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Friday, December 15, 2017

Four Steps to Making It Through When It Feels God Has Forsaken You


Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.  The chapter goes on to explain.  A time to be born and a time to die.  A time to reap and a time to sow.  A time to speak and a time to keep quiet.  And while the following principle is not mentioned in this particular passage, its truth is echoed throughout the Bible:  a time for us to be thrilled with our lives and a time for us to wonder if this is all there is.

You've been there, right?  Sometimes, life seems perfect.  A great spouse, a beautiful home, money in the bank, a healthy body, loving children, a faithful church.  Absolute perfection!  And in these times, you happily tell everyone, "No, I wouldn't change a thing."  But let's face it, life is seldom perfect.  More often than not, we find ourselves saying, "I wish. . . "  Yes, the truth is some days we endure life rather than enjoy it.  We wake up in the morning and sigh, dreading the oncoming day of bills to pay, doctor's appointments, rowdy children, ungrateful spouses, and the monotony of nothing new to look forward to.  It is during these stretches we look up to Heaven and question, "God, where are you?  I know this is the day you've made, and I should rejoice and be glad in it, but how can I?  I'm so tired and weary.  My life is ho-hum, and it seems there's no escape.  Please help me, Lord, or at least let me know You've heard my cries.  I don't know how much longer I can take this!"

What do we do on those imperfect days?  How do we carry on when it seems like even God has forsaken us and left us stuck in the stress?  Fortunately, Psalm 44:17-20 gives us a four-step guide to follow.  The beginning of the chapter describes how God led the children of Israel out of Egypt and protected them through the wilderness.  But then it goes on to discuss how they passed through the hands of various enemies because of their disbelief and disobedience to God's commands and sometimes just because it was part of God's plan.  By verse 17, things look grim, but check out what the psalmist says,

All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god;

Notice, first off, that the psalmist is not pretending like everything is fine.  He's not putting on a false smile and shoving his problems aside.  He acknowledges "All this is come upon us."  No sugar-coating; only truth.  But the powerful part of this verse is that he doesn't stop there (like many of us do when life doesn't go our way).  Instead, he implements this life-giving plan.

1) Remember Who God is and what He's done.yet have we not forgotten thee
When times are rough, and it seems that God has forsaken, stop and remember.  Think back to the names and attributes of God.  Bring to mind all the times He's helped you in the past.  Fill your heart and mind with His promises, knowing that God does not lie.  In other words, spend less time focusing on the problem and more time focusing on God, even if you can't see Him yet in your current situation.

2) Keep doing the right things.neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant
I don't know about you, but when life turns upside down, I have the inclination to turn away from the things I know to be right.  For example, when facing a health crisis, I'll stop taking my vitamins and exercising, arguing that those things are apparently not working.  Some will stop serving God or going to church because they feel it isn't helping them any.  But we shouldn't stop doing right when things aren't going our way.  If you think about it, the behavior is downright childish.  But, it's also natural.  Still, we must fight the temptation to withdraw from the right.  It is often those things that will eventually turn things around for us.

3) Don't quit.Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way
Not only does heartache make us want to stop doing the right things, it often makes us want to give up on everything.  We're tired of working hard and getting nowhere.  We're sick of fighting just to make ends meet.  It's too difficult, so why keep trying?  As Job's wife suggested, we're ready to curse God and die.  But quitting is never a good choice.  We must be strong and keep going, even if it's a struggle to get out of bed.  Take it one step at a time, but whatever you do, don't quit!

4) Don't turn to false idols.If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god;
I know what you're thinking--we don't do that kind of thing anymore, right?  WRONG!  Not all idols are made of stone or wood or even gold.  An idol is anything in our lives that takes the place of God.  For example, if we turn to something else to find peace, joy or comfort, that "thing" is an idol in our lives.  For me, this idol typically takes the form of junk food and energy drinks.  When life gets me down, it's not uncommon to see me stuffing cookies in my face and washing them down with caffeine-laden sodas.  I tell myself I need these things to help me get through, to cope with the stress of life, but the truth is they only make things worse.  And the guilt I feel over seeking comfort in these things instead of from God is overwhelming.  If you're like me, you get clever in trying to justify your idolatry and say things like, "Well, God wasn't helping me, but this does."  Lies!  We know it.  But when life is hard, it's easier to believe the lies than it is the truth.  That's why it's so important to have this battle plan in place before the fight even begins.


My friend, I wish every day could be filled with roses and butterflies and singing birds, but life's not that way.  There will be hard days--or even weeks, months or years.  There will be times when you question whether God cares or hears.  I'm here to remind you that He does and that you will get through this if you'll follow the psalmist's plan for keeping things in the proper perspective.  Sometimes life gets ugly, but that doesn't mean we have to get ugly alongside it.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Chasing Peace


Peace.  It's a word (though not necessarily a concept) that is highly visible this time of year.  We see it in lights of red, blue and green.  It is neatly scrolled upon thousands of Christmas cards.  It graces our carols in phrases like "Peace on earth, goodwill to men" and "Sleep in heavenly peace."  But what is peace?  The online dictionary gives a five-fold answer.  Peace is. . .

1) a state of tranquility or quiet
2) freedom from oppressive thoughts or emotions
3) harmony in personal relations
4) a state or period of mutual concord between governments or nations
5) used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell

I've been praying for peace a lot lately.  Peace on earth would certainly be wonderful, but I'm afraid my motives have been more selfish.  My prayers have been focused more on the first two definitions: tranquility and freedom from oppressive thoughts and emotions.  Yes, it would seem that the most wonderful time of the year is not necessarily the most peaceful time of the year.  With shopping and dinners and caroling and cantatas and the list goes on, who has time to be tranquil or quiet?  And with the million things to do and places to be, whose mind isn't running around in circles?

In my Bible reading this morning, I came across a verse I've read a million times, but a particular phrase struck a chord in me and caused me to question, "How do you do that?" Psalm 34:14 says, Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.

Depart from evil. - That's pretty self-explanatory.  Run away from bad things.  Don't do evil.

Do good.  - Again, no real explanation needed here.

Seek peace. - Yes, I get that.  In fact, that's what I've been doing.  I've been praying for peace in my heart and seeking to find peace in the midst of the holiday craziness (as well as all the other craziness life throws our way.)

Pursue it. - Say what now?  Pursue peace?  What does that mean?  How do you chase after something that has no physical form?

That, my friends, is the question I pose to you today.  (I know, you thought I was going to tell you the answer, but I'm not going to make it that easy.)  I want you to meditate on this thought today and leave a comment when you have an answer.  What does it mean to you to pursue peace?  I can't wait to hear what you have to say.  And remember, your answer may be a help and encouragement to someone else, so please take a moment to give us your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

God Can Resolve It - A Guest Post

Today I want to do something a little different.  As I prayed and thought about what to post today, nothing was coming to my mind or heart.  When I checked my email, I found a message that I desperately needed (and oddly enough went right along with my lesson about the plankton) and felt I should share it with you.  Below is the email I received this morning from the best-selling author, Eileen Wilder.  Let me say, I have read some Eileen's books and listened to a few of her podcasts, and I've been happy with her message.  Even though I have just released an entire series of books on anxiety and depression, I still intend to purchase Eileen's book, The Pivot Plan.  Maybe I'll do a review of it in a future post.  But for now, take heart is the message she shared today, and enjoy the video at the end of one of my favorite newer songs.


Have you ever felt like you had gotten "victory" in an area...only to find out it resurfaced?

...Recently I found myself struggling with issues I thought I had totally conquered (overwhelm & anxiety) and as it kept surfacing I was getting more and more frustrated!

I was getting mad at myself. "Why is this happening? Where am I missing it?"

And to be totally honest with you...


I began believing that it would never change. That I would wrestle with feeling overwhelm and anxiety forever.

Have you ever been there? Tempted to settle with less than God's best?

So often we get tempted to try to make it happen ourselves, and without realizing it—we are trying to struggle to receive something God would like to FREELY give us.

During a really hard day, I was so discouraged...but I felt the Lord whisper to me: 


"In a split second—I can completely resolve it."

It reminded me of 2 Chronicles 26:29, "...all the people rejoiced because God had provided for the people, for the thing came about suddenly."

It was as if my attitude shifted from "It-will-Never-Happen" to:

It's-Going-to-Happen-Any-Second.

If you're struggling with something that is very discouraging, perhaps even emotionally debilitating—I showed up in your inbox today to remind somebody:

It's NOT OVER.
And in a split SECOND—He is gonna completely resolve it. Suddenly.

If this resonates with you, I encourage you to let the issue GO—and Trust God right now, fully and completely—to take care of your issue.

It's not yours any longer. It's His issue to solve. Amen?

If you are looking to dive in deeper into how to stop struggling and start receiving, my new book The Pivot Plan is designed to reduce stress and resolve low-level depression. You'll find a step-by-step system that will give you:
  • 4 tried and true methods to stop striving that are simple, easy & fast
  • A reframing technique that ends anxiety (in as little as ten seconds)
  • Simple strategies for preventing & defeating low moods
  • The #1 way to actually stop overthinking everything and quit worrying (hint: it has nothing to do with suppressing negative thoughts)
I am 100% convinced before you finish reading The Pivot Plan, you will feel lighter, freer, and enjoy an unexplainable peace of mind.

You can learn more + find some cool new Bonuses (Worth $397!) I'd love to give you.

I know you're going to trust God like never before. Know I appreciate you and am cheering you on every step of the way!



P.S. If you haven't Pre-Ordered yet we have a special BONUS to offer! (Value $397) It's an awesome 2-hour New Year's Strategy Session! (It's me, January 5, 2018, for 2 hours to get you strategic about winning your year).

***************

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

God Wants Us To Be Like Plankton


God works in wonderful and mysterious ways.  As I was preparing for my Sunday School lesson last week, I felt the Lord leading me to focus on the idea of wandering.  Easy enough since the series I'm teaching on is called "The Wilderness Wanderings," but the prompting was a little more specific.  In the passage we were to discuss, the children of Israel had arrived back at Kadesh, thirty-eight years after they had decided it was too difficult to go in and conquer the Promised Land.  Because of their unbelief, they had wandered around in the wilderness for decades, only to arrive back where they had begun.

As I was reading a book completely unrelated to my Bible studies, I came across some interesting information about plankton, and through it, God gave me a timely reminder.  Did you know that the word "plankton" is derived from a word that means "wanderer"?  The reason for this, according to the article, is that plankton (organisms that serve as a significant food source for much of the ocean-dwellers) begin their journey on the ocean floor.  Unable to swim against the current, they are at the mercy of the shifting tides, which eventually carry them to the ocean's surface.  Once there, the plankton (specifically phytoplankton) soaks up valuable nutrients from the sun and begin the process of photosynthesis.  At the proper time, the plankton is then carried back down into the sea where it becomes fuel and nutrition for other ocean life.  In fact, 50% of the oxygen we breathe comes from plankton, while the remaining 50% comes from plant life on land.  Who knew the life cycle of plankton could be so exciting?

But here's what I learned.  Wandering isn't always a bad thing, and finding ourselves back where we started could all be part of God's plan for us.  Like plankton, we have been called to soak up the light (the Light of God's Word and His truth) and then to take it to those who dwell in darkness.  I'm sure the plankton would be delighted to float on the water's surface soaking up more and more energy for itself, but God has other plans for it.  Similarly, God wants more for us than to just soak up as much of Him as we can get, basking in the warmth and goodness of His love.  Yes, He wants us to do that and allows times in our lives for us to do just that.  But then, He wants us to share what we've learned with others.  He has called us to see beyond ourselves and to be willing to offer life and warmth to those who need it.  He wants us to be like plankton!

Times of wandering are often difficult and frustrating.  So much is uncertain, and we grow weary with the journey.  But remember this--our wandering has a purpose.  It is during these times that we learn and develop.  And whether we realize it or not, it is on the journey that we receive the energy and life-giving power we need to reach out and help others.  So, view the wandering as a time of growth, and when you find yourself back where you started, ask the Lord if perhaps it's time for you to share what you've been given.  Look beyond yourself to the needs of others and trust that God will get you where you need to go in His perfect timing.

Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 5:13-16

Monday, December 11, 2017

Are You For Real?


Recently, in my daily reading, I came across an interesting idea for the new year.  Instead of making New Year's resolutions (which I rarely stick with), the author suggested choosing a word or phrase that would be your theme for the year.  She gave some guidelines and ideas about what kind of word or phrase to select and then shared what she had chosen after much prayer and Bible study.  I liked the idea and began praying about what word or phrase the Lord would have to be my motto for 2018. No answer.  Well, that's not entirely true.  On several other occasions, I came across this same suggestion about selecting a word or phrase for the new year.  "I'm trying," I grumbled, "but nothing is coming to mind."  Frustrated, I put the thought aside.  After all, my brain has enough to focus on without constantly whirling about trying to decide on a motto.

But then, as I relaxed in the tub last night, the phrase came to me as if it had been whispered in my ear.  It was quiet but precise, and immediately, I knew I had my motto--"Get Real."  Ironically enough, God even solidified the idea in my mind while I was watching a Christmas episode of one of my favorite shows, When Calls the Heart.

A man had bought a gift for his new wife.  In his mind, the jeweled, spider brooch was rare, exquisite and breath-taking.  Well, he was right on the last point.  When the wife "stumbled upon" his gift for her before Christmas (yes, she was sneaking around, but hey, that's part of the fun of gift-giving, right?), her breath caught.  Never in her life had she seen something so hideous and gaudy.  She took the brooch and sold it to a traveling peddler, hoping the husband would assume he had lost the gift and would buy her something else (can we say "ungrateful"?).  Anyway, her scheme was discovered by the local constable who told her she was going to put the brooch back, and when her husband gave it to her on Christmas morning, she was going to do the right thing and act surprised and delighted.  She did, and the husband was none the wiser.

Oh, how I can relate to the wife on that Christmas morning!  Putting on a show.  Playing a part.  Doing what's expected.  Hiding my real feelings.  After all, that's what we're supposed to do, right?  As Christians, aren't we supposed to smile through the heartache, laugh when we want to cry and encourage others when we'd rather just sit down on the couch with a tub of ice cream in one hand and a pan of brownies in the other?  When someone asks how we're doing, shouldn't our answer be something like, "I'm so blessed" or "I'm wonderful because God is so good to me"?  After all, we're supposed to be the light of the world, and we can't do that if we're in the dark.

So, what do we do?  We shove our hurts and frustrations deep down inside and put on an act.  We smile and sing and serve, but all the while, we're crying and dying on the inside, and we're too afraid to let anyone else see.  What would they say?  How would people respond to your despair or confusion?  Surely it's better to just keep your feelings to yourself, right?

I get a lot of comments from readers of my blog and books and from those who watch my teaching videos on YouTube, and the thing I hear the most is, "I love how genuine and real you are.  It makes me know like I'm not the only one who feels this way."  You know what that tells me?  It tells me that people don't need someone who's polished and refined and "practically perfect in every way."  They need transparency.  They need someone who is flawed, who gets frustrated from time to time and who falls as often as she dances (though neither are pretty sights, I admit).  They don't want or need someone on a pedestal.  They need to see someone walking through the muck of life alongside them and saying, "Here, let me give you a hand."

Funny thing, even though I've been told that a hundred times or more, I still find myself hiding behind a mask of self-righteousness and togetherness.  I fear what others might say if I reveal too much of myself, too much of my struggles, too much of my reality.  What, for example, would others say if they knew I was typing out this devotion in my pajamas--no makeup, no jewelry--shoot, I haven't even brushed my hair or teeth yet?  Or how about this one?  How can I possibly admit that I'm engaged in a fierce battle with anxiety and depression when I've just released an entire book series on how to handle those things?  Who would want to buy those books if the principles within them don't even work for the one who wrote them?  See what I mean?

The truth is, I'm afraid to reveal too much of myself because I'm afraid of what others might think of me.  I'm terrified of losing their respect or even their love.  The question that plagues my mind night and day is, "What would happen if people found out I'm not as nice and sweet as they think I am?"  I honestly don't want to think about it, but I don't think the Lord is giving me a choice.  He's been working in my life a lot over the past few months, and I've been struggling to identify exactly what He's doing.  But I believe I have my first clue--get real.  In my daily life.  In my relationships.  In my ministry.  I believe that God wants me to remove the mask and show the world the real Dana Rongione, scary though it may be.  No more hiding behind what I believe others want and expect of me.  It's time for me to be what God has called me to be and to admit (and show others) that I am not "practically perfect in every way."  That being said, though, I can also serve as a picture of imperfect progress.  No, I haven't arrived, and I have a LONG way to go, but I'm making progress nonetheless.

What about you?  Are you tired of playing a part?  Do you fear what others might think of you if you were to take off the mask and be who you really are?  If so, I invite you to adopt my New Year's motto--"Get Real."  It won't be easy, and it probably won't be fun.  But I sense God telling me that it's necessary.  We can't hide forever, and I have the feeling I'll be a greater help and influence to others by being real than I will be by having it all together.  So, with that, it's time for an introduction.

Hi.  My name is Dana Rongione.  I eat way too much chocolate and drink too much caffeine.  My hair has been white since before I was 20-years old, so I color it each month.  I chose the color red because I felt it best reflected my personality--fiery.  I often work in my pajamas or my "work clothes" which so closely resemble pajamas that I've been known to sleep in them.  I crave order and routine and get quite cranky when those things aren't possible.  I've been known to snap at others when they throw off my groove or interrupt me when I'm doing "important work."  Some days my patience is as thin as tissue paper and my mood is as stormy as the weather we're experiencing here today.  I long with all my heart to love and follow the Lord, but some days I feel like I take as many steps backwards as I do forward.  I am socially awkward and despise talking on the phone.  I enjoy hiking but hate bugs and things that slither, creep or crawl.  On more than one occasion, I've spoken ill of a fellow Christian and even fellow church members.  During any given week, I can swing from thinking the world couldn't make do without me to feeling I could disappear entirely and no one would notice.  I have barked at my husband more times than I care to admit and questioned God so many times that I've lost count.  And sometimes I go to church because I'm supposed to instead of because I want to.  I am far from perfect, and I know it.  And now, you know it too.  Welcome to reality!  It's not always pleasant, but no matter how you look at it, the truth will always set us free.

For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. - Galatians 1:10