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

Friday, August 31, 2012

Who Are You, and How Did You Get in Here?

It never ceases to amaze me how sin can enter into my mind and disguise itself as something seemingly harmless.  Sure, sometimes I recognize it in the form of bad habits, but the recognition doesn't go any further.  But lately, I've been horrified to discover that I have some serious stuff lurking in the corners of my mind.  Some masquerade as bad habits or character flaws, but some are brazen enough to wear the disguise of goodness and thoughtfulness.  Imagine my surprise when the masks came off. Here are a few of the things I've discovered.

Let's begin with the "bad habits" like fear and impatience.  For some reason, over the past couple of years, fear has gained a major stronghold in my life.  It seems like I'm afraid of everything. . . and I'm not just talking about snakes and spiders.  I'm constantly terrified by the "what if's".  What if something happens to one of the dogs?  What if Jason is in a car accident?  What if the house burns down?  What if we run out of money before we run out of bills?  What if, what if, what if?  These horrible, negative thoughts haunt me day and night.  I know that it's wrong, for the Bible says God has not given us the spirit of fear, so if it's not from God, I have a pretty good idea where it's from.  Still, I've shrugged it off by saying that I really have no control over how I feel.

Impatience is not a good thing, and overall, I consider myself to be a very patient person.  I don't get bothered by traffic or stoplights.  I'm not overly concerned with long checkout lines or slow service.  But the area I exercise the most impatience is when it comes to answered prayers.  For whatever reason, I expect God to answer my pleas in my timing, and when He doesn't, I grow very impatient.

One of the things that I've always considered to be a "good thing" in my life is my perfectionism.  I'm a firm believer that if you're going to do something, you ought to do it to the best of your ability.  This trait is made evident by my straight A's all through school (including college).  Assign me a project, and you'll soon learn that not only will it be done, but it will be done far beyond your expectations.  That's just the way I am (although you'd never believe it if you saw my house at this moment).  Doing good work is a good thing, right?  Doing my best can't possibly be bad, can it?

Before I answer that question, let me point out another "good thing" that was pointed out to me.  Even though I work a full-time job, a part-time job, teach a Sunday School class, prepare music for church services, run errands, cook meals, clean house, etc., I simply refuse to ask for help.  When Jason comes home from his physical day job, I don't have the heart to ask him to help with dinner or to sweep the floors while I fold laundry.  "He's tired," I argue with myself.  "He's had a long day and needs to rest."  The result is one worn-out, frazzled Dana who has no time or energy to devote to our marriage relationship.  All this time, I thought I was being considerate, but this week I've discovered the truth about it all.

Hello.  My name is Dana, and I have a pride problem.  Wow, there I said it.  Pride is a sneaky little monster that can manifest itself in many forms.  Don't believe me?  Let's look at the four things I mentioned--the four things that give me the most trouble in life.

Fear comes from my inability to control things.  I'm afraid because I know I don't have the final say so in how things turn out.  I'm fearful because I know there are circumstances beyond my control, and frankly, I don't trust God enough to work things out for the best because He doesn't do things the way I think they should be done.  Pride?  Oh yeah!

How about impatience?  The desire to have things done on my time table.  Hmm, sounds like pride again, doesn't it?

Perfectionism?  That is a tricky one, but once we break it down, it's easy to spot the true root.  You see, what is perfect?  Whose definition of perfect do I hold myself accountable to?  Why, mine of course.  And whose definition of perfect do I hold everyone else accountable to?  You guessed it!  Mine again.  When I decide this is the way something should be done and then expect everyone (including myself) to hop to it, I am exhibiting pride.

And the hardest one to swallow is the last because I really, truly thought I was doing good.  I believed I was being considerate by not asking for help.  But in truth, I was once again exhibiting pride.  I was fooling myself into believing that I could do it all and have it all.  I convinced myself that I was Wonder Woman who, though tired, could successfully run a business, a part-time career, a class, a household, relationships and much more without any assistance.  I was too proud to admit that I was tired and couldn't handle the load.  My, oh my!

Remember, pride is a sneaky thing.  It doesn't often step forward yelling, "Look at me!  I'm special!"  Instead, it puts on disguises and lurks in the dark corners of our minds, scheming and plotting our eventual demise.  Unfortunately, until we recognize the bad habits, good habits and personality flaws for what they truly are, we won't be able to deal with the problem of pride.  It's time to go exploring.  Take some time to wander through the black recesses of your mind, and search out pride in its various forms.  It's got to go if we are live happy, healthy lives.

Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What's In Your Backpack?

As I've told you before, I'm a planner.  I plan my days.  I plan my meals.  I plan my outfits.  I plan my errands.  I plan my plans.  Without a plan, I feel lost, confused and irritable.  With a plan, I feel in control and ready for whatever may come my way.  As a hiker, however, this planning thing can be a bit of a hindrance.  Allow me to lay out my typical thought process when packing my backpack for an upcoming hike.

Okay, let's fill my water bladder to the brim.  I don't want to run out of water, and just in case we end up going farther than we planned, I'll throw in a couple of extra bottles of water.  We need to stay hydrated.  And of course, we'll need some snacks.  I'll throw in a few protein bars for us and some dog treats for the pups.  Yes, that should be sufficient.  It's awfully sunny out, so I'd better grab some sunscreen. After all, I'm very fair-skinned.  But, you know, we've been having those scattered showers lately so I'd better grab my poncho, a couple of towels and probably even a change of clothes.  I hate riding home in wet clothes.  Since it is so sunny now, though, I'd better pack my sunglasses.  Still, if we're out too late, it might start getting dark, so I'd better throw in a couple of flashlights.  Let's see, insect repellant, dog leashes, first aid kit with extra bandages in case someone gets a bad injury, cell phone, pain relievers, chapstick, a blanket in case the temperature drops, a hat for me, orange bandannas for the dogs.  Hmm.  I think that's it.  Now, how am I ever going to get all of this stuff in my pack, and beyond that, how am I going to carry it?

It's one thing to be prepared; it's quite another to be loaded down with burdens to the point that we're unlikely to finish the journey.  Yet that is how many of us live our lives.  We're running the race of life with bowling balls tied to our ankles.  It's no wonder we keep falling.  It's unsurprising that we grow weary after just a few steps in the right direction.  We have so many cares weighing us down, it takes all of our strength just to stand.  Running is unthinkable.

Long ago, I recognized this in my own life and made a commitment to start leaving my burdens at the feet of Christ.  It has not been easy, and many times I've been unsuccessful, but this morning I read something that explained why I still feel so burdened down in this life.  In his book, Fully Alive, Ken Davis explains that burdens are not always bad things; sometimes the things that are holding us back are good things that we need to let go of.  Worry, guilt, fear -- these are all bad things that hold us back from our full potential, but there are good things that do the same.  For example, I desire to live a healthier life.  I desire to grow closer to God.  I desire to strengthen my marriage.  I desire to become a stronger and more confident writer.  I desire to have and maintain a clean house.  I desire to be there for people when they need me.  These are all good things, but in order to fulfill all of those desires, I've got myself running in so many directions that I can't even see straight.  I can't do it all.  I can't have it all.  And I certainly can't achieve everything at once.  But that hasn't kept me from trying.  The result?  I've made myself miserable.  In my attempt to do everything, I feel I haven't done anything well.  I feel like a failure, and in truth, I set myself up to fail.  In essence, I tied all those expectations (and many more) to my ankles and said, "Now, run!"  Duh!  I didn't stand a chance.

My friends, it's time to clean out our backpacks.  It's time to sift through the baggage and determine what we need to keep and what we need to throw away.  Obviously, the bad things like worry, guilt, fear and pride need to be tossed.  But what about the good things?  How do we know what to keep and what to get rid of?  I asked that same question this morning, and immediately this verse came to mind:  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  (Matthew 6:33)

If we'll put God first and seek His will for our lives, everything else will fall into place.  We will accomplish more and find more joy and peace if we'll just concentrate on one thing and one thing alone--delighting in the Lord.  Putting His will before our own.  Allowing Him to live and work through us.  Doing only those things that will bring glory to His name.  Delighting in the Lord is not an action; it's a state of mind.  It's pushing everything else aside and saying, "Thy will be done, Lord."  It's letting go of our cares and burdens.  It's the recipe for a full, abundant life!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Chat With My Friend, Susan Barnett Braun

It is my joy and privilege today to have a guest post by my friend and fellow author, Susan Barnett Braun.  Susan and I "met" awhile back through one of the social media networks, although I honestly don't remember which one.  Since then, we've followed each other's writing, exchanged reviews and stayed in touch via the multitudes of social media networks.  In fact, you can read my reviews of two of Susan's books right here on this blog:  Sophie, Pay Attention and A Dog Called Namaan.  Susan has a new book out, but I'll let her tell you a little more about that, as well as a little more about herself.  Take it away, Susan!

Hi, Dana! It’s a privilege to visit here with you and your readers today! We have several things in common: we’re both Christians, pianists, authors, teachers, and devoted pet owners.

After college, I taught elementary school for eight years. I totally loved teaching, but after having my own kids, I just didn’t feel right devoting most of my days to someone else’s children. So, I stayed home with my kids. For several years, taking care of them was a full-time proposition. But as the kids started school, I had more free time. I have always loved to write. After dinner each evening, I read an entry for that date from one of the many diaries I kept when I was younger. About a week ago, I read an entry for that same day in 1978. I’d written: “I wrote a few pages on my book. Being an author is hard work!”

So you can see that writing was natural for me to pursue. I had some devotionals published, as well as several tips and ideas in teaching magazines. On my blog, Girls in White Dresses, I began writing about a childhood memory each Friday. Eventually, I wanted to write up many of these in book form, and I did that with my first book, “I Love to Tell the Story.”

I attended a Christian writer’s conference and was excited to meet with agents and editors. But the real world set in as I was told there was not a sufficient audience for my memoir, since I wasn’t a celebrity. I brought a children’s chapter book along as well, and although an editor expressed interest, she failed to respond to my emails in subsequent months.

Based on those experiences, I would say that my biggest frustration with writing has been the obstacles agents and editors seem to put up to prevent authors from actually making it to press. But I feel extremely blessed to live in this era, when the advent of Amazon and e-readers have made it possible for more authors to be published, without spending their own money to do so.

My latest venture is called “Not So Happily Ever After: The Tale of King Ludwig II.” In high school German class, I was introduced to “Mad King Ludwig.” He’s one of those historical characters who is just too eccentric and bigger-than-life to be real – and yet he was. He designed what’s probably the world’s most famous castle, Neuschwanstein. Yet it was never finished and he was only able to spend about 170 days there. Government officials ragged him unmercifully about the money he spent on his castles, even though today they’re one of Germany’s biggest money-making attractions.

Ludwig wasn’t overtly Christian (to be fair, there weren’t many evangelicals in mid-1800s Bavaria), but his Catholic faith was important to him throughout his life. He planned a huge chapel inside the courtyard at Neuschwanstein, although it was never actually built (along with many other planned portions of the castle). On the day he died, Ludwig requested permission to attend mass, but his keepers denied him the freedom to do this. Disillusioned with life and with most of the people he encountered, Ludwig once said, "I must bear being laughed at, scorned, and slandered. I am called a fool. Will God call me a fool when I am summoned before him?"

I read many books about Ludwig, but they were all geared towards adults, and many were quite scholarly. I saw a need for a book that teens and tweens would enjoy. They would love his character, even if they didn’t want to read a 300-page book on him! That’s the niche this book fills.

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's a Dirty Job

This morning I had the privilege of cleaning dog poop off the bottom of my husband's shoes. Normally, for a task such as that, I would say, "Clean them yourself." (Nice, huh?) But in this case, I know that if he attempted to clean them himself, there would be a much bigger mess for me to clean up. You see, Jason has a serious gag reflex. Certain smells and even sounds can trigger that response and then it's "Run for your lives!" Unfortunately for me, poop is one of those smells. He just can't handle it. So, whenever he steps in it (which happens quite often in a yard with two dogs), I get to clean it up.

As I stood at the sink this morning, scrubbing away at his black dress shoes, I was pondering how it is I'm so lucky as to not be as offended by the smell of poop. Yes, I was thinking of how lucky I am to be able to clean up all the poop, vomit, and anything else that would trigger Jason's gag reflex. Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling lucky. I was feeling a bit frustrated. After all, I've been fighting a terrible head cold, and the last thing I wanted to be doing this morning was scrubbing poop.

Just as the frustration was beginning to sink in, another thought hit me that completely changed my attitude. Through His still, small voice, the Lord reminded me that I was once covered in something far worse than dog poop. The putrid stench of my sin assaulted the nostrils of a holy God, and I was unable to do anything to remove the filth. That's when Jesus stepped in. With eyes of love and a gentle touch, He scrubbed me clean with His blood and righteousness. He didn't have to. He could have said, "Clean it yourself. It's your sin." But, no! He loved me enough to do what I was unable to do for myself.

And on the heels of that thought, I realized that I love Jason enough to do for him what he cannot. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!

Excerpt from 'Paws'itively Divine: Devotions for Dog Lovers. Now available in paperback and e-book formats.

Paperback - $5.97
Kindle - $0.99
Smashwords (Nook, Sony, Kobo, iBooks, etc.) - $0.99

Friday, August 17, 2012

Longing to Be Filled

I was awakened this morning by Mitch's tender kisses across my face.  Nose, eyes, mouth -- his wide, slobbery tongue covered it all.  Since Jason had worked until nearly one o'clock in the morning, I had planned to sleep in a little, but evidently Mitch had other ideas.  I cracked open one eye and looked toward the source of the hot breath on my face.  There at my head, hovering over me like a vulture, was my sweet, albeit determined, shepherd mix.  Noticing my attention, he let out a mournful howl which could be translated one of two ways:  (1) I want to go for a walk, (2) I'm hungry; when's breakfast?

Yes, it doesn't matter how early or how late we feed the dogs their evening meal, by morning, they are both longing to be filled.  Eyes are bright.  Tails wag in anticipation.  And as I've already mentioned, "kisses" are given to butter up the cook and encourage her to get out of bed.  The frustrating thing is that once they've had their breakfast, the rotten critters go right back to bed and sleep a good part of the day away.  That's just not fair!

As I stumbled around this morning, wiping the sleep from my eyes, I pondered the thought of being filled.  My mind was drawn back to some reading I had done earlier in the week about being filled with the Spirit.  The author spoke of the longing to be filled with the Spirit but how so many of us are afraid to empty our lives of the "junk" in order to make room for the Spirit.  The message of the chapter stuck with me.  How can we expect to be fully filled with the Spirit, if we're already full of other things like bitterness, worry, pride and so on?  After much meditation on the subject, I came to three conclusions, and they are as follows:

1.) In order to be filled with the Spirit (and I'm not talking about salvation), I must have the desire to be filled.  Just as the dogs hunger for their breakfast each morning, I need to hunger for the Lord to fill me each and every day.  I want to be filled with His peace, His joy, His power and so much more.  I need to have that longing above all else.

2.) To be completely filled with the Spirit requires me to be completely emptied of all else.  There is no room for my lack of faith.  There is no room for my selfishness.  There is no room for my judgmental nature.  If I truly want the Spirit to fill me completely, I must remove everything else.

3.) When I'm finally filled, I cannot imitate my dogs by going back to sleep.  God doesn't fill us with His Spirit so that we can sit on the sidelines of life.  He doesn't give us peace, joy and power so that we can lounge about doing our own thing.  No, the filling of the Spirit equips us to do the work that God has ordained for us to do just as a hearty breakfast gives us the energy we need to begin each day.

How are you doing today?  Are you longing to be filled with the Spirit?  Have you emptied your life of the clutter that is preventing you from being completely filled?  And lastly, are you using that filling in the way it was intended to be used--to fulfill God's purpose in your life?

As you ponder those questions, if you'll excuse me.  My tummy is starting to growl, and it definitely has a longing to be filled!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer

Thomas, an orphan raised by greedy monks, embarks on a quest to discover who he is and uncover the many secrets surrounding his family name.  With his cunning ways and intriguing use of knowledge, Thomas enlists the help of a knight, a young thief and a stunningly beautiful girl who is much more than what she appears to be.  Together, they set out to fulfill Thomas' destiny--to retake the castle of Magnus.  Will they succeed, or is Magnus a more wicked place than they could have ever imagined?

When reviewing a book, I usually have a very firm judgment about it one way or another.  I either like it or I don't.  Such is not the case with this book.  Being a huge Merlin/Camelot fan, I was eager to delve into this story, but I quickly discovered the book was not what I was anticipating.  The story line was solid, and the characters were well-written.  There was depth to the plot and detail in the descriptions.  Overall, it was a good story, but I did have a few qualms with it.

For starters, I felt disappointed at the end.  The entire book builds up to this great moment where Thomas will finally fulfill his destiny, but when the time comes, it just happens.  It's far too easy.  After being strung along for the majority of the book, my thoughts at the end were 'That's it.  That's the big finale.  That's the grand destiny.'  It just seemed way too rushed at the end.

Secondly, while the story was good and the book well-written, I just wasn't compelled to read it.  The story didn't draw me in.  In fact, even though this is only the first book in the series, I feel no real desire to read the rest of the series.  Sure, I still have a few questions that I would like to discover the answers to, but the story just wasn't intriguing enough to make it worth my time.

On the positive side, I did like how the author interwove Christian elements into the story.  Thomas is an excellent picture of anyone who has ever asked, "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  His struggle to understand God is one to which many can relate, and it gives this story a unique flair in that the hero has little to no faith.  Brouwer did an excellent job sprinkling these elements throughout the story.

So, do I recommend The Orphan King?  Sure.  Will I read it again?  Probably not.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Start Over

When you’ve trusted God and walked his way
When you’ve felt his hand lead you day by day
But your steps now take you another way …
Start over.

When you’ve made your plans and they’ve gone awry
When you’ve tried your best and there’s no more try
When you’ve failed yourself and you don’t know why …
Start over.

When you’ve told your friends what you plan to do
When you’ve trusted them and they didn’t come through
And you’re all alone and it’s up to you …
Start over.

When you’ve failed your kids and they’re grown and gone
When you’ve done your best but it’s turned out wrong
And now your grandchildren come along …
Start over.

When you’ve prayed to God so you’ll know his will
When you’ve prayed and prayed and you don’t know still …
When you want to stop cause you’ve had your fill …
Start over.

When you think you’re finished and want to quit
When you’ve bottomed out in life’s deepest pit
When you’ve tried and tried to get out of it …
Start over.

When the year has been long and successes few
When December comes and you’re feeling blue
God gives a January just for you …
Start over.

Starting over means “Victories Won”
Starting over means “A Race Well Run”
Starting over means “God’s Will Done”
Don’t just sit there ………… ..

Written by Woodrow Kroll of  “Back to the Bible”

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Oh, I See Your Point

I would like to share with you the conversation I had with the Lord this morning as I walked my dogs.  Some mornings I find it too difficult to keep up with Mitch and carry on a conversation at the same time, but this morning, my heart was heavy and my mind was swirling, and I knew if I didn't talk to the Lord, the entire walk would be spent with me focusing on my worries and fears.  So, as I always do, I poured out my heart.  Here's the gist of how our conversation went.  (By the way, when God spoke to me, it wasn't in an audible voice.  It was more of a still, small voice and a gentle nudging of my heart.  Just wanted to make sure I cleared that up.)

Me:  "It's me again, Lord.  I wish I could say I was feeling good today, but it's just not so.  Lord, it's been such an overwhelming month, and I know the past week you've done a lot to speak to me through sermons and songs.  I know you're doing a good work, but I guess I'm growing impatient.  It just seems like we've faced so many disappointments over the past few weeks.  Just recently, we had an offer to buy Jason's Bronco, and after much prayer decided to sell it.  Since then, the guy has yet to come by and look at it or come to an agreement.  I was looking forward to having that extra money to help meet some needs and pay some upcoming bills.  Then, there was the firewood disappointment.  We went out on Saturday to get wood out near Jason's parents' house.  All the good wood was buried, and all that we could get to was pine or very green pieces, not to mention they were all cut in weird sizes.  On our way home, we stopped down the road from our house to pick up some pieces of wood that had been discarded in the ditch.  The guy who lived there came out and said he cuts down trees for a living.  In fact, he said he had to cut down some on Monday, and if we wanted it, he'd bring it to us. . . for free.  Well, Monday has come and gone, and he still hasn't come.  See what I mean, Lord?  I don't mean to be disrespectful, but it's almost like You're going out of Your way to make things difficult for us.  Isn't life hard enough?  Aren't we struggling enough?  I feel like we're praying for blessings but getting trials instead."

Lord:  "Dana, I understand how you're feeling, but let me ask you a question.  When you needed money last week to pay the mortgage, did I provide the money you needed?"

Me:  "Well, yes.  We received a generous gift from someone in my family."

Lord:  "And were you able to get a trailer full of firewood on Saturday?"

Me:  "Well, yes.  We managed to pick through and get enough to fill the trailer after we added what we found at the end of our street."

Lord:  "One more question, Dana.  When you were worried last week that you wouldn't have the money to go the grocery store, what happened?"

Me:  "Not only did I have enough money to go to the store, but just about everything I purchased was marked down or on sale.  I saved almost as much as I spent."

Lord:  "Do you see what I'm getting at, child?"

In that moment, my mind went back to the story of the children of Israel wandering in the desert.  God provided them manna every morning, but just enough for that day.  If the people tried to take extra "just in case", it would spoil.  God was teaching His people to trust Him day by day.  And evidently, God's been trying to teach me the same thing.  To make sure I really got the point, He continued His lesson through my devotions.

After walking the dogs, I sat down and pulled up today's devotion on my phone.  (I have a devotion/Bible reading app from YouVersion).  The lesson was a devotion about God's daily provision, and the accompanying Bible passage was Matthew 6, which is a fabulous reminder that God knows what we need and that He will give us what we need when we need it.  I read and smiled and laughed.  Once again, God had turned my pity party into a praise party, and I just had to share it with you.  He's so good to me, why, oh why, won't I trust Him?

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. - Matthew 6:31-34

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Amazing Grace

While reading in a book by Max Lucado, I came across a question that really caused me to stop and think. The question was this: How would it affect your life today if God had said, "I'll die for you when you deserve it"? I stopped and read the question again. What would my life be like if God had said such a thing? The first word that popped into my mind was "hopeless."

Without the sacrifice that God made for me, I don't think life would even be worth living. For the next several moments, all I could do was praise God for His grace and His great sacrifice. If Jesus wouldn't die for me until I deserved it, He would never have had to die. But I'm so thankful He did. Life without Him is just not life at all! Thank God for His amazing grace!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Play Ball!

I had an interesting vision yesterday morning while walking Mitch.  Now, when I say vision, I don't mean a mystical image or a hallucination.  It was more of a visualization or daydream.  I was praying, as I often do on our walks, and I was pouring out my heart to God.  Once again, I was begging for His help in dealing with my worry.  I was tired and weary of fighting the same battles over and over again. . .especially the battle with myself over my lack of faith.

In that moment, I imagined myself as a player standing on a basketball court. (This is stranger than you may think, for I've NEVER played any sports.)  I held the basketball in my hands and looked around me.  Players of all shapes and sizes were rushing toward me, and in a panic, I looked for a teammate to whom I could pass the ball before I was plowed down by the onrushing opponents.  Across the court, I saw God, tall and bold, His arms open wide, His voice ringing out across the court, "Give it here, Dana.  I'm open.  I'll take it.  Pass it to me."  I did, and in one giant leap, He tossed it into the basket which appeared to be more of a bottomless abyss.  The ball disappeared into the darkness, and I assumed the game was over.

In the next instant, the events replayed just as they had before.  I was standing in the same spot on the court, holding the basketball in my hands.  The opponents were rushing to me, and panicked, I looked around.  There was God, once again, standing with His arms open wide, bidding me to pass the ball to Him.  I complied, and He tossed it into the abyss.

As I walked, I couldn't help but smile at the mental image God had given me and the interpretation I had gained from it.  Bad habits and sins (like worry) won't go away just because I wish them to, and conquering them is not a one-time event.  I will have to guard against thoughts of worry and fear every day, but God's message reminded me that I'm not alone in the battle.  I have a teammate, and as long as I'm willing to "pass" the burden to Him, He'll deal with it.  The only time I'll run into trouble is when I try to play ball hog and hold onto my burdens far longer than I should.

All day yesterday and even this morning when I felt burdened with worry, I imagined myself passing the ball to God and envisioned Him tossing it effortlessly into the dark abyss.  And as strange as it may seem, the worry stopped and peace filled my heart.  Hmm, I guess the imagination can be a good thing after all. . .a very good thing indeed.

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

Thursday, August 2, 2012

When Words Are Necessary

A few days ago, we spoke a little about Job and how he responded correctly to his trial. Today, I'd like to follow up with another post about Job. This one, however, does not cast Job in such a positive light.

Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that was come upon him, they came every one from his own place; Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite: for they had made an appointment together to come to mourn with him and to comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes afar off, and knew him not, they lifted up their voice, and wept; and they rent every one his mantle, and sprinkled dust upon their heads toward heaven. So they sat down with him upon the ground seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him: for they saw that his grief was very great. - Job 2:11-13

Okay, at the beginning of this passage, all sounds well. Three friends are concerned for a mutual friend so they come to comfort him. Good friends, right? Not exactly. You see, they didn't help. They didn't comfort him. They didn't cheer him. In fact for seven days and nights, they didn't even talk to him. Can you imagine having someone (or three someones) sitting there and staring at you for an entire week and never saying a thing? It's no wonder Job responded the way he did.

After this opened Job his mouth and cursed his day. - Job 3:1

So much for the good attitude! After a week of his friends' "comfort," Job was ready to call it quits. The friends that had intended to help only succeeded in hurting Job more. What a great lesson for each of us.

I understand that there are times when it is sufficient to just be with someone. They don't want conversation. They don't want pity. They just want to know that they're not alone. However, the Bible says that there is a time to speak. Someone today needs encouragement, and God may be counting on you to open your mouth and offer that encouragement. It doesn't have to be grand or eloquent, but it does need to be spoken.

I urge you to pay attention as you go throughout your day today. Seek out those who are hurting and offer them a word of encouragement. You may never know the effect your words will have on them, but I can assure you, they will make a difference.