Tuesday, May 3, 2016

It's My Turn to Take the Wheel

Overall, I'm not a very observant passenger.  Neither am I very good with directions.  The combination of these two traits has bewildered and frustrated my poor husband on more than one occasion.  I'll ask him for directions to a destination we've been many times.  "Don't you know how to get there?" he asks.  Many times I think (but never say), 'Well, if I knew I wouldn't be asking, would I?'  (It's the red hair, I guess.)  Anyway, his question is generally followed by another, "Weren't you paying attention all the other times we went?"

Well, yes and no.  Was I paying attention to the road and the turns?  Not really.  But I did notice the two dogs that were wrestling in their backyard.  And I noticed the tennis shoes on the woman that was jogging down the sidewalk.  I also noticed the bumper sticker about teachers and the little boy playing with his stuffed bear in the backseat of that blue station wagon.  See, I was paying attention. . . just not to the right things.  Jason has finally learned that if he wants me to learn a particular set of directions, he either has to instruct me from the beginning to pay attention (which doesn't always work), or he has to let me drive (which I don't like to do).  Generally, though, once I've driven to a destination, I have it.  I may not be able to tell you how to get there, but once I see the roads, it all comes back to me.  Why?  Because when I'm driving, I have to pay attention.  I can't allow myself to get distracted by everything else that is going on around me.

Unfortunately, many times in life I'm prone to hand the car keys over to my emotions.  And while they're doing the driving, my eyes are left to wander, though seldom to good things.  I notice the empty bank account and wonder why we can't ever seem to catch a break.  I notice the broken dreams, the broken promises and the broken hearts.  I notice the things that aren't there but, according to my standards, should be.  My emotions lead me on a path to despair and self-pity, and all the while, I'm so caught up in "the sights," I fail to notice the road signs warning of danger and the turns that would take me where I truly want to go.

Just like in my physical life, I've finally learned that if I want to reach my dreams, I have to stop letting my emotions do the driving.  I have to take the keys, get behind the wheel and pay attention.  I must heed every turn, every thought and every action.  Not only that, but just as with physical driving, I must process the information my brain is receiving.  I like to think of that process like the process of making coffee.

I know you may find this hard to believe, but I don't like coffee.  My husband, however, in the past few years has grown very fond of it.  So each morning, while he showers and dresses for work, I rise from my comfortable bed so that I can pack his lunch and make a fresh pot (or partial pot) of coffee.  (Sometimes, I'm smart and do this the night before, but with Jason's crazy schedule, there's no telling!)  In order for the coffee to brew properly, not to mention be drinkable, you must use a filter.  Why?  Because otherwise you'd end up with a cup of watery grinds.  Yuck!  That might break the coffee habit, huh?

The filter is a necessary part of the coffee brewing process.  Likewise, our minds need a filter to distinguish between what things are good and what things are not.  That filter is made up of God's promises.  No matter what comes to us during the day (thought, action or feeling), we need only run it through the filter of God's promises.  Feeling alone?  God promised He would never leave us nor forsake us.  Hmm, so that feeling is trash.  Toss it!  Thinking that no one understands what you're going through?  God promised that He's aware of our infirmities.  So that thought isn't true.  Toss it!  By filtering out the bad, we make more room for the good and, in turn, we become better servants for Christ.

Who's driving your life today?  Are you in control of your thoughts, feelings and actions, or are your emotions taking you on a trip to nowhere?  There is great danger in allowing ourselves to be a passenger in the journey of life, especially when emotion is doing the driving.  Take control.  Get behind that wheel, and pay attention to where you're going.  You may be amazed at the direction God leads you and astounded by the joy in the journey.  (And if you happen to see that woman jogging, ask her where she got those shoes.)

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. - Philippians 4:8

*****An Excerpt from Mindful Musings of  Moody Motivator*****
Coming Soon!

Monday, May 2, 2016

When God Turns Up the Heat

I love my crock-pot!  Actually, I should say I love my crock-pots--I have four.  One is a jumbo size and is perfect for cooking soups and chili.  The next one is a rectangular one that I often use for cooking a roast or a whole chicken.  The next size down is a round one that is ideal for cooking baked potatoes and other side dishes.  And lastly, I have a tiny one that I use for dips, nacho cheese, or something small like cocktail weenies.  See what I mean?  I love my crock-pots, and I use them all the time.

I'm the type of person that works better in the morning.  I just seem to have more energy and motivation before lunch, so for that reason (among others), crock-pots are my preferred method of cooking.  There's something completely fantastic about finishing a long day of work and remembering that I don't have to fix dinner because it's already done and waiting for me in the crock-pot.  How wonderful! (I will admit, though, that some days it is difficult to smell dinner cooking all day without sneaking a small bite. . .or seven.  Oops!)

I am of the opinion that God is more of a crock-pot chef than He is a microwave cook.  Just look at His track record.  It took Him seven days to create the world when you and I both know that He could have done it with a single breath or batting of the eye.  He waited twenty-five years before fulfilling His promise of a son to Abraham.  He allowed the children of Israel to wander for forty years before finally letting them enter the Promised Land.  He postponed His visit to the sick Lazarus until four days after he'd been dead.  Over and over again, we see God turning up the heat on his children and then waiting for the perfect timing to perform His will.  Sounds like crock-pot cooking to me!

Here's the funny thing.  I enjoy crock-pot cooking when I'm the one doing the cooking, but when I'm the one being cooked, I'd much rather have the microwave.  It's quick.  It's easy.  Yes, the heat is just as intense, but it doesn't last anywhere near as long.  Yes, I'd have to say that on a spiritual level, I'm a microwave kind of girl.  But then I remember how much better things taste out of the crock-pot as opposed to the microwave, and I realize that God is doing me a favor.  Microwaves tend to make things tough, and honestly, they're really not good for us because of how they manipulate our food.  Crock-pots, on the other hand, produce tender, juicy foods and are perfectly safe because they don't try to manipulate the molecules in the food through some unnatural means.  They simply apply long hours of constant heat.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to be tough in the sense of being hard-hearted and difficult to be around.  I don't want my circumstances or myself manipulated in a way that's not good for me just so that I can get out of the heat a little sooner.  Instead, I'd rather be tender-hearted and sweet, even if it means I have to spend time in the "crock-pot" of life.  I'll turn out better for it.  After all, God has never messed up a recipe yet.

Therefore I will look unto the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation: my God will hear me. - Micah 7:7

Friday, April 29, 2016

Look Who's Talking Now!

In Tuesday's post, I was explaining to you how my overwhelmed self was trying to get God to lighten my load, remember?  Specifically, I was pleading with Him to allow me to give up some of my church responsibilities.  I remember thinking and even saying to Him, "You know, God, it would be nice to just sit back on the pew and enjoy the services instead of always having to be such a big part of them."  Believe me, I meant every word.

But then, it was as if I heard the voice of Balaam's donkey saying, "Wow, you remind me of my master!"  And I was immediately humbled and realized that God did not need to give me an answer to my request because He had already given me one; I simply didn't want to accept it.  From that point on, I was fine and ready to move on.  My bad attitude had lifted.  My heart was lighter.  And my relationship with God seemed less strained.  But God wasn't through with me yet.

Last night at church, our former youth pastor stopped in for a visit and was invited to preach for the service.  He wasn't ten minutes into his message before his words slapped me upside the head.  This is basically what he said, "God doesn't want you to just sit on a pew.  He has something more for you to do.  He has a plan and a calling for your life, and you need to be busy serving Him in every way you can."  Say what?  I stared into the preacher's face to see if he was staring right at me as he said these words.  He wasn't, but I have no doubt they were meant for me.

You may be wondering why I'm telling you all of this.  Well, if you've not figured it out by now, this blog is like my life's journal.  In it, I mark down what the Lord says to me, lessons He teaches me and even mistakes I've made along the way.  The reason I do this is to help others like you.  My prayer is that you will learn the lessons I've learned without having to make the mistakes I've made.  In order to do that, I must bear myself to you and give you an honest account of what's taking place in my life. . . and in my heart.

So what can you take away from today's post?  First off, know that God still speaks to His children today.  It may seem like He's silent and like you're all alone in your decision or circumstance, but you're not.  He's there, and He has promised to answer each and every request.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.  He doesn't say He might answer us, He says He will.  We can count on it!

Second, when it does seem like God is quiet, realize that maybe it's because we haven't quit talking long enough to allow Him to answer.  I was so busy pleading with God that I wasn't really giving Him a chance to talk.  But once I got my heart right and I shut my mouth for a while, the answer was right there, plain and simple.  As I said earlier, God didn't owe me an answer.  He had already given me one the last time I went through this "confusion crisis."  By the time He gave me His answer, I had already resigned myself to His will.  That being said, I cannot tell you what a relief it was to hear that clear, unarguable answer spoken in plain, everyday words that this doubting disciple couldn't miss or misunderstand.  When I stopped talking, God gave me His answer loud and clear, and He'll do the same for you.

One last thing to keep in mind, just because God has promised to always answer doesn't mean that He's always promised to answer "yes."  Take my case, for example.  The answer was "No."  God would not allow me to give up my church calling.  But "no" is still an answer, and so is "wait."  There are certain prayers in my life that I've been praying for years, and at times, it does feel like God is not listening or answering.  But by faith, I believe that not only is He listening, He is answering.  Unfortunately, at this time, the answer is, "Just wait, child."  Am I happy about that?  Not always, but if I keep in mind that God does all things for my good and His glory, it helps me to be content about the waiting.  Rather than seeing it as God not giving me what I want, I choose to view it as God has something really good in store for me.  And suddenly, it's like Christmas--waiting to receive that mysterious gift.

I don't know what may be on your heart and mind today, but I assure you, God does.  Talk to Him.  Ask for help and guidance.  And then stop talking, and take the time to listen.  He has something important to tell you if you'll only give Him the chance.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. - Isaiah 55:11

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Oh No! Is That Who I Think It Is?

Often, when reading through the Bible, I see myself in the different characters.  Yes, I, like Peter have stuck my foot in my mouth on more than one occasion.  Like John, I've often leaned upon the Lord in an effort to draw closer to Him.  Like Jonah, I've disobeyed God and gone my own selfish way.  Like David, I've had a mood swing or two. . . hundred.  Like Esther, I've found the strength to face some of my greatest fears.  Good character traits.  Bad character traits.  It's easy to find something or someone to relate to within the pages of God's Word.

Unfortunately, last week, I recognized another character in my life, and it was not one I would have ever imagined.  Allow me to set the scene.  The past several months have been rough on my family.  There has been illness.  There have been financial difficulties.   We've faced many trials and many heartaches.  And frankly, I'm tired.  So tired, in fact, that I was just ready to set everything else aside and focus on me.  I need rest to heal my body.  I need time to calm my nerves.  I need a break from the chaos that is my life.  So, I begged God to take away some of my responsibilities.  Blogging.  My church responsibilities.  Teaching.  Even writing.  At my lowest point last week, I didn't care.  I didn't particularly want to give up teaching or writing or even blogging, but I just felt like something had to go.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been praying and searching about what to give up.  Honestly, I was hoping the Lord would take away my church responsibilities, mainly playing the piano.  I know it may not seem like much, but if you knew how much time I spent preparing for church services, not to mention spending from 9:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night at church every Sunday in order to be part of Sunday School, morning service, Spanish service, choir practice and evening service, you'd probably understand why this would be a big deal.  Giving up my piano responsibilities alone would free up a lot of time and greatly reduce my stress level, not to mention the relief it would give my aching shoulder.  So, I begged and pleaded for God to excuse me from at least this one thing.

Here's the catch, though.  This was not the first time I've asked God to let me out of my responsibility of playing the piano at church.  It was more like the third or fourth.  And every time before, God's answer has been a resounding, "No."  He acknowledged that I didn't feel comfortable or competent in my position as church pianist.  He accepted that the task added more time to my already full schedule and taxed me physically and emotionally.  But, as He did with Paul, He assured me that His grace would be sufficient and that I should stop thinking of the task as duty and start thinking of it as another way to worship Him.  And for a while, I got it, and I accepted God's will.  But when I got tired and started to feel overwhelmed by all the demands on my time and energy, I found myself going back to God and asking again.  "God, are you sure you want me to do this?  Are you positive I can't give this up?  Please let me pass this role on to someone else."

As I prayed and meditated on my request last week, a horrible thought passed through my brain, and I couldn't help but cringe at the comparison.  I sounded just like Balaam!  Remember Balaam and his talking donkey?  At the beginning of his tale, Balaam asks the Lord for permission to consort with the king of the enemy of Israel.  Understandably, the Lord tells him, "No."  But when the king comes calling on Balaam again, the prophet goes back to God and asks him again, at which point God told him, "Fine, go."  But when Balaam leaves to meet the enemy king, the Bible says that the Lord's anger was kindled against the prophet.  Why?  Because He had already given Balaam a clear answer, but Balaam wasn't satisfied with that answer and came begging again.  When God told him, "Fine, go," I believe it was a test to see if Balaam would honor God's initial wishes or give in to his own desires.  Balaam failed the test.  And last week, so did I.

God has given me an answer concerning my responsibilities at church, and I have to believe that when/if it's time for me to move on, He'll let me know.  I won't have to beg.  Until then, I need to remember that He has given me another opportunity to serve Him, another way to worship Him, and if I'll keep that perspective, maybe I won't feel so overwhelmed and stressed.  Besides, of all the Biblical characters I would love to emulate, Balaam is certainly not among them!

Ye shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God hath commanded you, that ye may live, and that it may be well with you, and that ye may prolong your days in the land which ye shall possess. - Deuteronomy 5:33

Monday, April 25, 2016

Seventh Dimension: The Castle by Lorilyn Roberts -- A Book Review

About the book:  Haunted by a recurring dream of his missing father in a mysterious castle, 17-year-old Daniel is captured by the Romans and finds asylum in the Temple. There he discovers a scroll that reveals his future concerning a wager between good and evil. But the stakes are raised when he witnesses the trial and crucifixion of Yeshua. The convergence of time with supernatural events creates a suspenseful ending and leads to the fourth book in the Seventh Dimension Series, The City, available now on Amazon.

About the author:  Lorilyn Roberts is an award-winning Christian author
who writes for the young and the young at heart. When not writing books, Lorilyn provides closed captioning for television. Lorilyn is a single mother by choice. She adopted her two daughters from Nepal and Vietnam. Read her Amazon best-selling memoir, Children of Dreams, endorsed by New York Times best-selling author Jerry Jenkins, and be inspired. Lorilyn has been a speaker at various events and functions, including women's groups, adoption support groups, and writer workshops. She is the former president of the Gainesville Chapter of Word Weavers International. Lorilyn has appeared on many radio and television shows, including WATC 57 Friends & Neighbors out of Atlanta, Georgia, and Discovery Channel's Monsters Inside Me related to increasing awareness of parasitic infections in international adoption. Lorilyn is also the founder of the John 3:16 Marketing Network, a network of Christian authors. Lorilyn has also been involved with the charitable organization Child Hope International bringing Christian books to the orphans of Nepal. She has coordinated the donation of over two hundred books from John 3:16 authors to prisoners at the Wakulla Correctional Institute in Tallahassee, Florida, and she has donated many copies of her award-winning devotional book, "Am I Okay, God" to Created Gainesville, a charitable organization that ministers to women involved in the sex trafficking trade.

My review:

The Castle is another thrilling adventure by Christian author, Lorilyn Roberts.  As with the other books of the series, the author pulls the reader into the story with compelling dialogue and endearing characters.  The reader gets a very clear view of what it would be like to live in Jerusalem during the time of Christ, and from the extent of the details within the book, it is obvious that the author did her homework.

I had the opportunity to read the first book in the Seventh Dimension series but not the second.  That being the case, I had no real issues following along in Book Three though there were a few elements eluded to that left me wondering.  I say this not in a negative way but rather to urge the reader to read each book in the series in order to gain the most from the continuing storyline.  As much as I enjoyed the third book, I have no doubt that I would have enjoyed it even more if I had read the second book in the series as well.  That is simply the nature of a good series!

Overall, I truly enjoyed The Castle and would highly recommend it to young adult readers and those who may simply be young at heart.  It is a clean read with a lot of adventure, romance, mystery and much more.