Monday, December 31, 2012

Look, Mom! No Hands!

© Johanna Goodyear | Dreamstime.com
This Christmas, I received some computer software that I've had my eyes on for a while now.  With this software, I can control my computer with mere words.  I can dictate my posts, my articles, and even my books.  Even now, my hands are nowhere near the keyboard.  In addition, I can give commands to my computer, such as open, close, delete and so on.  I am hoping this software will save me both time and energy.  The tricky thing about the software is that I have to train it to recognize my voice.  It must be trained to pick up on my pronunciations and inflections.  The process is a little tedious and time-consuming, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

Overall, I've discovered that the software works very well.  It typically follows my commands and understands what I am asking it to do.  Every now and then, however, it will make a mistake and type a word incorrectly or launch a faulty command.  Supposedly, I can continue to train the software so that it will make fewer and fewer mistakes over time.

As strange as it may seem, the entire process reminds me of my relationship with the Lord.  He, too, has trained me to recognize His voice and follow His commands.  Still, after all my training, I continue to make mistakes.  Like my software, I am sometimes confused about what my Master is asking me to do, and in my confusion, I perform the wrong action.  Sometimes, I understand what my Master is asking of me, but the instructions don't make sense, so I choose to do things my own way.  During these times, the Lord has to do some training of His own.  During these training sessions, He speaks to me and helps me to, once again, recognize His voice.  He drills me in following His commands without hesitation or complaint.  He reminds me that even when I don't understand, I must follow His instructions exactly, for He always knows best.

I'm looking forward to training my computer software to the point where it makes fewer and fewer mistakes.  But even more so, I am looking forward to being trained so that I will make fewer and fewer mistakes.  Yes, it is a tedious and time-consuming process, but as with my software, I believe it will be worth it in the end.

Friday, December 21, 2012

'Twas 11 Days Before Christmas

A friend of mine sent me this in an e-mail this morning, and I felt compelled to share it on today's blog.  Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those whose lives have changed because of the school shooting a week ago.  May God bring them comfort and peace.



Written by a Gentleman in Southern PA:
 
Twas 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38,
When 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven's gate.
Their smiles were contagious. Their laughter filled the air.
They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.
 
They were filled with such joy. They didn't know what to say.
They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.
"Where are we?" asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.
"This is heaven." declared a small boy.
"We're spending Christmas at God's house."
 
When what to their wondering eyes did appear, 
but Jesus, their Savior. The children gathered near. 
 
He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.
Then He opened His arms, and He called them by name,
and in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring.
Those children all flew into the arms of their King, 
 
And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace, 
one small girl turned and looked at Jesus' face.
As if He could read all the questions she had. 
He gently whispered to her, "I'll take care of Mom and Dad." 
 
Then He looked down on earth, the world far below.
 He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.
Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand.
"Let My power and presence re-enter this land!"
 
"May this country be delivered from the hands of fools"
"I'm taking back my nation.  I'm taking back my schools!"
Then He and the children stood up without a sound.
"Come now my children let me show you around."
 
Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.
All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.
 I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,
"In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT."
 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Greatest Christmas Story Simply Told



Once upon a time, there was a great King. He was good, kind, holy, and just. He loved His people, provided for them, and kept them safe. But the people were not good people. They did wrong and lived wickedly. In the great kingdom, the punishment for these acts was death. But the great King loved His people and did not want them to suffer. Still, He was just, and He knew their evil could not go unpunished.

In His great love, the King went unto His Son and said, "The people of the kingdom have broken our laws. Punishment must be administered." The Son spoke up and said, "Then punish me, Father. I will suffer in their stead." This grieved the King, but He knew it was the only way to save His people.

And so, He sent us a precious Gift in the form of a babe. This babe would grow to become the Savior of our sins. He would die in our stead so that we would be able to one day live with the King. On a starry night over 2,000 years ago, the greatest Christmas story took place. The Son of the King left the splendor of Heaven to be born in a dirty stable so that He could relate to anything we will ever suffer. He became a son of man so that we could become the sons of God.

Sorry, Charles Dickens, but stories just don't get any greater than that!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Hills Are Alive

Okay, okay.  Half of you have already burst into song, "The hills are alive with the sound of music!"  The rest of you are groaning.  I can hear it.  "This post isn't a musical, is it?"  (And yes, Jason, I know you're included in this groaning group.)  To ease your minds, no this isn't a musical. . . at least not exactly, but it does come straight from the Word of God.  What?  You didn't know the Sound of Music was in the Bible?  Well, the movie isn't, but the principle of the sound of music certainly is.  I know, you're on the edge of your seat in anticipation, right?  Okay, I'll tell you if you'll promise to stop singing.  (Just kidding!)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 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. For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. - Isaiah 55:8-12

See, I told you.  The mountains and hills are alive with the sound of music.  Not just any music, mind you, but songs of praise to the Lord God Almighty.  Praise to the One whose thoughts are above our thoughts.  Worship to the Lord whose ways are beyond our ways.  Thanksgiving to the Savior who is the Giver of life, love, joy and peace.  It is a sweet song that is accompanied by the clapping of the trees of the field.  (Oh, I just had the mental image of those scary trees from the Wizard of Oz.  I don't think those are the same trees.  Anyway. . .)

As much as I love that thought (of the sweet song, not the scary trees), I cannot escape the comfort I've found in verse 11.  You, possibly more than any others, understand the constant battles I face in my ministry.  You are aware of my struggles to follow the Lord's leadership to write, especially when I don't see any income or outcome from my efforts.  I cannot tell you how many times I've questioned the Lord about His plans for my life and wondered if I'm completely off the path.  When I read verse 11, the words hit me like a ton of bricks.  They were meant for me, to bring me comfort and assurance.

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.

God's words will not return void.  Not the words of the Bible.  Not the words that He has given me to share with others.  Those words will accomplish what He pleases and will prosper in the way He intends.   Over and over again, Satan tells me I'm a failure because I'm not successful according to the world's standards.  I'm not even successful according to my own standards.  But according to this verse in Isaiah, God's standards are the only ones that matter.  He has a purpose and plan for my ministry, and according to this verse, that purpose and plan will be fulfilled.  It may not be what I planned or expected, but I have no doubt it will be better.  I'm not a failure.  I'm a willing vessel, and I'm privileged to be used of God for His glory.  Talk about joy and peace!

Yes, the hills are alive with the sound of music, and I'm joining in the song.  You can join in too.  It doesn't matter if you can't carry a tune (Jason) or remember the words (Daddy).  All that matters is that you sing from the heart.  God is more than worthy of our praise.  Let's not allow the hills and mountains to out-praise us.  We have a reason to sing, so let's lift our voices in praise.  And if you don't mind, leave the lederhosen at home!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Die Already!!!

I am losing my mind!  My dogs (especially Mitch) have had fleas like crazy this year.  I've never seen such a case of fleas.  We've used every spray, shampoo and application imaginable, and they still have fleas.  I even broke down and bought a box of those expensive pills that are supposed to kill fleas within four hours.  It worked, we found dead fleas all over the place, and for a couple of days, the dogs seemed to be flea-free.  But after that, the fleas came back with a vengeance. 

Our best guess is that our yard must be infested with the nasty critters, so even though we've killed some off and have the dogs treated with medication that is supposed to repel others, there's just too many to fight off.  And that's exactly how I've felt for the past few months--like I'm fighting a losing battle.  Hopefully, sometime in the near future, we'll treat the yard with some flea spray and see if that doesn't do the trick.  Oh please, Lord, let that work!

Unfortunately, my fight with the fleas is not the only battle I'm struggling with, for I've found that killing off my bad habits and negative attitudes is just as difficult as getting rid of those pesky fleas.  Sure I've treated the problem with prayer and Bible reading.  I've made commitments to God and promises to myself to do better, but in the end, the problems still return.  As with the fleas, until I determine the source of the infestation, all the solutions in my arsenal are only temporary.  To rid my home and pets of the fleas, I have to first discover their location and then kill them.  To rid my life of bad habits and negative thoughts, I have to do the same.  I have to find their root and destroy it.  Until then, I truly am fighting a losing battle.

I agree with the psalmist when he said, Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)  In fact, I like to go even a step farther:  

Search me, O God, and know my heart:  try me and know my thoughts:  And let me see if there be any wicked way in me. . .  Point it out to me, Lord.  Help me not only to see what I'm doing wrong, but also to track down the root of that thought, attitude or action.  Help me, Lord, to treat the cause and not just the symptoms.  Help me to die daily to my own selfish desires and to live a life that is pleasing to you.  Give me the strength to fight these daily battles and help me remember that my efforts are not in vain.  And if I may, Lord, may I ask one more thing?  Please, oh please, help me get rid of the fleas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Becoming the Christmas Grinch

I made a comment the other day that I had to retract as soon as the words left my mouth.  The comment was, "I hate this time of year."  But as soon as I had voiced the words, I realized that wasn't true.  I don't hate this time of year.  I love it.  I love the Christmas season.  I love bundling up in my favorite snowman sweater, hanging Christmas decorations, buying (and receiving) gifts, and spending time with family and friends.  What I meant to say was "I hate myself this time of year."

As much as I love the season, I find myself so stressed out.  Trying to find the time to get everything done and the money to buy gifts drives me crazy.  The number of events I feel obligated to attend grieves my spirit.  The growing commercialism and the lack of "good will toward men" aggravates me.  To put it bluntly, I become the Grinch.  It's not that I hate Christmas; I just hate the person I become this time of year.

Because of the overwhelming stress and the many obligations, it doesn't take much to send me into a whirlwind of despair and self-pity, not to mention anger and bitterness.  "What do you mean I have to give up two of my Saturdays to come to play practice?"  "Don't tell me I have to buy a gift for her too."  "Sure, I'll put together that Christmas presentation.  After all, I don't need sleep anymore, do I?"

See what I mean?  Things have already been so bad this year that I was beginning to think I'm a truly horrible person.  What kind of Grinch complains so much at Christmas time?  The one who has lost sight of what Christmas is all about.  Christmas is not about programs, presents and cards.  It's not about finding the best gift for each person on your list or doing up the house with a boatload of decorations that are going to have to come down again in a month.  It's not about presenting the perfect cantata or Christmas program.  Christmas is about Christ.  It's His birthday.

It's easy to get so bogged down with all the to-do lists of Christmas that we lose sight of why we're celebrating.  No wonder I've lost my Christmas joy.  I've had my priorities all messed up.  So I've decided to make a few changes.  First of all, my friends, I will not be sending Christmas cards this year.  I don't have the time and money to invest in them, so I'm not going to stress about it.  Second, I made a point to not volunteer for any programs or presentations this year (although I've been drafted for a couple).  Third, I decided to shop from my heart.  No, the gift may not be expensive, but the recipient can rest assured that the gift came from my heart.  Lastly, every time I start stressing about how much I still have to do before December 25th, I'm going to make myself stop and think about the Reason for the season.  After all, the celebration is for Jesus.  Shouldn't He get something out of the deal?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know by Hy Conrad and Jeff Johnson

Why do dogs turn around in a circle five times before they lie down? What is it in the toilet water that is so attractive to our canine companions? Why do some dogs howl while others bark? And what is it that makes those little breeds shake? These questions and many more are answered in the book, Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know, where eleven courageous canines step up and tell all.

This book is set up unlike any book I've ever read before. There are eleven dogs, each with their own story, personality, and "pet" peeves. The dogs take turns answering some of the most intriguing questions we have about man's best friend, and each does so in his or her own hilarious way. For example, Orson is a bulldog, and most of his commentaries revolve around food. Sarge is a German Shepherd who gives insight into a dog's life while detailing his many employment opportunities. Each pet is unique, and each one has his or her own spin on what it's like to be a dog.

In addition to the style of the book, the layout is both entertaining and inviting. Each page is done in full color with pictures, captions and lots of little extras to add that bit of eye appeal. Various fonts match both the colors on each page as well as the personality of the dog featured on that page. The artwork is fun and varies throughout the book, enticing the reader to turn page after page.

When I requested this book, I didn't know what to expect. I knew it was a dog book, and for me, that was enough to invest my time in it. Things Your Doesn't Want You to Know was so much more than I could have possibly anticipated. I laughed. I cried. I nodded my head as canine tales reminded me of my own furry friends. If you're a dog-owner, I guarantee you'll enjoy this book and relate to the many tales within.

On a personal note, as a Christian, I feel it necessary to mention that this is not a Christian book and does contain some elements that may be offensive. While the majority of the book is clean and suitable for all ages, there is some mild swearing and suggestive language. It is definitely advisable that parents proof the book before allowing their children to read it.

Overall, Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know, was an enjoyable read. The short, individual chapters made it easy to read just a little at a time, and the gentle touches of humor encouraged my heart and brightened my day. The Bible says, "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine." I would prescribe this book to any who need a laugh or merely enjoy reading about the crazy antics of the hound kind.


I received a free copy of this book from the authors in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.  I was not required to write a positive review.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

What's On Display?

This time of year, with the Christmas holiday rapidly approaching, you'll find it difficult to find a store that isn't displaying their many wares.  Blinking lights, the latest gadgets, trendy clothing--all clamoring for our attention.  One display draws our eyes toward chocolate delights of every shape and size.  (I have to be very careful to avoid such displays, for my willpower isn't what it used to be.)  Another tempts us to sample the sweet fragrances of the many perfumes and body sprays.  And, of course, most stores have displays of the variety of Christmas decorations that are guaranteed to brighten our homes for the holidays.

Years ago, when I worked retail, I was always in charge of putting together the displays.  My manager was quick to recognize my creative skills, so when it was time to create a display, he pulled me from the registers and put me to work.  I loved it!  I was allowed to use anything in the store.  In fact, the more merchandise I used, the more effective the display would be.  I have fond (and somewhat comical) memories of building life-size scarecrows, ridiculous-looking snowmen, and Christmas displays that were the envy of many other stores.  My goal, no matter the display, was the same--make a statement!  The intention of creating such a display was to cause people to stop and pay attention, to pause in their hurried shopping and take notice of something out of the ordinary.

As I reminisced about the many displays I had created over the years (both in retail and in my nine years as a teacher), I realized that I have neglected the most important display of all--my life.  I am a Christian, which means "Christ-like".  I am a walking advertisement for the love, mercy and grace of God.  But I can't help but wonder, what do I have on display?  When people pass me, do they stop and pay attention?  In this hurried world, do they notice something out of the ordinary?  Is there something about my life that makes the world pause and stare in amazement?  Not because of me or anything I have done, but because there's something about me they just can't figure out.  Because there's an unnatural joy radiating from my smile.  Because there's unconditional love portrayed by my words, actions and attitudes.  Because there's a power that tugs at their hearts every time they are near me.

It's nice to have a display of Christmas lights or funky ornaments, but how much more important is it to have a daily display of the attributes and attitude of God?  Just as my manager entrusted me with the vital task of creating a crowd-stopping display, my Lord has given me the same instructions.  My goal with this display is the same as the ones I created years ago--to make a statement.  And that statement is this:  "I am not what I once was.  I've been redeemed and set right in the eyes of my Heavenly Father.  I am His child, and He loves me with an unconditional love.  He leads me and guides me, protects me and provides for me.  He's my closest Friend and my shelter from all harm.  Life in Him is full of joy and peace, and there's nothing like it in all the world.  Jesus is the name of my Friend and Savior.  Would you like to meet Him?"

Whether we're aware or not, something is always on display in our lives.  The question is, what are we showing the world?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Remember Who You Are

Last week was just one of those weeks.  It started off well but went rapidly downhill.  On Monday, Jason and I took the dogs on a very pleasant hike and then just spent some quality time together in the afternoon.  Great day!  I was looking forward to Tuesday because I had a couple of writing projects I was eager to get back to after the long holiday weekend.  Unfortunately, I awoke Tuesday morning with a terrible headache.  I was able to get a few things done, but overall, my plans for the day were ruined.

On Wednesday, I ran errands which took up the majority of the day and left very little time for much else.  Thursday, I was determined to get some work accomplished, but try as I might, problems popped up one after another.  By Friday, I was tired, frustrated and ready to do absolutely nothing!  I had struggled all week long to put my motivation to work, but by Friday, that motivation was long gone.  In short, I didn't care anymore.  I just wanted to sit down and have myself a royal pity party.  Unfortunately, I did just that.  You see, the frustrations of doing my work weren't the only things fighting against me last week.  I was fatigued by the headache early in the week.  I was frustrated that my plans were not going as I wished.  I was discouraged by my many fruitless efforts.  And to be honest, I was envious of the success of others around me, including some of the writers I have coached who now seem much more successful than I am.  All together, I had a recipe for a world-class, bring on the chocolate, "why me" kind of pity party. 

And the worst part was that I couldn't get out of it.  I felt trapped, imprisoned by emotions that I couldn't figure out how to process, and overwhelmed by the continuous stream of circumstances that were beyond my control.  Have you ever been there?  You want to be happy.  You want to snap out of it.  But for the life of you, you just can't figure out how.  That's where I spent the weekend, but thankfully, I was not alone.  There was Someone else there in the darkness of the pit.  There was a Voice that offered both encouragement and instruction.  There was a Hand that held me tight and reminded me that I was loved.

This morning, as I finished my devotions, a phrase from the Disney movie, The Lion King, came to my mind--"Remember who you are."  I was nearly out of my pit of despair, but those words gave me the extra push to finish the climb to safety.  "Remember who you are."  Well, who am I?  I'm not a best-selling author.  I'm not a world-famous speaker.  I'm not a concert pianist.  I'm not the ultimate housekeeper.  I'm not even the perfect wife, daughter, sister or aunt.  So who am I?

I am a child of God. - John 1:12
I am an heir to the kingdom of Heaven. - James 2:5
I am a friend of Christ. - John 15:15
I am the temple of the Holy Ghost. - I Corinthians 6:19
I am a saint. - I Corinthians 1:2
I am part of the body of Christ. - Romans 12:5
I am a sheep. - Psalm 100:3
I am forgiven. - I John 1:9
I am free. - Romans 8:2
I am redeemed. - John 3:16
I am a new creature. - I Corinthians 5:17
I am God's workmanship. - Ephesians 2:10
I am alive. - Ephesians 2:4-5
I am loved. - Romans 8:37-39

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  I know I did.  So, I may not be as successful as I want to be.  So, I may not be as talented as I wish.  So, I may not be the best at everything I set my hand to.  Does any of that really matter?  I am what God made me to be. . .nothing more, nothing less.  Maybe if I spent less time focusing on who I'm not, I would be able to accomplish more towards being who I am, or even better, whose I am.  After all, by God's standards, success is defined by obedience.  He doesn't need us to be famous, only faithful. 

Remember who you are. Who knew we could glean such valuable insight from a cartoon character?

Monday, December 3, 2012

New Sheets by Cindy Sproles

Out with the old and in the with the new, right? Sadly, that's often easier said than done. Sure, it's a cinch when we're tossing the worn-out tennis shoes or replacing the dying laptop. But what about when dealing with broken hearts, relationships and dreams? Is it possible to simply toss them aside like the aged, yellowed lampshade from the deceased great aunt?

The truth is that life is a journey, and as with all journeys, not every mile will be pleasant. There will be traffic jams and harsh winds, sour attitudes and torrential rain, flat tires and dead batteries. But in the midst of it all, there will also be God, giving us strength to make it another mile and then another and then another. Many choose to commemorate the end of such a journey, but as this journey will not end until our arrival in Heaven, author Cindy Sproles has decided to take a different approach. In her book, "New Sheets: Thirty Days to Refine You Into the Woman You Can Be", she opens her heart and exposes her method of marking each new milestone with a fresh set of sheets. From the cheapest of muslin to the most extravagant silk, Cindy's sheets tell the story of one woman's journey from pain and heartache to joy and acceptance.

What I love most about this book is that Cindy holds nothing back. She bears all, tells all, and explains all. She opens the eyes of the readers, helping each to understand that she is not alone in her struggles. While it pains us to read of another woman's heartache, there is also great comfort to be found when we realize, "It's not just me. I'm not the only one who feels this way!" In her own unique way, Cindy displays the disappointment of a life that didn't turn out according to plan followed by a hope that comes from the knowledge that God has a plan for our pain and that He is working all things for our ultimate good.

Written in a conversational style, this book is a joy to read. Whether you need a boost to begin your day or a word of encouragement to calm your mind before bed, "New Sheets" will do the trick. Each of the thirty devotions is short, making it easy to fit into even the busiest of schedules.

Does life have you down? Are you at a crossroads and unsure which way to turn? Have you reached a new stage in your life and fear you don't have the strength to carry on? If so, I urge you to pick up a copy of Cindy's book, "New Sheets". I promise you that you'll not regret it.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Living With Unrealistic Expectations

I have a confession to make--I often set very unrealistic expectations.  The problem is that I don't just set them for myself; I set them for everyone around me too.  My poor husband knows the truth of this.  I am still convinced, after fifteen years of marriage, that I found my Prince Charming.  The trouble is that after a fifty-hour work week and very little sleep, the prince can lose some of his charm.  And when he loses his charm, I lose my cool.  How dare he not live up to my expectations to be sweet, caring, romantic and happy all the time?  The poor prince!

Sadly, I do the same thing with friends, family members and especially myself.  If you think I'm hard on Jason, you've not seen or heard anything yet.  You should hear the way I talk to myself.  You should hear the insults and accusations I throw my way.  It's depressing, to say the least.  Why, oh why, do I set standards that I can't possibly live up to?

And, of course, I also set unrealistic expectations about my circumstances.  Let's take my health, for an example.  On Monday, I decide that I need to do something about the pudge around my middle.  For a week straight, I watch for calorie intake, I exercise, I stretch, I take my vitamins.  I do all the right things, but unfortunately, I expect the wrong results.  Well, actually, I expect the right results, but I expect them too soon.   By Friday, I hop on the scale, eager to see the two to five pounds I've lost because of my week of sacrifice.  Would you believe that stupid scale has the audacity to show me a number higher than what it was on Monday?  The nerve!!!!  I'd been so good.  How could I possibly weigh more?

Or how about this one?  I've surrendered my life to Jesus.  I'm walking in His footsteps and fulfilling His plan for my life.  I seek His face daily, eager to maintain true communication with Him and desiring nothing more than to do His will.  Surely that means my walk through life will be a pleasant one devoid of detours and potholes, right?  If ever there were an unrealistic expectation, that would be it!  Where do we get the idea that the Christian life should be a bed of roses?  I know better.  I know that Jesus promised tribulation.  I know that He said we would suffer if we stayed true to Him.  Yet, somehow, for some reason, I expect something different. 

Four years ago, I walked away from a steady income to pursue a career in writing.  I knew it would be difficult and frightening, but I also knew, without a doubt (most of the time), that it was God's will.  Yet four years have passed, and I'm still struggling to sell just a few books each month.  Some days, God's great plan for my life doesn't seem so great.  It doesn't feel so great.  It seems pointless.  It feels discouraging.  I expected more.  I expected to succeed in a way that my income would match and eventually pass the income I was making as a teacher.  I didn't expect to become an overnight success, but I certainly expected to be much farther along than I am currently.  I expected God to honor my faithfulness and obedience by providing the income we need to get out of debt, put new tires on the vehicle, fix the leaky roof and do all the other things that need to be done.

This morning I had to ask myself a very sobering question:  "Am I giving God the cold shoulder because I feel He's let me down?  Am I angry with Him for not meeting my expectations?"  When others don't meet my expectations, I don't hesitate to let them know, either by my explosion of emotion or by my withdrawal of it.  Have I done the same with God?  I know I haven't exploded His way, but have I withdrawn?  Have I pulled away from His presence because I feel He's not taken care of me?  It sounds foolish, I know, but we often do foolish things.  Deep down in my heart, I know that God has been very, very good to me.  I know that He has always provided in His way and in His time.  I know that He is working things out for my best.  Unfortunately, what I know and what I feel don't always mesh, and emotions are hard to argue with.

I hesitated to write this post today because I have no conclusion.  I'm still sorting through my feelings and emotions, which for me resembles the episode I had a few days ago as I tried to untangle the Christmas lights.  There are knots to untie and seams to unravel, but as of yet, I don't know how to answer my question.  Still, I couldn't get away from the urging to write this post.  Who knows--maybe you're feeling the same way?  Perhaps you're struggling with the same feelings of disappointment over a situation that didn't turn out the way you had expected.  I don't know.  What I do know, however, is that unrealistic expectations are very dangerous.  They can do some serious damage in our relationships with others and even in our relationship with the Lord.  Not to mention, they make us downright crabby to be around.

The old Christmas carol says, "Tis the season to be jolly", right?  Well, unrealistic expectations make that nearly impossible.  Let's lighten up, shall we?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Virtual Book Tour for Halo-Orangees: Employer-Employee

Book Synopsis

Is your work environment infected with the dysfunctional "I" and ME" Team Virus? "I" and "Me" are the driving forces behind dysfunctional organizational employer-employee relationships. This book embodies the message that all human beings have a purpose and can rise above any situation or circumstance as long as they remain ethically true to themselves. As you journey through this book, you will experience a multiplicity of real life work encounters such as, "A manager espoused her opinion that lower-paid employees should serve higher-paid employees". In this encounter, the manager also stated, "higher-salaried staff members are not paid to clean coffee pots" (Excerpt~ B.L. Brown). Halo-Orangees book is a movement with encouraging straightforwardness; Author B.L. Brown confronts real-life workplace issues occurring in organizations world-wide (negativity, drama, power struggles, backstabbing, and endless gossip). The Introduction is entitled, "Don't Allow Anyone to Confine You to a Box, Disabling Your Growth".
Halo-Orangees is a nonexclusive on the job survival manual, mindset enhancer, and stress reliever for both employers and employees. This book will change your life both personally and professionally.

Excerpt Quotes 

Your life purpose is to take the totality of your negative experiences, roll them up into one, and use them positively to lay the foundation for your destiny” (Excerpt~ B.L. Brown).

Don’t ever allow anyone to break your spirit of peace, control your mood, or suppress your workforce existence, making your tenure in the organization a horrible experience” (Excerpt~ B.L. Brown).

Don’t ever allow anyone to attack your self-esteem, kill your passion, or tell you that someone else is more worthy than you” (Excerpt ~B.L. Brown).

You are the only one who defines you, so don’t ever allow anyone to tell you who you are, or that you are not good enough” (Excerpt ~B.L. Brown).

Author Bio

B.L. Brown is the CEO and Founder of Halo-Orangees', international online job board (halo-orangeesjobs.com). Halo-Orangees’ international job board delivers candidates on time and under budget. Employers can post jobs and search resume database. Jobseekers can post resumes and search jobs for free. The genesis of Halo-Orangees Brand: Helping Advocate Longevity of Organizations by Obtaining Objectives through Redefining Above-Board New Generational Guidelines for Employer Employee Standards was inspired, developed, and birthed from her reaction to an unethical manager with whom she had the pleasure of working for and whose style of supervision made her stronger. In a one-on-one meeting with this executive director, he made the statement that another employee, who held the same title as B.L. Brown, was better than she was. In response, B.L. Brown informed him that this employee was not better than her nor was she better than the employee. From that one statement, she instantly realized her true purpose in life. "Best negative words spoken into my life thus far" (Excerpt~ B.L. Brown).

Reckoning her experience with a newfound belief, the foundation of Halo-Orangees emerged.  In 2012 Author B.L. Brown launched Halo-Orangees/h-connect brand, international online dating website h-connect.net. The h-connect.net brand is empowering, motivating singles to find their best friend in love.

For more information, please visit the author’s corporate website: http://www.halo-orangeesjobs.com/



Progress can also be followed via social media:


Disclaimer:  My participation in this book tour does not mean that I have read and/or agree with the work being promoted.  Typically, unless I'm doing a book review, I do not have the opportunity to read the books before promoting them. The purpose of virtual tours is to help fellow authors promote their works, and while I am very particular about who and what I promote, I cannot guarantee that the beliefs and views stated in any specific book are my own. 

 
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Thor Ramsey

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Have You Been Mislabeled?

One of my all-time favorite activities to do with Jason is to visit the Goodwill Pound Store.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with what that is, allow me to explain.   The Goodwill Pound Store is a Goodwill Store where everything is priced by the pound instead of by individual tags or even according to specific categories.  Currently, the price is $1.29/pound.  The catch is that because the prices are so good, there's no time or effort spent on organization.  Unlike other thrift stores, when you walk in, you don't see racks and shelves.  Instead, you see gigantic bins piled high with clothes, shoes, toys, etc.  The store does a pretty good job of keeping clothes separate from the toys and books separate from the shoes.  In other words, there are bins for each, but in the clothes bins, anything goes.  You may find baby clothes, men's clothes, women's clothes, and so on.  If you want to find buried treasure, you have to dig.

I understand that for some people, this is simply too much work.  For me, however, it's like Christmas every time we go.  First of all, being the thrifty shopper I am, I love walking out of the store with a gigantic trash bag full of clothes and having spent $12.  It's fantastic!  Second, Jason and I really have a good time while digging.  We laugh at the colors and prints on some of the clothing we come across.  Jason's favorite thing to do is to pick two items that couldn't possibly clash any worse and say, "I think you need this outfit."  The whole process is truly a blast, but the fun doesn't stop there.

After we get our treasures home (most of which are mine), we have what Jason calls "our fashion show".  We try on all of our new pieces, checking for fit, comfort, etc.  When that's done, the real work begins.  I first cut off any tags that may be on the clothing.  (Believe it or not, I've often purchased clothes that still had the retailer tags on them, and most of the pieces came from high-end department stores.)  That done, I set about checking the labels and tossing the clothes into piles according to their washing instructions.  Typically, after that, I start the laundry because I can't wait to wear my new clothes. 

As I thought about the process of sorting according to labels, I wondered how often we do that with people.  Think about it.  Have you ever found yourself in a pile in which you knew you didn't belong simply because someone had mislabeled you?  Being a shy person, I've often found myself in the "snob" pile because my timidity was mistaken for arrogance.  And let me tell you, it hurts!  But I can't help but ask myself how often I mislabel others.

"She is so disorganized!"  - Maybe that's because her husband left her, and she now has to juggle three kids, a job, all the housework, all the errands, all the cooking and more than I could possibly every imagine.  Is she really disorganized, or is she simply overwhelmed?

"He's so thoughtless!" - Is he really, or do I consider him that way because he doesn't think the way I think?

"She's so unfriendly.  She didn't even say 'hello' when she passed me this morning." - Hmm, little did I know that she had just received a phone call that her mother has cancer, and she was doing all she could to hold back the tears until she reached the privacy of her office.

See what I mean?  We're so quick to pass judgment on others when we really have no idea what it's like to live their lives and walk in their shoes.  And so, without a thought, we stick a label on them and toss them into what we deem the appropriate pile to be dealt with accordingly.

The sad truth is that most of us should be stamped with a common label that reads, "handle with care".  We are tired.  We are weary.  We are frustrated.  We are struggling day after day to make life work, to make ends meet, to make a way for our families.  We don't need insensitive bystanders slapping labels on us and tossing us aside.  We need to be handled with care.  We need to have someone say, "No, I don't understand what you're going through, but I'm praying for you."  We need to know that someone cares.

Let's be careful with the labels.  We could really cause permanent damage. . . and that damage goes far beyond shrinkage or fading.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Let Me Guide You

This morning I decided to take Mitch on a different route for our morning walk.  Conveniently, the street on which we live connects to a road that runs parallel to the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  It's only about a five-minute walk from our house to the trail, and while we have to contend with some other walkers, runners and bicyclist, there's no vehicle traffic to worry about.  For me, this makes the walk much more relaxing.

When we reach the trail, we have a decision to make:  right or left.  We usually turn left because the trail connects to the other end of the main road, providing us with a two-mile circular loop.  Circles are good with Mitch because once he's going, he doesn't want to stop, and he's smart enough to know that turning around means eventually stopping.  So, the loop is our favorite.

When I walk alone, I turn to the right and typically follow the trail for about two miles, then turn around and come back.   It's a pleasant and peaceful walk that I enjoy immensely.  The only part I don't like is the part where I have to cross the very busy highway.  But overall, it's worth it!

Something got into me this morning, and I decided to take Mitch to the right.  I knew we'd have to be very careful at the highway crossing because Mitch was not familiar with this type of crossing.  On our normal trail, we cross the highway at a stoplight, which means we have a crosswalk signal.  Mitch has learned and now understands that he must wait for me to tell him to go, and then he can hurry his way across.  And he does hurry!  I think the cars intimidate him, which is probably a good thing.  But the crossing we faced this morning was not at a stoplight.  There were no signals.  Instead, there's a four-lane highway with a small median in the center.  On a good day, you might be able to get all the way across the road without stopping in the median, but not usually.

When we reached the road, I reeled Mitch in so that he had very little range in his leash.  I wanted to keep him close so he didn't dart out.  As I expected, he waited patiently at the edge of the road until I told him he could go.  As we made our way across the first two lanes of highway, I kept his leash reined in.  As we reached the median, I pulled tight and told him to stop.  He only pulled harder, determined to get across the street.  What he didn't know is that there was traffic coming, and we weren't going to make it to the other side before the traffic arrived.  We needed to wait, but he didn't understand that.  His danger alarm was going off, and he was responding by doing his best to pull us both out of harm's way.

The line of traffic was long, and Mitch became increasingly impatient and pulled even harder.  I tried to calm him.  I attempted to comfort him.  But my words were having no effect.  Finally, the traffic cleared, and I gave him some slack on the leash.  He ran across the last two lanes of highway and then promptly resumed his normal pace (which isn't much short of a run if I let him have his way).  As we walked, I tried once again to comfort and reassure him.  I could tell he was out of sorts.  I found myself saying, "You just have to trust Mommy and let me guide you.  I'll get us safely across, but you must listen to my directions."  The words weren't even completely out of my mouth before their message hit home.

How many times do I, like Mitch, try to find my own way through?  How many times have I plowed ahead in my impatience, frustration or fear?  How many times have I ignored the comforting and guiding voice of my Master because I thought I knew better?  How many times has God looked down at me and said, "Dana, you just have to trust your Father and let me guide you.  I'll get you safely across, but you must listen to my directions"?

By the time we crossed the street on our way back, Mitch had calmed down and understood better what to expect from this particular intersection.  He didn't pull.  He didn't fight.  He didn't try to have his own way.  He waited.  He listened.  And he followed my directions.  I pray that I will soon learn to do the same with my Master.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Unfinished Business

I have a confession to make:  I'm terrible about starting projects that I never finish.  Don't believe me?  I'll prove it to you by taking you on a short tour.  Let's begin in my office, for there are lots of unfinished projects here.  If you'll look in the tall filing cabinet, you'll see stories that I never finished, books that are missing the final touches and Sunday School lessons that I had intended to turn into book chapters. 

Next, let's visit the dining room, which tends to be used more for storage than for dining.  See those two quilts hanging over the chair.  One of them belongs to my parents.  I made it for them several years ago, but a few months back, a piece of the border became torn.  "No problem," I said, "just a few stitches should fix that right up."  Yet, there it hangs.  The other quilt belongs to my husband.  I made it for him several Christmases ago.  Since then, however, we have upgraded from a full-size bed to a queen-size, so the quilt is a little small.  "No problem," I said, "I'll just do up a few strips to add to the sides.  It shouldn't take too long."  So much for that thought.  This room also contains the wreath I was supposed to repair as well as the coffee table decoration I've had for so long that I forgot what I was asked to do with it.

From there, we can visit the living room and foyer which contain books I never finished reading and magazines I never finished studying.  A peek into the laundry room will show you the wood pieces intended to be used for the bench seat to my parents' dining room table.  (Oh wait, that's Jason's unfinished project, not mine.)  As you can see, unfinished projects are scattered around my house like the autumn leaves on the ground.   I don't mean to leave things undone.  I just get sidetracked, and before I know it, I'm so involved with another project, I don't have the time or energy to work on the previous one.  It's a complicated mess!

Aren't you glad God doesn't have unfinished business?  Not only did He complete His work on Calvary by sacrificing His only Son so that we could have eternal life, but He's also completing a work in each of us.  You see, when we were saved, we became new creatures, but that was just the beginning.  There is still so much growing and learning to do.  And that's what God does for us each and every day.  He loves us just the way we are, but He also loves us too much to leave us that way.  As the old children's song says, "He's still working on me to make me what I ought to be." 

None of us have arrived in our Christian walk, but we can take great comfort in knowing that God is still working on us.  Lovingly.  Faithfully.   Patiently.  Day after day.  We will never be left alone, forgotten or discarded like the myriad of unfinished projects around my home.  No!  God has begun a good work in us, and He won't stop until that work is completed.  No matter how long it takes or how difficult the task may be. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, it seems there are a lot of things I need to try to catch up on.  Hmm, where to begin?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Virtual Book Tour: An Interview with Hy Conrad

Today we are privileged to have a special guest--Hy Conrad.  In December, I'll be posting a review for Hy's book, "Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know".  But before I tell you how I feel about the book (hint:  it's a dog book, so that should give you some idea), I wanted to give you an opportunity to meet the man behind the masterpiece.  So, without further ado, let's get to the interview (hey, that rhymed!).


THE INTERVIEW:

DANA
Welcome, Hy. Would you please tell us a little about yourself.

HY
I began my working life as a stage actor, performing on Broadway and in national tours, among other places. One year, while working in summer stock, I came up with an idea for a play. It wound up having a short run Off-Broadway, and that began my writing career.

Today, I’m best known for my TV work. I was one of the original writers of the series “Monk” and wound up becoming the show’s Co-Executive Producer. From there I became head writer for the webisode series “Little Monk” and Consulting Producer on TV’s “White Collar.”

In the publishing world, I’ve written a dozen books of short mysteries which have been translated into over a dozen languages.

More recently, I wrote “Rally ‘Round the Corpse”, the first in my Abel Adventure mystery series. It was published a couple of months ago and is available just about everywhere.

DANA
What can you tell us about your book, “Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know”?

HY
“Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know” is a humor book, 115 essays “written” by 11 dogs who share their innermost secrets. They range from Tinkerbell, the world’s most spoiled Chihuahua to Axelrod, a yellow Lab who is puzzled by everything, from herb gardens to sofas to sprinkler systems.

The essays are short, two pages each, so each dog tells ten or eleven little stories about his life. Readers have told me they read one every night, or keep it on their coffee table to thumb through whenever the mood strikes.

DANA
As a dog owner, I have to ask this question; Do you own a dog (or dogs), and, if so, would you please tell us about them?

HY
For the past 25 years, I have had miniature Schnauzers. This dates back to the time I held a Boston Terrier up to my face and broke out in a rash. My doctor told me there were a limited number of breeds I could pick, ones that don’t shed or have dander. I chose Schnauzers and have loved them ever since.

My current pair – I always have two – are Charlie and Nelson. For much of the year they get to live on dozens of acres in the middle of the woods. The boys love to explore and have been known to a tree bear (the more docile black bears) and bring back deer bones. I never ask where they get them. I don’t want to know.

DANA
What inspired you to write this book?

HY
One night I happened to see a TV infomercial. It could have been “Things The Banks Don’t Want You to Know.” Or “Things The Government Doesn’t Want You to Know.” At some point, I said to myself, “Sure, how about ‘Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You To Know.’” And that’s how it started; the title came first.

Like many humor books these days, this one began as a blog. I started posting on the most obvious topics: “What We Do When You’re Gone” or “Sticking My Head Out The Car Window.”

The initial idea was to keep them generic, in a sort of Everydog persona. But I soon realized that the humor was in the specifics. It was funnier if the dog had a real personality, and even funnier if we invented a variety of “dog bloggers” with radically different personalities.

DANA
What did you find to be the most difficult part of writing this book?

HY
I found that the tone was the trickiest part. The first essays were a little too sarcastic and didn’t have enough individual personality. Every story, I realized, has to draw you in quickly. This was a learned skill.

DANA
What are your plans and goals for the book?

HY
I don’t anticipate a movie sale, if that’s what you’re asking. But I think this could be an “evergreen” title that stays in print. I hope it can be big during the holiday season. The book was recently featured in Dog Fancy magazine as one of the perfect dog gifts for Christmas.

DANA
The essays in your book so describe the nature of dogs, and you tell each story with such humor. Do you consider yourself to have a very good sense of humor, or is it something you have to work at?

HY
I’ve always considered myself funny, but I became confident in my humor when the USA Network called me up and asked me to work on “Monk”. Suddenly I was in a room with five great comedy writers and found I could hold my own pretty well.

DANA
What projects are you currently working on?

HY
I’m always writing something. It’s my job and my only hobby. Most recently I was asked by USA and Obsidian Press to take over writing the “Monk” novels, a successful series of books based on the characters from the TV show. My friend Lee Goldberg wrote the first 15 novels, and I’ve been asked to write numbers 16 and 17.

DANA
Do you have plans for more books in the future? If so, what types of books will they be?

HY
As soon as I have a chance, I plan to finish the second novel in my Abel Adventures Mystery series, titled, “If I Die Before the Wake.” I also have an idea for a sequel to the dog book.

DANA
As a fellow author, I always like to ask this question: if you could describe the work of an author in three words, what would those words be?

HY
Alone, creating worlds. (That’s three words and a comma.)

DANA
I couldn't have put it better myself!  Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Hy.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Why do dogs eat furniture when there are endless chew toys nearby?
Why do they always dash to a rug when they have to throw up?
And why are they always absolutely starving?

Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know answers the questions that dog owners have asked for centuries. The book is a collection of 115 humorous essays that reveal the truth behind some of the most baffling canine behavior, their hopes and dreams, their grudges and pleasures, and what they really think about us humans. Peppered with lively, clever stories and visually appealing photographs, Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know is a verbal and visual delight that is laugh-out-loud funny. If you have dogs, love dogs, or have ever been baffled by a dog, this book is a must-have.

Topics include:
  • My Life in Your Purse by Tinkerbell, the Chihuahua
  • Waiting by the Table (for food scraps, of course!) by Orson, the bulldog
  • The Bed Rules (Rule #1—It’s my bed) by Dimples, the boxer
  • The Reason I Ate the Sofa (leather tastes a lot like rawhide) by Axelrod, the yellow lab
  • I Can Poop the Second I Start My Walk (but choose not to) by Sophie, the cocker spaniel

Things Your Dog Doesn’t Want You to Know is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indigo, Target, on e-books and at independent bookstores everywhere. For more information, go to www.ThingsYourDog.com where you can also ask questions about your own dog’s behavior and learn the secrets they have been keeping from you!


ABOUT THE AUTHORS: 

ABOUT HY CONRAD
Best known for his work in mysteries, Hy was one of the original writers for the groundbreaking series, Monk, working on the show for all eight seasons, the final two as Co-Executive Producer. In a related project, Hy was Executive Producer and head writer of Little Monk, a series of short films featuring Adrian Monk as a ten-year-old. His latest TV work was as writer and Consulting Producer for White Collar.

Hy is also the author of hundreds of short stories and ten books of short whodunits, which have been sold around the world in fourteen languages. Hy’s first mystery novel series, Abel Adventures, will debut in 2012 with the publication of Rally ‘Round the Corpse. And his first full-length comedy/mystery play, Home Exchange, premiered at the Waterfront Playhouse in May 2012. He lives in Key West with his partner and two miniature schnauzers. (www.hyconrad.com)

ABOUT JEFF JOHNSON 
Jeff spent most of his working life in advertising agencies, currently as General Manager of Cramer-Krasselt in New York City. He is the author of The Hourglass Solution:  A Boomer’s Guide to the Rest of Your Life and co-authors (with Paula Forman) a national online advice column called Short Answers, which also appears in newspapers all along the east coast (from Massachusetts to Florida). Jeff lives in Vermont and Key West and is on the Board of Directors of the Waterfront Playhouse and the Florida Keys SPCA.


LINKS:

WEBSITE LINK: www.ThingsYourDog.com

AUTHOR LINK: www.HyConrad.com

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Draw Nigh to God


One topic that I come across often in devotional books is how to draw closer to Jesus. It has been discussed from many pulpits and in countless conferences. The advice given ranges from complete and total surrender to Christ to completing the work He has sent us here to do. Often, the advice is helpful, but sometimes the answers are so complex. Should it be that way?

My advice on the topic is that you draw closer to Jesus in the same way that you grow closer to your friends or family. You spend time with Him. You talk with Him and listen as He speaks to you. You share your cares, burdens, and joys with Him. You laugh and cry with Him. You work through things together and complete tasks in the company of one another. You learn more about Him and in turn, allow yourself to be known.

Treat Him like the Friend that He is. Rely on Him like the Father He is. It may sound simple, but I think that's the way God intended it. We are often guilty of over-complicating things. Do you want to be closer to Christ today? It is possible, but some time and effort on your part are required.

Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. - James 4:8

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's All About the Wait

Last week, I posted an article about my recent experimentation with Apple Cider Vinegar.  (If you missed that post, you can read it here.)  I've been taking it faithfully each day and have even increased my dosage to two tablespoons per day (one in the morning and one in the evening).  So far, I have noticed very little improvement.  There has been some change in my digestion, but that's about all I've noticed so far.

That's the tricky part about natural remedies--they aren't instant fixes.  In our fast-paced world, we feel we can't afford to wait for anything.  That's why we have express lanes, speedy checkouts, drive-throughs and microwaveable dinners.  We're in a hurry, and with that mindset, it's difficult to choose the overall better option over the faster one.  You see, natural remedies are just that--they are natural, and they are remedies.  Unlike many medications and prescription drugs today, natural remedies don't just mask the systems of any problems.  They actually get into your body's systems and work to repair any damage.  That process takes time, which means we have to wait for the results.

Wait?  That's a four-letter word, isn't it?  We don't like that word.  We don't want to wait.  I'm sorry to tell you this, but we are spoiled.  We want what we want, and we want it right now.   And so often, we choose convenience and speed over quality and goodness, resulting in unsolved problems that are hidden, but still very present and very detrimental.

Thankfully, I know enough about natural remedies and have enough experience with them that I'm not put off at this stage in my ACV experimentation.  I know I'm doing a good thing for my health, and even though I don't see any real results yet, I'm going to keep doing what I know to do.  Why?  Because I know the results will come.  It's just a matter of time.  If I'll be faithful, I will reap the benefits.  I just have to be willing to wait.

I'm think I'm finally getting to a place in my spiritual walk where I can look at my difficult circumstances and see the benefits waiting on the other side.  After all, I know enough about God and have enough experience with His ways to know that He always works for my good.  During those tough times of waiting, I know that if I'll just keep doing what I know to do, even when I don't see any results, I will eventually reap the benefits.  It's just a matter of time if I will continue to be faithful.  I just have to be willing to wait.  Wait for the Lord's guidance.  Wait for the Lord's blessings.  Wait for the Lord to open the doors of opportunity.  Wait for the Lord to reveal the treasures awaiting me on the other side of my stormy circumstances.

Every day we have some tough decisions to make.  Will we take the fast road or the best road?  Will we choose convenience over goodness?  Will we put our own desires above those that the Lord has for our lives?  Will we allow God to remedy the wrongs in our lives, or will we simply cover them up?  Will we be willing to wait through the bitter in order for our lives to be better?  It's a lot to think about.

 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. - Isaiah 40:31

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Run It Through the Filter First

All you coffee lovers out there are going to love this.  It's morning.  You stagger, bleary-eyed toward your favorite possession in all the world--the coffee pot.  Before you even reach the kitchen, the enticing smell of fresh coffee assaults your senses.  (God bless the person who invented the automatic timer.)  Your body responds to the call of the coffee by quickening its shuffle.  Your mouth waters as you pull a cup from the cabinet and turn toward the coffee pot.  But as soon as you begin to pour, you become acutely aware that something is desperately wrong.  Instead of a smooth, black liquid, your coffee resembles a dark, soup full of coffee grounds.  In desperation, you flip open the lid.  Sure enough, whoever made the coffee forgot the put the filter in.  You now have two choices:  (1) Drink the watery grounds,  or (2) Dump it out, and start again.  (Okay, maybe you coffee drinkers don't like this scenario after all.  I can feel your accusing stares coming at me from the computer screen.  I think I'd better move on to my point. . . while you're waiting for that second batch of coffee to brew.)

The world is full of filters.  There are water filters, air filters, oil filters, coffee filters and so on.  Dictionary.com defines a filter as "any substance, as cloth, paper, porous porcelain, or a layer of charcoal or sand, through which  liquid or gas is passed to remove suspended impurities or to recover solids."  To put it plainly, a filter removes the bad and leaves the good.

Unfortunately, one of the areas that is most in need of a filter is often the most neglected, left at the mercy of a myriad of impurities.  That area is the mind.  Think about how much information our minds process during any given day.  It's mind-boggling.  (Sorry, I couldn't resist the pun!)  The awesome thing is that we don't really have to control our minds in most things.  It tells the body what to do and how to feel, and it pretty much does it on auto-pilot, just the way God designed it to work.  That's a blessing until we put our entire thought processes on auto-pilot too.  Do we have any idea how much junk goes through our minds on a daily basis?  Again, it's mind-boggling.  (Okay, sorry, I'll stop with the puns now.)

Fortunately, there is a filter for the mind, and it can be found in the word of God.  Philippians 4:8 tells us, 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.  What better filter for each and every thought that passes our way Let's try it out.

For the past couple of days, I've been suffering through another attack of my bursitis.  It's painful and inconvenient for it prevents me from getting things accomplished.  When I crawled out of bed this morning, the first thought that assaulted me was, I can't face the pain again today.  Let's run that through our filter.  Whatsoever things are true and honest.  I can't face the pain?  The Bible says that I can do ALL things through Christ which strengtheneth me.  So to say that I can't face the pain is not true.  I don't want to face it, but I know I can.

Every thought, no matter how big or small, no matter how innocent it may seem, needs to be run through the filter.  Otherwise, the result is a buildup of bitterness and resentment caused by a mountain of thoughts that shouldn't have been held onto to begin with.  They should have been filtered out as soon as we were aware of them.  Just as coffee drinkers don't want a cup of grounds swimming in a pool of blackened water (say "Amen" right there), neither should Christians want a mind jumbled with thoughts swimming in a pool of bitterness and regret.  It's time for us to start paying as much attention to what we think as we do to what we drink.

Okay, I'm done now.  You can go get that cup of coffee.  I know it's calling to you.  Just promise me one thing--you won't kill the person who forgot to put the filter in the first time.  We're only human after all!