent together. Can you think of those who have been in your life for a season?

Then there is the long-haul group. Those forever people that are your mainstay. The ones you’re stuck with, like your parents. Or maybe your spouse, sibling, or a childhood friend whose hand you’ve never let go of. Those you know you can turn to when you have a need or who will celebrate your victories with you. These are the ones that love us through the thick and thin of life. Those individuals with grit and grace who we can always come back to when we’ve lost our way. The first ones we call upon when we need prayer. The ones we can’t get rid of, even if we try, because their love is so deeply rooted in our hearts. Who’s in it for the long haul with you?

Where are you in the lives of other people? Do you have those whom you’ve met along the way where you served a specific purpose – there was a reason you were in their life. Who have you shared a valuable season of life with?

And who are you fully committed to? No matter what – you will always love them?

God created us all uniquely. He wanted us to be in relationship with each other. To help each other out along the way. When he saw that Adam was lonely, he created another human being. In Galatians 6:2 we are instructed to carry one another’s burdens. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says we are to encourage one another and build each other up.

All of this can happen in big and small ways. Opening a door and giving a smile to walking alongside someone facing a crisis – there is purpose in each encounter we make along the way.

Romans 13:8 tells us this:  Owe no one anything except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

And what law is that you might ask?

In Matthew 22:37-40, when asked what the greatest commandment of the law is, Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the law and the prophet’s hang on these two commandments.

And there it is…the answer is always love. Whether you are in someone’s life for a reason, a season or forever you owe them nothing but love. Easy to say and do if the reason, season or long haul is in good standing. More difficult if there is bitterness, hard feelings, differences of opinion (repeat that one) or you met under difficult circumstances. But, even then, there is room for love. It’s a lot like jello – there is always room for it! In time and through lots of prayer, we can have and show love in any relationship – but it must be sincere love according to Romans 12.

This passage says that we are to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. We are to be devoted to one another in love and to honor one another above ourselves. It gives a long list of what sincere love looks like. This list applies no matter how you fit into someone’s life – it’s a one size fits all kind of love!

Here is what sincere love looks like:

It is selfless, zealous, fervent and has the heart of a servant. It is joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer. It is hospitable, compassionate and giving. It blesses and doesn’t’ curse. It rejoices with the joyful and mourns with the grieving. It is harmonious, not proud, humble and never conceited. Sincere love does not seek revenge but makes peace with everyone. It overcomes evil with good!

Can you check off this list in your relationships? Have you or are you exhibiting sincere love with all the people in your life? Jesus gives this command in John 15 – My command is this; love each other as I have loved you. Really think about that for a minute. His love was so big for you that he gave his life. That’s sincere love folks! Love - like Jesus does - whether it’s for a reason, a season or for the long haul.