Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Meditative Moments: Swat That Thought!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Setting Your Mind to the Good Work

So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work. (Nehemiah 4:6) 

After Nehemiah examined the foundation of the wall and deemed it sound, he explained to the people the plan to rebuild the wall. The inhabitants realized that this was a gargantuan task, but notice that at the end of verse 6, the Bible tells us they had a mind to work. What does that mean? It implies they were determined. The people purposed in their heart just as Daniel did when he refused to defile himself with the king’s meat. They decided that they would do this, and nothing would stand in their way. They were resolute. Committed. Serious.

How about you? Are you committed to taking action? Most times, I think we're serious enough to complain about it but not enough to take action. If we could have an instant fix, well, sign us up, but if we have to work for it, maybe not.

Are you ready for this? If we're not serious enough about the changes we wish to see to take action to achieve them, then we need to be quiet about it and let it go. No more whining and complaining! If it's important enough to complain about, then it's important enough to act on. So, if we're not willing to work, then we need to keep our mouths shut and accept things as they are. There are no instant fixes! Our problems didn't arrive instantaneously, and the solutions won't either. They require time and effort.

I’m ashamed to admit that, for many years, I fell into the category of caring enough to complain but no more. I wanted things to be different, but I wasn’t willing to do what I knew to do to make them different. I had some warped notion that knowing what to do and doing it were the same thing, but that’s not true. And knowing won’t build walls or free us from our prison. The Bible spells this out in great clarity in James 1:22—But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. We need to stop fooling ourselves and ask the tough question—how badly do we want to get better? Is it worth denying ourselves our creature comforts and favorite habits? Is it worth investing time and energy into it? Is it worth re-training our brain? How serious are we?

Before you throw something at me and call me unkind names, I beg you, hang in there just a little longer. I know how you’re feeling. Remember, I’ve traveled this same road, and I’ve been at this same point along the way. It goes something like this, “Yes, I’m serious about wanting to get better, but I’m already so busy and so tired. I don’t know if I have the time and energy to put into it. It sounds like too much to handle right now.” Am I right? (Maybe I should go into business as a mind-reader. I wonder how much money they make. LOL)

Honestly, I know where you’re coming from, and I feel your pain, but this is what I finally realized. I can’t afford NOT to take action. Getting rid of anxiety and depression became more than a hope or dream; it became a necessity. I finally realized I was dying a slow death, and enough was enough. So, I asked myself the following questions:

1) You say you don’t have the energy to build these walls, but how much energy would you have if anxiety and depression weren’t continually sapping it from you?

2) You say you don’t have time to work on these issues, but how much more time would you have if you weren’t crippled by anxiety and depression, which often results in long stretches of time where you’re unmotivated to do anything?

3) You say you’re busy, tired and weary, but what have you got to lose? If you build the walls and nothing happens, you won’t be any worse off. On the other hand, if you build the walls and find that the added protection around your heart is hindering anxiety and depression from assaulting you, then you’ll be much better off in the long run. My point? You are already paying the price, so the question is, do you want to pay the price to be miserable or to be protected from that misery? The choice is yours, but once you make it, the real work begins. Remember, it’s not enough to know; we must take action. We must have a mind to work.

***Excerpt from Rise Up and Build:  A Biblical Approach to Dealing with Anxiety and Depression -- COMING SOON! ***

Monday, June 26, 2017

Accompanied by the Master - Repost

I read the story this morning of a mother who took her young child to a concert.  Upon finding their seats, the mother was overjoyed to recognize a friend and soon became lost in conversation.  As the lights went down, signaling that the concert was about to begin, the mother realized that her child was no longer in his seat.  In the darkness, a simple piano tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" was heard throughout the building.

The spotlight illuminated the stage, and much to the mother's embarrassment, her child was sitting at the grand piano, pecking out the simple tune.  What the child didn't know is that the star of the evening, the pianist for whom the concert was building held, was approaching him from behind.  The musician slipped onto the bench beside the young child and whispered in his ear to continue playing.  The child happily obeyed and repeated his simple piece.  However, the tune sounded nothing like it had before, for as he played, the master musician accompanied him.  The notes were sweet, and the melody flowed.  What had begun as a child's meager melody had turned into a musical masterpiece.

Isn't that what God does with us?  He takes our meager attempts and turns them into miracles.  In and of ourselves, we can do nothing, but that doesn't usually stop us from trying.  Even our efforts to serve Him are lacking in strength, devotion or skill.  Yet, God uses us to perform a masterpiece.  He turns our meager melodies into musical delights.  He transforms our words into blessings.  He takes the simplest of the simple and turns it into something indescribable.  And just like the master musician in the story above, He urges us to keep playing.

The musician could have been angry or offended at the child's nonsense.  But instead, he encouraged the giver to keep on giving, even if his offering was paltry.  God, too, encourages us to keep on serving, even if it seems our efforts are in vain or our services are of no consequence.  Does God need us to work for Him?  No, but He allows us to, and our response should be the same as the little child at the concert--unreserved joy at the privilege to play alongside the Master.

 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. - Philippians 2:13

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Biblical Mantra for Difficult Days

According to the online dictionary, a mantra is "a word or phrase that is often repeated or that expresses someone's basic beliefs."  When it comes to Christianity, some of the most-used mantras include passages like Psalm 23, Psalm 91, and individual verses like Philippians 4:13.  When choosing a mantra from the Bible, you can't go wrong as long as you're quoting the verse correctly and in context. (We've discussed this before, but if you're not sure to what I'm referring, feel free to contact me.)

I know a lot of Scripture, though not as much as I should.  And when troubles arise, I'm quick to search for a verse that will bring comfort to me during that particular circumstance.  Sometimes it's easy because verses immediately pop into my mind, but during the darker days, I have to pull out my worn copy of There's a Verse for That to find what I'm looking for.

This morning, however, I came across a couple of verses that are guaranteed to cover any situation or emotional struggle I may face.  If I can remember this one passage (or at the very least, the mantra I can glean from this passage), I'll never have to search for comfort again.  These two verses cover it all.  Are you intrigued?  Good!  Have a great day.  (Just kidding, I'm going to tell you!)

And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites. (Exodus 3:7-8)

Now you're probably confused, right?  What does this have to do with your problems?  Well, in this passage, Israel was in trouble, and in these couple of verses we see God's response to their predicament, and because God is not a respecter of persons, we can be assured He will respond to us in the same way.  If you read back through those verses very carefully, you'll find our new mantra.  Ready?

God sees.
God hears.
God knows.
God comes to the rescue.

Woohoo, I've got glory bumps!

God sees the circumstances we're facing.  He sees the sorrow of our heart and the tears on our face.  He sees the heartbreak, the frustration, the hopelessness.  He sees it all.

God hears our cries and our torment.  He hears the pain in our voice and the hoarseness of our pleas.  He hears the taunts the enemy throws our way and our own words of discouragement and fear.  God hears it all.

God knows.  He knows how long we've been waiting.  He knows how much we've suffered.  He knows the road has been rough and we're ready to quit.  He knows because He's been there.

Just when we feel we are all alone.  When we are ready to throw in the towel.  When it seems we can't take another step, God reminds us that He's here.  He has never left us.  He's been watching, listening and understanding--waiting for His perfect timing to make His presence known.  He was there all along, and now He's here to rescue us.

We see this story play out time and time again throughout the Bible.  Though the people and circumstances vary, God's gameplan remains the same:  He sees, He hears, He knows, He rescues.  And we serve the same God.  The One Who is unchanging.  The One Who loves us and cares for us.  The One Who knows what's best for us even when we can't see it.  We need to trust Him.  He has a plan, and if we constantly remind ourselves of that plan (our mantra), we'll find it easier to get through life no matter what comes our way.

So, let's say it again, and say it like we mean it.

God sees.
God hears.
God knows.
God comes to the rescue.

He's done it before, and He'll do it again.  Trust Him and keep these words close to your heart at all times.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Whatchu Talkin' About?

A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it! - Proverbs 15:23

I love verses like that!  So simple.  So concise.  So straightforward.  But how often do we glance right over the meaning of such wonderful passages?  Too often, I'm afraid.  But not today.  Today, we're going to dig into that first phrase:  A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth.

Do you want to be happy?  To feel good?  To be encouraged and hopeful?  Sure, we all do.  Then according to this verse, we need to guard what comes out of our mouths.  If we want to feel good, we need to speak good (no, I don't mean well, I mean good).  To speak well is to be eloquent, clear and expressive, and while those are excellent qualities, they are not the things that will bring or expel our happiness.  No, that comes from speaking good.  Talking about positive things.  Using words that lift others up rather than tearing them down.  Words of praise and gratitude.  Uplifting.  Encouraging.  Joyful.

I challenge you to take a moment and think back over the words that have come out of your mouth today.  Were they good?  Could they be considered joyful?  Or were they words of complaint, criticism, cynicism and the like?  As I type this, it's only a little after 9:00 in the morning, and I must confess that not all of my words today have been joyful.  Words of praise didn't escape my lips this morning when I discovered that the ants had gained entrance to the pantry and were helping themselves to anything and everything they could.  I didn't shout "Hallelujah" when I stepped outside for my prayer walk and was met with the rising heat.  Even during my prayer time, many of my words wreaked of complaint and dissatisfaction.  Hmm, and I wonder why I get discouraged and downcast.  The verse above tells me exactly why.

We need to watch our words.  They have power--far more than we give them credit for.  We cast them around so carelessly, but Proverbs 18:21 tells us, Death and life are in the power of the tongue. . .  Did you catch that?  We have the power over life and death, and that power resides in our tongue.  So, I ask you again, what are you talking about?  Are your words killing you or giving you life?  Are they bringing you joy or heartache?

Speak well, but more than that, speak good!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Finding Your Purpose in Life, Part Four

I hope you've enjoyed this short series on finding your purpose in life and that it has helped you to see your gifts and talents for what they are.  I pray you've also identified your passion in life and are now on your way toward a happier and more fulfilling existence.  Before we close out the series, however, I feel we must cover one more point.  It doesn't matter how much we know or understand if we're not willing to put that knowledge or those skills to work.  So, the final piece of this purpose puzzle can be summarized with one word:  ACT!

If you read the rest of Exodus 36 and chapters 37-39, you'll see that these men completed the work that God called them to do.  Step by step, piece by piece, they followed the directions of the Lord and used their knowledge, skill and passion to perform each task.  Verse 43 of chapter 39 tells us, And Moses did look upon all the work, and, behold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded, even so had they done it: and Moses blessed them.

Did you notice that twice in that one verse it says, "they had done it"?  They didn't just think about it.  They did more than plan for it or envision it.  They did the work.  They completed the job.  They put their knowledge, skill and passion to the test, and God wants us to do the same.  He not only wants us to find our purpose, but He also wants us to live out that purpose.  What good is the knowledge if we don't put it to use?  Who cares how talented you are if you're unwilling to use those talents for God's glory?  Don't just know; do!

This principle is repeated elsewhere in the Bible.  For example, James 1:22 says, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  And Philippians 4:9 tells us, Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

You've heard; now do.  You've seen; now do.  You've received; now do.  You've learned; now do.  Don't squander what God has given you.  Use it!  God gave you that knowledge, skill and passion for a reason, but you'll never know that reason if you don't act.

So, what are you waiting for?  Time is short, and believe it or not, the world needs you.  It needs you to be exactly what God has called you to be.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  It's time to be the best version of yourself--one committed to God's purpose and plan!

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Finding Your Purpose in Life, Part Three

In a couple of previous posts, we covered the first two steps to determining your purpose in life. To boil it down, we discussed how God will give you both the knowledge and the skill to perform the tasks to which He has called you. I saw an excellent example of this in the devotion book I was reading this morning. The author put it like this: "If I gave you some wood, a saw, a hammer and some nails, you would know that I want you to build something. If I gave you several cans of paint and a variety of paintbrushes, you would understand that I wanted you to paint something. It's the same way with the things that God gives us. We need to examine the knowledge and skills He has given us and determine what He wants us to do with them."

Sometimes, that can still be a bit tricky. After all, as we mentioned earlier, many of us have a range of knowledge in many subjects and quite a number of talents. So, where does that leave us? With so many things to choose from, what exactly is God trying to tell us about our purpose? That's where step three comes into play. Let's go back to our example above. If I gave you wood, a saw, a hammer and some nails, you would know that I want you to build something, but what exactly do I want you to build? It's up to you. What do you want to build? What are you passionate about?

To understand this point further, let's consult our passage of Scripture. Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it. (Exodus 36:1-2)

Today, I want to focus on that last phrase, whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it. To have your heart stirred up is to have passion about something. These men were passionate about the project ahead of them. They were excited about it. They couldn't wait to get started. Maybe you can relate. I know I can. This is exactly how I feel about writing, especially when I'm working on a new project or even nearing the end of a project that I've been working on for some time. My mind is focused on the task, so much so that I have trouble sleeping and eating. I awake in the morning and can't wait to get started. I think about it day in and day out. It's always on my mind. That's what it means to be passionate about something. Yes, there are other things I enjoy and other things that I consider myself good at, but when I boil it all down to what I want to do the most, the answer is simple. I'm a writer, and I want to write!

Some of you may be raising your eyebrows and declaring, "But that's what I want, not what God wants." Who says it can't be both? Why do we have it in our minds that the tasks God wants us to perform have to be unpleasant and undesirable? After all, if He gave us the skill and the knowledge, doesn't it make sense that He would also provide us with the desire? This is where Psalm 37:4 comes into play: Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. This verse is often quoted in support of the theory that if we pray for something, God will give it to us simply because we want it. But that is not what this verse is saying. What it mean is if we delight in the Lord (seek to do His will), He will plant the proper desires in our hearts. So, when it comes to determining your purpose in life, you need only look at the things God has given you and figure out which of those things brings the most joy to your life. Which one gets you the most excited? It's not about money or fame or anything else for that matter. It's about having your heart stirred to perform the task.

Here's the best part about doing something you're passionate about: it doesn't feel like work. Yes, it will probably require a lot of time and effort, but because you're enjoying the process, it seems more like a hobby. That's not to say it won't be difficult at times or that it won't have its ups and downs, but overall, it will be something that will bring you joy time and time again.

We must remember that God has given us free will, and while that does not give us the freedom to do what we want or act how we want, it does mean that He has given us choices to make. If you're seeking His will, He will enable you to find your purpose, and if, for some reason, you get off track, He is both willing and able to lead you back where you need to be. So don't be afraid to take a risk or step out in faith. After all, you'll never find your true purpose if you don't go looking.

Have you found your passion?  Would you like to share it with the other readers?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Finding Your Purpose in Life -- Part Two

Yesterday, we began a discussion on how to find our purpose in life.  Our first point was that if God calls you to a particular task, He will supply the knowledge and education you need to perform it.  Today, I want to talk about skills and talents.

Did you know that there are professional musicians who have never taken a music lesson?  It's true.  It makes me sick, but it's true.  I took piano lessons for maybe eight years, and I can play well enough to make most people believe I actually know what I'm doing.  But, since I never completed my formal training, my skills are limited.  I can only play in certain keys and at certain levels.  I'm not comfortable playing something I've never had the chance to practice, and songs that have all those "weird chords" are not my friend!  I received the education, and while I do have some level of skill or talent, I don't have enough that I feel God wants me to be a professional musician.

My husband is a man of many talents and skills--most of which he has never been formally trained to do.  He amazes me with his ability to fix automobile issues, electrical problems, plumbing disasters and more.  His ingenuity knows no bounds.  He can engineer solutions that I would never dream of.  I cannot tell you how many times I've watched him and asked, "Where in the world did you learn to do all this stuff?"  God taught him.  God placed the "know-how" in him and gave him the understanding to apply that knowledge, just as he did with the men building the tabernacle.

Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it: - Exodus 36:1-2

God has given each of us many skills or talents.  Some are obvious (like playing an instrument) while others (like Jason's handyman skills) often go overlooked or taken for granted.  But we all have something!  Perhaps you're good with numbers, and God is calling you to work for a bank or maybe to be a church treasurer.  Maybe your skill is organization, and God has plans for you to head up the next fundraiser.  Examine your gifts and talents.  What things are you good at?  What things come to you easily?  It's likely that your purpose and calling lie within one of the skills.

I encourage you to take a few moments and jot down every skill or talent you have.  This is no time for modesty.  After all, this really isn't about us.  It's about what God has blessed us with.  Write down everything you can think of and then go back and rate them on the following scale:  Fair, Good, Very Good, Excellent.  Remember, this is not about bragging or being arrogant.  It's about pointing out and recognizing the talents God has given us.  After all, He didn't give us skills so we could squander them.  He gave them so they would be used for His honor and glory. I, for example, would rate my people skills as fair, my musical talents as good, my teaching/speaking skills as very good and my writing as excellent.

How about you?  What do you do well?  Finding the answer to that question will go a long way toward understanding your purpose in life.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Finding Your Purpose in Life -- Part One

Have you ever wondered why you've been placed in the life you've been given?  What's your purpose?  Why are you here?  Does God have a plan for your life, and if so, what is it?

Ultimately, we all have the same purpose in this life--to glorify God.  But in that, God has called and equipped each of us for different tasks.  Some jobs are big and obvious while others seem small and insignificant, but make no mistake, if God called you to it, the task is big and important in His eyes.  For the next few posts, I would like to explain some ways that you can discover your purpose in life, or more specifically, in what ways God wants to use you to further His kingdom and bring glory to His name.

There are many passages in the Bible that we could use, but I can cover each point using a single portion of Scripture.  Exodus 36 details the calling of particular men to oversee the building of the tabernacle.  It was a huge and very specific job, and God picked out a couple of men by name to be the ones in charge and to teach the others what needed to be done.

Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whom the Lord put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the Lord had commanded. And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise hearted man, in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it: - Exodus 36:1-2

First off, we see that God gave these men wisdom.  Chapter 35 also states that they had knowledge.  In basic terms, knowledge is information acquired through experience or education.  Wisdom is the act of putting that knowledge to good use.  These men had both.  God didn't just tell them to build a tabernacle and then leave them on their own to figure out how to do it.  He taught them.  He gave them detailed instructions.  He placed in their hearts everything they would need to know to do the task God had given them to do.

When God calls a person to do something, He will ensure that they have the education and experience they need to see it through.  For missionaries, that may mean giving them the opportunity to attend classes to learn a foreign language.  For teachers, this could include schooling or one-on-one training.  One way or another, God will equip you with the knowledge you need to perform the thing He's called you to do.

For me, my formal education includes a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education.  Guess what?  I haven't taught elementary in eleven years!  Sure, for nine years, I put that education to work, but then God moved me to another task, and you know what?  He arranged for me to be educated in various writing skills and techniques.  Not only that, but I still use much of the knowledge I obtained in my college classes even though I'm not pursuing that vocation anymore.  I use my teaching techniques every week when I stand before my Sunday School class, even though the students are adults rather than children.  My purpose is to teach and encourage others through writing, speaking, teaching, music and more.  God has given me the knowledge I need to do these things, and He is continuing to meet that need by giving me the ability to learn more about my craft and ministry every day.

The first step in finding your calling is to look at the areas in which you have knowledge or the desire to gain knowledge.  Does science fascinate you?  How about history?  Do you love to take stuff apart simply to figure out how it works?  What kind of things do you know or want to know?  This will give you a good idea of how God is preparing you for the work He has for you.  Lord willing, we'll talk about the next step tomorrow.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Paving the Way for Others

As I've mentioned before, I live within walking distance of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, which is a twenty-mile run of paved trails built on retired train tracks.  Obviously, I don't walk all twenty miles of it, but most mornings, I do a prayer walk that ranges from three to four miles.  To get to the trail, I need only walk to the end of my road, take a right, follow that street for a short distance, then turn left at the steep driveway for a manufacturing plant.  The driveway itself turns right at the bottom of the hill, but when I continue going straight through a small batch of bushes and other foliage, I arrive at the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Before you accuse me of trespassing, the manufacturing company has no problem with this use of their driveway, and many others use this shortcut to get to the trail.  The issue in the summer is that the small bush and foliage area between the driveway and the trail can get severely overgrown.  This results in briars, thick leaves, and various critters that love the woody atmosphere.  It's not uncommon for me to fight through that area and come out on the other side wet (from the dew) and scratched all to pieces.  It's rather annoying, to be honest.

Anyway, this morning, when I arrived at the "war zone," I immediately noticed that some kind soul had trimmed back all the weeds and bushes, clearing a nice path for walkers like me.  I couldn't contain my smile or the words that tumbled from my mouth, "Thank you, trail people!"  If the person/people who did it was/were standing there, I would have probably hugged them.  I would want them to know how much I appreciated their efforts.  It made my morning, both coming and going.

You know, we have the opportunity each day to do the same for others.  I'm not talking about weedeating necessarily, but I'm referring to paving a trail for others to follow.  Think about it, someone else did all the work, but I had the privilege of reaping the rewards.  It cost someone else time and effort, and in return, I got the opportunity to continue my walk unhindered.  We can do the same.

When we learn from our mistakes, we can teach others so that they can avoid making the same mistakes we did.  When we receive comfort, we can pass that comfort on to others in their time of need.  When we go out of our way to do something for others, knowing that the only thing we'll get in return is the satisfaction of knowing that we made someone's day a little brighter and their journey a little easier.

I'm reminded of the valley of Baca.  Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. (Psalm 84:5-6)  The man passing through the valley doesn't dig the wells for his sake but rather for the benefit of all those who will follow in his wake.  He does the work, and others reap the rewards.  Why?  Because it's the right thing to do.  Because it's what he would hope someone would do for him.  Because it's an outpouring of the fruit of the Spirit.  Kindness.  Compassion.  Love.

My challenge for you today is two-fold.  First off, I encourage you to look for ways to pave the path for others.  Share your knowledge, wisdom, experience, funds, etc.  Find the means to encourage those around you and to help bear the load of fellow runners in this race we call life.  Second, don't forget to thank those who have been that trailblazer in your life.  Too often, we take for granted what others do for us when we should be offering thanks.  Give a hug.  Or a smile.  Someone has taken the time and effort to pave the way for you so that your journey would be a little easier.  Don't they at least deserve some gratitude?

Enough said.  Let's get busy blazing some trails!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Is It Okay To Be Angry at God?

That's a loaded question, isn't it?  Should we be angry at God?  The short answer is, "No, we shouldn't because to do so is an implication that He has done something wrong."  However, things are not always as cut and dry.  While we know in our hearts that God does nothing wrong, when He doesn't live up to our expectations, we feel He has let us down.  Deep down, there's a brewing resentment that's muttering, "Some loving God!  You obviously don't even care enough about me to fix this situation or answer my prayers."

When I say this conversation takes place deep down, there's a reason for that.  We're ashamed to admit that we're mad at God.  After all, what kind of Christian gets angry with the holy God?  So, we keep our anger to ourselves and think we've overcome the problem, but the truth is, the anger is still there, and as long as it's there, it's hindering our relationship with God.

So, what are we to do?  Obviously, the best thing would be not to get angry with God to begin with, but as humans, we often fall prey to our emotions.  So, then what?  When the anger is there, and we feel we can't even pray--or maybe don't want to pray--what should we do?

First, admit it!  It's a hard thing to accept.  I know; I've been there.  But until we admit that we're angry at God, we're not going to make things any better.  We can't avoid the issue and hope it will go away. It won't.  It will be there until we address it, and the first step is admitting those feelings, no matter how guilty they make us feel.

Secondly, we need to talk to God.  This sounds simple, but let's face it, when we're mad at someone, the last thing we want to do is speak to them, right?  However, if we want the issue resolved, it's the only way.  Go to God and tell Him exactly how you feel.  Yes, you read that right.  Tell God that you're angry at Him.  Tell Him why you're upset.  Pour out your feelings in every detail.  Don't be rude or disrespectful, but be honest.  Hold nothing back.  I assure you, God is big enough to handle it.  Besides, He already knows what's going on.  He's fully aware of our anger, so our confession will not be a surprise to Him.  But once we open up those lines of communication again, healing can begin.

Lastly, we need to listen.  Okay, we've had our say.  We've laid out our feelings and complaints.  Now, it's God's turn to talk.  He may speak to us in His still, small voice, but typically, in times like these, He speaks to us through His Word.  You know what that means, right?  We have to read it!  Once we've admitted our anger and laid it out before the Lord, it's time to sit down with our Bible and hear what God has to say to us.  He may speak an explanation or answer a prayer right then and there.  Or He may give us words of comfort and encouragement to help us through.  Sometimes, the words He gives are reminders of just how much He loves and cares for us.

When we first start reading, our anger and bitterness may prevent us from hearing what God is saying.  In this case, we need to decide that we will allow Him to speak.  He listened to us.  It's our turn to listen.  We must actively cast aside all negative feelings and turn our full attention to God's Word.  When the feelings resurface (and I can almost guarantee you they will), tell yourself aloud, "No, I am not giving myself the freedom to address my anger and hard feelings right now.  This is God's time to speak, and I will listen."  Then, go back to reading until you hear from God.

Is it okay to be angry with God?  Not really, but it happens.  A lot.  Far more than I think we care to admit.  But we need to admit it.  Only then can we open up the door to resolving the issue at hand.  In the end, you'll be glad you did.

I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not.  O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. - Lamentations 3:55-58

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help? - Part Nine (Repost)

Well, we've reached the end of our study on the Wonder Woman/Superman Complex, and you know what?  I'm starting to recognize and identify some of my actions based on our recent lessons.  Just this morning, I refused my husband's offer to walk the dogs.  The truth is that I really wanted him to because if he did, I could have my own personal prayer walk without feeling guilty about not taking the dogs along.  But I could tell that he wasn't really in the mood to walk them which meant (in my mind) that the dogs wouldn't get as good a walk as they would if I took them myself.  Before I reached the end of my street, I realized what I had done and smacked myself in the head.

The bad news is that I'm still battling the complex.  The good news is that I'm finally beginning to recognize and identify the symptoms.  Progress is being made.  It's slow progress, but it's progress nonetheless.  So, let's dive into our last question and see what other symptom(s) we may bring to light.

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #9 -Do you accept additional responsibilities when you know your plate is already full?

In other words, do you struggle with that dirty little word "no"?  Maybe because you don't want to let others down.  Or perhaps you feel that if you don't do it, it won't get done.  Or it's possible you may fear others thinking less of you if you don't fulfill their wishes.  Or maybe it's a combination of all of the above with a few other reasons sprinkled in.  Whatever the case, you take on more and more, causing yourself new levels of stress and exhaustion.  Ever been there?

Sometimes I feel like I live there; however, I must admit that I've been getting better.  I finally reached a point where I realized that I can't be everything to everyone.  There's not enough of me to go around, and God has given me my own responsibilities and priorities.

Does that mean we should never do anything for others?  Absolutely not.  The Bible encourages us to help each other out.  Helping people is one thing.  Do something for others that they are not willing to do themselves is a different story entirely.  There's an old saying that goes something like this:  If you need something done, don't ask those who aren't doing anything.  Ask those who are doing everything, for then you can be assured that it will get done.  Sad, but true.  The problem is that those people who are doing everything will eventually burn out and/or grow bitter with their load.  Then what?

Just because someone asks us to do something does not mean that it's God's will for us to comply.  Before agreeing to take on another task, let's spend some time with the Lord and get His opinion on the matter.  He may want us to assist that person, or He may want us to focus on the tasks He's already assigned us.  If we allow Him to direct us, we'll find it easier to say "no" without feeling guilty.  After all, there's no reason for remorse if we're following the will of the Lord.

But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. - Galatians 6:4-5

Monday, June 5, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help - Part Eight (Repost)

We're winding down.  Only two more questions to go.  So how are you doing so far?  Have your confirmed whether or not you suffer from the Wonder Woman/Superman Complex?

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #8:  Do you make tasks more difficult than is necessary?

Oh dear!  All the perfectionists just cringed.  Yes, this is a tricky one, for it's all about balance.  The Bible tells us that we should do all things to the glory of God, and there's no doubt that this command implies that we should do our absolute best.  God is not satisfied with our half-hearted efforts and our thought patterns of "Well, it's good enough."  We should always strive to do our best, no matter the task.

On the other hand, in our attempts to do our best, we can sometimes tip the scale to the other extreme.  Instead of just printing out the Sunday School handouts, we insist on finding the perfect font and printing the pages on colored paper with appropriate designs.  Instead of singing the song to the best of our ability, we insist on mimicking the "star" who has all the right flair and inflection.  Instead of creating a home atmosphere of comfort and relaxation, we buzz about in a flurry of activity to ensure every pillow is fluffed and the last dust bunnies are rounded up. (Obviously, I don't struggle much with this one.  My house is a dust bunny asylum.)

Do you know what I'm talking about?  Perfectionists do.  We excel at turning molehills into mountains and simple tasks into large, time-consuming projects.  We go far beyond our best, never satisfied with what we've accomplished.  And sadly, in our attempt to do things for the glory of God, we lose sight of Him entirely.  Instead, we become focused on doing things to the best (and beyond) for our own satisfaction and peace of mind.  We become obsessed with doing more, being better and reaching new heights.

As you can imagine, when we reach that level, we're no longer acting in God's strength, but our own.  When we had the right heart and motives, God was with us, helping us until the point where we shoved Him away so that we could show Him what we were really capable of.  Yes, God was still there, but as far as we were concerned, He wasn't.  We were paying Him no heed, and we certainly weren't allowing Him to work through us.  No, pride had stepped in once again and consumed us.

I'll be the first to admit that it's a precarious balance to find and hold, and I'm still struggling with it.  I want to always put forth my best effort and never be satisfied with "good enough," but on the other hand, when God says, "That's enough," I want to be so in tune with Him that I both hear and obey.  One thing is for certain, it would save me a lot of wasted time, energy and strength.  How about you?

Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. - Hebrews 13:20-21

Friday, June 2, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help - Part Seven (Repost)

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #7 - Have you ever turned down an offer for help but then complained about the task and the unwillingness of others to aid you?

To quote Winnie the Pooh, "Oh, bother!"  I fear that, once again, I must plead guilty.  I don't know why I do it, but I know that I do it often.  Perhaps, I feel the task will be a simple one, but once I get into it, I realize it's not as simple as I first thought, but then I don't want to go back and ask for help after I declined the initial offer.  Or maybe, it's that Wonder Woman Complex that spurs me to turn down the offers of help and then complain about my lot in life.  I don't know what it is, but I know who it reminds me of--Martha.

But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. - Luke 10:40

If Martha's actions had been accompanied by a soundtrack (like in the movies), I think it would have sounded a little like this:  "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen.  Nobody knows my sorrow."  Poor Martha.  Cumbered about with much serving.  But honestly, who's choice was that?  Martha's, right?  No one asked her to make such a fuss.  No one told her she had to do it all alone.  No one forced Martha to play Wonder Woman.  It was Martha's choice, and while I believe she had good intentions, her attitude wreaked of bitterness.

Like Martha, we often feel we can do it all or go it alone until frustration and exhaustion start to set in.  Then, watch out!  Our attitudes turn sour, and our thoughts turn negative.  Our delight in serving turns to duty, and our joy flies south.  Sure, we may accomplish the task at hand, but at what cost?  How about if we let Jesus answer that one.

And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her. - Luke 10:41-42

May I spell that out for you in today's vernacular?   "Martha, you need to chill out.  You're working yourself to death trying to accomplish your goals, but you're missing out on what's really needful.  You're leaving me out of the process.  You're trying to act in your own strength, and it costs you your health, your energy, your testimony and your sanity."

Sound familiar?  Not only are we guilty of turning down the help of other people and then complaining, but we're also guilty of doing the same thing with the Lord.  "No thanks, God.  I've got this one."  Then, when everything falls apart, we cry, "Where are you, God?  How could you let this happen?"  Fickle, aren't we?

It's high time we accept the fact that we can't do it all and willingly accept the help of others, especially the Lord.  Just think, if Martha had asked for help instead of complaining, perhaps she would have finished sooner and with a better attitude.  Her acceptance of aid could have provided more time for worship.  Ours could do the same.  How about it?  Will you spend the day in frustration and complaints or in acceptance and worship?

Choose wisely, for much depends on it.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help - Part Six (Repost)

Wonder Woman/ Superman Complex Test:

Questions #6 - Do you set unrealistic demands on your time, talent and/or strength?

Do I?  You have no idea!  I take the title "Great Expectations" to all new levels.  Each day, I create of list of what I want to accomplish.  The list includes work tasks such as blogging, article writing, working on my current book, editing and so on.  It also includes house chores such as dishes, laundry, sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, running errands and the like.  Daily routines like devotion time, exercise and taking care of the dog grace the list.  As do various other tasks such as choosing and practicing offertories for church, preparing my weekly Sunday School lesson, creating lesson plans for the college class I teach, etc.   Before the day begins, the list is full.  Unfortunately, I rarely, if ever, complete everything on my list.

Why?  Well, maybe because I'm not Wonder Woman.  I don't have the time or the energy to fulfill all the obligations I impose on myself.  And it seems that when I have one (time or energy), I lack the other.  In short, at the end of the day, I find myself exhausted and frustrated because I feel like I haven't accomplished anything.  I set myself up to fail.

The dangerous part is that my actions open my heart and mind to attacks from Satan.  A weary soldier doesn't put up much of a fight.  And a discouraged warrior wants nothing more than to drop everything and go back to bed.  My unrealistic expectations lead me to view myself as a failure, and Satan is quick to second the motion.  And once he has a foothold, I'm in big trouble!

Having goals is good.  It's wonderful to be prepared.  There's nothing wrong with having a daily schedule or a to-do list.  The problem comes when we forsake all else to accomplish everything on that list.   The plan becomes our god, and we live only to serve it.  And in the process, life is stripped of joy, and our bodies are stripped of energy.  It's too much!  God never intended for us to try to conquer the world in a day.  And when we do, we're not following His will for our lives.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. - Philippians 2:13

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help, Part Five (Repost)

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #5 - Have you ever damaged yourself or something else in your attempt to act alone?

Oh boy!  I can recall several hikes where I charged ahead, instead of allowing Jason to take the lead, and ended up on my rear and in great pain.  I slipped on a rock.  I tripped over a root.  A stone crumbled or rolled from underneath my foot.  I stepped in a hole.  Trust me, I've done them all.  But typically only when I wander into uncharted territory.

Then, of course, there are the times I've dropped and broken something because it was too heavy for me to carry.  Or the time I put a hole in the wall while trying to hammer in a small nail to hang a picture.  Oh, and I cannot forget the time I set the vacuum cleaner on fire while trying to vacuum up the mess around the wood stove (evidently, there were some hot embers in the mix).

All of these incidents could have been avoided if only I had asked or waited for help.  But I didn't want to ask, and I had grown tired of waiting.  So, I decided to take matters into my own hands.  And I made a mess.

I wish I could say that my fumbles ended there, but I'm afraid they've breached into my spiritual life as well.  Headstrong in my abilities and weary of waiting on God to make His move, I've charged ahead only to find myself on my backside.  I've taken matters into my own hands only to discover that I ended up with a bigger mess than I had begun with.  I've hurt myself.  I've damaged my testimony.  I've hurt others.  And all because I wanted things done my way and in my timing.

Oh, Lord, will we ever learn?

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord. - Psalm 27:14

Monday, May 29, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help? - Part Four (Repost)

Are you ready for the next question? Have you determined whether you suffer from the Wonder Woman/Superman Complex? Let's continue the test and see what else is brought to light.

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #4 - Does the thought of asking for help make you uneasy?

In my case, I'm especially bad about not wanting to ask for help from my husband. After he gets home from a long, hard day at work, the last thing I want to do is to ask him to help me with dinner or with the house chores. I try to justify this hesitation by arguing that although I've worked all day too, his work was physical while mine was mental and emotional (writing will take it out of you). That being the case, surely, I have more energy than he does for the physical tasks of the evening.

Unfortunately, Jason has a tendency to get so focused on some task or hobby that he becomes oblivious to everything that's going on around him. So, as I buzz from place to place, trying to juggle the housework, taking care of the dog and fixing dinner, that seed of bitterness pops up and grows at an alarming rate. I can't believe the man who loves me so much won't lift a finger to help me, but at the same time, I'm too proud to ask for his help. In fact, I argued myself out of asking for help. It's not Jason's fault. He's told me on more than one occasion that if I need help, all I have to do is ask. All? I fear that's much more difficult than it sounds.

An older lady in my Sunday School class confessed that she hates to ask for help because she fears people will think she's getting too old to accomplish simple tasks. She values her independence and doesn't want to lose it because others feel she's incapable of caring for herself.

I see her point, but I'm afraid it can still be traced back to the same root: pride. We don't want others to think less of us or to think poorly of us. We feel we have to prove ourselves to others. We rationalize our behavior, but the truth is that we're too proud to admit we need help.

In our relationship with the Lord, we sometimes feel uneasy asking for help for various reasons. For one, we feel that our problems are too small for the Almighty God to bother with. I mean, seriously, does the all-powerful God care if the toilet is clogged or if I have a headache? Actually, yes, He does, but we forget that. I know, too, that I often feel hesitant coming to God with something because I feel like I've already asked for too much or asked for the same thing too many times. How many times does the Lord want to hear me cry about the pain of my bursitis or about tough financial situations? How often does He want to hear me call to Him and cry out, "Lord, I'm overwhelmed again"? As often as it takes.

It's time we take God out of that neat little box we've placed Him in and allow Him to be the God He is. Yes, He is mighty and all-powerful. But He's also loving and caring. He is our Counselor. Do you know what counselors do? They listen to people's problems and help them find solutions. That's what God wants to do for us, but He can't help us if we're unwilling to take our matters before Him.

As I've been typing, the song, "Does Jesus Care," has been playing in the back of my mind. "Oh, yes, He cares; I know He cares. His heart is touched with my grief. When the days are weary, the long nights dreary, I know my Savior cares." It's true. He cares. No matter how big or small the problem may be. No matter how many times you've dragged that same burden before Him. No matter how others may perceive the situation. Jesus knows how if affects each of us, and He cares.

We can't blame God for not helping if we're not asking. Go to Him today. Pour out your heart. Lay down your burdens. And accept help from the Counselor. He won't think any less of you. I can promise you that!

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. - Isaiah 49:13

Friday, May 26, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help - Part Three (Repost)

It's time to continue our test, so hold tight and remember, be honest.  The truth shall set you free.

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #3 - Do you feel you need to perform certain tasks regularly to win favor or approval?

In other words, are there things you do, not because you want to or feel led by the Lord to do, but rather you do them so that others will think better of you?  At first, I thought I wasn't really guilty of this one, but then the Lord brought to my mind how often I compare myself, my home and my talents with others.  He reminded me of how, just the other day, a friend was meeting me at my house so that we could walk together on the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  I was happy for her to come over, but a quick glance around my house told me that my house was not in the proper state for company.  I forsook my writing tasks for the day and spent the entire day straightening, sweeping, dusting and scrubbing bathrooms.  I just knew my friend was going to judge me by the condition of my house, and I couldn't bear the thought.

We know that God is not the author of confusion, and He likes all things to be done decently and in order.  However, what's in order for me may not be in order for someone else.  I admit, in most areas, I am a perfectionist; however, when it comes to keeping house, I get pretty lax.  With an indoor/outdoor dog and our crazy schedules of coming and going, it just takes far too much effort to keep everything spotless.  So, I don't even try. . . until I know company is coming.

The craziest thing about my recent behavior is that the lady who was coming over has to be the sweetest person on earth.  She is kind and mild-tempered.  I've never heard her speak an ill word of anyone.  She loves the Lord, and that love shines through in everything she does.  Why was I afraid of her?  We've been friends for over fifteen years.  Did I think she was going to ditch me or think poorly of me because there were dust bunnies on my floor and dog hair on my furniture?  How silly is that?

The fact of the matter is that if we have to perform certain tasks or act a certain way to impress others or win their approval, they're really not worth our time and effort.  I'm sorry.  I know that sounds harsh, but it's the truth.  If they're not willing to accept us as we are, they're not very good friends, are they?  A true friend accepts you, dirty house and all.  We live different lives and have different priorities.  It's time we acknowledge that and move on.  Stop comparing ourselves to others and be satisfied with who God created us to be.  My mom and dad both have the clean house gene.  They passed it on to my sister, but evidently, she got all there was because my brother and I seem to have missed out on that one.  But you know what?  That's okay.  My parents don't love me any less because I haven't mopped the floors in. . . well, I don't remember how long it's been.

And God doesn't love me any less either.  He wants me to be me and to stop pretending I have everything under control.  He wants me to accept my weaknesses and bring them to Him, not try to fix them or cover them up on my own.  He desires to work through me, but He can't do that when I keep getting in the way.

Good grief!  We've only covered three questions, and I'm not scoring well.  How about you?  We're one-third of the way through the test.  Maybe things will get better. . . but I wouldn't count on it!

And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. - Colossians 3:23-24

Thursday, May 25, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help? - Part Two (Repost)

A couple of days ago, I introduced you to the Wonder Woman/Superman Complex and asked you the first question to help you determine whether or not you suffer from this serious illness.  If you missed that post, you can read it here.  Today, I'd like to move right into the next question.  Are you ready?

Wonder Woman/Superman Complex Test:

Question #2 - Do you ever perform a task unaided because you feel it will only be done correctly if you do it?

Gulp!  I have to be honest--this one hit me right between the eyes.  I'm a bit of a power freak.  Not because I like the praise or the glory, but because I like things to be done right.  I am of the mindset that if you're going to do something, you ought to do it to the best of your ability.  Well, actually, that's not entirely accurate.  I'm afraid it goes beyond that.  It's more like this:  if you're going to do something, you ought to do it to the best of MY ability. . . and in the way I would do it. . . and to my precise specifications. . . and in my time frame. . . and. . . and. . .and.  Do you see the problem?  I often don't ask for help because I want things done a specific way, and I know that someone else won't do it that way, so I'd just rather do it myself.

The big problem is that this attitude towards other people tends to spill over into my relationship with God.  I often don't ask God for help because I fear the help He gives won't be the kind I want.  I want Him to work things out my way and in my timeframe.  If He's not willing to do that, then I go off and try to do things myself.  Rather than wait for His perfect will, I settle for what I think is best at the time.  I do things my way.

Notice the pride again?  Just like in the first question, pride is the root here.  It's all about what I want and what I think should be done.  Me, me, me.  What about my needs?  My desires?  My ambitions?  What about me?  Sounds a bit like a toddler's tantrum, doesn't it?  Unfortunately, that's how we often act--like spoiled, selfish brats!

Are you feeling overwhelmed today because you refuse to let go of tasks that could be delegated to others?  Are you feeling weighed down by situations that you refuse to hand over to God because you fear He won't work things out according to your plan?  If so, I urge you to let go.  Release those burdens.  Share those responsibilities.  Lean on others for support, but more importantly, lean on God and trust that He will take care of you.  Get your eyes off of yourself for a little while and take a look around you.  You may be amazed at what you see!

 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. - I Peter 5:6-7

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

From Whence Cometh My Help? -- A Repost

Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul. - Psalm 54:4

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. - Psalm 46:1

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. - Hebrews 13:6

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. - Isaiah 41:10

These are just a few of the many verses in the Bible that speak of God our help.  I think the Bible makes it pretty clear that God is both willing and able to help us no matter what the need.  Physical.  Spiritual.  Emotional.  Mental.  Relational.  Financial.  Circumstantial.  It doesn't matter.  God is able to take care of it.  He is there, standing ready to offer us aid no matter what we face.  Willing and able to provide what we need, although not necessarily what we want.  Yes, we can stand and shout it from the housetops, God is our help!

There is a problem though.  Not on God's part, mind you, but on ours.  Yes, it is true that God is both willing and able to help us, but the fact of the matter is that many times we're not willing to accept His help.  Why?  Well, there are many reasons, but I like to group them together in one main problem which I like to call The Wonder Woman Complex (or Superman Complex if you're a guy).  The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex says I can do it.  I don't need help.  I'm in control.  If anyone tries to help me juggle all these balls, I'll just end up dropping them, so I'm better off doing it myself.  Sound familiar?

I'd like to spend the next few posts describing some of the attributes of  The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex.  Think of it as a test of sorts to see if you fall into this trap.  But be warned, you may want to wear your steel-toed boots for the next few posts, for your toes are likely to be tread upon.  Nevertheless, the Bible instructs us to speak the truth in love, and after discovering that I suffered from The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex, I felt compelled to help others discover the truth about this flaw and mindset.  The first step to a solution is to admit there's a problem, right?  Well, let's find out.  Shall we?  In fact, let's dive right into the first question of The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex quiz.

Question #1: Do you ever perform a task unaided because you feel you do not need assistance?

"I'm quite capable of performing this task."
"I don't need any help."
"What will others think if I ask them to help?  I'm too old?  Too feeble?  Too weak?"

I'm not talking about a certain degree of independence or self-sufficiency here.  I'm talking about crossing the line to pride.  I can do.  I don't need help.  I... I...I.  Do you notice a trend? Whether we're trying to prove something to ourselves or to others, we shrug off everything but our pride and set off to accomplish the task at hand.  The Bible assures us that we can do all things through Christ who strengthen us, but when we're acting in pride, we're not acting in Christ's strength.  We're acting in our own.  He's offering aid, and we're basically saying, "No thanks, Lord.  I can handle this one."  Hmm, that is definitely starting to sound familiar, isn't it?

The first step in overcoming The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex is to chunk the pride.  It's not doing us any good.  It's only causing us to spin our wheels while accomplishing nothing.  Not only that, but it's flat out sin.  It's wrong!  It's something that God hates! (Proverbs 6:16)  We are nothing in and of ourselves.  We need God!  We need His help whether we realize it or not.  The sooner we admit that, the better off we'll be.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. - Psalm 121:2-2

Join me tomorrow as we explore a few more parts of The Wonder Woman/Superman Complex.  
And remember, wear your good shoes!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Do I Have Egg on My Face?

This morning, I was fixing a simple breakfast which included scrambled eggs.  As I smacked the first egg on the edge of the counter, it didn't crack.  I smacked it harder and a small crack appeared.  After the third whack on the counter, the shell finally broke.  "Man," I said to myself, "that was a hard shell."  The second egg was exactly the same. It took three tries to break the silly thing.  By the third egg, I had learned my lesson.  I forcefully whacked the egg, the shell breaking into a million pieces and egg running everywhere.  The shell of the third egg was paper thin.  It would have broken under a mild squeeze.

I see a couple of valuable lessons in this story. (Hey, at least something good can come from the mess I made.)  First off, how often are we like the first two eggs with shells that seem impenetrable?  How many times does God have to "smack us on the counter" before we'll break?  You see, while God does want what's best for us, sometimes that requires us to first reach a place of brokenness.  But like the eggs, we don't want to be broken.  We don't want to release everything that we've been keeping inside.  We're fearful of the change that will take place once we're broken.  And so, we resist.

The second thing I took away from the morning mess was a reminder of Proverbs 3:5:  Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  This morning, I was leaning on my own understanding, and it led to disaster.  Through my flawed thinking, I assumed that since the first two eggs had been difficult to crack, the third would be the same way.  It wasn't.  I made a decision based on faulty conclusions just like I often do in life.  I study the situation and act in a way that makes sense to me.  The problem is that God's ways don't always make sense, and because of that, I often ignore them and go about things the way I see fit.  The result?  You guessed it -- egg everywhere!

If you think about it, the two lessons actually go together rather well.  If we're trusting in the Lord and not leaning on our own understanding, we won't be so hard-shelled to begin with.  We'll allow the Lord to break us because we'll trust that He knows best.  So what's it going to be -- trust in the Lord or egg on the face. . .and the counter. . .and the floor. . .?

***Excerpt from Daily Discussions of a Doubting Disciple***

Friday, May 19, 2017

Are Rules Made To Be Broken?

I love that I live within walking distance of the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  It's an ideal place (though sometimes a bit busy for my liking) for my morning prayer walks.  The trail stretches on for miles in either direction, so I can walk however long or far I choose on any given day.  Yes, it's a wonderful thing.

That being said, there are some who could use a good course in trail etiquette.  For example, if you're riding a bicycle and coming up behind someone,  you should make that person aware of your presence rather than speed past them and cause them to wet their pants.  Seriously, people!  But the one that really perturbs me is the "no passing" sections.  There are places where the trail zigs and zags or snakes around an obstacle.  In these areas, it is difficult and sometimes even impossible to see oncoming traffic.  For this reason, the "trail people" (I'm sure they have an official title, but I'm not sure what it is), have gone to great lengths to ensure the safety of all trail users.

They began by painting lines along the length of the trail.  A dotted yellow line means it's safe to pass while a solid yellow line indicates a no passing zone.  Sounds familiar, right?  Those lines might as well be invisible.  I could count on one hand how many people actually slow down and wait their turn rather than passing through those areas.  On the contrary, I cannot tell you how many times I've been run off the trail because someone attempted to pass, swerved to avoid oncoming traffic, and literally bumped me right off the trail.  How rude!

Obviously, I wasn't the only one who noticed this behavior because, before long, there were instructions painted on the trail itself at the start of these "no pass zones."  The instructions were clear and direct:  "Stay Right."  The letters are big and bold, impossible to miss.  But has it done any good?  Nope!  Lastly, they put up a series of signs warning trail users of the dangers ahead and to wait their turn rather than passing.  Still, the rules are ignored and people zip past, not caring whom they may run into or knock off the trail.  It infuriates me!

Honestly, I have to wonder if these people are as unwilling to follow the rules of the road as they are the rules of the trail.  If so, it's no surprise there are as many accidents as there are.  Why can't people understand that rules are there to help us and to keep us safe?  Furthermore, why don't they seem to realize that the rules of the land are not multiple choice?  They must all be obeyed, or there will be chaos.

Sadly though, we all do the same thing from time to time.  We're all guilty of committing those "little sins," you know, the ones we think don't really matter.  Going a few miles over the speed limit.  Overeating.  Telling a white lie.  Going home early from work a few days a week.  Omitting our daily time with God.  They're not big things like murder or rape or adultery, so they're not big deals, right?  Oh, so wrong!

Every sin is a big deal to God.  If all we ever did were those things we consider "little sins," Jesus would still have had to die for them.  Sin is sin!  There is no little or big.  So, when God tells us to do something, we ought to do it.  Otherwise, there is punishment for us, and it could cause someone else great harm.  Think about it this way, our failure to obey God in the "little things" could result in someone else getting pushed off the trail.  What trail?  The trail to truth.  The trail to eternal life.  When others see us claiming to be Christians but disobeying God's Word, they will likely turn away.  Why would they want that kind of faith?  Our disobedience in the "little things" could be leading others astray.

We must be careful and be on guard.  No sin is too small.  Each one cost Jesus His life.  And each one can serve as a hindrance in our ministry of leading others to Him.  Let's follow the guidelines set forth in the Bible and do our best to practice trail etiquette each and every day.  Other travelers will be grateful, and God will be pleased!

Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge, and his statutes, and his judgments, and his commandments, alway. - Deuteronomy 11:1

Thursday, May 18, 2017

When the Best Doesn't Feel Good

A week and a half ago, while on my prayer walk, I heard the pitiful cries of a dog coming from the bottom of a deep ravine.  Unable to resist an animal in distress, I investigated and discovered that the whining was coming from a puppy who was stuck and couldn't climb up the steep bank.  Unfazed by snakes, bugs, poison ivy and whatever else may have been lurking in the overgrowth, I climbed (and slid) down the hill and rescued the terrified canine.

Once back on the road, I had to decide what to do with the poor thing.  My first thought was to keep him.  He was so cute and precious, and I could feel myself getting attached to him with every step.  I got him home, gave him some milk (which he promptly devoured) and set up a little bed in a box for him until I could figure out what to do.  As much as I wanted to keep him, I knew it wasn't in his best interest or ours.  We're too busy to train a puppy right now.  Besides that, Mitch has been the only dog in the house for nearly a year and a half, and I'm not sure how he would react to having to share his attention again.  No, I knew in my heart that the best thing to do was to take him to the animal shelter.

The problem was that the nearest shelter didn't accept strays until noon.  It was 9:30.  That gave me way too much time to grow attached to this adorable bundle of joy.  So, I put him in the box with a pillow and blanket and did my best to ignore him.  He got comfortable and stayed put, barely making a sound, but he watched me intently.  When noon finally arrived, I dug up every ounce of resolve I could muster and made my way to the shelter.

Of course, this would be the day they were swamped.  There was nothing for me to do but to wait my turn, all the while holding and comforting the scared pup.  Before long, he had calmed to the point that he was nearly asleep on my shoulder.  Passersby commented, "You should keep him" and "He's fallen in love with you."  They weren't helping!!!!  I was having the hardest time staying in that line.  I wanted to turn around and leave.  I wanted to take that sweet thing home and show him just how wonderful life could be.  But I had to do what was best, and while I knew we would offer that puppy more love than he could handle, it was not the best thing for any of us.  So, with tear-filled eyes and a heavy heart, I finally handed him over and walked away.

It broke my heart to do it.  I'm still haunted by it.  Yet I have no doubt that I did the right thing, the best thing.  Now, if I could only be sure that little puppy understood that too.

Friend, it gives God no pleasure to do things that seem unfair or hurtful to us.  He takes no joy in seeing us writhe in frustration or confusion.  But because of His great love, He will always do what's best for us.  It may not seem best at the time.  It may not even seem good.  But God sees and understands what we don't, just as I saw and understood what the puppy couldn't.  He knows what's best, not only for us but for all those around us.  He has a perfect plan, and while it is painful at times, He has promised that they are not plans of evil or ill intent (Jeremiah 29:11).  He is busy working all things for our good, and I believe sometimes it pains Him as much as it pains us.  But because He is good, He will always do what's right.  And we can trust in that, no matter how difficult the day may be.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. - Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Facing Regret

Very few days go by when someone doesn't stop me on the walking trail to comment about my red hair.  Fortunately, all of the comments so far have been nice ones, and oddly enough, the majority of the compliments come from older gentlemen.

This morning was no different.  A man about the age of my dad pulled up behind me on his bicycle and confided, "I hated my red hair every day of my life until it all fell out, and now I'd do anything to have it back."  He chatted with me a bit more, then road off, hollering back over his shoulder, "I love your hair.  It's beautiful!"  I called out, "Actually, I like it too!"

His comment stuck with me as I continued my morning walk, and I wondered how often I'm guilty of the same thing.  How often do I complain about something that might one day be taken away from me, leaving me full of regret and an immense desire to have that very thing back?  I admit, it was convicting.

We, as Christians, should be the most thankful people in the world, and we shouldn't let a day go by that we don't thank the Lord for all His many blessings.  In fact, we should even thank Him for the things that we don't like about our lives because they may be blessings in disguise.  That job that sucks the life out of us.  That task that we dread doing every day.  Those extra pounds that don't seem to want to find another home.  The red hair.  The green eyes.  The freckles.  The wrinkles.  The cellulite.  We look at these things and turn up our noses in disgust, but is that the proper response?  Will we one day discover that what we had wasn't so bad and the alternative is unthinkable?  Like the gentleman I met this morning would say, "Red hair is better than no hair."

My point?  Instead of complaining about things, how about we live each day with an attitude of gratitude?  If the thing we don't like is something we could (and should) fix, like weight issues or bad habits, then we ought to work on it through the power of Christ.  But if it's simply the way God made us or something that He has provided for us, let us be grateful instead of griping.   We are blessed.  Let's make sure we act like it!

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. - I Thessalonians 5:18

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Whitewater Rafting, Part Seven

Today will be the last post in the whitewater rafting series. I hope you've enjoyed reading them as much as I've enjoyed writing them. You know, every event in our life has meaning behind it. It's good to stop sometimes and look at all the extraordinary things we can learn from ordinary events.

Whitewater rafting has given me a new-found respect for Peter. Now, Peter gets a lot of criticism for his act that day on the wind-tossed seas. We tend to go on and on about how he started to doubt and took his eyes off Jesus, then he started to sink. But you know what? Peter was the only one brave enough to get out of the boat in the first place. Peter was the only one with enough faith to give it a try.

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. - Matthew 14:22-33

I'm sure that the water on the Nantahala River was a babbling brook compared to what the disciples were facing that night. Still, I didn't want to be out of that boat. The water was choppy and VERY cold. I knew how strong the undercurrent was, and I had no desire to get pulled under. Nope! I was content to stay in the boat. If Jesus had come to me that day and asked me to walk on the water with Him, I don't know that I would have had enough faith to get out of the boat. What if I fell? What if I sank? What if the snakes got to me first? What if . . .?

But Peter got out of the boat. Picture this scene. The lightning is flashing so bright that it temporarily blinds all who witness it. The thunder booms. The wind tears at your hair and your clothes. The waves toss your boat up and down, to and fro, reminding you of the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. The rain beats down so hard that you can barely see the ghost-like form coming closer. At first, you are afraid, but then, above the noise of the storm, you hear a voice that you recognize. It's Jesus . . . or is it? Before you realize it, you speak these words, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. You have no idea where the words came from, but Jesus beckons you, and now there's no turning back.

What would you have done in Peter's place? Would you have gotten out of the boat? Would you have put all your faith into the man that stood before you? Would you have shrugged away your thoughts and fears and instead simply obeyed? Unfortunately, had I been there that stormy night, I probably would have stayed in the boat with all the other disciples. Peter may have lost his faith in the midst of the storm, but at least he had faith to start with.

The next time we want to pick on Peter for his lack of faith, let's stop and examine our own lives. Let's take a good look at our own faith and see if it is where it needs to be. I think we'll find that we have no room to criticize Peter. Peter took the first step. Have we? Peter forsook all safety to get closer to Jesus. Have we done the same? How strong is our faith today? Can it withstand the storms?