Sign up to receive these devotions in your inbox daily!
* indicates required

Monday, March 23, 2009

Focus on the Positive

Yesterday, the Lord allowed me to have a very effective Sunday School lesson. The funny thing is that I think I got more out of it than my teenage girls did, but maybe that's what the Lord intended.

I took a board game called "Visual Eyes." It contains numerous dice with different pictures on all sides. I told the girls they had a set amount of time to look at all of the dice and count all the animals. They worked frantically, making sure they looked at each of the dice and trying to remember the number in their heads. I called time, covered the dice with the box lid, and asked "Okay, how many sharp objects did you find?" Their faces fell. A couple looked confused. One spoke up, "That's not what you said to look for." "I know," I replied with a smile. "But I want to know how many sharp objects you found?" No one could tell me.

"Let's try this again," I said as I uncovered the box. "You have until the timer runs out to find out how many sharp items there are. Really pay attention this time." Again, they worked in a panic, trying to beat the clock and come up with the correct answer. When their time was up, I covered the dice again and asked, "How many articles of clothing did you find?" One girl screamed in frustration, then muttered "This is a stupid game." Once again, I couldn't find anyone to answer my question.

"Why can't you tell me?" I asked. "You just looked at the dice. In fact, you looked at them twice. Why can't you tell me what I want to know?" Several answered, "Because that's not what we were looking for." EXACTLY!

Then, I took them to Philippians 4:8 which says, Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

If we're focused on the good things, it's hard to keep track of the bad. However, if we're focused on the bad things in our lives, it's difficult to see the good. Not only do we lose track of how many sharp objects there were on the dice, but we lose sight of all the blessings that God has given us.

These days, it's VERY easy to focus on the negative. Pick up a newspaper. Turn of the television. Listen to the conversations taking place around you. War. Economic crisis. Job loss. Sickness. Disease. It's one bad thing after another, and frankly, it's easy to get pulled into the devil's trap of discouragement and depression. The really bad part is that while we're there, we forget all the good things in life. Salvation. Family. Friends. A loving church. Chocolate. Flowers. Chocolate. Sunshine. Chocolate. And, I could go on and on.

The problem is focusing on the negative in our lives instead of the positive. So, what's the solution? I'm glad you asked. Look at what I Thessalonians 5:18 has to say. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

I have heard this verse misread and misquoted so many times. It does not say "For every thing give thanks." It says, "In every thing give thanks." What's the difference? Well, my husband lost his job. Am I supposed to be thankful for that? No, that's silly! But, because my husband lost his job, we have had a lot of time to spend together lately. In fact, I got to spend my entire birthday with my husband and my two dogs. We went to the lake and spent the day together as a family. That would not have been possible if my husband had not been laid off.

Do you see the difference? In each circumstance that life throws at you, find something to be thankful for. Your thankfulness will get your focus off of the negative and back on the positive where it belongs.

Now, how many times did I use the word "positive" in this post? What do you mean you don't know? You're supposed to be focusing on it!

For any of you who are interested, here is a link to the game "Visual Eyes" that I mentioned in this post. It is a very fun, clean, family game. The object of the game is to put two pictures together to make compound words or common phrases. (EX: House Coat, Fish Bowl, Stick in the Mud)

Monday, March 16, 2009

In Need of Encouragement?

Is it just me, or does the world seem like a very dark place right now? The economy is in shambles. People are losing their jobs left and right. Families are losing their homes. Even illness and disease is at an all-time high. Things are looking grim.

The worst part is that we can't escape it. At a recent ladies' meeting, the "hot topic" at our table was lay-offs and salary cuts. Just the other day in the store, I heard a lady talking on her cell phone. She was saying, "Yeah, the unemployment is not much, but it's better than nothing. I'm just trying to make do." The news is shoving it down our throats. Even our pastors are proclaiming it from the pulpit. Our nation is in a mess!

I, like many other people, have found myself suffering from extreme discouragement, sometimes even to the point of depression. The noise around me seems to be shouting, "There's no hope! There's no hope!" I struggle to keep my faith strong, but it seems like each day presents me with a new problem. Frankly, I've found myself contemplating just giving up. I've caught myself saying, "Why do I even try? Everything is falling apart. I might as well fall apart with it."

But, in those times, a verse or song will come to my mind. The words ring through my conscience, reminding me that I'm not alone, and that God is doing a work in my life. No, these thoughts don't solve the problems, but they do give me a renewed strength to face and overcome the obstacles before me. They give me motivation to finish my race.

For any of you who need encouragement today, I would like to share with you a few of my favorite verses. I hope they will strengthen you in the same way they strengthen me.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. - John 16:33

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. - Romans 8:28

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. - Psalm 37:23-24

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. - Hebrews 13:5

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? - Romans 8:31

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

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. - Joshua 1:8-9

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:19

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 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. - Philippians 4:8-9

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

The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? - Psalm 118:6

They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. - Psalm 126:5-6

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 1-2

I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. - Psalm 91:2

For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. - Psalm 84:11

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah. - Psalm 62:8

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. - Psalm 56:3

Friday, March 6, 2009

Busy, Busy!

This is just a quick note to apologize for not getting more posts up this week. Things have been crazy around here, and I found myself with too many things to do and not enough time to do them. In the end, my blog was one of the things that was neglected. I apologize and hope to have some new posts up next week. (I have company coming over this weekend.)

Until then, may God bless each of you and keep you in His care.

NOT Wonder Woman :)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Safe and Warm

Life is never boring! At least, my life isn't. For those of you who don't live in the upstate of South Carolina, we had a major snow storm come through yesterday. It was like none I have ever seen before. This one was complete with heavy winds and eerie blue lightning.

Jason and I were at my sister's house yesterday afternoon, just hanging out until church. Shortly after 5:00, the snow began to fall. By 5:30, it had already accumulated on the trees, grass, and roads. We called our pastor and asked about the evening service. He said he wasn't sure, so we agreed to meet him at the church since it was on our way home anyway.

We were the only ones who showed up. (Everyone else was smart!) By the time we left, which was only 20 minutes later, the ground was completely covered and the visibility was not good at all. Despite my better judgment, we went home the back way since we were in The Beast (that's the nickname for his big, ugly 4x4 Bronco, which has NO heat, I might add).

We had not gotten far before we came upon two vehicles that were stuck and couldn't make it up the hill. We pulled one guy up while another truck stopped and helped the other. Shortly after that, we pulled into a gas station to make sure we had plenty of fuel and to clean off the windshield which was covered with icy snow.

Just a couple of miles down the road, we were going down a hill and noticed a long string of oncoming traffic that seemed to be stopped. The people in the lead car had heard the sound of a breaking tree. Unfortunately, we didn't. We did see it as it fell 15 feet in front of us, and then we saw it VERY closely as we slid into it. OUCH! Some people jumped out of their cars to make sure we were okay. We were fine, just shaken. The Beast, however, has a few minor injuries.

Jason and some of the other men went to work cutting up the huge pine tree and dragging it off the road so that the endless line of traffic could pass. (Thankfully, Jason had his chainsaw with him.) I sat in the truck and shivered while they were about their work.

Red-faced and soaking wet, Jason got back in the abused Bronco, and we made it another mile or so before we ran into another line of traffic. This time I was on the lookout for falling trees. Whatever was blocking the road was a good half mile ahead of us, and from what we could gather, it was a power pole. Assuming we would be there a while, we decided to turn back and see if we could go around it. Believe it or not, that actually worked. (Yeah, I'm surprised, too.)

We made our way home, peering through a foggy windshield that was again covered with icy snow. We inched through dark intersections, all the while praying that we would have power at our house. We did! (Another shocker!)

I honestly don't think I've ever been so glad to get home in my life. The trip from church to our house is a 30-minute drive. It took us an hour and a half last night. When we finally got home, I was so cold and so stiff, all I could do was stand in front of the wood stove and fight back the tears of thankfulness.

You know, life is like that. Sometimes it seems so difficult just to get through. There are obstacles in the way, and often it's hard to even see where we're going. Many times, the trip is cold and frightening, and it seems that we'll never reach our destination.

That being said, can you imagine how great our homecoming will be? Can you imagine the joy and relief at finally reaching our destination? Can you imagine the peace of knowing that we'll never have to face life's situations again?

I'm ready for that day. Are you?